Friday, December 24, 2010

Four Year Old Santa Envy

Can someone please explain to me why despite the Jewish preschool, Sunday school, and EIGHT NIGHTS of Hanukkah Eli still thinks Santa will arrive at our house. We have a serious Santa Fixation on our hands. A couple of weeks ago he informed the barber that Santa had already been to his house for Hanukah. He’s been obsessively watching the newspaper and neighbors houses for Santa Sightings. Did you know that Santa has been scoping out parkway sort of fly by style? The blow up Santa across the street may turn real at any moment. Santa also sometimes delivers the newspaper. When we explained patiently for the umpteenth time that we don’t celebrate x-mass the response was “well santa can come anyway….. I want chwistmas pwesents”

His siblings have always gone the other way. In Kindergarten they spent a train ride to Alexandria explaining to people that we don’t “observe Christmas because we do not believe that Jesus Christ is our savior” That was also the train where they sweetly asked every African American person in our car if they “observed Kwanza” And each year when we gather up toys to donate to kids whose parents can’t afford to buy them toys I’m told we should really give them to Jews and Muslims since the Christian kids have Santa to take care of them. Last night Rebecca was looking at her Renaissance Art Go Fish game and proclaimed that Raphael’s Transfiguration was inappropriate because we don’t believe in Jesus and there he is turning from man to God. (yes I admit it I really did buy my children a Renaissance Art go fish game when they were three) This then led to a long discussion about the possibility of separating artistic taste from theology. I explained that I’m pretty sure that thanks to musicology I know the Latin Mass and various feast days better than most practicing Catholics. This is the child who in Rome was completely obsessed with the Mommy’s and the Babies.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hulk in the City

Last night’s entertainment involved cutting and pasting from various versions of hopefully uncorrupted documents. Once I figured out that none of what I wrote would see the light of day because the little beach ball of doom would undoubtedly show up, it became kind of fun. I could do things like For example after a nice story from Galileo about a Hermit killing a cicada in search of sound why not insert the phrase from my new favorite Tweeterer, Feminist Hulk: HULK NOT HAVE TIME TO STRETCH FIRST, PULL MUSCLE WHEN SMASHING BIOLOGICAL ESSENTIALISM. SMASH GO WELL, BUT HULK NEED HEAT PAD? And indeed as it turns out a bit of a riff on the Lyra Barberini goes very nicely with LONG WEEK OF SMASH LEAD TO WEEKEND OF LAUNDRY. POST-LAUNDRY, HULK UNWIND, WRITE SONGS ON GUITAR. WHAT RHYME WITH CIXOUS? And a footnote on livery works with HULK SEW "WHAT WOULD ANGELA DAVIS DO?" PATCH ON LITTLE PURPLE SHORTS. This was only slightly more thrilling than getting very excited about hooking a pick up to a viola and then hooking said pick up to an amp and getting completely stuck on the pick up spot. When it looked like we would have to scrape away at the bridge my technical support who is excellent in a lab and in a tree canopy decided I needed a professional. Given my new obsession with the HULK I was looking very forward to making some serious noise.
The 60 hour jaunt to the city ranged from the ridiculous to the fabulous. The ridiculousness started with a cancelled plane, and while I was in a completely inconsolable bratty mood on the phone my friend suggested I get off said phone and get my butt to the train, which left in 20 minutes. Remarkably (and with help from HomeTechSupport [HTS]), I got from running clothes to train in 18 minutes. Note that I very carefully planned the trip for weekdays so that the children would be in school and HTS (Manuel) would have an easier time. But Charlottesville had a serious snowpocalypse of at least 1.5 inches, which kept them out of school for two days. It was clear by Friday early afternoon that if I did not make my way to the StarLight express bus on time I would have a really cranky husband. And lest anyone think I was completely oblvious to snow troubles, my son did call me while I was at MOMA to share a full screaming tantrum about the fact that he did not have snow boots for said one inch of snow. “Terrible things happen whenever you go away….I refuse to wear my cowboy boots. I am not a cowboy…. This is a travesty for my feet….” were a few of the choice lines.
There is no place in the world better for someone who can’t drive than New York or Rome and nothing more delicious for a mother of three small children than a quiet and gorgeous apartment. (thanks uncle earl) I was slightly startled every time I pushed the remote control button that made the tv come out of the bookcase—James Bond. (It was not, however, as startling as the time I was there in grad school and some how traffic from outside set off a light bulb clapper and every light in the apartment went on and my middle of the night sleep state made me think I was being invaded).
But the reason I went was my grandparents and that was also the sad part. I feel compelled to visit them a few times a year although I’m not sure they are always cognizant of who it is. I’m most often confused with my mother. And admittedly I always plan some fun things and some good solitary work time while I’m there. They are at best shadows or shells of what they once were. That they were not much older than I am now when I was born means that I have vivid memories of them in their 50’s. I’m not sure at what point this happened and at what point it became clear that they are simply not really here any more. I know that when Rebecca and Jonathan were born almost eight years ago they were still sentient and able to take pleasure. My grandfather could still walk me to the NICU and express his doctorly wisdom. He could also suggest that the introduction to my Monteverdi book used too many words he did not know. When the kids were six months old my grandmother could still get down on the floor and play with them and when they were a year old she could still come out to our house in Port Jefferson and sit in the backyard while they climbed on her. One of my mother’s friends commented that I am a very good granddaughter. Well, the thing is, they were wonderful grandparents.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rage against the Machine

“With every tool man is perfecting his own organs, whether motor or sensory or is removing the limits to their functioning.” I thought this was a cool quotation from Freud a week ago. Now not so much….. On Friday I started having problems with the document that is in effect chapter one of my book. (don’t worry there are other chapters and other portions but this is chapter one as in ready to be a book chapter one) After getting the revolving beach ball on drugs for a few hours I then spent a few hours on the phone with microscoft word. The automated service by the way does not understand the words “fu****ers” or the phrase “do not apologize for the inconvenience any more” Eventually my microsoft friend Bob who sounded like an automated phone informed me that my document was clearly corrupt and that the way to write a book is to do absolutely no formatting until the end—and by the way it is a bad idea to cut and paste between documents. I sat down on Sunday to mess around with the corrupted document again only to find that the power cord to the mac had somehow been fried—so the computer was completely out of juice. Today’s technological insult involved dropping my phone in the toilet—don’t even ask. As it turns out the thing survived being RUN OVER by an SUV but not drowning by toilet.

Thankfully the fabulous Lauren was babysitting and drove the boys and I to the Verizon store during rush hour.(where on earth are people going here at rush hour?) Note that both were tantruming by the time we left the house and the only thing that stopped it was endless knock knock jokes. The boys loved the Verizon store especially the ipads on which Joanthan was somehow searching for what bathing suit is best for your body type. (his body type is scrawny) Eli had to do his email and blog and when we all left the Verizon store thinking he’d follow he in fact called our bluff and kept on doing his business on the ipad. I got the updated version of the “easy use phone” as in the phone for blind old people which has very large buttons, does nothing fancy and has the red 911 button which children are prone to press. During the car ride Eli solved the problem of what to get Papa for his birthday. “a gun” We spent quite a bit of time listening to the rings on my new phone and the kids wondered if we could get “gavotte” on it.

Now one of the many ironies in all of this is that the reason I have I have a Freud quotation at the tips of my fingers is because I am writing a book about Castrati, technology and machines. In theory I’m exploring the interface between human and machines and chapter one has a section entitled “instrumental excursis” which stretches from Aristotle to Freud on the potential of technology to extend the limits of the sensory.

On an un-related note Jonathan and Rebecca’s Friend Kiren got a new brother last week. We are very very happy that the baby is so precious and even more happy that it’s not at our house. Jonathan and Eli were both fairly quick to burst the new brothers bubble. When Kiren explained how cute his brother was J responded with “you know pretty soon that baby is going to steal your leggos. ” Eli want to build a baby house with baby weapons but seemed more impressed with Kiren’s new legos than Kiren’s new baby. Eli seems generally weak on concept these days. He also explained to the barber on Saturday that Santa had already come to our house for Hanukkah.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Emails that should not be written

I think I’m going to have to turn the blog over to my husband. Today’s post will be two pieces of his handwork. If you’re getting this through facebook you already know that as of today I’m pretty much done with male academics. I’m sure that just about every man I know is an exception to this rule but the general population I’d say has been irritating oppressing etc… for twenty years and I’m done.

My husband of course committed his fair share of male academic sins this week, but he has made up for them in all kinds of ways. He did take some time out of a busy day today to rewrite for me two emails. They each represent templates of messages that I or another female scholar I know received at least three of in the last few weeks. At rock band rehearsal last night we each identified another four people who are proficient in the genre and have used it this month—that makes 12 more. In other words you cannot possibly figure out whom they are from because they are SO REPRESENTATIVE. This is in other words a conventional genre. It is as one of my friends pointed out concerning that he can so easily inhabit the personae, which these represent. He claims they only took him two minutes each and did not take time out from his work or from crucial household tasks.

A Response to an essay:

Ms. Gordon,
I have read the piece that you sent me recently in October, 2003, and I enjoyed your clear and cogent style. I am afraid, however, that I have certain methodological concerns. It appears that you have not written the work you should have, which would have been the work I would have written had I thought of it. Instead, you have a piece that reflects your own understanding and interpretation, and you thus do not focus sufficiently on the key theoretical and conceptual insights that I would have brought to this piece had I written it. Let me offer one brief example. On page 7 of your essay, you argue for the development of an intellectual framework that does not at all reference my seminal contributions; I would never have left out such a crucial scholar as I, and the rest of your paper suffers accordingly.
I hope this is helpful, and I would be happy to work with you more closely over the coming decade so that you can more fully appreciate my erudition and experience.

All the best,
Me.


Email from deadbeat graduate student.

Dear professor Gordon,
sorry to have been out of touch recently. Here is a chapter of my brilliant dissertation. As you may recall, my dissertation focuses on my towering intellect. My working title is, "A work of unspeakable beauty and sublimity." This chapter is called, "Genius, pure but perhaps not simple enough for my readers." I hope you have time to read it in the next 20-25 minutes and send me fawning compliments, though I doubt you have the wisdom or depth to fully appreciate this grand accomplishment. I will be in my office awaiting your boundless praise.

sincerely,
your best student ever

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Erev Thanksgiving

First of all, I am currently writing from my new Mac, which has been returned from its maker with a new logic board and a new heating something. I can think of quite a few people who could use new logic boards...

Whenever school vacations occur Rebecca and Jonathan get in their weird gemelli groove, spending much of their time in a fantasy world, which is these days heavily infused with Harry Potter. Africa and Mark were back today and seemed to be studying potions at Hogwarts. There was a small battle because Rebecca accused Jonathan of sitting on Africa. It made me feel better to hear another adult say “Jonathan, leave Africa alone.” Rebecca informed us that Africa was hard to see because she is a “little puddians.” After some discussion we figured out she meant Lilliputians from Gulliver’s travelers. Jonathan, meanwhile, announced as we passed a certain muffler store “hey it’s the Greek God Midas (with an ‘i’ like in pit) “you know the greek god who turns things to gold and has ass ears as in ears of an ass”

And last night we had a rockin rock band practice. Yes, I am now a complete and total clichĂ©—the middle aged musicologist who joins a rock band. I believe I’m in some pretty distinguished company. I like to think of it as an extension of a Stony Brook style Baroque ensemble—think baroque power cords, dissonances pushed just past their limit, and French rhythmic flexibility. And, as it turns out, rock bands also do not tune to A-440. The Rock Band has some pragmatic appeal. Practices can be after the kids go to bed, as opposed to every other gig in Charlottesville, which occurs during dinner and bed-time. And if sight-reading becomes more and more of a problem with age, rock music takes care of that—there is no music to read. (Yes I did in fact sustain another head injury sight reading Pleyel viola duets the other night. Rock is apparently safer)

This has some serious dork factor going. I’ll keep my bandmates anonymous but let’s just say that I’m not the only one who has gotten in trouble for using the words “score” and “oeuvre” in practice. However, should anyone need things transposed quickly, those of us who use words like score and oeuvre can accomplish the task in a matter of seconds. And let’s just say that while I do not share my $1K glasses, reading glasses were passed around for use with setting up PA’s and looking at lyrics. The drums in the basement are of course a huge hit with the four year old set, and somehow Eli has already internalized the blank stare of the percussionist.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Birthday weekend

First, we survived Eli’s fourth birthday and this is not trivial. How by the way did my baby get to be four. The festivities began when we realized on Thursday that we had no present for him and zipped out on a date to the bike store for a push-bike. This has the double effect of thrilling thing 3 and we hope of getting him to ride a bike, which will then shame thing 1 and 2 into learning themselves. I know very little about where we are going in china but I know they all ride bikes. It is currently his favorite means of getting around the house and he wears the helmet 24/7. You can’t be too careful. My favorite arrival of the day was the fabulous Thing 1-3 t-shirts from Uncle Michael and Aunt Lynn, which the things all promptly put on. This is the favorite uncle who lets me drive his various cars and promises to visit us in China. I also loved it when Brian, a former babysitter/close family friend called me at 9 in the morning to ask how I felt about foam swords. Note that the kid turns everything into a weapon and that the 30 year old kid on the phone has been taking him out for battle practice since he was two. Too little too late? The birthday was also relatively painless thanks to global warming which allows a thanksgiving week party to be outside. The boys, Sid, Charlie, Sam and Eli did a lot of running around. (his other friend is Solomon and yes it does sound like a bunch of old men in Florida) The key item in the household for that age group is currently the drum set with the percussion player in my band has parked in my basement. He claims that as long as the kids don’t get peanut butter on it things are fine. The older siblings mostly tried to boss the little ones around and Rebecca organized a “pin the nose on the snow man” which she made herself.

The birthday boy had to sit out Harry Potter which he was very pissed off about. “I need to see the movie. I wed the book twee times. I am a big big boy” The big kids have been counting the days until this major motion picture event and can spout harry potter trivia the way their father and his buds can still quote Lord of the Rings. Rebecca has been obsessively reading the book because she wanted to finish before she saw the movie—this involved hiding in the bathtub after bedtime reading under the table at dinner etc… She was so not scared that she wanted to sit with her friend Reid not me. I was slightly nervous, as Jonathan has never made it through a motion picture. Up was to scary for him and The Frog Princess landed him in my lap for most of it. He every so often has to run out of the room in curious George but when the man in the yellow hat approaches. Remarkably he watched almost all of it though much it was facing the back of his seat with hand clutched over ears. (think Kierkegaard and Don Giovanni) and for about five minutes we had to run out of the theater. He kept a fairly constant dialogue about what was “wrong” about the movie. The girls claimed not to be scared at all. I wonder if the overall extremely dark mood with traumatic fantasies mob evil and soul searching is simply lost on them.

I haven’t decided what I think about the New York Times Counter -Tenor article from this morning. I’m used to no one outside of our tiny little world of early modern musicologists caring about what I do. So my original thought was “I’ve been scooped by the times. Dam it.” I’m working on a more intelligent and thought out response. This will come tomorrow when I’ve transitioned out of the make a birthday cake, make 24 ice cream cone cupcakes, have a total of 12 kids in and out of house all weekend, state. For this pivot chord modulation I’m turning Sunday night into editing other people’s work night. I assume I’m not the only one out there who finds it much easier to fix someone else’s prose than to generate their own….

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Biblical Morality and the Hungry Child

You know It’s going to be a long day when you hear your children talking about coveting and then accusing each other of breaking the ten commandments. While Rebecca and Jonathan were cleaning their room Eli was doing his usual routine of messing it up, taking their toys and generally getting in the way. This devolved into “Eli do you covet?” Eli rightly looked at them like they were nuts and they proceeded to say “yes you do covet you do not follow the Ten Commandments we’re talking about the cove one. And by the way you are not so good on the honor thy father and mother either.” I’m all for honoring the parents and I’d like to see more of it but I’m not especially comfortable with throwing biblical morality around before breakfast. The day got even more delightful when Manuel informed me that the hot water heater was out again. Once again I pranced across the street in my bathrobe to my neighbor’s house to take a hot shower all the way feeling like a cross between a wife on madmen and a UVa undergrad living on the lawn. (for non UVa folks that’s a big honor here which involves living in a Jeffersonian room without indoor plumbing. Not my kind of honor). The trailer shares that lack of plumbing and I always love getting soaked by the water falling off the metal roof on the way to the bathroom.

The pinnacle of the day was of course the call in my office from the principle, the school nurse and Jonathan’s teacher. Thing two had somehow forgotten his lunch and we had failed to check. Apparently no food in the school would do. He told me this on the phone as I was sitting in the trailer at UVA with no car and Manuel was teaching also with no car so there was nothing we could do. As I understand it Rebecca, Marietta and Ian all tried to give him food and reason with him including the girls telling him that “sometimes change is hard.” Ms Keiser and Nurse Brown are for the most part fairly unflappable so I’m sure this was a dramatic J food meltdown. This is a kid who had feeding therapy for years and about whose eating habits I lost many nights sleeping. But once he got on the growth charts and started to read I figured he could be as short and skinny as he wanted and it would some day be someone else’s problem. Meanwhile his first grade teacher happened to be in the office and asked if I cared if he ate crackers and cheese. My response was basically you are a saint and I don’t give a hoot what he eats at this point or if he eats at all……” The other irony is that I’m currently coordinating the donation of side dishes and prizes for the school sponsored Thanksgiving dinner in the low income housing neighborhood.

Now it’s time to go back to recommendations. I think we just call November national recommendation month.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bust Weekend

oopes last night i loaded up the unedited unpunctauted version...

I logged on to the preschool blog to find a dialogue featuring my husband and youngest child. The same child was recently featured as part of a rock band comprised of four short little boys with bossy older sisters. Their signature tune seemed to be Bye Bye Miss American Pie with a kind of punk grit. My kid’s active blog life combined with my actually having custody of a functioning computer inspired me to re-enter the blogosphere. This is also a weekend that features the elementary school sock hop, final soccer game, piano recital, and a baby shower dinner party for thirty-eight so there might be stuff to write about.

The sock hope has been conquered although four Lerdau men from the ages of 4-83 were done long before Rebecca was ready to leave, and we had to leave her with another family to bring her home later. Luckily only one of the Lerdau men expressed himself by lying down on the floor of the library and kicking and screaming. Next year our big PTO fundraiser should be selling moonshine on the playground. I would have happily paid $20 for a beer or shot of tequila by about 20 minutes into it. The excitement of the actual dancing is only exceeded by the scholastic book fair, for which each child has already created a wish list. While I was in the library earlier this week helping the kindergarteners I was especially thrilled to find that the most popular literature choices were Barbie, Make me a Beautiful Princess and a biography of Justin Bieber. I’d never heard of him, and he appears to have no relationship to the 17th century Biber whom I familiarized myself with while preparing or my comprehensive exams in graduate school.

Rebecca is playing her own composition on her piano recital, and it comes with many glissandos, dissonances, quirky little minimalist patters, and, most importantly, dramatic gestures. In addition to this precocious little number, she’s also developed some rather poor practice dkills. She is especially proud of having read harry potter while learning Gavotte and couldn’t understand why I didn’t think her piano teacher would find this impressive. She also, unfortunately, figured out how to cram. When I am out of town very little mail is opened and very little practicing is done. When I returned I said she had to play the recital piece ten times a day. The results of one day of this prompted the piano teacher to congratulate her on her effective drilling of the hard parts—oops.

Eli and Manuel’s dialogue is below. For the full effect imagine Eli “helping” Manuel push his collectors’ item 1980-something orange mountain bike (a gorgeous orange Stumpjumper Sport with original Shimano friction shifters [ML]). He would have been wearing either saddle shoes or red cowboy boots—the only footwear he wears these days.

dialogue between Dad and Eli...
Eli: Daddy, I'm a pwe-schooler
Dad: Yup
E: Do you know why?
D: No, Why?
E: 'Cause I go to pwe-school
D: Oh. That makes sense
E: Daddy, I'm a Jew.
D: Yup
E: Do you know why?
D: No, Why?
E: 'Cause I go to Jew school

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ireland Musicology Tour

I am I think the only person in the residence at Maynouth college. The room is Harry Potter like and looks out at what I’m told is an abandoned castle. Today was talk number five in five days and I’m afraid these folks got the short end of the stick—a little bit punchy and definitely slurring words. I did have the greatest thrill ever which was to see a student actually reading my book and in paper back too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone other than a family member looking at it though. Melanie and I may have traumatized the nice student by taking her picture. I have given five talks in FIVE days. The talks included Orfeo’s Echo, Castrati and Machines, Kate Bush, Anatomy of the Female Voice and a theoretical discussion about Toni Morrison’s Jazz. Melanie Marshall from Cork University was the brains and logistics behind this operation and I’ve met few people with as much spunk, creativity, organization chops and drive not to mention the ability to wear me out! It was especially sweet of her to work it out so that she Laurie Strass and I could be in the same place at the same time for a really intoxicating collective riff on the parallels between castrati and nuns. I have nothing more up my sleeve.

It’s been fun, fascinating and even surreal. I continue to find that it makes our situations in the states look good. We complain a lot about the economic crisis and the effects on higher education and our own budget cuts that at times seem crippling. But it could be much much worse. They just had a pay cute, pay 8E per ILL book after a certain number, and had a government mandated hiring freeze in which no faculty were hired in the entire country for two years. The policy on sleeping with undergrads is that as long as you recuse yourself from their committees it's ok. There is exactly ONE female full professor in the country. And recently students tried to start a pro choice group on campus and were told that the U already had a group interested in abortion--that would be the anti choice group. Abortion is still illegal here. I gave my Kate Bush talk yesterday to predominantly undergrads and music faculty and it was super fun. A few undergrads stopped me in town to tell me how much they liked it and that it had changed really effected them. I’m sure they were exaggerating but I’m also sure that feminist theory and gender issues have a different resonance here and that in fact it might make a difference t them. They also told me they knew KB from their mothers but.....

The science gallery talk was totally weird and could have been called "wired women, female musicoloigsts and the male acoustical gaze" I gave my voice/sex talk and Melanie gave a very smart talk about whiteness in early music which managed in one fell swoop to leash critical race theory onto early music and theorize the voice. I've shown erotic pictures in talks for over a decade and it's the first time I actually felt uncomfortable. I don't know if I'm becoming a prude in my old age or if the weirdness of the men in the audience inflected my feelings. The acoustic boys then got up and gave power points about how to quantify emotion and proved in no uncertain terms that music can make you sad or angry. duh. They had graphs but they were ridiculous--no definition of what x and y is etc.... It also featured my favorite genre of new music—the kind that wires up women and gets them to dance in this case in the service of quantifying feeling. They explained that they had nothing in common with us and proceeded to ignore everything we said. It was like the worst of electronic music meets the worst of bad science meets the worst of patriarchal culture. The other problem was that we were in a sound installation. This was extremely cool for the first hour. It was one of those things where they make your pulse into music, you can control sounds by jumping on squares, and you can crawl in a model of the human ear. But five hours in the building made me completely nauseous from sound overload. Oddly enough despite all of this technology they had the loudest projector ever and it was a sort of Bb minus a1/4 note--close enough to a pitch to catch your ear but far enough to be grating. The professor emeritus from Edinburgh who makes brass lips was however quite a trip and we all went to Ireland's only Moroccan restaurant. The hotel was a trip and looked more like a brothel than an academic accommodation. It was on top of a fire station but the rooms and hallways were all plush velvet. The room had mood lighting spotlights, a huge bed, a bathroom with a huge jacuzzi that opened out into the room, and random crimson pillows strewn about.

The most surreal experience was a pub on Tu night. I said I needed a pub experience since mostly what I’d encountered were ethnic restaurants, wine and people that are not Irish. So Juniper and Melanie took to a local pub, which had declivous locally brewed Guinness style beer and lots of old men drinking and asking where we were from. After chatting for a while we were literally hit in the face with a green penis shaped balloon --and no we were not tipsy in the least. One of the old men had shot it with a balloon bow and arrow. We then encountered Aaron the balloon man who proceeded to make us all balloon corsages. Mine was a pink and white penguin with a green egg, which I had to fertilize myself. Aaron turns out to be writing a book about making balloons around the world and had much advice on how we ought to finish ours. Just to make it even weirder and even older guy hobbled over on his walker, which he then sat on and proceeded to hire Aaron to work as his festival--mad pride. Mad pride is apparently a national effort to reduce the stigma around mental illness. He sat on his walker drinking beer with a whiskey chaser and chatted us all up.

Those are just a few highlights of what has been quite musicological tour.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

8 hours later and still not out of the country

I left the house almost 8 hours ago and have not made it out of the country. Cville's weak link is defiantly escape.

By this morning I felt almost ready and even felt chilled out enough to make cookies with Rebecca to sell at a lemonade stand. She wanted to charge $2 which seemed stiff to me. Thing 1 and 2 were far too busy to even notice my leaving. 1 was distracted by the bake sale, which she assumed would make her rich. And 2 had his first soccer game. Thing 3 on the other hand had a full tantrum complete with locking himself in the bathroom. When I went up stairs to rescue him and say good-bye I found him in the suitcase with big sad brown eyes. I figured out in the car that I forgot my coat—hard to think about cold when it’s ninety degrees out. And I forgot the yummy chocolate I had stored in the fridge for my hostess. Manuel is happy about that.

Other than my usual snafu’s at TSA the Richmond leg of things was fine. (The nice man behind me called it the TSA massage…..) Detroit however did not go as well. I got off the plane and realized the monitors were high and small and impossible to read. After asking three stranger to help and getting nothing but looks that suggested they thought I was a sociopath I gave up and stood on line at the Delta counter. They told me Gate A 38. A38 seemed to be going to Tai Pai but when I questioned yet another condescending Delta person they informed me that Amsterdam was for sure next. So I took myself to the sushi bar across the hall for a snack and glass of wine. Having zipped through the hundred pages of reading for the seminar I’m speaking at I decided I’d organized the wrong talk and spent some time recouping a different one. I am in theory talking about Orfeo and Echo but the readings are all very theoretical and now I’m thinking castrati as Cyborgs and sonic effects as virtual reality might have been more appropriate. Whenever I’m invited to give a talk, especially in another country, I always feel like I pick the wrong one. Someone will have to teach me how to nail a talk. We can add this to the list of things they did not teach us in Grad School.

Strolling back to my gate feeling smug I noted that the crowd was still mostly Asian people—many of who seemed to have the same backpacks as the supposedly clearing out Tai Pai via Tokyo flight. I busted through the line and demanded to know where the Amsterdam gate was. The nice lady told me to “look at the monitor” I explained the can’t see thing which prompted her to look up the gate and say oh you are Gate A TWENTY 8. I said really because three of your agents have now told me THIRTY 8. So I ran, and I do mean really let it rip while feeling lucky that I chose to wear yoga pants and running shoes for this journey, to my actual gate. I got on the plane. However the plane has a punctured fusalage. I have no idea what that means or how to spell it. But

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Leavning on a Jet Plane

It never fails that no matter what happens the few days before I leave the country are totally spazzy. This time I’m going to Ireland to give a series of talks. Since I’m 100% sure that I do not have an Irish following I decided to do a mix of old and new talks with the new stuff coming from the chapter I’m working on. This seemed like it would be easy—and would take less time away from my book. I had until this week an explicit rule against working on talks before my kids went to bed. The coolest part of the gig involves speaking the Dublin Science museum at an exhibit called Body rhythms. It looks completely cool and is otherwise populated by experimental musicians, hip technology, and hipper scholars. After I looked at the web site I had a full panic attack about how I was not at all hip enough. Manuel talked me off the ledge I agreed to give a talk based on material from my first book. It is very nitty gritty anatomical and seemed just up their alley. Sadly the version of the talks that I have is twice as long as it was supposed to be. It’s never easy to cut something in half though I did find that cutting out all references to contributions to musicology and obsessive use of long quotations to drive a point into the ground helped matters. The legth was not my biggest problem. I wrote it two computers ago, one job ago, and a pre-technology as in no power point, no itunes music exampes, no bells and whistles. Oops. I enjoyed returning to some excellent illustrations and was reminded of some of my very favorite quotations from my research ever like when a woman has intercourse her voice changes because “her upper neck responds in sympathy to her lower neck” And in theory that I wrote a book once before suggests I can do it again. The video of the vocal cords in action is also always stunning.

So today I’m at two days and counting. Eli delightfully had the day off from school for the 15th Jewish holiday this month all of which fall on Manuel’s teaching days. In the morning he performed perfect child and played quietly, did an art project and sang songs while Emily and I worked on music examples and power points. He has a new gritty rock voice that he uses for everything. He became a devil child around lunch time and ended up in time out where Matt, the second grad student who came to my house for a meeting was treated to throwing things, wining, yanking my shirt off etc..

While he was being good child and amusing himself he was extremely busy. First he called 911—yes really. And explained that “my gawilla is sick and I can’t help him”
He packed a suitcase to come to Ireland with me and put in clothes, toys, books, a hole puncher, an empty soda can, a few carrots, some pretzels, and a small plastic pink knife. He made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich “all by myself.” He listened to my ipod obsessively which was on PJ Harvey because makes an appearance in the gllery talk. He learned the following words “lick my legs I’m on fire” And finally he gathered ingredients for baking cookies, which involved an egg. The egg promptly broke on the floor.

I don’t have a good track record for these sorts of trips. When I did a similar adventure in France two years ago it began with Eli having a baby tantrum and flailing so hard that he wacked me in the face and bruised my eye. I believe he was trying to steel apples from a farmers market and I rudely picked him up. I noticed at my parents’ house the night before my flight (two hours from home) that I had Rebecca’s passport not mine. Something bad happened to my flight and I ended up stranded in Zurich for five hours watching other planes fly to Paris. When I explained in Paris that I could not see the signs to find my bagge I was given a wheel chair. And then for the kicker I lost my friends apartment number and only located her by sweet-talking some French construction workers into letting me use their cell phones.

Friday, September 17, 2010

2nd grade theology

Last week one of my friends posted on Facebook that she was often reminded of how different her holiday preparations were from her grandmothers. I think of this more often when making latkes with my food processor, but it’s a good point. Our grandmothers did not for the most part crashing through their work days six hours before a holiday dinner. But they also didn’t have food processors, microwaves, and husbands who do some of the labor and in some cases all. The new year fell inconveniently on a weds this year meaning that Manuel had a meeting until 4:30 and I had various things to do during day which kept me out of the house until I picked up Eli at 3:15 leaving about two hours to get everything ready. The big kids were at play date and Eli and I set about to make a holiday meal which involved for starters him cutting his toy apple over and over again and pretending to be a shofar—a truly grating sound. (I promptly started blasting Velvet Underground to encourage another kind of expression) I turned into some combo of mad chef and hyperactive 7 year old and was running around the house trying to make kooogle, honey cake and other things in record time. The consequence of rushing and tired eyes from an eye doctor appointment was four cuts on my hands and burns in various places and lots of completely inappropriate cursing. At a low point Eli stirred the koogle all by himself and then put a batch to bake in his toy oven, dripping a delightful mix of eggs, sugar and butter all over the floor. Every third word was completely inappropriate for a preschooler and had a jump back from the toy oven move. While I cleaned up that mess he tried to tune the piano--this meant standing on the piano keyboard which he accomplished with a series of stepstool and banging on it with a "fork" and hammer. He heard the tuner explain to Rebecca about pitchforks and the hammers inside. I think he got the words but missed the content. Remarkably we pulled it off and Rebecca got home she set about a project of new placemats for the holiday—gorgeous hot pink felt with more glitter than I knew we had in the house. We tried out annual ritual of getting the kids to think about what they might do better next year. Apparently none need any improvement though they all had big advice for each other—missed the boat….. We did however have an interesting theological discussion which requires dialogue to translate the full effect.

Jonathan: Ok I have something to tell you that I’ve never told you.
Me Ok what
J (With gusto and speed) I don’t believe in God.
Me Ok why
J Because of evolution. God didn’t make the world evolution did. Got that man. (the last statement made while looking at the sky.
Rebecca Well Jonathan I understand what you’re saying but I think something differet. (she must have learned this in school her response to disagreement is usually less articulate)
Me. Hmmmm
Manuel Silent and trying not to choke on food from laughing at seriousness of the kids. And at Eli’s ability to just keep singing at the top of his lungs no matter what is going on.
R I believe in G0d
Me hmmm why
R Because of the stories. You know the burning bush how would it have caught on fire and not burned up.
J Can I have more milk?

And that was that. We can’t figure out why Jonathan thought this was some sort of secret or why a surprise. It turns out he’s been discussin his atheisms quite vehemently at Sunday School for quite a while and we were the last to know. Eli meanwhile repeated the conversation on the long van ride from New Jersey. I would have missed it had my mom not said “honey your kid is saying something to you.” I was deeply engaged in reading an Eloisa James Romance on my kindle and purposefully ignoring all of my kids and my parents. Eli’s version was shorter. “I don’t twust God cause of the evolutionary war.”

The kids hated the koogle and the honey cake causing me to wonder why I ever cook anything. Maybe they are old enough to fast this year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Haircuts and Soundscapes

There’s nothing better than a good haircut. Especially if the stylist always remembers your nut allergy, gives a great head massage, and is a punk rock dj which means playing very cool music instead of the usual salon faux-relaxing stuff that is precisely the opposite of relaxing. Two summers ago I went to get my hair cut and announced that we had to rush so I could thing 1 and to swim lessons—no need to mess around with blow drying or even washing it. He said, “now if you’re just going to stick your hair in a pony tail, jump in the chlorinated pool, and stay in the sun all summer we might as well save your money and my time and just give you a little bang trim” So he basically told me to come back when I could treat my hair like a grown up. And while by big city standards anything in cvillle is cheap when the thermometer tops 90 I’d still rather buy beer and ice cream than a hair cut. We now have an arrangement which involves ignoring my hair for four months and letting it get disgusting from the pool and general summer grime and then chopping all the damaged crappy dread lock f stuff off at the start of school. He claims it’s a sassy style. So if you live in cville you should get your hair done by Christopher Hayes. You might even get to hear an old acoustic Sonic Youth tune.

It’s also always important to be well coiffed for the preschool parent orientation when you’re husband has already forbidden you to speak because your cynicism about the whole business will traumatize new parents. It’s also useful if you have already decided in advance that because you failed preschool and find arts and crafts traumatic there is no way in hell you will even approach the project that will for sure involves glue, markers, scissors and construction paper. (yes they did try to hold me back in preschool for failure to string cheerios which I still can not do.) But in the end nothing topped the mother, who after a long earnest discourse on the benefits of play based education by the teacher followed by parents who wanted their kids to learn to make friends, said that she really wanted her child to learn letters. I did not say that my kid went to that preschool and was the only child who didn’t know letters at the beginning of kindergarten but could still read Great Men of Rome by the end of the year. I also got a chance to continue activating my anti power point text guerrilla warfare. This involves aggressively texting on my very large phone when pages of text appear for the audience to read. I’m all for pictures and bullet points but the long illegible blocks of text drive me nuts. My phone, “the easy use” phone is specially designed for people over 80 who are not familiar with technology so texting is a large type affair which may be distracting to those around me. (it also has a red 911 button which is dangerous if you live with a preschooler who loves the phone) I began this during a completely ludicrous orientation about a new web based system required of the faculty in which some young thing from the Deans office stuck large text based slides on a screen.

On the scholarly front this is likely old news to anyone doing interdisciplinary work I was struck again today by the perils of interdisciplinarity. An article I wrote was reviewed by a person who does history of sound as a Historian. He liked the article but thought in essence that I ought to tone down the music as in the stuff with scores and composers whose names we know. I have spent much of career attempting to think beyond the notes, to think about what the experience of sound was in the early modern period. And I’ve always learned a great deal from scholars working outside of music who taught me the value of thinking about broader sounds capes—thunder, speech cadences, wheels turning etc…. And indeed some of the things I work on involve productions with no scores so this is a useful tact. But I was hoping for a convergence—how did those sounds that stand outside of what imagine as music inflect the sound experience. But let’s not get rid of the music all together. Let me stress that the review was positive, thoughtful and helpful and I’d love to meet the person who wrote it. But as a rule I didn’t think it was especially tactful to insert verbatim at least five paragraphs of text from your own article. Such habits also do get in the way of anonymity, it’s best to assume that anyone who writes history or early modern Europe is probably pretty good as searching and identifying authors and ideas through key phrases and has probably learned to be a wiz with google. Back to the soundscape of a house with an almost four year old who imagines himself to be a rock star—loud!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

First week of school—check. Rebecca and Jonathan pranced off to the bus stop on Wednesday nervous but excited. Everything was fine until 4 minutes before we left when it was determined that no one had the proper footwear. Next they had to revisit the issue of new backpacks, which I failed to procure. They have the idea that second grade will come with so much homework that it can not possibly fit in their backpacks. Second grade apparently comes with something akin to the intro bio text Manuel used which outweighed them until they were almost 1 and which they used as a chair until they were three. In the end they got on the bus without looking back and as far as I can tell the first week went fine. Jonathan’s class is about 2/3 boys and Rebecca’s is about 2/3 girls. She told us she’s looking most forward to “talking to my friends ALL DAY.” The second grade a very complicated disciplinary system involving green, yellow and red lights. All they can tell me about it is that “it’s the discipoine system” Both kids were thrilled to find that the school library had the Hardy Boys and that they get to check out two at a time. Jonathan is mad that they don’t have Tom Swift and has already “requested that the librarian increase the collection.”

Eli’s start was not too smooth. He is in general the easy one, goes with the flow, other than potty training raises himself, wasn’t an undercooked puny raisin, no health and developmental issues and no ER for the first year of his life. (Yes I know he will need to discuss this at length with his therapist later but it’s good to give him material) After last weekend’s 1,2,3 strep punch it seemed we were in the clear until the little one woke up screaming on Tuesday night with hives and an allergic reaction to the amoxicillin. After a couple of hours of Benadryl, writhing in pain, calls from the nurse to ask us if he was still breathing ok, Manuel took him to the ER where they gave him steroids and apparently enjoyed playing with him. So Manuel and mini-well got home at 2 in the morning and we took him to the pediatrician in the morning where in addition to getting a new antibiotic I dropped him on his head. (yes really) In that exhausted parents of three way we dosed him up with the new medicine and dumped him at school. Despite the time consuming start up designed to prevent parents from accomplishing anything he proceeded to scream his head off at drop off every day. Eli also busted me on Thursday. We had a babysitter in the afternoon. I worked until the last 15 minutes when I got a phone call and decided to put away the three bins of kids laundry. I had heard Eli debating with Laruen about coming upstairs. He explained he needed me. She explained I was working. Then as I was chatting away I heard “thump thump thump” followed by a triumphant “I told you she wasn’t workin….”

I’m still messing with my new MAC. I seem to be down 400 tunes in Itunes. Not only am I for sure missing some particularly loud aggressive and dissonant piece of angry chic rock that I need to get through the day. But I’m probably lacking some eclectic music examples that I wont miss until 30 minutes before a lecture. I did move all of the documents successfully and as I expected the new machine solved all of my problems and the book ought to be done by next week. And in case there was any doubt that I’m on sabbatical I have lost the keys to my office so I literally can not go there. I had a mild panic attack when I was told that one of the trailers moved—was literally wheeled out of our parking lot. Thankfully I’m told it was the math trailer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Last Day of Summer

Whoever said that the summer solstice was the longest day of the year had clearly not spent a day with three children who go back to school the next day. They are beyond ready and were literally doing laps around the dining room until thing 1 and 2 made enough noise to wake up sleeping beauty and we walked in the rain to the delightful Market Street Market for a breakfast treat of scones and a insanely sophisticated and expensive collection of cheese and baguette for lunch.

Yesterday’s series of open houses seemed really to get their juices flowing. I have to admit to having absolutely no enthusiasm for Eli’s start up. We have so far had a home visit, a meeting with the teachers, a visit to the classroom and a back to school picnic. This is his third year in preschool and over the weekend he informed me that he would get potty trained if I got him a new “waptop” I don’t think he needs to ease into things.

The big kids meanwhile do need some start up. When Jonathan suggested last night that maybe I should teach music history at their school and that he and Rebecca should both be in my class I knew we were headed for our usual fall transitional awkwardness. Rebecca thinks the school music teacher could use some help since she did not know that men can sing with very high voices so the music history thing made some sense to her. Once we move on from the home school fantasy though they both have lots of friends in their classes. Rebecca and two of her equally loquacious little girl friends already seemed to be taking control of the classroom. They had a lot of loud exploring to do before someone suggested meeting the teacher. He’s the new guy, extremely earnest, and looks about twelve. Best of luck to him. (and when did teachers and doctors become so young that they could be my children) The low point of that event involved loosing Eli. The kids were doing some moving between each other’s classrooms and Manuel and I each thought the other one had Eli. Suddenly we noticed he had gone on walk about. Thank you Tracy Weaver for locating him calmly and deliberately walking towards the door of the building way out of sight. She said something like “aren’t you Jonathan and Rebecca’s brother. Let’s just go ahead and find your family” before he took off into the mass of elementary school kids. The potluck in the evening meanwhile turned out to be a picnic. So after complaining all day about how much I hate potlucks, refusing to cook and sending Manuel to buy potato salad we arrived to find no food for our cranky kids to eat. (they don’t like potato salad)

In an effort to keep the kids and their equally enthusiastic friend busy today we have eaten expensive gourmet food, had a chamber music festival, started four bored games, put away exactly four pieces of laundry, and had various group meetings in which we discuss possible activities. As for the chamber music I need to send a shout out to Jim Ford who first introduced me to string playing in the public schools and must have tolerated an equally cacophonous joy on a regular basis. Ours was particularly delightful with Eli the hard rock guitar as accompaniment and Rebecca using the piano as percussive accent. Now they have settled on a game called Freedom Fighters which involves saying things like “Tell King George we’ll pay no taxes” Eli has inserted King Pharaoh into the mix.

In other exciting news I got a new Mac lap top on Friday. I finally might have the whole thing configured to my liking. Despite all of the fabulous things I’ve heard about Mac tech support I did talk to one delightful young person who suggested that if 16 was not a big enough font for my menus perhaps I shouldn’t be using laptops. I treated him to a rather extended bibliography of things I’d done on a laptop followed by a lecture about the hegemony of the visual and the inappropriateness of tech support people offering personal advice. I never got my fonts worked out but a little righteous indignation always feels good. So if anyone can figure out how to make Mac menu fonts bigger and how to find 400 tunes that got lost from itunes in the migration we will happily pay you in booze and cookies. I’m sure that in addition to the various kinds of therapeutic loud rock that must be in the 400 that there will also be hard to come by teaching and research examples that I will only miss the night before a lecture.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rain and Puke

My son scolded me yesterday for not keeping up the blog. So here we go again. After a whirlwind August of family vacations we are all gearing up for, and in fact counting the minutes until, the beginning of school next week. The kids need structure and they need the heat to break. Rebecca and Jonathan may also need some space. Without the separate classrooms and different activities they spend almost every moment together day and night. If I spent that much time with my husband I’d probably kill him.

Today was one of those days vacillated between feeling like a totally in control super mom and a complete nutcase. I woke up and quickly wiped out a blurb on Kircher for an exhibit at the library and then helped the kids with some community activism. They are writing a letter to the builders of the apartment building threatening to go up next store asking for grass and trees. (more on this later) I left 6 kids in my house and zipped up to a cafe for 45 minutes with a friend to work. While there I managed to write three sentences of my book which left me feeling almost smug. At the rate of one sentence every fifteen minutes I should finish it just before my 56th birthday. I then had to zip back to meet Eli’s preschool teachers. The home visit supposedly makes the child feel more comfortable but mostly feels like a tacit evaluation of the home-front. As I left the cafĂ© on my way the heat wave broke with a biblical rain storm--no thunder just rushing water on the ground. Within about 30 seconds my sundress and I looked like we’d been through the washer and my shoes squished so much I took them off and ran down the down-town mall, looking like a cross between a drowned rat and a homeless waif. I made it home to find the house as messy as I’d left it and the six kids upstairs listening to a book on tape. Eli, meanwhile refused to get dressed saying he wanted to show the teacher his nightgown which is a Brown Class of 1990 t-shirt that says “Can I take life S/NC” This also involved showing off his butt and family jewels as he finds underwear beneath him. The highpoints of the visit involved him calling the teacher poop, announcing he actually did not want to be in her class but wanted to be in the other teacher’s class, hitting his brother, refusing to speak in sentences, and clinging to my legs.

The start up for preschool is intense and at this point I’d much prefer to simply toss him in a classroom and hope for the best. Note to those planning third children save your-self a year of preschool by arranging for a summer birth not a November one that delays the process. When filling out my “goals” for him all I could think to write was potty training and astrophysics.

And now for Becket the Children’s version whose moral is that when the kid is clingy he may actually be sick…...Eli who regularly has at least 15 ailments a day had a tummy ache which he described to his father just before it erupted into a Vesuvius style puke. It seemed that this may have come from drinking a gallon of his sisters “made from scratch” lemonade. After much kurfluffle, including canceling the evening playdate and me wandering around the house shirtless because shirt is soaked and I have not put the screaming kid down and Rebecca screaming that she needs me to help her practice relative calm ensued. An hour later despite the volcanic puke and a fever of 103 Eli was fine and ate a huge dinner. A one hour bug?


Here’s the dialogue
Manuel: Bon take him to the Toilet (after Vesuvius has erupted)
Eli: Nooooo not the bathwoooooooom I’m not really puking it’s the sugar.
Rebecca: MOMMY ELI NEEEEEEEEDS YOU
Me: I need to shower before Yoga I’m covered in puke
Eli: I’m weddy go to the wine stowe since I already puked. they have mow Motwin there”
Jonathan: Mommy did you REALLY GET PUKED On. “ (note the entire first floor is covered in puke)
Rebecca: How many minutes did I practice? I can’t believe you didn’t set the timer
Jonathan: How could you finish watching Dr. Dolittle without me. Mommy turn on the TV.
Eli: We need mow papa towels in case I puke some mow
Jonathan: Mommy where IS YOUR shirt?
Eli: I’m all betta now. Ooohhhmmm (with a very aggressive yogic pose)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

7 year old Diva

I need to thank Rebecca’s very enthusiastic piano teacher for helping her to achieve new seven year old diva heights. I’m wondering if I can blame him for the fact that last week she said to me “You’re not the boss of me.” When at the end of the school year she started writing new endings for all of her pieces he suggested that they try a summer composition project. Her first assignment involved a piece about a pigeon. She has recently completed what she informed me is a “three movement work.” When saying these words she meticulously articulates every syllable in case I don’t know what she’s talking about. Her style seems to involve contrary motion, dramatic glissando’s, accidental pentatonic scales. She also quotes and transposes some phrases from her current favorite song “Legend of the Buffalo.” Dynamic contrast also features prominently. She has fully internalized an exoticism that in kiddie piano books comes out in songs with vaguely Native American titles that feature open fifths and a few accidentals. Dealing with a seven year old composer might be a musicians worst nightmare. Our conversations have gone along the lines of “no mommy that is NOT the sound I want.” (I’m totally sure I played exactly what she wrote) And “Well I wan to write a F# here and a Gb why calling the same note two things is more interesting” “Mommy how come when I play it, it sounds right and when you do it the dynamics are just wrong” “No I don’t need to have five beats in a 5/4 measure it sounds better this way.” I’d say her notation skills need some work.

The diva is also feeling smug because she earned herself six free tickets to a local production of Don Giovanni by modeling for a poster that seems never to have been put up. Note that I earned two free tickets—that’s four less-- for giving a pre concert lecture about Bellini’s La Sonnambula. (This was not a trivial undertaking since I had previously thought nothing at all about the Opera other than that it has some pretty tunes and that I could listen and look at Juan Diego Florez for a long time). In any case we fired her brother from going to the Opera when he failed to make it through even one act of the Sound of Music. We took her with our friends Ann and Gary on Saturday night. Rebecca loved the Opera and was completely mesmerized the whole time. She leaned over during batti batti and say quizzically “why is she saying that” I have to admit that my first paper in college was on representations of women in Don Giovanni and George Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell. I asked the same question and thought myself very profound. She got really obsessed about how they proved that Don Giovanni actually killed the Commandatore. We were worried that the final scene would frighten her. But she actually giggled. Her read on it was “why does he keep saying no? and it’s kind of funny to have a statue talk” It reminded her of the people in Rome who dress as statues whom she and Jonathan called “statues who move” She also found the drag to hell especially hilarious “he went to hell and took the table cloth with him. Why did he take the table cloth?”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

If you give a musicologist an article to finish and If you give a toe a bowl of shrimp

I am planning an associate professor mother of three version of the children’s book If you give a moose a muffin. The upshot is that a boy gives a moose a muffin and the moose asks for various other intricate favors which involve painting the house, picking fluffing a pillow for a nap and finally gets around to asking for a muffin again. Yesterday’s version would start something like: if you give a musicologist an article to polish up she will open the document. First she will remember that she has a conference paper to give on the same topic. Then she will check the AMS program to see who else is on the panel. And then the AMS web page will probably tell her that her membership has expired. Then she will want to renew. When she attempts to fill in the blanks on the membership form she may type the credit card number incorrectly so she will probably look for her magnifier so that she can retype it correctly. Then she may notice that her credit card has been blocked. When she is finished cursing she may get carried away and decide to do a thorough check of her finances. She will then probably notice that during the recent thunderstorm something happened to the automated bank of American situation and no bills were paid she will most likely curse some more. Then she will need to pay her bills. This will probably cause her to remember that there is no summer salary and she will begin to think about other things to do in the summer like swim, plant tomatoes, and hike. Thinking about hiking will remind her that the credit card needs to be paid as even hiking costs money sometimes. And tomatoes will remind her that she is hungry. The thought of red tomatoes will also remind her of stained t-shirts in the laundry from her child’s brochette eating on July 4. She will do a load a load of laundry. On the way to the laundry she will encounter her three year old who will insist that only Mommy can apply sunblock. She will then trip on her sons outgrown sneakers. She will be tempted to go online and buy him new ones but avoid temptation by glancing at the credit card bill. She will then attempt to pay the bill again. On the way she will probably figure out that her online banking password is now due to be changed. She will change it. While thinking up a new secret codes she will then remember that she was supposed to be writing an article and open the document again.

The one for today would start more like… If you give a neurotic, recovering, from an injury runner a 100 degree day she will want to run at 7 in the morning. She will probably need to chug coffee first. She will then open the fridge for milk and notice that it is full of stuff and that there is no food in it. She will begin to organize then dump a frickin glass bowl of shrimp on her already gnarly looking running toes. Despite having balled out all of her friends for being late for running she will not actually meet them on Preston Ave. Her husband who sat around with a fractured hand for a week will scold and even bully her into getting the toe attended to. He will drive her to urgent care. Urgent care will have become an ER and they will threaten a giant co-pay. She will come home and call the doctor while sending husband to work to finish his grant. She will call friend and ask for ride to doctor with stop at coffee shop. The nurse will make her an appointment with Dr. Yuck who is on call. Dr. Yuck suggested that a relatively routine infection acquired during Yom Kippur services two years ago might be cancer and then prescribed anti-biotics that made her sick and did not cure the infection. Fortunately, after waiting at the doctors’ office for 45 minutes it will be determined that the idiot who makes appointments made it for the wrong day. She will see another zealous young doctor who, with a tuning fork, will determine that she has a fracture and that her toes need to be buddy taped. The fork was a C not an A which she is used to. He will get very distracted by her convoluted medical history and she will remind him that pregnancy is not an issue here. He will then attempt to prescribe her narcotic pain killers. But this will remind him that since she has had them prescribed four times this year he actually needs to ask her a series of questions about domestic violence and drug abuse. She will swear up and down that her husband did not in fact beat her toe with a glass bowl of shrimp and in the end say no to narcotics because she realizes she already has enough to keep the neighborhood high for months and what’s a bowl of shrimp compared to an SUV anyway. He will notice her cup from Shenandoah Joe’s and also tell her to drink water not coffee if she is going to run in the hot weather forgetting that only a few moments ago he had forbidden running for until the toe feels better. She will call her lovely husband who will then drive her home and she will sulk for a while about the sore toe while again sending him back to work. And again she will open the document.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Eli ate my word documents

I wrote a nice post yesterday about how my day had started by mediating a dispute between three seven year olds about what to feed imaginary dragons. At the end of it when I lost patience and explained that the dumb dragons were imaginary—not real- and thus their nourishment hardly warranted a dispute I was informed that “imaginary is different for different people” I just can’t discuss relativism with rising 2nd graders before a second cup of coffee. It also involved a describing my swim meet mommy dilemma in which Rebecca who had wanted to do the meet decided she couldn’t do it and cried in fear for 45 minutes. She’s been swimming laps just fine for a few weeks now so made her do it anyway, to the dismay of some onlookers. She did it and feels really proud of her ribbon. I’m still not sure it was the correct thing to do. But I do want her to know that she can do things that she’s scared of and I want her to feel strong. I can only hope one of the onlookers was the mom I heard in cville coffee say to her kid who was having a fit because he didn’t want cheddar bunnies, “we should be grateful for our cheddar bunnies, many children are starving and their tummies hurt and they would be grateful for the cheddar bunnies.” That comment so irritated me that it snapped me into a fit of writing fervor. I’m thinking of putting that lady on my ipod.

In any case the post didn’t make it because Eli had to check his email to find out “when is my next birfday….” He checks this frequently. While doing that bit of research he closed a bunch of documents without saving them. In addition to loosing what I thought was a nice blog post he deleted a Latin translation I’d made myself do of some totally crazy 17th century astrologer, a letter of recommendation, and a recipe for ginger pound cake. No more screen time for him. No more Microsoft for him until he is potty trained.

Meanwhile last night I took my twins, a ten year old set, and Eli to the downtown mall for dinner. I’m a sucker for the downtown mall on a gorgeous summer evening. Manuel was being charming to a potential tenant—I got the better deal. I thought we were getting pizza but the three princesses decided they wanted dumplings. So I sent them to the dumpling place with my credit card with instructions to buy nothing but dumplings—yup two ten year olds and a seven year old. It turned out the dumpling place doesn’t take credit cards so I next taught them to write a check. Amazingly they did it. And Ema even went back and asked to remake Rebecca’s dumplings without the sauce. We finished the evening with splendora and luckily by then Manuel was there to handle the finances and the children. All in all it was fun although each of my three did at some point melt down and I did drink half of a friend’s beer. I’m not sure why I didn’t just get my own…. One the way home when I told the two sets to wait for me at the corner to cross they all said “you’re the only one who has been hit by a car you should wait for us.” The same two sets also stumped me by asking for definitions of irony and sarcasm—and yes all four do know how to do both.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Freaky Friday



Since having kids it seems that any three day writing bursts are necessarily rewarded with a few days of what my undergraduate advisor explained life interceding. This is why I always require writing assignments every week from grad students but they can skip two because life always does intercede. Friday’s interruption came from the power outage and the tree on—not in—the house. For the record the fact that we’ve had four major power outages in six months seems like bad news to me and like cville ought to get its act together or we should all start making offering to weather gods no matter what our faith. No one slept well Thursday and Eli and Rebecca appeared ready to start the day at 6:30 am. We also had the predictable text that Eli’s camp was closed due to power. Luckily my genius husband had the foresight to make iced coffee Thursday night or it would have been really dire. Things got off to a rough start when I made egg in toast and managed to smoke up the kitchen. The smoke alarm runs on batteries but the mechanism to make it shut up is electrical which meant that about every 30 seconds the alarm blasted, the kids screamed, the dog panic, I cursed and Manuel explained to ADT that his wife’s bright idea of cooking spray for egg in toast was actually not that bright.
Much to our relief the kids artsy-fartsy camp had not cancelled and indeed the extravaganza featuring everything from African drumming to paper machete volcanoes could go on. The kids had been revved about this for days and it involved a picnic followed by two hours of performances. Before heading to the event, the first part of project tree removal involved having our dorky next door neighbor’s car towed out of his driveway to make room for the crane that would come later.

Luckily we made it to camp just in time for a picnic lunch with the kids and a tour of their artwork. We took three kids home and the entire back of the van was filled with their masterworks. My favorites were the three matching very large volcanos made in weird science and the lava lamps. Things got off to a good start. Jonathan was in the first group of African drumming performers and he has loved this. He drums all the time and explains it in great details. He had already acquired the slightly blank stare of a rock -band drummer with combined with tiny very white kid next to big African drum was quite adorable. I have to admit that 25 minutes into African drumming it began to seem less cute and less like we might actually make it home on time for the tree guy. Things moved along reasonably well until noise for thought. This is the class that Rebecca absolutely loved and cam home every day with some new bit of inspiration including the suggestion of a family performance of 4’33 and a sound meditation/collage. I think her next camp will be with Pauline Oliveros if she has her way. I did not let her turn our piano into a prepared piano but she has high hopes that I’ll relax that restriction soon. While the noise collage was playing all the kids stood still and looked cute except Jonathan who turned into an absolute brat, tugging on his sister, whacking his friend, making goofy faces. At a certain point I could no longer look but I’m pretty sure he was especially disruptive while Rebecca and her friend Elie read their Dadaist sound poem. I couldn’t decide if I should zip up to the performance area and yank him out or leave him alone and hope the camp staff beat him. This was perhaps Rebecca and Jonhathan’s finest public performance of good twin bad twin. It was especially mortifying as a musician whose kids heard only baroque and new music until they turned three and behaved through performances of Brandenburg concertos and Crumb’s Black Angels. In their Stony Brook sound world music stopped between 1730 and 1900.

We arrived home in time for the tree guy to come assess the situation go get a large crane and provide about 90 minutes of entertainment for the neighborhood. The crane was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure who enjoyed the tree removal more my husband or my three year old. But Manuel’s utter glee did suggest to me that he might have preferred to be the kind of tree guy that climbs trees and cuts them down rather than the kind that goes up in cherry pickers in Panama to do experiments on the tree canopy. He was totally stoked. His favorite part was when the tree guy hung off the crane and used his giant chain saw to chop off the top of the tree. I have to admit the whole thing was pretty stunning. But the really great news is that as of Friday at 6:30 pm the 200 plus year old sugar maple was no longer sitting on our house.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Silly Thursday

Last week while I was in New York City doing an archival errand Manuel and his bike took a little spill. I came home the next day to note that he had a rather swollen hand and some impressive bruises and scabs. My musicians’ pavlovian response to the hand thing involved panic but he pointed out that he’s not a viola player which apparently makes the hand less necessary. I was previously sworn to secrecy on the bike accident but let’s just say that for a guy whose bike is a collector’s item he forgot a crucial step of a repair process. He purchased this 1986 bike in 1992 and puts quite a lot of time into upkeep. But I digress……. Jump ahead a week to Rebecca’s exema, which prompted Manuel to take her to the pediatrician who found her rash unimpressive but to Manuel’s hand said “hmm you might want to get this x-rayed” The resident on call then assured Manuel that the quickest route to the x-ray was the ER It was already by this time Weds eve and neither Manuel nor I was anxious to have me skip yoga and working in a wine bar given that the injury was already a week old. So we woke up Thursday morning and headed to UVa. The ER did not run smoothly that day thanks to the 100 degree weather which led to dozens of people with heat stroke. After many hours of waiting and many discussions with many nurses and doctors we learned that he did indeed have a coupled of tiny fractures and probably a torn ligament. This would require a “little splint” we were told. By the time the resident had finished the little splint turned into a giant cast all the way up to his elbow that would preclude driving. Since we’re already a one driver family this seemed pretty dire. The resident did not care much about our mobility issues. So when we got home hungry and super cranky with Manuel driving one handed I decided to call the hand clinic and pull out all the stops. I explained in my sweetest I grew up in Virginia voice that we are a one driver family because I am legally blind and that we have three small children two of whom were preemies. (ok the preemies are 7 but whatever……) Remarkably the hand guy came into the office and Manuel came home with two little pieces of tape on the fingers. He can drive and type but supposedly should limit diaper changing and dishwashing. The doctor apparently told him he’d have to do his own calculus about hand damage v. marital unrest over the new prescription. This whole thing by the way, five hours in the ER, two hours with the head of the hand clinic, $365 of co-pay to the ER plus whatever else we are billed and another co-pay for the hand guy suggest a totally screwed up system. But we all know that.

This whole business finished up on time for the heavens to open for the second time in three weeks for what I was sure was a tornado and they now claim was a microburst—something I’d never heard of until recently..... Whatever it was it looked to Eli and I like some sort of apocalypse. At one point I said to Manuel “Honey I think they tree is going down,” to his logical question “which one” I responded, “the one that is on our deck…” Watching the giant tree fall goes down as one of the most surreal experiences ever. It seemed to happen in slow motion and for a second I had the idea that I could stop it. Meanwhile the big kids were driving home from swim team with Frankie, the babysitter, and I quickly went into a panic about them out in the downpour. (given the paper the next day I was correct to panic) Frankie luckily had the good sense not to answer the phone when I called because she was driving….Everyone made it home safely to no power. Eli was on auto repeat “the powa is out, the twee is on my woom, the powa is out, the twee is on my wooom, I hope fwakie’s house doesn’t knock down…..” Jonathan was worried about how they could do African Drumming at camp if the power didn’t come on. My explanation that African drumming as being an activity that often happened in places without electricity didn’t do much. Similarly Rebecca was sure she couldn’t practice piano without electricity—the argument that Mozart and Beethoven did their thing without power fell on deaf ears. Despite the power outage Manuel made pancakes and grilled cheese for dinner and we finished off the ice cream in the freezer. Eli slept with his siblings since there was a large sugar maple on the roof of his house. The tree guy said he’d come as soon as he could but that before he could handle trees “on” houses he had to handle trees “in” houses.

Friday was an even dumber day……

Monday, June 14, 2010

Swim Meet

Our first swim meet was officially a bust. Jonathan tantrumed for 90 minutes. Manuel took one for the team literally by taking him home. Jonathan was pissed because he didn’t want to do the meet but he wanted to swim and then he didn’t want to leave if Rebecca wasn’t leaving. At least four different families offered to drive Rebecca and I home suggesting that indeed the entire swim team was anxious to get rid of our kid. We lost two pair of shoes including Eli’s new Keen’s, the first pair of brand new shoes the kid has ever had. He loves them so much that when he goes in the pool or into his crib he asks a grown up to guard them. I was busted for drinking beer on the deck which resulted in a loudspeaker announcement about the potential $50 fine for such an infraction. Rebecca enjoyed her 30 seconds in the sun but as of now I’d say she does not have the killer instinct. The gun went off, the other kids dove into the water and started swimming, she looked around, dipped in the pool in a leisurely manner and paddled along finishing with much applause. At least I’m pretty sure that was her given that all our friends clapped and said her name. But the truth is that when they all have on the matching very expensive swim team bathing suits the 7-8 year old girls become relatively indistinguishable from one another.

I didn’t actually see Eli all night but I hear he swung with his friend Olin for much of it. He was mostly taking notes from his brother on tenacity of tantrum. His are at this point short sweet and studied. My favorite this weekend was yesterday on a hike when he attempted to walk along a 15 foot wall “all by himself” Manuel said no way and as soon as he saw Eli’s little face start to prep for scream said “here why don’t you let me hold your gatoraid while you tantrum” Eli handed it over, screamed and stomped for a while and then Manuel said “If you’re done tantruming do you want your gatoraid back” Eli paused, composed himself, took the drink and moved on. The high point of the hike really though was the drive back which somehow took three hours. My friend Jocelyn and I got turned around enough that the dudes got home in time to watch an entire world cup game before we came in. I’m pretty bad with directions but when we were driving into the mountains for the third time it seemed like bad news.

Sunday, June 13, 2010



On Friday night all three kids curled up in our bed to read. One had an 800 page book on Greek Gods and Heros, one had In Style magazine, and one had a Star Wars book. The two newly minted first grade graduates were feeling quite pleased with themselves about their various first grade accomplishments. Rebecca won the peace keeping award for solving disputes between other children, breaking up fights, and telling the teacher the truth about what had happened. Her brother’s response was “she doesn’t exhibit those skills at home.” Jonathan meanwhile won the history award. Apparently when he went to the Woodrow Wilson museum with my father the tour guide discussed slaves and when the first grade went the tour guide discussed servants. Jonathan raised his had and said something on the order of “actually they were enslaved people.” Il piccolino also had a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the keshet class (the two year old room he’s been in for two years now. Manuel had already announced that if they didn’t promote him we were not paying tuition next year.) By the time this generation gets to high school graduation they may well be bored of the pomp and circumstance.

The keshet grad proclaimed yesterday an underwear day which involved putting on underwear at 9:30 and not peeing at all until 6:30 when we put pj’s on and a diaper. This is the kid who when I put on my bathing suit to go the pool yesterday looked at me and said “ooo la la…..” Last weekends line from him was “move it babi….” (with southern accent) which he then said to every woman at the pool. There’s nothing like having sons to burst one’s feminist bubble.

And apropos of nothing the lead story in the Daily Progress today is “UVa seeks crumbling columns fix.” This is not a metaphoric headline about addressing say the decomposition of the marine life or enrichment programs in local schools. Nor does it involve addressing sexism and racism that holds up the University. It really is a story about the Rotunda’s decorative Corinthian columns.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Dog and a Steady Beat

Last week Rebecca and Jonathan came home with their little writing journals. Each of them had to describe their greatest wish. Jonathan’s wished for a yellow Labrador and Rebecca wished for a metronome. As it turned out the thunderstorm from hell knocked down one of the teachers’ houses and her 10 year old yellow lab, Otter, needed a temporary home. This seemed like a good mitzvah to do and hopefully will take care of some of the pet envy in our house. My four roomates are desperate for a dog and I first of all don’t especially like animals and second of all feel that we already hover on the brink of disaster and the last thing we need is another dependent being who does not poop in the potty. So the one month doggie refugie seemed like a good plan. Otter now follows me everywhere. Meanwhile it seemed clear that if natural disaster landed us a temporary pet then a metronome had to be found. I was already feeling pretty terrible about the metronome thing since Rebecca has been asking for one for months and I failed to put a battery in mine. And it seems like if your Mom is a music professor who regularly plays two instruments a metronome shouldn’t be that hard to come by. Note also that other kids wished for things like a pony, a castle, world peace, a new baby. Thankfully the favorite auntie Jomama had two very fancy metronomes and she gave Rebecca one. Since she also helped Rebecca pick out her very expensive swim team speedo suit and is willing to read the book Dragonology she has now earned the status of coolest grown up lady in town.

Below I quote with indigenous spellings Rebecca’s journal entry about her greatest with and Jonathan’s author’s note.

“If I could wish for aney thing. I would wish for a metrnom. I would yose it when I play peano. I would have a steady baet.” (RLL)

“Born in Stonybrook hospital, Jonathan Lerdau has a very high interest in history. His hometown is longilsand N.Y. He started out living under C.V.S. Next he lived in a blue house on LongIsland Finally he moved to Charlottesville VA and began to settle down. A member of C.B.I. synagogue Jonathan Lerdau is a first grader at Burnley moran elembentry school and is seven yeard old.” (JGL)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Kid Theology

My kids have some strange religious ideas when it comes to water. I started thinking about this last weekend when Rebecca came in from a beach walk with Manuel and announced that she had done the mitzvah of saving a life. The life she saved turned out to be a mussel which inspired a long discourse about whether saving a mussel counts as saving a life if it’s going to end up on someone’s plate for dinner anyway. The next day while frolicking in the waves Jonathan announced that they really should take a moment to thank the god of the sea. He had already informed Manuel that we ought to keep a look out for Venus because “It is said that she appears rising up out of the foam”

Jump ahead to yesterday’s apocalyptic thunderstorm which literally blew me off the ground and took our power out for over 24 hours. I tried to get the big kids to sleep through the thunder in the very hot house by putting them in my bed and lying down with them. When this failed I brought them downstairs to the porch to watch the next big storm which is something my Mom used to do with Pam and I when we were little. The kids and I talked about how weird it feels to love something so scary. Somewhere in the middle of this they started to explain that rain storms like this come from God cutting his fingernails. When he cuts his fingernails he breaks through the cloud which causes rain. I took my usual tactic for those rare moments when they share some of their twin secrets and just kept quiet waiting for what would come next. We moved on to twin angels on clouds clapping their hands, and flashlights exploding lightening. We had a long hot night with Eli waking up every time there was a thunder crack and me thinking at one point that some sort of tornado had blown through. For some unknown reason both kids were up and dressed and knocking on my head at 6:30 talking about the God finger nails thing again. In a very groggy and cranky voice I tried a feminist tactic “how do you know God is a man” They just know. Upon further inquiry I learned that they had read it in a book and that he has a beard. I’ve been in Central Virginia long enough to get alarmed when my kids tell me they’ve seen pictures of God in a book so still half asleep I asked which “You know Mommy the one with the cows.” I had no clue what they were talking about. “It’s a book of cartoons with cows and a moon on the cover.” I still had no clue. Both kids lept out of bed and came running back with a book of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons where they very carefully showed me multiple pictures of God who was indeed a man with a beard. I’m not sure how Gary Larson would feel about this. Yesterday when they showed such early morning vigor I made one play the violin and the other clean her room but with no coffee and after such intense theology I didn’t have it in me today.

Other than the power loss which I’m sure trashed everything in our fridge it’s been a good week. After three years of trying every trick in the book to get the kids to do swim team they are doing it. I’m finally really doing my own work which I hope is a sign of good things to come. My friends and I have gotten back in the habit of a boot camp sort of situation which involves occupying tables at various coffee shops around town and pounding away at our laptops together. Somehow seeing other people producing feels motivating and it’s good after a long semester to remember that I actually really like my research.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Beach Trip




We were supposed to go to my 20th college reunion at Brown this weekend. After the late unpleasantness with the SUV and a long hard semester for all of us that seemed like too much of a trip so I decided we’d pile in the car for a family beach trip. (My sister did make an appearance and informed me that the 20th reunion was packed and that I would have had a really god time…..) My plan involved all of us sleeping late and reading lots of fiction. By a little after 8 and Rebecca and I had already been for a beach run and she was ready something with a code on the computer so that a child in African can have a free computer. This is the kid who usually has to be dragged out of bed even on the weekends and stands as an argument for adding caffeine to morning cheerios. The run may be connected to the lovely running skort and jog bra shirt ensemble that Aunt Pami bought her last year which resembles mine very closely. So there we were in our matching get ups running along the beach. The big kids seem thrilled to be at the beach and had their feet in the ocean within minutes of getting here. I’m not sure they actually remember the beach in Long Island but they claim to and it’s true that we went to the beach about every other day when we lived there. Jonathan has reconnected with his wet suit style bathing suit and face mask and is ready for a dip and Eli turned the sweet little plastic digging toys into guns and has already shot most of our neighbors.

Rebecca has taken to singing all the time, sometimes in a very loud and annoying way. She did it this morning with some little French songs which turned out to be fortuitous. The nicely dressed French couple across the way assumed she spoke French and left us with a beach umbrella and two beach chairs. Eli’s loud chanting of the four questions at the fried fish emporium where we ate lunch earned us nothing but some odd stares. The beach fashion here seems by the way to involve string bikini’s not the lands end skort type of suits sported at the pool in cville.

It’s now 4 in the afternoon and Rebecca is back at the beach with Manuel while the boys cuddle up together watching nascar. I think this is a terrible parenting move as I think that while I was at the pool with the big kids Manuel told Eli that he couldn’t go to the beach until he attempted nap. I have now rewarded him with terrible tv in bed.

I’m choosing between reading a romance novel by a Shakespeare scholar friend or writing an abstract. While doped up on narcotics I mistakenly promised someone an essay on Women and Print Culture in Late Renaissance Italy. I have nothing to say about this at this particular juncture so have to think up something I might actually want to write about. I also promised to advice a few undergraduate thesis projects while on leave. I’ll have to get myself out of that.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Vandals and Tune Ups


I am installed in a coffee shop attempting to warm the brain up for scholarship. Of course the first task is the overdue and useless annual report. Since according to the newspapers no one in the entire state of Virginia will get a raise this year I’m not sure why we are bothering and yet it’s time for the inevitably depressing exercise of the annual report in which you have to justify your existence preferably with lots of newly published materials. My sabbatical officially begins June 1 and my goal is to have my desk cleared of crap by then.

Rebecca and Jonathan had their seven year old tune up yesterday. These things used to torture us. They required multiple people to handle the screaming babies and talk to the pediatrician who was always full of dire predictions and dumb advice. My favorite dumb advice involved the insistence that we start the family meal when they were six months old. This time they pretty much ran ahead of us and joyfully chatted up the doctor with. The underweight speech delayed kid has exceeded our wildest dreams for size and is now at the 25th percentile. So much for the various doctors who informed us in serious voices that those kids who didn’t catch up by 3 don’t ever catch up. Rebecca meanwhile explained to the pediatrician that he could not possibly in a million years imagine the depths of annoyance involved in having not one but two brothers. She also took an opportunity to discuss the fact that she has lost lots of teeth and her twin has lost none—tooth loosing is a serious power dynamic in our house.

I’m meanwhile feeling a little bit like Harry Potter. The spot on my forehead that had the giant knot on it seems to start to hurt for no reason. My family tells me they see a very faint lightening bolt scar there. Between its location and the optics of my glasses I actually can’t see it so I have to assume that their warnings about the presence of Voldemot in our house ring slightly true. While he’s here if he could get rid of the dizziness and headaches and do some cleaning it would be fabulous. Last night’s headache was courtesy of the first grade concert which concluded with one of those mind numbing events involving over a hundred kindergarten and first grade children hyped up on their triumphant singing performance and ice cream in a not so big school cafeteria. When we came home the big kids launched into a project of putting their imaginary friends Africa and Marc through some sort of standardized reading testing. They had a whole series of levels the friends had to go through and a reward structure involving special activities. Marc has been gone for a few years but seems to be back. I have no idea where Africa came from but Marc is linked to my friend Celia’s husband Marc who when the kids were two lived in California. Celia spent a great deal of time on the phone with “ Marc” and talked about him all the time which led them to think of him as rather ephemeral.

Below is a little dialogue written by Manuel about a morning with the kids last week while I was in New York.


Date-12 May, 2010
Time-7:50 a.m.
Cast- JGJ, an overaware and undereating 7-year old who is reading the crime report in the newspaper
MTL, an overtired and underslept 46-year old who is trying to get spawn ready for school

JGL: Daddy, what's 'vandalism'?
MTL: What do you think it is?
JGL: I don't know.
MTL: What word does it sound like?
JGL: Vandals.
MTL: What are vandals?
JGL: (exasperatedly) Not "What" daddy. Who were the Vandals?
MTL: Ok, who were the vandals?
JGL: (with the condescending tone of one who is speaking to a complete idiot) They were the people who sacked Rome.
MTL: Ok, so what do you think vandalism is?
JGL: (now almost stunned that his father is so dumb) Vandalism is the crime of sacking things.