Monday, March 31, 2008

Only kidding!

The problem with blogging on such a downer and then not posting again for a couple of weeks is that, I fear, you think I'm still in that spot.

I'm not.

I'm deeper into living here. I am more involved, more committed, more simply here.

I had a week off with Dave and Lily -- curse boarding school vacation with its three weeks off! It may be good for the kids who want to go home to China, but it was not a good thing for our family. The first week Lily did an art/mask camp at school. The second she and Dave went to Long Island to visit Grandma. The third we hung around here, which wasn't bad, and on that Wednesday the 19th went to the Cape for a few days, by way of a day in Boston.

We spent most of the day at the Boston science museum, and while it was a good visit overall, there were lots of problems. Small, niggly problems, like when we parked the car in the museum's lot, there were no signs anywhere that said what floor we were on or what section of the lot. In retrospect it wasn't a big deal because the floor number was on the door and the elevator, albeit at the other end of the lot, and the lot is actually quite small, compared to some of those big New York City lots. But I felt disoriented before I even got into the museum.

Inside the museum many of the buttons on the displays didn't work, or the gears jammed, stuff like that. At $20 a person you expect the buttons to work -- all of them. The little area dedicated to outer space seemed quaint compared to the natural history museum, but you can't blame them for that. The Rose Planetarium and that whole display is extraordinary. The Omni Theater was fun, though. We saw the Alps movie, which was quite intense. I've never been there and the movie really did make me feel like I was on a plane flying around the mountains. Yikes!

As for the food, hosted by Wolfgang Puck, it was overpriced and not very good. At 11:30 the guy gave the last of the mac and cheese to the person ahead of me and told me it would be 10 minutes before the next vat was ready. That just seems sloppy and unprofessional--even I know they should have bunches of it made up and ready to go at lunchtime. They haven't learned what the Museum of Natural History knows, that the food should be good and not too expensive. That museum has an amazing cafeteria and while it does add up, it's hugely varied and has a wide price-range. Note to self: Buy lunch before going to the museum. Eat it there, though, overlooking the river. Nice view.

We hit the gift shop just before closing and Lily, bless her, used half of her money on a gift for the year-old baby we were going to see on Friday. She got some polished stones, and that was cool because another customer overheard us and she was a mineral expert and told us all about what we were seeing and what she usually gets new babies (rose quartz).

The sign on the display said the two bags of polished stones were $2.99 and $5.99 and the amethyst crystals were $6.99. Mixed in with those crystals were another kind, I forget what, and Lily got one of those and I got an amethyst. But the cashier said that her crystal was $10.99. I protested, pointing out the sign, and she said she didn't know about that but the crystal was #10.99. I said, Okay, I'll pay it, but I'm very disappointed in my visit today and complained about the buttons being broken and the food being rotten. And now this bait and switch sign. And she gave it to me for the cheaper price. I was surprised, and said, you don't have to do that, it's okay. But she did and I accepted it.

Then we went on to the Cape in the blinding rain. It's really odd to be on I-93 over there, the roads that were created by the Big Dig. That all happened after I moved away and it's a huge project and I have no idea how to get anywhere any more. Doesn't help speed up traffic on a rainy evening rush hour, but perhaps that'd be too much to ask.

We drove to my friend Clara, an old friend from high school whom I haven't seen in 30 years. She and her husband live in a gorgeous house on a little pond in Woods Hole, just a short walk from town. On Thursday we visited our old family friends Jos and Skid, who gave us lunch and a chocolate Easter bunny for Lily. Then we walked on the beach but it was cold and windy, and drove around looking for osprey. They weren't back yet, but Jos was expecting them any minute. We ended up at a fish hatchery though and they had great blue herons who were trying to figure out how to get through to the trout beneath the netting. Gorgeous.

On Friday we took the boat to Martha's Vineyard and had brunch at the Black Dog with my friend Molly from Brooklyn who lives there permanently now. It was a cold choppy crossing but lovely. I used to visit Clara in Woods Hole, where she grew up, so it was odd and fun to kind of be there again. Lots of these returns to old haunts, lately, now that we've moved back to my roots.

Easter weekend
Back home, we picked up Ruth, visiting from Manhattan, at the Amherst Amtrak station and drove over to the Quabbin Reservoir, which was really neat. I haven't been there in a year--here's my blog from then.

On Sunday our D&D friends from Amherst came over for egg dyeing and egg hunts and a rousing game of something called Fluxx, which was wonderful and amazing. I loved it. I really am a country girl at heart; I always wanted to sit around in the evening playing cards.

Spelling Bee
This was cool. Last Wednesday the Northampton Educational Foundation, which among other things gives small grants to teachers and others in the public schools, held their 8th annual spelling bee fundraiser. Our building hosted a team, three people, and they won their first round but lost the second. The first round was so intense, back and forth, back and forth between their team and the defending champs, over and over, going to the list of reserve words. And my team won. It was the match of the evening. When they lost in the semi's they got a huge round of applause, appreciation for the show they'd put on a few minutes earlier.

This was a riot, a real small-town thing. I ran into a woman I'd had an information interview with last year and she asked me to read grants for the NEF. I met the mother of a boy Lily had carpooled with last summer, who was really nice. I'd always liked the father but never met the mom. And they introduced me to a woman who lives in nearby Laurel Park and who has a nine-year-old son and knows other kids that age. So it was a productive evening.

The small-town thing still strikes me. I was so afraid of lines to get into this bee, and the food lines would be too long and the food would be sold out and Lily would go hungry. But it was easy as pie, no crowds, just lots of friendly people. I was so afraid of traffic to the parade on Sunday (see below) and not getting a seat. Yes the parking was gone and we had to walk in a mile. But we got a seat right at the edge of the route.

The big event this weekend was the St Patrick's Day Parade, held now so as not to conflict with Easter festivities. Turned out to be a three-hour affair, with a dozen towns participating, and every town had their own parade committee, citizen awardees, mayor, police department, fire department, high school marching band, Colleens (beauty pageant winners) and various odds and ends of groups and businesses. Just wait for the UMass marching band! Dave and I kept telling ourselves. I think I see it! one of us would shout as the line stretched past us. Finally, at about 2:45, I asked a parade organizer who said it was long gone, the first band of the entire thing. Jeesh!

The funnest part was hanging around the mall parking lot, which was serving as a staging area. Everywhere you looked you'd see people walking around in military drag or band uniform, or my faves, the kilts of the bag pipe brigades. There were lots of those. It started at noon and some of these guys weren't even dressed then, and I was thinking, hurry up! it's going to start! you'll be late! But as it went on and on and on, I realized, they could sleep for the first two hours and then get dressed and they still wouldn't be late. At least we were outside all day on a gorgeous, if a bit cold, day.

More Nay-Chuh
The real news is that spring is making its way around that corner and the morning explodes in bird song now. I went to get the paper (we get the Times and Globe delivered on Sunday) and everyone was just singing their little hearts out. Welcome back, everyone! I shouted. We missed you! Glad you are here!

Yesterday morning I saw movement at this huge stump behind our house, and I called for Dave. We both stared as our pileated woodpecker chomped away at the stump for a bit. He was so huge we both first thought he was a pheasant or wild turkey. He went into a tree and then another, and eventually flew away. Sure was lovely. And huge. We hear woodpeckers every day but I don't know what kind.

Last week Dave said, First chipmunk! They hibernate, and that's the first one! as we watched one scamper across our deck. I am waiting for the bears but I don't think they'll come around just yet. It's still too cold. Lily's friend Ruth found a robin on Saturday in our yard but it was contorted, obviously had a broken wing. Lily was very upset. We agreed that death sucks. And yes, it was dead by Sunday morning. At least the cat didn't get it.

The other great news is that when Ruth, Lily's friend, was over, Lily went outside. This is huge news. She went outside without our telling her to, and without being with us. Ruth really wanted to go outside so I suggested they bring some plastic animals out and play with them. A little later Dave said, Oh my god! Lily is in the backyard! they were playing lost. Then they practiced crossing over the brook a bunch of times, across logs laying across it. I guess there's a little waterfall upstream, Dave says. It'll be dried up by the summer but for now it's flowing and pretty.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My god, what have I done

Okay, I'm in the do-over phase. Do over! Don't move, stay; stay in the condo; keep Lily at PS 261; keep all our old friends and routines. Don't cause Lily so much stress by uprooting her from everything she knew.

"Dancing Queen" by Abba came on my iPod the other day and I got all teary, flashing on this PS 261 kindergartner, must have been the fall of 2005, at a school function that happened to feature a karaoke machine, and this little kid was a HUGE Abba fan. She was belting that song out like she was a contender on American Idol and I was really sorry I didn't have a camera to put her photo in the school newsletter and caption, "Remember the name! you heard her here first!"

So that sent me into a spiral of feelings about the school and memories and -- you know what it is? I wonder if they think of me. When you leave a place, you don't ever know if they remember you or miss you or wonder how you are. I know my friends, the folks when to visit and call and read this blog do. But most people I've known I won't see again, ever. I do think about the various people I knew in Brooklyn, though, I do get an overall strong sense of dropping off Lily, chatting with Zip, the principal; gossiping about something to a teacher or a parent; having coffee at the Boerum Hill Food Company for a half hour before starting my day. I think the thing I miss the most is the community of PS 261.

My memories of Brooklyn are full of snips--flashes of emotions, really--like that karaoke evening. But even if I were still living there my life wouldn't be the same. I would have found work some place, eventually, and maybe Dave would have, too. We still wouldn't have done the kitchen and we'd still be bitching about the arena and the latest thing that happened on our shift at the food coop, and wondering if we had the guts to just cut bait and move out.

I don't really want to move back to Brooklyn, and I don't really regret moving here. But I have had a tendency to fall head over heels and then after a few months wake up and say, who are you and how did you get into my bed? I learned to wait that particular pattern out, thank goodness, or there might not be a Lily, right?

We've been here 16 months, and on April 2 I'll have a year at my job, and this is our life and this is what we do. This is how we live now. You know the old thing, wherever you go, there you are. I take me with me. I know that this too shall pass, that everything changes, as the Buddhists say. There's something about the exhilaration of new love/relocation/change in general that, once you've dived in, is incredibly energizing. And once you land, well, gee, here I am, and the thrill-- and all those decisions and trying to stay in the moment and breathe because I'm so scared it's not going to come together--is gone. Now it's all come together and I am still here and life is much more mundane, and hey, guess what, I'm still here! I am still faced with myself.

People tell me how brave we were to make this move, but I think the real work is now, hanging in there. Hard to stay in the present NOW, maybe that's why I haven't been meditating like I was a few weeks ago, it's painful to stay in the present. And maybe that's why I am in more discomfort, because the feelings are still there whether I acknowledge them or not. My friend Karen said it would be two years to really land here, and I think she's right. At least, I'm hanging on to that two-year thing. Please, let it be no more than two years!

It doesn't help that we still have snow all over most of our property and what isn't snow is pretty much mud. We do have an extra hour of light but it feels odd, out of sync, it's not time yet. I feel tired a lot, and clunky and bulky--except when I am on the elliptical at the Y, then I feel like an animal. I need to do that more often, I can see! I also need to stretch more--does anyone else feel themselves getting old, or is it just me? Does moving make you old?

I am on vacation this week, Lily's third and final week of her spring break, and we went for a bit of a walk up Coles Meadow today to get outside, into NAY-chuh, and stretch our legs. It was a lovely day, high 40s, and there are great woods along this winding country road. Not much traffic. Lily rode her bike and I lobbied Dave for us to get a dog. Then we went to lunch at Miss Florence, the great old diner in Florence with the curved wooden ceiling panels, and then to a bookstore across the street where I found a slang dictionary, which I've been wanting. It'll help with hedlines. Lily got some books, too, and I picked up a couple as gifts for the people we will visit this week.

Did I mention we are off to the Cape on Wednesday? By way of Boston. We're going to go to the science museum first and then head down to Woods Hole see my old friend Clara from high school, who a couple of years ago moved back to her childhood hometown. I hung out a few times there with her when we were teenagers and I have very fond memories of those visits. We'll go visit our old neighbor, Jos, for lunch on Thursday, and introduce her to Lily--as an older person. She hasn't seen Lily since she was about 18 months old.

On Friday we're taking the ferry to Martha's Vineyard to have brunch with my friend Molly from Brooklyn, and her year-old son, at the Black Dog. Another place I used to frequent when I was a teenager. These are the kinds of trips I imagined doing when we moved here. I thought, we'll be a lot closer to my New England friends. But you know, I don't have that many New England friends any more, and just getting out of our house seems to be a chore. I always was a boring homebody, a nester who just liked bumming around reading or cleaning the bathroom or whatever. I hope we get up to visit friends in Montpelier and Portland some time soon, but who knows.

I think the fear is, oh, I will be alone the rest of my life. I think that's the basic fear at the bottom of most everything for me. That and death, maybe. Karen says humans are the number two pack mammals; as a species we physiologically need other people. My fear is I will be alone, and all those people I saw every day in Brooklyn don't ever think of me and don't remember my name.So why should that really matter when I am making new friends here, and very full life? Yet it does, doesn't it? I think that's one reason why I urge you all to come visit, too.

My friend Anne has been encouraging me not to cram so many people into my life, as I've done my whole life, that Dave and Lily are enough. And they are my favorite people in all the world, and when I can be present they are enough. Tonight we watched about two hours of Dick Van Dyke reruns, it was great. I laugh out loud, a lot. I am afraid to be alone. Yet, I also like it, if I can actually sit with myself long enough to be present in it.

At any rate, sorry for the one-sided therapy blog here. Just working through some stuff. This too shall pass. Don't forget to write! And visit . . .

Saturday, March 15, 2008

$125,000 salaries for public school teachers?

So there's this guy who's starting a charter school in Washington Heights and his schtick is that he's going to pay his teachers $125,000 a year. Here's the Times front page article and here's one from the Houston Chronicle. And here's the Times profile of the guy, Zeke M. Vanderhoek.

I was with some folks who saw the hedline and said, great idea! The kneejerk reaction is, of course, great idea! But now that I've dug a little deeper--which really just means reading the full article and reading a couple of other articles, including his profile on the website of GMAT, his former company, I think this is a bad idea, and not just because I am opposed to charter schools. And not just because this is public tax money the city is allowing him to play with.

What's wrong with experimenting, trying it out, seeing if it works? Because it's a gimmick put forth by a guy who has almost no classroom experience, and it's being promoted by a mayor and a school chancellor who know nothing about education and are approaching the NYC public schools as one vast business experiment.

But a) education is different from business and b) the mayor isn't even treating the schools like a business he would really run. Would the mayor really suggest, or agree to, hiring running extremely qualified, experienced staff in a start-up and expect those experts to being doing their own administrative work, too?

These teachers are going to be working longer hours for their hyped up salaries, and they will be doing much of their own administrative work. The school is only hiring two guidance counselors for 480 students, too. And the classrooms are going to be 30+ kids. I think this is experiment is just PR hype and nonsense and in fact is not respectful to the work that teachers do, really.

Being a teacher is hard work and utterly undervalued, even by people who claim to value it. (I see so many parents praise teachers and then rip their child's teacher, often extremely experienced, to pieces because s/he doesn't think little Johnny is a genius.) And yes, starting pay for teachers everywhere with a master's in education should be more like $60-75K, not the $40K in New York City.

But here, this starting salary is based in the premise that New York City public school students are doing poorly because of poorly paid teachers. The real reason is the immense insurmountable (under our current social policies) poverty of most of the students in the country's largest school system. New York City's student body, more than a million kids in 1,200 schools, are 85 percent people of color, the majority Hispanic. (I read a couple of years ago that half of all NYC residents were born in a foreign country.)

Really hard to find all this information, but this report is interesting. Thirteen percent of NYC students have IEPs, for instance, "Individualized Education Programs," which means they are special ed students, technically. I can't figure out what the real number of free lunch kids in NYC is, but it seems that the city gives 860,000 free meals a day to students. That's a bit deceptive, though, because breakfast is free to all kids, not just the registered free lunch kids. At any rate, we know that NYC school kids are mostly poor, the graduation rate is atrocious, and the kids who suffer the most are poor kids of color.

Vanderhoek has three years classroom teaching, and tutoring on the side, after which he went on to create a million-dollar tutoring program, based on the premise that you should pay your tutors a lot (nice for him). He made a lot of money. He's 31. At this new school he is paying himself, as principal, $90K, to head a school he himself would not be able to get a job at: The Times profile kicker is that Vanderhoek is "sure he won’t hire his mother, a professor of genetics at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, if she applies. “A great teacher, but on the merits, she might need a little more middle-school experience.” Sorry, Mom." Ha ha, but I want a competent educator at the head of my school, not an entrepreneurial kid who doesn't understand the classroom.

The solution to education is money, of course. Of course you can and should throw money at it. But all kinds of money -- small classrooms, secretaries who can actually do their jobs, lots of resources, large enough classroom space, time for art and music and P.E. Not to mention national health, subsidized rents, expanded entitlements of all kinds. I pay nearly $400 a month for health and dental; I would gladly pay that, double that, to the government if it meant that everyone in the country had guaranteed health care.

My solution here is, sure, pay the teachers more, pay them $100K, even. But use the rest of the money to hire really superb administrative staff. Hire enough fantastic guidance counselors, whatever that magic number is. Hire a principal who has significant classroom experience. Let the talented and experienced teachers do what they do best: teach.


Oh, my.

The Times had a couple of good columns, one by Gail Collins and one by John Farmer, a fellow former state attorney general. I am mostly sorry to see Spitzer go, but oh so not surprised; it's clear conservatives will stop at nothing to have their way with the country, and the only feeling I have is disappointment that Spitzer, like Bill Clinton, could be so utterly stupid. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. I don't know if his being brought down was part of a vast right wing conspiracy; the Voice's Wayne Barrett on Democracy Now certainly thinks so.

Like Guiliani, Spitzer is a blowhard and a bulldozer, not a consensus builder or a cooperator, and that personality may work really well as an attorney general but just doesn't when it comes to governing a huge dysfunctional state like New York. So it's not surprising, either, that no Democrats were willing to rally around him at the end. He was toast.

Hello, Gov. Paterson, about whom I have no opinion except that again, he's a part of the Democratic machinery in New York. I guess he does have a sense of humor, though: At his press conference on Friday he was jokingly asked if he had visited with prostitutes. He replied, “Only the lobbyists.”

Here's the "mostly sorry" part: When Met Life sold Sty Town Spitzer said he knew the guy who bought it and he was sure it was going to be a good thing. The guy was a big Spitzer donor, and Spitzer's family made their money in real estate, of course. New York City is now owned by real estate, and they are destroying the city in the name of luxury housing and profit.

Despite his faults, of course I'd prefer him to Gov. Giuliani. But now I am just left with an even deeper disappointment and a sense that this country is irreparably broken. Sorry to be so depressing from afar. I still think we should have moved to Canada.

Oh my, indeed . . .

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A great Saturday

Here's a great Saturday: Went to the Y with Dave and Lily at 10. Dave had a racquet ball appointment with someone he hadn't met before who had advertised for a game partner. I gather it went well, although the guy was better and much younger. Dave lost all three games but held his own and got a great workout; Lily went into childcare where she made clothespin dolls; I went on the elliptical for what ended up being 40 minutes, and then did weights.

The elliptical is a pain. I've never been trained on it so I have little idea how high to set the resistance or the incline (the lower the harder, actually). Also the buttons are placed poorly, so I kept hitting the quick start when I tried to change the resistance. I also jumped off to get a towel at one point -- I hit pause first -- but in the 10 seconds it took to get over and back the thing had reset itself again. But I got in a good work-out.

Back home Lily had pasta for lunch and Dave made us a kind of frittata. Yesterday was pouring out, as you may have experienced where you live, too, and I planned to take a shower and relax all afternoon until a new friend came to pick me up for the evening, at 6pm. So it was perfect when my friend Mary unexpectedly called, looking to see if Lily wanted to play with her daughter, Ruth. "C'mon by!" I ordered, and we fed them lunch and the kids played all afternoon while Mary and I chatted by the roaring fireplace. Lovely!

Mary and I bonded over This Old House, her and Ruth's favorite TV show, and she was impressed that I used to work for the magazine and knew all the guys. They were the nicest part of that job, which was not my happiest professional experience . . . That led us to the topic of magazines and the brilliance of Roz Chast, in particular her cartoon "The Party, After You Left," which perfectly sums up all my insecurities. I found a good link where the words are readable, Mary!

Then I took a soak in the Japanese soaking tub, which actually happened okay. Here's the backstory: The hot water heater for this thing is on the fritz--it was not really the appropriate machine for this set-up, actually, as it turns out--but a plumber had rejiggered it so the water now comes from the hot water heater for the house. Last weekend I had tried to fill it but the house tank is only 50 gallons and the tub is 70, and I filled up the tub too quickly and when I tested it, it was tepid. Not a fun thing.

So this time Dave said, fill it more slowly and don't turn on the cold at all, which I did. But there was no hot water left so my shower beforehand was essentially cold. Yuck. The tub wasn't quite filled high enough, but it was hot, so I warmed up in there right away. This has been going on for about a month, and I really miss the soaks!

Dave is now thinking it might be worth the investment just to get hot water on demand for the entire house, which will suit me just fine, I think. I just want to be able to take a blistering hot, steamy soak--preceded by a hot shower--without much thought or preparation (not even not running the dishwater beforehand, but not washing a couple of pots because there won't be enough hot water). So we might make that investment.

Anyway, while I was soaking my friend Heather came over and brought her arsenal, as she calls it, of hair and make-up supplies. She was here to do Lily's hair, and she did Ruth's too, while she was at it. I left just as it was starting but Dave acted as fashion photog. Heather hung out with Lily after Mary and Ruth left and Dave went out for his regular poker game. I got back around 10 and put sleepy Lily to bed and thanked Heather profusely, who just loves to do this. So it was a great great Saturday all 'round.

The photos from last night are here. They look so glam and grown-up! This link also includes a couple of mask-camp photos from Friday afternoon--Lily is Cat Saver, the superhero she made up a couple of years ago--and a photo of the bird feeder that hangs outside our bedroom that Dave took this morning. On that note, here's the bird update:

The best news is we have a cardinal couple and he is just stunning against the white snow. He and other birds, juncos, chickadees, and now tree sparrows and a house finch, who have been gone for several weeks in the dead of winter, love hanging out in the bare branches of the forsythia in our back yard. They pop up to the feeder outside our window for a snack, eat furiously, dropping lots of seeds on the ground below--very messy eaters--and then race back to their shrubbery perch. I also heard a woodpecker some place when I went to get the Sunday papers.

Yes, we still have tons of snow. We seem to be in a distinctly different microclimate, which made my nephew Jonah ecstatic last weekend (they came right after a big snow storm too so it was fresh, and he and Lily made forts at the piles at end of the driveway). A quarter mile from here, say on Hatfield Road, most of the snow is gone and we can see the ground. But all the yards on Marian Street are covered with at least a foot of snow. It's kinda depressing, although the cardinal, as I say, makes it worth it, makes me sigh with happiness every time I see him.

We first saw this house in late April last year but we moved in at the end of June, so this will be our first spring here and I can't wait. Spring is a time when a young bird's fancy turns to love, and we will reap the benefits by waking up to them singing what the previous owners referred to as the Hallelujah chorus in a few weeks, but just for a brief time. Then they will finish up their courting and go about the business of sitting on eggs and then feeding their families.

We go south for the winter
South for the winter
But we’re back! It’s almost spring!
In spring the weather’s lovely!
It elevates the mood
But even more important:
There’s a plentitude of food!
So if you’re feeling peckish
You could go for seconds
Even thirds!

Boy Bird: Winter’s for the Birds!

Lady Bird 2 (spoken): No it isn’t!

Boy Bird: It’s an expression!

Lady Bird 2 (spoken): Oh…

Winter now is over!
The snow has all been snowed!
Spring is near, which starts a year
With Frog and Toad!

(from A Year with Frog and Toad, the fabulous musical.)

God I'm ready for spring.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Well, how did I get here?

These are the lyrics I should have put on our open house invitation a few weeks ago. The first verse. Talking Heads, of course.

Once in a lifetime

And you may find yourself
living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself
in another part of the world

And you may find yourself
behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself
in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
And you may ask did I get here?

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...

Water dissolving...and water removing
There is water at the bottom of the ocean
Carry the water at the bottom of the ocean
Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean!

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/in the silent water
Under the rocks and stones/there is water underground.

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
My god!...what have I done?

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/in the silent water
Under the rocks and stones/there is water underground.

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...

Go on now and say good bye to our town

So of course I was so high and mighty about how I don't miss Brooklyn, and then all week I've been listening to Iris DeMent singing "Our Town," which David reminded us of just before we moved. He posted a YouTube of Iris and Emmy Lou Harris singing this, and Dave and Lily and I watched it, I think it was that last week just before the moving vans came, and we all sobbed.

(Man, you get into this YouTube thing and you can just click and click and click. This link, above, led me to Iris singing with John Prine, which led me to John and Nancy Griffith. I love this stuff.)

I don't sob now, but I certainly got teary driving back from taking Lily to her week-long masking-making vacation camp at Bement. And Lily came running over just now as I was playing the video (my first blogged video link! and plenty more where that came from) and sang along and cried a bit. She misses Brooklyn a lot.

Anyway, here's the lyrics, from Iris's website. I had no idea she was married to the extraordinary Greg Brown. Another fabulous singing couple (Steve Earle and Allison Moorer):

Our Town
And you know the sun's settin' fast
and just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye but hold on to your lover
'cause your heart's bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town

Up the street beside that red neon light
that's where I met my baby on one hot summer night
He was the tender and I ordered a beer
It's been forty years and I'm still sitting here

But you know the sun's settin' fast
and just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye but hold on to your lover
'cause your heart's bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town

It's here I had my babies and I had my first kiss
I've walked down Main Street in the cold morning mist
Over there is where I bought my first car
it turned over once but then it never went far

And I can see the sun settin' fast
and just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye but hold on to your lover
'cause your heart's bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town

I buried my Mama and I buried my Pa
They sleep up the street beside that pretty brick wall
I bring them flowers about every day
but I just gotta cry when I think what they'd say

If they could see how the sun's settin' fast
and just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye but hold on to your lover
'cause your heart's bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town

Now I sit on the porch and watch the lightning-bugs fly
but I can't see too good, I got tears in my eyes
I'm leaving tomorrow but I don't wanna go
I love you my town, you'll always live in my soul

But I can see the sun's settin' fast
and just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on I gotta kiss you goodbye but I'll hold to my lover
'cause my heart's 'bout to die
Go on now and say goodbye to my town, to my town
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on my town, on my town
Goodnight, goodnight

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Colonial Ball !!!

I completely forgot to mention Lily's Colonial Ball on Wednesday, the 27th, the culmination of several months of study. She and a classmate were in three photos in the local paper, and here are two links to the day. These are the pre-ball shots in the rented costume (from UltraGal in downtown Northampton) and this is the actual ball at the tavern in Old Deerfield.

Afterward she said she had been so nervous but after awhile she started having fun, and ended up so sorry it had to end. She wished it could have gone on forever, and started figuring out when her next dances would be, "proms in the upper school" (6th-9th grades) being the most likely.

Sweater Day March 20

Mister Rogers would have been 80 on Thursday, March 20, and the folks he worked with at Family Communications have announced Won't You Be My Neighbor Days from the 15th to the 20th, and are asking everyone to wear their favorite sweater on that Thursday, in honor of dear Fred. Then take a picture or a video and send it in to them. Cool!

Unrelated: Two actors from "God Hates the Irish," the show I stage-managed in 2005 and where I got my Equity card, are opening on Broadway in April in the Odets play, The Country Girl, directed by Mike Nichols. "Irish" starred, among others, Remy Auberjonois and Anna Camp. I guess I'm behind the times--Remy was on Broadway last year already in a lead role in "Frost/Nixon." He was in the workshop of the Katharsis production of "The Polish Play" in winter of 2006. He's really talented, and so is Anna, who says she wants to be fearless on stage, and she sure is.

And Carmen Abrazado, who was the production stage manager for Irish and hired me, giving me my union card, is now on The Lion King. That's a nice gig!

Way cool.

birthday, poetry, Steve Earle & sugar houses

I was 47 last Thursday and woke up to my darling family's wicked cool treasure hunt. They handed me the first clue and maps of the living room and upstairs. I was hot or colded as I searched the house looking for my loot, which turned out to be the complete Dick Van Dyke Show on DVD, all five seasons! a bird that automatically dunks his head in water (the directions' translation is pretty silly), a three-cd set of nearly 400 bird songs native to the Northeast, and "We Live in Bodies," a wonderful book of poetry by Ellen Dore Watson, who is the head of the Poetry Center at Smith College. We ran a poem she wrote in our March issue on the table of contents:

12 May 1996
yes, we can loll here for six more chapters, before--yes,
waffles, yes you can stay naked all day or until you think
you need clothes, yes to butter on the video popcorn today
and me beside you for not just the scary parts, then yes
to a long rain-walk, yes, even to the culvert rushing water and
the long way home, yes to candles with dinner, yes to no
lettuce, yes, I'll save the opera and switch to jazz, yes--
a bath bead?--take two, and yes I will sing the song, yes,
just this once, three times.

I tried to read it aloud to them and couldn't finish it, I was crying so much. I love love love this poem. This is why I love poetry, because poets are able to articulate the unsayable. It's inspiring, and a bit sad, since I know I never say yes enough. Dave said, I don't just want to be that kind of parent, I want to be that kind of spouse, which left me speechless.

That night Dave and I actually had a sitter (!) and went to town. Amazing, that. Check out this schedule: I left work at 6pm and got home about 6:10. We showed the sitter around the house and left back for town together at 6:30. We were seated at Siam Square for dinner by 6:45. We were in our seats at the Calvin at about 10 to 8 in time to hear Steve Earle. It was a great show, although we are sleep wimps and dozed during the opening act, Alison Moorer, Steve's 7th wife, who is really good but we were really sleepy. Steve gave a great show, two hours worth, and again, we're such early risers we left during the last encore at 11:15 because we were so wiped. And we were home by 11:30 . . .

We both had one of those, "Wow, I don't live in New York any more!" moments. They are fewer and fewer now, eh? I used to leave the office at the end of the day, where I could be working any where, and crack up when I hit the street. I'd just laugh, thinking, "I live in Northampton!" Like I had kinda forgotten while I was chained to my computer. I do this still, but not as often now, so I guess I'm settling in a bit.

I had another one when Steve sang a song off his new album, called Washington Square Serenade (his CDs have fun covers). Seems he recently remarried and moved to New York, after living in Tennessee a long time, and he loves the city. He sang this song, City of Immigrants (click on that for the complete lyrics) and I just thought, yup, he nailed it, exactly what I think:

don’t need to go travelin’
Open my door and the world walks in
Livin’ in a city of immigrants
Livin’ in a city that never sleeps
My heart keepin’ time to a thousand beats
Singin’ in languages I don’t speak
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

I felt what I think might be melancholy but I'm not quite sure. I felt a loss, but not a grief. I am not grieving. I know I harp on this theme constantly but it's really true: I loved living in New York so much and I am also so happy I don't live there any more. It was time to move on. I am living where I am healthier and happier and more serene and calmer. Me, calm! Ha! but it's true.

I will always be happy I lived in New York--Brooklyn, really--and I think everyone should have to live there at least a year in their lives. But I am also happy to have moved. I know it's possible to hold more than one feeling in my heart at one time, but this still startles me, this intensity of feeling, both feelings, band I catch myself wondering if I am really sunk in grief but unable to admit it, and I always come back to, I don't think so. I just think I loved New York but it was time to say good bye, and that's okay.

Damn, New York is a cool town! Brooklyn is the best!

Back in Northampton, the Calvin Theater is a spin-off of the Iron Horse, a long-running club that has showcased some of the great artists of the last 30+ years. I saw Rory Block there in January. It's a club and serves food; the smaller shows go there. The Calvin is a theater with 500 or a thousand seats, maybe. Dave and I saw Mary Chapin Carpenter there last year. Excellent show.

So here's what you do: Look over the schedule for the various venues under the Calvin umbrella and make sure we are around, and then come up and see us and go to the show. We might even go with you. It's reasonably priced and you get free room and board, as long as you entertain us and talk to Lily and admire our cooking.

The day after my birthday was Leap Year Day and my mom and Don came to visit for the first time since before Christmas. We sat up watching Dick Van Dyke -- it is still timeless! -- and it snowed all night and into Saturday. Gawd! Our second storm in a week. It's exhausting. Cate and her kids made it up despite the snow in the afternoon, and Lily and Jonah spent several hours building snow forts in the snow piles on either side of the driveway.

Thankfully it's raining, and we are all hoping the snow will melt and spring will actually come. Well, first comes mud season, then spring. In Brooklyn we had dirt season, dirty streets and sidewalks. No mud. The only catch is that right now not only are the days warm, 40s, but the nights are, too, these last few days. That means the sap isn't running. I am told global warming has killed the syrup industry in this part of the woods, which is a grievous thing.

Nevertheless the stalwart Williams Sugar House near Lily's school in Old Deerfield is open for business, simple pancake and waffle breakfasts seven days a week. We stopped by on the way to take her to camp today and it was really fun. Here's a Boston Globe story about this sugar house from 2006. They are a wonderful experience, unique to sugaring communities, and I love the tradition of eating at them because it's the first harvest of the new year, and the indication that spring really is coming. Here's some info about Massachusetts sugar houses.