A Spring Spring

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Took a first look at my spring­time yard to­day, since it was so nice out. Last fall I de­lib­er­ately didn’t rake any leaves, and the re­sult­ing piles acted as nat­u­ral mulch on the lilies and other flora that are start­ing their pri­mav­era growth. The thorny rose stalks are even be­gin­ning to bud. I picked up a few bags of top soil and some grass seed to fill in a de­pres­sion along my tree­less tree-lawn and cov­ered that with some leaf mould to hope­fully keep birds from eat­ing it all. I did a lot of rak­ing and sweep­ing and bag­ging; some pick­ing up of lit­ter from my ex-neigh­boors who were fond of throw­ing bags of trash from their bal­cony di­rectly to the tree-lawn. Burst bags and blow­ing rub­bish re­sul­tant. The folks across the street came out and started do­ing the same.

Then I helped clean out Debbie’s car and more rub­bish-toss­ing.  I’m ready for a big yard sale in May. Probably too late to get the whole street in on it. All those ants that have been hi­ber­nat­ing in my pants woke up. I’m over-ready to be work­ing on my digs.

Pennsylvania Vacation

Friday, 28 March 2008

Debbie and I spent three days in Pennsylvania for a last gasp at cou­pled free­dom be­fore the Kid ar­rives. I planned out our itin­er­ary well in ad­vance and we had a great time; plenty of stuff to do and plenty of time to do noth­ing. We left Monday morn­ing and went to Pittsburgh where our first stop was the Strip District. The Strip is ba­si­cally Penn Avenue and is a bit like Cleveland’s West Side Market area, ex­cept longer in dis­tance and less cor­rupted by ex­pen­sively un­com­fort­able town­homes. We ate at the Smallman Street Deli right af­ter we ar­rived, ba­si­cally a shot in the dark choice, but an ex­cel­lent one. They cure all of their deli meat in-house, buy their bread from a lo­cal bak­ery and make their sides fresh. Debbie got a roast beef sand­wich with moz­zarella and toma­toes as her side, and I went with pas­trami on rye and mac­a­roni salad [pic].

Panorama from the Kentuck Knob Overlook

After lunch we strolled down Penn Avenue and win­dow shopped. I ended up buy­ing some tart pans from a kitchen sup­ply store, an item I’ve been un­able to find in Cleveland. We also went to this place called Fudgie Wudgie which has the smoothest fudge [pic] I’ve ever tasted. Then we drove around down­town Pittsburgh, gawk­ing at how much live­lier and less run-down it ap­pears than Cleveland and went to the Pittsburgh Zoo, which isn’t nearly as nice as the Cleveland Zoo, al­though it does have a much nicer aquar­ium. Debbie bought the coolest a stuffed oc­to­pus in the world. While get­ting lost down­town I got a glance at the PPG Wintergarden, which I thought was a great idea and cer­tainly some­thing that Cleveland could ben­e­fit from hav­ing. Throughout our Pittsburgh stay I couldn’t help but com­pare Pittsburgh and Cleveland; af­ter a few days of re­flec­tion I think the main dif­fer­ence be­tween the cities is that Pittsburghers seem to have a greater sense of sol­i­dar­ity and pride in their city than Clevelanders. I’m not sure what the rea­sons are for this, but I heard no one say any­thing bad about the city the en­tire time we were there, some­thing which it seems even peo­ple who claim to take pride in Cleveland [like my­self] can’t help but be down on the town quite of­ten [some­thing I try not to do.]

We left Pittsburgh and headed south­east, to­ward a lit­tle bed and break­fast called the Glades Pike Inn. We got one of their pack­age deals to go see the Frank Lloyd Wright con­struc­tions, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. I’d been to both houses years pre­vi­ously on a trip with my mom. It was such a good time that I de­cided to go back. The Inn was built in 1842 as an inn, and was per­fectly suited to be a bed and break­fast. Our room had a fire­place, which was very very nice. The innkeeper, Janet L. Jones, was very hos­pitable and ea­ger to di­rect us to other lo­cal restau­rants and places to visit. She’s def­i­nitely in­ter­ested in build­ing up the tourism for her neck of the woods and is a go-get­ter. She rec­om­mended that we have din­ner at the Pine Grill which was de­li­cious. Debbie and I got the same thing, pesto-topped or­ange roughy with herbed rice and steamed veg­eta­bles [pic]. I also had a Penn Dark, which tasted a bit like al­co­holic Coke, with­out the sweet­ness.

The Red Army by Ray SmithThe next day we went to both Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. Debbie and I both agreed that Kentuck Knob was our fa­vorite, which was my opin­ion so many years past when I went with my mom. Kentuck Knob is owned by Lord Palumbo who opened it for pub­lic tours in 1996, which was prob­a­bly right around the time I first vis­ited. The panorama at the top is the view from Kentuck Knob, and the farm pic­tured is where Lord Palumbo and his fam­ily stay when they are vis­it­ing. They only use Kentuck Knob for en­ter­tain­ing vis­i­tors. On the far hill­side are some huge wind tur­bines pro­duc­ing elec­tric­ity for the area. If some­place that ru­ral can make it hap­pen, I sure hope Cleveland can do the same. In tran­sit from Fallingwater to Kentuck Knob, we stopped at Ohiopyle and ate lunch by the wa­ter­fall.

The sculp­ture gar­den at Kentuck Knob is some­thing that I think was added af­ter my first trip there. Some of the sculp­tures were of the bor­ing var­i­ous-bits-of-rusted-metal-welded-to­gether-non­rep­re­sen­ta­tion­ally type, but there was a Claes Oldenberg ap­plecore and some man-made ponds that were beau­ti­ful un­der the pines. Pictured to the left is Ray Smith’s Red Army. They also have two pieces of the Berlin Wall, I think they only had one when I was there last. Somehow I liked it bet­ter when they only had one. After the tour, we had a nice walk down the hill­side and back to the car. All that we pur­chased from the gift shops were post cards and a reusable gro­cery bag, $4.67 to­tal.

We got lost on the way back, but ended up in Somerset for din­ner, and an­other re­lax­ing night at the Glades Pike Inn. The next day I was start­ing to get sniffly, and I’m full blown con­gested [again!] now, but on our way back through Pittsburgh we stopped at the Andy Warhol Museum. It only took about an hour to get through the whole mu­seum, the only things I re­ally liked in there were a cou­ple of Jasper Johns paint­ings, mostly we went be­cause I thought Debbie would like it. Warhol has never done it for me. Since we had so much of the day un­ex­pect­edly avail­able to us, we went to the sales-tax-free Prime Outlets in Grove City and blew a few hours clothes shop­ping. We got home around 7 on Wednesday night, made din­ner, and zonked out. It was a good va­ca­tion.

You can view all of the va­ca­tion pho­tos here.

A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge

Sunday, 23 March 2008

I just fin­ished read­ing A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge. Since I’ve been cul­ti­vat­ing a gestalt knowl­edge of the sci­ence fic­tion canon for nearly two decades, I was able to no­tice nods and re­flec­tions of past works. The book owes an ob­vi­ous and huge debt to James Blish’s Cities in Flight, but there are also Tolkien ref­er­ences, Hal Clement’s Mission of Gravity nods and more.

The most sur­pris­ing as­pect of the book was its not-so-nu­anced cham­pi­oning of free mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism. I’m used to sci­ence fic­tion that puts forth some sort of com­men­tary on con­tem­po­rary life or a speci­fic philo­soph­i­cal or po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion, but I’m also used to these as­pects be­ing just one or two of the story’s many sup­ports. In A Deepness in the Sky the tri­umph of the free mar­ket is the story.

The mut­li­ple POV story-telling con­ceit keeps the pace lively, and the well placed plot twists main­tain en­gage­ment, but I think the story could have ben­e­fited greatly from sig­nif­i­cant ed­i­to­rial culling. It is a good choice for lovers of hard sci­ence fic­tion and thick vol­umes.

Next Door Neighbors

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Not only did my crazy yelling neigh­bor get evicted, but the dude that lives up­stairs, a re­laxed and friendly guy, just got taken away by the cops on sus­pi­cion of gun pos­ses­sion. Based on what his dis­traught girl­friend was yelling from the bal­cony, some­one gave a false re­port about it and she blamed the folks who live across the street. Debbie and I have been hold­ing a the­ory that drug deal­ing has been go­ing on in front of our house for awhile, lots of quick traf­fic stops and vis­its. The dis­traught girl­friend sup­ported this in her yelling about how “peo­ple just don’t want peo­ple deal­ing drugs in front of they house.” I’m not sure if she was ac­tu­ally say­ing that her or her baby daddy were sell­ing drugs, or just that folks were sell­ing drugs in front of their house, much like folks are sell­ing drugs in front of my house. Since we live next door to each other, I’m in­clined to agree with the sec­ond the­ory, es­pe­cially since it would be the height of fool­ish­ness for her to ad­mit to sell­ing drugs when there are three cars full of cops in front of the house.

One of the cops was be­ing un­nec­es­sar­ily rude to her, telling her she had a potty mouth in a mock­ing tone and say­ing he was go­ing to throw a snow­ball at her if she didn’t calm down. I’m not con­don­ing Distraught Girlfriend’s be­hav­ior, but I’d ex­pect a bit more ma­tu­rity from Cleveland’s Finest.

I wasn’t out rub­ber­neck­ing ini­tially, I went out to shovel the side­walk and Debbie’s car, I was about 30% done be­fore I even no­ticed the cops. So much for my ob­ser­va­tional skills. Everywhere I’ve lived in the GCA, I’ve had drug deal­ing oc­cur­ring out­side my res­i­dence. I’m rather in­ured to it now.

Music Power

Thursday, 20 March 2008

I’ve been burn­ing up Immortal Technique lately; dig­ging through a bunch of cov­ers by of Montréal, Downloading the thou­sands of songs in the SXSW mu­sic tor­rents, the on­line-only re­lease Over the Counter Culture by Tim Fite [who was in my 2006 Best of CD] and this elec­tron­ica re­lease by Fake Corporation of America: You Are Not Dead, A Guide to Modern Living.

I’m look­ing for­ward to up­com­ing shows in the Cleveland area by O’Death, and Cadence Weapon [and the chance to pick up his newest re­lease, Afterparty Babies. He was on my 2007 Best of CD]. I’m also ea­gerly await­ing the Lottery League show at the Beachland this April.

In mu­sic lust land, I’m re­ally want­ing to dish out some se­ri­ous bucks for the spe­cial pack­ages of­fered at the STOP SMILING store; most no­tably the Music Lovers Package, the Jazz Lovers Care Package and the Hip Hop Package. I’m also lust­ing af­ter their Two Superfan Subscription BOGO of­fer they’ve got go­ing; I just don’t know who to get to split the ticket with me. It is such a great mag­a­zine. I’ve al­ready or­dered The Scarring Party’s newest re­lease Come Into the Light; they might be com­ing to Cleveland in June so I hope they aren’t play­ing the night Debbie goes into labor. I missed the Division of Planes show last June be­cause I was in Canada.

I talked with Rafeeq ages ago about start­ing a mu­sic site for Cleveland mu­si­cians, and I’m get­ting ea­ger to put some­thing like that to­gether. I haven’t talked to him about it in so long, and it was his idea in the first place, so I don’t want to take off and give it a shot with­out his bless­ing. I have about n + 1 ideas for it, but I’d re­ally need his net­work­ing and per­sua­sion abil­i­ties to get other con­trib­u­tors go­ing for it.

Emo Tantrum

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

As I passed the House of Blues to­day on the way to my bus stop I saw a high school emo boy throw­ing a tantrum at his girl­friend. She caught it and threw it right back, but was cer­tainly the more “ma­ture” of the two. He was al­most high-step stomp­ing his way to­ward me with a gi­ant pouty­whine face half vis­i­ble un­der his dirty combed-over-one-eye hair­style and he tore some­thing out of his pocket and slammed it to the ground as he stomped along. His girl­friend was be­hind him yelling for him to come back. He took out his con­cert tick­ets and threw them to the ground as well be­fore con­tin­u­ing his stomp around to East 4th to­ward Lola.

The girl­friend yelled “I’m tired of your shit!”, picked up one of the tick­ets and went into the HoB. I picked up the other ticket be­fore it blew into a pud­dle and dropped it back at the ticket booth in case emo boy’s tantrum wore off and he de­cided he ac­tu­ally wanted his $21 ticket to see “Hot Topic Presents The Sub City Take Action Tour fea­tur­ing Every Time I Die, From First To Last, The Bled, August Burns Red, The Human Abstract”

By the way, From First to Last has an al­bum called Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Body Count. I sup­pose, tech­ni­cally, that makes Tantrum-thrower emo­core, but I don’t re­ally care.

Coroner Lamaze

Saturday, 15 March 2008

I was at the County Coroner’s Office yes­ter­day for a meet­ing about re­do­ing their web­site, cur­rently one of the old­est in the County. After the meet­ing we were given a tour of the fa­cil­i­ties, which are im­pres­sive. I learned a lot about their pro­ce­dures, saw where the au­top­sies are per­formed [on the top floor, with plenty of win­dows], saw the safe where all of the weapons that re­sult in a death by ac­ci­dent or sui­cide are kept, and even saw a bit of a train­ing au­topsy. Those few sec­onds, be­ing a few feet away from hol­lowed corpse were much dif­fer­ent than watch­ing the Stan Brakhage film on the sub­ject and my sub­se­quent poem about it. The ac­tual event is much more fraught, I left with the feel­ing that work­ing at the Coroner’s of­fice must de­mand a very speci­fic met­tle for all parts of the job. I don’t know if I could work with un­known corpses, know­ing that in­fec­tious dis­ease trans­mis­sion like Hepatitis B is a very real pos­si­bil­ity. Even tran­scrib­ing the au­topsy re­ports must be a rel­a­tively sur­real act.

Their foren­sic pho­tog­ra­phy and video de­part­ments are very very ca­pa­ble and man­age some ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing tricks with their equip­ment.

At the other end of the spec­trum, to­day Debbie and I went to our one-shot lamaze class. Six hours long, it ate up our Saturday, but was quite in­for­ma­tive. When we were do­ing one of the var­i­ous breath­ing tech­niques, I had to count on my fin­gers at Debbie, and ac­ci­den­tally flipped her off. Of course, she cracked up and every­one thought she was the crazy one, not me.