You guys.

So I made a quick run up to Carbondale this evening to pick up some stuff from the Co-op. On my way back, I came through Anna to discover this:


I have always loved this sign, but this is the first time I’ve seen them light the flashing arrow and the excellent googie bubbles at the top.

Sadly, this was the best shot I could get, because the property owners are weird about people taking pictures of the sign, so I had to roll down the window and shoot fast from a nearby driveway, then Photoshop the crappy Hardee’s sign out of the background when I got home.

One day, I need to pay them a visit and show them the kind of stuff I’ve been known to do for indie businesses in the past. We’ll see if they’re any friendlier after they figure out I’m good for free websites, free murals, free elbow grease, free bathroom renovations, and all manner of free design work.


Window update

Y’all. That bubble-wrap trick on the windows might be the best idea ever. It is 29 degrees outside, and those windows are room temperature. The glass on our back door is actually warmer than the door itself. If you haven’t picked up a couple of rolls of bubble wrap and stuck ’em to your windows yet, you need to get to the U-Haul store, stat.

For my next performance, I might pick up some fleece blankets at the feed store and use ’em to make heavy-duty Roman shades….


Geekiest. Theory. Ever.

In honor of the good Doctor’s anniversary today, I think this is an opportune time to share the theory I hatched while Jeff and I were geeking out with a couple of Baby Boomers in the parking lot outside a concert last month:

Judy Collins is a Time Lord.

Here is how I know:

1. Has had multiple, clearly distinct incarnations, as evidenced by a glance at her album covers.
2. Frequently transports people back in time.
3. Has survived multiple events/circumstances that would have killed a mere human.
4. “Slim, and a little bit foxy.”
5. Time Lord technology would explain how a voice capable of filling an entire cathedral could be stored inside such a tiny woman.

Y’all think I’m playing. You watch: The Daleks are gonna show up in the middle of “Send in the Clowns” one of these days, and I’mma be the only one in the audience who isn’t surprised when mah-girl busts out a sonic screwdriver and starts kicking ass.



Folk Thursday: An entire Joan Baez concert.

Yeah, you read that right. A whole concert. From 1965. Somebody on Youtube is obviously the greatest person ever for posting this.

In related news, I need one of these.

In completely unrelated news, if the weather cooperates, I think I’m going to spend tomorrow building a couple of cold frames out of concrete blocks and heavy-duty bubble wrap so I can grow arugula and spinach all winter. I’m also plotting some ridiculous Heligan-style lawn sculpture ideas.


The effects of bullying, Part I

This is the second entry in an occasional series on how being picked on as a kid influenced the sort of adult I turned out to be

One-on-one, I’m as extroverted as anybody you’ll meet. I can and will talk to anybody: judges, Hell’s Angels, presidential candidates, preachers, drag queens, strip club managers, cops, clowns, garbage collectors, gun dealers — you name it. I’m an old journalist. Talking to strangers is my specialty.

That’s why it makes no sense that I spent 25 years dodging large-group social settings.

One evening about a year ago, I had an epiphany.

I was working in public relations, and I found myself at a holiday open house for a local radio station. The girl who’d invited me was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed being around her, but I didn’t know anybody else, and I cringed at the thought of making chitchat with strangers all evening.

I sucked it up and put on my quirkiest scarf, hoping it might start a conversation or two. It worked, and I had several nice visits with several nice people.

Everything was going fine until I introduced myself to two women who were taking a tour of the station with me. The conversation was pretty standard-issue, but through their body language and the pointed pauses they inserted before speaking to me, these women made it clear they didn’t want anybody to see them talking to me.

I felt exactly the way I’d felt every time I made the mistake of striking up a conversation with a more popular girl in junior high.

A few weeks later, I was having lunch with my friend from the station, and I asked her whether she had any idea what I’d done to offend these women or make them uncomfortable.

“Nothing,” she said. “They’re just bitches.”


Every social event I’d ever attended suddenly came into sharp focus. In my mind’s eye, I replayed scene after scene, and lo and behold, they all looked exactly like that evening at the station: I made some polite small talk, and some hateful wench responded by going out of her way to make me feel as if I’d done something wrong by speaking to her.

I still recoil against the idea of attending a social event without a press pass and notebook. It still feels weird to me. But it doesn’t scare me, because I now know I’m not “terrible at parties,” as I’d long believed; I’m simply terrible at socializing with snotty bitches who have the emotional capacity of a 12-year-old.

I think I’m OK with that.


Artwork by Ollie

Ollie made me a picture tonight at Mom and Dad’s:


Yes, I framed it. Of course I framed it. It’s a hand turkey. Made by a 3-year-old. The teal-colored wattles on the turkey actually started out as a teardrop, which made it look as if it had killed someone in prison, but I think Jamie convinced Ollie to modify it.

If you wouldn’t proudly display a toddler’s rendering of a turkey with a prison tattoo in your home, I’m not sure we can be friends.


Hazel had a birthday party today. She’s 5. Mom asked me to take a picture of all three kids together. I think she was hoping for something suitable for use on Christmas cards. This was the only one that didn’t have someone making a face or squirming or wandering off or giving bunny ears or some combination of the above. The boys have cake and Kool-Aid all over their faces, and Hazel is completely distracted, so obviously the party was a success.



I still feel sort of morally obligated to flout the city’s anti-chicken ordinance on the grounds that I don’t see the city treasurer’s signature on that check to the mortgage company every month, but I keep reading things that suggest quail — which are perfectly legal — are actually lower-maintenance than chooks, so I haven’t ruled them out.

The main advantages of quail, as far as I can tell, are:

1. They’re smaller and can be moved indoors easily if the weather gets too nasty.
2. They have better personalities than chickens. Personally, I loved my chooks, but some of them did have attitude problems.
3. They’re cute.
4. They’re quiet.
5. They’re legal. This is an advantage from Ron’s point of view and a disadvantage from mine.
6. Their size makes them easier to butcher quickly and cleanly. (Of course, this might be a wash, since their size also makes them adorable, which makes them harder to butcher, because who wants to kill something cute?)
7. They’re mostly dark meat.

I’m still trying to decide what I want to do, but that last point might be the determining factor. Anybody who’s known me very long knows I like dark meat better than white meat, and if I’m going to have a freezer full of something, I’d rather it was something I actually like.

We’ll see what happens. I’ve got all winter to make a decision.


Winterizing windows

We have pretty energy-efficient windows here at our new house. Not quite as nice as the ones at our old house, but similar, and pretty tight.

I was reading a Mother Earth News article the other day on ways to save energy. Most of it was stuff I already knew and had already done or one-upped, but I found a tip on reducing heat loss through windows that was just too good to pass up — especially in light of the fact that it involved one of my favorite substances on earth.

Bubble wrap.

Sheets of bubble wrap, cut to size and stuck to the windows, will insulate the glass itself while allowing light to pass through, thus preserving solar gain while reducing heat loss.

I bought a couple of rolls of bubble wrap tonight at Staples and gave it a whirl.


After I cut the sheets to size — by far the most time-consuming part of the project, largely because I was too lazy to go find a tape measure so I could do the job efficiently —  I spritzed the glass with plain tap water and slapped the plastic up there like Colorforms.


This is what it looks like from the inside. A little strange, but we usually have the blinds down anyway. I didn’t bother taking a picture outside, because the screen obscures the bubble texture so much you can’t even see it.

We’ll see how well it works. I can already tell a difference: The panes were cold to the touch when I put up the bubbles, but now they’re room temperature.

Not bad for $6.49 per 25 square feet.


I need land.

If you look up Cape’s city ordinances, you will find a section titled “Animals.” Under that section are three articles. Article I covers health codes, livestock, abuse, neglect and various other issues. Article II covers dogs and cats. Article III covers adoption of animals from shelters.

I went over Article I with a fine-toothed comb, trying to ascertain the legality of procuring a small flock of backyard chickens. What I found were several ordinances discussing cleanliness, keeping animals confined to the property, etc. The upshot: You can have pretty much anything you want, as long as you take care of it and don’t let it bug the neighbors or turn into a public health hazard.

Perfect — just the kind of common-sense legislation I’d expect to find in a Southeast Missouri town surrounded by farms and populated by libertarian-leaning, salt-of-the-earth conservatives who believe every American has the God-given right to pack heat and smoke weed.

Apparently the libertarians aren’t on the city council, because buried deep in Article II (which, again, is titled “DOGS AND CATS”) is an ordinance listing all the animals you aren’t allowed to keep in city limits.

Chickens, ducks, geese, peacocks and guineas are on that list.

I’m not really inclined to take orders from people who can’t distinguish between a cat and a peacock.

I don’t think I’ll have to.

Code enforcement inspectors tend to be reactive, not proactive. They don’t inspect unless somebody complains. And I have four good reasons to believe my neighbors won’t complain:

1. They aren’t jerks. This is key. I’ve met my neighbors, and they’re all nice people. We wave, exchange pleasantries, maybe pet each other’s dogs, and then we go inside and mind our own business, the way God intended.

2. Six-foot privacy fence. Clucking? What clucking? I don’t hear anything. Maybe my collie has the hiccups.

3. Bribery. Could y’all use some fresh eggs? Here, have some homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers. These are not the droids you are looking for.

4. Loopholes. If I am wrong, and one of my neighbors turns out to be a jerk, I’ll find out soon enough. But before you pick up that phone, here’s a fun trivia fact:

The city expressly forbids keeping chickens in town, but you know what’s not on the list of banned species? Emus. Emus are perfectly legal.




It is 93 days until the Phillies pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

Just putting that out there as I rinse parsley and put it in the dehydrator ahead of the cold snap that’s going to destroy my entire garden tomorrow night.