Friday, April 30, 2004

Two lists

Five CDs I recommend, in no particular order

(1) Slobberbone -- Barrel Chested
A guitarsy, loud album whose sum total emotion is "I hate myself." It's angry, drunken, full of despair. But it's also funny and literate, and it grows on you more and more with each listen.

(2) Enon -- Hocus Pocus
Really eclectic New York City pop, full of beeps and buzzes. Ranges from delicate to raucous. Handy for parties because almost everyone loves it.

(3) Outkast -- Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
I guess almost everybody owns this already, but there's a good reason for that. It's uneven, but the high points make it indispensable. Shake it...

(4) Will Johnson -- Murder of Tides
A solo record by the singer from Centro-Matic (whose records you should also own, by the way). Wrenching, yet funny. He never takes the easy way out with a lyric.

(5) Dirtball -- The Well
The perfect album for driving late at night. I never go on a road trip without it. Weird and haunting; makes you halfway expect to be abducted by aliens at any minute.

Five personal-care products I like, again in no particular order

(1) Caudalie Démaquillant Soin Doux
Takes makeup and grime off your face without feeling like a sandblaster. Leaves skin baby-ass soft.

(2) Tarte "Flush" gel blusher
Gives you just-pinched apple cheeks.

(3) John Frieda Sheer Blonde Funky Chunky texturizer
Without which my hair (which isn't blonde, by the way) would be flat and limp.

(4) Hawaiian Tropic Deep Tanning Oil
Does nothing and has no SPF, but smells like summer and is really nice for evening out rough elbows, etc.

(5) Yardley of London Luscious Island Mango body wash
I think this might be discontinued because I bought it at Big Lots. Really too bad if it is! Smells delicious and does the job.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

And a good morning to you, too

I'm standing in the kitchen this morning, huffing and puffing, having gotten up early and dug another row in the garden (Florence fennel and leeks, for those of you keeping track at home). I pour myself a glass of water and chug it, letting it spill over my chin.

The s.o. emerges from the bathroom in his robe, yawning. He fixes his eyes on me, smiles sweetly, and says:

"You got dribble on your tittie."

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Red Stripe

I think I sunburned the part in my hair while I was digging out a new row in the garden. Ow.

Allow me a once-a-year Yankee whining session. Don't get me wrong--I love living in the south. But somehow it always comes as a surprise to me when it's April and the temperature is upwards of 75 or 80 degrees F. Last week it hit 85 (29 C). The sun beats down most days from March to November, and SPF 30 sunscreen doesn't seem like enough. I'm afraid I'll look like an old football by the time I'm a senior citizen. Or maybe sooner.

When I talk like this, the s.o. threatens to send me back to Minnesota. No chance of that! I love the Twin Cities with a passion, but I hate all the cold weather up there. It's even worse on me than on most people because I have Raynaud's Syndrome. Repeated frostbite was one of the reasons I decided to pack up and move southward.

And really, you can't argue with a climate like ours where you get to spend so much glorious time outdoors. So I'll stop bitching, 'cause I really do love my (nearly) endless summer.

Flashback to 1976

This is what I listened to while I was on hold with Sprint PCS's call center today:

Don't know what's happened to me since I met you
Feels like I'm fallin' in love since I met you

I want to know what-cha doin' to me with your love
(With your love) what-cha doin' to me with your love
(With your love) what-cha doin' to me with your love
(With your love) what-cha doin' baby, it feels so good

Whatever it is
Knew from the start it had to be you
You got my heart
I don't know what I'm gonna do

With your love
Heaven sent me a sign that sent you
I'm going out of my mind since I met you

I wanna know whatever it is now, whatever it is
Whatever it's called
I know that it's you
I can't help getting involved with your love

I wanna know whatever you did to me
Well you sure did it good

My heart's filled with lovin' and I knew that it would
With your love
You don't know what's happened to me
Since I met you
I feel like I'm fallin' in love since I met you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Hangin' out

After a long day of work, there's nothing like lying in a hammock. So today, after I interviewed several people for the article I'm writing, then re-ran and re-calibrated the irrigation system for the garden (argh!), that's exactly what I did.

Our hammock is an old, mouse-eaten contraption that I bought in the market in San Jose, Costa Rica, back in 1993. The s.o. hung it up in the woods early this spring, and it has become a destination in and of itself.

When I lie there, the view upwards is of pieces of sky and cloud, dissected by sun-dappled boughs of pine, oak, and sweetgum. Below me is the dog, who likes to lie on the cushiony dry pine needles directly underneath the hammock and chew sticks. When the wind kicks up, the trees sway, and so do I.

Sometimes I bring a novel with me, and sometimes I bring a pillow with the intent of doing some serious napping. Today I just lay there and looked up. When I was young, I was the kind of kid who always had a fort in the woods. So somehow this seems very right to me.


I have decided that Hugh Jackman is really good-looking. Never seen any of his movie or stage work, but from the way all the critics salivate over him, maybe I should.

Monday, April 26, 2004


The s.o. appears to have signed us up for Netflix. There is no day so great that complete overkill will not make it better.


Two excellent happenings today:

(1) We finally got some rain. For a couple of weeks now it's been hot and sunny, which is great for sitting on the porch but really isn't that good for a state that's been in differing degrees of drought for nearly 10 years. Today we woke to cool, misty weather, and then later on it turned into a nice little cloudburst. It's still kind of dripping.

(2) We received a mailing from the local cable company informing us that they now offer high-speed internet in our town!!! Just the excuse we needed to get cable. And now we won't be fighting over the phone line!

Sunday, April 25, 2004

No fair

It's been an eventful couple of days out here in the country.

Yesterday I woke up early and finished planting the peppers. There are now five bell-pepper plants, four sweet banana pepper plants, two jalapeños, two Anaheims, and one cayenne. I noticed that the second crop of radishes is up, as is the tarragon. I also spotted a couple of new chard seedlings emerging.

A little after noon, I showered all the dirt and sweat off of me and we set out in the car with the intention of going to the county fair. Our county is very sparsely populated, but we figured there'd be all kinds of interesting livestock, a midway, etc. Wrong. We followed the signs, rattling and clanking down a rutted dirt road to find...absolutely nothing. There was one ride (a loop-de-loop), a funhouse, and a Skee-ball lane, and that was it. People kept arriving one by one, taking a glance at it, and leaving. Pitiful.

So then we were left with the prospect of an afternoon with no entertainment. We hopped in the car again and went to the Habitat for Humanity thrift store, but we didn't find much beyond a set of wheel casters and a couple of cookbooks. So we embarked on a road trip to a small college town about 45 minutes away. We went to a Goodwill store there (thrift shops are where I do almost all of my clothes shopping, and where we get a lot of other incidentals as well), where I found a couple of nice tops and a skirt. Then we ate at a Mexican restaurant. That was about it. Thrills are hard-won in the country!

Once we were back home, I had to water all the garden beds and then get ready to go to my bartending job. I put on one of my new thrift-store acquisitions (an example of the current stripey 1980s fashion moment...very Ocean Pacific/Hang Ten), tweaked my hair a little bit, and hit the road.

The bar where I work is in the university district of a nearby city. Usually parking is preposterously difficult. But last night it was literally impossible, because there was a major sporting event happening AND it was prom night. For the sporting event, which is an annual affair, the police always rope off half the district from automobile traffic and try their best to contain what always turns into a massive indoor-outdoor cocktail party. It's really something to behold.

After a little futile searching, I ended up parking in the neighborhood where the s.o. and I used to live before we moved to the country, and then walking quite a long way to get to the bar. Work was busy and crowded with revelers. The customers partied hard and tipped well, so it was a good night for us bartenders. On the other hand, it was a pretty hellish night for the bar-backs because they had to clean up a lot of vomit. At the end of the night, for safety's sake, I asked a couple of my co-worker friends drop me off at my car. I got home at approximately 5 am.

Fast-forward to noon today, when the s.o. brought me some hot, fresh coffee and told me his father and brother were about to pull a surprise visit in 20 minutes. They had decided to drop in on their way home from seeing other relatives. I am always happy to see them, but...holy crap, a little lead time would be nice! I showered yet again (to get the smoky bar smell off me and rinse the inevitable sticky drink splashes out of my hair), cleaned the sink and the toilet for our guests, and raced to the convenience store to grab some charcoal briquets and ice.

The convenience store in our tiny little town is run by a couple of really great Pakistani guys. The older one is married to a local woman and quite literally has a red-headed stepchild. The younger one was in the store today and announced to me that the reason we hadn't seen him lately was that he'd been on vacation back home and had gotten married while he was there! So now they're doing the INS shuffle to try and get her over here as soon as possible. I'm very excited to meet her.

I got home and grilled some chicken and potatoes for our guests, and we showed them around the place. They didn't stay long because they had to get back on the road--they still had seven hours to travel today. So now the s.o. is drinking beer and watching NASCAR, and I'm decompressing here.

I might go lie in our hammock out in the woods for a while. I've earned it.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Friday miscellany

I spent most of the morning helping the s.o. drag a bunch of extra beams, mouldings, and other leftover wood over to the guest house. We had been storing it under the main house, but then we suffered a minor termite invasion a couple of weeks ago and were told in no uncertain terms to get any and all wood out from underneath the house.

When I say "main house" and "guest house," please don't imagine that we have some kind of palatial estate. There are two structures on the property, but both of them were disaster areas (literally home to numerous birds and raccoons, and possibly also a homeless person) when we bought the place. I won't even describe what was wrong with the main house, because I might have a horrible flashback. It's a pretty nice house now, and that's what matters.

We haven't started remodeling the so-called guest house yet. It has no functioning kitchen or bathroom, no insulation, no plumbing, and no modern wiring. The floors of what ought to be the kitchen and bathroom are a complete loss. The two main rooms are kind of nice, though--the bedroom even has knotty pine walls. One day, after a lot of work, it'll be a great place for relatives and friends to stay when they visit. For now, it's a shed.

Which reminds me, the reason my other blog is called the Manor Menu is because of the s.o.'s amusing habit of answering the phone "[last name] Manor." Now you know.

At lunchtime, the s.o. spotted a small scorpion on the screen porch floor. I kept the dog and the cat away from it while he trapped it in an empty peanut butter jar. It's still in there because we couldn't figure out what to do with it next.

Work was work. I did some of it. TGIF, etc.

Later, I drove to the Ingles because we were Code Red on coffee and toilet paper. The name of this grocery-store chain is pronounced "ING-gulls," but when I first moved down here I couldn't stop hearing it in my mind as "een-GLAYSS." I wouldn't be surprised if Georgia's Mexican-American population has the same problem.

The s.o. changed the oil in my glamorous 1990 Honda Accord. I helped.

Rhododendrons and azaleas are beautiful right now (not ours--we don't have any).

Pet sounds



I have been awoken from a sound sleep by a ten-pound cat who has launched herself through space and landed on my lower legs. She pokes around for a nice level spot, traipsing over my kidneys en route.



This is the noise of the cat prodding the bed linens for a Mylar puffball she has brought with her. She is in a playful mood.

I flail around in the sheets blindly until I find the puffball. I shove it under my pillow. Problem solved.

It is 4:46 AM.

The cat disappears. I hear a distant noise, maybe in the living room, that reminds me of a soccer game. Then...*WHUMP*. She is back.

*ffff ffff ffff ffff*

This is the sound of the cat with a brand-new, completely different Mylar puffball in her mouth. She's like the world's smallest Darth Vader.




I grab the second puffball, stuff it under my pillow, grab the cat (*MRRAAAAOOOWWWW*) and launch her off the bed. This is a unique night in that I seem to have been woken up completely. Some mornings I wake up and find four or five Mylar puffballs under my pillow, with no recollection of how they got there.

The cat stalks away. I settle back in.



This is the sound of a cat sharpening her claws on a gigantic piece of oriented-strand board (OSB) that's propped up in the foyer. It turns out we are lucky; our cat loves scratching on OSB much better than she enjoys scratching on any of our other possessions. I smile in my half-sleep and turn over.


Wait. That's not OSB. And it sounds a lot closer. What the fuck is it? It had better not be Grandma's furniture, or a certain cat is going to have a lot of explaining to do. I hiss suddenly, hoping to scare the cat out of whatever nook she's in.

She startles out from under the bed and takes off at a sprint. This is a dilemma. Do I waste precious moments of potential sleep agonizing about whether the cat is scratching on the invisible underside of Grandma's furniture?

Irrelevant, because now the dog is awake. She is pacing around and has become what I call "pointy," i.e., despite eons of domestication, months and months of training, and two valedictorian's certificates, her baser instincts are taking over and she is thinking, somewhere deep down, about perhaps hunting the cat. I put her in a down-stay and praise her lavishly for her self-control.

*thap thap thap*

I remove the cat from the windowsill, where she is playing tetherball with the blind pull.

I get up for a glass of water. It's 5:30 AM.

I return to bed and the cat is in my spot.

*ffff ffff ffff ffff*


Luckily, I had the sense to place my mulch order over the phone.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The good life

The s.o. has spent the morning building us a beautiful garden arch--sort of a doorway-sized arbor. He built it completely out of scrap wood left over from the remodeling. Not long ago, he built a potting table out of extra wood from the porch construction. (When we bought the house, the front porch literally did not exist; it had rotted away and there was no way to approach the front door. We hired a building contractor to jack up the extant porch roof and build from scratch underneath it.)

The little arbor is gorgeous. And FREE! What a clever guy the s.o. is.

Enough gloating about that. Now I'll gloat about this:

I received a letter today from my friend M. She's a true soulmate type of friend, who enjoys all the same things and (unfortunately for her!) shares the same slackerish tendencies as me. Somehow, though, she manages to be a true old-fashioned superliterate type--the kind of person who has read every book ever printed and writes hilarious yet deep handwritten letters on beautiful but not flowery stationery.

Today's letter included two pages of fun and informative updates about her and her husband, plus a recipe clipped from an old issue of Metropolitan Home. The recipe is for quince sauce (as in applesauce, but made from quinces). It has port wine in it and can be canned. How excellent is that?

M. knows me well. I need to write her a letter. Or even better, I need to go visit her.

It's such a wonderful thing to receive a letter like this. I need to strive to be more like M.


Speaking of television, there are a few things you should know about where we live.

(1) Welcome to our town! Your cell phone isn't broken. It doesn't work because there aren't any towers. If you're really lucky, you might get a signal for a few seconds if you stand out on the back steps.

(2) We can't get any stations on our regular TV. But about six months ago, the s.o. acquired a little portable black-and-white truck driver's television with a giant antenna on it, and it picks up Georgia Public Television and Fox. On a good night, it gets NBC too, but it's usually too staticky to watch.

(3) Because the truck driver's TV is portable and the reception is a lot better outdoors, we sit out on the screen porch to watch it on pleasant evenings. We usually eat out there, too. We keep the Christmas lights on for ambience. It's really nice--so much so that lately I feel a little claustrophobic if I watch TV indoors.

(4) We could get cable or satellite, but we keep talking ourselves out of it because it's so expensive. We're probably the only people in town who haven't anted up.

(5) Our internet connection connects at a screaming 26.6 baud. Stop laughing!

I shouldn't have poured myself that margie, either

Is it weird to be so deeply affected by a night of TV? Maybe it's normal after watching six episodes in a row of The Office, I dunno. Poor Tim and Dawn. I've definitely got the blues.

The evening started out melancholy, though. Tonight on American Idol, our favorite contestant, Jennifer Hudson, was cut. I really think she was the only one deserving of the title. On top of that, she was completely brilliant last night, and all the judges said as much. And yet, out she went.


Wednesday, April 21, 2004


I just received my DVD of the second season of The Office in the mail. We don't have cable, so I haven't seen a single episode of season two yet.

The box (which was from Amazon) also contained a compilation of Dashiell Hammett stories. Hammett is one of my all-time favorite writers.

Guess we'd better cancel all our appointments.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Quite a haul

This afternoon, after the mulch finally arrived (!), we went on a little field trip to a great plant nursery that's about 45 minutes away from here. This is what we got:

• 1 white bleeding-heart
• 1 red Astilbe
• 2 Syringa lacinata (fern-leaf lilacs)
• 1 blue Buddleia (butterfly bush)
• 1 false indigo
• 1 jack-in-the-pulpit
• 1 trillium
• 1 bay laurel
• 1 lemon verbena
• 1 clump of lemongrass
• 1 red Lantana
• 1 Guara (very odd and pretty trout-speckled plant)
• 1 packet of borage seeds

Oh, and then we stopped at Wal-Mart for car-related stuff on the way home and somehow ended up with a "Pee Gee" Hydrangea.

Luckily, they were cheap. I have poor impulse control. And now I have created a whole bunch more work for myself!

Sounds like old times

When my dad died unexpectedly a few years ago, my grandparents asked us three siblings which of his personal effects we wanted. For me, there were two things that immediately sprang to mind: his records and his Thorens turntable.

My dad was an audiophile and a music fan. He attended college in the late '60s and early '70s, and that was when he collected many of his most beloved records. His favorite album of all time was Boz Scaggs' first record. He also loved the Grateful Dead, Bonnie Raitt, The Who, The Roches, The Allman Brothers, and all kinds of other great music. There was some that was more hit-or-miss, too, but was cool in and of itself, being such a product of its time (Commander Cody, Linda Rondstadt, the McGarrigle sisters).

My younger siblings didn't really want the records or the turntable. I'm sure they seemed like antiques to them. So I brought them home with me--and brought the speakers, too, for good measure. But before long, the turntable started patching out on one channel. Eventually it became unlistenable. That really saddened me, because not only do I have my dad's records and a few of my own, but my s.o. has a massive collection, too. And more importantly, the turntable symbolized my dad. I have so many memories of sitting with him and listening to records, with him trying in vain to change my tastes for the better (in his opinion, of course!).

Which brings me to this morning, when my s.o., screwdriver in hand, somehow fixed the turntable. First he put on Jerry Garcia's first solo record. Then Peter Tosh, then Bob Dylan, then Elvis Costello. The music sounds so warm and sweet. I am so grateful.

I'd better go before I get too sentimental.


What kind of garden-supply company takes an order for a truckload of mulch and then loses your address and phone number?!

Monday, April 19, 2004

Night sounds

I just finished editing the article I was working on. The s.o. has already gone to bed. So now I'm alone, all jacked up on Diet Coke (which, supposedly, I don't even drink, because it's vile and I know it's not good for me) and listening to the chimney swifts flying in and out of the chimney. The beating of their wings almost sounds like distant thunder.

Wild kingdom

My absolute, no-holds-barred favorite native Georgia animals are the lizards. Ours especially like to hang out among the plants on the porch. Today I was watering the jasmine when a chartreuse lizard, about three inches long plus tail, sprang out and started testily inflating his little red throat balloon at me. Then he calmed down and kept an eye on me to make sure I didn't make any more sudden moves. I watched him for a while, and he watched me.

I've had a very productive gardening day, probably because I keep taking "study breaks" from editing the project I'm about to turn in! I planted more salsify and chard seeds to make up for a few plants that have been taken by animals. (What's the Warner Bros. cartoon I'm thinking of, where little gophers or something stroll along in their underground tunnel, yanking plants under as they go? Something like that has happened here.) I also planted four Asian eggplants from seed--the locales are marked by sticks in the mache bed. Mache supposedly hates hot weather, so by the time the eggplants get going, it'll be long gone.

We have waited all day for a giant truck of hardwood mulch that hasn't come. No phone call, either. I guess they'll come tomorrow.

Dumbass makes progress

So it turns out I forgot and left our flat of seedlings out in the sun for the last few days, with predictable results. They're as crispy as chow mein noodles. My only consolation is how leggy and unhealthy they looked in the first place.

On the bright side, though, I got up before work this morning and made some headway in the garden. I finished breaking up the clods in the newest bed, then planted one row of tomatilloes and one row of tomatoes. There will be a lot more, eventually, but this is a start.

They're a motley crew: The tomatilloes consist of two full-size plants (a gift from a friend...thanks, S.!), plus one small seedling that was hitching a ride with one of the gift plants, and then two sticks that mark where I planted some seeds (because--see above--our seedlings are dead). The tomatoes consist of one Lemon Boy plant (again, thanks to S.) and three sticks marking Early Girl seeds.

But they're in, dammit!

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Of course

Overheard on "King of the Hill" this evening:

Hank: What kind of pie says "heroism"?
Other guy: Strawberry.
Hank: Of course!


I've got to find a way to avoid lugging hoses around.

See, we have a bunch of open acreage, and we're trying to grow things. There's a vegetable garden with its own system of soaker-hoses, which is connected by a longish hose to an electronic timer on the back spigot. Every morning it kicks on for two hours, usually before I crawl out of bed.

Meanwhile, on the front spigot, there are two hoses joined end-to-end with a spray wand on the end. I can water most of the flowers, fruits, and herbs with it, but it won't reach out to the orchard, where there are tender young grapes and cherries trying to get a start in the world.

So every once in a while, I have to disconnect the soaker-hose system, then unhook the front hoses and attach them to the hose that usually leads to the soaker-hoses. Then I haul a million miles of hose behind me as I hike out to the orchard.

Also, every week or so, we have to mow, which means curling up the hoses so we don't run over them.

Perversely, I think a partial solution to the problem might be to get more hoses. Heh.

Anyhow, I have a sense of accomplishment right now. I just planted more radishes because of our newly-discovered endless appetite for radish relish (see my food blog, 4/14). I also added more seeds to our little patch of cilantro, and I planted seeds for summer savory, dill, and tarragon.

Back to much to do...


I'm in a crappy, crappy mood, and if I said exactly why, it'd reveal too much about too much. Let's just say that the past couple days, I've felt as though I'm speaking in Icelandic or something. I say something and the person I'm talking to gives me the ol' smile-and-nod treatment--with enthusiasm, even!--then proceeds to do exactly the opposite of what our conversation might have suggested.

Maybe I'm being paranoid. After all, I did just finish reading Infinite Jest for the third time. I love that book, but it has a way of giving you communication issues.

Saturday, April 17, 2004


Phase II of the garden (the part with all the hot-weather vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, corn, etc.) is seriously overdue. No shortage of great weather to plant it in...just laziness, I guess. I need to get off my behind and do it.

Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, April 16, 2004

First, an explanation:

Out along the roads where I live, I occasionally spot these signs that say "10 Signs Like This $85" and then a phone number. Obviously they're advertising that they'll make signs that say whatever you want them to say. But I envision these signs as some sort of bizarre, cartoonish pyramid scheme, where you call the number and they send you ten signs that say "10 Signs Like This $85." And then someone else calls the number on your signs, and THEY receive ten signs that say "10 Signs Like This $85." Pretty soon the entire county is covered with signs that say "10 Signs Like This $85."

I need professional help.

Anyway, I thought that was a good starting place for a blog that is meant to record little tidbits of my life out here.

The lilacs (mine--nobody else down here is dumb enough to try to grow them in the southern heat) and wisteria are overwith. I wanted to record them in this blog, but didn't really get around to it in time.