Saturday, June 30, 2012

Beaverzilla vs. The Sweat Bunny. Oh, and a Moose.

I'm delighted with this recent change of attitude in my hiking wife, Julie. She used to dread (or at least be concerned to the point of distraction about) the fact that I wrote about all our hikes together and then posted my blasphemous lies on my blog for two or three people to read.

But no longer. On this, our first hike of the season, she was pointing out things that I should take pictures of to include in my blog. Naturally, I assumed that she had finally overcome her fear of my poisoned pen and was embracing that fact that there was absolutely nothing she could do about what I write.

 I realize, as I write this, that I may have interpreted Julie's motives incorrectly.

None of the things that she suggested I photograph were her.

As proof, I offer these pictures, suggested by Julie:

This is not Julie.

This is not Julie, either.

So now I'm thinking that Julie was merely redirecting my attention so she will not appear in my writing or pictures in any compromising way.

It did not work. Because here is a picture of her, helplessly lost and about to be consumed by Beaverzilla:

Nice try, Julie.

And, in fairness, it is not entirely true that we were helplessly lost. Merely re-checking our coordinates carefully because none of the surroundings looked even remotely familiar and we had no idea where we were.

But the looming threat of Beaverzilla was very real.

Our first hike of the season was a leisurely stroll to the summit of Mt. Passaconaway, conveniently located far, far, far away from wherever you happen to be.

A tantalizing view of the summit, which never seemed to get any closer, no matter how much we walked.

Julie chose this as the destination of the day because its height (4,043') makes it one of the lowest of the 4,000 footers that she is determined to conquer. She thought we should start the year off easily and work our way up to higher, more challenging peaks.

Like Mt. Everest.

And the hike did start off easily, a mere stroll through the woods for several miles, which, in retrospect, should have set off more alarm bells in my head. The thing about a hike is, you have to get to the top of the mountain. That's the whole point. And if the first 4 miles of your 5 mile ascent are flat and level, then it should be obvious that the last mile will be nearly vertical and extremely painful.

Like this.

Or this.

And it was.

But before we got to the vertical part, we had to slog through Beaverzilla's territory.

And here, I am forced to admit that I do not have a picture to include, in spite of the fact that Julie specifically suggested that I take one. Our path to the summit ran along the ridge of a very well constructed beaver dam. Imagine (since there is no photograph) a bucolic, idyllic little pond, bordered on one side by hundreds and hundreds of baseball bat-sized sticks, all sharpened to deadly, razor-sharp points and laid in place by the slavering, rabid teeth of a beaver.

Now, imagine the pain, infection, and lingering death you would suffer if you slipped and punctured your foot on one of those sharpened sticks, glistening with foaming globs of bacteria-laden beaver drool.

So that's why I don't have a picture to show you, okay? I was way too concerned with not catching a deadly case of Beaver Fever.

After we traversed the deadly dam of doom and despair, we continued along our merry way, blissfully unaware of the fact that were likely being stalked by the hideous creature of the woods, Beaverzilla. We never actually saw Beaverzilla and, frankly had never even considered the existence of Beaverzilla before seeing the tree it had evidently chewed down.

Sign of the Beaverzilla.

While there is nothing in the picture to give you a sense of scale, I can personally assure you that I took this picture from atop a high hill, from about a half mile away. The tree is roughly 750,000 feet in diameter. I'm estimating, of course, because when we saw that, we raced wildly away through the woods to escape Beaverzilla.

We ran the nearly vertical last mile to the top of the mountain so we could stop and have lunch on one of the two scenic vistas available for hikers' lunching pleasure. When I took off my pack, Julie screamed a horrible scream and fell back a few paces, pointing in wide-eyed horror at the mark of the beast that had appeared on my back.

Mark of the Sweat Bunny.

The dreaded Sweat Bunny of the Whites had marked me as its own and I was powerless to resist. To further enhance the frightening atmosphere, nature provided some frightening atmosphere. As soon as my Sweat Bunny was revealed, a bank of ominous Zombie Fog™ rolled in to make everything look spooky and completely obscure our view.

Here comes the Zombie Fog™.

There goes the view.

We decided to take one last picture of ourselves before the fog transformed us into hideous, twisted creatures of the forest.


Julie was the first to breathe in the steamy Zombie Fog™ and was instantly transformed into a moose.

Julie is transformed into a Zombie Moose.
I told her that I wasn't buying her ice cream if she was a moose, so she fought the Zombie Fog™ and willed herself back into her original form.

Post-Moose Julie.

Sadly, she transformed into Julie With A Giant Tree Poking Out Of Her Chest. But it was better than a moose.

The trip back down the mountain was quite a bit faster than the way up. Our usual incentive for a speedy descent is a huge ice cream cone at the end of the hike. Generally, that is enough for me. On this hike, however, nature saw fit to test our speed and resolve by sending along a few rumbles of thunder to hurry us along.

Julie has a pathological fear of thunderstorms that occur when she is perched precariously atop a mountain. She spent the hike down devising many ingenious methods of emergency descent, most of which involved killing me and using my lifeless corpse as some sort of ghoulish, Jeffrey Dahmer-esque bob-sled.  I explained that if I was dead, I would not be buying her ice cream. She explained that when she killed me, she would take my wallet and buy her own ice cream.

I had no good counter-argument for that, but her plans were cut short by the thudding roar of a helicopter flying low overhead. It passed over us several times and I tried to convince Julie that it was a team of body-guards I had hired to protect me from her during our hikes. I'm not sure that she believed me, but at least she didn't try to use me as a bob-sled.

We managed to get down off the mountain without incident and without any actual Beaverzilla sightings.

Now if I could just get this Mark of the Sweat Bunny stain out of my shirt.

Friday, June 15, 2012

You Wanna See My Kazoo?

The thing about performing in front of large groups of children is that there is always the chance that something can go wrong. And, if it goes wrong, live, in front of 300 elementary school children, it can only go wrong in a spectacular fashion.

I have written occasionally about my thrilling musical adventures with my buddy, the children's music super-star, Steve Blunt. Yesterday, we finished up a two-day, four-school tour, doing concerts to kick off town summer reading programs. Our shows are generally somewhat structured, with lots of flexibility so Steve can lean over mid-show and whisper, "You've never heard this song before, but just play along. You'll be fine."

And I'm cool with that.

At one of our shows on this particular venture, he didn't even waste time giving me a heads-up, choosing, rather, to whip out his jaw-harp, start plucking out a tune, and look over at me, mid-way through, as if to say, "What the heck? Why aren't you playing along on this song that you've never heard and can't identify?"

And I was cool with that.

Steve, in fact, is not generally the variable in our shows. Steve, mathematically, is more of a constant with minor variations. It's the kids that are variables.

So very, very variable.

As Steve and I honked our way through our repertoire, we came to the thrilling part of one song where there is a key change. Being essentially a drummer, I have no idea what a key change actually is. I know that during that song, I must switch harmonicas about 3/4 of the way through the song.

And I'm cool with that.

I do not question it. I just know that if I switch harmonicas at the correct time, the song will not sound like crap. I can't explain it. It simply is.

And, yes, I am cool with that, too.

So I switched harmonicas, as I was supposed to and without warning, a kindergarten girl in the front row started pointing frantically toward my crotch, yelling, "I see his kazoo! I see his kazoo!"

I was wearing shorts. She was sitting on the floor directly in front of me.

I was very, very not cool with that.

She kept yelling and pointing, "I see his kazoo! I see his kazoo!"

It took me a heart-stopping second or so to realize that she was talking about the harmonica on my lap.  She had seen me slip one harmonica up to my mouth and slide the other one onto my lap and she evidently thought I was up to something sneaky and perfidious. She felt it was her duty to let the world know.

I made the tragic mistake of looking Steveward at that point. He was working hard to contain the barking howls of laughter that were exploding inside him. I worked hard to do the same, but failed tragically. I did not–despite what you might hear from Steve–actually swallow my harmonica because I started laughing so hard mid-song.

And no, I didn't swallow my kazoo, either, smart-guy.

But I'm definitely not wearing those Daisy Duke shorts to any more of our performances.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Another Brush with Fame

I don't pay attention to when the Red Sox are playing.
Because I couldn't care less.

Unless I'm trying to drive into Boston to see Jenny Lawson speak at a great little bookstore in Brookline. Because Fenway Park squats–like an angry, belligerent, green monster–in a direct line between my home and the bookstore. Generally, I am content to let baseball fans do their thing. But last night, their thing meant that I was stuck in miles of crawling traffic through Boston, a city whose drivers are known for their kind, considerate style.

As I sat in traffic, wishing a painful, bowel-emptying, sixth-inning case of Fenway Frank Poisoning upon every driver who cut me off and saluted me with one finger, I grew more and more anxious about arriving at the bookstore in time to hear Jenny speak.

Because I had a gift for her.

Because I am trying get her to write a review of my upcoming chapter book.

(Go buy it now!)

So I am bribing her.

I finally managed to find a parking spot a mere 3/4 mile from the bookstore. I parked and began running up the street, fighting against the swarms of people headed toward Fenway Park. I did happen to notice the dozens of available parking spaces located 100 yards from the bookstore as I careened around the corner and into the front door of the store, where I found myself at the tail-end of a long line of people snaking through a doorway toward the downstairs chamber where they hold author events.

This would, of course, be a great place for a detailed description of that sacred room, complete with meticulous detail, rich, vivid imagery, and sparkling wit. But I have no idea what it looked like because the room was full and they didn't let me in despite my pathetic wailing and crying and cursing.

While I stood there amidst a throng of disappointed customers, considering whether or not I should just go get a seat at the ball park in order to more fully appreciate my misery, a quiet, tinny voice crackled over the store's intercom: "We'll be starting our reading with Jenny Lawson in about 10 minutes. If you're upstairs, that totally sucks for you. Maybe there are still some crappy bleacher seats at Fenway, losers."


Actually, the voice from the box informed us that they would be piping the reading through the store's speaker system, so we could listen from the comfort of the crowded aisles.

Which wound up being more awesome than I could have hoped for.

I desperately clawed my way over several orphans and wheelchair-bound old ladies to secure second place in the line for book-signings.

From there, I was treated to the double pleasure of listening to Jenny give her delightful, profanity-filled talk and, at the same time, watch the faces of all the unsuspecting people who were at the bookstore for some purpose other than to hear Jenny speak.

Like the guy who stood aghast in the center of the store, his face a mask of horror and disbelief as the disembodied voice twinkling through the air spoke glibly of Mickey Mouse-shaped tampons at Disney World.

Or the couple who both slapped their hands over their child's ears when that same voice described an episode of explosive diarrhea being used as a possible deterrent to being raped by a cat. (I'm paraphrasing, of course.)

Many of them raced out of the store, wondering what was wrong with the long line of people in the store, howling with laughter at the horrifying, deranged stories pouring from the speakers.

After she spoke, Jenny came upstairs to sign books. She was delightful and lovely and charming and I prostrated myself at her feet and bequeathed my humble, unworthy gift upon her.

It's a picture of The Bloggess Fairy, accompanied by a poem about her that uses many, many very offensive words. So I blurred it out in this picture. So if you are my children reading this, don't even bother trying to read the poem. Because I win. Ha.

And, if she didn't like it, she's a very decent actress. She asked if she could post it on her blog and I swooned a bit, but I think I said yes before I collapsed to the floor.

Then she left it out on the table so the rest of the people in line could use it as a coaster for their drinks when they had their visits with her.

If this bribe actually works for a book review, I sincerely hope that she doesn't include any of the words I used in the poem. Because then I won't be able to let my kids read my book.