Present Perfect Continuous

It’s been nothing but pregnancy talk around here for a while, so I want to change things up. I keep running into the thought that I “don’t have time” to write substantially about anything more than once a week, so that time gets devoted to weekly pregnancy updates instead of anything else. Well, perhaps I don’t need to write substantially! Perhaps I will write trivially about things of little import! How about THAT?!

Here are a few things I’ve been doing lately:

a-little-life

Reading: I recently started Hanya Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life, and despite not being immediately gripped by the plot or characters, I have persisted. At about 80 pages in I was seriously wondering why I bothered, but I am currently about 125 pages in and now much more interested. I am usually not one to complain or be daunted by very lengthy works of fiction (some of my all time favorite books include Infinite Jest and In Search of Lost Time, for example; The Goldfinch was a recent favorite). I do generally find, though, that my favorite lengthy tomes are the ones that interest me immediately and in such an insistent manner that I am unable to stop reading after just one chapter. I don’t feel that way about A Little Life, nor did I about, for example, Ulysses. We’ll see how it goes.

Watching: Sadly I have finished watching Make it or Break It, the cheesy ABC Family show about competitive gymnastics. I was dismayed to find out at the end of S3E8 that I had just seen the series finale — I’d been expecting several more episodes. Having accomplished that proud feat, though, I’ve returned to my slow ongoing re-watch of Lost.   What I wish I were watching, however, is Hannibal. I got behind on the current season and then when I went to Hulu to catch up, all but the last three episodes had been removed. DAMN YOU, HULU. (No, they’re not available on NBC.com, either.)

Listening: Frank Zappa and Taylor Swift. With those two, you’ve pretty much got all your bases covered. Until, that is, the much anticipated (by me, anyway) Ryan Adams 1989 cover album is released. Bated breath over here.

Planning: My next nursery project, a couple of mobiles with //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js“>hand-sewn birds. I haven’t done a legit sewing project in MANY A YEAR, so this should be…something.

Brunching! Don't worry, mine is virgin.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Loving: The visit from my friend C. and family over Labor Day Weekend! It was so nice to have them at our house and to have a couple of days to relax, hang out, catch up, and just spend time together. We went out to dinner one night and then the next day stayed in for brunch and then afternoon grilling at the house, with plenty of breaks for her 8-year-old to run around in the backyard and for our dog to follow him around hoping for a chance to play with the b-a-l-l. It was lovely. We need to do this more often.

The Decemberists at The Tabernacle

Whoops! Instead of publishing this, I accidentally left it in a draft state! Very belated, but here we are:

Last month (last month?! Where did the time go?), I went to see The Decemberists play in Atlanta with a few friends. They’ve played Atlanta twice previously in the years I’ve been living nearby, so I’ve gotten to see them on the Hazards of Love tour at The Tabernacle (one of my all-time favorite concerts) and on the King is Dead tour at the Cobb Energy Center, a bigger concert-hall-type venue that I didn’t enjoy as much. This time around, they were playing The Tabernacle again, so I was prepared for a good show and a fun night out.

Furries in our Hotel

I was not prepared, however, for the fact that our downtown hotel would be hosting a furry convention while we were there. But, oh, dear Reader, they were. They really, really were. When we entered the lobby to check in, we were confronted with a huge crowd of people all dressed head to toe in furry animal costumes. The folks who appeared at first glance to be wearing regular street clothes turned out to have some small marker of their furry status on display somewhere– a fluffy skunk tail attached to their belts, cat ears on headbands, or giant animal feet covering their shoes. Some people were wearing regular clothes but had their heads covered with full masks– squirrels, foxes, eagles, rabbits, puppies. It was completely bizarre. We got to sit I the lobby and enjoy the scene for about an hour while we waited for our room to be ready and let me assure you, the people-watching this afforded was truly beyond compare.

Once CW and I were able to check in, we dropped off our things and headed down to the neighborhood near the concert venue to get some food and drinks and meet up with My BFF C, her partner S, and our other friend, CB. We wound up in a fairly cheesy bar with ridiculous drink specials. One was something like a “three for the price of two” where they give you three shots of liquor in your mixed drink, which is served in a giant plastic souvenir cup.  Sadly, no one in our group took advantage of this screaming deal.

Next up: the concert!

The Decemberists

It was such a fun show. They played quite a few songs from the new album, What a Terrible World What a Beautiful World, which I like but which is not my favorite album, but they also played a great selection of old favorites, including “Grace Catherdral Hill,” “The Island,” “The Hazards of Love 1,” “Oh Valencia,” and “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” the latter with a giant whale on stage and audience participation.


Afterward, someone (I’m not naming any names) needed a bit more to eat, so we made a stop at Waffle House before walking back to the hotel. The furries were still up partying when we got back, of course. Riding 25 floors in a crowded elevator with a skunk, a “mouse-icorn,” and a turtle was a fun cap on the night.

Breakfast

Foggy Atlanta Skyline

Breakfast at The Highland Bakery is definitely a must before driving back home from Atlanta, if you ask me.

Let’s Exchange Some Recommendations

I didn’t have any on-campus appointments today, so I got to have a rare and much-appreciated work-from-home day. I will tell you honestly that, even while working, I have spent the entire day in my sweatpants and slippers with a dog at my feet and it has been lovely. I recommend it.

At the current moment, there is a pot of Smitten Kitchen’s carrot soup simmering on the stovetop and —

Scratch that! It is now much later.

I was pleasantly interrupted right there by my husband getting home. We ate the soup, which was great and which I wholeheartedly recommend. The lemon-tahini sauce and roasted chickpeas really make it flavorful and substantial.

Now, after dinner, I am sitting here on the couch by the fire wishing desperately for some kind of amazing baked good I could eat. A pie, perhaps, or a massive, chewy brownie. Cookies fresh out of the oven? A piece of cake with fluffy vanilla buttercream? Also, I would very much like a bottle of champagne. Mmm hmm.

Instead of any of these things, I just ate my gummy vitamins and caramel-flavored calcium chew. Nobody better tell me I don’t know how to live, dammit!

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The excitement of my day so far has been deciding which newly-downloaded album to listen to during my run: the new Decemberists or the new Taylor Swift. Fine, I suppose the Taylor Swift album isn’t exactly new, but I only just bit the bullet and downloaded it Tuesday night. It’s really good and guess what? I recommend it. I have an unembarrassed love of pop music, though, so if you’re too cool for that, then good for you and just get the Decemberists, then. It’s great, too. It’s been a while since I had a new album I was really excited about, and now I have two — it’s like an embarrassment of riches. The last one that really blew up my skirt, by the way, was the Jenny Lewis album, The Voyager, which is superfantastic and also recommended.

Speaking of music, my running playlist could use a refresh. For running, I love pop and hip hop in particular. What are you listening to for workouts? Recommend me something, please!

Old 280 Boogie

This past weekend was the Old 280 Boogie, just up the road in the tiny town of Waverly. It’s a fun local music festival with artist selling their wares, food trucks, and a laid-back, picnic kind of atmosphere. This is my seventh year living in Auburn and my seventh year heading up to the Boogie — I’ve never missed a year of my favorite local event.

Waverly Boogie-- photo by @brunbec123; photobomb by my husband.

This year, CW and I headed up there with a couple of friends and met up with more folks there. We had coolers full of snacks and drinks and some camp chairs and…all our warm clothes and rain gear. See that cloudy sky?

[109/365] Crowd

It stayed that way basically all day. It had been drizzling rain all morning on Saturday after a Friday of storms and constant downpour, so we counted ourselves lucky that it stayed dry throughout the afternoon.

Skies
The Lineup

When we got there and got settled in, the Shivering Timbers were playing — an Ohio band I wasn’t already familiar with, but that I liked immediately. I’ll be looking for more of their music, for sure.
Shivering Timbers

My favorite Alabama band (who plays this festival every single year) is The Pine Hill Haints. They have a unique sound they refer to as “Alabama Ghost Country Music” and they bring things like a washtub bass, a saw, and an accordion. I know, it’s all too hip to stand, but I do really love their music.

Pine Hill Haints

Spending a few hours hanging out in the country, drinking champagne out of a plastic cup, and listening to good music is one of my favorite things about the beginning of Spring in Alabama.

Emily & Chase
Me & Chad
Me & Becky

Even if the weather didn’t cooperate, we still managed to make a lovely day of it.

And then we all went to dinner where, while trying to hand the waiter my sushi menu, I fell directly out of my chair and onto the floor. A little too much excitement for one day, perhaps. It’s OK; I only injured my dignity and reputation. My well-padded backside was just fine.

Spring Break in Tennessee (with Bob Weir)

We traveled up to East Tennessee to visit my family for a couple of days over our spring break, and then went to Knoxville and Nashville for one night each to see Bob Weir and Ratdog perform.

Cloudy Smokies

If you know my husband, you know his deep love for all things Grateful Dead — we’ve seen Furthur together (Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and others) and last summer, when we went to see Bob Dylan, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket, we were treated to a surprise guest appearance by Bob Weir. I guess Bob Weir is becoming something of a spring/summer music thing for us.

I’m not as big a fan of the Dead as CW is, but I enjoy the music and the scene and am happy to join in something he really loves. Two nights in a row might admittedly be more than I’d typically sign on for, but it turned out to be a really fun time.

We headed up to see my family first, and stayed a couple of nights with my brother, P. He has two fat, fluffy dogs who are both very sweet, but who will NOT stop following people around and panting frantically.

My brother's dogs, gazing up at him adoringly.

As much as I love dogs, I was ready to scream about all the hair and spit and the unceasing motherloving panting. The weather was cold, so we didn’t get out for our planned hiking excursion, but we made do. Plenty of food and beer will soothe the antsy soul, that’s for sure. We went out for a great lunch, and then P. also orchestrated a huge feast for dinner that included not only burgers (and veggie burgers) and kebabs on the grill, but also pulled pork BBQ, roasted potatoes, baked beans, and some other items I might be forgetting. Dude knows how to eat.

[72/365] Peter

New Belgium Spring Blonde

My dad and his wife joined us, but did not want to be photographed. You will have to imagine them in the background of these pictures.

On Friday night we headed down the road to Knoxville — not far from my hometown — and made our way to the historic Tennessee Theatre. In the neighborhood, we found a bar with a Grateful Dead art show going on: plenty of good beers, posters, and photos to peruse.

Scruffy City Hall

[73/365] Tennessee Theatre

Unfortunately, I did not wind up bringing my real camera into the theater for the concert (I was worried I wouldn’t want to deal with an extra item), so all my photos inside are Instagrams. Please let me tell you, though: the inside of the Tennessee Theatre is really something. It’s ridiculously opulent, especially when I think of its origins as a movie theater.

Soooo, not a bad concert venue!

Mirror goofing

Sorry for the insta-overload, but this place is beautiful!

Birdsong

We had a lot of fun exploring and looking around before the show started. The band was good Friday night (though I preferred Saturday’s show), but I wasn’t feeling very well for most of the first set. Something about the beers or dinner didn’t agree with me, so I basically had to sit down and sip a soda and keep it together until I felt better. Womp, womp.

Favorite songs of the night: “Tennessee Jed,” “Birdsong,” “Dear Prudence,” “Goin’ Down the Road.”

Saturday took us farther down I-40 to Nashville. We did the same thing there: found the Ryman Auditorium and then just explored the area on foot for a while before the concert. Downtown Nashville is full of a bunch of tacky tourist traps (cheap watering holes with flashy signs selling bottled domestic beer for $6 each) and the fact that it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend only made it seem worse. I’m sure there are cooler places to be in Nashville, but we didn’t want to drive anywhere, so we were stuck in this one main area. We weren’t into the tourist/St. Paddy’s bar scene, so we just walked around a bit. I got to take tons of photos, and then we had dinner before the show.

CW on the Bridge

View from Capitol Hill

Ryman Auditorium

Ryman Auditorium

CW in the Pew

Pew K

Saturday’s show was my favorite of the two. The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville is another great historical venue — it used to be a church (and still has its original pews), then it was the home of the Grand Ole Opry, now it hosts bands like Ratdog (and Widespread Panic, who had performed the night before and who I used to see frequently in the 90s). We wound up sitting behind a cute engaged couple, one of whom was an Auburn alumna and the other a current Alabama student — the very model of “a house divided.” We chatted a bit about Auburn- and Alabama-related things. It’s funny how you can establish rapport with strangers right away just based on these topics.

[74/365] Bob Weir and Ratdog

At any rate, the show Saturday was such fun. I had my real camera with me this time, and people were kind enough to let me up to the stage for a couple of minutes to take photos. Whenever I have that opportunity at a concert, I try not to be in people’s way for any longer than absolutely necessary, so I just squeezed in at the front of the stage and snapped five or six quick ones and then went back to my pew.

Favorite songs of the night: “Uncle John’s Band” and then basically the whole second set — “Deep Elem Blues,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Dark Star,” “China Cat Sunflower,” “I Know You Rider.”

We were so worn out after the second show night in a row that we basically passed out as soon as we hit the hotel bed. Sunday morning we got up early to the sounds of pouring rain, not so happy to be facing a 5+hour drive back home. CW (chivalrous and kind man that he is) did most of the driving, even though it was supposed to be my turn, because he knows how stressed I get when driving in a rain storm. I took over later on, when the skies cleared, and we made it home just in time to do all our school prep, laundry, and shopping for the week.

Oh yeah, that’s right: back to work. Heading in on Monday morning, in another rainstorm, before sunrise, with no coffee (I forgot the almond milk at the store and I refuse to drink black coffee) — well. It was not my ideal re-entry to work life. But you know what old Bob [Dylan] says:

I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singing
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Bob Dylan, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket

Sooooo, did I mention I got to see Bob Dylan recently? Oh, I did? I mentioned it repeatedly, you say? Huh. Well, guess what? I went to see Bob Dylan and it was fabulous.

CW’s friend from college was visiting for the weekend and the three of us headed up to Atlanta for the concert and checked into our fabulous lodgings, up on the 54th floor:

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We met up with my friend D., and had ourselves a grand old time. If you are a fan of beer and in Atlanta, may I recommend The Porter? They have a beer list a mile long, good pub-type food (with suggested beer pairings) and a knowledgeable staff. I went for a Danish pilsener and a Kölsch (lager from Cologne). Excellent.

Evil Twin.Reissdorf Kölsch

The concert started with My Morning Jacket (I like them, but I don’t really know their stuff — they were good, though!) and then Wilco. I like Wilco a lot but hadn’t ever gotten around to seeing them, so this was a really nice treat, too. They kept the place rockin’ pretty hard.

Wilco
(The photo of Wilco was the best of my attempts to capture anything on my iPhone — cameras were technically banned and even phone photography was discouraged.)

Bob Dylan closed the show and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you’ve heard him perform in the last decade or so, you probably know the gruff, gravelly sound his voice has these days — his singing was often hard to understand and several of the songs were new ones I didn’t know (but still good). When he did play his classic hits, the style and arrangements made them sound new and fresh again. Some of my favorites from the show: “Tangled Up in Blue,” “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “She Belongs to Me,” and “Ballad of a Thin Man.”

Bob Dylan’s music has been the backdrop for a lot of moments in my life — and the soundtrack to so many emotional developments along the way. New love and heartbreak, betrayal, change, frustration, longing. It’s all there. I never knew if I’d get the chance to see him perform live (I don’t tend to go to many concerts these days because it costs a goddamned arm and a leg now), but I’m so glad I finally did. Big thanks to CW for making it happen.

Spring, Music, Different Kinds of Frogs

My very favorite local event was a couple of weeks ago, and it seems I’m only now getting around to mentioning it. Well, better late than never!

Play Nice 

Necessary ItemsThe Old 280 Boogie happens every April in the tiny town of Waverly, just a few minutes outside of Auburn. Since I’ve been living here, I’ve never missed a Boogie! It’s an all-day festival with music, local artists, good food, and general fun and festivities. We brought a blanket, a cooler of beer, and some snacks and whiled away the day listening to bands and people watching. You really can’t go wrong.

My favorite bands at this year’s event:

Sam Doores + Riley Downing & The TumbleweedsSam Doores & Riley Downing & The TumbleweedsPine Hill HaintsThe Pine Hill HaintsHurray for the RiffraffHurray for the RiffraffThe Boogie always seems to signal the end of the academic year. Once it’s the season of sitting outside on a blanket drinking beer, one can hardly be expected to focus on school much longer. In the time since then, I’ve just been trying to keep pace with the last weeks of the semester: final papers to assign and grade, final exams to create and grade, and countless meetings with students. Office hours are never busier than when the semester is coming to a close, that’s for certain. But! Yesterday, I gave the last exam of the year, so things are finally almost over. I still have some paperwork and minor tasks to do in the office on Monday, but I feel finished. Finished feels good.

I had a few people over last night for drinks and snacks and celebrating the end of the year, and we had very much fun indeed. One of the best parts was that I got to witness my friend Becky’s reaction to the smell of Laphroaig:

This shall henceforth be known as The Frog, due to the way it made my entire apartment smell like a swamp.I don’t know why, but I have been obsessed with just how unbelievably aromatic that stuff is. It’s bafflingly intense. CW and I went out for a happy hour drink a few weeks ago, and we each indulged in one fancy whiskey of our choice. I went with Basil Hayden Bourbon (my favorite, but so pricey as to only be appropriate once in a blue moon); he went with Laphroaig. I tasted some of his, but only confirmed that Scotch just isn’t for me. I’m definitely a Bourbon person. Anyway, our fun & fancy happy hour inspired him to buy a bottle of the peaty elixir to have on hand at home. What I hadn’t noticed in the crowded bar was that if there is a glass of Laphroaig in the room, I will know. That smell announces itself with authority, even if the nose and the glass are separated by several feet. The length of a sofa, let’s say.

So last night, when I was in the kitchen getting something and I heard Becky’s screams of disgust from the living room, I knew what had happened: she caught the scent of someone’s glass of Laphroaig — or, as I like to call it, The Frog, due to its bog-like, fetid, swampy odor. It was so funny: all night, whenever she happened to catch a whiff of it, even at a distance, she was like, “get that glass away from me!” I was of course in stitches over this whole thing, partly because it was funny, but also because it was sort of a relief to know that I’m not the only one who can smell The Frog from across the room and who finds it utterly unbearable. And I’m not a particularly strong sniffer! I’m usually the last person to notice a smell, but I can’t think of any other beverage that pungent. That shit’s like tear gas. It does not mess around.

Speaking of frogs, please allow me to show you this:

This little guy likes to hang out in the spout of my watering can.This is one of my many little tree frog buddies. I have a watering can out on the patio for all the potted herbs I haven’t gotten around to buying or planting yet this spring. (Note to self: get on that.) So far, the watering can has been in use only for washing pollen off my furniture (so fun and festive!), but hey, that’s useful too. The best reason to have a watering can on your patio, though, is for the frogs! If there’s a little water in the bottom, the tree frogs will somehow sense it and gravitate to it. Every time I go out on the patio to hang out and read and have a glass of wine, I check the watering can and there is always at least one frog hanging out in there. Sometimes they sit on around the edge, sometimes they hide inside the can or inside the spout. The best is when they sit in the top of the spout just like in this photo. I mean, is that not the cutest thing ever? I maintain that it is.

I just have to be sure to evict any frogs from the can before I bring it inside to refill it — we’ve had several close calls with frogs getting loose in the house and nearly being eaten by the dog before I can catch them. Between the tree frogs and The Laphroaig Frog, it’s a jungle in here.