I went to bed early last night in anticipation of an early rise this morning. (It’s one of those days when I wear clean pants and a tie and conduct actual business in the actual world.) Robbi did not join me, saying she was going to paint a bit before turning in.
I woke up at 2:55am and was surprised to find her still at it.
Robbi and I are not wired the same. I become bleary and incoherent by midnight and have never done the proverbial all-nighter. But when she needs to, Robbi is able to summon rare reserves of energy and march straight through the night. The current urgency is a book we’re trying to finish in time for our reading at Bookplate on Friday night (have I mentioned that we’d love to see you there?).
When I rolled out of bed for good at 5:00, she was still at it. She showed me her good work and promptly went to bed. Now I’m in Wilmington, waiting for a train.
Here’s how things stand.
We’re three weeks shy of Robbi’s due date, but if past is precedent, then Robbi might be 10 days early (as she was with Alden), 4 days early (as she was with Kato), or three weeks early, in which case I’d better start packing for the hospital now.
Robbi is, at present, illustrating a new book we hope to have finished in time for our reading this Friday. In spite of her evident discomfort, she remains cheerful and collaborative…so long as I do not cross her.
When I do, the price is heavy.
If you don’t know, really pregnant ladies are scary.
And yet so fetching.
Twice before in our illustrious history of doing readings at Chestertown’s Bookplate, the artist Ken Castelli has created hand-drawn posters to advertise the event. Our five-year anniversary reading is no exception. Here is Ken’s latest masterpiece.
Any of you who marked this event on your calendar when we posted about it last week, note that the starting time has moved to 6:30. That’s this Friday, December 2. We hope to see you there.
Yesterday’s shirking of Thanksgiving tradition included episodes of Mad Men, tortellini, and falling asleep whenever and wherever we felt like it.
It has never been more apparent why every girl needs a monkey.
Here’s hoping everyone is floating in a happy post-gluttony haze and that your skies today (wherever you may be) are as sunny as ours here in Chestertown.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!
We started celebrating by sleeping in till 8:15 this morning. I don’t know what happened, but the click of the doorknob and the pitter-patter of little feet coming to wake us happened much later than usual this morning. And for this, we give our deep-felt thanks.
It seems that we have spent the last two weeks eating and celebrating a lot. First, there was Fake Thanksgiving. We did the whole turkey thing and ate a lot a lot a lot.
I think Dad is still working through the leftovers. We even followed up the big meal with a game of football at the park.
I suspect this might be the last time in his life that Kato will be able to keep the ball from his cousin Raiden, who is one year his junior but nearly his equal in weight and height.
Following Fake Thanksgiving was my birthday feast. Matthew put together a fabulous grillfest. Thanks to our utility light and extension cord, he didn’t have to work entirely in the dark.
The grilling took place in the parking lot behind the barn, which belongs to the insurance agency around the corner. Though I know this information will totally ruin the Barn Mystique, we actually don’t live in the middle of a field, like most of you imagine. Our barn occupies a piece of land which is exactly the size of its footprint in the middle of Chestertown, and is surrounded on two sides by driveways, one side by a parking lot, and one side by the sidewalk and Queen Street. Our “garden” is actually on the strip of public land between the sidewalk and the street. So, grilling in the back parking lot is where it’s at.
Matthew did magnificently (though he will insist I tell you that he accidentally overcooked the salmon).
He did an A-Number-One job on my Jell-o Cake, in spite of the initial disaster. Though we do have to thank Ann for providing him with a working oven to actually bake it. Even Alden and Bob approved (they’re both kind of hard to please).
The ensuing profusion of leftovers from feast upon feast led to a Tupperware appraisal and overhaul. It turns out we have way more Tupperware than we could ever possibly use. And having it heaped in piles of miscellany in a corner cabinet was not putting it to good use.
And those are just the ones we found matching lids for. Of course, the Tupperware clean-up then prompted a fridge clean-up. Unfortunately, we have no photos. Matthew did it in a frenzy while I was out of the room, but suffice it to say, the fridge now seems a totally manageable and peaceful haven. We hope to make it last. It was discovered (in that moment when I was out of the room) that one of the prime offenders for fridge clutter is the number of open jam jars I have in the fridge.
Count ‘em. Eight. EIGHT! That’s ridiculous. It’s mostly ridiculous because I hardly ever eat jam. And Matthew only eats Smucker’s Strawberry. I have no idea why I have them all open. So I have been charged with the serious task of finishing the open jam.
So this Thanksgiving, instead of spending all day cooking the turkey, making the stuffing, whipping the mashed potatoes, stirring the gravy, baking the biscuits, slicing the ham and rolling out the pie crust, I will be eating jam.
And Matthew is celebrating the holiday on the couch, playing the Nintendo.
And for this, we are both quite thankful. We hope you’re enjoying your day in similar low-stress fashion. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Frankly, the title of this post says most of what you need to know. At 7:00pm on Friday, December 2 (that’s First Friday, for all of you Chestertonians), we will be doing a talk/reading/Q&A/signing, etc. at Chestertown’s own Bookplate where, almost exactly five years ago, we gave our first-ever reading as Idiots’Books.
Back then, we had no idea what we were doing and no inkling that our odd experiment in self-publishing would live to see a five-year anniversary. Today, we still have no idea what we’re doing, but we intend to spend an hour or so talking about it anyway.
If precedent holds, it will look something like this (plus 30lbs or so around Robbi’s midsection).
We’d love to see you there, if only to keep it from looking like this.
We will, of course, tell you about this again and again, but for those of you whose holiday season calendars are filling quickly, here’s your first warning.
I took a quick trip to NYC and back this weekend with my friend Christian, leaving our wives and children behind. To celebrate this rare sip of freedom, Christian wore his very special glasses.
The occasion? Our best friend from college, David Turner, is starring in the Broadway musical On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever. The show is currently in previews, and we were both determined to see it before our respective wives give birth.
Here is David.
If you find yourself swooning, you are not alone. He is, by all accounts, a very successful actor and, by all accounts, rather dreamy.
No stranger to Broadway, David has appeared in Arcadia, Sunday in the Park With George, The Ritz, The Invention of Love, and In My Life in addition to a bunch of off-Broadway shows.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Christian got to the city late afternoon with a mission in mind, to eat hand-pulled noodles in Chinatown at a place recommended by a friend of his.
We found it, a hole in the wall down a half-flight of steps.
We scanned the menu.
We found the selection–and the prices–to our liking. I ordered the most expensive item on the menu: Ox-Tail Hand-Pulled Noodle Soup, price $6. Christian chose the Fish Ball Hand-Pulled Noodle Soup, considerably more economical at $4.50. For yucks, we ordered some dumplings and some peanut butter noodles.
About three minutes later, the food arrived. Christian was excited.
I was just hungry.
We ate astonishing amounts of food, filling ourselves twice over. We were shocked when the bill came. $17.50 for the feast of ages. Given that my usual gripe with New York is having to take out a loan every time I visit, I was pleased.
We walked north for a long time, working off our suppers and enjoying the holiday window displays.
Eventually, we found ourselves in Times Square. It struck me how much it resembles Chestertown on a Saturday night.
Around 7:30, we wandered over to find the theater.
Did I mention that Harry Connick, Jr. is also starring in On a Clear Day?
For some reason, they put him on the marquee instead of David.
But right by the front door, there was our friend, larger than life.
On a Clear Day is a revival. The original opened in October of 1965 and earned three Tony nominations. A 1970 film version starred Barbara Streisand. The basic story remains the same this time around, but certain elements have been tweaked. David’s character was a woman in the original, for example.
For my money, David stole the show, evidenced by the fact that, afterward, throngs of hopeful fans waited for him by the stage door (ok, maybe a few of them were there to see Harry Connick, Jr.)
Christian and I waited as David signed autographs for his public.
When David was done, he ushered us inside, where we were adorned with VIP badges. It was pretty exciting.
We went up to his dressing room.
We admired his colorful, bell-bottom-laden wardrobe (the show is set in the mid-70′s, and the incredible costumes are reason enough to see it).
I just can’t say enough about David’s performance, how beautifully he sang, how well he danced, how masterfully he inhabited his character. He’s a comic genius, and this show is the perfect vehicle for his humor. Drawing inspiration from his muses Carol Channing and Bea Arthur, he had the audience on the edge of their seats and begging for more. It was such a genuine pleasure to see a friend thriving in his profession and exceeding his dreams.
When we got to the street, the crowd was starting to disperse. Harry Connick, Jr. was just pulling away from the curb–in a pickup truck, not a limo.
Apparently, that’s how he rolls.
It was fun seeing Harry Connick, Jr. up there. He’s a incredible singer and a great performer.
But as far as I’m concerned, the night belonged to David. I was so proud of him, and I let him know.
We went to the OB yesterday for the latest reality check. Apparently Robbi is “measuring correctly,” which seems impossible since she can barely fit through the front door. Her due date is one month from today, which is to say, we’re in full-blown denial mode. We have three books to finish before now and then.
I’ve warned Robbi that if she has this baby before all the scheduled work is done, I’m going to rely on my backup illustrator.
Her work is solid.
Her work ethic peerless.
Just wanted to give you a heads-up, so that you’re not caught off guard by a dramatic shift in style when your next book arrives.
This weekend we took a day trip to visit our dear friend and honorary crazy uncle, Wild Bill. Bill is always chock full of cockamamie tales from his colorful past and conspiracy theories about our collective colorful future. He has a knack for making even an uneventful narrative completely entertaining to listen to – a son of Tennessee, his musical drawl is peppered with onomatopoeia, “doowah-diddies” and “them’s the biscuits”.
Wild Bill is such a fascinating character that he is the subject of our only non-fiction Idiots’Book The Last of the Real Small Farmers, which basically was his running monologue one day while we had lunch with him. The book also features one of my favorite drawings of a democracy decimating device.
Bill lives in a ramshackle house on a farm in Virginia, a final holdout against the creeping suburbia that is the Washington Metropolitan Area.
Needless to say, visits with him are always a breath of fresh air, both figuratively and literally.
Bill knows pretty much everything about the woods – names of lichens, the ways the deer make their trails, the history of the Pawpaw tree, you name it.
Alden discovered a school of fungus, and in the absence of a good fishing hole (though the Potomac burbled by a short distance away, it was a rather steep vertical sort of distance too precarious to travel with a three-year-old, an unsteady almost-two-year-old, and a very unsteady Momma Behr) found gratifying enough entertainment trying to catch little fungi on the end of her stick.
Kato led a tour of Bill’s garden, which defies all the laws of rows and groups and tags and mulching and tending and yet thrives in a jungley sort of way. Summer crops have long since given up and tilt haphazardly back to the earth on brittle stems. It is a wonderland of birds, bugs and mystery greens, and Kato returned with a couple unripe tomatoes and some horseradish Bill dug up for him. He seemed quite pleased with this.
The inside of Wild Bill’s house is as much a wonderland as the outside (in fact, the boundary between the two is often imperceptible). Collections of all kinds hang on the walls.
(I particularly like that the short-handled axe hangs with the knife sharpener.) It is easy to imagine Bill’s life off the grid, sitting at the kitchen table by the wood-burning stove, eating breakfast and reading Kant (yeah, that’s what he does).
Though Bill enjoys some modern amenities (he has a phone, for example, and a tractor), he eschews much of what we take for granted as “convenient.” Though he has a stovetop, he confesses to rarely using it, and instead does most of his cooking on top of the wood-burning stove (being a man of the South, Bill keeps his house at a comfortable 90 degrees at all times, and often wears a wool hat to boot). The stovetop is most often used as a staging area.
But my favorite detail (and one of the most telling) is Bill’s microwave.
A closer look:
Yes, Bill uses his microwave as a place to store tape.
He is certainly one-of-a-kind.
While we snacked on Jerusalem artichoke and frozen blackberries from his garden, Bill rushed out of the room to fetch something he’d been saving for us since September.
The Swanson sweet potato. How appropriate. For those of you who have read The Last of the Real Small Farmers, you know that the story begins and ends with a sweet potato.
Life can be so sweet. Thanks for a great visit, Bill.
(…and now I have to print this post out and send it to him via the good old USPS, the only folks who can track him down.)
Today is Robbi’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Robbi.
Because I try to make Robbi happy, I decided to bake her a cake. A Jell-o cake, as has been the longstanding tradition, when it comes to commemorating the anniversary of Robbi’s arrival.
All was going well, at first, in spite of the advanced baking techniques required: zesting a lemon, sifting flour, separating eggs. I was feeling good about myself.
Until I registered the funny smell. The preheating oven was spewing forth unholy smoky fumes.
It was only then that I remembered, far too late, that since we got the new dishwasher, we have been storing the old dish drainer inside the oven.
My valiant attempts at rescue were in vain.
In addition to the loss of our dish drainer (to which we had more sentimental attachment than you can probably understand), I filled our entire living space with thick black smoke. We had an emergency evacuation. In spite of a full night of work by our powerful fans, the room still has an unholy reek.
Here are the requisite “morning after,” shots: an anthem to my shame, that I might never forget the tragedy wrought on the eve of Robbi’s 36th birthday.
And from the other side.
If you look at it in a certain light, and kind of squint your eyes, you can almost believe that it’s a perfectly roasted marshmallow.
And Robbi loves marshmallows.
Ah birthdays. As time rolls on, I think it helps to endure them with a bit of comic relief.