Monday, November 27, 2006

homage to fug

Here's how those brilliant, sharp-tongued, riotously funny, women described one of Posh Spice's (aka Victoria Beckham) outfits at TomKat's wedding (scroll down to #4):

An insane arts-and-crafts fetishist. This one is fantastic. Now, granted, she didn't wear this to the wedding itself; just to some of the paparazzi-baiting festivities beforehand, whatever those were (the official blessing of the pre-nup, perhaps, or free Scientology classes). But there's something so magical about the fact that she ever even put this on at all. She does know the difference between decolletage and decoupage, right?
The difference between decolletage and decoupage? That is just perfect. Really perfect. I bow down in homage and verbal envy.

I freely admit that I didn't even know who Posh Spice was before I became a fugisciple. And I still react to most celebrity names with a look of mild retardation. Like dryer lint would be more fascinating than the red carpet parade hot-air balloons. However, if Heather and Jessica of fug fame were to write about the gauche behavior of the aforementioned dryer lint, I'd line up to read it. It's not the personalities, it's the critique. Bravo, you most unladylike women. You bring new meaning to the domestic science of slicing and dicing.


Thanks to Lori & Mary, I can send my Tourette's humor into semi-retirement and focus full-time on making fun of a fresh disorder: Jumping Frenchmen of Maine. That's right, boys and girls, that's what it's called. Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

Jumping Frenchmen of Maine is a rare disorder originally described by G. M. Beard in 1878. It results in an exaggerated "startle" reflex, and was first noted among related French-Canadian lumberjacks in the Moosehead Lake area of Maine. It is not clear if the disorder is neurological or psychological.

The "Jumping Frenchmen" seemed to react abnormally to sudden stimuli. Beard recorded, for instance, individuals who would obey any command given suddenly, even if it meant striking a loved one, and repeat back unfamiliar or foreign phrases uncontrollably. Beard also noticed that the condition was often shared within a family, suggesting that it was inherited.

It's cruel and unusual punishment to even insinuate that this disorder is not fodder for mockery. Startle a Québécois woodchopper in a New England church and just see if you can stop laughing.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I wish I knew the emoticon for chestbeating victory.
Here's my lame attempt:
We divided and conquered; the attic is now debris-free. And as we went into the ring this week with more heavy duty filters than last week, the sinus reaction was...well, less dramatic. We also turned the oldies station up loud. All nasty projects should be accompanied by bouncy, corny, sing-a-long music.

And, the other results are in. Strangely disappointing: neither one of us has bragging rights for finding any pest remains. No bones, claws or tails. And I was looking. But I wasn't playing CSI; there was no sieving of dusty dirt piles. We had a job to do. Barbara did find an old bottle of Castor Oil. Have no idea how old it is but my guess is that the dregs are no longer odorless nor tasteless as the label claims. She also found two newspapers–from 1936. Must have been a good year to work in the attic because I swear it hadn't been touched since. They were both fairly degraded and brittle.

Okay, so we're targeting our next project on the road to renovation. I know you're all waiting with bated breath. Or is it
baited breath...probably not, who wants their breath to smell like bait? Anyway, we're hellbent on not losing momentum. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


For me, the suburbs were to culture what gore-tex is to sweat: wicking away any music, art or literature of substance; while paradoxically allowing the clammy moisture of the banal to stay close to the soul, chafing if one ventured off the well-beaten track. Perhaps that's why I am drawn to urban living. All those years of wanting something richer, I can't imagine myself ever moving back to the land of strip centers, malls and restaurant chains.

Which is not to say I don't periodically enjoy a big bowl of mac & cheese while watching The Simpsons in a sweatsuit. For balance. I mean, to balance out the symphony and haute cuisine not that I need the sweatsuit to balance. I'm sitting on my ass for the tv/comfort food ritual–not really in any danger of tipping over.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

waits for orphans

Tom Waits has just come out with a new collection of songs. It's called Orphans; Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards. How could you not adore this man (and his wife) for the titles alone? Seriously, I mean adore. Sacrifice-your-virginity-to level of adoration.

Blues, Ballads and Noise. I have long imagined a dotted line running from my brain to my crotch—cutting figuratively through the middle of my heart and soul or spirit (or whatever I am calling it these days). Anything that strikes a simultaneous vibrating chord, satisfying intellect, emotion, soul and desire is a rare truth. A moment of perfection. A glimpse at godhood. Art or thought or person or song. It doesn't matter–the unified plucking of a string that reverberates at all points is not limited by form.

More than any songwriter, Waits did and does this for me. His songs, old or experimental, make me feel plucked to life. My children heard his rough-lullaby voice all their lives. There are songs that I connect so strongly with each of them, I can hardly bear those songs in their absence. The love songs he rasps to life that make me think of Barbara pull at my heart like no others.

The man and his wife, Kathleen Brennan, are fucking geniuses and I'm happy to drop the 40 bucks to pay my humble disciple dues.

P.S. And thank you, Rich, for the NPR link...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

attic in progress

15 hours and three filled-to-overflowing city trash containers later, we've finished cleaning about 3/4 of the attic.

In addition to the previously mentioned fear that the spaces between the attic beams were probably never intended to be weight-bearing, did I mention that scattered about are nail spikes coming up through the floor? Did I mention that much of the attic floor is threaded with electrical cords that qualify as antiques? Cleaning under and in between these electrical lines made me wonder which quadrant of our house would suddenly lose power.

Still no carcasses. Barely any bug shells for that matter.

In the open ceiling area in front of our bathroom a large, dinosaur attic fan sits. We drop bags and bags of debris between the large rusty fan blades. Temperatures dropped last night to the upper thirties. This morning it felt like I was showering outside. Like Catherine O'Hara says in Beetlejuice, in "an indoor outhouse."

We are learning to "hop" mountain goat-like from beam to beam. That alone should make anyone who knows us smile. I would not choose as my animal representative anything that could be described as nimble-footed. I am much more ever-observant but weary bluetick hound type.

[I wrote this post, or sketched it out last month and forgot to publish it. For those of you who are paying attention to such details, my apologies.]

Saturday, November 18, 2006

where does all the dirt come from?

Before I forget, we created a wedding announcement for the online Houston Chronicle "paper." It is hokey but sweet to have an official announcement.

I've been thinking that the Democrats need to pick three or four issues and make some progress, rather than tackle 50 social problems and dissolve into egalitarian squabbling and posturing. That seems like a simple concept but of course, it's not. In keeping with my microcosm reflects macrocosm and visa versa, I thought we might take the same approach with our little world here. So we picked our first thing–the attic. The unfinished, debris-laden attic.

Our attic is accessed by a small, being-John-Malkovich-sized hole in a narrow 9-1/2 foot ceilinged coat closet. It is, without exaggeration, a fucking small entry space. We've tacked up a piece of plastic over the hole to prevent the outside elements from coming in willy-nilly, but let's face it, a piece of plastic is no kind of insulation. It does, however, come down pretty easily.

Our goal is to clean up the attic. Clean it up and prepare to remodel the space so it is a working room with storage. I keep telling people that it hasn't been tended to in 35 years, but that may be an uncharacteristic understatement. Our house is 86 years old. I swear to god there is more than three decades of debris up there.

Up we climbed. We placed a half-dozen 4' by 1' boards across the support beams so we wouldn't have to balance on those sturdy but narrow 2" wide beams as we cleaned. The floor in between these beams is, of course, the ceiling below. It consists of what appear to be fairly sturdy, wide planks of wood. However, this doesn't fill me with confidence as I can't figure out exactly how thick said boards are nor from which direction they have been secured. And I am motivated as much by my fear of falling through the ceiling below, as I am by having to explain to the EMT how I broke my leg and why there's a plus-sized hole in the ceiling above me.

The space in between these beams is chock-full–and I mean to the brim–of broken bits of wood, chunks of old roofing, dust clumps, dropped ten-penny nails and copious amounts of silty dirt. There are the requisite number of tetanus-shot-baiting nail-ends coming through the roof and sprinkled dangerously around the beams. The beams that were tacked up like no human beings would every actually walk around this space. It looks like what you would expect the structure of a grown-up tree house to look like. Pieces of wood in varying stages of soundness, nailed up all over the place. Like cartoon characters slapped up boards with their oversized hammers.

We begin the slow process of sweeping up these three-foot alleyways, filling small plastic bags with giant splinters and dirt. I tell Barbara that the first one of us to find the dead carcass of some long-gone creature/squatter would win the prize. Of course, the person who doesn't win, wins as well. We sweep, bag and shift foot by foot. Poking deep in the eaves with our brooms, disturbing the very birthplace of any number of Stephen King-like stories. It's a relatively cool day in Houston. In fact, when I was downstairs for a period of time, I got chilled. But it took less than 5 minutes in the attic to begin to sweat. No wonder our energy bill is ridiculous. This is like having a rustic cabin stuck on top of our house venting the cooling/heating to the great outdoors.

Did you ever do something to which the outcome was a dreadful, foregone conclusion but for some weird reason no consequence ever materialized? For instance, if you snuck out of the house at night and quietly crept back in at 3 a.m. You know that your parents will kill you if they catch you. As you tiptoe through the kitchen to your bedroom, you knock into the pot rack and a pot is jettisoned and hits the ground with a clatter that almost makes you lose control of your bowels. You stand there in frozen, reverberating silence waiting for your parents to appear and your life to end. And nothing happens. A relief, of course, but unnerving on some plane. Well, that's the critter story. There is no reason that we should not have grabbed (with gloved hands) some dessicated rodent carcass during our archeological dig. It only makes sense. But–nothing. I'm relieved but disturbed. Then, it is Houston and if something once crawled up there to live or die, the heat probably would have evaporated and crumbled their remains in no time. Then again, we're only about a quarter of the way done.

Everything hurts and we haven't even had a night to stiffen up. There's a meconium-like substance coming out of my noise everytime I blow. Tonight I will dream of elves with winches and enormous vacuum cleaners.

Friday, November 03, 2006


We are coming to the end of our week in Vancouver. We had crisp air and sunshine for the first five days and constant rain for these last two. We are currently in a very busy internet cafe/billiard hall in Vancouver's West End. The clientele is almost exclusively young and Asian. It's far too noisy for real writing. At least for me.

Barbara and I have had a wonderful week together. Starting out with getting married on Monday. More about that later–if it seems there is more to write. Mostly, it was a lovely affirmation of the relationship we already have. And a strange, unexpected rush at being legally recognized for the first time in 20 years. If only for the few days north of the U.S. border.

We've tasted incredible salmon and tried several variations on the local dessert: nanaimo bars. We've been wined and winded (flatlanders from the land of cars plunked down into this hilly, walking city). There've been wonderful homecooked meals and ferry rides and conversation. The cold weather has been unexpectedly pleasant. I generally hate the cold but for some reason, these 40-45 degree days have been lovely. Until the rain. Cold and wet is cold and wet and not pleasant in any climate.

There is talk among our friends of a future journey by car and camper to Alaska starting in Alvin & David's hometown of Fort Nelson. Right now, the idea of walking in this climate is pleasant but it might be stretching my capacities to actually camp in a place more than 1,000 miles north of here. Nevertheless, city girl here is not ruling it out.