Egging Me On

As I was sitting on the ol' Metro the other day, I noticed the advertising for the Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences. The poster says, "Could global warming drive...the orioles from Baltimore?" The nest doesn't look much like the nests of orioles, but I understand that is because they're trying to be cute. I mean, how many birds have nests shaped like question marks?

And I'm no avian expert. I'm no Bill Oddie.

But I just don't think the eggs that they've put into the nest look like Baltimore Oriole eggs, either. If the eggs are not oriole eggs, I find that sad. How much trouble would it have been to display real oriole eggs? I mean, the place is a museum, right? A center of learning and education?

If I'm wrong and they are oriole eggs, then, um. Nevermind.

This is part of a chain of posts linked together by word association. The previous link in the chain was here. If you want to write another link here's what to do: Find a word, phrase or theme from this post to inspire your own and go and write it. It's that simple. Try not to write something that's similar to this post. That way the subject of the posts along the chain will vary. E.g. if I write about going to the doctor's, then don't talk about the last time you were ill, instead describe how you used to play Doctors and Nurses with the girl next door. Get the idea? Your post can be in any style you want. Copy this paragraph and tack it onto the end of your post, updating the link to point here, then leave a comment here that points to your new post.

Going to the Chapel...

Tie the Knot, Jump the Broom, Buckle my Shoe...

I checked with the county clerk this morning, and it is legal for me to perform a wedding ceremony in Baltimore County. This is good news, because our friends' wedding day is less than two weeks away. I'm not really sure what they would have done if I couldn't perform the ceremony.

I am, by the way, an officially ordained member of the Spiritual Humanist clergy. As such, I can perform any religious ceremony except "ceremonies that involve exorcism, circumcision and animal sacrifice." That's a real shame, too, because I really thought I'd corner the circumcision market. (I cringe just typing that...) The great thing about Spiritual Humanism is that we believe that God gave us all the right to work directly with him...

It is our policy to promote absolute freedom of religion, consequently we believe any one who desires to become a (sic) ordained member of the Spiritual Humanist Clergy should be able to do so with the least difficulty possible.

I think the first thing we're going to do is have a reformation and work on our grammar beliefs.

When asked if it was legal to be married in Baltimore County by someone ordained on the internet, the license clerk responded, "I wouldn't recommend it." She stressed that it was certainly legal, but "I mean, how good is it?"

And she hasn't even heard my sermon, yet!

Posted by email...

Just MARCing Time

Well, maybe I was wrong to use the term unusual events. The train was late this morning. The equipment failures of last night forced MARC to use AMTRAK cars. Fewer seats and smaller cars meant that many folks had to stand. It's one thing to stand on the Metro, but to stand from Bowie to DC? Ridiculous.

On the MARC

I was lucky enough to get the extended tour on the MARC last night. With one track under construction and another blocked by a broken-down train, I sat in the first car of a stationary train for thirty minutes outside Bowie.

A woman across from me spent most of the time on the mobile; yak yak. The conductor made an announcement over the PA system. Cell phone woman looked up at me and broke her mobile conversation long enough to ask, "What did he say?"

"He said that the first car is a 'quiet car,' no cell phones allowed," I replied.

"Okay," she said, and went back to her conversation.

Eventually, another woman, two or three seats away, spoke up.

"Excuse me," she said, nasal whine high. "This is the quiet car. Can you stop talking on that phone?"

I'm a big rules person, you know, but geez. I wound up being an hour and a half late; surely in times of unusual events, we can make a phone call or two to tell our loved ones we're going to be late...I snuck off to another car to do just that.

The broken-down train was given a band-aid and it eventually limped into Odenton, where it looks like it died again:
Posted by Hello

Foggy Bottom

Saw this machine at Foggy Bottom in the morning. I was pretty hungry when I left the station to go to a company meeting. The smell of bacon was everywhere. Maybe this is a bacon detector. Or one of those new gunshot detectors... Posted by Hello

Marc My Words

Like nobody ever thought of that headline before...

I took my first ride on a MARC Train today. Taking the train reminded me of our lives in Scotland, except that the MARC was dingier. We rode into Union Station in about 45 minutes. The platforms are much darker and smaller than either Central or Queen Street Station, but overall it was a better experience than I expected. Ten dollars is a bit steep, even for a round trip

Door-to-door from Odenton to Medical Center took about 1:15. Since I can't park at Medical Center, the best I've done by car/Metro so far has been 1:30. And on a Friday? Forget about it

Is Shrek Subversive?

I doubt it

I remember watching Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame with another family. At some point in the movie, Quasimodo takes the hand of the good looking woman (on whom he has an obvious crush) and puts it in the hand of the good looking man, symbolically relinquishing any claims he has on her, no matter how fanciful.

The family's little girl said: "Normal goes with normal!"

Personally, I think that pretty much sums up the point of the original Shrek. So I have to agree with Ed, who isn't impressed with the supposed subversive nature of the movie.

The Time Traveler's Wife & Swallows and Amazons

Two months ago, the Brunette and I wandered up to the Catoctin Maple Syrup Heritage Festival. On our way back, we stopped by the Reagan Republican Retirement Ranch to visit dear ole "Leadbelly", my imaginary Great Uncle on my sister's side. Great Uncle Leadbelly often has his cantankerous and story-telling moments, but on that day he was pretty quiet. I think he was playing 'possum to get us to leave him alone. Unfortunately, part of the agreement we came to with the Retirement Ranch (after the zamboni incident) was that family members would spend at least three unsupervised hours a week with the curmudgeon. So we settled down for what looked to be a long visit that would mostly involve us straining to make interesting descriptions of the festival. After a rather detailed description of the hour and a half we waited in line for a couple of pancakes and syrup, though, I started to see sparkles and shooting stars. I saw the Brunette's eyes grow very, very wide. Then she and Great Uncle Leadbelly disappeared.

Journal of Billy Blake 18 June 1978

Man, that Star Wars is so cool. Wait; let me start at the beginning. This morning, I was still pretty mad at Mom for not letting me see the movie -- Clinton got to see it 18 times already since it came out last year! Do you think that swayed Mom at all? No. As usual, she trotted out that old trope: "If Clinton jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge 18 times, would you?" "You probably wouldn't even let me go to New York," I said. "You got that right, buddy," she said. She gave me some line about looking out for my best interests or some such stuff. She doesn't want me living in some "fantasy world," like that's some kinda bad thing, man. Can you believe she even doesn't like me reading more than three hours straight. So every three hours, I have to stop and do something else, which is what I was doing this morning -- coloring in a felt Star Wars poster with markers while I watched the clock to see if I could go back to reading Swallows and Amazons yet.

The Blog

When I shook my head clear, I was standing in a living room, all decked out in earth tones. The walls were covered with dark paneling and the couch was somewhere between brown and orange, depending on how you squinted. A kid was prone on a round cabled rug (four different rings of brown). He was coloring a poster in front of a big console television set. He looked up at me and said "hey" in greeting. He didn't seem too surprised.

Journal of Billy Blake

So this old guy was standing there, looking all freaked out and stuff, so I had to pretend to be calm so he didn't completely wig out. He looked around when I asked if he wanted to color, and, reluctantly, I think, he said "sure." He took the orange and started coloring in the laser blasts -- my favorite part.

The Blog

I tried to make conversation about the book on the floor next to him -- Swallows and Amazons -- but he said he hadn't finished it yet, though we both agreed that it would be cool to go live on an island. Since we were coloring a Star Wars poster, I gave him my impression of Yoda doing the Grover bit on Sesame Street. He thought it was really funny.

Journal of Billy Blake

The guy told some lame joke and I pretended to laugh. Who is Skoda anyway? That made him relax and he asked me a really weird question -- I told him it was 1978. He said that's what he thought and told me I'd never seen Star Wars, right? I just nodded, a little surprised.

The Blog

It took me a minute to recognize the house, but since I'd just been reading The Time Traveler's Wife, it was pretty easy for me to guess what had happened, and I knew just what to do. When I had lived in that house in the '70s, my Mom hadn't let me see Star Wars, like the defining cultural event of my generation. So, I took my younger self to see the movie, which had been re-released to theaters. And, man, it was so cool.

Journal of Billy Blake

Weird, huh? About mid-way through the movie, the man disappeared, so I had to sneak back home by myself. But I had fun, anyway.

The Blog

When I returned to Great Uncle Leadbelly's apartment, he was telling the Brunette his complicated story about gathering syrup on an island in Upstate New York when he was growing up. He had some strange idea that he and his brother had fought with girl pirates. I don't know about Great Uncle Leadbelly; he's always telling weird stories.
Well, that brings me up-to-date on all the books I've read this year, so far. (Well, to be honest, there was also Michael Chabon's Summerland. The less said, the better.) Without the train, my reading productivity has certainly declined.

Food For Thought/Snacks

Interviews were yesterday. (By the way, if you know anything about Rational tools and you want to be a consultant in the DC area, drop me a line at taleswapper at alum dot rpi dot edu, substituting as necessary.) I asked one of the candidates what his favorite snack food is. You see, we don't normally have a television, but while the Brunette is recovering at her parents', we can watch the Food Network 24 hours a day! This weekend, I saw a guy who believes you can predict someone's personality based on snack food choice. My paraphrase:

  • potato chips = ambitious, type A
  • tortilla chips = perfectionist with humanitarian leanings
  • pretzels = lively and energetic
  • cheese curls = full of integrity, formal and conscientious
  • beef jerky = outgoing and gregarious
  • cracker = contemplative, thoughtful and logical
I was hoping for cheese curls or crackers.

What I got was "lychee cups."

Driving Me Crazy

Well, the Brunette is getting better each day, but because of the physical and other therapies, she remains ensconced in the helping hands of her parents. So, I've been trying the car-commuting thing. Driving in the DC area gives one an interesting window on humanity. For example:

  • The ongoing construction on the Beltway between the 270 spurs has created quite a Jersey barrier farm. These barriers have large orange squares to help us remember they are there. Last week, I noticed that someone had written words on them. Someone had the time and ease (due to the speed of traffic, no doubt) to write, one word at a time: "When are you going to finish this stupid road slow pokes?"
  • I think there were more bumper stickers when I was growing up, but it's nice to see that some folks are still expressing themselves. I saw a woman driving a car sporting these: "Save the Whales, Boycott Japan" and "Save the Whales, Harpoon a Honda." Oddly, her car was a Geo Prizm. Maybe she just didn't know...
  • I was listening to NPR's MarketPlace on Friday. At the end, they informed me that "Photography for MarketPlace was provided by..." Um. Photography for the radio. Cool.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could pick a spot on someone else's web site and link directly to that spot? I've also gotten a chance to visit two more Metro stations:
  • Actually, I was only able to visit the outside of the Grosvenor station, because it only has something along the lines of five parking spaces.
  • So I drove up to the White Flint station, which has a lot of parking, but you have to walk a couple blocks up a hill. It's awfully tempting to detour into the miniature golf course instead of going to work...

A Sock in the Sugar

He sits at a two-seat table, picking at the objects. He carefully examines both the salt and pepper shakers, but finds nothing out of the ordinary. The handful of rice grains sit quietly atop the salt, making a small rattling sound when he shakes the container. The pepper shaker makes no sound at all. The sugar dispenser is nearly empty. There are three Half-n-Half packets, which he stacks in a pyramid. He disassembles the pyramid and puts the packets back in their bowl.

She sits across from him, and they are deep in conversation. As he replaces each item on the table, she nervously picks it up and sends it through a similar drill. We might smile at these kids who, ten years ago, talked of random subjects in a more innocent age.

They've taken up a game of football with a bottle cap. They think of it as soccer, but time will teach them new names for things. The cap skitters noisily across the table, back and forth between them. Occasionally, their hands touch as they dance with the cap -- and with each other.

Their game and their random bouts of conversation are, of course, only necessary steps in the weaving. They are both nervous because they have not yet learned to fall into an easy rhythm. Nor should they have, for they are not yet wearing the cloth that will hold them and protect them. In this small coffee shop, ten years ago, they're still building the loom.

This is a critical point in their construction process. It is a fragile proto-loom still, and they must be careful in their approach: rush too quickly and the result will be shoddy and broken; too slowly and the thing may never get built at all.

The cap play ends, and they go back to fidgeting with utensils and serving dishes. They pay no real attention to the world outside their small table. In fact, if we were playful, we might slip a book into her bag. Years later, she will look at her bookshelf and wonder where that volume of Magical Realist Fiction came from. Small bits of conversation are teased out while each one waits for something, though they do not know what it is. The play they'd seen was already forgotten, though the shared love of theater reinforces the frame of the loom. Stories and memories shared seem to show they will fit well together. Each moment has been assembled and crafted so that the night will certainly be memorable, but how will they know that the experience was truly so unique as all that.

They both wonder this, but cannot speak of it, for speaking of such things might break the weave.

As he passes the sugar dispenser from hand to hand, he looks down at it and notices something odd. His words are the only ones we'll report here today:

"There's a sock in the sugar!"

And, indeed, there is a sock. It is a white athletic sock with a red band. They stare at the sugared sock with awe. Where did it come from? Why was it there? It is a riddle, a conundrum. They stare, fascinated, at the sock, but it does not actually do anything, of course. What would a sock do? So he unscrews the top of the sugar container and removes the sock for closer inspection.

The sock is clean. It smells of fabric softener and, faintly, of bleach. It is not a new sock, but it does not yet have holes, either.

They look around them to see if anyone else has noticed the new electricity in the air. Two men sitting near the moon-mural along the opposite wall busily argue around forkfuls of food they continuously stuff into their mouths. Each gestures with a free hand while the food-bearing hand mechanically lifts and lowers, lifts and lowers.

Behind the counter, near the cash register, the lone server sighs and stares at her hands. She is on the telephone, but it seems she is on hold. Her eyes wander from her hands to the moon to the windows. She shrugs her shoulders from time to time. Perhaps she is not on hold, because they can see that she is now emitting occasional single syllable words.

The footwear phenomenon seems to be centered upon our young couple. They return their focus to each other and the bubble of universe around their table. He looks into her eyes and understands. This is the pivotal moment. This is the balancing point of their lives, and the sock has happened to nobody else. He smiles and reaches out his hand. She grabs it and returns the smile.

They stand and exit the cafe. The sock remains on the table. There will be other socks. Indeed, there are already other socks as they walk along the busy roadway. The socks fall from the sky like snow. And like snow, the socks muffle the noise and commotion of the night, blocking the sounds and covering them with the warm swishing sounds of floating cotton. So our couple walks along, hand-in-hand, isolated and softly protected by the gently falling socks.



The Brunette has moved from hospital to parents' home. She's going to need some physical/speech therapy, but at least she can move now.