boutell: (shave)
I pick up my wife tomorrow. 4pm and 10pm at the Stardust Ballroom.

I am preparing with a strict regimen of eating ginger candy and blowing up n00bz.
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Several years ago now I made a small batch of strong beer, sort of an attempted belgian ale thing, as sort of a tribute to [livejournal.com profile] sarcasmoscorner. I owed her a bottle of Chimay, y'see,and I never got to pay up.

The results were disappointing— it didn't ferment much at first, basically a mild ale with a lot of extra sugar— so I never mentioned it to anyone. Left one bottle in the basement, didn't even bother to put a suitable label on it. Forgot about it entirely.

Now I'm discarding box upon box of stuff in preparation to move, and amidst four dozen empty grolsch bottles (I will never again ask movers to move my empty beer bottles for me, geez what a jackass move) I come across this thing. Still labeled "BAST.BOB ROSEMARY BREW."

Y'see, a decade ago (!) I made a batch of beer with rosemary rather than hops, out of historical curiosity: they used rosemary before they used hops. Guess what, it was weird and different and people largely didn't care for it.

I thought it was that stuff so I wasn't too excited, but I was curious what ten years might have done, so I poured a glass anyway.

It was the beer I'd made for Star. Apparently it decided to take its own sweet time fermenting in the bottle.

It is Star's barleywine. It is heavenly. And there is just one bottle in the world, half of which is already in my belly. Sorry about that guys. (:
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"I am also not my blog... there was a time I considered Sarcasmo and Star to be two separate entities. Sarcasmo was a sort of souped-up version of me; more outspoken, less timid, more aggressive and much more concerned with complete, global domination. There exists a photo of me with one of my uncles in my grandmother's kitchen from when I was about four years old; and in it I am brashly staring directly into the camera lens, with a smile as bold as you please. I like to picture Sarcasmo as the girl in that photo catapulted directly into adulthood, without having ever learned the meaning of embarrassment or judgment or shame. She's Super Me. Of course, as the blog has progressed, the line between us has blurred considerably, largely due to the fact that I'm constantly cashing the checks her big mouth writes. For example, she might proclaim, 'Hey, XXX sounds cool. I would like to try that. In fact, I am going to try that. Yay, XXX!' And whereas she has never done anything I myself wasn't interested in doing, they are the sorts of things that in the past I might have thought to myself, 'Hey, XXX sounds cool. I would like to try that. You know, someday.' However, as she feels compelled to announce her intentions to the world at large, I subsequently feel the need to comply. Its all about accountability. Which is ok by me, really. I've had some cool adventures thanks to her insatiable curiosity, her general lack of good sense and her joie de vivre. I'm actively trying to incorporate more of her brash fearlessness into my every day life, while simultaneously trying to convince her it wouldn't hurt to stay in and do the dishes every once in a while. "

I am so grateful that she allowed Sarcasmo off the leash as often as she did. Which was damn near all the time! This is the lady who once graciously turned down an offer to appear as a zombie in an independent film because she was appearing as a pirate on the haunted ship Gisela that day. Live your lives now, y'all.

Thanks to Star's-mama-Star for keeping Star's blog going.
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Having a nice, very low-key one. I'm in the middle of a full week of Eleanor time just now, as her mother is at a law school-related conference this weekend. I brought Eleanor along to a salsa class this morning, where a classmate was the first to wish me a happy Father's Day. Oops... Eleanor was a little embarrassed, as she did know it was coming and forgot. But hey, she's nine. They do that when they're nine.

I miss my Dad, of course.

The best part of my Father's Day weekend was an unexpected speech by [livejournal.com profile] ms_violet last night after [livejournal.com profile] jeremym and Laura's "Jeremy wrote two more books, Laura is having a birthday and ohbytheway will you marry me Laura?" party. I'll give you a moment to digest that news, if you know them.

Anyway, late last night as we paused out front to cool off and gather ourselves, Lindsay told Eleanor all about the day my friends descended on this house to help unpack. And unpack they did. Hell, they alphabetized my spicerack. If you know what I mean. (*)

I had moved in a bit of a rush, so a lot of worthless crap came along in the move.

Lindsay sorted through the stuff in Eleanor's room and came across Eleanor's baby clothes. "Tom, I think you want to keep these?"

In response, I held them just so, as if Eleanor were still in them.

Then she came across Eleanor's baby sling. "Tom, what the heck is this?"

In response, I slung it around my shoulder just so, as if my daughter were twelve months old and in need of a mobile nap at Pike Place Market.

If you're going "awww" as you read this now, you can imagine how it seemed to Eleanor and I, particularly considering the late hour and the chocolate cake and the wine (**) and the emotional events of the party immediately preceding it.

(*) I mean, of course, that they alphabetized my spicerack. Hope that clears things up.
(**) Not for Eleanor, silly.
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A few weeks ago, sex advice columnist Dan Savage wrote a column in which he answered a letter from a fellow whose wife had lost her breasts to breast cancer. Dan's response, though informed and compassionate, (*) was unusual in that he freely admitted he was pretty much at a loss for ideas, offering just one smartassed (but undeniably somewhat helpful) suggestion from a coworker.

No, I have no experience with the problem in question, but for once I felt Dan had missed some really good options. So I couldn't help writing in. My letter is one of a pageful of reader responses that ran yesterday (online only, to my knowledge). Whee! I've never written to Dan Savage before. S'fun.

(Numerous other responses hit on other important aspects of the issue that I missed, and those made good reading as well.)

(*) No, I don't know him personally, and I usually do my bit to resist the American habit of talking about celebrities as if they were family. But everybody calls him Dan in their letters. Oh all right then. Dan is Dan.
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WHEREAS, the Feast of St. Valentine has repeatedly proven offensive or inconvenient to the majority of the American People;

WHEREAS, the Feast of St. Valentine has been demonstrably debased by unseemly commercialism and rapacious greed;

WHEREAS, all attempts to celebrate the Feast of St. Valentine in the common way debase the true arts of love;

WHEREAS, the above factors in combination have continued to cause strife, discomfort and misery in the Greater Portion of the American People;

WHEREAS, the activities surrounding the Feast of St. Valentine debase and shame the American People;

AND WHEREAS, a more appropriate and honorable claim to that day exists;

NOW, THEREFORE, we decree that the celebration of the Feast of St. Valentine be hereby ABOLISHED;

AND WE FURTHER ORDER that the Fourteenth Day of February each year be rededicated to the celebration of the birth of Joshua, Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, who, by the grace of God, ruled his people wisely and well for more than twenty years.

Originated by [livejournal.com profile] kfringe, ganked from [livejournal.com profile] crowyhead. If you re-post, please link back to: http://kfringe.livejournal.com/282716.html
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Star Foster— intrepid blogger, dancer, chanteuse and pirate— left us one year ago today. She's as much an inspiration as ever.

Seems a good time to remind folks that her blog, Sarcasmo's Corner, is still going strong thanks to Star2 (that is, Star's mom). With lots of cool links to stuff Star would have appreciated.

You can also follow the blog on LJ by adding [livejournal.com profile] sarcasmo_rss as a friend.

An important note about reading blogs via LJ: if you wish to comment, be sure to click on the link at the top of the article to go to the actual blog site, and use the comment form provided there. When a non-LiveJournal blog appears on LJ, comments left via LJ's comment system never make it to the actual blogger.
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A quick word on the subject of joy:

Certain episodes of my past have been crappy. And portions of my future will no doubt be crappy as well. But my life is going pretty damn well at the moment. And I'm going to write about that without excuse or apology.

I'm reminded of the non-shitty poet Charles Bukowski. Specifically his comments in The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship about shitty poets who pretend not to have day jobs. Thing is, hardly anybody can support themselves economically as a poet. So he asks how they do it.

They deny having some means of support. Soon enough he figures out it's their mother or their aunt or whoever who is paying the bills.

Did they do that because they were afraid to admit their poetry didn't generate a healthy income? I doubt it. It's pretty obvious that poets rarely make money. Poets are supposed to starve in garrets. And that was the real problem: they weren't suffering properly. And they were ashamed of it.

Bukowski wrote about this late in his own life, at a time when he was earning a decent living from his work and enjoying a certain level of comfort, stability and security.

Did he hide that fact, for fear of offending his struggling peers? Shit, no. He wrote about the small pleasures of his existence without apology. Because suffering is not news. Joy is news. Joy is an event.

Wallace Stevens, famously non-shitty poet, had no trouble understanding this either. He worked hard in business and became vice president of an insurance company. But this did not slow his art down any. On the contrary, it made it possible. He was his own damn sugar daddy. Good for him.

I have this much, at least, in common with non-crappy poets: I don't believe in the fetishization of suffering. If I make art about a miserable event, I do that because I must express something. Not because it's somehow more valid than art about a joyous event.

So if you're in the mood for schadenfreude I strongly suggest reading somebody else.

* * *

I've been meaning to skate the Fairmount Park Loop for a while.

This would have been the day for it. But yesterday, after I helped [livejournal.com profile] lawbabeak with some packing and painting, she drove me back into town along Lincoln Drive. And I couldn't help noticing that portions of Forbidden Drive appeared to be freshly paved.

So this afternoon, I popped my skates in a backpack, popped myself on a bicycle and hopped the R5 to Wissahickon.

And how did that turn out for me? Not too shabby, and a little bit comic. Turns out only the connecting trail from Ridge Avenue to the beginning of Wissahickon Park proper is paved. That's a good mile or so of twisty, woodsy, hilly, recently asphalted trail, with only the occasional pedestrian or cyclist to maneuver around and not an inline skater to be seen. The hills are too much for them, the poor dears.

Good times, good times. Once you reach the park proper, though, you're looking at gravel. Which really isn't fun, even on quad skates. And I took a wrong turn anyway, rolling on through the guardhouse to Rittenhouse Town, half-walking on skates and vaguely hoping I'd see pavement again real soon.

Somewhere along the line I took a call from [livejournal.com profile] tashamcgann. Which struck me funny: here I am in the middle of the woods (in the middle of the city) on a gravel road (in sight of a heavily trafficked road) yapping on my cell phone. I'm a character in Transmetropolitan.

I did in fact discover pavement: part way through Rittenhouse Town, the road does become paved, and then immediately charges uphill to Wissahickon Avenue.

Skating up that hill was easy enough. Skating down was another thing. That's a monster incline. And skates are not made for good control of speed on monster inclines. Sure, you can vee in, but only up to a point.

I had a bit of trouble controlling my speed and sat down by the side of the road to catch my breath and decide if this was such a hot idea. Eventually I realized:

1. The road would become gravel at the very base of the hill, pretty much guaranteeing road rash or worse
2. But: there was soft inviting grass on either side
3. I'm good at skating on fast-changing surfaces
4. There were enough people around to call 911 if necessary

So I took a go at it, and near the bottom I ran off most of my momentum in the grass. I did finally take a tumble, but I'm none the worse for wear, and it's surprising that I've avoided a spill this long.

The rest of the skate back was pretty awesome. Once I finally click in there's nothing better. And as I arrived back at the dam I noticed a woman about my age. She'd just returned from cycling the trail with her father. A belated Father's Day ride, I'm sure. They both looked healthy and happy.

I don't think of my father as an athlete. Apart from the year he took up running in a big way, finished marathons, and then dislocated his shoulder.

But seeing these two reminded me of our family's relentless visitation of all battlefields colonial. Of hikes in the hills (sorry, mom, they're hills) of Connecticut. Of popping bottles of Grolsch at the summit. Of exactly one trip to Mount Rainier with my father in all the years I lived in Seattle— that one, I have a picture of. And of our last walk.

My parents were visiting us here in Philadelphia, and we ordered pizza from Gianna's. Eight blocks away. Lorenzo's would have been more convenient, Gianna's had soy cheese and I just had to have it. I would have fetched it myself, but Dad wanted to come along. Needed to come along.

He was gasping on the way home, gasping and protesting that he was all right. And I think it was on that walk home that I finally understood he was dying. Not that it stopped him.

No, he wouldn't let me call a cab. He needed to finish that walk, and he was pretty sure he could get away with it. So he did.

Joy might look like something that happens to somebody else, someone who has an effortless lock on happiness. But it's not like that. Joy is hard work. It is something we create in spite of everything. It is the habit of a lifetime. The sooner learned, the better.

I'll be damned if I'll get out of the habit. Whatever the future brings.
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I Do Not Want Candy That I Haven't Got
I've Got Big Balls That You Haven't Got
I Can't Have What I Want So I Peed In The Punchbowl
I Do Not Want No Scrub That Ain't Never Gonna Get It
Give Me What You've Got And Then I Will Not Want It
I Do Not Want To Know Who John Galt Is
What I Haven't Got, I Do Not Want To Put It In You
I Do Not Want John Gotti's Rotting Corpse
You've Got To Knock Three Times On The Ceiling If You Do Not Want Me
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This piece originally appeared on Sarcasmo's Corner. Star passed away in December, but Star's mother has kept her blog in place, inviting contributions inspired by Star's 100 Things About Me. I've been thinking about Star again lately, very warmly, and... I just felt like sharing it here.

* * *

"26. I like to dance, but I'm terrible at it."

"64. I like long walks in the rain, but hate to admit it because it makes me sound like a parody of a dating advert."

"94. I don't sing well enough to front the band."

"95. This does not stop me from enjoying karaoke with friends."

101. Star was modest.

After a long, pointless, danceless 36-year preexistence which I'll admit to vaguely remembering (something about the birth of my child comes through clearly, the rest is fuzzy), I finally took up latin and ballroom dancing early in aught-six.

In July, Star joined me for a salsa lesson at Brasils, a nightclub here in Philly. Though we had both discovered Sex Dwarf, DJ Robert Drake's incredible 80's club event, she had never "really danced" before. Apart from dancing with her sisters - and, she explained, as the eldest she usually had to lead.

But hey, why not give it a whirl? It was something new to try, a scary and exciting experience in a new and different place. Which is to say, she took right to it.

And she was wonderful. She was wonderful because she threw herself into it with a will. Because she smiled. Because she was warm and enthusiastic. Because she paid attention to what she was doing and learned... very quickly. And because she was fearless.

If she misstepped, then she laughed it off and went right on. If she wasn't sure how something worked, she asked. And she let me lead. Though I had only started salsa lessons two months before, she admired the flickering flame of my sorry little candle of salsa knowledge and made me feel competent and graceful and... well... generally badass.

Afterwards we walked to her bus stop, and a block or two past Brasils the sky opened, drenching us both. That might have been frustrating, but with Star it was the opposite. The night was warm and as the summer squall somehow crossed the line between the torrential and the biblical, we found ourselves both staring straight up at the sky and laughing.

And then we had an attack of common sense and hailed her a cab.

Soon after she started taking dance lessons of her own. At the Academy of Social Dance. Featuring the "saddest prom ever," in Star's words - a Thursday night dance party with her fellow students. She enjoyed it very much.

I never did make it to the saddest prom ever. I was studying at Society Hill Dance Academy... with its own parallel Thursday night mandatory-fun dance party. Putting the two of us in the same room took an act of congress, or the promise of a piano bar. We were both busy doing a million impossible things in a given day. Which was why we liked each other, of course.

I'd hoped to get together more often, but instead we developed a Spirit - Opportunity relationship. And it worked. It made me happy, just knowing she was over there on the other side of the Red Planet, investigating cool new rocks. If we got to actually see each other, hey, that was a bonus.

One of my last Star Encounters came at my 36th birthday party. I dragged everyone to Moriarty's for a karaoke-fest.

Star brought Michael along - not yet officially dating, mind you. This did not fool anyone, or anyway not me. The two of them had that fabulous together glow... you know, the glow your onscreen avatar gets in "karaoke revolution" when you're really kicking ass? I hope the simile isn't too literary.

Of course, as the birthday boy, it was my honor and privilege to make people do stupid things. I made Star sing "Brass in Pocket," by the Pretenders. And whaddaya know? It wasn't a stupid thing at all. It was glorious.

We danced just once more, just after that. And in fact it was the last time we saw each other. It was early October, in her tiny little kitchen. We didn't quite fit together, dancing any one particular step.

I knew salsa, and tried too many new steps too quickly. She knew the foxtrot, and mine needed serious mending. She taught me the rhumba, and maybe that worked best, because I had the chance to listen and watch and learn for a change. Star was always beautiful in motion.

She had all of our attention. There was nobody else here, no way like her. There still isn't.

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Someone on my friendslist, who shall remain anonymous, asked in a locked post for some advice on how to break up with their significant other. I gave them way, way too much advice, realized it, laughed at myself, and decided to turn it into a plain ol' post instead.

This is based on good and bad experiences on both sides of the fence. And I'm not claiming that I get it right every time myself. Ohh, if only.

Dumpster's Tipsheet

So you're in an ongoing romantic and/or physical relationship (*) with a good person who treats you well. Good for you.

Alas, you want out. You're sure about that. And the dump-ee hasn't done anything horrible to deserve it.

So: now what? These are some suggestions on how to get from here to there:

1. Get it done. Sooner rather than later. 90% of class credit for this part.

2. No ambiguity. Tell them it's over. Do not budge on this point. It's really over, it's o-v-e-r. And as the dump-er, do not offer them a scaled-back relationship that still involves sex, such as a friends-with-benefits situation or similar. They are in a vulnerable place and will agree to something that's not right for them.

3. Don't do it when they are stuck spending any additional time with you that day/weekend/whatever. Don't even ask them if they want you to stay. They will say yes because they want you to stay in the relationship. But they really need you to leave the room (or get off the phone) so they can call up a good friend and go out and get smashed and rag on you for a couple hours and come to terms with it. This is one reason why I'm not sure the phone is really such a terrible choice.

You should leave even if they do ask you to stay and continue with some planned activity (not to be confused with running out on the actual breakup conversation).

4. You can't meet all of the above requirements via text messaging, IM or any other non-immediate or unreliable medium. So do it in person - or on the phone, if you have been comfortable having important conversations in the past. The phone has a lot of advantages with regard to #3 above.

However, if you are totally incapable of getting this done in person or on the phone, then an email or a letter... while not really acceptable... is infinitely better than not getting the job done. As long as you're sure it won't wind up in their spam folder, that is.

You may not, however, pat yourself on the back afterwards. Especially if you don't at least try to get it done in person or by phone.

5. Hear them out, but don't get dragged into reconsidering. Absent some radically new information.

6. Don't talk about how hard it is for you. Yes, it is hard for you. But asking them to sympathize with you at this moment is selfish. Call a friend if you need that. Also, the dumpee will just fixate on your alleged misery and want to know why you're dumping them if it's so darn hard for you.

7. Do not offer to stay friends unless you're 100% sure you actually want it. As in, actually still seeing and interacting with that person on a regular basis and giving them some of your time and energy. For reals. If not, "I'm sure I'll see you around" is much more honest.

In my circle, people usually do mean it when they decide to do the "we'll still be friends" thing. So it causes a lot of irritation and a sense of being dumped twice when the occasional twerp plays this line insincerely.

8. If you do decide to remain friends, seek out opportunities to interact with that person in social situations involving other people. The more the better. Avoid quasi-dates. The other person will sit there thinking "I had a pastrami sandwich, and this is bread with mayo on it, and I miss my pastrami." Hilarity will not ensue.

If you get any flak for dating and flirting in those situations after the first week or two, make it crystal-clear that this is unacceptable. If they can't handle it, well, they don't have to hang around you.

Sometimes a little consideration here is reasonable when you share a zillion mutual friends and the relationship was a long-lasting one. But if you do decide to show some, make it clear it's not going to last forever. Say, a month or two... tops. Life. Goes. On.

This does not mean you should make out on the next barstool over, say, two days later.

9. Pointing new men/women in their direction - after a decent interval, and only if you've pursued the friendship - can be all right if they are really comfortable with that. But be sure the dump-ee has truly come to terms with your new non-romantic relationship first.

You need to be able to flirt with somebody else in their presence. And that probably helps them to get the hint, too. But you don't really need to set them up with somebody new. You just want to do that because it makes you feel better. So if it's not really right for them, you're not really being nice.

This probably reads a lot like a "how to fire someone" list. They are very similar.

(*) Boyfriend, girlfriend, not using those terms but dating exclusively for a significant period of time... any relationship, really, in which you know the other party has reasonable expectations of communication on your part. I'm not talking about how to get rid of someone after one date. Though it might be appropriate after one wildly successful date that wasn't clearly advertised as a one-night stand. So hey, apply this advice whenever your gut tells you it's appropriate to take the matter seriously.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you're ending a marriage or similarly committed allegedly-lifelong relationship, you're going to need more than a livejournal post's worth of advice.
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Nights would be dark (without xenon or tungsten); arc-lamps will do.
Fillings would be dull (without gold); silver is enough.
Japanese trains fall to earth (without neodymium); the TGV is sufficient.

Velociraptors return (absent iridium); I shall carry an elephant-gun.
Bullets are trouble, too (lacking lead); iron suffices.
No hydrogen cars for us (lacking platinum); I shall take the bus.

As to uranium, let alone plutonium, for them I shall shed no tears.

These are small sacrifices, for a star.
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According to Debbie, cards may be addressed to the Fosters at:

965 Wakeling Street
Philadelphia PA 19124
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I wrote this one with Star in mind back in the summer. From hour five of "48 Sonnets in 24 Hours."

Yes, I fixed it up a little. Eleven syllables? Twelve?!? For blogathon maybe, but come on!


* * *

Mere bluster's not enough to fill your days.
The mirror's not enough to entertain.
So let me introduce you to her ways.
A meeting I'd be happy to arrange.

The elegance to spark a heated sigh,
The power and integrity to shout:
A generous woman, expertly supplied
With humor and the grace to share it out.

She paints the town in red, the air in blue.
She moves, and wise men drop their pens and run.
She knows their names, and all of them are true.
For her sake, even dead men brave the sun.

The boys are shallow, clinging to her cuffs.
A man would find the courage soon enough.
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[livejournal.com profile] sarcasmoscorner died this morning of a pulmonary embolism, related to a wholly unsuspected tumor.

Star C. Foster, author of the well-known blog Sarcasmo's Corner as well as award-winning interactive fiction, was also an aspiring ballroom dancer. A fact which gave me joy on several occasions.

She was an enthusiastic horror film actor and a crewmember of the haunted ship Gazela. She made a damned fine Go-Go. She lit up Jolly's Piano Bar with her presence, and knew more about zombies than any woman alive.

No one lived with more elan. No one took greater pleasure in life. Friends and coworkers alike expressed astonishment at the glorious activities she packed into every day.

She once said she was charmed by a friend's "dogged reinvention of the self." But she was the master of self-reinvention. And we were all the beneficiaries.

Was she at the top of her game? Hell yes. That does not diminish for a moment the fact that she deserved infinitely more time. And we, her friends, deserved more time with her.

She had, in recent months, begun a wonderful relationship with a splendid gentleman. I met him two months ago, and it was plain that he made her very happy. My heart goes out to him as well as to her family.

I loved her very much, and Philadelphia is a smaller place without her.

I don't yet have any information regarding arrangements, memorials, etc. but I'll do my best to pass that on to those who knew her personally.

Edit: This obit on Phillyist has some additional details.
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William Boutell died early this morning. He was comfortable at home, and his family was with him. We all loved him dearly and will always be grateful for his part in our lives. The memorial service will be held on Saturday.

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