Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My readers

For a blogger, there's little that's more flattering than sustained visits by readers. And freely available modern technology lets us monitor who's coming and going. So when I have a reader sit down and read for an hour or so and dig through my archives, there's nothing more flattering. But when it turns out the reader works in a lawyer's office, and returns to a methodical pouring through my complete works after breaking for lunch, it makes me wonder. Is this a casual reader, or has someone taken a professional interest in my musings. God forbid I should have made some actionable booboo in there.

Or, as this reader hails from the State of North Carolina and probably overlapped with me in Chapel Hill in the late eighties or nineties, perhaps it's just an old friend.

In any case, the Grouse welcomes comments from avid readers.

North v. South: the rumble continues

The collective accrued wealth of the Northeast is staggering. The great campuses of the Ivy League make the physical plants of Southern universities look like frat houses within Second Life (though Columbia's Lee Bollinger surely salivates at the real estate available too them). Sidewalks abound, connecting a huge stock of cool old houses, and fleets of artisans trained to maintain them. Yes, for decade upon century, people have been raking in fat ducats up here and plowing them into the physical plant, making for many a beautiful place.

But so many people are hip to it, meaning traffic, scarce parking, long nasty commutes. Density is good, making it easy to run into people and exchange ideas. And if density is the future, the Northeast holds the future firmly in its grasp. Would that it were less of a pain in the ass to get there.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Natalie loves Harry

I knew it had to be, eventually. Natalie has fallen for another boy, and not just any other boy, but a sorcerer-type. To wit, Harry Potter. In a day long not feared, Natalie has taken up the magician of choice these days with a vengeance, blasting through tens if not hundreds of pages in a sitting.

After having brought her back from her camp, with its many "crazy hats" and "crazy field trips," she settled in with Potter after a brief paw through of the just-arrived Highlights magazine. Just now I peaked in on her. I've been blasting the AC in her room and then pumping it round the corner to the un-airconditioned "Granny's room," so it's quite chilly in there, and she's got the sheet over her legs and is deeply engrossed, where surely she'll stay till dinner.

And she still wilingly holds my hand crossing the street and enjoys milk. Which you've gotta love.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Playing soccer

Played six on six for like two hours in brutal humidity this evening. Sweated like a pig. Non-trivial pain walking around and then especially coming up the stairs. Watching movie my hamstring began to cramp, I've barely avoided a full clenching.

Clearly, I need to play more to get back in shape.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Home-Lewisville-Lawrenceville-Terhune-Pretty Brook-Home

All told 16-17 hot and humid miles. I was surprised to see beads of sweat falling beneath me, appearing to be rather yellowish-brown. I had such a pure notion of my sweat, which is now ruined.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dutch treat

Summer driving around in Mary's car pulled up an old tape of Betty Serveert's 1992 Palomine. This is a good record. These nederlanders did better than most of their contemporaries (cf. Oasis and the Catherine Wheel) to recycle Skynyrd grooves, and the drummer has a full-on jazzy groove. The lead singer sings with real passion, investing much in her sophomoric lyrics. Incredibly, this band still exists.

Somehow my focus on Betty Serveert has been broken by discovering what Dexter Romweber is up to. I'm delighted to see that he's neither dead nor held within some psych ward. Sounds like he's sober now.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Larchmont -- Stamford -- Princeton

After driving in the studentless calm of Chapel Hill, hitting the road in fair Larchmont was eye-opening. No back up, mind you, just lots of cars and trucks everywhere, making a routine task like proceeding a quarter mile along the Boston Post Road fraught with much cogitation and concentration: which lane should I be in to avoid being slowed down by that truck? What is that moron doing?

Everywhere, the would-be heroes of 9/11 lollygag and obstruct. In Mamaroneck, two fat cops sit with their motorbikes jutting out into the street palavering with some other fat guy at a busy intersection. Road workers (this being the peak season for road repair) dicked around with their SLOW sign. Some construction workers double parked at the deli while picking up Snapple and bacon egg and cheeses. You see this shit all the time. Dudes revel in their ability to slow traffic.

The ride back to Princeton came off painlessly, save for the lack of a Starbucks at the Vince. It ain't right.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hillsborough - RDU - EWR - Larchmont

After catfish and encouraging discussions of possible future sports endeavors for the Grouse, it was back to the airwaves and back up to Yankee territory for a morning tete-a-tete with an altogether different kind of beast. Often, airplanes offer up interesting anecdotes for the blogger, but today there was very little of note, just some rather plain young lady taking pictures of New Jersey in flight with the camera in her cellphone. She's probably already posted those to her own blog, and I'm sure it rocks.

In general, these are rather heady times for the kid. Many voices call me homewards, while quite a few sing another tune. Should I hack at a few more dragons before repairing to the castle? Time will tell, and not much of it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bring it home!

I'm more than a little bit troubled by the difficulty I chronically have in obtaining certain regional delicacies back home in my native Chapel Hill. One would think we really weren't in North Carolina at all.
* The burger "with everything": i.e. chili, slaw, onions, and mustard. Don't nobody sell it.
* Coconut cake: perhaps I should be looking harder. I know where to get it in Manhattan, why not here? Neither Dips nor Crook's has it on the menu.
* Cheerwine. This is the most important thing. Regional sodas should be thriving in the pomo 2.0 economy. They are, after all, distinctively delicious, and none more so than the flagship of the Carolina Beverage company. The Cheerwine.com Distributor Locator clearly indicates that Long Beverage (919-481-2738) of Raleigh dispenses the elixir. Given Cheerwine's long historical association with intellectual and academic achievement, might not the absence of this beverage from the so-called Southern Part of Heaven explain the inability of UNC-CH to vault upward towards Berkeley and Michigan into the very upperest tier of public universities?

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Streets of the Triangle

Praise the lord that it hasn't been too hot. Exceptionally mild days, which we've told Mary are typical, have been the backdrop for our tour of the older neigborhoods of Chapel Hill which -- owing to the limited stock of such locales -- was exhaustive without being exhausting.

But it's nonetheless taken a lot out of us. The though of moving home for me, to a frickin foreign land for her, is non-trivial.

What is striking, I must say, is the relative wildness of the south, the roughness of the landscaping, the scrappiness of the yards of even high-end homes. And I'm not Mr. yard Perfect either. The greens seem deeper and richer in the Northeast.

I remember reading a review of a book about houses in France from 1760 to 1820 where the Parisians, when travelling to their country estates, would pull closed the curtains on the side of their carriages when passing through unreformed country because the chaos of it offended their dainty eyes. I'm having a little bit of that, which is just shameful and pathetic.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sucking ze blood

Today was a slow day. I was scheduled to go to my former employer and give blood in honor of a deceased coformerworker, so I went there. I also scheduled lunch with another coformerworker. Luckily, it was the day of a quarterly meeting so, by tradition, there was free pizza. The fatal free pizza.

There, in my ex-office, were blood-sucking people I had never met with forms to read and disclaimers to sign, which I took care of quickly. My blood, it seems, was good.

But into the line for blood extraction came a woman who needed to get back to her desk in an hour, so I gave up my place in line and went to have pizza with my former colleague, whom we shall call "Bob". Well "Bob" and I palavered and pizzad, and then it was time to return to the line, through which I sailed to my date with the needle.

So they stuck it in my arm, they did, those 501(c)(3) vampires, and that went by quickly. Naturally, I was apprehensive about what it would be like afterwards, when one hears rumors of light-headedness and fainting. But that's just for girls, I thought. No no. Turns out one shouldn't really eat before having blood drawn. Blood goes to stomach or somesuch. So when I was done, I sat up, felt light-headed and hot, and the nice vampirette said "why don't you lie back down?" And put cold compresses on my forehead. And brought me juice, then Coke. All and all it was twenty minutes of receiving fine service in a potentially embarassing situation.

Thank God noone will ever learn of it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Home work

Ahh, the joys of having the family around the house throughout the business day. One woman here in the neighborhood likened having her husband in the house job searching to having a "teenage girl." Her actual words. And I don't think she meant his figure was both comely and shapely.

But frankly, I'm not the problem. Right now Graham is downstairs screaming his head off because Mary refused to take him to pick up Natalie from camp if he wouldn't sit on the potty and try to poop. Which would really be a good idea, in fact. But no, he'd rather poop in his underwear.

After a few minutes of quiet, Mary and Natalie return home, and the demonstrative screaming begins again. Mary is duly impressed by his perseverance.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Card-carrying members

Some nice young lady was prowling the block yesterday evening, looking to sign people up for the ACLU. Mary gave ten bucks so she could say she was a "card-carrying member." I chided her for not giving 20.

This morning, a nice young man called to thank us for our generous contribution. OK. I'm sure they were both volunteers or interns, so the ACLU wasn't wasting much money, but is that the best the ACLU can do with its volunteer time? A thank you call for a ten dollar contribution?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ah nature

Up in Canandaigua, one day at the beat-up old tennis court I felt something on my arm and I looked down and it was a real spider. Not a grandaddy longlegs or something civilized, or a little corner scamperer, but a plump little brown booger with beady eyes and multiple legs and all. I shrieked like a schoolgirl and contorted violently, but I got away.

Later, walking in the woods of the Onanda reserve, I passed a seventy-year old guy out for a walk wearing a multicolored shorts matching a windbreaker he had on -- shirtless -- unzipped to his belly button (a look huge with the ladies). "Seen any bears yet? There's plenty of them around here." That got me to thinking, so I called Mary on my cellphone to confirm my memory of what you're supposed to do if you come across a bear in the woods. She remembers that stuff. Unfortunately, what with being in the woods in upstate New York and having a cheap shitty LG phone because I'm basically cheap, we had a poor connection and she basically thought I was calling because I had seen a bear. So when we got cut off she called back to see if I was OK.

When I got to one of the scenic overlooks in the park I saw that it was tagged with gang graffiti, probably the work of some of the country b-boys we had seen strutting around, yet another instance (like the bling wheels I saw on an Oldsmobile on a back road between Hillsborough and Roxboro, NC last year) of the confluence of hip-hop and cracker culture.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Surprisingly mild

It's a surprisingly mild and mellow day here in central NJ, perfectly tolerable as long as the absence of AC is offset by a no shirt policy. There's a soft breeze and birdie melodies complement home improvement percussion and the occasional growl of a Shelby Cobra driven by some cocky investment banker or his spawn. And normal cars too. Mostly women walk the sidewalks of my street, some with strollers, some with high school art projects.

I understand that the Durham Bulls will be hosting the Norfolk Tides next Tuesday night (7/24). The Grouse is intrigued by this development, and has directed his administrative team to make all necessary arrangements to assure his attendance.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Getting ready for a party at Abby and Spenser's house, Natalie came downstairs in a sweet little floral white and blue blouse and matching skirt. When I remarked that she was dressed for the party, Graham flew into enthusiasm: "Hawaiian shirt! Hawaiian party shirt!" He called out a number of times, and then ran upstairs to retrieve said shirt. Fashion conscious at an early age, he is.

He has also taken to overgeneralizing "may," where he should use "can," as in "Mama, may you give me a muffin?"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Running late...

to pick up a pizza. Muscle car night in the Wegman's parking lot here in Canandaigua.

Sadly, day after tomorrow we must return to the lower NorthEast, where there's more action than is strictly speaking necessary.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Freak n geek

So I'm sitting in the Market Cafe area of the local Wegman's (a grocery, for you non-initiates), responding to email, minding my own business, when this sweaty bespectacled freckly guy in a baseball cap comes up to me uttering some pseudo-italianate nonsense about by laptop. "I'm a techy," he explains, "just checking out your set-up. Wow, that's an old laptop." I say "It does the job" or somesuch, and he moves on outside onto the deck with his sub, his soda, and his buddy.

A few minutes later I head out onto the deck to talk on the phone, and I hear Mr. Computer telling his pal: "I hacked into the Vatican, like, where the pope lives. I figure I'm not a believer so I gotta know what they're up to." And his pal gives the most Beavis and Butthead-like "Cool... heh heh heh" that I've ever heard.

Later, as I'm driving off, I see the guys moving slowly through the nasty summer heat in the parking lot on/with their bikes. Mr. Technical was pushing his, for some unclear reason. There was no big hill which would justify it. I don't think this is a good place to be a computer geek.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bang your head, not

Yesterday morning I couldn't find my hat, my prized once red now rose Zinn Design/Build baseball cap, and then I remembered I had left it up by the tennis court. So I enlisted Graham to come with me, and I kicked a soccer ball and he brought with him the croquet mallet which has been his near constant companion here on the lake. And indeed, I found the hat where I suspected it would be, and then Graham had the bright idea to bang the soccer ball with the croquet mallet. Some bird was singing real nice, and we sat on the bench and listened. If we drank, it might have been a beer commercial moment.

Meanwhile, down at the house, Natalie excitedly got up from where she was sitting on the patio, whirled around and hit her head -- BOOOSH! Against a structural wooden column. Mary told me about this as Graham and I returned and as she, David S. , and Carol headed out to the grocery store.

Natalie's booboo seemed minimal, but then in 15 minutes she went and lay in her bed, claiming to be sleepy. Symptom 1. 15 minutes after that, she puked for the first time. David O., my family doctor on call, at that point in time said to get her to the emergency room, which I did, with 4 kids and one big bag of chips and a couple of frantic calls to the grocery store for support.

Anyhow, the doctor checked her out and gave her a CAT scan which was negative on both bleeding and cats, and we returned home after a three and a half hour round trip to the ER (which is really fast in my book).

But Natalie has been instructed to take it easy. Which is hard on vacation. And today it was hot as hell. Good for swimming. The doctor said she could swim, but "no splashing," and Natalie insists she can't swim without splashing a lot. So by the end of the day she's emotional toast, claiming her friends are excluding her by swimming and by everthing else they do. And at last she blows her top and kicks me as hard as she can which doesn't hurt me but would hurt kids, so I pick her up and bring her inside and give her a time out and yell at her loud, so she'll know I'm not kidding for once. And she's miserable, stubborn, kicking, crying, won't go out and play with friends. It's hard to be stubborn with a mild concussion on a hot day in July.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Thank you all

Somehow my minor absence from my scribal post has not negatively impacted my blog traffic. Thank you, gentle readers.

Meanwhile, up here in Canandaigua, New York, nothing keeps on happening. Mostly we observe spousal tensions, which is something. Even between all the lesbians who were shacked up in the place next door. Sister lesbians. Twin sister lesbians, even. With dogs, saying things like, "oh, sorry, this dog's not very well-trained." Which isn't a very good line in my book, but frankly it has nothing to do with her sexual orientation and everything to do with being in your 20s and childless, and all of a sudden having to deal with this incursion that other dimension sometimes known as the nuclear family, sometimes as New Jersey, or, in our specific case, the Griswolds. Protective of small children. Well-provisioned, dammit.

What's a group of chain smoking current and erstwhile lesbians from Beantown and Frisco to do? Tie them dawgs up. Put em on the screened in porch. They're not going to run over and freak out young Graham, I'll tell you that much.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Woe is me

My friends. It's been very hard to get internet access here in the wilds of upstate NY. I'm churning out text statically and posting it when I can. Keep coming back. Don't forsake the Grouse.

Violent Femmes

My multi-year retrospective tour of both Mary’s tapes and my own landed my on a Violent Femmes record I never owned myself. In the years since the Femmes got coopted into first frat boy anthem and then the classic rock format, it’s become easy to forget how new they sounded when they appeared, in ’84 or so, and how fresh they remain to ears disaccustomed to their sound. These guys were not even thinking about kidding, purists who somehow found the mike. Like Casey Casem meeting the Birthday Party.

Chicago Style

With granny available to care for the childs, Mary and I headed out to a rare date night dinner at the Inn at Bristol Lodge or somesuch, near Seneca Point. Any fears I had that it might be bland and corporate were put to rest by the stuffed baby bear that greeted us in the foyer. This was a rough-hewn wood, high-end flannel and shotgun kinda place.

On the menu, one of the appetizers was homemade potato chips with melted blue and gruyere cheeses. Guy food, designed to be consumed with beer. Mary was not sold. I pretended to be disgusted too.

The view was beautiful, and our food was OK. However, a fiftyish woman at a nearby table was not so lucky. The waitress brought her some blackened tornados or filets of beef, a $27 dish or somesuch. She was disgusted. “What is this? I’ve never seen beef look like this.” The waitress tried to explain: “But it’s Chicago-style, you sear the beef.” The poor victim would have none of it. She kept the plate in front of her for a while. She may have tried a bite and poked it a bit. But, in the end, the trauma was too overwhelming, and she and her date (who had ordered the fancily-worded fried chicken with cheese over pesto) asked for the bill in the middle of the entrĂ©e.

The Griswolds Ride Again

And so, after loading the car and the amorphous $50 Sampsonite black roof blob (suggested by Walter) with bags, toys, dairy-free food products, one night’s worth of seltzer, one large box fan and stuffed animals, with bikes what’s more on the back and the whole family with granny in the middle, we set off for Canandaigua (US 31 to US 206 to PA 33 to I 80 to I 580 to I 81 to US 17 to NY 371 to NY21 to Wells Curtice to West Lake RD).

However, at the intersection of 80 and 580 (“Gateway to the Poconos”), there was traffic. As there often is. And bladder pressure, as there often is. So we stopped and relieved.

And, backing out of the parking lot of our relief spot – what with all of the chattering in the back seat and the poor visibility due to bags and bikes and guiding our path solely by the side mirror – of a sudden our backwards progress was arrested by a loud “BAMM!!” Shock set in. Had I backed into another car? Everyone seemed fine. The car was at rest.

Stealthily, I stepped out of the car to see what had happened. I walked to the rear of the car and found the malefactor to be an otherwise innocent-looking telephone pole. The car was mostly fine enough, given how old it is. But my bicycle, my expensive, my sleek, my shiny bicycle was a little mangled. Front wheel mashed.

Undeterred, we recited the Griswold motto in song and headed on.