I’ve been both surprised and not surprised by the huge outpouring of traditional and social media response to the recent and sudden death of David Bowie earlier this week. There were two separate 2 page spreads in the NY Times on Tuesday alone. Some folks I follow on Twitter who aren’t fans have expressed completely understandable perplexity (is that even a word?), which I totally get. I’m sure the circumstances surrounding his death have contributed to this as well — family and close friends keeping his illness so secret, his play starting its run last fall, his new album released on his birthday last week, on what ended up being two days before his death.
Speaking as a fan — not the hugest fan but fan enough that we have more than 10 of his albums — I was utterly gobsmacked. Again, the shock for sure (and also he was the same age as my parents are and I remain unprepared for and unpleased at the prospect of my parents dying). But I’ve read a few articles and essays written by fans, journalists, others and it’s remarkable how many common themes emerge. He was an incredibly talented weirdo who made amazing music that made the rest of us weirdos feel less weird.
The sheer length of his career also means that his music was almost always there at some point in many folks’ lives. That’s how I remember his music, more than anything, as flashes on a timeline, specific scenes:
– I’m 9 years old at my friend’s house. She has two older brothers, one in middle school and one in high school (I think), and we sneak into their rooms and steal their records to play on the turntable in her room. Changesonebowie is a favorite. My parents listen to lots of music at home but they never got into Bowie. Maybe a year or so later I ask for the album for my birthday or Christmas and it’s one of the first records I’ve ever owned that’s mine, not my parents’.
– I’m 14 years old and my family is just about to move halfway across the country (for the second time during my adolescence) from Columbia, Missouri to Wilmington, Delaware. Bowie’s Serious Moonlight tour is set to hit Philadelphia that July. I beg and beg and beg to be allowed to go, but it doesn’t happen. Later on I learn that the live footage in the video for “Modern Love” was filmed at that show in Philly and I am so angry with my parents as only a 14 yr old can be.
– I’m 18 years old and have just graduated from high school, old enough to go to concerts in Philadelphia with my friends, thankyouverymuch. It’s the Glass Spider Tour, two nights at the enormous Veterans Stadium. It’s the one and only time I’ve ever slept out all night to get concert tickets, taking turns with friends sitting in the car and in line at the Christiana Mall, heading to Wawa for coffee early in the morning. The concert is incredible.
Later memories are not as snapshot-clear. I had a phase of listening to Low almost exclusively, over and over again. I saw Labyrinth in the theater, with the then-unknown Jennifer Connelly, and Absolute Beginners too. The cassette I made with Aladdin Sane on one side and Scary Monsters on the other side lasted forever, seemingly, until last year when we got rid of the car with the cassette deck. I also had the factory cassette of Ziggy Stardust that I played until it wore out — luckily Jonathan had the CD. I have kept that Changesonebowie record, for all these years, even though I never listen to it because those songs are all on other albums.
Bowie’s music was like a blanket, is still that way: it’s comforting, familiar, and there’s a song or album for any mood. We don’t have the last few of his most recent records but I’m pretty sure we would have bought Blackstar anyway, and Jonathan bought it for us on Monday. One day soon I hope I’m able to listen to it.
Sometimes I wait until the new year to do this, and sometimes I don’t. But I’m not going to finish any books in the rest of today and I have some down time right now and I’ve been jonesing to get my list out there since reading Alycia’s, Jenna’s, and Meredith’s lists, so here goes.
Just like last year I made a conscious effort to read more this year, and I managed to read 39 books in 2015 (up by 3!). I feel pretty good about this number, though; I read an actual book most days this year, which is truly my main goal. I didn’t have many explicit content goals for reading this year. I still have a few reading projects I’m planning on — including more on feminism and racism — plus some author goals: reading the stuff I haven’t read yet by Nnedi Okorafor, reading the Ursula LeGuin books I haven’t read, and rereading all of Octavia Butler’s books. But these feel like projects I can chip away at over time (or maybe I’ll go all in next summer like that one summer years ago when I read everything by Willa Cather). I didn’t make an official We Need Diverse Books pledge this year but I did continue to try to read mostly books written by people of color and women. Like last year this was an easy win — all of my favorites this year were written by people of color or women.
Not to be all negative but I did finish a few books I didn’t like this year (which is sort of unusual because recently I’ve tended to abandon books that I don’t like rather than force myself to finish). I wanted to like VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy and there were aspects of it that I did — the biological stuff was cool and X-Files-y and the character study of the biologist and director were great. But I ultimately found the lack of answers unsatisfying. I also barely finished the Very Short Intro to critical theory, which I picked up feeling like I needed a bit more theoretical grounding for my interest in critical pedagogy/librarianship, but which was just too dull for me to get into (though I did take notes, go me).
It took me a while to read Station Eleven because the hype was so very hypey, but I finally did and it was hands down my favorite book this year. I’m generally a fan of the postapocalyptic story and this one was realistic and melancholy in its plot and description of what things would actually be like, and not overly depressing or scary (though occasionally so, but not awfully). Really great, I just devoured it staying up too late on school nights. Other faves for fiction this year were Planetfall, Get in Trouble, and Everything I Never Told You. I also loved My Real Children — alternate universes/timelines have always interested me, but with my mother-in-law and a close friend of ours both dying suddenly late last year I think I was especially primed to be grabbed by this book.
For nonfiction my favorite book was Between the World and Me, 100% worth all the accolades and attention. Devastating.
As in past years this list is in reverse chrono order (because that’s how I keep my reading journal), ebooks are starred, tilded are books we own (vs. library books). I read more ebooks this year than last year, which is interesting — I’m not sure why that is, other than that it’s easy to request them from the library as soon as I learn about them and then just wait for them to come in (though I still hate that they’re only able to be checked out for 2 weeks rather than 3).
~ The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, by Anna North
* Planetfall, by Emma Newman
~ Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction, by Maria Accardi
Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov, by Kirin Narayan
Horrorstor, by Grady Hendrix
* In the Unlikely Event, by Judy Blume
Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction, by Stephen Eric Bronner
* Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby
The Bone People, by Keri Hulme
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
* My Real Children, by Jo Watson
~ Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
~ Critical Journeys, edited by Robert Schroeder
~ Get in Trouble, by Kelly Link
The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Perceptions and Presentations of Information Work, edited by Nicole Pagowsky & Miriam Rigby
* Find Me, by Laura van den Berg
Digital Technology and the Contemporary University, by Neil Selwyn
~ Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor
* Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders, by Jennifer Finney Boylan
* Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
~ Lines, A Brief History, by Tim Ingold
~ Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer
* Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brene Brown
Delicious Foods, by James Hannaham
* Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
~ Authority, by Jeff VanderMeer
* Zarah the Windseeker, by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
~ Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer
* Citizen, by Claudia Rankine
* Inheritance, by Malinda Lo
* Adaptation, by Malinda Lo
The Almost Nearly Perfect People, by Michael Booth
* Echoes of Us, by Kat Zhang
*~ Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (So originally I got this from the library but then I loved it so much and Jonathan wanted to read it so we bought it.)
~ Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson
Panic, by Lauren Oliver
* Once We Were, by Kat Zhang
* What’s Left of Me, by Kat Zhang
Started, not finished:
The Country of Ice Cream Star, by Sandra Newman — I only got about 20 pages in and realized I wouldn’t be able to deal with the slang that this book is written in.
The weather, everyone’s talking about the weather. Jonathan keeps reading me these statistics from the interwebs, hundreds of days since the last time the temperatures went below freezing in Central Park, predictions that it’ll be in the high 60s on xmas eve, etc. etc. etc. It seems boring and repetitive to complain about the weather, but seriously, this weather is getting me down. I like seasons, and I really like winter. I’m more sensitive to cold temperatures than I used to be, though I’d still rather be cold than hot by a fairly wide margin. Snow is just plain magical.
Mostly what I’ve missed this extended fall that won’t turn into winter are opportunities to wear my winter clothes. I don’t have all that many clothes and it gets boring to wear the same thing when there are lots of things that I want to wear but can’t because it’s not cold enough for them. Also the apartment tends to be hot, and work tends to be hot too, most especially when it’s in the 40-60 degree range outside. Which it has been since October.
– my magenta + other colors striped sweater, which is a pullover so I feel like I really need to commit to it when I wear it, unlike, say, cardigans which can accommodate temperatures that vary throughout the day.
– my gray wool pants, a great find at a thrift store years ago when the narrow cut was sort of out of style, but since I’ve kept them around they look okay now, *almost* modern, and are a nice pants option for work in the winter.
– various turtleneck sweaters for work, a bright blue one as well as a new to me purple one that used to belong to my mother in law which I’ve not yet had the chance to wear.
– I have worn my oatmeal heather wool skirt, another thrifty find from years ago, to work this semester because I love it, but I had to turn on the fan in my office that day so I haven’t worn it since.
– all of the amazing wool socks that folks have hand-knitted for me: 3 stripey pairs from my mom, 1 charcoal from my pal Abby, and 1 multicolored from my father in law’s artist’s coop shop.
– my ugly green + brown striped writing sweater with the weird cowl neck, which I got for free at a swap-o-rama maybe 6 years ago in the park right next to where the kid would end up going to middle school (though I didn’t know that at the time).
Okay, I’m wearing the ugly writing sweater right now, because it’s actually been wintery this weekend and I am, in fact, writing. The weird cowl neck means that I can pull it halfway up my face or even kind of create a hood for when I’m really chilly or just need to take a break. It’s reversible (because I say so) and stretchy and cozy, and makes me feel like writing. I think I’ll need to get another item of clothing to infuse with magical writing powers because global warming. Also because my research partner and I need to deliver the manuscript of our book (!!!) on September 15, 2016, which means lots of spring + summer writing next year.
If you had asked me 15 yrs ago whether all kids like legos I’d have said yes for sure. They were around when I was a kid and are still around now, though certainly more branded and less gender-neutral, which is sort of unfortunate. Still, what’s not to like? Building the thing that the instructions shows how to make is kind of like doing a puzzle (or like Ikea construction on a smaller scale and minus the allen wrench), and there are all kinds of stuff you can build without the instructions too.
But as I have learned, sometimes the parents like legos more than the kids do. Hey, it’s no big deal — I was a huge huge puzzle fan as a kid and my kid’s not that, either, so perhaps it’s not a surprise. He did play with legos as a younger kid somewhat, but it’s been a while and he’s just not that into them anymore. Because I both liked legos and kept track of some of my childhood stuff, as it turns out we now have a bunch of lego sets from the far past that are in fairly good condition. We could sell them at our stoop sales, but I feel like there might be other folks out there who’d be more interested in them than stooping passers-by. So off to ebay I’ve gone to clear out the closets.
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a puzzle — first the kid was too little and now the cats are too curious to leave a puzzle out, and we don’t really have anywhere we can stash a partially-finished puzzle. To sell the legos I’ve had to put them together to take photos, and while there was one big set that got a little tiresome by the end, it’s mostly been super fun building them. There’s just enough brain power involved to be sort of challenging, and when you’re done you end up with a thing that’s built which is really satisfying. There’s a trend right now in coloring books for adults as a calming activity and I think the lego building hits lots of those same notes. I’ll be relieved when the packages are all shipped (always my least-favorite part of the ebay experience), but it’s been fun indulging my inner builder for a while.
This semester is all about deadlines for me, so many deadlines. In addition to the usual work stuff, the chief librarian stuff and department chair stuff, I’ve started the data collection phase of a new research project as well as taken on a few new writing commitments. My research-related to do list is long right now, and I’m working through it as methodically as I can, one deadline at a time, in the evening-and-weekend spaces, slow and steady wins the race. All of it is stuff I really, really want to do, projects that feel meaningful and worthwhile and involve folks I respect and admire. But it’s a lot — after adding the most recent deadline my plate is well and truly full, and I’ve resolved not to say yes to anything else research or writing-related for the foreseeable future.
Lots of these commitments involve writing: a proposal for a book chapter, a draft of another book chapter, perhaps a small grant application, and (I hope) something even bigger looming. There’s research to do as well, both of the literature search-and-review variety and the collecting data in audio/graphical/text variety. I admit that I’ve fallen off the writing wagon again, and have found even blogging here (not to mention library-related blogging) difficult over the past year. Partly I’m sure that was just the busy-ness and challenges of the past year, though last year was also one of revising stuff that had been written/submitted and conference presenting.
This year is different — this year is about writing. I’m only planning to present at one conference this academic year and, while data collection does not = writing, it leads to writing. All of which means that I need to get back into the writing groove, back to a more regular writing practice. It’s *wrimo right now, November — that time when folks write a book or blag or academic writing or other stuff. Longtime readers may remember that I’d done NaBloPoMo several times in the past, though not since 2011. In 2012 and 2013 I did AcWriMo (thank you, blag, for remembering things that I can’t seem to).
It’s already November 7 and I haven’t signed up with any kind of tracking or accountability mechanisms for writing this month, but I have my postit note with all of the deadlines on it that reminds me of my writing goals every day. Slow and steady, let’s go.
The past two weekends I took two short trips, somewhat unusual for this time of year for me since the semester is in full swing, though it was nice to have the time away. Both trips involved stays in rental houses, which is always sort of interesting.
The first was in Toronto — I’d never been there before but was there sans famille (except pas de francais, quel dommage!) to visit with 3 old friends. While we did do a bit of traipsing around the city, the main focus was catching up and hanging out. Our pal who lives there got us an Air B&B house and, while I’m not the biggest fan of the sharing economy (for a variety of reasons, like who gets left out?), this place was perfect for the occasion. A small house in what was described as a trendy neighborhood, it was in a quiet residential area very close to some commercial streets for easy access to food + transportation.
Apparently the folks who own the house are academics who are away, maybe for the year? But it was curious to see how much of their stuff was still there. No clothes in the closets or food in the cupboards, but it almost seemed like that’s all they’d taken. Lots and lots and lots of books, toys too. The house had 4 bedrooms and one was clearly a kids room, but there were a range of children’s books from picture books to YA, which made me wonder how many kids and what ages? Where did they go? When are they coming back? Why do they have two copies of Island of the Blue Dolphins? Is it weird for them to come back to having rented out their house to total strangers? We were very neat and unobtrusive, but it’s still a strange thing to be sitting eating dinner at someone else’s table (tasty pho from a place nearby, yum).
Next up was a long weekend in the Catskills, mostly a treat for the adults in the family who didn’t have a chance to get away in August, though the teen had a reasonably okay time too (barring some hiking-related crabbiness). We missed the cats, who of course don’t travel well, though as Jonathan said they could use some skills so maybe next time we should bring them?
We rented what was described as a woodlands cottage and indeed it was — almost every room was wood-paneled, with the exception of the kitchen. The wood theme was strong throughout with dressers, small shelves and cabinets, even the towel rods all made of wood. The house was sort of hunting lodge style with what amounted to a 1 bedroom apartment on the first floor — living room, eat in kitchen, bathroom, bedroom — and a spiral staircase upstairs to 2 small bedrooms and another bathroom, all tiny and with slanted ceilings tucked under the eaves of the roof. Thank goodness we are a small people since the potential for bumping your head on the ceiling was high.
This house was a bit more beach house-y in that it was clearly a vacation house for the owners. There were board games, a few books, videotapes (of course!), and a usable kitchen, but not a lot of personal effects. Again we speculated: why were there so many Pepsi-branded knick-knacks, did the owner work for Pepsi? Yes, the house was covered in wood paneling, but was it really necessary to have a fire extinguisher in every room? And why was the internet so bad? That last question is kind of facetious — we knew going in that there was no cell service so we assumed that there’d be satellite internet, which is notoriously slow. I’d kind of missed the part about no dishwasher, so it was back to hand-washing for me. But sitting on the back porch was delightful, looking out onto trees with turning + falling leaves while reading or drinking coffee.
We’ve occasionally had friends or family stay in our apartment while we’ve been away, but it’s never been anyone we don’t know. We don’t really ever go away for long enough for that to work, plus there are the cats, sweet but not always the best roommates (sigh, hairballs). I can’t imagine anyone we don’t know staying in our place, what would they think of us? Too many books, slightly shabby and/or Ikea furniture, one desk per person — is that a dead giveaway for an academic? Signs point to yes.
Over the past week or two I seem to have developed a slight overwhelming obsession for the music of Grimes, an electronic dance music artist from Vancouver. I’m not at all ashamed to admit that, like the old person that I am, I learned about her from reading an article in the New Yorker. It’s not a little ironic that as it’s become easier and easier to hear new music online I find myself listening to fewer and fewer new bands, and mostly default to my old standbys. There’s the old thing I think, and the busy job thing for sure, but also perhaps the there’s so much music out there right now where to even begin? thing.
Anyway, so I’m reading the New Yorker, about 4 issues behind as usual (I had this one week in early August when I was totally caught up, it’s like a unicorn week of summer). I always glance at the music articles but this one was longer than usual which caught my eye. I read for a bit and learned that she also produces and engineers her own tracks — she compared herself to Phil Spector and claims Grimes is the girl group. I also learned that she’s on 4AD, one of the few labels left for which I’ll always at least give a listen to almost anything they put out.
So I start hunting around online and the first thing I find is this track, which apparently she released online earlier this year when it was scrapped from plans for a new album:
It’s been a while since I fell so hard for new music. That *is* the magic of the internet, for reals, because it took me approximately 10 minutes to buy her last record + EP + single and I haven’t listened to anything else since. She’s touring now and coming to NYC next month and of course it’s unpossible for about a million reasons — it’s a weeknight (but all ages! could we bring the kid?) and sold out anyway, and EDM live shows are kinda wasted on me since I’m not really a dancer.
Her stuff is poppy but weird and many of the songs have some of the same attributes that I like in other EDM, especially Orbital and mu-Ziq — layered beats in complicated patterns, plus lots of changes mid-song. This song has a shambling set of back beats that are just amazing, in particular in the first few minutes of the track. Trying to listen to all of it all at once gives my brain something to puzzle over that makes me feel oddly calm — I’m sure there’s some neurological reason for this, but in this suddenly incredibly busy semester I’ll take it, no fancy science explanation required.
The article specifically mentioned that Grimes was concerned that the songs she’d recorded for her new album, including the one above, were too hopeless to put out. It’s a melancholy song, to be sure, though I also find it simultaneously hopeful even when it makes me want to cry. It’s a good song for me for right now. We’re coming up on a year since the unexpected and sudden death of a close friend followed quickly by the somewhat more expected though still sudden death of my mother in law. I’m sad, I’ve been sad, I’m still sad. It’s been a weird time to have a new job that’s a step up, to have a bunch of articles recently published, to have successfully navigated the getting the kid into high school process. The older you get, the more it’s sad and happy at the same time. Music always helps.
I still like to have a paper calendar hanging near my desk, and this year it’s a free calendar from the Nature Conservancy (well, I guess I made a donation at one point, so it’s not really free). August’s calendar models were three adorable sandpipers on the beach. For some reason their cute little faces and bright orange feet were honestly captivating to me, and I haven’t yet found the will to turn over the calendar to September (a cool foresty brown bear).
We haven’t been to the beach in a while. I really, really dislike sand, I was so very relieved when the kid finally outgrew sandboxes. I also am not the biggest fan of sunscreen, much as I realize that it’s an absolute necessity for someone as fluorescently pale as I am. The sand + sunscreen combo I find particularly yucky, as I’m sure most people do. But I do like the ocean a lot, both for swimming (much much more awesome than swimming in pools) and for looking/listening. And the sand always *looks* nice, too.
When the kid was littler we often went to the beach with my family during the summer. It was typically a fun, chaotic, energetic time — lots of little kids + sand + sea + vacation food will be that way. The kind of vacation you kind of feel like you need another vacation to recover from. And while I like the relative calm of vacationing with a teenager now, I kind of miss those beach vacations. The last week of August — this past week — was often when we’d go, lots of kids are in school by now so the rental prices have gone down. But with the kids getting older and all of my nieces and nephews now starting school before the NYC public schools (which don’t start til next Wednesday), it’s been to hard to plan a big beach trip in recent years. It’s a bad week for me work-wise, too, as CUNY has typically started by then.
One thing that seems more of a boring grownup thing that I like is visiting the beach on the off season. No swimming, of course, but still lots to love about being near the ocean. The kind of vacation that might be easier with a teenager. Perhaps we’ll test out that theory this year.
With August half over it’s tempting to look at my list of stuff I wanted to accomplish this summer and cringe a bit. I haven’t gotten as far as I’d like to with the home improvement tasks, reading/playing games/watching movies, or weekend daytripping as I hoped. OTOH, we had two nice vacations and I’ve done a fair amount of reading and writing for ongoing and new research projects.
I’ve actually done a huge amount of reading this summer, full stop. Much of that is in the service of my growing interest in anti-racist work. Like lots of well-meaning white folks I started self-educating in the aftermath of Mike Brown’s murder last summer in Ferguson, Missouri. I was pretty appalled at what I didn’t know about civil rights history and structural racism in the U.S., to be honest. It’s really depressing what’s not taught in school, and as a high school and college and graduate student I didn’t go to any great lengths to seek out this learning so was able to remain blissfully ignorant for far too long (hello, white privilege).
So I started reading, reading, reading. Twitter helps — I follow a buncha radical librarians and academics of all sorts, lots of sociologists and others doing anti-racist work. The past year’s protests have also used twitter to spread information, and I’ve been grateful for the opportunity that twitter affords to listen in on conversations and learn. As much as I feel drawn to protesting, feel like I want to want to be there, I’m enough of an introvert and not a big fan of crowds to know that marches are not really going to work for me. But I’ve increasingly felt like I need to do more than just read, tweet, and retweet.
So this summer I tried to kick it up a notch. In July I participated in a 2 1/2 day workshop called Undoing Racism, sponsored by the Anti-Racist Alliance. While it wasn’t a CUNY thing it was held at Baruch College and there were lots of Baruch folks there as well as other educators, social workers, and others. White folks were in the majority though there were lots of people of color there as well, and we all came in with an interest in doing anti-racist work, which set the stage well. Less satisfying was that folks were at all different stages of understanding structural racism and white supremacy, which sometimes made it feel like the black participants were teaching the white participants about racism (something one of the black participants identified). It was also a big group — there were probably about 45 of us — and it seemed like we were rushing through at the end, perhaps because it was hard to get through the schedule with so many folks in the conversation? It ended up being somewhat light on concrete actions we can take to help dismantle racism, which was a bit disappointing. The Anti-Racist Alliance holds monthly group meetings as well as the workshops — there’s a group especially for educators that meets during the school year and I think I’ll try to make it to one of the meetings to see what they’re like.
This month I’m participating in an online course offered by social justice activist Patti Digh called Hard Conversations: An Introduction to Racism, Unconscious Racism, and Silent Racism. The course is great though a lot (LOT!) of work — I’m putting in about an hour each evening on average and I could definitely be spending more time on it. In some ways the course is similar to last month’s workshop in that it seems like it’s more white folks than POC and everyone’s at a different place in their prior knowledge about racism. While there’s much more to read (as well as videos to watch) in this course, there’s also more time to process and discuss, which we do on forums devoted to a question about each topic or reading. So far I’ve read some things that are new to me and some that I’d read before, and like some of the other participants I’m eager to get to the “things we white folks can do” part of the course. But since the course is 4 weeks (this is the end of week 2) I trust that we’ll get there. It’s also a very big course (my first non-open MOOC!) — about 2,500 people signed up and probably about 300-500 are actively participating in the forum discussions. I’ve tried to follow threads of interest to me and do respond to folks but that’s really where I could spend more time, reading and commenting on my classmates’ forum posts.
Tonight we have a huge giant phone call with the Hard Conversations course and I admit to being a little bit nervous. There was a call last week that I had to miss, and even after listening to the recording of the call I’m still not sure how a call with this many participants will work. In a few hours I guess I will find out.
It was June, and then the kid’s school ended, and then we took a few trips, and now it’s nearly the end of July. Woah. The trips were to Germany and Vermont and New Hampshire and all were different and fun. I have to go back to work tomorrow so I should go to sleep, but I’m compelled to share a few holiday snaps.
We went to the part of Germany that was very castley. The castles were amazing — this is one on the banks of the Rhine that we climbed up to. It was very very high, and I chickened out of going up those stairs to the very top. I like to think that the hanging cage is for the heads of their enemies, but that’s probably not true (this was a country residence more than a fortification).
The parts that weren’t castley that we visited were like a Disney village. For serious, it was just like stepping into the set for Pinocchio. Wild.
Ice cream! The Germans are apparently mad for ice cream and the party I traveled with indulged more than daily. To be fair, it was in the mid to high 90s F the whole time we were there, and like any good Old World nation the Germans eschew air conditioning (luckily the beer was also cold and plentiful). This is the kiddie menu from one of the many eiscafes that we visited. Super creepy.
And speaking of creepy, one of the towns we visited had these marionette machines that you put a euro in and the puppets would act (and sing!) a story. It was super weird — we don’t know much German so we could only guess at most of the story. Total horror movie stuff, though.
After Germany we were home for 12 days, then once the jet lag wore off we headed up to New England for family visiting. First stop, Vermont, where there was lots of nature of the animal sort: my dad now has 3 dogs 4 cats and 8 chickens (!). Plus the undomesticated animals: frogs, froglets, newts, and crayfish in the pond. I swear they were tadpoles with little leg buds on Monday and full-fledged froglets with 4 limbs + a tail by Friday. Zoology, man.
There’s also a family of 3 garter snakes living under my dad’s front steps. We caught 2 of them sunbathing.
Next was New Hampshire for more fun with the other side of the family. There was a pool, and there was swimming, because like the Germans, the New Hampshireans don’t have air conditioning. The plastic alligator had a little too much to drink and pulled a SoCal, Less Than Zero-style sinking to the bottom of the pool.
And now we’re home (sigh). And it’s going to be hot this week (double sigh). But it’s nice to be back. Boy, the cats missed us.