June 30, 2006
mr. rogers for adults
posted by soe 11:22 pm
I listen to a number of podcasts that I think could be of interest to you. This is the first of a periodic series highlighting them.
When I started my first real job after college, I was still living at home — about a 20 minute drive from work. Every morning, at 7:30, I would flip the tv over from the weather to PBS. A familiar jazz piano song would fill my ears and I would get ready to spend half an hour with an old friend, Fred Rogers. Yes, at 22, I started watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood again.
Starting a new job is stressful. All my colleagues were my parents’ age (or older) and I was the boss of kids just a few years younger than myself. I was trying to learn all sorts of new programs and figure out expectations in order to meet them. I answered the phones — and I never knew any of the answers. I helped put together a publication that came out biweekly (it was the sort of publication where the delivery pickup man was always ready before we were). And, it turns out, I had an undiagnosed case of mono. So I was struggling to keep my head above water.
But for 30 minutes a day, an old friend sat me down and explained how things worked using Picture Picture and the mini movies Mr. McFeeley brought to the house. He sang songs designed to make his watchers (preschoolers, I understand) feel safe and respected and understood. He sent me into the Land of Make-Believe to let my imagination wander. And then he packed up his stuff, changed back into his work clothes, and looked into the camera. “You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.” And I needed to hear that.
Mr. Rogers is gone now, but his spirit lives on in a podcaster named Sage Tyrtle. She is the host of a daily podcast called Quirky Nomads, which she records (by my understanding) in a closet in her apartment in Toronto.
Sage, like many Americans, is unhappy with the direction the U.S. is headed in. Like many of us, she and her husband swore that if things kept going that way, they’d move to Canada. Unlike most of us, though, she and Todd followed through. They moved with their son, Paul, and cats across the border.
But this isn’t where their story ends. Sage travels around the city of Toronto, super-sneaky, tiny notebook in hand, recording snippets of conversations she hears. She dramatizes them, as well as the imagined backgrounds to photographs and letters she’s found. She invites her listeners to leave her comments, to create stories, to answer questions, to record “clicks,” to take part in the show, to shape the show into something that is our own collectively. She helps us to realize that we are not alone in the greater cosmos, that there are others out there who want to find the best in the world.
This week’s shows offered a cat radio play, a story about a young girl and her bandana, and a look back at Sage and Todd’s wedding.
I like to listen to Quirky Nomads while I’m on the Metro to work. It’s good to start your day with perspective — even if you lose it for periods of time during the day — and Sage’s show offers me that. She asks me to be a better person and I am grateful to her for the reminder that I can be. Like Mr. Rogers, Sage encourages me to take a deep breath and to look around to find the greater humanity around me, to find my neighbors, and to appreciate them just for being themselves.
You can download Quirky Nomads from Sage’s website or via iTunes’ podcast directory.
June 29, 2006
sparkles, divers, and drip-dry
posted by soe 11:23 am
The last week has held so much beauty that it may warrant a second set of beautiful things over the weekend. In the meantime, my list of beach-themed beautiful things:
1. The water at the Coronado beach was filled with flecks of golden sand. When the sun shone on the water, it looked as if pixies had spilled bags of glitter into the ocean.
2. Pelicans are fascinating enough creatures when you just see them sitting around on perches or at the zoo. But when you see them flying, they’re incredible. A flock of them flew in precise military formation just inches over the water. And when the hunt, they circle lazily over the water until they spot their prey. Then they go into a sudden nose-dive and sploosh! into the water head first. Eventually they pop back up duck-like and then take off to start the process over again.
3. Coming in from the water, I am sopping wet and chilly. I drop onto the towel and think warming, huddling thoughts and hope that the heat from the sand will penetrate through my towel and skin. Eventually, though, the sun dries my skin and my bathing suit and all is once again well with the world.
June 28, 2006
posted by soe 11:55 pm
Our California vacation was terrific. We arrived at the Orange County Airport without incident and immediately pointed the rental car south toward Danny’s house.
Danny welcomed us (literally) with open arms. He really knows how to treat his guests and quickly spirited us off to the local neighborhood yarn shop (and he’s not even a knitter!), record store (where we all bought new cds), and coffee shop (where the barista gave me a very tasty raspberry steamer). David arrived home, and he and Danny whisked us off to a fabulous veg-friendly Mexican restaurant where I had an avocado enchilada and amazing tofu tacquitos. We finished the evening with a trip to a bakery where we all picked out desserts that we were ultimately too full and too tired to eat.
Friday dawned sunny and clear (Danny claims there are other kinds of days in San Diego, but not many) and after lounging the morning away on Danny and David’s deck with their two cats, Duke and Kady, we suited up and headed to Coronado, a nearby island with ultra-clean beaches. Poor David tolerated our need for sun and surf with a pile of magazines to read and heaps of anti-sun clothing. Danny, Rudi, and I stripped down to bathing suits, applied sunscreen (really — this will be important later on), and tumbled down onto beach towels with books. Rudi was the first to hit the water, quickly followed by Danny, and later me. We body surfed with a very polite 8 year-old until we were tired and our (or, at least, my) bathing suits were filled with sand from being buffeted around by the waves. Back to the towels. More reading ensued. Rudi went back to the water. I finished my book and followed. Back at the towels later on, I added more sunscreen to my face and, at Danny’s urging to my arms. Soon we packed up and headed back home.
At home it quickly became obvious that Danny, Rudi, and I ought to have reapplied sunscreen or we applied it poorly to begin with. Danny and I forgot behind our knees. I had a very red back of a thigh. Rudi’s torso was pink. Our clothes were filled with sand. But, man, had we had a blast!
We concluded the evening with the previous night’s dessert followed by a San Diego Padres game against the Seattle Mariners. Danny and David are good sports and were willing to take us to a game after we expressed interest in seeing one. (I harbor love for former Mets Mike Cameron and Mike Piazza.) The Padres’ stadium is a nice one and has lots of food options, even if they will cost you a small nation’s annual GRP for one night’s worth of food and drink. The Padres obliged our attendance by first giving us beach blankets and then a great game. For a while it looked distinctly possible that the Mariners would prevail, but thanks to poor pitching from Seattle, a couple nice bloopers from the Padres, and several heart-in-mouth defensive plays, the right team prevailed.
We finished the night with Danny reading me Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer. He started it while I was knitting, continued while I wound a ball of yarn, and finished it while I was curled up on the couch floating in and out of Dream Land. It has been a long time since I’ve had a bedtime story read to me and is one of my favorite memories of the trip.
The next morning we had breakfast at The Big Kitchen, a great little eatery in Danny’s neighborhood. Run by Judy, who stopped by our table several times and who greeted everyone who walked in with a smile, The Big Kitchen is a liberal hole-in-the-wall brunch place designed to appeal to anyone with similar sentiments. Then time to depart neared and then it was upon us and then we were gone…
Heading north to Seal Beach, we stopped first at REI to pick up wedding presents for Elodie and Jeremy and then by a bike shop to arrange for Rudi’s loaner bike.
Elodie and Jeremy picked out a beautiful setting for their wedding: Cal State-Long Beach’s Japanese Garden. A huge pond full of koi takes up the center of the garden. An arched bridge sits at the far end, and it was here that the ceremony took place. It was a blend of cultures — and Elodie was stunning as a bride. (I can’t believe she’s all grown up! I remember her first week at college so clearly!) We caught up with two other Wesleyan folks and shared dinner with them and got the chance to say hi to Elodie and to meet Jeremy. We ate cake. We danced. We danced lots. (I like dancing.) Then we went back to the hotel and crashed.
Sunday morning Rudi headed off to ride with Jeff while I lounged around Seal Beach. I brought breakfast back to the hotel room and ate while knitting and watching England eke out a win over Ecuador (Beckham bent it). Then I went for a swim in the pool, located in the courtyard at the center of the hotel, before heading down to explore the shore. I saw no seals (save the statue on the pier), but I did see sailboats peeking in and out of the fog and kids playing in the waves and people fishing on the pier.
Rudi returned home and after a shower we headed north to see my brother Josh. We hadn’t seen his new place and found it to be very clean and breezy and beachy and him. He even has a peach tree (with delicious peaches) and an orange tree (which I didn’t taste and thus can’t attest to) in his backyard! He showed us pictures of the dog he’s hoping to adopt and we sat and chatted for a few hours. Then he took us out to an Asian-fusion restaurant, where I had the first fried rice I’ve had in many years. God, was it tasty.
We stopped at Seal Beach on the way back to the hotel so Rudi could see it. We walked the pier and watched a surprising number of people frolic on the sand below us. (It was midnight, after all.)
The next morning we packed up and headed back south to the airport. I picked up a book at one of those multi-purpose shops because I really wasn’t digging the one I’d brought along (the penalties of bringing only one book with you) and read it the whole flight home.
By the time we got home (the weather in D.C. kept us on the ground for an extended period in St. Louis), we were tired but so glad we’d gone. It was an awesome vacation and gave us the chance to see folks we hadn’t seen in way too long. Yes, it could have been longer, and, yes, it could have ended in a drier fashion, but it really was a fantastic five days.
June 27, 2006
wet books aren’t a good thing
posted by soe 1:21 pm
For people who love books, Rudi and I tend to leave them on the floor. Normally this is fine, but not when two of your rooms flood.
I bought a hair dryer this morning and have been blow-drying the wettest (and thickest) of the books for an hour or so while listening to podcasts. I think it will work out okay. (Yes, I have heard a rumor that some people use these machines on their heads. I have never been one of those people and gave away the one hair dryer that was ever given to me. But desperate times called for desperate measures and I am now the owner of a book blower.)
One of my knitting books may have bitten the dust, though. It has glossy pages that all seem to have melded together as they dried and my attempts to pry them apart have not been good for the paper. I’m going to try steaming them apart, but if that doesn’t work, we may have the first significant casualty of the floods. (Or it could become an off-roading instruction manual offering the beginnings of patterns but not the ends where the pages have ripped.)
P.S.: For those who are wondering, yes, we had a great time in California. The present woes have shifted those nice memories into the background, but they will rise again into the foreground soon and then I’ll be happy to bore you silly with tales of 70 degree temperatures, books, visiting loved ones, and hitting the beach.
in the event of rain, please send towels
posted by soe 9:20 am
D.C. is suffering from torrential rains. And, located as were are at the confluence of two rivers, flooding.
I’m delighted to say that we did not return home late last night to feet and inches of water the way some people in D.C. had yesterday. And our landlord and handyman did check on the bedroom problem (on which they’re still working).
That’s where the good news ends.
Flooding in the living room — where we put all the extra stuff we rescued from the bedroom. Somehow the phrase “when it rains it pours” has a certain bitter irony to it today, particularly when you see they’re predicting the heaviest rains of the week this afternoon.
The large braided rug that covered half the floorspace in the living room is currently draped over the railing leading down to the Burrow. The washing machine is working overtime. I’m off to buy a hairdryer to take to the books that haven’t dried yet from last week. (I have to get them dry before I can start tackling the mildew that I see forming on some of them.)
But I do have terrific parents who, when they saw the tv footage of the area’s flooding, packed up their car with towels and a wet-dry vac and headed south so they could be already on the road to help us if we came home to find things floating. We intercepted them before they hit New York City, luckily, but their kind-heartedness did help to buoy our spirits as we toiled to remove the sodden, water-logged things into other parts of the apartment.
Hopefully the sun will come out tomorrow and we can finish drying out then.
In the meantime, please send us your mental towels…
June 23, 2006
five favorite british candies
posted by soe 3:52 pm
I’m on vacation, but I wanted to leave you something tasty in my absence. Here are my favorite British candies to make your mouth salivate:
- Lion Bar
- Smarties (they’re chocolate and similar to M&Ms instead of sugar like our Smarties)
June 22, 2006
pods, cool, and wings
posted by soe 9:03 am
We’re on a plane right now headed out west for a wedding and some family and friend visiting. So next week’s beautiful things may have a left-coast-tinged viewpoint. But in the meantime, here are several beautiful things from the home front from the last week:
1. English peas at the farm market this week. When I was little I hated cooked peas, but straight from the garden they were a whole different story. I can take cooked peas or leave them nowadays but eating them out of the pod is still delectable.
2. Sunday was an August-like day. Hazy, hot, and humid. I decided to celebrate it by a trip to Eastern Market to look for a wedding present and to the local yarn shop to see if they had anything that I needed to buy during their sale. Then I had to run a few more errands. By the time I got back to the house, I was pink (from the heat, not from the sun) and dripping — totally disgusting. But then I got to take a nice tepid shower and I felt reborn and renewed (at least until I headed back outside).
3. On my way home on the Metro tonight, I passed a family sitting on a bench waiting for their train. The little girl had on a pink t-shirt and had pink, sparkly wings festooning her back. She looked just like a fairy — and maybe she was.
June 21, 2006
days before vacations suck
posted by soe 3:18 pm
If sucky things can happen the day before a vacation, they will.
People monopolized the washing machine last night. Did they not smell the mildewy smell in the hallway from the soggy things that require washing?
Last night the iPod broke. It’s under warranty, so I should be fine. But the store I bought it from had no time for me today. Luckily there’s another Metro-accessible store where I was able to make an 8 p.m. appointment. Keep your fingers crossed that I leave the store with a working iPod.
I had a four-hour meeting today. And another phone meeting in 20 minutes. There are still four other things on my work to-do list.
I need to do laundry — and have it dry. I need to pack.
I need to decide on books and knitting projects to take with me. These are important choices with two cross-country flights in the plan. What if I don’t like the first book? I only have 130 pages left in the book I’m currently reading. Do I leave it behind in favor of a book I haven’t started yet. Should I bring the tank top? Or start Rudi’s other sock? Should I forego taking a shawl and bring the shawl that’s sitting on my needles with the idea that I’ll definitely finish it if I need to wear it on Saturday night?
Ack! Ack! Ack!
I need to remember to breathe…
June 20, 2006
wet wet wet
posted by soe 11:56 am
Our bedroom flooded last night.
This was inconvenient timing because we have a house guest through the end of the week, which means that space is at a premium in the Burrow for the moment. At least Sam is an old friend (who has seen us at our messiest) who doesn’t mind sharing the living room with all our laundry.
On the other hand, the timing could have been much worse because the Burrow will be unattended for four days while we’re out in California. How awful would it have been to come home to a flooded (and probably by that point mildewed) bedroom?!
The rug we had in the bedroom prevented the waters from seeping into the living room. Mum and I bought it before my sophomore year of college and it was nice in all the many places it ultimately lived. But it was 13 years old and it’s hard to feel devastated about an inexpensive rug biting the dust after all that time. Some books need to dry in a substantial way and our duvet will need to go to the cleaner (probably time for that anyway). The box a painting was sitting in got wet, but the painting did not. A broken laundry basket we hadn’t gotten around to throwing away (and which I’d meant to get rid of last week before Sam and Alexis arrived) prevented a lot of things from getting wet. (All the knitters reading this can rest assured that all my yarn sits in a cabinet three feet off the floor; I can’t even say that about the books!) All in all, while this was not what I wanted to come home to after work on a Monday evening, it could have been much, much worse.
My family seems to be plagued by recurrent flooding. My folks’ old house was on a slab floor (meaning it has no basement) and in addition to the minor spot flooding they’d get during nasty rainstorms and hurricanes, they also had devastational flooding twice in just over 18 months. It was bad enough that they had to replace the carpeting both times. Then they moved into their new house where they’ve had minor flooding once as well as a mildew attack in the basement. Gramma’s roof sprung a leak last winter and seeped into an unused room where it caused some mildew problems. Our living room flooded last year. The only really surprising thing is that none of us lived in New Orleans when it ended up under water last year.
There has to be a novel in all of this somewhere. Anybody got a great first line for it?
June 19, 2006
posted by soe 10:56 am
Sam and Alexis have been in town and we wrapped up a fun weekend with a trip to see Nacho Libre last night. It was by the guy who did Napoleon Dynamite, which I loved, and it looked like it could be fun in that same kind of quirky way.
Alas, it was not to be. Jack Black (who plays a semi-priest-cum-Mexican wrestler with heart) cannot get beyond playing … Jack Black. He’d manage for a little while and then there would be a moment where he could either stay in character or revert to himself and never did he opt for sticking with the character. He gets that look that I see on the faces of precocious little kids who know they’re doing something cute (and often slightly wrong). It’s obvious that he thinks he’s very funny.
He was good in School of Rock, where he played himself. He was fine in High Fidelity, where he also didn’t need to stretch his acting abilities. Rudi tells me that he was convincingly someone else in King Kong, but I wouldn’t be able to confirm that because it wasn’t the sort of movie that appealed to me.
The guy who played Esqueleto, Nacho’s sidekick, was funny, but he was a Pedro redux from Napoleon days. And the kids were cute and convincing playing … kids.
But this movie is really about “just Jack” and Jack is just too much for me to want to take in large doses. This movie gave me about 45 minutes too much.
Unless you really like Jack Black, I’d suggest saving your tens and seeing The Heart of the Game instead.