August has suddenly graduated from infant to something else. Maybe it has something to do with all the sweet potatoes he’s been eating lately or maybe it’s plain old growing up, but all of a sudden he is taking the world by storm, doing that which seemed previously beyond his grasp.
He is standing, for example.
Perhaps we’ll call it leaning, instead.
He is sitting on my shoulders.
My ears have not been this badly mangled in quite some time.
He is swinging.
With a little help from his friends, of course.
And he is making a splash with the ladies.
About 25 years earlier his father was able to accomplish this feat, I should add. Isn’t that what parents are supposed to want: that their kids have more of everything than they did?
The weekend before last, we drove to Baltimore to celebrate Iris’s fourth birthday.
August got a chance to hang out with the twins.
Kato got a chance to eat a cupcake.
And Alden got a chance to defy gravity, if only for a moment.
Later that afternoon, we drove south to Silver Spring for a farewell picnic. Our friends Peter and Veronica are pulling up their DC roots and moving to Northampton, site of a lackluster liberal arts college and many lovely trees.
We are sad to see them go, but Kato is even sadder to see their daughter Anna go. She is, in a word, pretty great.
First off, the girl knows how to handle a football.
I was impressed and wondered to myself whether she could also catch one.
Given Kato’s limited throwing skills, the world may never know.
Unable to woo Anna with his athletic prowess, Kato opted instead for showing off his rock-hard abs.
It seemed to work. Things were going well indeed, until…
…someone’s sister showed up.
Already protective, I see. And probably for the best. I’ve done the long-distance relationship thing before, and it’s no fun.
Perhaps one day the two friends will reunite, perhaps at another, less despicable college on the wholesome end of the Commonwealth.
Last week I presented you with the following challenge: identify the wearer of the underwear below (as a hint, I offered that the model was a “famous writer”) and write a fitting caption for the scene depicted.
There was great enthusiasm for identity guessing. The range of possibilities included many heavy-hitters from the literary set:
Some long-dead greats:
(Too short to be) Longfellow!
A few contemporary masters:
John Green, looking for elastic. (he wrote a book called Looking for Alaska)
One bona-fide rock star:
Must be Mr. Stun Buns himself
And a couple of washed-up wannabes (with admittedly well-shaped buttocks):
I am sorry to say that not a single one of you correctly identified the owner of those well-loved orange boxer shorts. I’ll reveal his true identity in a moment. As for the captions, here were the finalists:
Ripped from the headlines?
Feeling a little cheeky…
I’m not sure why a Hemingway theme emerged in these responses. Something tells me that Hemingway’s buttocks would be larger and much more hairy. But no one asked my opinion on the matter.
As for the winner, I’m partial to “U-rip-a-these,” a play on Euripedes (an undeniably famous writer). Something about the thought of an ancient Greek playwrite ambling around in silk boxer shorts tickles my funny bone. And so, for his troubles, Mr. Robert Ortiz is the proud winner of my root-beer flavored Yankee Candle lip balm.
Bob, I’ll bring it by in person. If any of the rest of you is a fan of fine, contemporary furniture in the Shaker and Japanese traditions, I highly recommend checking out Bob’s site. Or stop by his studio the next time you’re in Chestertown. It’s about two blocks from the barn.
As I said earlier, no one correctly identified the writer in question, and so The Sensational Pansy Saddle will dwell in the barn for yet another day.
I’m sure you’re all kicking yourself as I tell you that our underwear model is none other than Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of the critically acclaimed Lincoln’s Melancholy, the writer of the most read article in the history of TheAtlantic.com, and the relentless, probing mind behind the four-part Slate.com series on Robbi’s and my creative collaboration.
Here he is.
And here he is again (one of my favorite photos, taken at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge a few summers back).
Josh gave us his blessing to post the photo, saying that “My ass needs some exposure.” And whose ass doesn’t? The plight of many a famous writer: always a need for greater doses of the same.
And so, I offer this prime venue for any of you dozens and hundreds of famous writers who read this blog. Send us a photo of you in your skivvies and we’ll keep this contest going.
That Pansy Saddle needs to find another home somehow.
At 4:30 Friday afternoon, we learned from Tilly (who seems to be very much “in the know”) that there were Tea-Party-themed races for kids happening at Washington College at 5:30 Friday afternoon. This kind of last-minute life planning has become par for the proverbial course around here. Which is to say, we grabbed our running shoes and drove up to the college.
Once there, Alden and Kato registered and were issued numbers.
Kato was to run in the “two-year-old boys” race (or so we believed) and Alden would be grouped with the “four-year-old girls.”
Before any racing could occur, the kids needed to get limber. And so I, their ad-hoc, self-appointed trainer showed them how to touch their toes.
And stretch their…you know…the big muscle in the front of the leg.
And the little muscle in the back of the leg.
And the…muscle kind of in the middle of the leg.
And…you know…the…well…the…muscle that…
As trainers go, I operate more on intuition than science. After a while, Kato caught on and told me that he “wasn’t about to risk [his] health at the ill-informed whim of some ill-informed charlatan.”
He had a point. And so we gave up stretching and just danced.
And then we hydrated.
Limbered up with bellies full of water, we waited in the bleachers for the kids’ races to begin.
Eventually the two-year-olds were summoned to the starting line. Along the way, Kato, man of science, checked the density of the running surface.
Apparently, he was not pleased with what he discovered.
Which is why, I’m guessing, instead of running when his race began, he stood at the starting line expressing his heartfelt disapproval.
Alden’s race was next. She lined up with the competition.
We had convinced Kato to come along, telling him that he could run with Alden, which seemed to please him. Alas, surveying the crowd at the starting line, he recognized himself to be the only two year old. And the only boy.
The race began. He gave it a spirited six paces or so.
And then decided that it would be more fun to eat a popsicle.
Alden, on the other hand, found racing much to her liking. She tore around the track. Coming down the final stretch, it looked like she was in the lead.
But only because the 13 other girls had already crossed the finish line. Yes, Alden was next to last, though you would never know it to look at her beaming smile as she ran the 1/8 mile stretch.
After the race, she was flooded with paparazzi requests, but tastefully demurred.
We got some hot dogs and headed home, glad to live in a town that does this kind of thing.
It’s Tea Party weekend in Chestertown. Which means our peaceful burgh is under constant attack from the marauding hordes.
An enormous red crab.
And a bagpipe brigade, which was, perhaps, the least welcome of the invaders. At least as far as Alden and Kato were concerned.
Poor August doesn’t even know how to cover his ears.
In spite of all the hustle and bustle and hassle and heat, yesterday’s Tea Party was, perhaps, the most wonderful day of my life. The reason? I got kissed by the most beautiful lady in the world.
Alden spotted her first. “Look at that beautiful lady, Papa!” she exclaimed. As evidence, she pointed out the lady’s beautiful dress, which happened to feature two flowers (Alden is a sucker for floral garnish).
Lucky for me, the beautiful lady heard Alden, and when she turned to see who had paid the compliment, she saw me.
And, Friends, that was that. One glance at yours truly, and the lady was smitten. She readied herself.
And we decided to run off together.
My heart was soaring. I had been singled out by prettiest lady at Tea Party, and I had evidence.
But just as quickly as my heart had been lifted, so then was it crushed as my dearest ran off to court another, a man half my age and one third my size.
This sort of emotional turmoil is just par for the course when it comes to Tea Party. I’m crushed, of course, but prepared to move on. It helps to know that Tea Party happens every year. The Redcoats will march again. That giant fuzzy crab will certainly return. And maybe, just maybe, there’s another kiss in my future.
We were so excited about Tilly’s arrival in the Barn. Things were going to be great. All of the less-than-critical-but-still-pretty-important stuff that we don’t have time to do was suddenly, as if by magic, going to be done by someone else. Tilly showed up, eager and willing to dive into anything and everything. For the first four days of her internship, it was smooth sailing.
But this morning, August woke up with other ideas. All week, he has listened attentively as we walked Tilly through her responsibilities. And just now, before any of us had a chance to say otherwise, he climbed up onto Tilly’s stool, and the coup was on.
As an intern, he was utterly ineffective. His file management protocol is less than laughable. His sense of layout is pedestrian. And he has a childlike affinity for comic sans.
And Tilly told him so.
Pulling no punches, I might add.
Four days into her internship, Tilly has proven several things:
1) she works hard and listens well
2) she is smart and capable
3) she won’t put up with sass from babies
August has slunk of into some corner to bask in his wretched irrelevance. All that remains of him is a tear-soaked Kleenex.
Give it another 22 years, kid. Maybe someday you can hope to equal the magnificence of Tilly.
Hello all. With apologies, today’s post is for the benefit of a small subset of you. Namely, those of of you who might be attending the Williams College reunion that begins two weeks from tomorrow.
Robbi and I will be there. Alden, Kato, and August will be there. Even Tilly will be there.
In addition to catching up with old friends and basking in the quiet glory of the stunning Berkshire Mountains, we will be giving a children’s book reading and book making workshop for reunion attendees at 1:00 Saturday afternoon (in Goodrich Hall).
We will be using the occasion to debut the first book in the Bobbledy Books series, The Girl With Frogs in Her Ears, the touching tale of a small girl and a big ogre, who transcend cultural difference, temporary deafness, and onion-smelling breath in forging a lasting friendship.
After the reading, we’ll break the kids into two groups (little and less little) and will show them how to make books. The little guys will make saddle-stitch books and the slightly bigger ones will make wire-bound mix-and-match books (like Build Your Own President, but with slightly less cynicism).
If any of you readers are attending reunion, enjoy ogres, and are not opposed to the prospect of improving the lives of children, we’re looking for a few extra sets of hands for the workshop. We’ll need folks to help bind the books, keep the peace, and offer the emotional support young authors and artists need as they launch into career-defining work. If you’re interested, drop me a line.
Hello Friends. Today is the start of something new—and wonderful—at Idiots’Books. Today is the first-ever installment of a new contest in which we show a famous writer’s underwear and you have to guess who it is!
Here is the writer in question:
To guess, send me an email. Please DON’T post your guess as a comment.
To heighten the intrigue, we’re going to turn this sucker into a caption contest, as well.
In seeming contradiction to the instructions above, please DO post your caption in a comment to this post. We’ll name the winner this coming Sunday.
But what is a contest without prizes? The first one to correctly identify the writer in question will win his choice of either the Pansy Saddle…
Or the Yankee Candle Root Beer Float lip balm.
As loathe as I am to part with these precious items, the thought of sharing them with you fills me with an even greater happiness.
So have at it. Happy guessing.
And while you’re at it, see if you can drum up any other famous writers who might be willing to participate.
I am Tilly. And I am taking this moment of being alone in the studio to make my first post with the Idiots.
I am so glad to be here! And lucky. If I didn’t know Matthew and Robbi I’d probably be making sculptures under broken bridges in Chicago in between babysitting jobs and gagging from pollution, which actually doesn’t sound that bad, but being an Idiot is far more professional. I’m not doing anything too exciting yet that I can photograph, and I don’t have any cute babies, so I’ll just show the most defining factor of my experience thus far: excitement. (I know it looks like I’m trying to scare you, but believe me, it’s excitement.)
For those of you interested in visiting Chestertown, Memorial Day weekend might be just the time to do it. For the weekend, our sleepy little hamlet is transformed into a hustling bustling mecca of crafty commerce and colonial shenanigans.
There are bluecoats on parade.
There are bowling bluecoats.
There are redcoats, too, but nobody really wants to be a redcoat. All the redcoats get thrown overboard in grand fashion during the reenactment of the tossing of the tea.
(Special thanks to Captain Andy of Echo Hill, doing the tossing with flair, and ye olde Gibson Anthony of Radcliffe Creek School (and partly responsible for our new rail trail) for staying enough out of the way to get this great photo without getting tossed in himself).
There are giant crabs. (Well, really, there’s only one of them).
There are raft races, in which homemade rafts battle it out with varying levels of success for amazingly rudimentary trophies.
(we could have used Gibson and his fine photography skills here. Just imagine this photo with much more drama. There you go.)
So come one, come all! Make some time in your calendars for the Chestertown Tea Party! If you’re lucky, you might even see us wandering around town. Most likely in the line for funnel cakes.