The barn is a busy place with many overlapping priorities. Somehow, we manage to hold things together with duct tape and chewing gum, but we’re always longing for order and the greater sense of calm that (we imagine) would come in its wake. Over the past few years, we’ve tried to implement various schedules but have always fallen short when it comes to sticking to them. Perhaps our process depends on a certain degree of chaos? Or perhaps we’ve fallen short in the past because we never had a really big calendar before.
Well, now we do.
And as a result, as the bold block letters at the top attest, things are going to change around here. 2012 will be a year of productivity.
Usually I am the optimistic one, while Robbi keeps us firmly tethered to reality. But this time around, I feel compelled to play the role of naysayer. I’ve simply been duped too many times before by dreams of order.
But Robbi was not to be denied. She climbed up onto our work table and started slashing through the chaos.
Using highlighters of various shades, she marched forward without reservation. “Who is this woman?” I asked myself.
It was just Robbi, of course, eager at the advent of a new day.
Here’s hoping that this latest scheme is able to keep the ship afloat. We’re marching headlong into a busy spring, with book-related trips to Chicago, New York, Boston, DC, Williamstown, and Baltimore on the not-too-distant horizon.
At least we know when they’re all happening now. Here’s to a year of productivity. I hope that we survive it.
If you’re looking for your own year of productivity, this 27″x29″ beauty can be had via NeuYear for $24.
Aunt Mimi is visiting from Eastchester. Last night after dinner, she pulled out a gift: a pile of NY State scratch-offs, one for each of us, including the kids. It is a longstanding Behr tradition to do communal scratch-offs one person at a time, narrating as we go. The adults went first and came up empty. Not one stinking winner in the lot.
Then Alden had her turn. She approached the act of scratching with appropriate reverence and focus.
She scratched and scratched, her goal to match three dollar amounts. We previous four scratchers had suffered heartbreaking near-misses, so no one was getting his hopes up. But when she reached the end, LO!, Alden was the proud owner of a $2 winner!
She collected her earnings and promptly left for Atlantic City.
Next up was Kato, who scratched and came up dry. He’d better get used to this kind of disappointment. He is, after all, a middle child.
Which brings us to August. We presented him with his card and penny. He was excited by the prospect of his first scratch-off, but requested a short nap before scratching (in order to summon the needed energy).
A few minutes later, he woke up, scratched, and won—three dollars!
He collected his earnings and promptly fell asleep, dreaming of commerce (what does a baby want to buy?), blissfully unaware that this probably the only time in his life he’ll ever be ahead of the lottery.
I have received occasional inquiries about my “day job,” and wonder if it might be time to shed some light on the situation.
Yes, that’s right. I have a job. This reality surprises some and saddens others when they learn of it. The truth is, the appearance of unhinged bohemian bliss is mere illusion. I do work for “the man,” but as it turns out, he is a rather nice one.
Meet Clifford, company president and engine of our enterprise.
By title, I am the Director of Special Projects for the North Charles Street Design Organization (NCSDO), a Baltimore-based strategic marketing firm specializing in higher education.
What this means in non-marketing terms is that we help colleges and universities find distinctive and compelling ways to communicate with the students they would like to attract, admit, and matriculate. In a nutshell: we make the logos, viewbooks, brochures, web sites, email campaigns, postcards, banners, posters, etc. that help the right students find the right college match. But beyond making things, we are helping our clients develop and express ideas.
We’re in the business of artful, authentic differentiation. If we’ve done our jobs right, we help our clients discover ways of expressing their communities and cultures that are so essential and institutionally specific as to place themselves in a category of one. Meaning, we help them discover what only they can claim, what only they can offer, what only they can do.
Being Director of Special Projects I get to wear a lot of different hats. I write copy, draft strategic briefs, brainstorm ideas, conduct on-campus focus groups (with anyone from freshmen to professors to college presidents), keep an eye out for talent, interview potential employees, and do anything else “the man” wants me to do. I do not carry a weapon, though sometimes I wonder if I should.
It also means, I stand in dramatically lit rooms staring pensively down at my laptop from time to time.
I write this post to coincide with the launch of our latest web site, a beautiful production, if you ask me (I realize that you did not). If you have a few minutes, it’s a fun read.
A few of my favorite sections:
A frequently updated blog offering the latest intelligence in the higher education communications game.
An interactive feature that lets you name your own capital campaign, Ten Thousand Stories style. Surely at least one of you is trying to raise $500 million?
A chance to meet our staff of sexy communications consultants.
A gallery of stunning photography with annotations from our staff. Think Flickr with a higher-ed theme.
Three short films that introduce you to our setting (a restored firehouse in downtown Baltimore) and our staff of perfectionists.
Speaking of those wonderful perfectionists, the thing I like best about working at North Charles Street is the collection of remarkable people I get to call my colleagues, a veteran group of brilliant and dedicated writers, designers, consultants, coders, and production geniuses who come together to produce (in my humble opinion) the finest college communications to be found anywhere.
So, as it turns out, when I’m not making books with Robbi, I’m making books with Courtney, Carol, Sara, Tracy, Matt, Erica, Beth, Judy, Bernice, Armand, Jose, Jiho, Dan, Aaron, Ulfras, Marian, Ronnie, and Clifford.
Which is to say, my day job is entirely in keeping with my bohemian dream.
We drove across the bridge last weekend to visit Christian, Emily, Iris, and the twins, Milo and Emmett, now five weeks old. Here they are. Cute little suckers, I must say.
Robbi was eager to hold one of them.
Which twin was it, you ask? Honestly, I have no idea. Robbi didn’t have time to figure it out. Before she knew it, we handed her another baby.
She seemed so pleased, sitting there with the babies, that we decided to keep going.
It was kind of like arranging flowers in a vase. How long could this keep going, we wondered? We decided to push forward and see.
We added two more…not babies, exactly, but small, curly-headed people. Robbi remained resilient. We decided to go “all in” as they say in betting games.
The addition of two additional “babies” did nothing to dampen Robbi’s smile (though Kato seemed to sense that things were tipping toward calamity).
You may be wondering how long Robbi was able to maintain her tenuous facade of contentment and control.
To be honest, I have no idea. The rest of us left her there on the couch and went out to brunch.
Alden is proving to be an attentive big sister. The first thing she does every morning is to inquire into August’s whereabouts. Upon identifying his location (it’s almost always “in his beddy”), she demands to see him, feed him, and hug him. These demands continue pretty much constantly throughout the day until bedtime. Almost always, the last order of business before turning in for the night, is to hug the baby. Last night I happened to have my camera handy.
I hope the love fest will continue once August no longer resembles a stuffed animal and starts racing around messing with Alden’s stuff, but for now, it is a wonderful thing to see the rapture play out, again and again.
This just in: Our books can now be found on the shelves at Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago.
If you don’t know Quimby’s, the folks there describe themselves as
“an independently owned bookstore that sells independently-published and small press books, comics, zines and ephemera. We favor the unusual, the aberrant, the saucy and the lowbrow.”
Which is to say, we feel most comfortable there, among the trove of wonderful zines and independent comics.
Perhaps it is important to admit that our books have been at Quimby’s for the better part of two years now. But this is the first time we have secured photographic evidence. The photo above (and the photo below) come courtesy Tilly Pelczar, painter, drawer, printmaker, maker of books, and subscriber extraordinaire.
You other subscribers may recognize Tilly as the winner of the most recent contest.
We will endeavor to make a trek to Quimby’s to visit our books in February when we travel to Chicago for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference.
Alden and Kato will be staying home (to watch Iggy and the cats), but this year’s AWP will be August’s literary debut. For those of you who only come here for the baby pictures, here’s the little man, six weeks old and (seemingly) looking forward to more.
Though it once seemed unlikely, the commotion and calamity of my daylong vigil has drawn to a whimper.
August is asleep in his bouncer, kept content by the perpetual pulse of my left foot.
As for Kato and Alden, it seems the day of terror has sapped them of all will to stay awake. And yet, even in slumber, they remain in defiant cahoots. Each child has his own bed, so you know, but when I went to check on them a while back, I found them still conspiring.
I put Alden back in her own bed, tucked her in, kissed her forehead. Twenty minutes later I went back for an inspection.
It seems, on this day, I’m just not going to win. I suppose I should find some comfort in the fact that this is unconscious rebellion.
Sweet dreams, my dears. It’s days like these that keep me coming back for more.
I thought I was a good father, that I had the skills needed to watch my three kids for the day while their mother spent a day in the big city.
Six hours into the grand experiment, it’s time for a reality check.
Things started out well enough with some shared yogurt eating.
But then I turned my head for a moment and they were trying to escape.
I managed to quash the insurrection…for a moment, but while I was feeding August, they started playing “spider web.”
I’m pretty sure kids aren’t supposed to put bags of any kind over their heads, right? Am I right?
I took the bags off and gave them some lunch. Things seemed to be settling down. But then. Then came proof positive that I deserve to have my daddy badge revoked.
At that point I gave up and hid under the table, where I sit now with my laptop, in the fetal position, waiting for Robbi to come home.
Fortunately for me, August has been doing this all day long.
As for the other two, I have no idea what they’re up to. I think I just heard someone turn on the table saw…
Here’s the grim reality this morning in the Barn. Robbi has gone to NYC for the day, leaving me to care for the three (yes three) children for the next twelve hours.
See how torn up she seems to be?
So far, so good.
But, for now, August is still sleeping. For now, the other two have yet to realize the unprecedented power they currently hold over their already beleaguered father.
As for Robbi, she’s driving straight to Broadway to see our friend David Turner in On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever. Those of you who know David (and anyone who loves absurdity) might appreciate this recent review.
The show closes January 29, so if you’ve been meaning to see it, time to get your tickets.
I’ll check in throughout the day as time, energy, and sanity allows
I awoke this morning to a wall of good aroma blasting forth from the back of Against the Grain, the bakery I am blessed and cursed to live behind. In a bleary-eyed daze, I stumbled toward the open door in my flannel pants and slippers. As I entered the warm and delicious-smelling interior, I raised my fist in anger and cursed Doug the Baker for tormenting the neighborhood with constant temptation. Instead of challenging me to a duel (which I surely would have lost), Doug the Baker invited me to a VIP baguette tasting. Apparently, he had been up all night baking five kinds of baguettes. Once again, Doug has bested me without raising a finger. Lazy bum that I am, I spent the night sleeping.
Because Doug is a restless-minded culinary genius, he has been wondering lately about flour and how different varieties might introduce different kinds of properties into his baguettes.
So he has been gathering varieties of flour in anticipation of last night’s bake.
This morning, he lined up the results on a table in the back of the bakery, and asked a few close friends (and poorly dressed, uninvited interlopers) to partake.
Each was carefully cut…
…into appealing, bite-sized strips.
And carefully labeled for easy identification.
As the judging began, Doug demonstrated proper baguette-tasting technique which begins, interestingly enough, with deep nasal inhalation.
Of course, after executing a good sniff, the taster is then allowed to actually taste. Doug counseled us to “chew heartily,” or something along these lines. His point was to chew with purpose, to chew with presence of mouth, with full and open consciousness of tastebud. And so I did my best.
While chewing, I deliberated, with my fellow judges, legendary woodworker Bob Ortiz and a nice fellow named Tony, who had flown in from California just for the tasting.
As I moved down the line, tasting each baguette (and cleansing my palate between each with water), I was treated to a veritable carnival of taste and texture variety. I would like to describe the many meaningful distinctions with sophistication and precision, but I’m no gourmet and won’t pretend to be. I eat stuff and know when it’s good. The baguettes were very, very good.
Why am I telling you this? Because you, too, can taste to your heart’s content. All five baguettes are currently available right now at Against the Grain. Until they are gone, of course.
As for the results of the tasting, I’m not sure I can even say which baguette was best. I’m pretty sure I was the real winner.