Tuesday, September 30, 2008

That was the moment when I knew...

In “Good Omens” there’s an adorable little scene where one of the characters has to explain why his car is named Dick Turpin, causing him great embarassment—“because it’s always holding up traffic.” That’s sort of how I felt today when I was chatting with a black lab’s cute grad-student owner who queried how I named Kizzy. “Well,” I said, blushing ferociously, “have you ever heard of Admiral Horatio Nelson…”

Tomorrow all hell is going to break loose, loyal readers, and I’m not looking forward to it. The powers that be have decided that once every six months, the two tailoring teams will swap genders, meaning tomorrow the men’s team (including me) will become the woman’s team. Instead of shirts, weskits and breeches it'll be shifts, petticoats and jackets. I’m okay with it—I’m still learning the role, so even if I stayed on the men’s team, I’d be asking a lot of questions. Making women’s clothes will be differently challenging. The thing I’m most upset about is the fact that, well, there are no breeches or regimentals on the women’s team, so I won’t get to touch so much as a kneeband, not a single bloody epaulet, for the next six months. Sigh.

But a lot of the tailors—well, all right, just about everyone else—is upset about this change. The two teams were well-chosen when it came to assigning mens-vs-women’s clothes, and the switch isn’t making anyone happy. There’s nothing anyone can do about it except deal, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of rudeness going around—“I hate men’s clothes!” “I hate women’s clothes!” Yes, well, that’s charming, but it’s not going to change anything.

It’s interesting how awkward I feel whenever I put on my women’s clothes. I’ve been rehearsing in my petticoat and shoes, to get the feel for them, and I feel really… dorky. My roommate can swan about in her period clothes looking like she’s just stepped out of an American Girls book (the early ones, before they were sold to Mattel), but I look like I’m wearing a costume, and I walk like I haven’t worn a skirt in years. Oh, wait, I haven’t. Much less heels. On the other hand, I love wearing breeches. I would wear them all day, every day if I could. They are that comfortable, and I love showing off my shapely leg. Arg. I’m going to have to take lessons about how to be a lady again…I’m guessing lesson one would be “don’t hike up your skirts to your thighs to give your mosquito bites a good scratching.” At least no one can deny I’ve got the period leg hair for it…

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Charnal Ship

As a storyteller for the evening programs, I take the bare bones of a tale and pad it out into a proper story. Then I present it to the director of evening programs, and he gives feedback, and we work on it until my story is "cleared"--then I'm put into the schedule for evening rotation. I haven't been cleared yet, but I'm working on my story today, and I thought my loyal readers would like to read it. (yes, I recycled an old character, but he's such a good one...)


adapted by NM Lemery

It is true I married somewhat late in life. I had almost given up hope of ever finding a husband, when I met Mr. Clarke. It happened thusly: One day, while I was walking home from church with my six brothers, Mr. Clarke fell in alongside me and struck up a conversation about some land he had recently purchased in Virginia. This continued for many weeks, while he described in detail the school he wished to build, where pupils could work the land in exchange for their tuition. A splendid plan, I thought, and I told him so. He blushed and said—“Elizabeth, you’ve heard all about my plans, but what it’s really lacking is a wife. So what d’you say? Will you come to Virginia with me and make the experiment?”

Well! I tell you, for a man to propose an experiment where a marriage proposal is expected is very bold, but I confess that is the moment when I fell most deeply in love with my Mr. Clarke, and I accepted—both him and his experiment. We were married a month later, in the presence of my six brothers, and there was never a happier woman than I.

When we had been married for a month and some days, Mr. Clarke took his leave of me to sail to Virginia, to begin building his great scholastic experiment, promising to send for me—“as soon as I get a house built to suit you.” He wrote me faithfully nearly every day, and I lived through those letters, reading about the people and climates of Virginia, about the buildings he was constructing. I only wished to be by my husband’s side, to help him build our new lives together. I imagined myself inside these letters, safe in our new house in Virginia, surrounded with the family I so longed for. At last the long-awaited letter arrived: “The house is finished to my satisfaction, Liza, come home to me.”

I booked passage on a ship the very next day. As it happened, a merchant trader, the Windsong, was due west from Portsmouth in a few week’s time. Her captain, Andrew Hollee, was a youngish man, but very well respected by his crew and his business partners. I made the necessary arrangements, and embarked on a blustery day in early March.

If you have never been aboard a ship, you cannot imagine it. Everything is crammed together, folded and stacked to take up the least amount of room possible, for space is at a premium on a ship. The ship itself feels like a live being—the timbers under your feet constantly roll with the waves. The hull and masts creak in the wind, the rigging and sails groan with the strain. The first night I lay in my bunk listening to the sounds thinking I should go mad from them, but after the course of a few days they became familiar and dear to me. The crew was a diverse group of men from all over England, united only in their distrust of me. I had heard that some mariners considered it ill luck to have a woman on board, and so I took it upon myself to lay in a good supply of “trinkets” so that I might “make friends with the natives.” Accordingly I brought along numerous small cakes, and some traveling Bibles, which I distributed with goodwill. I never saw the Bibles again, though, I was assured by Captain Hollee that the crew had taken to reading them most assiduously before they turned in to their hammocks for the evening. After that we got along splendidly.

Yes, the voyage looked to be a rather unremarkable one. We cut through a stormy grey Atlantic, bound westward toward the setting sun day after day. Then one day, about two weeks out, I awoke to notice the air had grown considerably colder. I wrapped myself in my warmest clothes and came on deck. What I saw chilled me even more thoroughly than the wind had—in the night we had approached a field of icebergs. I cannot begin to attempt to describe them. They are so utterly massive, so devoid of life, yet so silent and terrifying, moving through the water without aim or intention, but capable of sinking a ship or crushing her. I wrapped my cloak more tightly around myself as Captain Hollee approached me. He touched his hat. “Mrs. Clarke, I’m afraid that we will be in for a bit of weather tonight—but you must trust me to bring you through safely.” I assured him I did so, but the sight of those icebergs terrified me. The smallest was easily five times the size of the Windsong, and an unexpected breeze could have dashed her upon that ice as if she were running aground upon the hardest rock.

The wind and the waves began to pick up, tossing the Windsong from side to side. The familiar comforting sounds of the ship began to pick up, moving into new territory that froze the blood in my veins. The rigging no longer sang, it screamed under the wind, the sails were like uncontrollable birds that flapped in the wind. The ship’s crew ran to and fro in an orderly fashion, bringing in the sails, tying down the items on deck, and generally preparing for the storm. I thought the worse had hit, but at nightfall—the storm increased.

Now, friends, you may have seen such a storm on land, but to ride through one on a ship, you cannot imagine. The very deck beneath your feet heaves and rolls so that you must cling on to something or you will be tossed overboard, into the churning waves. The waves roll over the deck so that every minute you are convinced you are swamped, only to have the ship rise again. The masts sway like the trees of the forest they once were.

I secured myself in my tiny cabin, falling to my knees and clinging to my bunk, gasping every prayer I had ever learned, seeking to God to save us. I was in mortal terror, thinking about the giant floes of ice that surrounded us, imagining each creak of the ship to be the sound that signaled her imminent destruction. The noise was unbelieveable. The friendly sounds of the ship’s timbers groaned and creaked like a dying creature. The wind pushed through the rigging like a banshee, the shouts of the crew sounded like the desperate cries of haunted souls. I thought I was going mad from the cacophony. Animal cries could be heard upon the wind, mad singing, and then—strangest of all—I heard a baby’s cry rising loud and clear above the din. It was so clear that I found myself rising to my feet, determined to find the source, before I remembered myself. It was only a trick of the wind, but oh how real it seemed…

Sheer exhaustion finally took me to sleep. I awoke to find myself huddled on the floor of my cabin, still dressed in my warmest clothes, clutching my blankets. The ship was still. I flew up to the deck to see what had happened. A sorry sight greeted my eyes—one of the masts had been swept away, and the ship’s crew was engaged in replacing it with a jury-rig, while others were sweeping debris or repairing the canvas on the remaining mast. They all looked exhausted, haunted, as I knew I myself must look. Captain Hollee himself was at the helm, grim and determined. And all around us were the silent icebergs, like sentinels on the side of a Pharoh’s tomb, waiting for their chance to send us to the bottom of the ocean.

Captain Hollee ordered one of the boats lowered, and several of the ship’s crew went into it and began to pull us through the field. It felt like walking through a graveyard. We were surrounded by flat, blue-black water, out of which thrust the white, utterly silent mountains, like the tombs of the long-dead where the names have been eroded away. It was very cold, and very quiet, the quieitude only magnified by the tumult we had gone through the night before. So very cold, and so very quiet. We moved past the silent mountains, hardly daring to breath, as though any noise would bring them down upon us.

Then suddenly, a black trail leading through the white jags, beyond which was the open sea and safety. Cheers greeted this sight, and the men in the boat pulled harder. We moved forward at a snail’s pace, eager to be free of this haunted place, when suddenly--we spied another ship! A ship which had not survived the storm, alas, but was wrecked upon one of the treacherous icebergs. Her masts and rigging were in sad disarray. There was not a soul in sight. Captain Hollee halloe’d them several times, but there was no reply. “I will go aboard,” he said “it is clear they are in need of whatever assistance we can give.”

At that moment I thought of the baby’s cry I had heard the night before—perhaps the wind had carried that cry from a child on board this wrecked ship! “Captain Hollee!” I said “I wish to go with you!” And I quickly explained what I had heard. “If there is a child on board that ship—or another woman—they will be grateful for the presence of another female.” Captain Hollee protested most strongly, but I insisted. I had survived the terrible storm, and I felt alive and invincible and determined.

We made the only noise that day, the oars cutting through the black water, the heavy breathing of the straining mariners. And the occasional halloo from Captain Hollee, which was never returned. When we came alongside that ship, Captain Hollee insisted on going first. He was followed by two of his sailors, and then I was handed up. The deck presented a strange sight—even I, who was only recently indoctrinated into that orderly world of the sea—could see that the deck was in total disarray. It was as if no attempt had been made to put to rights what the storm had torn asunder. Ropes and sails hung where they had fallen, barrels and boxes lay broken upon the deck. And all around us…that eerie silence.

We began to grow uneasy, and a pistol or two appeared. Captain Hollee bade me stay where I was, and advanced towards the captain’s cabin. The other sailors fanned out along the deck, searching for signs of life. The silence was so deafening I wanted to sing to break the tension—and then I heard it again. A baby’s cry. Fainter now than it had been when it first came to me in the storm, but there was no doubt in my mind that it came from belowdecks. I moved towards the hatchway, unobserved by any of the crew, and went down a flight of stairs.

Fainter and fainter that cry grew until it disappeared all together, but not before I could see where it came from. The air was so cold—that poor child, I thought, as I moved down the tiny hallway—to have survived such a storm and now this coldness! Something fearful must have happened to its mother, to leave it in such a dire situation. I pushed open the door to the cabin—a cabin not unlike my own aboard the Windsong--

There was a woman there, lying in a bunk that was not unlike my own aboard the Windsong. She was wearing a white shift and was quite asleep. Lying in the crook of her arm was the baby I had heard, one tiny hand clutching at a strand of her brown hair. Mother and baby were fast asleep, holding onto each other. My heart was softened at the sight of such a sweet image. But it was too cold by far for them in that room. It was clear that they were ill prepared for such cold weather—they must come onto the Windsong, where there would be warm food and blankets for them. I went forward to wake the woman and her exhausted child, to tell them that their delivery was at hand.

But when I touched her hand, I instantly knew something was wrong. It was cold, too cold by far for a living person…and that’s when I noticed the sunken attitude about her cheeks, her closed eyes. And the child as well, no baby ever lay so still in its mother’s arms. They were dead—dead! The baby—the slightest opening of an lid revealed a glitter of an eye, as though the tiny corpse were playing a joke on me and wanted to see my reaction. Dead in each other’s arms, the mother clinging to her baby in death as she must have in life. The brown curl which the baby clutched a cadaver’s curl, no comfort to be found there.

I screamed. I screamed and ran out of the room, back up the hallway. There were more shouts to greet me—the Windsong’s crew had discovered similar bodies in other places among the ship. “The ship’s boy is frozen, standing at the bottom of the stair!” I heard one cry, while another described the ship’s crew frozen in their hammocks, hands still clutching onto the mouldering canvas. We flooded onto the deck in a terror—my heart was pounding my chest worse than it had the night before. We had not stumbled onto a ship in need of rescue, but into a tomb, a frozen tomb, afloat in a frozen world.

Captain Hollee came out of the great cabin, and we quickly got into the boat and away from that horrible charnal ship. I could not stop thinking about what I had seen. The two pale, sunken faces, together in death, haunted my thoughts and my dreams for days and weeks to come. I took to my bunk aboard the ship and remained there for the rest of the voyage, where I would start out of sleep, shaken awake by a baby’s wail.

We reached Boston soon after, and finally Virginia, sweet Virginia, where spring had finally made its appearance, although the warmth of the sun did little to dispel the chill in my bones. On the last day of our trip, I brought the subject up to Captain Hollee, saying, “It is terrifying to think we might have suffered a similar fate, if Providence had not protected us.”

Captain Hollee looked disconcerted for a second, then he said, “Mrs. Clarke, before we left the ship, I took the liberty of taking away the ship’s log. The last entry was made twenty-five years ago!”

Friends, I had not yet made my appearance on this earth twenty-five years ago. And already that ship was afloat on the high seas with its terrible cargo. That woman and her ghastly baby—already dead and frozen, condemned to circle the north Atlantic unceasingly. They are there still. Waiting for someone to set them free—although I hope, friends, if you make a voyage, you will not suffer the sights I have seen. And still see, in my dreams, in my nightmares. I often pray that I will be able to put this disaster behind me…but then a dark night will arrive, a cold night, and a baby’s cry will come to me upon the wind. Then I must get me to bed with a pile of blankets and a bed warmer, and I shake and shake…I cannot get warm. I cannot get warm.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

get on the bus..I ain't never turning back!

So I was babysitting again today, and I'm not proud to say that I resorted to television a couple times to keep an eye on the girls while I prepared a delicious meal of peanut butter and jelly. But I thought I'd mix things up a little and put on the Doodlebops instead of Dora. The Doodlebops--pay attention new parents, because you'll want to know this--are apparently a trio of siblings who are rock stars of the pre-school variety. IE, they wear crazy-ass makeup and sing repetitive songs all the while talking directly to the camera.

Some of my loyal readers know how I feel about High School Musical and other mass-marketed commercialized crap. It is crap. There's plenty of regular musicals out there for young people, like Newsies or Hairspray, stay away from High School Musical! Hannah Montana, I'm looking at you! But the Doodlebugs get the Nicki stamp of approval because you can see how they are a gateway drug to more hardcore musical interests. Namely, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself:

See what I mean?

I bet the actors who play the brothers Doodle sit around in the dressing room and fight over lipliner and argue about who looks better in tight pants. Yeah. So I definitely say Doodlebops for everyone...it'll make my job easier when the kids get older and I get them a box set of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Training the Human

First off, a confession: I called Grandma last night just to catch up, since it's been awhile...and as we're wont to do, we discussed the current political situation, with me cheerleading Barack Obama and Grandma admitting that she really didn't want to vote for either of them. So I candidly suggested that she could, if she wanted to, write-in someone on the ballot, casually suggesting Mike Huckabee, since I know she liked him when he was still in the running. That seemed to perk her interest, and while I tried to sound patriotic, explaining that as Americans we can vote for whoever we want! in the back of my mind I must confess I was thinking "one less vote for..."

I am a bad, bad person. As punishment, I forced myself to write this a hundred times:

"I will not coerce my 93-year old grandmother into voting for a third party so I can get my candidate one step closer to the White House."

So. Yeah.

Zomg! Debate! Still on! Half an hour now--beer is chilling and buffalo wings are defrosting! You can keep your Superbowl parties...I only wish I had a crowd of Barack supporters here to share the love with me. O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!

In the meantime, I still have a beagle. I'm starting to feel like the Dread Pirate Roberts--you know: "Good work, Wesley, sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning." Only here it's more like, "I'll most likely get rid of you in the morning." But we're starting to speak each other's language, so it's getting easier. Oh, believe me, there are times when I am thisclose to chucking him off the verandah, but it is really nice having a dog around, especially one who falls asleep in your lap. Aw.

We've been having a problem with peeing in the house though. I know he can hold it, because he does while I'm away at work, but in the evenings--when he has to go, he'll find a spot in the house and let 'er rip. It's not marking, but full on splashdown. I posted a pic of Kiz in her oh-so-sexy bellyband, but even that didn't stop him. Then I started thinking--it's not him, it's me. He doesn't bark, he doesn't whine, he doesn't let me know he needs to go out. Sure, he hangs out by the door, but if I'm in my room, that does neither of us any good. I don't want him barking, but there must be something...so I bought a cat bell and hung it from the doorknob. I won't say that he's understood the concept yet, but just now he rang it to go out. WHOO. Of course, that necessitated a lot of Nicki fumbling into her shoes, saying "good dog, good dog, hang on--!" but that seemed to amuse him. If only I had some sexy wellies...

And the best part about the dog is you get to tell dog stories and be the person on the end of a leash who gets to generously ask kids if they want to pet your puppy. It's a novelty to have a friendly puppy instead of a cantankerous older dog--although when I picked Kizzy up from playcare today I learned that he got put into time-out a couple times for getting into an altercation with a black Lab. I won't say that having a dog is like having a baby, but I feel somewhat responsible, especially since I told him it was okay to defend himself if he was being roughed up. I am a lazy parent, what can I say? I even let him watch TV--but only until mommy's shows come on.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dizzy & Ill

I swear, I've been feeling crappy more in the past month than I have the last two years. This morning I got up an hour early to wave at the Today Show people, which confused the hell out of Kizzy, since we were walking at quarter to six (yes, you read that right) when it was still pitch dark out. I tried to convince myself that the drumming I heard off in the forest was actually the William and Mary marching band practising early, but when I got to work I found out that Williams and Mary...doesn't have a marching band. The only other explanation I can come up with is ghostly drummers beating the march. Awesome.

The Today Show was a bust, I'm afraid. I hope everyone saw it so they could get a taste of the historical area, but we arrived too late to be visible. I was just behind a large group of people waving McCain signs, coughing "yes we can!" under my breath every now and then. I left early for work because I was starting to feel bad...sort of light headed and chilly and my stomach hurt. But it was cool to see CW getting some national attention...this is where I live!

I kept feeling bad at work today--after the chills, I started getting feverish, and I wasn't really able to focus. I stuck it out though, since there wasn't any one thing that was weird enough to warrant me going home. I did skip militia though...probably shouldn't be shooting off a musket when I'm having problems keeping my balance. My roommate was courteous enough to take Kizabiz for a walk when she got home, so I snoozed for a half hour. Then I had some bean soup ($1.50 for a bag of mixed beans! For three quarts of soup! Crap economy be dammed!) and a sourdough roll and now I feel better.

I'm so ready to go home in October--for anyone who hasn't heard, I'm leaving on the 10th of October for a week or so of family, weddings, homecooked meals and cheese curds. I can't wait. Lately I've been thinking a LOT about London and really missing it, but I think that's just because I have the wanderlust again. Hopefully going home will help. If not...London next year possibly. Possibly. Economy permitting.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

angry panda is angry

One of the women I sit next to and I had a conversation today that went something like this:

Me: I am a screaming liberal who thinks Obama is conservative.
She: I am a proud conservative who thinks McCain is waaaay too permissive.
Both: Ain't America great!

Which is about the only thing we can agree on. So we have these dance-y conversations where I'll say one thing and she'll say another thing and then we have to change topics because otherwise we'd be Discussing Politics which is forbidden at work. But we get along pretty well.

But today I couldn't stop myself from saying how sad I was that America was spending all this money on War when it could be spending money on other things, and my coworker unhelpfully pointed out that at least some part of the world has been at war for the last two thousand years. This is true. That doesn't make it okay. If everyone jumped of a bridge, after all...

But now I just got an email from a dear, dear friend who hit the point home, hard. Laura is in the Peace Corps, as you know, being a steward of America, carrying the banner of a friendly nation into places where all they know of us is our soda exports and our penchant for guns, and actually Doing Some Good, all the while helping other people learn that not all Americans are cowboys. But the Peace Corps is facing a major budget crunch, and they're going to be cutting funding...my brain doesn't remember all the details, but the new class of trainees for Romania will be cut in half for next year, and it's a possibility that the program could be scrapped all together.

The world truly is going to hell, dear readers, when we can find the money to spend on missiles and bombs that cost thousands of dollars and kill people, and yet we can't find the $200 a month it costs to feed Laura (and her cat) and keep her in a country where she's working side by side to create programs that will benefit people for years to come.

I'm starting to think of the lyrics from Les Miz: "Something's gotta happen now, or something's going to give." I don't like to be the pessimist, but it's starting to feel like our great nation is falling to pieces. Working here in Virginia, at the beginning of all things, I feel like I'm watching the end of an empire. The great arc which starts with the Declaration and ends when California secedes and the Midwest is covered in ten feet of snow. I'm just saying.

I don't want to be the pessimist. But if there was ever a time to stop what we're doing and say "what the hell!" this would be it. Let's get our priorities straight: Laura and her cat...not bombs.

Monday, September 22, 2008

bold as brass

The apartment complex where I live is full of spotty college students, because we're right near William & Mary, and because the rent is pretty low. Which means that when I take Kizzy out for a walk I have to keep an eye out for half-eaten pizza crusts and broken bottles of Bud Light. Honestly, I know you're nineteen, but if you're going to drink illegally, at least make it a good beer. Honestly.

But surrounding our apartment is an amazing assortment of greenspace. You just have to be rather adventurous to get to it. For example, if you cross the street and duck through a hedge surrounding an orthopedic sports clinic, you'll be in a little oasis of concrete that contains several office buildings, with four walls of forest on either side. I can be walking sedately on a sidewalk while Kiz is nose deep in nature, red in tooth and claw. Alternately, you can take the secret back way out of our complex, cross through the parking lot that surrounds the funeral home (yes, I live behind a funeral home, although it's not a very busy one), through the parking lot next to the middle school and voila--you're back into the forest surrounding W&M. There's even a fenced-in drainage ditch that works as an impromptu dog run when I shut the gate. Although there's usually less running, more sniffing when I drop the leash.

There is also a new development being working on across from me, a new neighborhood for Williamsburg called (wait for it) Newtown. This is where Other Nicole is building her house, and it's usually where I take Kizzy for his evening drag. (He's a beagle. He wants to stop and sniff. I want to wear him out so I can blog and take a shower without him chewing on power cords. I pull. He pulls. He weighs 17.5 pounds. I win.) I have mixed feelings about developments in general, but this one is turning into something pretty nice. There's lots of dog-friendly restaurants and a Lane Bryant. And I like having pavement to pound, instead of slogging through muddy forest when I'm just out for an evening stroll.

But it makes me sad that the entire world is being covered by concrete. And that's greenspace we'll never get back again. All the planned parks in the world can't make up for the beautiful caos that is a forest in its prime. When I was younger I walked through a half-developed neighborhood with another dog, to an untouched forest where we used to play all summer long. But when it came time to say good-bye to that other dog, I had to walk through someone's backyard. It makes me slightly crazy that the James City County courthouse has such a lovely green lawn--and for what? For nothing. So Kizzy and I romped around on it tonight...it's so squishy and green, perfect for a rubber beagle who likes to turn somersaults while six lanes of traffic meander by. And if we get yelled at, so what. I'll just tell them that we're taking advantage of the pretty greenness, since our apartment doesn't have any, and besides--the court is closed, everyone's gone home. I pick up after him, who are we hurting? Someone's got to take advantage of all this beauty mixed in with the concrete and bricks.

So I might have been feeling a little cocky when we returned home...remember that orthopedic sports office I told you about? Well, as we were walking past, I noticed they had a Coke machine in the lobby...I didn't even want a soda, but I wondered if the door was still open at a quarter after seven...it would be nice to know that it's possible to get a Coke later at night, should the need ever arise. Ah, the door is open. Kizzy and I strolled in, popped in a couple dollars and retreated, clutching a bottle of diet brown, much to the amusement of the few therapists there working late. Hee. Like I said--you've got to be willing to take advantage of your surroundings.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Marching On

Oh man. I just came back from the bathroom to find Kizzy perched on the sofa arm, nose in my half-drunk cup of tea. That would be his British heritage, I'm guessing. Aaargh...

I'm feeling quite proud of myself today, because yesterday I finished my Fife & Drum coat. The corps got all new coats back in June, before they went off to exotic Switzerland to compete in a tattoo there, and now we're getting some new coats in as people join or leave. Most of the coats are being done by contractors, but I begged, pleaded and cried a little to get assigned one. I know that it was probably a calculated gamble on the part of my bosses, since I've never built anything from scratch before, but it was nice to have a challenge.

I got a bag full of cut out pieces--heavy red and blue wool, with a lighter tweedy wool for the inside facings. The historical fife and drums were in red coats so that the enemy would know they were young kids and not to aim for them...not exactly sure how that prevented the Continentals from taking potshots at their own boys, but whatever. There were no instructions, no neatly numbered steps to follow, so I pretty much made it up as I went along. I did have an already constructed coat I could pull apart to check out inside construction, but it was sort of exhilarating, figuring stuff out. The most interesting part was attaching the sleeves: I put the body of the coat on the form, tacked the sleeves up, made a mark with a pin where they would match the seam, and then took it all down, pinned and stitched. It was quite a challenge, especially by the end where everything was together and suddenly I was struggling with twenty pounds of red wool coat. I know all you stitchers out there are probably going "yes, and?" but I had a good time. Especially the part where I pretended I was making a coat for my beau who was going off to fight and who might get shot in the coat I was making for him. Sigh. Little tear.

The reason I'm telling all y'all this is because you'll get a chance to see this coat if you tune into the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in NYC...the guy who's getting "my" coat is one of the drum majors, so he'll be easy to spot. Thanksgiving Day! Watch it!

You should also tune into the "Today" show THIS WEDNESDAY, September 24th, from seven to nine eastern time. They're broadcasting live from CW as a part of their whistle-stop, cross-America tour...I'm not sure if I'll go down there and wave at the cameras like an idiot yet, but if I do, you won't want to miss it!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Save Bitch!

I know most of you think I read Bitch just for the thrill of carrying around a magazine called "Bitch" but they really are a great, intellectual response to the pop-consumer-culture that surrounds us everyday. Great My Little Pony debates aside. And they're struggling. I have less than no money, but if you're able, I would really encourage you to donate to keep this brilliant rag alive. Think of it as an easy way to get my birthday pressie out of the way.

More updates later...my plug shipped from Hong Kong today, so hopefully I'll be back on my own machine soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

karma bites back

In retaliation for yesterday's time off, karma has decided to get even. So today I:

Put the pocket on backwards in the coat and then, once I had got that sorted, put the facing in backwards.

Came home to pizza and a dog who was happily enjoying his chew toy...until I discovered that his chew "toy" was actually the cord to my computer and he had worked the plug clean off.

Had exactly $2.75 for the washer, but I need $3.00.

Fell and twisted my ankle slightly--enough to curtain Kizzy's evening walk, resulting in a major case of the zoomies.

Arg. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was Monday.

Computer's dying now...hopefully the plug I ordered from Hong Kong will get here soon or else I'll

Monday, September 15, 2008

sick day

I called in sick today, even though I'm not actually sick. Well, at least not in any quantifiable manner, ie, coughing, cramps, tummy upset, but I know there's something wrong with me, so I'm not lying. Exactly. Still, this is the first time I've called in sick when I haven't been at death's door, so I feel slightly guilty. Enough to keep me inside and docile when other people might be tempted to go frolicking at the mall or something.

Last week was slightly crazy. My schedule is getting fuller--and now I have a dog to take care of. So the scheduling craziness is due to the challenge of not only how I'm going to get myself around, but how I'm going to make sure that Kizzy is fed, walked and watered. Meanwhile, I've got to practise my story for the evening programs so I can get cleared to perform, concentrate during the militia review because they changed the order of things and in the middle of all this, I had a guest last weekend.

Over Memorial Day last May I went to visit Alison in Schenectady (fun to say, hard to spell) and this weekend she returned the favor. We didn't really do much of anything, mostly bumming around Wmsbrg and Yorktown, although we did hit the President's Park, a slightly lame tourist trap that features (wait for it) giant concrete heads of all the presidents of America. Also some presidential memorabilia that was, sadly, on loan to the DNC and RNC and therefore not on display. Next to each head was a sign listing important facts, achievements and quotes, although Dubya's quote board was sadly lacking in some of his more colourful manglings. I did finally get to release some pent-up frustration by pressing ham against our current president though. Aaargh.

Then last night we made our own sushi out of a kit and watched TV. Alison brought me some squash from London, so I was drinking apple and black currant-y bliss all weekend, and I've also got some Bisto granules too, so hopefully I'll be able to do a Sunday roast soon. huzzah. Overall, it was a pretty relaxing weekend, but I'm still tired from last week. I think it's the turn in the weather. Cooler, then hot and stuffy, and now today, cool again.

But I'm not missing much. After begging my supervisor for weeks, I'm getting to build one of the shiny, shiny fife & drum coats, and it's not due for another nine days. And I rented a car for the weekend, so before I dropped it off today, I stopped by the place and had an x-ray taken. Thirty minutes of driving around getting lost for two minutes under an x-ray machine and "we'll have the results over there this afternoon!" It's okay. It took me over a month to get here...there's no rush. Now I'm back home catching up on emails after a long satisfying nap, ignoring the reproachful looks from my beagle, who's wondering why exactly we haven't gone for an hour long walk yet. No one can reproach quite like a beagle with eyeliner. Sorry pooch. Gotta let everyone know I'm still alive--even if I am taking a sick day.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I'm still here...

...but I'm exhausted.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

so much hatred for such a little beagle...

Kizzy has started marking around the apartment, so in an effort to limit his leakage I made a makeshift "belly band" out of an old pair of jeans. I tried not to find humor in the situation--after all, this is a serious behavioral problem...but let's face it, Kizzy is too adorable in his little jean wiener wrap. Hardcore ripped jeans, 80's style, yeah.

Not much else going on on a Sunday...had militia today. Curse the gods of modern technology. All summer I was gearing myself up to ask a fellow minuteman out for coffee, but I kept chickening out. Then we Facebook'd each other...and it turns out we have nothing in common with each other in the 21st century. Arg. Oh well. We'll always have those right wheels. Nothing more romantic than taking a right turn on the field, staring deep into each others eyes, the captain yelling...sigh.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

that's it?

Supply List for Hanna:

1. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (deluxe 2 disc edition DVD)
2. 1 pkg chocolate chip cookies
3. 1 case bottled water

I got home to find my roommate had already bought candles--"just in case!" so there wasn't much we needed. I had peanut butter and bread, so if the power went out, we could sit around eating PBJ sandwiches. Thought briefly about buying a little smokey joe grill, but then realised that I just wanted to buy one, I probably didn't need one in case of hurricane. And it turns out my precautions were pretty much in vain. The "hurricane" was a tropical storm by the time it got here--barely that even--and the wind and the rain didn't get any more exciting than it does during a run of the mill storm. We didn't even have any thunder or lightning. Yawn. The only time I got really wet was when I got up at six-thirty to take Kizzy for his first walk. Our mid-morning walk was totally dry, and by the time we went for our evening walk, the sun was out. I'm a little disappointed there wasn't more excitement, but I remember how hellish it was to be without power and water for three days in a dorm in London, so I guess I should count my blessings.

Of course it was pretty miz all afternoon, so I stayed in and watched Sweeney and then Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and worked on the new draperies for our living room...it's such a dark room, and the curtains that are currently hanging there are a heavy, ugly red fake-brocade, so I bought some light peach fake silk--they'll let in more light and brighten things up purely by their colour. I'm so domestic.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

stormy weather

Kismet is, of course, named after one of Admiral Nelson's most famously misquoted "last" words: "Kiss me, Hardy," a request for Captain Thos. Hardy to bid him farewell as he lay dying on the orlop deck of the Victory. The Victorians (who are also responsible for largely cutting Lady H. out of the story) couldn't handle the remotest possibility of any suggested hint of the love that dare not speak its name, put it about that what he had actually said was "Kismet, Hardy." "Kismet" being, of course, a Turkish word that he picked up on his travels meaning fate or destiny. Fortunately we, in these more enlightened times, know that this is utter nonsense. Still, it makes for a good story. Especially the part where they named an ale "Kiss Me, Hardy" and made it taste fantastic.

It is appropriate that the dog is named after a last kiss, since he loves people, and he loves to give puppy kisses. He is an absolute joy to walk around (despite his unwillingness to walk in a straight line), because for once I get to be the person who says "you wanna pet my dog? Go ahead!" Usually I keep a hand on his harness just to make sure he doesn't jump up and lick people to death. This week has been much better, frustration-wise. I think the problem with this weekend was the fact that it was just the two of us, all weekend long. Kizzy needs a pack around him--but so do I. And we both do better with backyards, although I definitely prefer a hammock in mine.

He will still be going back into foster care, although I don't know when. Now, after spending a happy week actually enjoying him instead of enduring his energy and his attention-seeking ways, I'm able to make the decision that living in an apartment is not the best arrangement--for him. I still think I have a good home to offer for a dog, but maybe an older dog that enjoys couch time as much as I do.

I will say this though: having to get up and walk Kismet every morning has given me a new appreciation for the beauty of Virginia. The forests around our house that connect to William and Mary are positively primeveal, and beautiful in the morning mist.

But the weather is a changin'. If any of my loyal readers have been watching the news lately, you've heard that Hanna is headed this way--right now she's a tropical storm, but she could make landfall with hurricane status. I'm a little weirded out by hurrican predictions: It's a lovely day today, and tomorrow might be a little grey, but on Saturday, at 2 pm, we will be in the middle of a hurricane. Weird. They're not predicting mass destruction and caos, although we might lose power and water, so tomorrow I'm going to Loewes to lay in a good supply of batteries and water. My friends and I are planning on holing up at someone's house and watching DVDs and handsewing until the storm blows over. And if the power goes out we'll eat ice cream. Woo, storms.