Friday, May 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday: West Philadelphia, 1988

Katie lived in my dorm. 

We weren’t close, but we knew each other to say hello and hang out together now and then down in the lobby, the way that often happens in dorms.  She was someone nice who I would see from time to time, and that was enough.

Katie took a photography class during my senior year.  This was back in the pre-digital era, when photography meant film and darkrooms and smelling like vinegar for two or three days after you printed your own shots.  It was an intensive process.  Part of the class was that she had to put together a photographic essay of some kind.  She remembered the Death robe that I usually wore on Halloween, and asked if I would be willing to be her subject.

Sure, why not?

Between her schedule and mine we didn’t get our act together until well into the spring.  The stage directions were pretty simple – she wanted me to walk down 40th Street, change into my robe, and continue walking down 40th Street until we got to the cemetery, after which more directions would follow.  Those turned out to be pretty straightforward as well, as I recall.

Nobody on the street even looked twice.  It was West Philadelphia in the 80s – I wasn’t the weirdest thing they’d seen on the streets that afternoon, not by a long shot.  It was a lot of fun.

The end result was an 11-part essay entitled “Death Wears Sneakers.”  Each photo had its own caption on the back as well.  I have no idea what she got on the project – I hope it was an A.  After the semester was over Katie gave me the whole set.  Number 4 was my favorite – I hung it on my apartment wall for years after that.

Death Wears Sneakers

I. Anyone can stop a man’s life, but no one his death; a thousand doors open on to it.

II. But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you

III. Sleep after toil, port after stormy seas, ease after war, death after life, doth greatly please.

IV. They were born and then they lived and then they died.

V. It was a dark and stormy night.

VI. A dreaded sunny day
So let’s go where we’re happy
And I’ll meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
But you’ll lose
Because Wilde is on mine.

VII. Pick out a couple you like
Choose your burial site

VIII. There’s daggers in men’s smiles.

IX. What is this world?  What asketh men to have?
Now with his love, now in his colde grave

X. Death hath no more dominion over him

XI. The rest is silence.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

News and Updates

1. The semester has finally wound itself down to a nubbin, and pretty soon I will be able to focus on all of the things I have been putting off while frantically scrambling to get the semester done.  It’s been a long couple of weeks – rewriting the last third of a course on the fly, in two different versions, will do that to you – but it seems to have come in for a soft landing.  Who knows?  Perhaps there will even be more bloggage in the near future!

2. The end of the school year is always somewhat bittersweet, really.  I like my students, even the ones who occasionally make me crazy, and now they are gone to the next phase of their lives.  I enjoy teaching, and I’m pretty good at it.  I like the energy of a college campus.  But I’ll appreciate the sleep, now that it’s over.  Yesterday I closed up my office at Mid-Range Campus and turned in my keys, and now it is time to move on to the next task.  Given the rabid assaults on education from Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) this year, it is an open question whether that next task will be anything like the previous ones.  We’ll see.

3. Grading finals is so much easier than grading midterms, since they don’t get them back and therefore you don’t have to write comments.

4. We have freed the little chickens from their wire enclosure and let them mingle with last year’s chickens.  So far there has been no trouble.  This may be because we moved Sully, The World’s Stupidest Life Form into the stall next door.  He can hear his flock, but he can’t see them or interact with them anymore.  I have to admit he looks rather crestfallen about it – chickens are flock animals, and you have to feel bad for poor Sully, nuisance that he is.  I may put up the wire enclosure again and just stick Sully in it.  That way he can be with his flock and not harm anyone.

5. Today is Lauren’s last track meet.  They have a busy but rather condensed schedule, over at Mighty Clever Guy Middle School.  I made it to one meet last week, where I ended up pressed into service as a timer.  It went well, and we dodged most of the rain.  Lauren did pretty well in her events too.  Today is also a cool, rainy sort of English summer day (what we in Wisconsin call “late March”), so it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

6. Did you know that IKEA now sells bulk candy?  And that most of it is safe for people with nut allergies?  This is a dangerous, dangerous discovery, but a fun one.  We were scooping it into bags by the fistful this past weekend when a guy came over to join us – he turned out to be Swedish and we had a long conversation about the merits of salt licorice (Swedes love it, the rest of the world wisely regards it as a form of road construction material) and Finnish licorice (apparently better than Swedish, according to the Swede). 

7. I need a haircut.  I need new glasses.  Next week I may be unrecognizable.  Now would be a good time to learn how to be a spy.

8. Apparently I missed International Horton Day last week, because I was too busy with finals.  I suppose most people did, which is probably because I created this holiday a couple of years ago and it hasn’t caught on yet.  But it should.  Every year should have a day devoted just to the idea of being kind to people.

On the fifteenth of May, in the jungle of Nool,
In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool,
He was splashing, enjoying the jungle’s great joys,
When Horton the elephant heard a small noise…

9. Never underestimate the power of a group of friends with free time, disposable income, and access to metal chickens.  Knock, knock…

10. We’re already booked pretty solid for the summer.  How did that happen?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

That's Our Story and We're Sticking To It (Now With Video!)

Yesterday was the annual 4H Drama Festival down at Home Campus.

This is our fifth year where our 4H club participated.  The kids get together sometime in January to brainstorm out a play, and a couple of the older ones write it out.  Then they audition for parts, and spend much of the winter and spring rehearsing.  Kim and Jamie serve as the adult directors, but most of it is on the kids.

My role this year was fairly minimal, given that I was at Mid-Range Campus on most rehearsal days and didn’t get back until about halfway through the rehearsals.  Mostly I just went home, but toward the end I started showing up.  My job was to handle the tech end of things, which was also pretty minimal.  Last year’s lighting board operator became this year’s spotlight operator, so I trained her on how to do that – a process that involves about 10 minutes of instruction (“This is how you turn it on, this is how you get the light to change size and shape, this is how you get the colors to change, and that’s how you make the light go away and come back.  Now go practice”) and then I just turned her loose.  Honestly, it’s not that hard and most of it is just practice.  She did a fine job.

Most of the tech was sound, and they did that on their own really.  Tabitha and Aleksia gathered together a pile of objects for sound effects – along with a handful of audio files stored in Kim’s iPhone – and other than asking the theater professor on Home Campus to run a couple of cables to plug them into the sound system I mostly stayed out of it.  Sound is one of those areas of theater that mystify me, and the less I have to do with it the better the show works.

The rehearsal schedule got pretty crowded over the last couple of weeks, as the show slowly came together.  And on Saturday it was showtime!

You should have been there.  Really, you should.

This year’s play was inspired by the old Doctor Seuess book, And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.  It opens with a couple of judges who are fast approaching their cream puff break, cream puffs being something of an ongoing inside joke with our 4H Players.  There have been cream puff jokes in all but the very first production they’ve put on.

Suddenly, in rush four very late 4H kids hoping to have their project judged. But it is too late, and the judges are about to leave when the kids convince one of the judges to hear them out.  They have an exceptionally exceptional excuse, after all.  Perhaps the judge will show them a little leniency.

This is where it gets weird. 

The kids and the judges were all on stage left (the right side of the stage from the audience’s perspective, for those of you not up on your theater jargon).  From this point on the stage gets split into two pieces – three, if you count the Foley table way over on the very edge of stage right, where the sound effects were coming from – as the kids on stage left spin an ever-wilder story about the reasons for them being late and as that story gets acted out over on stage right.

Because they had a good reason to be late.  You see, there was a guy in the poultry barn who sneezed.  Not a small sneeze.  A monstrous sneeze.

Except it wasn’t a guy.  It was a juggler!  Yeah, a juggler!

And it wasn’t just a regular juggler!  She was juggling chickens!  And she was also allergic to chickens!  Another monstrous sneeze!  Feathers everywhere!

This is when the kid ran by with five balloons, except it wasn’t one kid with five balloons – it was five kids each with one balloon!

And then they all popped.

That was actually my favorite exchange in the play.  “And then they all popped.”  “The CHICKENS?”  “No, the balloons!”

That was when the cow got loose and ran around.  No!  A whole herd of cows!  The cows of course upset the goats, so much that the goats started screaming and fainting!

In the chaos someone ran into the cart with all the apples and the Super Sticky Caramel, causing both apples and caramel to spill, which, of course, trapped the 4H Royal Court.  “We’re royally stuck!” they cried.

And while the Court – and everyone who was helping them – was trying to get free, all that sticky caramel attracted first bees and then, because hey, why not?, a dragon.  Fortunately, a knight in shining armor arrived to free everyone from the caramel and head off in pursuit of the dragon, which had by then headed off toward the cream puff stand and was at that very moment roasting all of the cream puffs!

Quelle fromage!

It was the best excuse that the judge had ever heard, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to make her stay around to judge their project.  You see, she’d left her dragon in the car and apparently it had now escaped and was eating all the cream puffs and the last thing you want to deal with was a sugared-up dragon, so she needed to go.

Our four late kids were left standing around, holding their pink “thanks for trying” ribbons.  “If she didn’t believe us,” Lauren’s character says, “she could have just told us!"

Except that then the other judge comes back looking for the one who just left, because the dragon really is roasting all the cream puffs and that judge needs to do something about this.

Then the juggler runs by, still juggling chickens.  And the balloon kids – now with new, unpopped ballons.  And the kids looking for their herd of cows.  And the one looking for her goats.  Then of course the Royal Court parades by, looking for someone who can get caramel out of a sash.  And finally the knight arrives, seeking directions to the dragon.

So they go off to join them, since roasted cream puffs sound like a pretty good deal.

There’s a moment of silence and then the judges come back, somewhat worse for the wear having now captured the wayward dragon.  Did you know dragons have feathers?  Well, they do.

All seems well, until another kid comes running up, apologizing for being late and claiming to have the most exceptionally exceptional excuse ever.

Let’s hear it, they say.

The play went over well.  The audience laughed in all the right places, and all of the various sound and lighting cues happened where they were supposed to happen.  The actors peaked at just the right time – it was easily the best run-through of the show they’ve ever done.  They got all their lines and looked both enthusiastic and happy about them.  Well done, troupers!

The judges agreed.

In the feedback session that follows each performance during the Drama Festival they spent most of their time talking about how good a job the kids had done and being impressed by the fact that the play was theirs and not foisted off on them by the adults.  They did have a few constructive points to make, of course – that’s their job as judges, to point out things that could have been done better. 

Speaking as someone who has spent more than three decades in theater and almost that long as a teacher, however, what I noticed was that those constructive points were what I call “sophisticated mistakes” – mistakes that you wouldn’t expect people at this level to make because of all the things you have to get right even to get to the level where those mistakes are an option.  People often fail to realize that progress isn’t about going from error to perfection.  It’s about going from basic errors to subtle and sophisticated errors.  Sometimes my survey-level students turn in work that has graduate-level mistakes, and let me tell you that is an impressive thing.  So three cheers to our 4H Players for operating on that level, I say.

They were awarded blue ribbons, and at the award ceremony later that afternoon they took Top Drama for the third straight year and were invited to perform at the Wisconsin State Fair in August.

Congratulations, actors and technicians!


Update - May 11, 2015

Our friend John recorded the performance, and here it is!  Thanks, John!

Monday, May 4, 2015

News and Updates

1. Once again it’s the time of the semester where everything caves in at once.  It’s a time of sleepless nights, long days, and far too many decisions made based on available resources rather than what actually might be the best course of action.  I wish I were one of those lazy professors I keep hearing the Teabaggers yell and scream about these days, as I’d have more free time and probably fewer health issues.  I don't actually know any of those professors - all of the ones I know are as worn to a nub as I am, if not more so - which inclines me to think that they are just as fictional as the rest of the Teabagger moral universe.

2. This Sunday was Lauren’s piano recital.  Every year her teacher gathers up all of her students (and recently the students of another teacher who is a friend of hers) and plops them all down in a nice space here in Our Little Town for a concert.  It’s an appreciative audience and there is food after, so three cheers all around, I say.  This is Lauren’s sixth year in piano and she is reaching the point in her life where other interests are starting to press in, so it may end up being her last.  We’re going to let that decision slide until the fall, though she’s earned the right to make her own decision when the time comes.  She had a solo piece for this recital, which she did very well, and then I joined her up on stage for a duet.  If this actually was her last recital, I’m that much more glad I got to be part of it.

3. Tabitha had a piece of artwork up in the local mall a couple of weeks ago as part of the school district’s show there.  We somehow managed not to find out about this show until nearly a week after it was over, which is symptomatic of larger distractions I suppose.  But it was a lovely watercolor and she worked very hard on it.

4. All of the chickens are now out at the barn and our living room no longer smells of poultry.  The three surviving turkeys seem to be thriving in their sweetly goofy sort of way, and this year’s flock of chicks is penned up behind a wire fence in the same large stall as last year’s chickens so they can get used to each other.  Eventually we'll let them mingle freely.  We’re not really sure what is going to happen with the flocks this year, as the avian flu that is slicing and dicing its way through the midwest has come awfully close and the odds of us having any poultry show at this summer’s 4H County Fair are dimming by the day.  We remain optimistic, however.

5. If nothing else we have our own supply of eggs, which may well be a rare and precious thing over the next few months.

6. We went up to our friends Heidi and Travis’ house this weekend for a Kentucky Derby party, where I had my very first actual mint julep prepared by an actual Louisville KY native.  It was quite tasty.  And the horse I randomly picked because I liked the name actually came in fourth, missing out on the money by less than half a length.  And if that ain’t the story of my world sometimes, I don’t know what is.  I've never understood the whole thing about horse racing - it seems like an awful lot of buildup and then BAM! it's over before you even know what happened, which is just far too much like the set-up to a vaguely off-color joke, really.  But a good time was had by all.

7. Somewhere the NHL playoffs are going on, and I have not had time to watch.  This is a travesty.  Of course at this point I have only one team left that I have any kind of interest in seeing win (the Minnesota Wild), since my two top teams were eliminated either in the first round or sometime back in February.  Mostly I’m left with teams I don’t care about either way (Tampa Bay, Washington, Calgary, Anaheim, Montreal) or teams I actively dislike (New York, Chicago).  So missing the playoffs hasn't been all that traumatic, now that I think about it.

8. I’m not watching much soccer either, and I've got an entire season of Broadchurch to binge-watch next week after my last class.  My to-read pile has not changed appreciably in about a month.  There are simple projects that even I could do around the house that remain undone despite my honest intentions otherwise (as opposed to more complicated projects that I generally hope will just go away on their own).  My office is a nightmare of paper.  There are just so many things to do that I may just throw up my hands and start over from scratch.

9. Local Businessman High had its annual academic achievement evening a Monday or two ago, and Tabitha got a very nice certificate for her work in her first year there, so far.  It was a well-run ceremony – short, but still managing to call all the names – and there were many proud parents there.  Ourselves very much included.

10. Is it just me or has the batshit insanity of the modern American right wing been amped up a few notches this spring?  I’ve been trying not to pay attention to it as much as possible, on the theory that I don’t even have time for people I like and respect these days and therefore devoting time to people who qualify on neither count would be wasteful, but sweet dancing monkeys on a stick do they make it hard for the rest of us to live normal lives.  It is my humble suggestion that Texas be sold back to Mexico in exchange for a burrito and a large soft drink, if they’ll even pay that much for it, so that the rest of us can go back to civilized life.

11. Once again I found myself working the food booth at the 4H Cat Show despite the fact that neither of my children were actually showing a cat.  Strange things mystifying. 

12. We covered the Nazis in Western Civ last week.  Nobody was stupid enough to suggest that they were Socialists - a statistical certainty in any online situation where the general public is allowed to comment, sadly - and I took that as a good sign of the intellectual health and future prospects of my students.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rock On, Historians

There was a time in American history when people who had too much money and not enough medication focused their energy on cultural matters rather than politics.  That was, all things considered, a better time.

The House on the Rock is a relic of that golden age of American culture, when men were men, women were women, small furry grey mammals were small furry grey mammals, and nobody thought twice about the fact that there was an unhinged lunatic running around the world buying kitsch on a Biblical scale in order to stash it in a house he was building by hand way up on (as advertised) a rock, out in the middle of nowhere in central Wisconsin.

I was there yesterday as part of an academic exercise.  I kid you not.

The history department for all of the various campii in our system gathers together every so often to resolve various matters of academic interest, exchange ideas and suggestions for classroom strategies, and say the sorts of things that need to be said but cannot really be committed to paper or electronic records.  My attendance record at these things is quite poor, as it is for most things that require me to leave my house and be sociable, but this year both opportunity and obligation lined up and I went.

On the whole it was a fine time.  I got to hang out with people who share my general bent toward history, many of whom have been doing it longer than I have.  There were any number of good ideas and suggestions, a few chances to socialize (as much as historians are capable of socializing, anyway – alcohol was involved), and the comforting reassurance of colleagues who understand the stress of working for a system that is currently under furious assault from the Teabagger elites.

As part of this meeting, someone managed to get the House on the Rock to let us have a tour of the place.  We watched a short presentation given by one of the staff members – someone who apparently knew and worked closely with the founder of the place – and then they let us loose to wander about and take in the sights.

It’s a difficult place to explain to people who’ve never been there.

The first thing you go through is the House, which looks the sort of place where Elvis would live if he and Frank Lloyd Wright had married sometime in the mid-1970s.  It’s full of odd and uncomfortable angles, shag carpeting, tight turns, narrow halls, low ceilings, sitting spaces tucked into every conceivable corner (none of which look at all inviting), and an astonishing amount of random artifacts situated in exactly the wrong place from an aesthetic point of view.  There are also maybe a dozen full-size pneumatically powered orchestras scattered around the place, and if you feed a token or two into the little red box in front of them you can get them to wheeze and clatter through their respective tunes.  They range from bedroom scenes (complete with the kind of padded ceilings that call to mind either 17th-century Versailles or Miss Cinnamon’s House of Exotic Adventure on the tackier side of Las Vegas) all the way up to a two-story lacquered black and red Mikado scene.  There is also a vaguely Christmassy sort of room that plays “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairies.”  Because why not?

On the other hand, there is the Infinity Room, which is a long space cantilevered over the ravine and built more or less in a triangular shape that appears to recede to a point at the end.  You walk out as far as you’re allowed and then you can look down to the floor of the ravine, maybe 60 feet below, and it’s actually kind of cool.

And then you go into what are euphemistically called “the Collections.”

They used to make you buy a single ticket for the Collections, but these days they split it into two pieces so you can escape halfway when the place finally overwhelms your ability to handle it and you have to flee.  I’ve been there three times now, and while I did technically get all the way through it the first time I will admit that this only happened by sprinting at nearly full pace through the last four or five of the nearly thirty rooms, carefully looking only at my shoes and singing loudly enough to drown out the noise of the place.  I haven’t gotten anywhere near that point since.

So I can only really speak to the first half of the Collections is what I’m saying here.

It’s hard to overstate just how much of an assault on the senses the Collections are.  Everywhere you look there is just an astonishing amount of Stuff – lining the walls, arranged along the floor, hanging off the ceiling – on a wide variety of scales, and every time you turn a corner new vistas of clutter and kitsch open up before you.  There’s a room full of cars, including several classic roadsters and some behemoth from the 1960s that was completely covered in ceramic tiles by a tasteless and tacky man.  There’s a room built around a life-sized model of a sperm whale engaged in mortal combat with a giant squid (presumably also life-sized), and you circle the whale on a gradually ascending ramp that goes around all four walls of the room and is lined with model ships ranging from fifteen inches to fifteen feet in length, perhaps a hundred of them, maybe more, about half unlabeled, as well as nautical artifacts and more scrimshaw than is probably legal.  There’s a recreation of a Victorian market street, complete with a dozen or so psychotically overstuffed storefronts, that ends with a calliope straight out of R. Crumb’s nightmares – the full-sized mechanical soldiers moving jerkily in time with the music are seriously creepy.

The first half of the Collections concludes with the Carousel Room, which contains a carousel (naturally enough) that proudly advertises itself as having more electric lights than any other carousel in the world, all of which are turned up to 11.  It spins wildly on its axis, so the hundreds of phantasmagorical carved figures ranging from dragons to naked women go by in a blur.  The music blares.  And overhead, like some deranged cross between The Birds and The Book of Revelation there is a vast flock of mannequins dressed as angels, most of which have acquired clothes since the last time I was there, though not all.

The last time I was there we took the girls – who were maybe 7 and 4 – and our friend Matt, who was visiting from out east.  I was a bit ahead of him when we got to the Carousel Room so I didn’t actually see him when I heard him clearly say “Oh.  My.  God” in the tones that you’d expect from a man confronted with unbridled insanity.  We took the opportunity to escape at that point.

As did the history department.

If I recall right, this means that both times we missed the room with the full-sized ships’ propellers, the wreaths of tympani, and the network of black catwalks that made the room look like something out of Tim Burton’s last therapy session.

I’m not sorry.

Honestly, though, if you get the chance you should go to the House on the Rock at least once.  It’s just one of those places you’ll remember forever, no matter how much you drink afterward, and it really is something to experience.

But once is plenty.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Running Around in Circles on Purpose

There’s a reason they don’t hold track meets in December.

The whole point of track is for people to try to get from Point A (defined as next to the guy with the gun) to Point B (defined as way over yonder, presumably far away from the guy with the gun, which is pretty much always a good idea under any circumstances, but – particularly in your longer races – not necessarily that far away after all) as quickly as possible, under your own power.  It’s just you, your feet, and the open space.

And a milling crowd that insists on wandering onto the tracks like suicidal cows in a railyard.

The thing about this is that it helps not to be overly encumbered while doing it.  You get some shorts and a tank top, and the lightest shoes you can find, and off you go.  Hell, the ancient Greeks used to run their track meets naked, which is probably taking the whole “weight to power ratio” thing just a bit more seriously than perhaps is warranted.  Trying to run in a parka and furry boots is just a no go.

It’s a summer sport.  That’s all there is to it.

But tell that to the good people of Wisconsin, for whom summer is something that happens between the Fourth of July and mid-August.  Schools are out of session then.  So if we are going to have track meets at all, we have to have track meets in what passes for spring in this part of the world, when the snow flurries have tapered off by as much as several hours prior to the beginning of the festivities.

Also, they sell hot chocolate at the concession stands, which never hurts.

Lauren decided to join the track team down at Mighty Clever Guy Middle School this year.  I heartily approve of this, as it is both good exercise and a continuation of a family tradition that stretches back to her grandfather on my side of the family and at least to Kim on hers.  They’ve been practicing after school for a while now, and today was their first actual meet.

Oh, they had a “scrimmage” last week, but Lauren rather pointedly insisted that our attendance was not necessary and assured us that none of the other parents would be there either.  We’ve reached the point were we’re more embarrassing than it is worth, apparently.  Of course we were just about the only parents who didn’t show up, so for this meet we decided that we’d attend, embarrassment or not.

It was warmer last week.

Lauren was scheduled to do the high jump and two relays – the 4x100 and the 4x200.  This meant that she had successfully convinced her coach to let her out of the hurdles.  I understand this.  As a friend of mine once said, it’s bad enough they make you run all that distance but then they put things in your way?  No.

We got there as they were warming up for the high jump, and Lauren did her thing there.

And eventually they got around to the 4x100, where she ran the anchor leg for her team.

It gave me serious flashbacks to my own time on my high school track team.  All I will say about my experience on the 4x100 relay team is that I was single-handedly responsible for the following week’s intense focus on baton passing.  I didn’t last long on that team, really.

She never did run the 4x200 – apparently there was some miscommunication and her team got scratched – but that just meant we could go home and thaw out that much faster.

Go Lauren.  Run like the wind, my daughter.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Adventures in Poultry

It’s been a busy time here at our rapidly growing livestock operation.

The turkeys are all out at the barn now.  Kim and Lauren cleaned out an old horse stall in the corner, right by a door, and took the four surviving turkey chicks over there a couple of weeks ago.  KitKat, Jamaica, and Norman are all still doing well.

Poor August is no longer with us, however.  She had splayed legs – apparently a common problem with birds that grow so big so fast – and never did learn how to walk.  A friend of ours who raises turkeys (and from whom we got these turkeys in the first place) recommended a technique that might help.  You stretch a cord or similar something between their legs to keep them from splaying out so much, and then gradually shorten it up until they have to keep their legs underneath them.  In theory this means they learn to walk, but it doesn’t always work out that way.  Lauren spent a lot of time nursing August along, making sure she could get to the food and water, but earlier this week it was clear that August had deteriorated markedly.  She was a sweetly goofy little bird, and we’ll miss her.

They’re all sweetly goofy little birds, actually, though they’re getting less little every day.

When we go to the barn we also check in on last year’s chickens.  Venus, Puff, and Rocky are each producing an egg most days.  They’re good eggs. 

We need to figure out what to do with Sully, our special needs rooster.  Sully is quite possibly the least intelligent life form on earth, a walking refutation of Darwinian natural selection – possibly because nothing about his selection was natural – and a continual source of stupefied amazement to us.  I once watched him get clotheslined by a bucket.  He used to be pretty docile, but this spring he’s been getting his rooster on and coming after us rather aggressively when we go to feed them, and this will not stand.  We have a big plastic bucket that we trap him under during times we’re in there and that seems to calm him down for a while, but the next day it’s right back to the offensive he goes.  This may be a self-limiting problem.

Rosie the rooster will still sit on your arm like a parrot if you let him, though he seems to be coming under the bad influence of Sully and trying to get his rooster on as well.  This is vaguely comical in a bantam rooster who is roughly half the size of the hens who surround him, but still a nuisance.  Don’t do it, Rosie!  It can only lead to heartache.

We still have eight chickens in big Rubbermaid bins our living room.  The Orpingtons are probably big enough to go out to the barn now, once we clear out a space for them there.  The Sultans may well be big enough to go too, though why Lauren wanted more Sultans with Sully’s example staring her in the face I do not know.  The three others may be too small yet.  We’ll see.

Of course, we may not have to take them out there.  The recent elections returned a pro-chicken majority in Our Little Town and they may be able to pass an urban chicken ordinance soon.  Kim went to a planning meeting yesterday that was well attended (possibly because it was held at the best little diner in town, which never hurts) and came home reasonably optimistic that things might work out better than the last time.

Last time it went before the council the only positive effect was that Kim ended up in the LA Times.

This is true.

She and Lauren went to the meeting to speak for the proposed urban chicken ordinance, and right before the meeting someone came in wearing a full-body chicken suit and sat down next to them.  “Oh, my,” thought Kim.  “I’m going to end up in the paper.”  And sure enough, during the Pledge of Allegiance, the local newspaper’s photographer took their picture and it ended up in the paper.

And then it went out over the AP.

This is why our brother-in-law in California called a while later to ask, “Do you know you’re in the LA Times?”  Apparently they were running a story on the Pledge of Allegiance and guess what photo they chose to illustrate that story with!  Go on!  Guess!

Got it in one, didn’t you?

Chickens will lead you places you never knew you’d end up.