Kenny Smith | blog

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I avoided the trick or treaters this year. Last year I either had no visitors or just missed them before I made it home. The year prior I had all the sullen 9th graders with no manners ring the doorbell. This year I decided to sit out the festivities.

It was either that or McDonald's applications for everyone. Get a job! Buy your own candy! Since I didn't want egg on the house's siding discretion seemed the better part of valor. So, yes, I spent the evening hiding from eight-year-olds dressed as ninja turtles and their 15-year-old sisters wearing the most inappropriate thing they could get away with on this one night of the year.

I'm so very brave.

Window shopping it is, then. Spent an abnormally long amount of time in a sporting goods store. There I discovered one very important things: I'm lousy on the putting green while holding a cell phone. The practical application of that remains unknown, but I'm sure it'll come to me when I'm trying to putt for birdie one day in the future.

Denny Crane! Is it just me or is this one of the worst Boston Legal episodes to date? The whole show seemed flat. That will happen, of course, but you'd think that a clever show like this would be able to avoid that in their Halloween special.

The first problem is yet another return of Jerry. Alan helped him escape jail once again, but the guy's been in court three times this season already. It is a good character, but not that good. Isolating James Spader's character is not going to be a good thing. As we've previously learned, "It's all about Alan Shore." I've come to think of that as a nod from the writers, but now I'm wondering about their direction. An unfunny confrontation between Alan and the new guy whimpered across the screen and makes me wonder if that's supposed to be a changing of the guard. Why you'd replace the charismatic and slimy character with a lite-version of itself I'm not sure, but that's the impression we're left with.

Maybe Alan is becoming the new Denny and Denny is becoming the new ... Well ... there's really no way of knowing where that's going.

There was a nice mariachi moment in the episode, but mariachi as death's herald is just a waste of a good mariachi.

Shirley as ill-timed death and Paul Lewiston's (Rene Auberjonois) dancing cardinal moment was great. Denny and and Alan's costume just came up short for me, but there might be a generational issue at play there. (Similarly most of the advertisements in this show are for an older and more powerful spending bracket.)

And that's two incest sub-plots in two weeks. That's plenty guys, thanks.

Getting organized again. There's only one pile of clothes to contend with, that's the stack in the box waiting to be washed. On the last day of the month I've cleaned the camera's media card. (I took, for the record, 867 photographs in the month of October. That's not counting the instantly deleted types.) I'm presently caught up on TiVo. All the hobbies are almost caught up, or at least settled along the waterline calmly. Why I'm only two or three little regular tasks away from doing the voluntary projects.

That'll just mean more for you to endure here, more to get behind on and more to fret over.

These are hobbies we're talking about here. Hobby, which, I believe, is Latin for "Life is good."

Vita est bonus.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Woke up with sunlight this morning. The first work day after Daylight Savings ends might be more traumatic than the first early night. On some level the mind has been telling you for the past few weeks that days are getting shorter. You'd probably checked a calendar to see how close you had come to almost missing it and ruining a whole day. Across that one synapse that bridges minds conscious and sub-conscious the relevance has been shipped. The goods are on a load dock waiting to be processed because -- what do you know? -- it is now dark at 6:30 p.m. instead of sometime around 8.

That's the subtle acknowledgement of the end of the day. At the beginning of the day the backlog waiting patiently for that synapse bridge keeps the same information from making it through. Suddenly you're awake and daylight is winning the race. That's good for a start.

The end of Daylight Savings more than anything else -- mild weather, the turning leaves or the unfortunately ambitious holiday decorations -- mean autumn is here. That, in itself, is ordinarily a highlight, but this year even my most optimistic frame of mind is resigned to see the autumn as a presage of winter.

The weather's been glorious though. We're in the revel in it while we can stage. Nice and cool in the mornings, fall is offering a mild mid-70s afternoon to anyone who's willing to enjoy it. If winter has Jack Frost autumn should be represented by a kind grandfatherly type. He'd be content, with a wink in his wise eye, to let you play with whatever you like, because these things aren't going to hurt you, and there'll be time enough for you to button up and be serious and dour soon enough.

The leaves are starting to go here. Collectively, they seem a bit muted, but that's probably a long season of drought and the memory's comparison of being in New England a week ago. Individually the maples are a disco at the Gap. The oaks are growing weary in the late rounds and the pines will of course stay green content to offset their friends as a foliage foil. Except for the pines being eaten by beetles, another fault of the drought.

We're drenched in decorations though. Now is the time to scoff indignantly at them. In three or four weeks there'll be a weary resignation and finally, for most, we'll remember the goodness in the symbols, but that's some ways off yet.

Thai for lunch A group of four in all, no one wanted to pick a place, but everyone was willing to rule out places. Surin West: Come for the food, stay for the duration of your day. Why it takes so long to prepare rice and noodles has always been a mystery, how we actually got in and out today in under an hour is equally unexplained.

Then there was a nominee for the 2005 bumper sticker of the year. That, I think, speaks volumes in microcosm about some of the attitudes on the coast.

That makes two interesting things on the backs of cars lately. Filling up a few mornings ago there was a van full of guys carrying a basket for a hot-air balloon. I'm sure they have their reasons, but that doesn't seem the best advertisement. From a distance the balloons look safe and, even if they are directly overhead there's a comfort in the size. Now, up close and personal, everyone behind this van can see that the wicker weaving guaranteeing your safety isn't as wide as an Econoline's wheelbase. That's a confidence builder, no matter which side of the brain you're using at the time.

The premiere of Battlestar was due up in the TiVo tonight. Two hours and I'm now only three episodes behind in real time. There's not much beyond the exclamatory you can say at this point. If you think about it long enough you know what the next two or three episodes will be about, but I'm not sure what else they can do to punch viewers in the gut.

That's pretty much what we're seeing here: human turning against human, a gritty and emphatic resistance movement, dissension in the human ranks, your average psychological torture on a Patty Hearst scale. And Dean Stockwell.

That's turned out to be a lot today. It is pretty late and -- oh wait, just 8:30 -- the newly absent daylight savings fooled me again.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lazy day today. The pinnacle of inactivity. The biggest effort of the day involved moving the mattress in front of the big screen television. Watched two episodes of Season One Boston Legal and then took a nap.

That's a nice afternoon.

Belated Pie Day this evening. The people next to us were sharing their Halloween party pictures. One guy dressed as a good Paul Stanley, but Jess' impression was better. Somehow we ended up getting an extra slice of pie. Complaining about the runt portion you initially get will do that, I guess. I got stuck with a half a piece to eat tomorrow. Oh how terrible.

There's football calling my name, so I'll leave you Kelly's ( theme | blog) researched interpretation into my oddly random dream from earlier in the week:
Dreaming about a red haired person indicates great passion and sensitivity in your emotional relationships. The fact that you were fascinated by her hair shows attraction and sensuality. Dreaming of being younger and back at school means you crave discipline and instruction, and possibly you seek the answer to a question and the desire to feel more protected and less concerned with adult problems and relationships. Since the girl was a stranger, it signifies a mystery that needs to be revealed.


Maybe you just miss college and have a thing for redheads.
Everyone's a comedian.

New wallpaper for the blog. That's from a tree in Justin and RaDonna's front yard. The sun sets through trees and in between the neighbor's houses across the street. Every time I visit the whole neighborhood takes on a golden hue for about an hour. Something about the sunset seems more gentle and introspective here. Even the sun takes on a slower place in smaller towns.

When you look at the top of the image, you see one bit of the photograph that seems in a hurry. (That picture is also located in the top-left box for your convenience.)

The clocks rolled back this morning, the blur in the picture is the first bit of the sun disappearing more quickly. It has a more important appointment to keep apparently. Sunday evenings, they go slow.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

When you wake up and realize you've been asleep on the sofa, that will jump start your day. When the sun is high and bright and beaming through every window that will also start your day with a certain briskness.

And then you realize that it is Saturday and, hey, only 8:30. The day is still before you! There is still time to clean and watch football and prepare for your evening and so that's just what I did.

I also watched the end of Season Two of Battlestar Galactica -- now with Dean Stockwell! The last three episodes really rushed right into the cliffhanger and all of the story arcs seem to have turned and be racing inward to one another. Next week I'll start on Season Three, now sitting patiently behind the EvIl eye.

Anyway, the last three hours have detailed how the Cylons regenerate themselves. After they die they're downloaded into new bodies with all the thoughts, memories and experience of the previous version. Two of these new downloads are important, as they are war heros with a new perspective on the fighting, and they will ultimately bring about a cultural shift in the new Cylon War. Speaking with a respected voice they preach a different approach, that perhaps the surprise attack and subsequent war was a mistake. From this will ultimately come a brief and unexplained lull in the war.

Previously in Season Two the good guys destroyed a ship the bad guys carried for their downloads. It had been a minor story point that perhaps the destruction of the Resurrection Ship changed the bad guy's tactics. Now, though, we're back to fresh downloads with every robot killed.

In the last two episodes a daring rescue mission back to one of the original colonies spins into motion. A habitable planet is discovered by accident and, riding the wave of the people's desire to be on terra firma, the vice president wins the presidential election. The new planet is bleak, but is livable. Humanity's survivors settle, including the newly rescued people from Caprica and a hardscrabble life begins.

And then, after a few months of peace the bad guys show up overhead. The remaining ships in the fleet leaps away in self-preservation, stranding thousands on the planet below. The bad guys offer a rather one-sided peace and the newly elected president surrenders. See you next season!

Rainbow City for an evening visit. Atticus is walking all on his own now, though with a bit of a stagger. Probably tomorrow he'll be running in 10K races. It doesn't seem right at all that he's growing so quickly.

He has this game where he takes a run at you and veers away at the last second. Fools you everytime with those big blue eyes. That smile, after all, can only mean he wants to run right up to you and get a hug. Those eyes mean mischief though. Those eyes mean mischief.

Atticus is actually a terrific little guy. He's learning about kitchen cabinets and how to shut an adjoining door. That's been his latest invention, walking inside, closing the door and then opening it to see you again.

He also mugs for the camera.

Sporting his four days of facial spaghetti growth, I'm wondering how we've warped children these past few years. Go back and look at your first birthday party pictures. You didn't pose for the camera this way. All the kids do now though, as we bombard children with cameras and big flashes. Now we're all paparazzi.

At 13-months Atticus has been patiently holding poses for some time now.

We took Atticus to Noccalula Falls for the haunted ghost train. Lost on the one-year-old, this was an event for the five-year-old. The Nazgul was pretty good, otherwise it was a nice night out on the small town. Later it was back to Justin and RaDonna's for dinner. Delicious spaghetti and nice conversation late into the night.

The only bad part about these visits are the return trip home, but this time of night the journey only takes about an hour.

Didn't see Auburn's last outing since I spent the day in New York City, so this is the first look at the Tigers in two weeks. Not much, sadly, has changed.

This team is such a mystery. They have loads of talent and are capable of playing to that talent at times, but they frequently look flat. The offense is a muscle car, slurping time of the clock like a trip down the street. It'll get to the store, making a rumble along the way, but you probably shouldn't race it for pink slips too much.

The first half of today's game saw drives of 15 plays, 11 plays and 11 plays. One touchdown and two turnovers were the result. In the second half there were two short drives resulting in punts, two short scoring drives and then two scoring drives of 10 and 11 plays respectively.

Here is the first big hurdle for this team. We want to think of them as a national championship caliber team. Auburn, however, is playing traditional SEC football. For that they merely need to win each game and have Arkansas lose two. This is where the strategy of being a national champion and a SEC champion are fundamentally different. Auburn wins by scoring 25-30 points a game and wrapping a typical boa-like defense around the opponent, squeezing their necks out for 60 minutes. That's the premise. Lately they've struggled to deliver that convincing manner of victory even against sub-par opposition. To be in line for the national championship, however, a team needs to beat the mid-majors of their conference 28-6, 44-3 and 44-0.

As it is, Auburn is beating a bad Ole Miss 23-17. It is never good, by the way, when your own media writer uses the expression "holds on."

Also not good: the broadcasters feel the need to start the innoculation early for any strugglings we'll see next week versus Arkansas State. Auburn is in the Top 10 in the nation and will probably be a four touchdown favorite next week, but the Tigers haven't satisfied the spread in a good while. Meantime we're touting the mighty Indians who were recently destroyed by SMU, 55-6.

Auburn remains a mystery to everyone. If anything that is the sign of how the fan base's expectations of the program have grown over the past decade. Despite beating LSU and Florida at the margins they've failed to dispatch obviously weaker opponents and that's what it will take to make the jump to a championship caliber team. They are a frustration even in their victories.

Because of those struggles the 2004 team has been crystallized, and their legend, and the fans' expectations will only grow.

Click Clack!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Today's just a link dump. Hey, it's Friday on the blog too. Anyway, the bulk of my afternoon was spent answering the question "Why are you still at work?"

I had downtown plans for the evening anyway and going home and coming back seem silly.

And since you're now armed with that riveting knowledge, I lead you on to the links.

Wads sent these links, one after the other. First there's the duo that probably should have never been, but was the dream of all fans of '60s campiness.

First there is William Shatner and Adam West, together in a failed pilot episode of an Alexander the Great series. For all parties involved it probably turned out for the best that this show did not make it to television.

Second, and this will sing to the hearts of anyone who grew up in the southeast or the midsouth in the 1970s or early 1980s. Adam West was making an appearance at a car show in Memphis and found the time to show up on Memphis Wrestling's television program and cut a promo on Jerry Lawler. Wads correctly described it as surreal.

Made it through a bit more of the Smithsonian Magazine today during lunch. There was a fairly well considered study of the 1946 mid-term election -- notable for a brief power shift to the GOP in Congress, but most importantly for the introduction of John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and Joseph McCarthy.

After that the issue goes French, with a look at Marie Antoinette. I remain unmoved. The French royal family has just never inspired. I'll also not be seeing the new movie on the same subject for the same reasons.

Finally, there was a research profiled who is doing some really intriguing work with birds, song and communication. And the magazine just could not get over the fact that he was a dancer in high school. As literary parallels go they had a hard time drawing the two together.

In town tonight to see Lewis Black. That picture is from the summer of 2004. It was too late in the evening to brave the crowds for new photographs. The guy on the right is John Bowman, who opened for Black then as now.

Bowman recommends that everyone be locked in a hotel room for two weeks with their significant other so that they may be "subjected" to all of their quirks. Want a sample? Hear it here.

His girlfriend ordered the Maine Lobster, in Hawai'i, for $380.

Lewis Black did well more than an hour of comedy. Hear Lewis touch on carving jackolanterns, a fence at the Mexican border and what newspapers should cover.

John Bowman and Lewis Black are always worth a visit when they come to your town. Black's material changes frequently, Bowman not as much, but they'll make you laugh if you like the ironic or the angsty material.

If you are in Birmingham, UAB always hosts great shows at the Alys Stephens Center, which is a wonderful venue. Check it out if you haven't been lately.

OK, midnight run for groceries, then time for bed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blogs of note -- and they are all on the left, you should read some of them -- all say that discussing dreams makes for bad blog fodder. Never understood that, but I generally go along with that as a rule of thumb. Today, though, I woke up to a long and sweet dream.

I was a freshman in college again, having a long drawn out conversation -- imagine several scenes -- in rooms that I've never seen in buildings that don't exist. I was talking with my girlfriend, who was by all counts as smart as she was beautiful. Being a dream, there's no real memory of the conversation, but I'm left with a feeling that it was a heartwarming discussion.

She was a redheaded woman; she smiled a lot. The dream version of me seemed to be fascinated with one strand of hair that always fell down over her eye and ran a line down her cheek and towards her shoulder. That's all of the detail the dream, which otherwise seemed like a television flashback effect, gave me about her.

Only the girl is as real as the buildings. Never seen her before.

Want to tell me what that one means?

And that's what the brain does while it is repairing itself, give you deliberate mystery. Perhaps, if I hadn't stayed up so incredibly late last night there wouldn't have been so much cranial housecleaning to be done and less dreaming to be had. Normally I don't remember dreams, so the ones that are recalled always feel a little disconcerting, especially when they are about people that don't exist.

For the record I did date a redhead for a while in college. Great girl. If I'd been half as smart then we'd probably still be friends. As it is I have barely a passing notion of what's become of her. Hopefully her good dreams are being realized.

Anyway ...

Random conversational tidbits from work today:
We were talking about pretentious first names today, apparently there's a trend to name a daughter after a last name also in the family. The best ones we've had so far are Reeks, Legg and Gohman.

Great for an accounting firm, bad for sororities.

Will fanny packs one day make it into the Smithsonian?

Just after beanie babies.

It's been a slow couple of days around the blog as I struggle to catch up on exciting things like "Laundry" and "Cleaning house. For that I apologize, and hope to make it up to you with this guide on how to prank call your next telemarketer. (Warning: Sound.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I enjoyed two wonderful phone calls this evening. One from a family friend of many years who deserves as much indirect credit and direct praise as anyone for where life has put me. A dear, sweet man who even still looks after me in ways that you can't repay.

My life is full of these people. You can see it in my home and hopefully in myself. Most everything I have has been given to me by the generosity of others, and I'm forever mindful of that. Hopefully I can put myself in the kind of place that lets me return that favor in kind to others when the opportunity arises.

I try to explain that sometimes, I tried to explain it today in the other phone call, but it always comes out hokey in the end. If you really look hard at your life, though, you can see the seemingly causal patterns. It has something to do with the nonsensical sentence that popped into my head a few days ago "Today's opportunities are tomorrow's crossroads are yesterday's turning points and building blocks."

If you look closely at life, though, you can see those decisions and moves that really dictated which current of the river you'd follow. It could be a new job or a move to a new part of town or going to this church or that event where you met your spouse or your long-lost brother or any number of things. Some of those things seemed large at the time, some seem insignificant, but you get a steadily growing handful of these throughout life, I think. The more turns you make, perhaps the more you get, but those moments always stick with you.

Anyway the second time my phone rang one of those influential voices was on the other end. He's always been a thoughtful man, perhaps helpful beyond necessity, but helpful from the kindness of his heart, and so it is always important when you hear that voice bounced down from a telecommunications satellite.

As I say, my life is full of these people. I'm fortunate beyond comparison, even for the indirect, but important influences they've had to help put me where I am. We all have them. Some days you're reminded of them, and every day you should be thankful for them.

Smithsonian Magazine delivered their latest issue, so it was time for another trip to Zaxby's to sit once again under Lamar Thomas and laugh at his ... well ... Lamar Thomasness.

Of interest so far are the short piece on the Oriskany, a one page essay on Anne Morrow Lindbergh, shipping babies through the mail (ahh, the good old days) and Abraham Lincoln's top hat.

Tomorrow I'll have an article on the 1946 mid-term election. Don't tell anyone how excited I am about that, OK?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I had a nice long chat today with a good friend over cornbread and life. If that doesn't sound like a country album title I'm hard-pressed to think of one.

Cornbread and life it is, then. It was one of those talks that don't start out as anything in particular but what you hear is so sound and important and useful that, in retrospect, it seems pre-determined.

Coincidence, Jungian or otherwise, it left me knowing I have been lucky and wise to choose wise friends. Some of them so much so that it surprises me. Even us no-nothing 20somethings can sometimes sound like a far-eastern mystic. Or at least just have a different slant that brings the right angle of an issue into perspective.

The details of the talk aren't too important in the scheme of things, and need not be mentioned here so I won't go on about this any more. I am thankful to have had the conversation and know it'll be put to good use sometime soon.

That's all, really. That was more of a note for me, ages and ages hence. Hopefully with enough hints that I'll remember what I was talking about and smile. Some of things are here purely for my edification, much like cornbread.

In other news, there's a new list of things On Notice:
Post-vacation backlogs
Arabic-only street vendors
Annoying Times Square guy
4:45 a.m.
As always you can find the actual image itself in the box at the top-left corner of the page.

And lastly, I've been making brisk progress today toward wrapping up the weekend's backlog of TiVo. This is the first time I'll be able to do that in one day.

The most interesting things the EvIl one has provided are a host of Scrubs -- I really love this show, but why must Comedy Central offer two a day and mini-marathons on Saturdays? Do they dislike the licensing deal or love the program? -- and the classic Star Trek Arena. Casual Star Trek fans who wander this way might enjoy some of this episode's trivia. And, if you haven't seen any of the newly remastered work, you can see the new preview for this episode, which is indicative of all of the latest restoration to the series.

That part alone, the attention to remaster the episodes, is enough to watch some of these again. The last time I caught a few scenes of a Star Trek episode it was depressing to see how the quality was slowly falling apart. Granted it has been 40 years since the original production, but brightly lit sets had become dark, clean footage had grown dirty and our memories were distracted by new space-age dust. Now, with the newly remastered versions our memories can chuckle at a generation's progress in production values. Perhaps parents will now feel a little better about sharing the shows of their youth with their children.

The franchise is deservedly on hiatus, but there's someone in the right place that cares, and there's a legion of fans who are thanking them, no doubt.

Now if only they would do away with Sulu's eye shadow.

Monday, October 23, 2006

This may be the best vacation model. Being a long weekend the agenda was front loaded with travel on Friday and high adventure on Saturday. Sunday was a calm and steady day of easy activity and today, on the last day, was more of the same.

Stopped by the Saugatuck River once again, this time looking for trout. At this stretch the river runs under a highway and alongside a secondary street. Nice and peaceful when you can blur out the cars into white noise.

Beautiful stretch of water, nice and peaceful.

No trout though. The flyfishing experts, George I think his name was (and if it's not accurate, I'm on vacation), say catching trout is a difficult proposition with all the leaves in the water. Seems it messes with the fish's head and they chase after the wrong thing.

Still George is always right there, just under that bridge and just up from that first tree. His favorite place in the world. Give him waders and a fly to fling around and he's happy. He's happy today, even with the ones that escaped him. That's OK though, he'll likely be back tomorrow, and the circle of life continues.

In this way fishermen (or fisherpersons, if you prefer) are the ultimate optimists, ranking just ahead of the 85-year-old playing the lottery.

Lunch, then, and then a trip to the most overly-secure airport in America. At White Plains they check every bag. No traveling salesman will be endangered here. Still the line moves quickly, if the local TSA is on a powertrip akin to security at a rock 'n' roll show. Oh well. We can't all score a 760 on our SATs.

I have a theory for this airport's security, a statement made as an obvious guess, but one that has not yet been researched. We shall do so now. But first, my theory:
I bet whoever represents this district in Congress sits on an important committee, got a lot of money for this aiport and the good people at Westchester County are determined to put that money to use so as not to lose it in the next budget.
That's my theory, ask around.

And now the research:
The Westchester County airport is in New York's 18th District. You can see it there at I-287 in the center of the district. New York's 18th is ably represented by Congresswoman Nita Lowey. Her bio states:
A member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and the Ranking Democrat on the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Subcommittee ... Congressional Quarterly called her one of the 50 most effective Members of Congress, saying she "maneuvers skillfully through the appropriations process"


In 2003, she was chosen by her colleagues to serve on the Committee on Homeland Security. An outspoken supporter of federalizing air and nuclear security and increasing port and rail security ... Lowey has also helped obtained over $30 million in federal funds to develop local bioterrorism response plans.
I was right. It remains to be seen, as I did not conduct a survey, on whether passengeres in the fabulously small Westchester County Airport, ranked 121st in 2005 for number of boardings, feel safer or inconvenienced by their experience.

Here, I think, is the sheer genius of the present security system, if I may be so bold, in our nation's airports. The standards are so radically different at each airport, and the rules beyond the obvious fluctuate so greatly that our intention must obviously be keeping the bad guys guessing. I'm not saying anything new here, I rarely ever do, but if you've been on more than two airline flights in the past half-decade you've come to all the same conclusions about airports that the rest of us have.

Now just let us on the plane.

The local government, meanwhile, has deemed it necessary to pass a law -- and post a sign -- prohibiting the use of recording devices in the airport's restrooms. Westchester County: where the gubmint knows you can't think for yourself. Nanny State indeed.

There's a sign for this, "Don't phone, record or take pictures here." Though if someone found the sign necessary perhaps they should hire someone to say it aloud, or demonstrate by example for those that can't pick up on the English language and the mind-numbingly obvious. Just think of all the people they could employ at each public restroom. Starving actors would have to starve no more!

The plane ride itself was two hours sitting across from two screaming Asian children who ran up and down the aisles while their parents -- and grandparents! -- didn't even try to offer a sheepish look of apology to the people around them.

Rarely ever while you see children so annoying and be faced with the simultaneous temptation of emergency doors at 38,000 feet. Thank goodness for headphones and there's no need to go to Chuck E. Cheese tonight; that is all.

Land in Atlanta without incident, make nice with the car still parked in relative proximity to where it had been left, and then depart for a belated -- or early, I can hardly remember any more -- Pie Day.

Great trip. The kind that make you think it a shame that real life must intrude.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

More site-seeing today. The drive takes us into northwestern Connecticut where the car rounded a turn and all the leaves were littering the ground. It went from a beautiful oil painting to twings in a tenth of a mile.

The Webatuck Craft Village, in Wingdale, N.Y. was the destination for the morning. Sadly there doesn't seem to be a lot of pre-existing material on Webatuck on the internets, so you'll have to rely on me for more details. I'm sorry about that.

Gorgeous little place though. From now on, if someone asks me to describe New England, this little side road will be my starting place. It is a diorama cut out of the woods and hills and placed along a "river."

We call those creeks back home. To distinguish, between the two for the culturally impaired: A creek is formally defined as a natural brook smaller than a river, we'll say that if you can walk -- walk, not swim -- across it then it is a creek.

By this definition the tributary of the Tennessee River that my grandparent's live on is a river, thought its formal name is Shoals Creek. So, admittedly, there is some wiggle room in this defition, but we'll get caught up on the river-creek semantics in a moment.

First stop, naturally, the toy store. In your more cynical moments you'd note the number of "Made in China" stickers and the URLs on the toy boxes (can't be old with a URL, no matter which classic fonts you use). In the moments where you stare upon a shelf of toys with a childlike nostalgia you can't help but smile at the many, many toys of a simpler time.

In your more wishy-washy moments you can only think, and I quote myself: Maybe I should. Nah, I shouldn't. But I should. No, don't buy that. And now, later, miles away and likely never to return, I realized I should have bought that.

And now, with Google, I realize that I can still buy it, albeit from a different store. And, as Dave Foley said, "That's America to me, too."

The alleged river.

The furniture store across from the toy store. There's a copper knocker and a few other little stores, but by now the genius who skipped breakfast is a little chilled and hungry. Enter The Buttonwood Cafe.

A place like this, on a day like this -- damp and gray and still -- has to have a soup, I reasoned. Walked in through a screen door onto the enclosed back porch feeling right at home.

This is a small little joint, I think the owner may live upstairs, with 12 tables and at least three of them are rarely ever used. We lingered there for a while and saw three in service. Split pea soup and the Buttonwood Sandwich using the traditional "the restaurant and the sandwich have the same name" logic. That logic never disappoints, and often surprises, especially when your snack comes on an orange-rasin bread. They sell this by the loaf, but it is so rich and filling and demanding of your palette that you'd have to share it with your friends, who would love you for your generosity.

They had a guestbook by the door and despite a general rule of avoiding these things I thought they should know that some anonymous guy had traveled all the way from Alabama to Wingdale, NY for the orange-raising bread. If I ever go back I'll write that I made the trip a second time. Then I'll go see the copper knocker.

Today, though, we drove up that little road to Bulls Bridge, which is a registed historic landmark.

Covered bridges always send me back to college when I was commissioned by an artist to drive all over Alabama and photograph the many covered bridges. That was a great week of work traipsing through springtime forest growth, stumbling through creek beds and sitting still long enough to hear the loudness of nature. That was an important time for a variety of reasons and every so often I pull out those prints and negatives to drift back in time and --

I just stepped into the water. A rock slipped. I'd descended a near vertical slope, slick with recent rain and decomposing leaf litter and and walked across fallen and rotting trees to make it safely down to the waterline. If, on the way, someone told me to be careful I would look at them, smirk, and then say I've been doing this all my life. And then I would have soaked the nice business casual shoe I was wearing.

Got some nice pictures for the effort though, but I'm enjoying the interior ones even more. I love these shots. After I finished shooting covered bridges in college I started finding dilapidated barns for the same effect.

I'll have to share some of the barn ones someday, but for today there's still this river/creek.

Found the scene that has almost all of the traditional pastoral elements. Love that fence. And now I can say I've been in the Catskills.

Then we went to Kent Falls. This is a peaceful little state park, with a history that reads as gentle as the water that falls down into the valley. There are several shelves and an unnecessary no swimming sign. The water's cold. A child lost a big plastic ball into the falls though, and it is stuck in one of the little pools halfway down the falls, moving round and round in a circle. The water won't let it move down the hill. No one's going to get that ball, doomed to dizziness, in the knee deep water.

At the top of the falls the leaves have been hesitant to turn. There's still more green than yellow, despite what's going on in the valley below and on the sides of the hills surrounding the place. Down the hill the foliage is giving up the fight and putting on a show.

Dinner was just what the doctor ordered, home-cooked and full of comfort foods. And cheesecake. The pork roast was worth thirds and hope there's not one better to discover. The tastebuds might not be able to handle it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The last time I visited New York it was scorchingly hot, humid and rained throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Fourteen months later there are high blue skies, a soft sun and the slightest breeze. Throughout the day I've been drawing unconscious parallels of the two trips, which have only three common elements between them.

This time the first New York moment was last year's final New York moment. This year's last (a particular cafe) was last year's next-to-last-moment and one ad, my favorite (probably ever) is still floating above Times Square. This isn't my picture -- I still don't have one -- but it gives you some idea of the Lehman Brothers sign.

Woke up early this morning, probably 7ish or so. Had to catch a morning train into New York City. We walked into Grand Central Station as they were taping a commercial. Lots of lights for a 30 second spot. Anyway, the next time you see a commercial set in Grand Central look really closely. I have a salt-and-pepper sweater on.

I somehow missed this my first time through the depot, it being night and all, but there's some really nice art up on the roof. That'll be the summation of my impression of art and architecture for the rest of the day. There will be lots of photographs, of course, but we can all relax knowing I won't be able to comment for pages on end about building design.

That'll cut down the comment on the Circle Line tour a bit. The guide on the boat was very helpful telling of businesses here, and Marth Stewart's production suites there and Nicole Kidman's $11 million condo over there and these piers and that train station. I should have taken better notes, but I was busy taking pictures of it all.

You'll see the aircraft carrier Intrepid in the background of the above photograph. She's been a museum ship for a long time now, and is unfortunately closed as they prepare for a full-scale restoration project. She'll set sail in a few weeks and will return to New York in 2008.

Speaking of big ships, the Carnival Legend set sail about the same time we did this morning. See that little sailboat to the Legend's starboard? Wonder who yielded when they crossed.

As I said, I can't speak with any insight about the buildings highlighted on the ferry's 75 minute run, but I found myself taking wallpaper photographs.

Hey, there's the world's largest clockface. That clock will be moving some time soon, Wikipedia says Jersey City needs the real estate. Jersey City, home to the parent company. Didn't see it from the water though.

Following a link on Wikipedia, it seems that I have photographs of both the largest and second-largest clock in the world (in Indiana). That has to be fairly random and rare. And who at Colgate had the inferiority complex and was always showing up late necessitating these two clocks? Both clocks have counted time staring out over the Hudson River.

Which brings us to the highlight of the Circle Line tour, the Statue of Liberty. The ferry steers right across the front of the statue and shuts everything down, even the guide falls into a whisper, reciting "The New Colossus" as the craft drifts by slowly.

I took about four dozen photographs during the course of the turn in front of the statue, remembering my first visit of a year ago. We were on the Staten Island ferry then; it was night and raining, but she stood out in the distance glowing out of the darkness. The mist then seemed to carry the voices of generations that have passed this way.

Then as now I am unequal to the task to describe the experience, but I have noticed how Liberty's expression seems to take on slight changes as we moved from her left to right and back again. Here's four good pictures:
Despite my shortcomings on the history of the local architecture, there's one other tidbit that I'll remember from the ferry ride. The narrator mentioned, a couple of times, where the World Trade Center buildings should be standing.

Later in the night The Yankee asked me if I could picture the scene -- I'd never been here to see them standing -- and I had to confess I could not. As we sailed by that area it was obvious that something could go there, but not that it should.

What goes there now is a monument to contemporary history. The tour guide solemnly stopped talking at this point of the trip, marking the only other time he was silent for the 75 minute ride, he also mentioned the nearby church which he suggested for a comprehensive memorial museum. St. Peter's, dating back to the late 18th Century, has a story of its own, but the one truly worth remembering now is how the pews proudly bore the scars of rescue workers after the buildings fell.

That's the other permanent memory of the ferry ride. Next trip I'm going to St. Peter's. Tactile person that I am, I can imagine that little accidental feature of history already, but it is wear worth seeing in person.

Sitting on the back of the ferry to be warmed by the sun leaves the unfortunate drawback of being exposed to the wind and it got cold, even for Yankees. The only nature solution was a cup of hot chocolate.

So there we sat at a Starbucks on 42nd Street. How decidedly uppity of me. The best was yet to come, however, as I later popped into a Starbucks on Fifth Avenue, but for an even more practical reason than warming up.

Walked a little more than halfway across Manhattan on 42nd Street. Caught lunch from a street vendor. He was straight out of immigration. I only note this for two reasons: 1.) his English was slightly, but only slightly, better than my Arabic 2.) I don't speak Arabic. He's working hard though, being diligent about getting everyone's orders wrong, which prompted the realization that this isn't a job I'd ever want.

He made a mean chicken-on-a-stick though.

The chicken must have had a hallucinogenic in it. Started seeing things in triplicate, like three more Statues of Liberty. Saw three of these on the walk up 42nd, which are set out to tell the store owners who is local and who is a tourist. See above for example.

Made it to the Empire State Building, a place which has a much greater pull on others than it does me. I like the art deco mooring mast on top and there's some interesting history, but at the end of the day it is a tall building. In my view of the world, of course, there have always been tall buildings, and other than the spectacular vantage point, most buildings don't really inspire me.

I remember, as a young lad, being told of my mother's first trip to New York City years ago. I thought it was so neat that she thought it was so neat to stand under the building and look to the top, and that's what I did.

The Empire State Building is rightly considered an engineering marvel, there's even a plaque noting as much. Notice the number of screws holding the plaque up. There's also a nice King Kong display, great elevator doors and of course the signaturealuminum relief in the main lobby. (Love that clock.)

The wait to make it to the observation deck was 90 minutes, and that didn't fit into our agenda -- note the time on the clock -- so outside once again, where we soon find the best view of the Chrysler Building of the day. Talk about neglected: surpassed as the world's tallest building by the Empire, seemingly blocked from view and I kept called it the Sears Tower all day long. I'd say it, catch it, correct myself and then do it again. Of the two I like the Sears To ... the Chrysler Building the better, being a more interesting design in the art deco style.

Right, no architecture talk.

So, no Empire State Building view, but there is the Top of the Rock, the new observation platforms on Rockefeller Center. The ice rink is also in place at Rockefeller, where the art deco gods implore wisdom. That's right above the NBC studios, so I'm not sure how that was intended as a message, but we'll take it in stride.

There are a few exhibit pieces on the way up to Top of the Rock. You can walk across a steel beam, just like you see in the old newsreels, there are photographs a plenty, and this little piece of perfection: the RCA 88-A microphone, circa 1938.

The first view from the Top of The Rock.

Beautiful day to be up about 70 floors, and now I can say I've seen Central Park. It always amuses me, listening to New Yorkers talk about the place. Vibrant and green, big squirrels, park in the middle of the city, yes, I understand. It is a park. I see that every day, so I feel like I'm a bit ahead on this count.

After the first turn on top of Rockefeller and look straight down you can see the landmark St. Patrick's Cathedral. Most challenging photographs of the day, trying to capture that building without the glint and reflection of the protective glass on the Rockefeller's rooftop. Lot of fun trying, but that was the best effort. Speaking of effort, there's a great story behind St. Patrick's. More on the cathedral in a bit.

Around the next corner was the Empire State Building, once again demanding your full attention. From this perspective the Empire leaps out from the background. If you let your eyes go fuzzy the building appears to lurch toward you like The Permanent Assurance Building. (My first Python reference of the day.)

They were shooting B-roll for an episode of Law and Order on the top level of the Rockefeller Center, so we didn't get to go up there, but my chances of being an extra on television have by this time doubled over the course of the day. Instead we make our way back to the elevator and the ground so we can stop by St. Patrick's.

There was a wedding full of fabulously overdressed people being hustled out so they could fill the pews with the 5:30 mass. We snuck in; this time I made sure I wasn't wearing the shirt of a Mormon college before entering the Catholic Church. The interior is as ornate on the inside as you'd imagine from the outside.

I wanted to light a candle, but didn't want to stand out from the crowd who actually knew what they were doing in that process. Two dollars a candle by the way, note the donation boxes. Guess it goes toward the stained glass maintenance.

Dinner was at Ben Benson's. Filet, creamed spinach and hashed browns, the "quintessential" New York meal when it comes to a New York steak. You might have a steak as tasty, but you won't ever have a more tender one. Ever.

After the meal we walked up through Times Square toward Broadway to check on a showing of Jersey Boys, the telling of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons. Next door: Alice Cooper.

Then it was time for Phantom of the Opera because, despite your varied theatre experience, your first Broadway experience shouldn't fool around with lesser shows. And because Les Mis hasn't reopened yet.

I'm told, after the fact, that there are a few things about this play which are held sacrosanct. Even if you are granted backstage access, for instance, one mustn't peer too closely, or photograph the magic chandelier. Oops. I'm not sure why that's such an important production secret, sure it is a vital part of the plot, but seems an awkard thing to be kept as a state secret.

Backstage of Phantom is apparently a web of intrigue hinting at the many intricacies of the play, and hinting that the stage managers may well be as mad as they are briliant. The ornation that frames the front of the stage is beautiful, and the parts between the crowd and backstage, the play itself, is without peer. Masterful performances by (from left) Madame Giry (Sally Williams), The Phantom (Howard McGillin), Christine Daae (Rebecca Pitcher), Monsier Firmin (David Cryer), Monsieur Andre (George Lee Andrews) and a colorfully costumed person who I neglected to note.

Which brings us to the Masquerade. I wouldn't take photographs during the performance for fear of distracting those around me, but that's the portrait of the show you want to see. Make sure you're back in your seat before intermission is over or you'll miss it.

Howard McGillin is the longest running actor to portray Phantom (which became the longest running Broadway production earlier this year) and it is easier to see why, but I'll let you hear it, in this season just after Christine has ripped off his mask in Act One. He's laying face down through much of that aria.

After the show it was another trip through a still very crowded Times Square. Here's another view. On our way back to the car we stumbled across the same cafe where I enjoyed a late night cheesecake the year before. I recognized it right away, despite having been nearly delirious each visit.

It is a curvy 14-month circle as these things go, but a full one all the same.

Last year's visit.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Woke up early for a morning flight. Early being relative to how one would normally choose to sleep late on an off-day. The secondary perk, though, to racing the sun to work every day is that anything after 5:30 is sleeping in. There are two ways you can take that thought, but the fact is that neither will get you around the massive accident on the interstate between you and the airport.

And then, later, the accident turns into a carbeque. This happens sometimes in traffic reporting. The original story is delayed or inaccurate. When the driver gets to the site of the vehicular bonfire you realize that those radio reports are sometimes just flat wrong.

What is also just flat wrong, when arriving at the airport an hour early -- pre-checked, carry-ons only -- to stand in a line that would make Walt Disney quiver and tingle in a cartoon-like fashion. To say that the Atlanta airport has become creative with how they weave that security line snaking through rent-a-car stands and a food court is simply to point out how necessity is the mother of invention. The gentleman behind us had it right, "Maybe we should spend some of that money hiring more security people."

Atlanta is prepared for this. When you walk into the first circular food court before the metal detectors -- ordinarily an easy stroll, but now an unfun conga line -- they have a sign saying informing intrepid travelers to call Domino's, because the pizza's hotter than the ID checker and will be here quicker too.

Tick-tock and all that, but an impressive line (who had the decency to applaud every time a uniformed soldier marched through, God bless 'em) moved fairly quickly all things considered. Finally got to the metal detector guy, who tells me the time is 9:05. The flight leaves at 9:10.

Jack Bauer, I need you now. We don't have time!

Oh, and there's also a matter of the terminal. The ticket says D, the nice people on the Airtran customer line say C. So, through the detector, reorganize and gather dignity and then sprint to the terminal train, gamble on C -- a great bet in retrospect -- get up the escalator, run down four gates to a woman with a "Seen it all" attitude.

"The only reason you're getting on this plane" she said, "is because the captain isn't here yet."

I'm going to be proud of myself here for a minute. I didn't fret during the whole line, using the simple What plane have you been on in the past three years that has departed as scheduled? logic.

So we sit on the plane and wait. And wait. Two or three other passengers mosey in. The pilot shows up, hung up in a traffic jam in the sky it seems, he taxis out onto the tarmac and we wait. And wait.

A little over an hour after the scheduled departure we take off.

Gotta stop getting to the airport so early, I say aloud. It's just a waste of time.

Land without incident on an overcast New England day. Just before we touched down in New England the clouds would break momentarily to tickle the eyes with the colors of autumn. It is beautiful up here. They can certainly do this right, no question.

(And now we'll come to the picture portion of our day. There are lots, and some of them are slightly larger files, saved deliberately that way in the hopes of preserving a few colors. Please be patient, the rewards are great.)

From the car, after a few minutes of staring at nothing in particular, I remembered why I'd carried a camera halfway across the country. The first time I pressed the shutter, through the window of a moving car, became a microcosm of the day.

This tree was just shrugging leaves off, bursting to be free. A lot of colors are exploding up here just now and, not to overly romanticize it, I don't have the verbal palette to paint the picture.

The sky is mostly overcast as we drive out to Saugatuck Reservoir, but the gray just amplifies the creations below. There's nowhere else to look except into the tree line, where you are justly rewarded.

The roads are damp and the air is warm, but cooling. There's a seasonal shift happening here on the quarter hour and all of nature is slowing down and quieting down to listen. These trees, many of them have been here longer than we've thought about them, and they sit patiently by, waiting for the fertilizer of the ego "Wow."

Little raindrops are clinging here and there, but we've been promised a clearing sky. It is impossible to visualize that just now. Of all the colors in the wheel, blue is the one not represented. Occasionally an individual tree is taking it upon itself to show individual flair.

That's one of my favorites. A reverse view? Can do.

So there we are, happily snapping away, just watching God basically show off his autumnal hobby. Right about now even the leaves on the ground seem perfectly and deliberately placed. When this trip got planned a short while back I thought the odds of this were long, but this is perfect timing.

Much like the rain, which always strikes when your hundreds of yards from shelter and with hundreds of dollars of camera in your hand.

There was something of a shuffling sprint to get under the car's roof. Hunch your body over, stuff something under your shirt and pretend like your running through rain in German leather loafers. For the last half of the trot mentally kick yourself for not bringing boots.

There was serendipity even in that mistake, however. That poplar flung itself at the windshield in a way that wanted to be noticed, so we obliged him his final moments of character. In a few moments it was an anonymous piece of cellulose surrounded by a million of the neighbors it has grown to know so well over a long summer. Now they'll huddle altogether until the ground turns to tundra and even the trees forget. The trees, though, are only concentrating on the new upstarts they'll show off when the weather turns fine.

Which it did again today after a short time. Right about the time we made it to Compo Beach in Westport.

There were the usual players: the wind, shells, big
Labradors, seagulls and the rocks. The rocks? That's not a beach.

"That's the beach to me" says the Yankee. "And so now you see why I like Tybee Island so much."

Tybee, in Georgia, for the record is a fine and serviceable beach, meaning there is sand and sea oats where they each belong -- and rocks, too, miles inland -- but isn't a great beach. But that's for another day. These dogs are wet and that wind is cold.

To be fair, not all of Compo is that rocky, but it is a dominating feature. See if you can find the sand in this view across the sound into Long Island. Emphasis on the last letters. That's how they say it. "LonG IslanD." I've no idea why.

Out on this little point the wind is slicing across the water and laughing at the foothold that we're standing on and racing back out across the saltwater on the other side. This is a three-year-old on speed being chased by a dead-standing-up parent. And just as merciless.

Found my first piece of sea glass though. Right down front on the first dozen steps or so onto the beach. We don't have that down in the Gulf apparently. Took a Yankee to introduce me to it after all. It is a pretty, but unassuming new keepsake. A bit rounded, it seems impossible to break. I tried to scan it, but it looks like a scan of a moon rock, taken from the moon.

For the uninitiated here's the apparent skinny on sea glass. Not as sexy a tale as you'd want it to be, but it has a charm.

But still as we drove away from a long afternoon of adventures -- trust me this is distilled, you should see the number of photographs that didn't make the website today -- I had to ask myself what Connecticut means to me.

Of the state itself I have two images. Beautifully quaint low hedge walls and Joe Lieberman.

Dinner, eventually, was pizza with dear newish, oldish friends Kate and John. How does one describe someone they've meet twice in a year, but have heard references of for even longer? A third set of aunts and uncles? Dear people. They brought pizza. Originally the plan was pie from Colony, but the restaurant's phone was on the fritz. So the competition instead. The box encouraged you to come down and see Vinnie twirl the dough, which might have been entertaining for a few minutes if the box was artistically accurate. Vinnie only had three fingers. What he was missing in digits, though, he made up for in 1982 hair and sunglasses.

You know they say that Vinnie is a bad --

Shut yo' mouth.

Alright, all the fun of the night -- and it was nearly as hysterical an evening as you can having listening in on conversations about people which you have never met -- can leave a boy loopy. And there's a big day tomorrow.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

We don't eat the berries because they are for the wildlife, that's why. We have produce sections, we don't have to still the animals' dinner this week. That's just being considerate for the indigenous creatures who are, as we've been told, people too.

That's all I was saying about the berries. That and that we have high-fructose concoctions that are marketed toward us.

Finished Davis' See Rock City over a maple turkey croissant at Chappy's in Mountain Brook. That seemed about as far away as I could get from the subject matter during a lunch hour. Somehow that distance can get you closer to the thing you're examining. If I had an inner monologue during lunch I would have pondered this, instead I was appreciating how Davis' stories got better.

The last few were about a high school trip of adventure to the beach, learning to be a bus driver and going off to college. The stories did get better as his adventures grew, so if you borrowed this book I'd suggest skipping the first few chapters unless you need a primer on Appalachia.

Though at the end I found myself wondering about the tidy little endings to the stories. They could be true, and I won't be a naysayer, but I am reminded of the little tool we called The Storyteller's Truth.

Now we call it truthiness, and everyone has it. That brings us to the phrase that will be worn out in a year "His truth." Mark it down. Revisit the blog. You'll see that I'm right.

And, if I'm not, it'll be My Truth, but no one will mind the sentence construction.

Atlanta by nightfall, and no matter how many times you write that or ways you try, it will never be as cool as Amarillo by Morning.

Cut George some slack, that's from the 1980s. Hee Haw no less. Watching it by a video camera with those flashing bands across the screen somehow make this.

Well, I won't be in Amarillo tomorrow morning, White Plains is where I'll be.

For now, there's grilled salmon calling my name.

Don't eat the berries.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Today's a busy day. I'm organizing the fragments of a life that will be lived from a suitcase for the next several evenings. It is big trip time again, which means many hectic things to do, and little time to write about them.

Even still I have photos and more unwanted television thoughts to round out this aspect of your day.

Have you ever thought about other hobbies?

Anyway, the sun was coming down just so, and teased with a little flirtatious golden light that was not to last, but had enough promise to send me traipsing through the nearby woods.

I took this picture twice, once in and once out of focus. I liked this one best, thinking that if I had stretched out on the ground amid the rotting sticks and fallen leaves long enough my eyes would blur to see something that looked like a broken kaleidoscope staring down the eyepiece of a microscope. That'd be an interesting exercise to promote daydreaming. Leaves are good for that too, though, if you don't have the other tools around.

And then I played with the macro function for a while, shooting flowers and then shooting them again.

We have several yellows in the treeline just about now. Very few of the oranges have emerged and a few unexpected red leaves dot the day. Mostly we're still green, but it is early, still, for this far south.

Here's a little yellow for your canvas. And wild berries, which we do not eat.

Valleys give into the twilight early, of course, and realizing I hadn't been back here in several years it seemed wise to walk back out, I postponed the commune with nature in favor of laundry, packing and Battlestar.

In all the exciting things to cram into last Saturday I neglected to mention finding both parts one and two of the second season of Battlestar Galactica at the first used music store we went to. The guy was nice enough to undercut Amazon for me, so it was a deal I couldn't refuse. So like any healthy and gainfully employed adult I had my mother pay for it.

I wanted to buy it. Insisted. Fought vainly. Mothers may not be deterred.

Anyway, I guiltily put the DVDs to good use tonight, the better to help meditate on the laundry and the folding and the packing. Picking up where I left off from the EvIl one -- which has now been released from the burden of holding a season of BSG, free to record more, no doubt -- the Pegasus arrives (now with extra near-pointless scenes!) and I fell into a fury of watching four episodes.

So the Admiral shows up, causes a stir and that's just not going to fly with Adama. Oh sure, there's rank and protocol, but the DVD box doesn't say Pegasus, now does it? So something is going to happen. Not in Pegasus, but during the excellent cliff-hanger episodes (a nice little mid-season arc). Unfortunately we've unleashed a new cylon. Poor Gaius Baltar, in the original series he was plan evil, now he's just smarmy in a most disagreeable way.

Granted there's still about six episodes left in Season Two (thanks again Mom!) but the radical resistance peaceniks just aren't that exciting. Nothing in the series disappoints, so I'm sure it will be whipped into shape for the sake of drama, but this seems too cute by half. Twelve worlds destroyed and there are people who want to treat with robots? Maybe it's just the science fiction hawk in me, but let's arm the weapons and move in at ramming speed!

Battlestar would be great with alternate endings, no? Oh the tizzy you could send the audience into. The Star Trek conventions would be nothing if you gave viewers a little morsel to fall asleep with tonight wondering What if the chief saw to it that Valerii died? What if Starbuck really split from the Old Man? Oh how they'd dream.

All the characters are still developing nicely -- I give this progress report on the absolute unlikely possibility that someone interested in the show is more behind than I am -- and it remains a drama set in space, not a space drama. Whatever that means. It could be as subtle as the difference between blue-green and green-blue, two colors you won't see on the Galactica, but that you might see in my laundry.

Back to the packing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nothing to see here today, move along. Or come throw a load of clothes in the washer for me.

Driving to work was fun this morning. I chose to sneak up on the office by coming in from the southeast rather than the southwest. The road is a bit better, the traffic a bit lighter and, I reasoned, that's better for the rain. It rained a lot today. Mostly this morning. Fall showed up and announced itself with a coolish drip.

Anyway, in choosing my route for the day I forgot about climbing the mountain -- more of a molehill, but we like big names -- and I forgot the one overpass on the interstate where water rains down in sheets across two of the three lanes. Walk into your shower and rotate the adjustable showerhead to the one no one ever uses because they prefer their shoulder blades to not sting. Now imagine topping a hill at interstate speed, driving under that, ducking the other cars because they've never seen water like that before -- golly gee! -- and doing it in the dark.

My usual 20-minute trip took 45 minutes in the rain. Tonight it is foggy, I can't wait to see what tomorrow morning will be like!

Down south they're getting rain by the bucketload the past few days. Even still they're in a drought. At some point all this water at one time becomes runoff and the next thing you know your yard is down the hill and the Jonese are enjoying the petunias you recently planted. Or mums, depending on the season.

The closest weather monitoring station to my home recorded six hours of non-rain today. Everything else was a steady drizzle. Inch-and-a-half at the airport, half an inch here; I suppose that means I won't inherit any of my neighbor's floral decorations this week.

One of my neighbors has yard decorations up for Halloween, complete with orange lights everywhere. Must be for the grandchildren. I'm not sure if it would be scary or funny to an eight-year-old, but there's a huge inflatable skull out front that is bigger than the shrubbery. It and the rest of the decorations may keep me up nights.

In a few weeks it will be replaced by big turkeys and pilgrims with buckles on their hats. After that will be Santa on uppers and reindeer doing the blow. They'll have giant Alice in Wonderland-type candy canes lining the sidewalk and they may even add music, it's that kind of endeavor.

Once upon a time they had motion lights on their house. They were so sensitive that I could turn onto the street and they would turn on from a yard away. I don't think they have those anymore, the whole place is bathed in LEDs with characters with eyes drawn a little too wide securing the perimeter. Beware the toy soldier, if you escape this month's magical gnomes.

Out for dinner tonight. Skipped lunch because the only things that sounded good involved walking and rain. Instead I'd sat in a back hallway at work and read. My little breakfast long gone I followed the roving search lights from a nearby car dealership and had a chicken sandwich across the street.

Hey, even Batman would get distracted from the Bat Signal from a good sandwich once in a while.

Anyway, in honor of Lamar Thomas getting canned after his thuggish comments during the FIU-Miami brawl (you'll hear him chime in at 1:50) I figured I would go pay tribute to the former wideout.

He's a interesting guy, historically speaking, unique in the college football world because he was part of the one team that brought Alabama and Auburn, -- all of football fandom, really -- together in a hatred of Miami. And in one brief moment in 1993, he personified everything we all wanted Miami to be: out of breath and flat on his face.

There's a painting of that play that hangs at Zaxby's, so I decided to pay homage. Artists have carved out a nice living here painting big sports plays and giving the moments short names, usually beginning with "The" to make it seem so important. As soon as Greg Gamble or Daniel Moore begin using stained glass as a medium some of these things are going up in churches, you just know it.

I'm breezing through Davis' See Rock City. It is a collection of childhood stories in rural North Carolina. Donald Davis is a paid storyteller -- lucky guy -- now branching out into books.

His writing lends itself to speeches, and the early stories, they are chronologically listed in the book, are a little too cute for me. I'm mid-way through his teenaged years now and the stories are better and the laughs are only slightly obvious in these heartwarming tales. I picked it up because the cover said "A Story Journey Through Appalachia" because I judge books by their cover at used book stores. For three singles it was mine, and at this rate I'm getting my money's worth. If this sort of book is your thing, skip the first two or three stories. Fast read though, after tonight, I should be finished in the next day or so.

Hmm. Rain, neighbor's decorations, football and a book. Nothing at all to see here today.

Guess that means it's time for laundry.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mondays. A day for errands. A day of running around being half-successful at a hardly-comprehensive list of things you've compiled on a legal pad. There were four things on my list, four stops to make between work and home. Three towns to visit before I could make the triumphant arrival in my private little kingdom.

I'm two-for-four. And if there's anything we can learn through post-season baseball it is that big time players play big in big-time games.

Fortunately it has been raining, so the grounds crew has the tarp on the field, so maybe that should be my saving grace for the day.

Stopped by the library to drop off a few CDs. The library was closed because of a power outage. Oh for one.

Made it by the bank. Single to left.

Picked up my Auburn pennant. Double into the gap.

To interrupt the baseball theme, the pennant looks great. And almost three months and two stores (but just a month at this place) it is supposed to look fantastic.

The pennant is surrounded by an orange matte, which is covered with a blue matte and then finally the white matte on top. The frame is the closest approximation to the frame of my lithograph diploma. They'll look nice sharing a wall. For more on the pennant's historical significance go here and read the last paragraph here.

Without any instruction on my part they'd strung it for horizontal display. I asked the guy to run another wire for a vertical look and he did. And then I asked him about potentially framing my new V-E newspaper. This was the guy hired to hand out material and generally make the place looked staffed. He was not the guy with the answer.

"I'm afraid of anything with the word 'old' in it."


And then it was time for a quick stop by Alfa. Having now driving across town, in the rain and amidst the crazies -- Rain! Brakes! Swerve! Gridlock! -- I arrive to have the nice lady, busily chatting away on the phone, tell me that she's "already shut the system down."

I hadn't realized that there was such an elaborate press and printing operation going on there, what with it being such a little office. Clearly the machinery can't be put into motion again without a good lube and a full run of whatever paperwork normally makes its way through the printing process.

So I just look at her and turn around. At the door I look at my watch -- synched to the U.S. Naval Observatory no less -- and realize that the top of the hour news hadn't yet come on the radio when I exited the car.

Thanks for shutting down before five, I appreciate that.

I walk back out into the rain and get to the car to hear the woman yelling, screaming, across the parking lot. This highly overstressed and very professional lady yelled something about putting my transaction "with the others for tomorrow."

No ma'am, I wouldn't want you to have to work any harder.

Now I wonder how many other people came to find the hamsters had taken the day off from turning the wheel at the big insurance firm. They must have a great union deal.

So that would be a line drive directly at someone, leaving two baserunners stranded.

After that it was home to pay my regular tribute to the EvIl eye. Someone said the other day that I've become really boring since I got the TiVo, that all I talk about here is watching television. It was suggested that I get a second job, or go back to school yet again. Some people are so funny.

Why do that when I've got two hours of Scrubs, an episode of Jericho and The City on the Edge of Forever to watch?

Not to make a big Star Trek rant here, but I've been watching a few of these since they've remastered some of the footage -- looks very handsome too, by the way -- and I found myself tonight wondering if I should still like The Original Series.

Here we are, 40 years later and the writing, dynamite for the time, hardly compares to any quality programming of today. To say nothing of the effects and the four decades of other changed television conventions, the show is just not that good. Some of the overarching themes and plots remain top-notch, but otherwise watching the shows outside of the 1960s science fiction context leaves things lacking.

But this episode had Edith Keeler, a far better distraction than a second job. Or even running half your errands.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Late night last night, early morning this morning. Got cleaned up, packed up, and then hurried up to wait. Finished Steinbeck's journal. I'm left with a resounding Eh.

Having spent my traditional session sitting under the corner windows of the den reading in the morning light, I dozed off.

Finally Mom and Rick came downstairs and we went for a ridiculously large brunch. I'm never eating again, etc.

Trip to the airport and the return flight to Birmingham was uneventful. Started reading Donald Davis' See Rock City on the plane. I'm reserving judgement so far. It could be the altitude after all.

Made it home in time for Pie Day. There were seven of us tonight. The restaurant did not have the lemon icebox pie. This is wholly inexcusable. A sour little note to end a fine weekend.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Woke up this morning with a day full of plans. Out of the house early for a trip to one of the artsy parts of Louisville, Bardstown, where Mom and I were headed for brunch and dusty old stores.

Stopped by our dining choice, Lynn's Paradise Cafe, a popular place with an hour wait for brunch. So in the meantime we hit a used book and music store where I found a few items on my musical scavenger hunt.

We then returned to explore the curiosities of breakfast. Lynn's has a parking lot art. And a great sign out front. I took a picture of the sign that is destined to be a background here one day. There's also random things sprawled along the outside of the restaurant: cement animals, a sculpture which was a horse that was a toaster, a hammock swing. People eat there and then take photographs for 20 minutes. That's Americana to me.

Amid Lynn's funky decor -- kitsch lamps, pants made of tea bags, mannequins hanging from the walls -- I chose a meal that had Kentucky in the title that was an hesitant orders, the kind where you instantly feel you'll regret it, but the breakfast they delivered was light, tasty and didn't sit with me all day.

We played a game that will suck days off your life if you aren't careful. A plastic tube is filled with little bits of plastic, the sort of tasty sprinkle you don't eat lest ye desire a stomach pump. Also in the tube are little toys that are listed on top of the game and you have to find all the pieces inside. We drew the animal game so there was about an hour of looking for pandas, ants, owls and more. It is addictive, unless you're a defeatist. I'm neither, but there was other stuff to do.

After looking through the little gift shop of randomness we walked down the street to a store called The Deal, which specializes in "20th Century furniture." Having not redecorated in the last seven years it is safe to say that, for the most part, I'm living in an historical goldmine of 20th Century ephemera.

We'd peered inside the store earlier, before it opened, and the place looked like the owner had stolen your grandparent's furniture. What anyone would want or need from this place I have no idea, but if you just have money burning a whole in your pocket you would leave with something.

And so there we were, finding somethings. Mom found some old medicine tins which she collects. Rick found an old Coke bottle opener to reminisce about and he got a neat little bookshelf item that turned out he got for me.

I found a 1944 Red Cross map of Paris, started a new collection of things which will one day wind up on the website, another political button and, best of all, a V-E Day edition of the Stars and Stripes.

That will be framed and displayed in short order.

Stopped by another bookstore, All Booked Up, that was a handsome old house now wallpapered with bookshelves. The wooden floors creeked, the stairs turned halfway up. There was old pulp and beams of warm sunlight everywhere. Corners away from the owner, sitting downstairs listening to the Louisville football game, were quiet enough to want to stop and sit forever, learning everything the books had to offer. The best one I found was more than 130 years old and in great condition. It was a treatise on chemistry, explaining the quality of the book. It had slumbered in the Louisville Free Library for untold years, seldom touched and largely forgotten. Now it is sitting on another shelf, seldom touched and only most forgotten.

It got written about here after all.

On to Harvest Homecoming. Go for the food, gawk at the signs. We've all recently heard of deep fried coke, but now I present to you the pride of New Albany, deep fried Snickers and large Reese's Cups, which is just down from the Polish and Italian sausages.

Enjoy your dinner everybody!

Comparatively healthy (we'll come back to this): This kid was getting his corn on.

Harvest Homecoming is a calm little festival seemingly without rules or order. It is the Home and Garden Show meets the high school career show meets the food section of the fair. It is held in downtown New Albany, as the banner near the deep fried Snickers tips you off.

Among other beautiful old buildings you walk right under the awning of The Grand. That place showed movies for 64 years. Even now as a convention hall the "new" facade looks "old" amid the many other buildings of New Albany. It'll never be as nice as that 1930s photograph though.

Across the street is the old Fair Department Store. I've never actually seen The Fair before, billed here as "New Albany's Popular Store." If it hadn't been for Rosa Parks I would have never heard of the place. She was a seamstress at a Fair in Montgomery when she sat at the front of the bus.

That ghost ad was obviously from a different time, overgrown as it is and looking into an alley. There's a bridge between now and then, and that bridge is neon.

If they ever tear that place down, or if someone moves in there, I said, I hope they keep the sign, or that someone buys it for me.

"What would you do with it?" Rick asked.

Hang it from the corner of the house and turn it on.

White neon on maple and oak trees would look lovely this time of year.

Made the annual pilgrimage to the town's Book & Music Exchange. For whatever reason it is one of my favorite used stores around. Maybe because the whole place feels crammed into a corner store as an afterthought. Maybe it is the bins of stuff just lying beneath the racks. Not sure.

It could be the cut-rate bins out front. The used CD store, where the going rate is six bucks per, always has two or three tables of discounts. Today I counted at least four CDs on the discount tables that I'd bought from the place before, also on the discount table. I'm trying not to let this say anything about my taste in music, but sometimes you have to wonder exactly where you are -- Hey! Nelson!

Got three discs from the outside table, scoured the pricey stuff inside and knocked some more music off the scavenger hunt.

By now it was time to leave Harvest Homecoming for football.

On the way back to the car came better pictures of the pork chop sandwich process. The sandwich guys say they literally cook a ton of pork chops during the festival. We'd had the pork chops and the corn, the first round at least, on the way into the park. That is the point of Harvest Homecoming anyway, after all.

The better pictures came in the dark. Which is how we come back to the supposed healthy aspects of the corn. The local Boy Scout troop runs the corn booth. They pick it about four minutes before you arrive at the festival, roast it on the grill and then ask if you want salt, pepper and butter. The salt and pepper are imported directly from the Middle East and the butter -- and I am not kidding about this -- is simply melted in a crock pot. They baptize the corn and hand it over. I had an ear coming in and ear going out. Unlike my head there was plenty in between.

The evening scenery being a key component.

As a point of reference, here's last year's Harvest Homecoming entry.

Mom taped the Bama game and we decided on a night of football bliss. Since she never gets to watch games in Indiana -- they don't realize how important this stuff is -- I figured I'd take charge. Home for Bama escaping Ole Miss (just wow) on tape delay.

Then the big boys, also on tape delay. Someone said this week that Auburn would lose or escape with a close one. I added the win big, just to cover all the bases, but the second guess was the right one.

Florida is stacked offensively and moves the ball at will. Our defense is pourous at best. How Auburn stayed in this game until the half is beyond me. They just chipped away at things on the edge, moving the ball, but not producing, and held on to strings coming out of the Gator uniforms. The crowd was out of it and I was waiting for Auburn to give away even larger chunks of yardage in the second half.

And then, at the beginning of the second half my mother made her most astute football observation ever, "I do believe there's chunks of butt in Tuberville's teeth."

Colorful as that was, she was right. The defense, missing lo these three weeks, finally got off the bus and the crowd woke up. Right there Chris Leak proved the book on him accurate, when he got rattled beyond repair and Florida's championship dreams Dyed 27-17.

That reminds me I should return to the Dye Field shirt, but I digress.

Here's the video. Nice beginning, middle and end. The beautiful thing about highlight packages is that you can completely ignored getting gashed for a mini-marathon's worth of yardage. Listen to that crowd. I do really well until the crowd gets its blood up. There's something about the 85,471 announcing the coming apocalypse that makes me regret missing a game.

Auburn could meet Florida again in Atlanta. That would be a tough challenge. If, that is, Arkansas loses two, which they should. But the whole ordeal demands an answer to one question.

How in THE WORLD did you lose to Arkansas?

With the worst of the schedule behind them, hopefully this will be a turning point for the Tigers. Everyone else hears the Click Clack.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Thirteenth? Eek.

Now there's a day for air travel.

Short work day. 'Tis the season. Stayed a little extra during the week so I could catch an early flight out of town. Left work about 45 minutes early, the plane ended up being about 55 minutes late. The ebb and flow of the universe is a beautiful thing.

Sat in the rotunda of the main terminal at the Birmingham ... ahem ... Airport Internacional and watched the people go by. Passengers queuing up for a plane that hadn't arrived yet, Charlie Brown voices rumbling over the public address system and general boredom. Seems like there is a lot of that at airports lately, but not me, I'm drowning in mp3s and buried in John Steinbeck.

That book is going fast. He wrote a punchy style in his journal, full of complaints and whining and switchbacks to confidence and pride and insecurities again. Steinbeck might have been an odd man, but he was probably a likeable man. I'll probably finish this book, where he waffles on the quality of his magnum opus and the potentially psychic abilities of his new pen, in the next few days. Two chances to sit isolated in a metal tube for an hour and change helps.

All that while sitting next to a quiet woman and her daughter toward the back of the plane with juice and peanuts. On the runway in Louisville the plane swayed back and forth, like a drunk was at the wheel. Otherwise it was a perfectly normal flight. As we pulled into the terminal the flight attendant announced that a special man was on the plane with us. He'd just turned 80 and it was his first time on a plane. "So say hello to our pilot."

The family's at the airport. We stop by the UPS side of the big operation -- same airport, two miles up the interstate -- so Rick can get some paperwork and then we head home. Vegetable stew for dinner. We make fun of my step-sister. We chat a while, chat a while longer and now finally it is time for bed.

Not a bad 13th.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

This was The Dinner That Wasn't with Kelly. We met in Cullman for an afternoon of frivolity and chairs that rock. We generally meet for dinner, or at least ice cream, but I made the mistake of eating a ridiculously large lunch that refused to be digested in a timely fashion.

So we rocked, and then we walked. And then it got cold. We hit the bookstore where she helped me work out some flash issues. I must have pestered her for an hour as she sat amazed about my ability to think up ways to do things without actually having to take all the steps to do things. I think she called me lazy.

Then we talked about Life and Weighty Things.

For her general awesomeness with flash, and for a friendship of a dozen in particular Kelly now has a themesong in her honor. Whenever she shows up here, you'll have to listen to her mood-setting music.

The first time she coached me through flash difficulties we found that on her laptop -- entirely by accident, she would claim -- and it appeared again tonight, where it struck my sleep-deprived mind as perfect for her theme. She liked the idea, and here we are. Listen again.

She also gave me Dueces Wild off the musical scavenger hunt. One more off the list, a few dozen to go.

On Notice returns in the top left corner:
Lunch hour parking
Funky sweet tea
Lint in my camera
Football everywhere. Otherwise it was a chore to think of something that annoyed this week. Aside from the parking incident today, life must be good when the best you can think of, after much thought, is trash in your camera.

While Kelly and I were rocking the afternoon away we saw the best rocking chair ever. Not sure who buys that, but I know it sells. An awful lot more Alabama rocking chairs sitting on the porch than the Auburn model. Seems all the Auburn merchandise is moving faster these days. Doing things like escaping Duke will do that for you.

Not that the sooeyfied Tigers can say anything about that right now. Grant called me yesterday to take my lumps on his morning show. I talked smack before the Arkansas-Auburn game, talking about their high school offense, crippled running back, all the pork I'd been eating and so on. Yesterday it was time for the humble pie. He'd called Monday, but having the day off I slept in and missed his call. He suspected conspiracy, claiming I was ducking any number with an Arkansas area code. His second guess was closer to accurate: No one here goes to work after the football team loses.

We do mourn a sound drubbing. Folks around here take off for their kids' birthdays, the opening of hunting season and whenever Saturday doesn't go our way.

So, after getting cracked on by Grant -- he called me an Alabama fan! -- and the down week of football the trash talking around Dixie has been understandably subdued.

Sort of like my drive home from Cullman tonight. Struggled to stay awake, though I wasn't especially tiredMy mind just wasn't up to interstate speed. Very odd.

Worse, still, when I got home I was suddenly wide awake. Have to pack for the weekend, so it worked out just the same.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This has been an exciting day, let me tell you.

Wal-Mart was the scene. Old women with young teens in tow. Elementary children in their school uniforms and regulation twist outs. The shade tree boys up from places like Woodstock and Brookwood, just to gawk at all the shiny newness in the autoparts department. Except for that one guy, gazing adoringly at the cosmetics because it made him feel pretty to stand there.

You can see a lot in the average Wal-Mart if you walk stem to stern.

You can cover that much ground if you insist on finding the impossible to find products without help, a map or GPS. Twice I was an aisle away from my desired purchase. Each time I walked to the opposite corner of the store.

Bought a grill brush though. Just $.94. I single-handedly put some Mom and Pop store out of business today, but they rode out of here on the Grapes of Wrath highway long ago. This isn't a city so much as a string of buildings, some empty and the rest filled with a glut of chain stores.

I'm reading Working Days right now, John Steinbeck's journal of his time writing his epic novel, hence the Grapes reference.

I picked this up in a used bookstore some time ago because I remembered a reference to it from a high school literature class. There we were, struggling to make sense of Grapes of Wrath the teacher mentioned that he'd kept a journal at the same time. Grapes is currently 672 pages of prose written in a few months. The concept of simultaneously writing anything else seemed impossible at the time.

The concept of writing 672 pages of considered genius still astounds, but keeping a journal of the effort isn't so impressive now. Particularly when reading Steinbeck's short, choppy complaints about the neighbors, visitors and his ailments. A quarter of the way through the journal there really becomes an appreciation for his compulsive drive to finish the book, the quality of which he questioned daily. It is fast reading, almost childlike. Steinbeck was worried about bigger things, while also appreciating the benefit of the journal. Writers are supposed to take away something from Working Days so now I'm reading it to see if I leave with anything, thereby hinting at the possibility that there might be a writer-type bone in my hands somewhere.

I'm learning a lot more about Grapes, which was such a chore in high school, even for us bookworms. As good as our english and literature program was, we were often reading way over our heads. I know why we read Romeo and Juliet when we did, but it was beyond the understanding of your average suburban 14-year-olds. I'm not sure why Grapes or Of Mice and Men were chosen, but, to late 20th Century teens one was a great story with an obscure backdrop and the other was people with odd names and something about a bowl of dust.

I understood the Dust Bowl and what it meant. We went to school in a WPA building, so there was a hint of meaning behind some of the Grapes timeline, but we never spent time on the context. Now, through the journal, it reads as a historical cross section. If we'd been given more background the four of us that would have been interested would have gained a better appreciation. As it is, I may now be forced to go back and read the book again. And, like I said, that's 672 pages.

Wal-Mart started all this. I suppose a barbeque grill brush started all this. Grill utensils worldwide are basking in the limelight for beginning such a circuitous rant. I also bought toiletries for travel -- I'm experimenting with the TSA's new rules on small product and zip-loc bags -- next trip, all carry-on luggage!

The one thing I needed? Way over by the pesticides. That made sense.

At home I had a burst of productivity; there was laundry to be done and things to be unpacked and a little cleaning. It was a small burst of productivity. Just enough to assuage any guilty feelings for a night of bonding with the television.

I missed season two of Battlestar Galactica because Friday night broadcasts didn't fit my schedule. A few weeks ago, though, I had the idea of setting up the TiVo to record whatever SciFi did in the way of a marathon in the days leading to the premiere of season three. SciFi didn't disappoint. I ended up catching 18 of the 20 episodes of the season, missing only the first two, which I'd actually seen during the original airing. So, now, two days before season three begins, I start making my way through season two.

Don't spoil anything for me, but I'm now halfway through, with the return of the Pegasus.

Such a great show. If no one hears from me for days on end, just know that the EvIl eye won't let go.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

And so we've come to this, the day when all my friends make fun of me, cloistered as I am around the big screen and watching electrons bounce off the big pane of glass as I slowly and methodically undertaking the process of removing programs from the TiVo. Even as I move through shows, 40 minutes per hour of programming, the insidious EvIl eye is recording more distractions for me to sit through. It is an irrepresible cycle.

Cleansed of Daily Shows and Colbert Reports, removing old football games and suggested recordings, muddling through Scrubs recorded from Comedy Central -- apparently they are running marathons every Saturday. I think I'm going to have to write a letter urging them to stop this dangerous practice. I also watched an episode of Stargate. Not a very good one. I'm down to the point of deciding on Stargate episodes based on the written summary that the EvIl eye offers. Once, last week, I gave a particular episode the opportunity to keep me through each commercial break. If they couldn't have me interested by the time I saw another promo for whatever God awful made for SciFi movie they are showing this week I was going to drop the episode mid-way through. Turned out to be a good one. Today's was ... well ... it was better than watching oral surgery on Discovery Channel.

Three episodes of X-Files came to pass today. These were important. The first being the one where The Lone Gunmen died. I liked the characters, but really the finally burial scene was a little too much. Second and third were the series finale.

Since I only really started watching The X-Files about two-and-a-half years ago there was a lot of catching up to do. Since it is shown primarily over night I only caught the insomniac's specials. I'd watched the ending before, but was a little lost in putting all the pieces together. I figured, seeing it in the To Do list last week, that I would be a far more enlightened viewer this time around. The first hour, yes. The second hour was filled with so much open ended doublespeak that was the trademark of that show that no one really got.

I'm trying to make something of this in my mind, that the episode where the Gunmen died was titled "Jump the Shark." Chris Carter, by then, must have realized. Looking back on the entire nine year body of work, impressive as the lifespan is, it is clear that five or six years would have been a much tighter project.

The end had the one redeeming quality, where it basically pointed back to Catholicism, just as a little nod to detractors. Mostly, though I found myself wondering which fake name they were using for the motel room since they were busily hiding from governments real and imagined.

I'm glad the show's over, the twisting and turning and the duplication of story arcs was getting tiresome. Perhaps over a nine year run it wouldn't have been so bad, in which case the fault is mine. But it was The X-Files that was the first series that said to me, "Not all television programming is made to be watched in bulk." Really, it turns out that Scully and Mulder didn't have that much to say to one another, they were just saying the same six things over and over. Mostly I'm glad that the finale has come and I can delete the show's season pass. We should celebrate.

Sweet victory! I'm getting untold hours of my life back. The better to watch something else.

Speaking of which ...

Monday, October 9, 2006

I have lots of dog pictures, and lots of Philadelphia pictures. Hopefully next week I can get around to making some flash files to show them off. Patience is a virtue and around here we're all very virtuous.

Speaking of patience, I built a grill today. I'm sure all the parts were gathered, wrapped and placed in the box in less time. It was probably shipped to the store in less time. Who are we kidding? The raw materials were formed, unearthed and processed in less time.

Steak night, grill night, assembly afternoon. It has wheels -- the grill, not the steak. I find that wheels on steak are too chewy, wouldn't you agree? The grill is also collapsible. There are two vents and a warming grill which, for the life of me, I couldn't make work. The mostly English directions only went so far.

One of the lesser neat things about the grill was the abundance of heat-resistant washers they sent along. I used them in each of the places required of me -- a booklet of instructions with bad line art can be so authoritarian -- but still emerged with about eight extras.

The extras in the Some Assembly Required portions of life are always interesting. If you peer into that stack long enough you can really get a good glimpse of what the makers had in mind. A screw here, a bolt there, sure. Some extra vinyl stripping, a little too much velcro, you can see the need for that somewhere.

"These are the things," the makers are implying "of which you may need more. Care for them, place them in a bag high upon a shelf, so that you may recover them six years hence. We are already imagining the quizzical look upon your face. It is much like the one that you made when trying to figure out the last portion of the grill."

That or "These are the things that are so cheap it isn't worth remeasuring and unpacking. MacGyver something whydoncha?"

I spent the last several frustrating minutes over the grill pondering the heat resistant washers. What clues were the makers trying to tell me? There is clearly a message here that will send me on some exciting quest. Or will it just lead to singed fingers?

In product assembly, and sometimes in life, it is best not to look to hard for other's implications. Sometimes it leads to more than burned digits.

But that grill made a mean steak later in the night. No fingers were harmed in the making of that meal.

I had the day off, thanks Christopher Columbus! The company is kind enough to offer two floating holidays a year, today was one of them, which meant sleeping in, a concerted effort at quietly listening to the breeze and an attempt at a nap so feeble that even the Greater Nappers Society called me lazy. It was a beautiful day.

Grant called me this morning to give me a piece of my humble pie after the Friday smack talk about the Arkansas-Auburn game. I missed my opportunity to be on the air with him this morning because I was sleeping in. His voicemail indicated he detected a conspiracy that I wasn't answering calls from the 501 area code today. My return voicemail expressed my need to have the day off after such a terrible game. We'll gather together later in the week, hopefully, and I'll take my good natured lumps.

And, with the exception of the football, this was a perfect weekend. Easily duplicated, difficult to top. Patience should bring another great one around soon. We'll all be very virtuous in waiting.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

The day started with a cloud and a hint of cool air blowing through the region. The sun shook it off, a trooper still, and turned it into a beautiful afternoon. Seemed a day for the park.

On the way I found the season's official First Leaf Turn Photograph. This is significant since it tells you, the patient reader, that there will be plenty of these photographs in the next several weeks.


The Yankee finally found the dog park at Piedmont. This place is like Chuck E. Cheese for puppies. Pretty good for would-be dog owners as well. Same principle: Go to the park, get your fill, swear of diapers, chewed shoes, midnight feedings and house breaking for another year or so.

The dog park is a long fence-enclosed area sitting off by itself in Piedmont. A bridge and a curve in the walking trail hides it from the flat fields where soccer, frisbee and football are played. On one side there is a steep hill, the dog park is closed in by woods to the rear and on the right.

There's only one way in and out, through a dual gate system, an airlock for canines. All of the animals new exactly what they were about to do. They all perked up in that little holding square as their owners closed the exterior gate and opened the interior. Soon the leashes will be off, and so will the dogs. The dog park is longer than a football field. There are boulders up front shared by man and animal, benches along the side that are largely neglected. The main area is covered in a tree bark mulch to protect puppy pads. There's a water pump to the left and a little paved path that sneaks down that side to the small dog area, an enclosure for animals under 30 pounds.

We spent the afternoon playing with dogs. You can tell the veterans from the rookies, both owners and dogs. The old hands just let the dogs have their fun, hoping for exhausting. The new people feel the need to apologize for their animals, "it's his first time here." Everyone asks about your dog. I call my imaginary pet over to meet the great danes, the dobermans, the greyhound, the terriers, the boxers and more.

And then this dog showed up. One day I'll have a dog just like that. Just beautiful. She even looks smart and sturdy. She's the kind of dog that walks by her master with pride, and he walked next to her with confidence. That's the perfect dog for sunset walks around the neighborhood, showing the Joneses the newest trick she's learned.

Just look at that face.

At times it seemed like the clouds would win the day, but the sun would always return and show off an autumnal rebellious streak. The afternoon played by slowly, drifting forever by with an easy canter to match the dogs. No one seemed willing to leave, all the puppies wanted to linger.

It was a perfect day at the park. In a few months, when the trees are sticks and the leaves are debris, this is the kind of day you'd dream about, staring up at the branches and willing them to bloom. The day you hope for isn't one where summer has taken over and demanded your dehydration, but one where the season takes a brief hiatus and offers a perfect room temperature day.

Even still, in the joy of fall and the differed melancholy of an approaching winter it looked like spring.

Mid-January that one might be my computer's wallpaper.

Things I learned today: Benihana isn't a joke, but actually a restaurant. I thought it existed today primarily in the same way that the Cuisinart and the Edsel do, as ideas where we all offered a collective, Eh.

Benihana is also the most popular restaurant in America. That's what it says, right there on their chopsticks. I can't think of any reason they would have to lie about something like that.

The man that came out to cook our food? Juan. Japanese steakhouse, ably prepared by Juan. This is Fusion Food. The correct pronunciation of Konichiwa is now Hola.

Not sure what I should say to the wait staff there. She only reappeared once, but I've taken that to be the standard at the Japanese steakhouse.

Benihana ran out of fortune cookies apparently, but they have plenty of snappy valet service, whipping your car around from four whole spaces away, so that you may enjoy your fried rice that much faster.

Domo arigato.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

I talked trash on the air with a former colleague about the Arkansas-Auburn game. Remind me not to do that next year. I'm sure the humble pie I'll enjoy next week will help keep the memory fresh.

I think, perhaps, if Auburn stopped worrying about the BCS so much and concentrated instead on beating beatable opponents the rest would sort itself out. Besides, playing the aggrieved martyr (see 1983, 1993 and 2004) is nicer than the roll of the bitterly-disappointed who occasionally shoots an orange-and-blue foot (see pretty much every other year in the last quarter century not mentioned above). Historically Auburn is better at the latter, despite the slight advantages that come with the former.

Still, after an ugly day of football one question persists: Would it kill anyone to worry about the predicted conference mishaps rather than concern themselves with voters and teams we now have no chance of running with?

This was just a total team collapse, where Arkansas played out of their mind and made it look easy to win in a difficult place, 27-10. To their credit, Arkansas got the job done. Auburn was mystified, stymied and almost had the dreams of an SEC Championship slapped out of their mouth.

There have been struggles thus far this seaon. Highs and lows, but no complete games. Auburn experienced a complete game today, rather the opposite of the desired effect. Unfortunately they looked more like an also-ran than a number two team. Maybe the coaches and the sportswriters are smarter than we want to believe. On the field itself there had been signs. Oh sure, we can find omens in that South Carolina game. There are injuries that still linger from the LSU contest that continue to take a toll.

Those things together make this not much of a shock.

What is shocking is that head coach Tommy Tuberville stood before the gathered media, all sporting thought bubbles with "What the?", and asked for all the blame. He's been on campus since 1999 and that might very well be a first for him. There's always a player or a coordinator or a football poll to point at, but today he asked for the blame. I watched it again on TiVo just to be certain. The guy's created a solid program. Not without its hiccups, but there's no denying the steps he's taken in his tenure, and hopefully, hopefully, this shuffling step backward is a sign of strides forward.

From here it'll take a lot of work and some help for Auburn to make it to Atlanta, though I'm concerned about whether this is the type of loss that makes a team hemmorage self-confidence just before the biggest game of the year when Florida comes to town. Perhaps, though, Jerry Hinnen said it best. Perhaps Tuberville will remember 2001, when the Tigers took out top-ranked Florida at Jordan-Hare. If you want to be a big-time coach at a big-time program it seems obvious that beating a top tier team to hang on to the all-important self-respect is a big calling card.

Today's loss, while bitter, isn't the biggest pill to swallow. Practice this week will be telling. Here's to hoping it is good therapy, before next week's Gator checkup.

No Click Clacks. No one's scared of the cleats this week.

Friday, October 6, 2006

I spent an extra hour at the office early in the week, which got me out of the office a little early today. We're big on flextime, and I took that as an opportunity to race against the sun and head east. It is Talladega weekend, which means gridlock on the I-20 corridor, but I made it through the area past a sea of wildflowers in the median and an ocean of RVs and tents orbitting the superspeedway.

The only thing better than race weekend is not being around for race weekend. Every hotel for a hundred or so miles will be booked, every restaurant filled. All the gas stations sell out of cases of beer and the roads are full of shirtless sunburned creatures cheering numbers, advertisements and wrecks.

And I actually don't mind the sport.

There is a moment when you drive by Talladega where you get an overly long look into the field where many of the race disciples gather. They've been there for days; traffic began slowing through the area on Wednesday. It is the most massive tailgate one can conceive. They tailgate the actual tailgating now. I saw one port-a-potty.

Later, a return to the Atlanta concert scene. I've turned slightly yuppie and more than slightly old in my choices of shows, I know this. Time is inevitable and in not every way is it a cruel function. The crowds now are more sedate. Everyone knows the music, is there for the music and, on a Friday night, is ready to head for home at about 11.

How about two shows a night? The 9 p.m. show for the younger audience and a 7 p.m. for the rest of us. No opening act, play the hits and get us out of the door by 8:30 and we're home by 9 for Matlock.

Anyway, Indigo Girls tonight. There's a photo gallery in that link. I didn't smuggle in a camera, but did have a recorder ... and it promptly recorded one hour and 56 minutes of over-modulated screaming. Oh well, there's always next year.

They played all but one of the hits. Everything is a crowd favorite. The audience sings along to everything they recognize -- the new album is only a few weeks old -- and Amy Ray and Emily Saliers seem to still enjoy the old stuff.

I was surprised by how the audience is growing older. And then I realized it has been 20 years. Even for those of us that started listening later don't look as young as we did 15 years ago.

This is where I would ordinarily drift off to a night spent across the room from a stereo mentally shuffling my musical tastes based on two-part harmonies and acoustic guitars. We could walk into that room and I could find four or five paragraphs on a 46 minute memory of music from a decade ago.

Instead, I'll give you this sample from the Indigo Girls' site. Do me a favor and imagine a mildly rabid audience.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Brooke and Wads have a friend from Penn State in town. I suppose I should get to call the friend my friend now too, and so I will. Brooke invited me over for dinner, asking for nothing in return (which means, be witty). I was actually tasked with dessert, but in my rush to accomplish a Thursday full of errands dropped the ball like Dave Krieg.

Anyway, dinner, and then we had to go out for dessert, which is just as well. It let Risé see a little more of Birmingham than the malls. Took her to Dreamland, where the ultra-sweet banana pudding got her so hyper that she had to invade the neighboring park. Risé says slides are fun!

(Trying a little something new this month, putting the people pictures in black and white, do not adjust your monitors.)

Brooke doesn't like banana pudding, of course, and since she drove we opted for a consolation dessert at Cracker Barrel for her. I took that time to get thoroughly beaten up in a vicious game of checkers by Wads.

If only Brooke's dessert had been faster we could have left it with an unsatisfying draw.

Risé and I talked about postcards, concerts, Texas and all of those improbable conversations that begin at a late hour. Finally I returned home to finish packing, planning and a few chores. Time for a three day weekend.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

This morning there was a mild beeping in the house. Finally tracked it down to the house's alarm panel, which was patiently telling me a battery had gone kaput. It happens from time to time, usually when the alarm is set, or after the power blinks. That starts the process which is followed up with a phone call or form letter.

Because the alarm was not set overnight this particular night the panel just beeped mildly. Just after 8 a.m. the alarm company called, explaining what their sensors were telling them.

They'd detected it in the early morning hours, but were trying to be courtesy. At any rate, had there been a problem the plasma cannons would have emerged from the ground, guided missiles would have scored a target from the rooftops and a small detachment of the 82nd Airborne -- currently on training maneuvers in the area -- would have swept into action; in other words, don't mess with the house.

So they'll send a guy out. He can come today. On my schedule!

After we make the appointment I remember two quick stops that I must make on the way home. I arrive 10 minutes late to find the "Sorry We Missed You" note in the door. They're prompt! The technician noted the time. They're early!

Ah well, I thought I suppose we'll just need to reschedule.

Twenty minutes later the doorbell rings. After winding down the plasma cannons and ensuring that the phalanx of Dobermans was safely secured I opened the door to see the security company guy. They're persistent!

I tell him the problem, explain which sensor is suspect, he works his company voodoo and tests the control panel for success.

I had a guy out to change a battery. And that’s America, right there. Oh, dear, my batteries have dwindled!

"We'll be right out to pop off the cover, remove and install two batteries and close the magical thermal-audio-dynamic sensor in two shakes."

You can do them yourself, of course, but the guy points out that he brings the batteries and then I don't have to pay for them. That's one of the perks of springing for the Pentagon-endorsed, Embassy Protect package.

And then I settled in, knowing cyborgs from the future were camouflaged in the oak tree branches keeping a close eye on the world around me.

That sense of security finally allowed me to catch up on last week's TiVo watching.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

I'd like to apologize now for the generalization I've made about Alabama fans for years. Maybe it is a little hasty to lump them all into the group with the guy who pulled a gun on his son after a bad loss, or the guys that assaulted a Georgia fan in Tuscaloosa and left him in critical condition.

These are unfortunate incidents. Every school with a sizable fan base has some regrettable story that in no way reflects upon the university as a whole. We all know that, but the jokes and characterizations as the other guys being a bunch of hooligans are fun and easy.

For example, earlier this season a punter at the University of Northern Colorado stabbed his own teammate, apparently thinking that might get him into the game. He overlooked the part about getting kicked off the team, being expelled from school and facing criminal charges. The guy, a college student (putting the lie, once again, to the notion that you have to be smart to be in college) found this as a seemingly rational course of action.

He just wanted to play, Coach.

That's nothing compared to this:
One fan is facing an attempted murder charge after allegedly stabbing his wife's cousin, apparently because Tennessee was winning, Sheriff Mike Blakely said.

And the game wasn't real.
The two guys, cousins by marriage apparently, were playing Auburn versus Tennessee and the Volunteers were winning. (Initially you have to think satire based on that note alone, but this is a legitimate paper, I assure you.) The Tennessee guy retires to bed for the evening, the other guy later comes in with a butcher's knife and runs his worst play of the night. That is the presumed course of events at least:
The sheriff said he didn't know for sure which man was the Volunteers or Tigers. "But I can only assume Wilson was on the losing end," Blakely said. "The screen was still on when we got there with the score up. It showed Tennessee winning."
The guy got a punctured lung, but will live.

Play nice kids.

Denny Crane! Since I missed last week's episode I'm watching two in a row tonight. That turned out well, considering it was a To Be Continued version. What this means for you is a jumbled two-fer.

We met two new lawyers, one replacing the Parker Posey character. She may, in fact, become the poor woman's Parker Posey, and a guy who is a cross between Alan Shore and Brad Chase (I'm not the only person noticing this) who sounds like Adam Corolla. Jeffrey Coho is a fast talker who talks just a little too much in his first two episodes. Somehow the new characters come off like Coy and Vance.

Big kudos for anyone outside of the Southeast who writes in with an appreciation of that reference.

Denny Crane meets a dwarf attorney through an online dating site, only he doesn't know she's a satellite to his moon. She gets offended, threatens to sue, sneaks into conversations -- under the radar as it were -- at inopportune times and Denny generally causes himself more and more trouble.

In last week's episode Denny Crane erased the fourth wall four times and groped Constance Zimmer all before the opening credits. While his name's on the door, there's one place it's not.

Tom Selleck's character makes a return and, in what might be a first, his character is dumped by a woman. There was a slump of Ivan Tiggs' shoulders when Shirley Schmidt turned him down, but I couldn't help but think it was really Tom Selleck thinking, "I always get the girl. I'm Tom Frickin' Selleck!"

Meanwhile Schmidt and Alan Shore had a moment. There's no other way to describe it. Pretty much every one of his scenes now leaves the audience to wonder who's next on his list.

There was less speechifying and rhetoric in opening and closing statements in these two episodes, but plenty of scenery was chewed and lawyers and judges thundering away at one another. I love this show.

More TiVo now. I have an urge to clean up space on the machine. I recorded these episodes; it is only fair that I watch them. I wonder if there is a clinical definition for addiction to the EvIl eye. TiVo trauma? O.C.-TiVo?

If you run that one together it sounds like a bad guy in a comic book: OCTiVo.

What's that? Oh, yes. I'm on my way TiVo.

Monday, October 2, 2006

When I finally thought to check the mail today I was pleasantly surprised to find the new sticker for my license plate had been delivered. I ordered it through the County's webpage a week before, but didn't have a lot of faith in the system. Given past experience with both the County and the site I was expecting to have to make a trip to the DMV anyway to discuss the matter.

But the online renewal works! Sure, they want to charge you more. On the one hand, I reasoned, a five dollar "convenience fee" is well worth it. No parking fights, no security checkpoints, no wasting an hour in a line for the stereotypical clerk, that may be the best investment of the week. On the other hand, however, they really should knock off a few dollars. That's less manpower they have to use, reduces the line and keeps people out of the office. This should be an incentive, not a punishment.

Either way, my car tag is now once again legal.

I have six days of TiVo to catch up on. That's after I removed Daily Show and Colbert Report for the week, thinking the topical stuff would have been less than timely by the time I got around to watching it.

And then there is Mark Foley. I have nothing further to add to Foley. There's nothing, likewise, that can be said about the Amish shooting in Pennsylvania. You'd hope that these sorts of things, terrible in their own ways, could one day be looked upon as a turning point where we stood up from our barcoloungers and say "Enough."

And then the next thing happens, and you know better. The continued hope of that marks the dreamers, knowing that, unfortunately, it won't happen makes you a realist.

Sitting back down in the recliner means you're settling in for the Daily Show having four days to line up Congressional jokes. The Founding Fathers I visited last week would be so proud.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

There was a post-wedding brunch this morning. Everyone looked vaguely dehydrated and washed out. The room felt like it had had a big weekend. This was, last night, one part of the grand ballroom where the reception was held. What had been a huge room had now been divided into thirds, with tables smooshed close together and a brunch that was long on breakfast and short on lunch that stretched over two hours.

The bride and groom had their last receiving line. I think they're ready for this to be over. For the last two days anytime there has been food their roles have involved not eating any of it. The groom said they scarfed something down first thing this morning, but he looked a little more pale than usual. Get that man some juice!

Everyone looked a little tired, myself included. Except for the groom's parents. They remind you of the people on your favorite television show that roll out of bed well kempt. They probably wake up with dignified looking hair.

Said goodbye to our Philadelphia home. This was the view from the ninth floor window last night after the wedding, but before the reception.

For the longest time I'd held the belief that weddings always managed to have something quirky happen that made them unique. This usually involves a flower girl or a ring bearer or me getting the usher order mixed up or someone fainting. The last four weddings I've been to went off perfectly. Takes some of the fun out of it. OK, three of the last four weddings. Last year's Tide wedding was ... colorful. You can see those pictures in the April 2005 collection.

Dozed off watching an NFL game. Hitched a ride to the airport, caught the plane and landed a bit late in Atlanta. A turkey burger at Meehan's and it suddenly became time for another long nap.

And since I mentioned pictures earlier: I know, I'm woefully behind on the picture page. I'll get caught up soon.