sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

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.

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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.

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June 28, 2006

r&r recap
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.

Category: travel. There is/are 2 Comments.

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.

Category: books,knitting. There is/are 3 Comments.

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…

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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:

  1. Bounty
  2. Lion Bar
  3. Smarties (they’re chocolate and similar to M&Ms instead of sugar like our Smarties)
  4. Crunchie
  5. Aero
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