Saturday, May 31, 2008



The above came through at about 6 pm and rained and blew like all apocalyptic hell and then it hailed for twenty minutes — twenty full minutes — and shredded our tomatoes. Begonias destroyed, Dusty Miller (which was in the corsages and boutonnieres at last year's fancy wedding) destroyed, hostas damaged in a way that will almost have to linger. The lettuce is in exceedingly bad shape — we'll know more tomorrow. But no limbs down, no holes in the roof, no trees damaged for all of ever. And alongside all the damage it dropped down on us, it was surely beautiful in its own way.

It comes to this: I'm proud as hell for the knee and the dog to have been right — it didn't rain in Winston, and it didn't rain much in Burlington, surely not the inch and a half we got here — but all that glib satisfaction comes with seriously busted tomatoes and leaves and wee branches down everywhere, everywhere. I've never seen hail like that — not even in 30328, where I did the bulk of my growing up. We're going to go with marble, penny and nickel for our measurements here, but the elegant thing about hail is the following NOAA measurement scale — if it's round, friends and fans, it corresponds to a hail size. Head of a nail, spilled amount of olive oil. That's what we had alongside subway token and thumbnail and shirt button.

Cool on the back side of this thing. More tomorrow, maybe, though the knee and the dog don't quite guarantee in the same way. What the numbers say: On this last day of May, we made up, exactly, what had looked like a serious monthly rainfall deficit. Maybe that'll carry our broken, broken food crops through. I won't even say what the radishes look like. But that hail was something to see. It rained here. I'm not sure it rained much of anywhere else, but it sure as hell rained here. Four inches for the month. Dead damn on our average. The cleanup starts tomorrow, first day of the new month. In the morning, we'll see what else is harmed.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Rain Chances.

The clouds changed this evening. Got fuller. Also, the wind swung around some. The fancies are saying rain chances of 40% or 30%, depending on how fancy you want to go and when you check, but we're going to go higher than that here at ANYLF. Knee pain puts us at 50% at least. Plus the dog's acting a little funky. Rain tomorrow. Maybe more than once.

Oh: And hot. Good and. The dream is over. Sorry. The days of iced coffee are coming.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Last One.

I mean, surely there will be one more, some odd mid- or late-June evening, or some mistimed lottery-winning early-August fall preview, but it feels like tonight was the last good night. Cool. It was cool all day, and then this evening at the Bats game — though they're no longer called the Bats — it cooled off all through sunset and into the late innings and there was a breeze out of the north and even somehow the east and I had with me a flannel shirt that I did not need but it was nice, friends and fans of weather, just to know that it made sense to have brought it, that the just-in-case wasn't so far afield that I looked or felt like a dumbass, even as I was sporting my brand-new dumbass Bats-cum-Hoppers orange cap. The Hoppers. They named the team the Grasshoppers when they moved them to their new stadium, and then they couldn't even stick with that. There used to be a guy at the old stadium who would sit high in the concrete bleachers and say-shout in this low Minnesota accent Let's Go Bats. Go Bats Go. Our new Disneyfied stadium allows for no such support. I miss the old. I hate change. Tonight was the last good night.

Your final score: West Virginia Power (motto: Get Plugged In!) 4, Bats 3. We'll be back with scores and highlights from around the league right after these messages.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Steady Rain.

This is not going to save us from a May shortfall, I don't think, but it's been raining all morning, and we've lost 13 or 14 degrees in the past two hours, such that we're holding right around 59 on the cat porch, and I haven't been outside to check the gauge yet, but the tone and tenor of the rain on the range hood makes me want to say another quarter-inch so far, bringing us almost to a half-inch out of this storm already, and there's plenty more coming. Let the dog out and when she — and I — finally got up around 10:30 — it's summer, and I'm not apologizing — and she stood under the overhang on the WeatherDeck with her ears slicked back and she pulled her lips back into her long, distrustful mouth, and she looked out into the rain and and the wind, and then she decided against all of that and turned around and came back in. Didn't even get her feet wet.

Today is a day for some kind of good lunch, the likes of which we surely don't have here. Maybe downtown to Cincy's, a little spaghetti-and-chili joint hidden away behind a couple of parking garages. Something like that is called for. The coffee pot's been off for more than an hour, but I'm still drinking the warm lees of what's left.

It's a fantastic, soaking, perfect rain. It is a rain for agricultural concerns. It is a rain that means I will have to weed the garden immediately. Mow the lawn. It is a rain that lengthens the list of tasks to be completed.

I'm reading, and I'm getting ready to be able to start to try to think about reading my own. I'm getting ready to take the rubber bands off one of the drafts stacked up on the desk back there. I'm getting ready to start trying to decide whether anybody would actually say a thing like that. Or that. Or that. I'm getting ready to make things a little less shy of heart. I'm getting ready to drag my characters back into rooms with each other. Like when we were little, and our parents wouldn't let us walk away until we'd shaken hands and apologized for whaling Bo Avery in the head with the yellow Tonka truck. I'm letting my characters walk away too soon. I've got to get them back in front of each other, make them apologize even when they really, really don't mean it, even as they're looking around for that truck, trying to decide if maybe they could get in another shot before anybody caught them or tried to make them quit. Now say you're sorry. Say it like you mean it. I'm sorry. There. Now isn't that better?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Next Move.

The air's got something in it today. There's a viscosity. ANYLF comes to you this morning live from the newly-swept WeatherDeck, the product of an afternoon of tree work done yesterday in frantic avoidance of anything that looks like the next revision of the novel. On the docket for today: beginning said revision, but also of course planting impatiens for the pots that run up the porch stairs; tying off the sprinting tomatoes to a new trellised 2x4 before what may well be afternoon storms, if the air's right; finally trimming in the house fan that rattled this reporter awake several times last night. Get that list long enough, and the serious fictive work doesn't have to start until tomorrow.

The first of the TLK winters, so named for my good friend TLK, who loves nothing more than long sleeves and coffee all day in, say, June, is forecast for tomorrow and tomorrow evening. The QPF wants to give us a half-inch of rain over the next 30 hours or so. Now that's a stretch of weather in which to begin a writing project. Today? Today one ought to be able to pile the dog into the truck, drive to Lowe's, purchase lumber. You want me to caulk in those windows? The ones you've been asking me about for two years? I'd be happy to. Quarter-round, finally, in the dining room? No problem.

Hard to get started again. Bad combination of paralytic fear and general laziness. Add maybe a bit of malaise, add a good portion of exhaustion. But I started Nell Freudenberger's novel last night, and it seems promising. In the past, I've given over the first few days of summer to reading. A decompression. Or re-entry, depending on your metaphorical preference. Houston, this is ANYLF. We're ready for something. Just not quite sure what. Over.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Holiday Weekend.

Certain musics for certain weathers, and coming summertime means Lyle Lovett in small doses, no matter what that says of me. Might ANYLF recommend for this evening's cooling dry dark the second disc of LL's "Step Inside This House," a two-disc set of Texas songwriter covers. Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Walter Hyatt, et al. A low Collins, heavy on the fresh lemon juice, might not hurt you, either. It is the long Sunday of a holiday weekend. Find that chair you've left out on the porch for the birds to shit in, knock as much of the guano out of it as you can, and wait for the coals to gray over enough for you to cook on them.

Not for nothing, and not to sing sad songs for the sake of singing them, but it does cross my mind that our forecast is not for sandstorms. My grandfather and my father went to war. I went to writing camp.

Our forecast is for mid-eighties and sun and cookouts. Gin. Lemons. Kebabs. It was cool today, beautiful, breezy, clouds passing over the top of us, tomorrow's heat underneath it all. Tomatoes knee-high. La Vieja's lilies waist-high. There's a lot out there to be measured.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Strive, Graduates.

It came out of the north and west, actually, off and on overnight, and then sure enough it was also raining yes this morning at or around graduation time — they were at DEFCON 47 out there in 27244 — but there was never really enough of anything to threaten the ceremony, which went off outside with nary a hitch save the ones already built in, which were, in no particularly special order, the speech by the movie guy, the speeches by everyone else speechifying this morning, and the reading of all three names of all 1,000 some-odd graduates. Elizabeth Scott Macatee. Deanna Brianna Bobana. Marcus Gelwaithe Davies IV, Magna Cum Laude. The movie guy had life boiled down to The Four Ps, which were People, Perseverance, and two other ones, but he kept un-P-ing his Ps, along these kinds of lines: People, he said, but then he said, In other words, I mean Mentors. At a bare minimum, then, it was The Three Ps and an M. There was at one point some extended metaphor about a sofa that I didn't understand. Also, in a shocking development, it turns out life is a journey.

I'm not saying a graduation speech is an easy thing to give, but let's maybe all agree right here and now that if one were to get hold of a microphone and the semi-rapt attention of a crowd of desperately hung-over graduates, their eager and sight-line-obstructed parents, and their exhausted professors, then one shouldn't spend twenty minutes saying, in essence, what any of the classic rock hits of yesterday and today can say in three minutes. We already know life is a highway. We already know, even, that we probably want to ride it all night long. Gimme gimme gimme gimme yeah.

It's hard to sit through those things.

The forecast wants us to heat up. I had to tie off some of the tomatoes this evening. The mosquitoes are starting to get a pretty good toehold out there. I went over to Blue-Tick-Beagle Paul's house last night and delivered an ultimatum. Tonight the dogs barked ninety minutes straight, at top volume. I sure as hell know how to get my way.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Graduation Forecast.

We're getting a little breeze out of the south. Tomorrow's graduation day, and the fancies want storms and showers right around 9 am. I can't tell where the rain would be coming from, though there are little disturbances sort of everywhere but here. It appears to be raining like all hell in Georgia. Rain, too, in Virginia. Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky: The ANYLF BestGuess Forecast says it'll either come from the north or south. Or the west. We're all kinds of fancy our own selves over here at ANYLF, and no, KFW, we're not hanging up our cleats. Just whiny from time to time.

In a move that warms the entire staff over here at ANYLF right to the core, the 27244 folks are already sending out rain plans for tomorrow morning — which buildings which faculty will babysit which parents in — but they're also saying, in effect, to keep it tuned there: If they can wait a few minutes for a passing shower to pass, say the nearly frantic emails, then they will. Big weather day out at the college. Big day to be In Charge. Confession: I am vaguely, vaguely jealous. I'd love to be the guy who says, weather-wise, whether or not it's time to strive.

South and west. It's a copout, but forecasts are required in weather— and since it's graduation, we let the interns call it, and they said probably out of the southwest. They also said probably it will rain a little right around nine, but that graduation — outdoor graduation — will somehow happen anyway. Lots of staff with lots of towels wiping down lots of chairs tomorrow morning. Lots of keeping an eye to the sky. Lots of radar. I think they have some kind of phone-in arrangement with one of the local TV outfits. I love that, too. It'd be pretty outstanding to get the SuperDoppler info direct from the source.

It's summer, by the by, for those of you just tuning in. The dog slept under the bed this morning. We have mosquitoes. The Japanese Magnolia is rattling seed pods down onto the deck. Three good signs right there. That/those and weather coming from, if that's where in fact it's coming from, our south and west. Patterns changing. Kids being sent off into their futures and being told to reach for whatever it is they're meant to reach for. Some VP for something at Paramount is our speaker tomorrow. Don't let the credits roll on your dreams out there, students. Make sure to cast yourself in the starring role of your own life.

Here's hoping it doesn't rain. Or here's hoping it does.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

First Lamentations.

This has of late been a difficult exercise, but not because the weather hasn't been anything to look at. It has. We keep getting these days where it seems like if you don't have bunting hung off your balcony, then you're not quite celebrating in the correct manner. I think we dropped below 50 overnight. They want 80 today, but this morning was still and for certain a long-sleeves morning, humidity or something fuzzing the air while the dog and I drove to the store for a sack of coffee. Chilly mornings. Cool nights. Yellow, yellow days. Enough heat in the afternoons to warrant a new pair of flip-flops — I used to have a spring ritual with an old friend where we'd go buy the new season's sandals once a year, but she returned to an older sort of salvation in Ohio, one featuring a dude often enough in his own sandals, yes, but still, and while I don't much want to begrudge anyone their ways of ordering what looks from this vantage point like an increasingly complicated and sharp-edged planet, I frequently enough begrudge her that anyway, and her husband, too, and spend the occasional evening frowning and thinking about how my way's better than their way, which is the whole thing about the set of choices they made that upset me in the first place.

This project began as a drought lament. Easy enough to figure out how to track a thing like that: site a rain gauge, complain when it's empty. And I can do that today— we're beautiful, but we missed what they got out in Elon on Tuesday, which was a storm that grew increasingly severe as it went on, cloud-to-ground on campus and dime-sized hail briefly and no wind at all to speak of and heavy rain. A half-inch, I'd say, in half an hour. Back home here in 27408 our rain gauge was dry. Enough to rend one's garments over. We're going to miss our May average by about an inch, I think, and those laments will map the course of a week or so here a ANYLF, but that's not what I'm getting at. Something's going on. Or not going on, more precisely. I've gotten somehow caught in this parenthetical space between spring and summer. The birds have fledged. Nearly all that needs to be put in the ground is in the ground. The radishes are coming in, and we're just holding. On Saturday we graduate certain of the children who order our lives for three-quarters of the waking year. It is preposterously beautiful out there on the Piedmont. We're either hitting our seasonal highs and lows, or we're coming in just under them. We've had nothing of the snap-bang into July, the little preview we generally get in mid-to-late May of what disaster lies in store. None of that. Since the azaleas finished blooming, we've simply had a sort of relentless beauty.

I was at a strange, strange cocktail party Tuesday evening, and somehow it was revealed that I have a passing interest in the weather. I characterized it as a fetish. Why? they wanted to know. I had no good answer at the ready, and the one I gave seems this morning to be the problem I'm having. It's always coming, I told them. There's always something you have to attend to.

I fear summer. Or at least today, or this week, I do. There is the one book to be finished and the other book to try on for size. There is the yearly reckoning with the ways and means by which I order my own life. I've got to check on my own saints and saviors to make sure they've still got the mojo working. When the weather's good, it's something that pulls me through the days, aims me towards evening, aims me toward tomorrow, toward next week. When I'm not good enough for the weather, that's me on the couch at ten-thirty in the morning, stalled, stationary, in between seasons, flipping channels, watching radar loop through St. Louis, no idea what to do next.

Salvation, though, from unlikely corners: AMR reports the following line from a student we share, in yet one more abysmal story he's written: "All I am is art, drugs, and a rotting skeleton waiting for the end of misery." The poet Bill Matthews, in his poem "Mingus at the Showplace," cautions against thinking bad writing is dangerous, "the way some poets do./If they were baseball executives they’d plot/to destroy sandlots everywhere so that the game/could be saved from children." This child's work is bad, but perhaps it's not dangerous. And at the least, it's cautionary: Get thee the hell outside, it seems to be saying, And figure out how to enjoy the end of May, you blithering sadsack fool, lest you end up writing like this.

Summer's coming, and it's so damn beautiful out there that it's scaring the crap out of me. Earlier in that Matthews poem, the speaker says, "And I knew Mingus was a genius. I knew/two other things, but as it happened they were wrong." I'm far too often far too certain about far too many things. There's a little breeze today, which is making the sunlight on all these new leaves look like it's moving around. We'll start with that one small thing, and see what else there is.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No Season.

Even at noon there was kind of a long light out there. Seven in the evening now, and getting longer. One of those days. Hanging on cool for no good reason. Feels almost like autumn. Sky the color of birds' eggs. Leaves the color of leaves. Evening. We are having a sort of evening.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Blue Head.

So, friends and fans, the bulk of it rode out and by overnight, but there's a little line firing up just north of 27408 and general points surrounding, and the sun's out some here in 27244 — I am, again, out here in 27244 — at any rate, the sun is breaking through, and what that means is that we could well bubble something serious up. Danville looks to be either in the thick of fiasco, or just on the other side of it. Back behind the Danville cell(s) there's a second smaller little thing that seems to be dropping down a bit further, slightly towards Winston and perhaps Greensboro and perhaps Sedalia and Whitsett and maybe Elon.

We can make no prediction here at ANYLF except to say: Could be something; don't know what. An old JG saw. Then he'd of course pick up this big blue ceramic head, pull his shirt up over his own head, perch the ceramic bust on top of all that, and run around the house hollering Oh my god, my head is blue! Then he'd turn the blue head from side to side. What's that? the head would ask. What's that?

Keep an eye on the northern sky out there. Looks like it's sliding by. But it could still be something. And hell: there could be something more behind that.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Late Forecast.

Some of the fancies want rain overnight and/or tomorrow morning. Some do not. Stationary front stalled out — quel surprise — to our south, right along the NC/SC border, give or take. Rain, or some odd nighttime radar reflection, just off to our north. I don't think I quite believe it. I put in begonias out front based on the earlier forecasts — 60% into tomorrow — but there just wasn't anything on the radar all day, and there still really isn't. I can see the moon from the WeatherDeck. I'm going to have to water in the morning.

Folks, I think we're going to see a mix of sun and clouds, and even though I can't quite rule out the possibility of a shower, I think tomorrow's big weather event is going to be wind.

I was in a two-hour meeting today: Windowless room, ship of fools. On Saturday I get to hang the Do Not Disturb on my school email for the summer. Five days. Five days and counting.

I re-sited the ANYLF rain gauge. Moved it to the edge of the flower garden. It had been in the middle. Big changes everywhere. Big. Bold prediction: I think we're going to fall short of our May average for rainfall. That drought's still sneaking around the edges out there. Don't let all this verdant whatnot fool you. We're still in trouble. We're still in trouble, and summer's coming. Five days.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Almost Certain.

Forecasts from all corners. JBW, on percentages and probabilities: 80% means it's going to rain. I'll take him at his word. Back in grad school, he and I used to stand on the street two hours before any storm of any kind was anywhere nearby and look out west and debate the sky, the wind, other omens. He was usually right. He's got some kind of a sailing background — I think he was in the Spanish Armada, or rode the crow's nest on the Santa Maria — and so it matters more that he be right, or know how to be. My background is just of other fights— with my dad, standing up on the hill at 20 Brandon Ridge, looking out across the street at sure storms rolling in, trying decide if we were going to be struck by lightning. We survived.

Something sweet's on the wind out there. Honeysuckle, maybe, or the wild roses climbing over the back fence.

This morning at the Harris Teeter there was a small girl, seven years old or so, pushing one of those Future Shopper half-scale carts, cookie crumbs all over her face, hair in a failing braid. Two things in her cart: (1) this week's Harris Teeter circular, prices-per-pound for ground chuck and the like blaring out in yellow, and (2) a tube of Preparation H. She was prepared for any kind of deal the world was getting ready to offer her.

Pancakes. Coffee. The Sunday Times. Bill Evans on the hi-fi. Wrens thinking about building this year's nest in the mailbox. The beagles, god love them, are somehow not barking. And if they do start barking, there's always this.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cool Nights.

My friend CK says these are the last of the cool nights, and she's probably right. We're starting to feel charmed out there, rather than seasonal. The fancies say storms tomorrow, and that may be the first of the fronts that don't (doesn't?) cool us down. The patterns shift at some point. We stop getting air barreling down from anywhere north. By mid-June, generally, we just get humidity squeezed out of the mountains and the little popcorn thunderstorms that come with that. Then a tropical storm, and then we get Florida's air for a while, or Charleston's. And then it's over.

It was a cool spring. Or perhaps it was merely spring, and we just don't recognize that any more. Once the nights warm over, says Phil every year at this time, the tomatoes will really take off. I could eat a tomato. That would do me fine.

Today's my last final of the year. Monday I get one more stack of papers in. All these suburbs kids — I've been teaching a class about the suburbs to kids expressly from the suburbs — I didn't think I'd miss them, but now it feels like I might. The last thing they did for me (other than this final, which may be a little mean-spirited, I have to say — the product of a Saturday meeting time and too much coffee this morning) was grow their own front lawns in pots and buckets and Rubbermaid containers. They really seemed to like that. I gave them grass seed, told them to go buy whatever else they wanted, told them to defend their own lawns and lawns in general. Half of them — they come from pretty privileged spots — had never planted anything before. Leave aside that growing things from seed is at/of a 2nd-ish-grade pedagogical level. Remember lima beans in cups? Regardless: I had the shiny-haired ones getting their hands dirty. That might not be collegiate, but it's something.

Basic range — this... this.

Nice to feel slightly sappy about all this. Nice, too, to look forward to the drive home this afternoon. We're sunny and perfect here in 27244, and it was that way this morning when I left 27408. Maybe time for another run to the prison farm. Maybe time for some additional plants. Maybe time to pay even more attention to my own front yard. I asked these kids this morning the following thing: if we're too far gone — if we're likely to maintain the basic structures of suburban living — then given everything that's wrong with that, what are we supposed to do? Or what else are we supposed to do?

Me? I'm going to plant flowers. I'm not going to think too hard about it for today. That's an answer that would earn somebody a C, at best. But that's still passing, and that's damn near all I can muster up for now.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Building In.

Gray. We're mainly gray. Cloud cover accumulating. There's a heat to it, though, an underlying humid promise of all that rain down in Georgia and Alabama working its way here. ANYLF official estimate: half an inch between now and tomorrow morning. Good tomato rain. Good radish rain. And then the sun's supposed to break back out again tomorrow afternoon and give us a day in the mid-to-high seventies, a little breeze, the kind of day we'll all be hoping we'll get dealt in 27244 next Saturday for graduation. All that sitting in all those robes for all that time while they call all the names of all those kids. It'll never be 78. It'll be mid-eighties and getting hotter and it'll be dead still and I will wish I'd never learned to read or write. Then the vice-president of Wendy's or someone like that will get up behind the podium and tell everybody to Strive, strive, and talk maybe about how This is just the beginning of a journey. Oh, graduation. Around here all the kids get an oak sapling. They get an acorn when they're freshmen. Get it?

US News & World Report has us ranked #4 in the southeast for halfassed symbolic gestures. We're #2 in classrooms containing things that blink and whir.

Today I am having a wee little bit of trouble loving being awake. I'm tired, tired, tired. I'm ready to open up the rings on my looseleaf binder and let every, every page blow out the window of the school bus. I'm ready to be done with all this for a while.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Reading Day.

Here's what I can tell you, friends and fans: It's 11:30 again, and Your Source for Local Weather can easily report that today's forecast — what remains of it — will be dark and cloudy. And a little warmer. Something's riding in. We were nearly sunny all day, storms back west but held up, and so what we had was a kind of half-clouded punch-bowl sunshine, a flashlight through a sheet, sort of or almost. You could tell that other people somewhere else were having weather, and we were having the edges and lees of that.

School's out. For summer. Except that I have a class tomorrow, what's supposed to be a final, the end of a workshop, the last four or five pieces that came in right at the end. And I have conferences. And I have a passel of grading. And I have six other things to check off before I can hang the Do Not Disturb sign on my school email. Or sixteen.

Somebody else in NYC wants to see the damaged novel. The beagles keep barking. My tomatoes are probably not getting enough sun.

I haven't looked at forecasts or radar, but I'm going to say that here at ANYLF we like the chance of rain in the next give or take 24 hours. It just feels like it. It also — I hate like hell to say it — feels like one of these days soon we're going to snap right up to 90. It's time. This is what happens. We'll snap back again, but it's getting close to the end. It'll be reasonable until July, but we're sliding. July is out there.

I picked mint and chives at 9:00 tonight. It was still light enough to see what I was picking. I do love these long days.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You're Out.

Wind's done. We're a lot calmer today, and cool, and sunny. Hum of mowers in the neighborhood. Rattle-hum of mine soon enough. I took it apart a few weeks ago and never did get the cowling to sit back down quite right.

Today's the last day of class. I'm exhausted. I feel heavy. Something's not quite right. Maybe it's finals looming out there. Maybe it's the feeling that I may have mailed portions of this one in. Or the certainty of that.

Our azalea robins fledged yesterday. Tough day to learn how to fly, if you ask me. They could well be in Winston by now. Or Philadelphia. One of them was gone within thirty or forty-five minutes. The other, though, sat down in the cleft of a branch, in good cover, and waited things out. He was making that face baby robins make, like Sam the Eagle from those old Muppet Shows. Big long neck, big tipped-over horseshoe mouth. Baby robins look disapproving. Pissed off. Like they can't quite believe things have turned out this way. Like they were expecting something else altogether.

Our kids were handing the literary magazine around at school this morning. They had other kids turn them down. No thanks, some said. I don't read, more than one said. The goddamned thing's free. And beautiful. I wish we could have some sort of associate dean walk around with us and expel each and every kid on the spot who says she doesn't read. Assholes, assholes, assholes.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Another Round.

Tornadoes all over the south again, and even in North Carolina again, or so said Lanie Pope over at WXII this evening. She's fancy and all, but I still trust her. She seems calm. Even if there's a tornado on the ground in Clemmons, she's calm.

The difference between the NC tornado on-camera interviews and the AR on-camera interviews: Here, in NC, the bewildered people look into the camera and say Sounded like a train and We were just sitting there when. The Arkansas folks say This one was different than the others. There wasn't as much debris in the funnel.

We — here in 27408 and surrounding environs — know this kind of thing happens, and we know it occasionally happens to us. In Arkansas, though, in Missouri, in certain parts of Alabama — in places that are not here, people look gamely into the camera and distinguish this one from that one. This week's tornado is different from last week's. I drove out west a couple of times. They advertised for weather radios at gas stations. Milk, $1.99. Weather radios, $19. We here live a fairly charmed life half-snugged up against these mountains.

This has been a busy hundred hours for the fancies. It's cool and clear here tonight after a day that threatened violence but in the end just thundered some. Rained some. Next best chance of the Live In The WeatherCenter Jamboree: Wednesday into Thursday. Good rain out of these past few days. We were lucky. I've never seen a tornado, and I know we were lucky. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Eight Dollars.

Eight dollars for half a ton of mulch. Eight dollars. I love this town, and I love the towns nearby. The dude out there in the window at the grandly named Ingleside Composting Facility knows me by sight now, knows the dog, knows to tell the guy in the scooploader not to drop two tons down on my half-ton pickup. Still: Half a ton is about all the medium mulch my truck can hold. Me: Tell me about the mulch. Scooploader guy: We got the real new stuff. That'll burn up your plants. Then we got medium, and we got old. Back there we got the real old.

I was putting in paths for the front yard. I took the medium.

Beagles barking all day, all day, and AMR has gone out of town, which means the voice of reason is out of town, which means I will soon be in jail for some kind of beaglicide. Or any of the other cides. I am on the verge of committing a cide.

Here's what we'll count in the for column: A long day of hard work. Sore body to prove it. Front yard half-weeded and mainly mulched. Paths in. Truck empty. The pachysandra looks good now that I've gotten all the henbit out of it and removed the last two drought-casualty azaleas. The ivy makes a little more sense now. Phil spent the late afternoon paper-toweling the Caddy, which I am of course counting for us. Khaki shorts, magenta golf shirt. Shades. Plus there was an emergency down the street — two ambulances, two police cars — but all the EMTs were joking around out on the lawn, and everybody left without their sirens on. One imagines all turned out well, or mainly well. Yet another baby grackle fledging in the ivy. I pathed around him. Our azalea robins remain, waiting for just the right moment.

They want the messy part of the low to ride to our south tomorrow, which means storms for them and rain for us. I'd keep a close eye on things, though. If they're wrong — and they are often enough wrong — then we get the fun and games once more. Sun today. A damn lot of sun. An amount of sun. Fifty wheelbarrowfuls of mulch, minimum. Beagles and mulch, beagles and mulch. Rain tomorrow. All but guaranteed.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Greensboro Tornadoes.

It looked like we'd come through the worst of it — like the storm that was the trouble storm was down to our south and east, and headed away — but right around 11:30 the wind really picked up and we caught the very bottom end of that western line and there were, the fancies think, two tornadoes that touched down along basically the same path out by the airport. At 1303 all we got was a good rain and enough wind to make me take a close look at the linen closet to see how hard it'd be to pull the wire shelves out of there and stuff the animals and the two of us inside. The storm tracked on by to our north, though, up toward the reservoirs.

One of the storms took out buildings at the Farmer's Market. Several of those industrial buildings out that way are badly damaged. Cars and trucks blown off the interstate. A parked plane blown off the runway. One fatality. NOAA is reporting 90 mph winds at PTI. In 27408 we didn't even really have any leaves in the streets. No branches down. No nothing.

The dog was deeply worried at about 10 — during that first storm — but when those winds picked up again late, she didn't even lift her head up off the sofa. That's how we knew we didn't have to worry about dumping all the towels and sheets out into the hallway. You can have your fancy new hi-def doppler radar. The dog knows. The dog always knows.

Still windy today: the back end of that big low. Everything we've got outside is where we left it. We were lucky. Most of the rain and none of the catastrophe. Sunny today and tomorrow. Storms again on Sunday. The fancies get a couple days to rest before they've got to break out their storm tracks and rainfall rates and wind speeds and hail sizes again.

Somebody on one of the stations last night was reporting wind speed in knots.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Storms Coming.

Looked like it all morning — like rain — but then when it cleared off and heated up you almost knew this was what we were in for. Or half-hoped. The radish seeds need it. If we hadn't started to break the drought I might not have bought into it, but here it comes all the same and either way, a little cell rolling in from our southeast and then a huge line dropping tornadoes down back to our west, near Boonville and Elkin and Dobson and Pilot Mountain and Rural Hall. Tornado watch here in 27408 and all across the middle of the state. Severe thunderstorm warning with this current cell. Dog panting in the way that you know she knows. And now the rain's just starting up out in the yard.

The fancies are all over this on the T and V. We just had a tornado touch down in SE Guilford. Headed maybe toward Elon and Burlington. Hang on, robins and grackles. Hang on, Wentworth and Stokesdale and Eden and Price. Hang on, Pleasant Garden.

Interior rooms. Low-lying areas. SuperDoppler. StormTracker. All this one kind of litany.

Most of these watches run until 1 a.m. That western line might miss us here, but there's more behind even that. Could be a noisy evening. For god's sake don't keep it tuned here. Or keep it tuned here and also somewhere else. Get thee near a weather radio. Flip on the local fancy of your choice. Check back once you're in the clear.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Today I held a grackle and shoved/shepherded a robin.

Late this afternoon I read one of the best essay exams I've ever seen.

Tomorrow we may get rain.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I Voted.

Got the sticker and everything. Had to try two different precincts, but eventually they took us, even if our poll worker did laugh at AMR's name. Something about the Z maybe struck her as funny. There was the clear sense that Democrats were maybe not to be fully trusted. Brown ones less so. But a better day outside the Kiser Tigers' gymnasium (and a fine day, laughing aside, inside it: Nice to vote for your candidate, nice just to vote) — watered the radish seeds, the lettuce and spinach seeds, the impatiens, the squash, tomatoes, peppers. We've got both the food and the pretty crops in. Little bit more of each to go: Okra and lantana in over by Phil, radish and carrot and bush beans here in the WeatherDeck bed. Just nice to tend to the acreage this morning. Something simpler, better, than demographics.

Grackle casualty: dismembered baby in the front ivy yesterday evening. A leg left. Some feathers. Other less recognizable body parts. But two more fledging today, one up in La Vieja's maple and doing fine, one down on the ground trying to figure it out. No real way to tell if the dead grackle was our grackle, or another one out of the nest. That first one somehow was ours, and the subsequent grackles belong to — who knows. We'll say s/he flew away, and that the dead one was another one. Oh, the religion of baby birds. Maybe one forgets that there's more than one way to lose a hatchling. Maybe one forgets that fledging has got easily to be the most dangerous time. Maybe one just doesn't ever really know.

Today was ridiculous. May is ridiculous. Upper 70s. Sun. Little breeze. Birds galore. Most things blooming. Three more trash cans of bindweed and henbit and what all else out of the back garden. Michael Pollan posits in his excellent book Second Nature that the gardener is priviledged to be free of a romantic view of nature: S/he knows that some things must be culled (Bindweed, yes. But grackles?) in order for other things to thrive. The very act of weeding, of selecting, places one even in a kind of adversarial relationship with nature. Pollan reminds us that this adversarial contest begins when we decide winter is too fierce, put a roof over our heads. Pick another synecdoche. Difficult sometimes to remind oneself that the pig is smarter than the dog. Difficult to see the grackle in the yard. Difficult period. Difficult.

And yet we often have to choose. We dug out the morning glories to put tomatoes in.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Natural Selection.

Cloudy and cool out there to start your work week, folks, and a slight chance of storms later in the day. Little shift in the pattern. Our baby grackle (Quiscalus quiscala) survived a third night on the ground. Tear your front yards up, friends and fans; if you plant ivy thick enough to shelter fledging grackles, you'll get fledging grackles. Ours spent the overnight hours last night on a pair of rusted shears I've been storing for safekeeping by the left-hand Chinese fir since late last summer. This morning the parents are again coming down out of the trees to feed him, and we're back to flying lessons. Last evening he was trying these ten-foot semi-circles, landing in Phil's driveway on his chest, landing in the ivy, landing half-disastrously in a shrub. Once he hit the Chinese fir. Sound of him hitting the tree, sound of him hitting the ground.

Because what we need around here is for me to get emotionally involved in the survival of a hectoring trash bird.

Yesterday, riding the truck in to school, leaving as large a carbon footprint as possible, AMR and I were talking evolution. How many seeds a maple tree produces in a given year. How many pairs of robins we've been seeing in every yard on every street. How large animals — giraffes, elephants, peoples — only have the one baby a a time, as a rule. Maybe that's not true about giraffes. But it felt true at the time. How improbable a thing like live birth is. How perhaps even more improbable a thing like an egg is. Or a seed. How the sheer number of such things as maple seeds or baby birds suggests a rather extraordinary amount of failure, and of death, out there. How staggeringly often this succeeds, and how staggeringly often this must fail.

Stood in the street last night with AMR. We had this plan about picking the baby up out of the street if he should semi-circle his way out there. We were helping.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Evening Forecast.

I am not going to promise rain, but there is a fairly serious wind, there are clouds building in out of the west and south, and there is a line of storms that's admittedly falling apart as it crosses the mountains, but that's what lines of storms do. Also, that line extends well below the mountains, and so what I'm saying is that we could very well pick something up out of the southwest, out of, say, Charlotte or thereabouts, something worth paying some attention to. The fancies aren't wanting anything severe. I'm not either. Not one of the ANYLF models has anything severe for this evening. ANYLF is officially calling for gray and windy and occasional thunder. Let's say a quarterish inch of rain, if it rains. Maybe a half. All of this later on.

Tomatoes in along the front trellis: Yellow pear, cherry, three others that ought to grant us something larger. Heirlooms. Soil so soft I dug the holes with my hands. Smell of tomato foliage. Important to love that smell. Important to remember it.

Lunch from the market: Greens, radishes. Basil. Broccoli. Goat cheese. A little salad. The idea of it all morning long.

The robins' eyes are open today.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday Afternoon.

5 pm. 80 degrees. Maybe 81. Maybe 79. Squirrels yelling at each other up in the crown of the Japanese magnolia. Starlings nesting in the Chinese Fir. Robins front and back, two sets of two babies alive and well. Eyes open in the downspout nest. A day behind in the drama that is the azalea nest. The canopy of the Japanese magnolia's thicker this year: no late freeze. Those leaves that get sun go translucent in it; those that don't are a kind of new grass green. It's almost the season where this tree starts kicking some of its green leaves down onto the WeatherDeck. Very few seasons where this tree isn't spitting something out onto the ground. Baby towhees screaming over in La Vieja's shrubbery. La Vieja's transplanted daylilies — I asked her nicely last year if I could move them twelveish feet out into the sun — are huge, two or three feet tall. Little breeze out of the south-southeast. Gusts to something. 15 mph. That's a seated guess.

Friday, May the Two. Already cooling back off into evening. Birds everywhere. Everywhere. Sun. Mostly sunny. Mainly sunny. Home from school. Walking out to the parking lot today I had that old feeling of being free of something. I have to go back Sunday afternoon, but for now, it's the porch and the dog and a cold beer and, when she's finished completing tasks, AMR. Here she is now, sweater in hand, god love her. 80 degrees in the shade. AMR's got a cardigan. Be prepared. We are prepared.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day.

Just under the wire once more: what good's a weather forecast if it comes in at 11:53? Still. We reel into May and the weather rebounds and gives us that kind of warmth that promises both July and the several weeks before July, the weeks where it isn't so warm that you wish it had never warmed.

Two hatchling robins out front in the azaleas. The third a casualty of evolution or temperature or chance or the god of your choice. What robins do with a partially unhatched egg I don't know, but it's gone. Perhaps there's no time to mourn when we swing from three days of rain to nearly eighty degrees. I will send you all to the Google to find much more breathless chronicles of the lives of robins than this one — more than one eager webcammer has named his or her nesting pair Adam and Eve, which makes me want to name our two babies Cain and Abel, but I'll say this yet another time about the robins: something about these two five-day-old chicks reminds me again that life — eating and wasting, sleeping and waking — seems recklessly bizarre.

Look — about the weather — assuming that we get enough rain at other times, or assuming that you know that there will be the requisite number of rainy days, today was the day you hope for every day. Today was the kind of day that made me feel like the grandest dumbass of all time for being mired, at least somewhat, in a kind of art-related funk along the lines of art, comma, the uses of, and art, comma, can I make any.

May I. Can I be excused from the table? I don't know. I'm sure you can. But may you?

Wind blowing out there to end the day. Sound of the wind in new leaves.