Saturday, November 29, 2008

Picture Book Review: A Day with Dad

If you’re a divorced dad with a young child you don’t get to see enough, A Day with Dad by Bo R. Holmberg (Candlewick Press) is a fine book for you and that child to share. It’s a simple story of a divorced dad’s day with his young son. Though the d-word never appears in the book, my 5 ½-year old had no problem identifying the situation. The book opens with Tim, the child, waiting with his mom on a train platform for his dad’s arrival. Father and son go to a movie, eat out, and spend some time in the library before they have to head their separate ways. Their mutual affection overrides the poignant but understated sense that they have to squeeze in as much as they can in too little time. It’s a tender book that honors those all-too-brief shared times, and for both child and parent mirrors that less-than-ideal situation we find ourselves in.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Link

Here's a little secret I was let in on today: PostSecret. Actually, I guess it's not that big a secret since more than a million visitors have already been to the site, and there have been four books that have resulted from submissions, but it was new to me. I learned about it at the first session of an English teacher's conference I am attending, and it seems an amazing thing at first perusal: people's confessions in the form of home-made postcards. The frisson between text and image in these very brief messages is powerful. Now that I know how popular this site is I can't help but wonder whether people are crafting some amazing lies rather than real confessions. Nonetheless, I'm intrigued and moved. I know I will be checking in weekly to see what is new there.

Restaurant Review: Schilo's

At Schilo's, a family-owned deli in downtown San Antonio since 1917, they serve your morning orange juice in a frosty glass mug, an unprecedented delight in my experience. On the other hand, they don't butter your toast, and I didn't get a glass of water until after I asked for one, and was down to my last few bites. The food was serviceable, but nothing really to write home about. The juice, however . . . I'm going back for more of that!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Food List Inspired (in some way) by the Impending Holiday

‘Tis the season to be thankful. ‘Tis also the season to think about food. But how strange to combine these thoughts of gratitude and food around such things as turkey (dry and bland) and sweet potatoes (which I’ve never taken any pleasure in since I started eating foods of textures beyond mush). Of course, Thanksgiving is about tradition and ritual (not to mention quantity), which is why you don’t really have to taste or enjoy the dinner, as long as you gather with family and friends and ingest too much. This did seem a good time, however, to recognize the foods for which I have been exceedingly grateful recently. Please understand this is not a list of my favorite foods necessarily, but foods and flavors that have taken on a larger place in my life in the last year or two.
• Sun-dried tomatoes.
• Seared tuna.
• Pancetta & prosciutto.
• All members of the Allium family, though it has been the quality time I have spent with leeks and shallots that really sealed the deal for these guys.
• Fresh raspberries from the backyard, especially those that come from plants that produce more than one crop per year.
• Brussels sprouts.

Line of the Week (#4)

“I said, 'I’m so happy, I could die.’
She said, ‘Drop dead,’ and left with another guy.”
—Elvis Costello

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Star Wars Goes Green

W calls light sabers light savers.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Line of the Week (#3)

"You don't know me, but you don't like me."
—Buck Owens

Dream Logic

I continue to be fascinated by the connections my sleeping mind is making. Last night I dreamed I was in New Orleans for a night, and I was walking around looking for Tipitina’s or some other famous restaurant for dinner. A block or two off the busy commercial area, I came across a restaurant in an old railroad shed/depot. The walls were corrugated tin, and inside the spacious hangar-like building there was a counter and then lengthy rows of tables with benches. Here and there solo nighthawks were nursing their coffees. Outside the building there were signs indicating the distances to other towns. Much to my surprise and delight, this was Alice’s Restaurant, the one Arlo Guthrie sang about. I decided I would be sure to have breakfast there the following morning before I left town.

When I woke up this morning, I realized the reason for the restaurant being set by the railroad tracks in New Orleans was because one of Arlo Guthrie’s other signature songs was “The City of New Orleans,” a song not about the city of course, but about the train of that name. Somehow, more than 25 years after I listened to those songs with any regularity, my dream mind managed to compress those details quite concisely.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008

Is There a Term for This?

The other day W had me befuddled when he proudly announced, "I break myself apart."

Moments later, R cleared things up for me when he corrected him: "You mean you crack yourself up."

Is there a term for this? When you use the wrong word, it's a malapropism. There ought to be a name for getting an idiom wrong. I'm open to suggestions.


W's term for cursive: fast-writing letters. Even the phrase seems to have its own momentum, like a self-propelled lawn mower, the letters almost writing themselves.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why I’m Waiting Until the Last Minute to Vote

When it’s the fourth quarter and the game is on the line, I want the ball in my hands. If it’s tied coming down the stretch, I want my vote to break the deadlock.

Line of the Week (#2)

"If wishes were horses, I'd have a ranch."
—Lucinda Williams

Ranking the Major Outside Household Chores

1. Raking is the easy winner. The weather is usually temperate, and I have nothing but positive childhood connotations with raking. Last week the boys played for hours in the piles in the front yard. Of course, that meant I had to rake again, but that hardly matters. It was almost a pleasure. Admittedly, if I had more than one maple tree, I might not feel so generous about the activity. It also gains appeal for its rarity. Fall always seems to me the briefest, most fleeting of seasons. Unlike shoveling or mowing seasons, which go on for months, there is a very small raking window.

2. Shoveling also has good childhood connotations. Like piles of leaves, piles of snow mean great opportunities for playing. Working against snow removal are the facts that it can at times be extremely cold, that often it may have to be done at inconvenient times (e.g. before you can leave for work), or that you’re already tired and ready for a drink because your commute time has more than doubled due to the weather. If the snow is heavy it can also be a burden physically.

3. Mowing is the hands-down loser. There is really no play involved with mowing. It is a chore and nothing more. The weather is often unpleasantly hot, and a pile of grass clippings gives none of the satisfaction that you get from creating a pile of leaves or snow. It isn’t picturesque. You don’t want to dive or fall into it. And the fact is you’re going to have to do the same thing again in a week or so.