Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Knock Knock.

Hot. Dry. Can't quite recollect the last time it rained. School's back in. August is over. Earl seems to want part and parcel of the Carolinas. Fiona back behind that. Nineties. Nineties to open September. My first day back at the puppet show: backed over the new office-hour lawn chairs with the truck, printed and discussed the wrong syllabus. Warned the children about seriousness of purpose. Can't remember if my own purpose has ever been less serious, can't remember when anything was ever more serious than it is now. Here is how it goes on the Piedmont: we watch for coastal storms, we wait for cooler nights. Bring me some season that isn't this, please. Waiter. There's a fly in my soup. The backstroke. Everyone will want one. Timing. Location. That's comedy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Box Score.

Certainly it wasn't cool today, but this morning found our heroes sticking their heads outside the back door saying things like, Have you been outside today? You should go outside. And we did, each in turn: I walked the dog. We went to lunch. AMR found an afternoon errand or two. And tonight, as per the plan we hatched in the morning after the been-outside-etc chatter, we stuck our heads out the door again, found things at 7 p.m. not altogether unacceptable, and did saddle the Toad for what might have been the final Dollar Monday of the season down at the Bats. We walked it from here. We found good seats. We drank dollar beer. We ate dollar hot dogs. I did, anyway. AMR is not hot for hot dogs. And the Toad? At eleven weeks? Watched the first seven innings and slept through the eighth and ninth. A religious man would use a word like blessed. I'm just going to say the weather was awfully good (temps falling into the seventies before the sun was down, light breeze, low humidity until after dark).

Tomorrow's the first day—an hour-long meeting only, but still—back at the puppet show. Hard to fathom. But you could smell autumn on the breeze there at the ballyard. This is how it goes. Summer comes and then summer closes itself back down. Not everything that comes with that is bad. Sure, you have to work. Sure, you have to go to meetings, which is/are like work, but with a flesh wound. However: there may be an August—could this have happened in August?—baseball game wherein one could tilt one's face into the breeze—could there have been a real breeze?—and hold one's sleeping son on one's lap and drink the end of a watered down Budweiser Light and think: Have you been outside today? You should go outside.

Box score: Bats won. 4-2. Sloppy game. Beautiful game. Beautiful night. More tomorrow. Here's hoping. We'll see.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuning In.

Alright, friends and fans of weather, of toads, of dogs, of slightly unseasonable coolness, of set-in rains, of new ballcaps, of 90s countdowns on cable TV, of the Phillies losing when the Braves lose, of ice in the glass, of boy kings asleep upstairs, of coyotes sacked on the sofa, of wainscoting hung flat and true and square, of smooth drywall seams, of nearly completed renovations, of tile contractors returning calls, of longer light, of the sure tilt towards fall, of cats—for fuck's sake, even of cats—let there be this: tonight TLK and I rode in the rain to Burlington, got to Burlington, discovered that of the two teams meant to be there on the field only Burlington was there, waited for the other team, drank beer, watched the other team (post-repaired bus) arrive, watched—and this matters—a local attorney sing the national anthem sans sound system, heard the crowd hush itself in order to hear her render it just right, or right enough, watched the teams play an inning, watched it rain again, drank another beer, came home. There is talk of a months-long experiment involving sun-fading the new black Burlington ballcap on a cedar stake in the garden. There is talk about how hats just aren't what they used to be. There is talk about the talk. There is ice. There is the glass. There is the sleeping child. There is the coming weekend. It's still summer. Don't be confused. The light, though, by the by, says we should be confused. And the temperature. And the rain, a different rain than regular summer rain. And the cool edge to the too-hot morning breeze. Long sleeves, people. Long sleeves. Now is not the time. But one could imagine the time. Or a time. Maybe. Long sleeves may be out on the far horizon. I've been a week away from this. Every time that happens I remember what a mistake looks like. There has been weather. It has gone unreported. I apologize.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Smooth Seams.

It's trying to rain here, some little out-of-nowhere storm, not that we need it. We picked up an easy two inches last night in a flooder that left sticks and stones and all else washed all over the morning dogwalk. Eighteen months here and I've about got our rain gauge figured out: if the park floodline (pinestraw, leaves, soil, gravel, the occasional paper cup) is about up to the sidwalk, that's two or three inches. If the debris line runs past the sidewalk, that's three or four or more. We were right at the sidewalk this morning when the dog and I got down into the bottoms. The Bottoms: also the name of the rec fields at my summer camp. Only hot place up in those mountains. I think the heat just collected down in a pool on the ultimate frisbee field. I remember cutting my back on the grass making sliding catches, remember hoping that would be enough to impress the Rebecca Forbses of the world. It wasn't, any more than knowing what the park reads like after a big rain is enough to impress the AMRs of the world. Maybe there are other ways. Finding that last shred of patience to sing 'Sleepytime for Toads' through a few more verses might be one.

The boy king is sacked out upstairs. The boy king's dad, though the boy king had a fine day, is feeling slightly pulverized. The Toad continues, continues, continues. The Toad is always there.

I bought a rain gauge. Finally. An actual one. Plastic. With numbers. I ran out in the downpour and noise and stuck it in a potted plant on the front walk. Inch and a half in there this morning. I'm guessing half an inch or an inch before i remembered I'd bought it, ran out there with it. Maybe the park's a more reliable indicator. It's certainly always out there.

I'm mudding the walls in the shed annex. Myself. Working without a net. My father, up last weekend to bear witness to his namesake, taking a peek at the shed, and then more than a peek, helping me hang the ceilings: You should hire the joints out. You should. You really should. Me: [teenage whining]. Me today: Up on a ladder, joint compound in my hair, determined. Making a half-mess of things. But not a full mess. Not yet. There was some progress. I'll get it. I just want to do it myself. Also, I'm more careful these days. I have a reasonable chance of getting it right.

The novel got shortlisted for a very nice prize. It rained threeish inches. Maybe just two. The Toad spent the day barfing onesie after onesie. Every afternoon it's a trillion degrees. I have first and second coats of mud on most of the seams out back, spent the evening skimming another one on. It's still trying to rain. The Toad toads, and through the magic of radio and electricity and perhaps magic, I can hear him on the downstairs monitor. It's too hot to do much other than list assets and liabilities. I've got them all on the same list, anyway, am struggling to tell the difference between the two—am struggling to convince myself, here in August, that the designation's all that important, that there's all that much space between them.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Knife's Edge.

Classic 2740X summertime afternoon yesterday: good storm—complete with warnings—off to our north, sliding south. Big. Lightning. Hail. Wind. We could hear the thunder off to our north-northwest as it was coming in. After it split in half and went by on both sides, we could hear the thunder to the southeast and southwest. No rain here. None.

Hotter today. We're 94 degrees in the shade of the front porch at quarter of two. And cloudier today: Storms are already starting to popcorn up on the radar, and the clouds look promising off over La Vieja Nueva's roofline. But here is Carolina August: promising means nothing. Promising means one more way to hope for something—anything—to cut the heat. Promising means it'll probably rain somewhere nearby. But as for your house, your agricultural concerns? Good luck. Roll dice. Flip coins. Lay ten shiny things out for the Toad to look at and wager on which he'll notice first. Put those results in a bowl of chicken bones and rattles and see what you learn.

We are the day after the Toad's two-month vaccinations here at 709. The Toad is not quite back up to his fighting weight on the heels of that, and on the heels of last night's performance by that selfsame immunized Toad, neither is the forecast. But: while the Toad slept off his polio hangover this morning, the chief meteorologist and severe weather expert did in fact head out back to commence the seaming of the drywall, and what little result there is so far—we are in the test run stage back there of a spackle/joint compound experiment learned off one of the interwebs—isn't utterly disheartening. It's a little heartening, even. Hopes are running medium-rare. There is a 40% chance of hope, mainly after two o'clock this afternoon and through this evening. A good chance tomorrow, as well. So: break out your fiberglass tape, friends and fans of DIY. Find your ten-inch drywall knives. Feather your edges. Always, always feather your edges. Post-shots, the Toad had a hell of a time feathering his edges. But he's edging back toward feathering today. Things are looking promising, even here, even in August, even headed for 100 degrees—or they were until just now, when the mail came, the dog went to DEFCON 18, and the Toad, who had been napping his afternoon through, woke up to see what the hell the dog thought we all ought to do about whatever emergency is befalling us right now, and whatever one might be headed our way next.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cicada Waiting.

School busses and the high school drum corps: add these to your early-morning dogwalk wheel o' sound, please. And let's go on and make it autumn, even if it'll be 143 degrees by midafternoon. Hard to see the despondent puberty-bombed fifteenish-year-old-boy waiting for the bus yesterday with a paperback of The Scarlet Pimpernel in his backpack and not think of the Toad, of what will ravage the Toad, of what his toadly sadnesses will be come this time however many years from now—fifteen, sixteen, twenty, thirty-five—but for now there's still a romance to it, an impossibleness, a far-offness. For now, the Toad fights his morning nap. He fights his swaddle. He does not fight the urge to look at Leigh Anne Whateverhernamewas in second period Spanish. Oh, but it'll come. Here's the fucked-up thing: turns out being a parent means you hope the child has that pain. It is all you can hope for. The alternative is disaster on whichever front.

In additional disaster news, the cooler weather—you know: upper eighties, little breeze—all comes crashing down around us today, even as the not-entirely-unpleasant memory of cutting drywall in the shaded driveway last night hangs on. Here's how NOAA has the next five days: 96, 96, 95, 90, 90. WXII, working with (presumably) the same material, says 96, 98, 97, 92, 89. Maybe there's a thunderstorm in the forecast. Maybe there isn't. What ANYLF can report for sure: the temps don't match the sounds of marching bands.

Cicadas, cicadas: underneath everything are the cicadas. Sometimes it sounds like life, like abundance, like unstoppableness. Other times it sounds like something heavy is arriving. The light has changed. I feel like I should say that. The light has yellowed, has slid back equinoxward from the flash-white of June. I considered ordering a fleece-lined sweatshirt this morning. Sometimes I wear long sleeves in the house just to remember what that feels like. This week I reteach myself something I already know I'm bad at: drywall seams. On the dogwalk the last two days the novel's felt more alive. When the dog and I come back to the house these mornings the Toad's just finished eating. Then the people eat, and the babies and animals watch and snort and rattle. Something is shifting in here. Some rhythm is edging toward making itself known. Or at least we think we're hearing it, maybe, sometimes, underneath everything else.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Brave New.

I was wrong yesterday. Sometimes the forecast gets it wrong. And sometimes the forecast makes assumptions without having gone outside: The light looked bad. The cicadas sounded bad. The wind, when it blew, looked bad, gave me no inkling that once I did go outside it'd be—well, it was pleasant. Aggressively so. For August, it was downright nice, even. The humidity was down. We never saw 90. I hung drywall. I cut it in the back of the truck. In the sun, even. And it was warm in the sun, but it wasn't kill-yourself-and-then- your-friends-and-neighbors warm. And then the grandparents—in town to lay eyes upon the boy king—took us to dinner, and we did sit, at about 9 p.m., outside. In 2740X. In August. With the Toad. Who slept through dinner. All things, friends and fans of weather, are possible. Sort of.

The Toad's new trick: he watches you. One could, if one was of a mind to, make a chicken while the Toad supervised from the comfort of his rocker sling chair. One could crush the garlic and wash the cilantro and cut and squeeze the lime and get all of that on and in the chicken and the chicken on and in the oven while the Toad watched. This is so new: the Toad, awake, not squalling. I've said it here before. I'll probably say it again. Doesn't much matter. Being able to put the awake child down and then do something is the difference between an August day in the mid-eighties and most of all of every of each of the other August days.

And inexplicably and like a gift and from downtown tonight on the end of yesterday's wind arrived Cuban music at top volume, played from some venue down the street. Who knows which. Sometimes we get music from downtown. It just comes. Tonight, it started as half-horrible soul covers. But then, impossibly, there was a second band, a Cuban band—drums and horns, backup singers, the whole thing. What to do but take the Toad out on the back deck and drink a beer and keep the mosquitoes off his head as best I could and sit in an evening that was sliding back toward what we expect this time of year, heat and hot, and listen? So we did. And then the dog got wise, and then there were three of us. The cicadas. I don't remember the cicadas ever being like this. But the band was louder. Cuban music. Cool on the edge of the breeze in August. The Toad, watching it all. Some of it, at least. I've explained to the dog about the weather. Now one of us is going to have to start explaining it to the Toad.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


The best the forecast can do for the next few days is give us 'patchy fog' overnight tonight and Sunday night. Yesterday was warm and still. This morning is hot and breezy. The cicadas are going hard. The grass is growing. Thursday's storms mattered. They did. I promise. If you walk backwards in your minds, boys and girls, you can remember them. The wind. The frequent lightning. The red warnings gliding across the bottoms of your screens. But that forecast—all those nineties coming, those storm chances so few and far between, the fog—we are so rarely forecast fog—all these dashes—let's leave it there for now, shall we?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lovely Afternoon.

That was pretty.

It rained on my grill while I was trying to cook London Broil to eat chilled for dinner tonight, but a little severe thunderstorm goes nicely with beef, and I'll take rain any way it comes. There was wind, too, which I had hoped the Toad would quite appreciate—turns out, however, that he was more into staring and blinking. It's OK. He'll learn soon enough.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Later Summer.

Woke up to a wet street, wet yard. Not hugely so on either count: the street under the truck's still dry, the deck's dry where it meets the house. It might still be raining. It might not. Our gray is a high gray, a stormless gray, an unforecast morning shower gray. A don't-rush-out-right-now-for-the-drywall gray. The radar says all this came out of the north-northwest. Back up toward the hills and mountains it looks like it might be trying to organize into something a little stronger, a little throatier. The Toad is asleep upstairs. AMR is asleep upstairs. The cats, who I despise, and who got me up, are asleep upstairs. I do have a cup of coffee, though, and the house to myself but for the dog, who almost always lines up on the good side of the ledger, and I have the quiet smug satisfaction of a man who pulled three rolls of insulation out of the truck bed as an afterthought last night and put them in the shed. Where they are now. Dry. Undrizzled on. Ready for some kind of attention later on.

This is the week of insulation and drywall. And of my parents bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh up from the deeper south as they chase a star out of GA and across the SC desert to harken upon the newborn Toad. And as if on cue, friends and fans of later-day thunder, the sun has just broken out back there through the kitchen door and is lighting up the Dumpster edge of the catty-cornered apartments. If I didn't know any better, I'd call the back yard beautiful.

We've been hot, but not as hot. We've been knocked back down to livable. It rains a little bit again. Those three weeks of death and pestilence might be behind us. The Braves are below .500 since the All-Star break, but one still hopes, however blindly and foolishly. The Toad has new tricks, like looking at things and making wee noises. It's August. The puppet show looms out there in the near distance. The new half-dead novel looms out there in the shed, somewhere underneath all that insulation. The Toad looms. The Toad always looms. There's a damn lot of looming going on around here. We're mainly clouded over again, and now out that selfsame kitchen door it looks like it'd be cool enough to take a pair of jeans and a cup of coffee outside. Among other things, though, the cicadas say it just plain isn't. That and sticking half my body out to let the dog back in from her morning scratch and sniff. We're not as hot here at the looming close of summer, but if I had to say, and I guess I do, then I'd say we're still hot for sure.