August 2009


My neighborhood is both creepy and awesome.  We take three to six-mile dog walks nearly every day through our Old Richmond surroundings(don’t worry — I’ve offset all of this activity by increasing my ice cream bar consumption by 50%).  Our house is a standard and practical 1950’s house, but it’s on the edge of a neighborhood with varying types of giant, sometimes gaudy, old wooden homes with giant yards, porches, and shady trees.  Very Southern Gothic.  Very “Fifty years ago my grandmother’s brother killed himself in the attic after learning of his girlfriend’s infidelity and this is the summer that I found out the whole story and what became of the girlfriend” — which I have confirmed is an acceptable way to describe a design style.

But the thing about the neighborhood that gets me is the amount of kids and the way they look.  They are usually without parents, and when I walk by them they seem sad and wise, as if they’re living out a coming-of-age novel set in the early seventies.  Or they found a dead body in the creek.  Plus they stare at me.  Kids are weird.

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As an enthusiastic radio listener, there are many, many songs that I will not listen to, despite my associate’s claim that he “love this song” even though he can’t identify it.  I am not one to stop to listen to “Instant Karma” when “Band on the Run” could be starting on another station.  There are also songs I dislike for no other reason than I can hear them at any time.  Scan through your radio dial right now.  There will be Elton John.  And I never feel like listening to Elton John. I got stuck listening to some tunes that I were placed under the “gross, change it” column that I decided I loved.

Hootie and the Blowfish, “I only Wanna Be with You.”  I’m sure I originally liked this song.  I lived in 1994, too, guys.  They played H&TBF on the station I liked that also played Matthew Sweet and Liz Phair.   After a while, Hootie was just this thing that happened, that I neither liked nor disliked, except I found myself always listening to this one song.  It’s a good pop song — not any different than what R.E.M. could have written, except it involves football.  I downloaded it from itunes.  I put it on a mix CD for my sister.  I have a tattoo of Dan Marino throwing a football to Darius Rucker on my bicep.  So what?

Spencer Davis Group, “Gimme Some Lovin.'”  Some songs floating around the airwaves are so insignificant that they seem like they were written only to be used for commercials (ahem, Smashmouth) or during trailers for romantic comedies.   That is where this song fell in for me.  But one morning I decided to listen to it and it moved me so much that I thought, “YES.  THIS IS THE SONG I WANT TO HEAR RIGHT NOW.”  It was beautiful.  I, too, was so glad they made it.

The Romantics, “What I Like About You.”  One of my favorite McSweeney’s lists, now removed, was called “What I Like About You.”  Those things included: you really know how to dance; you keep me warm at night; you are whispering in my ear; and hey!  Also, my dad loves this song.  Does it actually sound any different from “My Sharona,” other than it makes me want to eat tangy New Orleans-inspired hot wings at a chain restaurant?  No.

I would also put Jet on this list, but I don’t like “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” because of the radio, only because it’s my favorite Taiko Drum Master song.  Otherwise I think they kind of suck, though I did like Chuck Klosterman’s telling of his interview with Jeff Tweedy when Tweedy tells him that his son has a Jet cover band.  After Klosterman scoffs at the idea, Tweedy asks, “You don’t like rock music?”  And although he backed down a little and decided maybe Jet wasn’t that bad, I think we all agree that they are (I’m paraphrasing here, since I can’t locate the book right now).

Those are the songs I have so far.  When I get turned by 12 more songs then I will put them all on a CD, mail them to everyone I love, and quietly walk into the woods and die under a pile of leaves.  Hey!

We have had so many telegrams, phone calls, and electronic mails from our friends inviting us to come over and watch “Mad Men” season three, but I’ve had to decline all offers since we have one disc left of season two to watch. Also, I’m old and sleepy (Old Sleepy is what they call me) and can’t stay out until 11 on Sundays.  So I will miss all the Don Draperies and the Pegginess and won’t get to watch it until next summer.  Too bad I can’t avoid spoilers.

I guess I’ll have to find some other ways to pass the time until season three is out on DVD.  I’m stupid with impatience.   You can watch this if you want.

My gardening efforts have been a failure this summer.  It may be a number of things, such as too much acid in the soil, too many hours in direct sunlight, or the squirrels taking all of the tomatoes.   I hate those jerks.  My Plan D for saving the tomatoes is to get some chicken wire to wrap around it all, but the Arby’s Weathernet has suggested that I stay inside the house today and eat cantaloupe and listen to podcasts instead of leaving the house.  At least until 8 p.m.

What has come from the garden (other than my resentment) have been jalapeno peppers!  They’re adorable.  I’ve grown enough to use, freeze, and give away, and there are still a dozen little pepper buds waiting to grow up a little.  I’m not too upset about the sickly plants and the yellow, baseball-shaped bitter cucumbers.  I’ve started a compost bin and will re-plan the back garden this fall.  I can try again next year.

I’m lucky to have a farmers’ market near me so that I can get fresh, local produce, though I end up just getting fruit and bread, and breakfast/lunch from the taco cart.  Turns out that I don’t like vegetables anyway, so you can go to hell, garden.

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I’m writing a book called “My Pets Will All Be Dead One Day, and Other Comforts.”

Just kidding.  We all know that I’m not productive enough to finish a book.

Also, just kidding again.  Who can get mad (or stay mad) at this lady?:

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The backstory: my friend and I went to Baltimore ten years ago after she graduated from high school.  While we were on the town, my car was broken into, followed by a long, frustrating night of running into a series of the dumbest people ever put on this earth (read slightly more about that here).  I spit on Baltimore!  But as I am a deeply forgiving person, I’m willing to visit places again if I can eat a lot while I’m there.

We went up for the weekend to visit our friend Jess.  She did a bang up job taking us around Charm City (they call it that because “That’s So Raven” was already being used).  We ate delicious crab cakes at Faidley’s, which also doubled as a “Wire” tour stop (McNulty had his kids play “front and follow” with Stringer at the market).  I don’t like seafood, but this was the best crab cake anywhere, so says Faidley’s and the crab cake experts.  It was pretty delicious.  Then Richard ate a sausage at Pollack Johnny’s immediately after.  I also think he ate some fried chicken while Jess and I made our way around a corner to find him.  The honeymoon’s never over to him.

We also did some shopping/expensive store looking in Hampden, which was an Oregon Hill/Carytown kind of place, meaning there were a lot of boutiques plus shirtless boys walking pit bulls.  I bought a lot of fun stuff.  We took a break at a Royal Farms, which is kind of like a Wawa, but since it was on a city block it reminded me more of a Tesco in London.  We had Berger cookies, which were mini-heart attacks covered in fudge.  We ate dinner at the Golden West Cafe.  I had to blow my nose every ten seconds so I spent a lot of time in the bathroom, mesmerized by the LP covers lining the walls.  I had the best cocktail there called the Sarsaparilla, which was described as Sprite root beer plus vodka (it was clear).  Baltimore did not make me sick, but it also didn’t cure my cold, so our night was cut short.

In the morning we had brunch at a place called the Red Door and I ate a mashed potato omelette.  We walked around the harbor — not the inner harbor part, but around the way, with upscale housing and cats staring at us through cracked doors.  Jess is from Baltimore, and was an excellent navigator and ammature historian.  Baltimore still seems like a lot of trouble, and we kept comparing it to Richmond.  Though we don’t have our own type of cookie and I would never spend $50 on a skirt in my hometown.  Richard tried to convince Jess to move to Richmond, like he does with everyone who doesn’t live here.  I like to have friends out of town because I like to visit places and it’s always nice to know a local.

Is it bad to keep comparing every place I go to the place where I live?  What kind of perspective does that really give us?  All cities are probably the same.  They’re rundown for the same reasons and being revitilized in the same ways.  Plus a store keeper told me that Richmond was really expensive when I told him where I was from.  I had never heard that before.

It did make me feel better that Jess shouted “OH MY GOD” when we drove by the hotel that my friend’s parents booked for us those many years ago when we had our patch of trouble.  It was bad!

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