A Spring Spring

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

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

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

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

I’ve been burn­ing up Immor­tal Tech­nique late­ly; dig­ging through a bunch of cov­ers by of Mon­tre­al, 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

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

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.