Aug 19

What day is it again?

I’ve got … not a lot today. That’s a bad showing for a Tuesday, but it happens sometimes. Not every day is Tuesday! Though today is more like a Thursday. And tomorrow is going to be a day the Gregorian calendar doesn’t recognize in the summer time.

Plus, students are now back in town, with classes to begin next week, and that changes every dynamic, interaction and plan you can conceive. And that also effects every intersection, construction zone and every mode of locomotion the modern person can employ is also altered in ways big and subtle.

My source of fun today was going to be a haircut. And we love haircuts around here! There’s nothing better than going to the place and having to give your phone number, genome sequence and high school locker combination to get a little taken off the top. There’s nothing better than sitting in the most uncomfortable plastic chairs waiting for your turn in the big chair, wondering if you’ll get the person who’s feeling talkative or the person who’s already dreading doing the dishes tonight.

And if you don’t want to talk with me, that’s fine. It’s late in my day too. I’m happy to chat, but don’t feel you have to perform for me. We can just do what we’re both here for. Cut my hair straight. Except for this point-cut (I’m learning terms lately) around the wavy cowlick.

I don’t know if it would be in my top 10 trips, but if I did invent a time machine one of my excursions would be to go back to my early childhood to visit my mother when she put me on the wrong side of my head, thereby cursing this one part of my hair to a lifetime of weirdness. She meant well, of course, and probably just took the best advice available. So maybe I can get her to tell me where that idea came from. Then I could travel back a bit further, meet that person, and we could have a few words.

There must be some in-the-crib-and-playpen explanation for it. The scalp is fine. My follicles are perfect. But let it grow a bit and it becomes something just this side of a vexation. So these days I try to get in the barber’s chair before my hair gets so long that the feature becomes pronounced. And we talk about point cuts.

When, really, what I want to talk about is how my hair has so much more silver in it immediately after a haircut than just preceding the trimming of the ol’ mop. What are you doing to me?

That was going to be my fun, but then at the end of the work day I got a bit sweaty moving things from here to there. No man or woman who ever decided they wanted to work in other people’s hair on a daily basis thought “I hope, on some regular August day, someone who’s been in an overly warm building comes to me with sweat-matted hair.”

So I put that off until tomorrow and sat on the futon in my lovely bride’s home office and talked with her for a while. It was a better use of my early evening than anything else I could have thought up, I have no doubt. Then there was dinner off the grill, which is a very necessary thing, and then some cleaning, which is wholly unnecessary and never finished, and then laundry which was wholly necessary and, also, never finished.

I’m going to jump back into the 1930s before the night is finished. I’m still reading Frederick Lewis Allen’s Since Yesterday which has been on balance an entertaining read. I get why it is considered an informal history. I appreciate the distinction. And I don’t mind it at all. There are breezy points, but there is real data. There is real insight, but he finished the book before the last 1939 calendar was pulled down from every wall, which doesn’t allow for the true perspective of history. (But he had a gift for prescience, nevertheless.) There are a few more anecdotal setups than I’d prefer, but they do a nice job of setting his scenes.

I bought this for $1.99, as I do most things I download, and it was worth it. The Kindle app says I’m more than 70 percent through the book now, which means, despite a few more late night reading sessions, it is almost time to start wondering what I’ll read next. Maybe I should run a poll on social media. The wisdom of the aggregate to the rescue!

That’s a phrase no one has ever written on the Internet before. Sometimes you have the idea to Google phrases, just to see, and those series of letters and words have never been put together in that order. It can still happen.

Anyway, a few photos from the last few days, before I go way back in time or: I have them on my phone and I should do something with these …

This is a bowling alley we passed in Queens, and I love the signage. I’m not sure which I appreciate the most. It could be the general look, sure, but the notion of a 24-hour bowling alley is intriguing. (And affordable, it turns out.) Perhaps it is the slight kerning issues of the letters, but I only noticed that here and now. It could be this weird angle they expect us to swallow as we look at the pins:

What is the proper perspective a viewer must have in relation to the pins to see them lined up like that?

Also, they’ve got a blog. And it seems like the first post they wrote was Why a Bowling Center Is the Perfect Date for Valentine‚Äôs Day:

2. Gives Opportunities for Getting to Know One Another

For those in newer relationships, bowling offers the perfect opportunity for really getting to know one another. It puts you in an environment you may not be used to and causes you to interact in a competitive yet friendly way. This may help you uncover a new side of your partner or even show off a different side of your own personality.

Can she pick up that split? Does he shake off a gutter ball? Or will he yell ridiculous things to demonstrate his triumphant victory over wax, reactive resin and maple?

So I’m hooked. I learned how to throw a hook, but I couldn’t do it today. I don’t think I’ve even been bowling since the Bush administration.

This isn’t a bush, but it is leafy!

I’ve loved variegated leaves since the moment I learned the term, and this English ivy is no exception. I don’t even think it is supposed to be where I found it, but it works.

It probably hasn’t been mysterious, for a long time, what causes variegation. But it was a mystery to me. And then I looked it up one day. I always wish I hadn’t bothered. The answer wasn’t enthralling and the mystery was gone.

Here’s one you never hope goes away:

Sure, the students can come back, but you always hope the summer, and its symbols, stay forever. Otherwise, you’re just left with a Tuesday.

Aug 19

Perfect timing

Last night I was sent on a mission to dig up two photographs from 19 years ago. I found one of them. But I also found others, from 18 years ago. One of them is now here, because two weeks ago, I spun together a tale of a book I’m reading and my great-grandmother. It’s a pretty fantastic post, and I think you should read it. Anyway, this is that great-grandmother, Flavil:

While searching an old hard drive for other old pictures, I re-re-re-discovered this rich vein of photos I took just before moving out of the state for work in 2001. I’d taken the time to go see all of the family and visit and laugh and eat and take pictures, and such.

A few weeks later I was in Little Rock for a new reporting job. I’d been there about three days on September 11th. No one in the newsroom knew me or trusted me yet (Indeed, the news director at that station had a stunned look on his face a few days prior when I filed my first report. Maybe I was wrong, but I interpreted it as “He’s literate?”) and I saw the first cut-ins and had to tell the morning anchors.

The lead story that day had previously been the local zoo re-gaining its accreditation, and one of the anchors had spent part of the morning making animal noises on air. (My literacy was not the problem in that shop.) I imagine my great-grandmother probably watched her local stations go to the network feed right there in that chair, but all of that was still almost a month later.

It was gray the day we took that picture, you can see it in that south-facing window in the background, and I remember the rain was coming in later in the evening. When it gets gray there, the ceiling moves in for sure, but it never seems too low, and the sky always seems full of … possibility, I suppose. This storm could be a gentle shower, a toad strangler, a gully washer, the wind could really blow, lighting could strike. It could move on without an explanation. It probably wouldn’t get very bad, not in August, not like the spring and late-autumn storms I spent several years covering, but every cloud looks familiar if you’ve been through some of the bad storms. There’s a sense of energy there in watching a storm roll in, and I don’t just mean the perceptible feeling of the barometric shift. Plenty of places have that sort of experience, but not every place, and somehow even under perfect cloud cover the sky can still seem somehow bright.

Usually there would be a small group of us going to visit her. We’d sit in her tidy little house and exchange pleasantries and speak up, and ask and answer a few questions. It might have just been me that day. I always enjoyed visiting with her, she had candy after all, and I know she appreciated when her family came over, but, in retrospect, I was usually young and loud and in a hurry. By then I was smart enough to finally slow down a bit and listen a little. I was somehow brighter for it, too.

The young person’s lament: I wish I’d caught on to that earlier.

Do you know what I just caught on to, just now? Look at the date stamp on that photo.

Aug 19

Pedal pedal pedal

We had a nice bike ride this evening. Part of the ride was the regular basic route, through the neighborhood that has it’s own private Fourth of July parade that we’ll see one day, through the roads surrounded by corn fields, into the giant subdivision where I always see the same lady running, then over a small, but respectable, hill that would take you to the ice cream shop, which is a turnaround spot. Back over that hill from the other direction, which is a little shorter and sharper, then through the outskirts of two or three other little random subdivisions that aren’t especially distinct.

This takes you to a road that ends in a T-intersection. And, like all T-intersections, the only important things are the stop sign and where each direction will send you. If you turn left, as we usually do, you go about four miles down the road to the water treatment plant, the lake and a turnaround.

Let me just tell you: today we turned right.

We were on this road named after an ancient local family. They’d come to Bloomington from South Carolina — the first of their children was born here in 1837, just 12 years after the city was incorporated — and their ancestors had come over from Ireland before the American Revolution. That first kid, William, grew up to be a Presbyterian minister. He graduated from theological school, got a job and got married all during the first month of the Civil War. He worked in Illinois and Ohio, had five kids, lost his wife, got remarried, took on a church in Iowa, then moved to South Dakota in the 1880s and farmed and preached there until his health took a turn. He would move back to Ohio, where he died in 1916. About the time that William left Iowa, his younger brother David, the second son born here, moved to Florida to grow oranges, which makes sense. I looked up the family name, and there are still some of that family in town today.

We weren’t on that road for as long as it took me to look all that up. But there was time enough there for you to read that paragraph before we turned left onto a road named after a village that isn’t there anymore. The post office there, says the Wikipedia stub, was closed in 1904. Just down the road, at the manmade lake, there’s a beach that bears the name, but otherwise you’d never know of the place. And anyway, it’s a quick right-hander onto a road named after a thriving local family farm. They raise free range things, all organic groups. Anyway, the road they are on gives you views like this:

This is a road we’ve ridden before, but not recently, and it was a scenic treat, which was followed by a less interesting road named after another family that moved here in the town’s earliest days. I supposed that’s the way it is with roads and other named features. They have to be called something, and, Hey, you’re a family has been here forever and there’s still a lot of you around, so you’re it.

Maybe that’s a downside to being a Smith. You never know if this thing was named after your people or not. (Nothing has been named after my people, of this I am fairly sure.) But that’s an upside to being a Smith, too: I get to claim them all.

Anyway, it was a 25-mile ride, with a lot more negative splits than positive ones. It was a fine evening, and a delightful part of the day.

Aug 19

They specifically said they wouldn’t play Freebird

When we started making our plans for last weekend my wife asked her parents what they would like to do during our visit. It was their weekend. Big birthdays, so we thought they should make the plans. We went to a wonderful little Italian restaurant on Friday night. On Saturday night, we went to a rock ‘n’ roll show.

This is a band called Long River Jam. The guitarist and lead singer works with my mother-in-law on a church program she runs. He’s a musical therapist, among other things, and he has this bband. Turns out the in-laws go see them fairly often at this apple orchard farm where they played this weekend. Did I mention we were celebrating two of those big, round number birthdays, and we were doing it at a rock ‘n’ roll show?

Sure, they played the Violent Femmes. The farm was selling their cider and baking you pizzas. They’d brought in a food truck that was selling not-bad downstate New York barbecue. There was a petting zoo, and the kids were running around having a great time. It was a great family atmosphere. And the band was putting out some great atmosphere. Here’s the more-or-less full set list:

Xs and Os – Elle King
Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder
Dancing in the dark – Bruce Springsteen
Harder to Breathe – Maroon 5
Hard to Handle – Otis Redding (But in the style of Black Crowes)
Hand in My Pocket – Alanis Morisette
Hurts so good – John Mellencamp
Santeria – Sublime
She Moves in Mysterious Way – U2
Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2
In the Name of Love – U2
It’s Beautiful Day – U2
Semi Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind
With a Little Help From My Friends – Beatles
Locked Out of My Heaven – Bruno Mars
Sweet Child o’ Mine – Guns ‘n’ Roses
Lookin’ Out My Back Door – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Oye Como Va – Santana

Because nothing says family like cults, massacres, political assassinations and crystal meth, he laughed, in his distinctly Gen X way, during the first set. To be perfectly honest, though, the band was doing a great job turning an oversized patio into a party.

And can I just tell you? The little kids, who danced most of the night away, really liked Hard to Handle.

Here are the in-laws, enjoying the show as the band plays just in the background:

During the break, my father-in-law said the second set wasn’t as strong. They come to see their friend in the band so much they know the setlist. But he changed his mind because of some new material and improving play. Here’s the second set:

Love Shack – B-52s
I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Whitney Houston
Let’s Hear it For the Boy – Deniece Williams
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
I Will Walk 500 Miles – The Proclaimers
Valerie – Amy Winehouse
Good Lovin – The Rascals
Authority Song – John Mellencamp
I Want You Back – Jackson 5
Summer of 69 – Bryan Adams
Time of my Life – Jennifer Warnes/Bill Medley
Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes
The Joker – Steve Miller Band
Last Dance with Mary Jane – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Country Roads – John Denver
Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

It was right around Jackson 5 that we started giving him a hard time about his second set pronouncement. And then, of course, they had to put in Dirty Dancing, and so we did all the Dirty Dancing bits. All of them. Most of them successfully.

They did Country Roads with this cool Caribbean island swagger, and then on the last chorus really sped things up. That would have been enough, but they actually played an encore. Cover band encores are always good.

Of course by then it was late into the evening, and the guitarist we know had to go take his girlfriend to the airport for a 3:30 a.m. flight, so I didn’t get to ask, but I’m guessing the CCR and Van Morrison were some of the first songs someone in the band played.

Two other quick videos from the weekend. Here are some beautiful flowers I saw Sunday morning:

And this is a Purdue ad at the airport. “We’re a terrific university in a wide range of area, but did you know we’ve been to the moon?” Honestly, they probably have to resist the temptation to use this in all of their promotional material:

Anyway, it was another great weekend, which is why I’ve dragged it into Tuesday. If there’s a lesson to be learned it is to get yourself some in-laws who are kids at heart. They’ll always be ready to have a good time with you.

Aug 19

Catching up

Run! Run into the weekend! Run away from last week! And farther from next week! That is why you run!

That was a Saturday run. Well, she ran, I walked through the woods. Still can’t run. Maybe another month or two. Which is fine, I prefer a good walk anyway.

Here’s some moss and grass in the park where The Yankee and I took our engagement photos. You won’t see this in that photo shoot from 2008, however, because we took those photos in the middle of a Nor’easter.

It’s also the park my wife played in as a child, so maybe she’d hopped around on this stone:

Perhaps she picked the berries off this tree and flicked them into the sky:

I had about an hour to goof around with while she ran, so I walked through the woods behind the park and watched the light and shadows highlight the little details of the plantlife:

I found an out-of-the-house fly:

It’s fun to wonder what this will grow into, and how many people may walk by it before the weather turns in a few months:

The park has some nice landscaping, too. When you take in the whole place this stuff comes off almost as an afterthought:

The bees dig it! (When you look at flowers, stick around for a few minutes to watch the bees.)

Tomorrow I’m going to share videos from the weekend, and talk about rock ‘n’ roll. Be sure to stop back by for that. Until then: