Nov 14, 2006
RSVVP Day Today, Nov 14
Thank you to those who ate out on RSVVP day, whose Durham proceeds go to the Community Kitchen at Urban Ministries of Durham. The Community Kitchen serves several hundred meals every day to anyone* who comes through the doors at the corner of Liberty and Queen Streets.
At right a pic of my friend William with whom I sometimes share a meal at UMD (or Golden Corral if we're working). We took this photo last week, three days before his 54th birthday. Click here for a 45-second audio clip of Will telling some of his plans and hopes.
*no requirements other than stating your name for general stat-keeping which UMD uses for its own tracking as well as for reporting to potential funders.
Sep 24, 2004
State Fair | stories
I wrote this story in the fall of '95, after listening to a lot of public radio:
Late October. The Fall harvest season is just about done, and the folks who aren’t already full of early squash and late asparagus are thinking they might wander down to the State Fair to see the giant pumpkins. Quite a sight, these orange creatures. You could make five, six, maybe twenty dozen pies from one of the prize winners. And if you had the appetite to finish all of them, you might become an orange creature, yourself.
In last year’s pumpkin pie contest, Margie Simons took the blue ribbon (“Not just good, but wholesome, even,” said the judges) with a recipe she got from her cousin. Meanwhile, her husband Harold proceeded to take the blue ribbon in the unofficial pie-eating contest.
To see Harold Simons after his eighth slice of pie was to see a man in that confused state between happy and gone. Crumbs littered his shirt, his belly pushed his suspenders dangerously wide, and he smiled the smile of a man ready to keel over.
For just a moment, Margie was hurt that her husband had been so taken by all the other pies while ignoring her own, but she forgave him when he apologized. He said, “Honey, I only ate a slice of Eleanor Johnson’s pie because she seemed so disappointed that the judges didn’t love hers like they did yours. And I would have stopped after that, but when I saw the sad faces of all the other ladies, well… wasn’t it my Christian duty to try their pies, too?”
Later, Margie told Virginia Hamilton that it wasn’t so much what Harold said that let her forgive him, but the fact that he realized an apology was due. “Ginny, it was a lie and a dumb lie at that, but at least he noticed something needed to be said. I can at least be thankful for that.”
And Ginny nodded her head, because she knew what Harold was like (her husband was not much different), but she also knew something else. She knew that it wasn’t just Harold’s newfound sensitivity that let Margie forgive him; no, there was something else. Margie forgave him because of a thin strip of velvet handed to her by a stranger. A stranger who said that he loved her pie, that it was the best pie at the Fair, and that she was the winner. And winners can afford to be a little generous, especially to their husbands—who loved them even before the blue ribbon.
FYI, the North Carolina State Fair runs Oct 15-24.
May 12, 2004
What's in a Name / Lots in a Name
This is my cousin Widyastuti Handayani of the Sanjoto family (though she never had "Sanjoto" as part of her name). We mostly call her Hani, which suits me fine. Our Indonesian grandfather was named Kirdjan, and he later made up the second name "Marsosudiro" to satisfy the needs of a Western-facing government around the time he began his professional career as a surveyor. My grandmother's name was Moesrini, and I don't know whether she had a second name before marrying my grandfather.
According to Hani's dad, Djoko Sanjoto (now deceased, but who was friend and peer with my grandfather and grandmother before marrying their daughter, my aunt Herni, who was 12 years old when she heard about the idea, and promptly climbed up a tree to get away from it all), "Marsosudiro" comes from word roots that mean something like, "the heart is stalwart or courageous about doing the right thing."
My Dad is the only kid from his generation to have kept the name, and thus of Kirdjan and Moesrini's 18 grandchildren, I am the only one who is called "Marsosudiro." If I don't pass the name down (or endow a faculty chair or museum somewhere), it will die with me. For now, I kind of like the idea of names evaporating. In later years, I may feel differently.
BTW: my parents made up my first name, "Philindo" from the names of their home countries: the Philippines and Indonesia. At the moment, I'm the only person I know who owns the domain names for his first and last names. May I never screw that up with the registrars.
Apr 23, 2004
Joelle, Barb and Carl
Duke Reunion 2004
I bought a townhome right after I graduated from college, and for the first ten years I had housemates out the wazoo. Joelle and Barb were by far the most fun pair, and it was great to see them this weekend while they were back in town for Duke reunions. This photo vaguely resembles the holiday card photos that Barb, Joelle, and I sent out in 1994, with the minor substitution of Carl for me (we're pseudo-twin brothers, both born on November 10, 1967, Carl just 90 minutes earlier than I, which explains why he's pale and I'm nice and brown--he came out of the oven too soon--but I digress).
In November 1997, I wrote a piece about the housemating for the "Front Porch" section of The Independent Weekly. The theme was how my housemate collection was much like the population of Durham and Chapel Hill. Here it is, with minor edits.
Since 1989, I’ve shared my place with a stream of housemates—sixteen thus far, two at a time, with someone always coming or going. Jamie was the first—an outgoing Hare Krishna whom I welcomed with open arms in the hopes that my house might become the enlightened meeting place of many sensitive cultures. But though her Hare Krishna consciousness was both edifying and pleasant, the big insecurity chip on her shoulder, snoring that shook the house, and the absence of any source of income made her less than perfect. Fortunately for me, she soon left town along with my illusions about home as an experiment in cultural edification.
I was more conservative in choosing the next fifteen housemates, but that didn’t mean they weren’t cool. Rob, who arrived in 1990 just as Jamie was leaving, helped open Foster’s Market in Durham (newcomers must wonder what Durham people did for Sunday brunch beforehand) then taught kids’ programs at the Museum of Life and Science. Julie, a close friend from my youth, came to practice chemistry at RTI. Then came Rob No. 2, a very smooth undergraduate who stored his furniture in my back bedroom while he lived with his girlfriend. After Julie came Matt, a Lowe’s salesman turned philosophy student whose brother Jason, a fledgling professional cyclist from Rhode Island, occasionally stayed in town to train on North Carolina’s narrow but sunny roads. Dr. Curt the pediatrics intern hosted a guest of his own, Ballou the baby parrot who arrived courtesy of a Jimmy Buffet promotional contest.
In 1992, my former and once-again environmental consulting colleague, Randy, quit smacking roaches in Waycross, Georgia and moved back to North Carolina to get married, biding time at my house until the ceremony. Mike moved from Colorado to attend UNC’s B-school, then moved back to Colorado to help a Chapel Hill firm open its office in Boulder, where he met his now-fiancee who happened to be from Durham, all of which goes to show that the Triangle has a powerful reach. Barb joined the house in 1993, a new Duke alumna who didn’t return to Jersey. The next year, Barb, I and Joelle (our first fish propulsion scientist) sent out photo Christmas cards, one of which still hangs on the refrigerator. London the Virginian came after Joelle left for Korea, then Susan the Unpredictable came after Barb left for Virginia.
Patrick arrived after London, and we soon discovered that his former wife was my former schoolmate. Then came Alicia, another Coloradan, but much different from the first. With her watercolors, incense, and candles, she made me completely rethink whether corporate life made any sense at all. Then she left for the North Carolina mountains, and I got back to work. The house finally got its first New Yorker and its first nurse when Allison came in 1996. And after Allison left for Seattle, the house got its second fish scientist and museum teacher, who also happened to be its second Julie.
Now, Julie No. 2 is moving to Florida and I will have to find housemate number seventeen. Sigh, more changes, yes. But after Jamie, I’ve gotten better at the process, and eight years of history seem to indicate that the house is always fine--never an all night party, but interesting enough by day.
Feb 06, 2004
Self Re-Publishing -- A Toast
Here is the second piece that I wrote for Notes from the Single Life in the Independent Weekly, fall 1997. I've tweaked it a bit before re-publishing it today. In re-reading this piece from six year old piece, the biggest bummer is in realizing that (a) I don't do public ceremonies as well as I did when it was a regular habit and (b) I probably wasn't as good then as I thought. Damn! Well, at least I'll promise to be silent or concise for the future. Besides, if I need space to ramble -- there's always this blog, right?
When I was twenty-five, I thought myself a fine young toast maker, honing my skills as friends married left and right. In my pride, every rehearsal dinner was like an Olympic competition, as rival guests took their turns at toasting the bride and groom. While others spoke, I’d feel the rush of anticipation as I mentally rehearsed and fine-tuned my own words, half-listening to the many toasts of my fellow guests. Of course I clapped for every one; because they were good, and because I could top them.
At last my turn would come: my moment to deliver no trifling of goodwill, but a virtual four-course meal of emotions and love. To begin, the appetizer: a witty opening deftly linked to the preceding speech, followed by a pause for laughter. The second course: a warm little story to illustrate the affection between the groom and his bride to be, surprisingly detailed and insightful, especially to those who knew that the fiancée and I had barely met.
And then, a segue into the third course: an intimate story from high school or college about my modest friend, the groom, revealing a depth of character and kindness that few were privileged to know so well. Then finally, so gently, I would return us to the present where my dear old friend and my new dear friend would soon be joined for life. Napkins would turn into handkerchiefs and rise to dab at the eyes of the afflicted.
When my friends Ellen and Jeremy were wed around this time, the schedules of their guests prevented them from holding a formal rehearsal dinner. Thus, the toasting was reserved for a small dinner to be held several hours after the wedding. Unfortunately for me, my own schedule required me to depart only a few moments into the midday reception.
In the parking lot, two flower girls wished me goodbye as I started my car, windows down to let in the fresh air. One girl asked, “may we throw some seeds at you?” “Sure,” I said. They pelted me and squealed until my ears were ringing.
I shook the seeds out of my left ear and started off, more than a little bit dazed from the onslaught. In fact, I still noticed a lingering discomfort when I was several miles down the road. Was it the smack of the birdseed? No, but something did feel strange. Here I was on a summer day, dressed to the nines with a bow tie, even, birdseed in my hair and driving away in a rented car. What was missing? Ah…the toast. I didn't give a toast—that must have been it.
originally published in Notes from the Single Life
The Independent Weekly, fall 1997. Revised 2004.
Jan 28, 2004
Self Re-Publishing -- Bed
Durham, January 28, 2004 -- 1 a.m.
The problem at the moment is that I'm way behind on work, have nothing imaginative to say about anything, and worse yet, I've rekindled my addiction to sitcoms. Though I'm sorely tempted, I will not make today's blog a cheap photo of me (I've got plenty!) or another snow shot from my office window (this month's looks a lot like last month's) or another confession about things that make me jiggle my butt while driving. Instead, I'll post a copy of Bed, the very first column that I wrote for the Independent Weekly's Notes from the Single Life.
One thing to note (if you can forgive my need to pat myself publicly on the back): Bed was originally part of a writing sample that I ginned up for section editor Carol Collier, who surprised hell out of me when she called and said, "I just love it so intensely! Can we run it?" You could have knocked me over with a feather, or at least with the check that came two weeks later. Holy cow -- you mean they pay? For writing samples?! (This probably explains why I had such a hard time accepting their rejections of later articles for Notes or the Front Porch. They spoiled me as a child.)
Last week I cleaned out my bed and found 22 magazines and 30 books. Astute readers now know three things about me: I'm single, I like to read, and I don't clean out my bed that often.
Now, that last part sounds a little objectionable, but it's really not that bad. You see, I'm a rumply kind of guy, not much into hanging up my clothes. When they come out of the dryer, I just toss them on my bed. On any given day, there are usually one or two loads sitting on the long side of the bed that butts up against the wall.
This arrangement makes it awfully hard to make up the sheets so I don't usually bother. I just drop the clean ones down on the side of the bed that I sleep on, and it's good enough for me. Really, the worst risk in this arrangement is that my clothes or sheets might somehow fall onto my clock radio (also resident in the bed) and muffle the G-105 morning blare.
Given this arrangement, it's not a great stretch to add some reading material to the pile. Last week's cleanout included two collections of James Herriot's veterinary stories, three photography magazines, J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories, two personal journals (one current, one from 1991), the March issue of the Atlantic Monthly, Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, and Robert Bly's Iron John, bookmarked on page 10 with a review torn out of the Quality Paperback Book Club Catalog.
There many luxuries in the single life, and a messy bed is one of the big ones. And I suppose that I'd better keep appreciating that messy bed, because, unless I change my ways or meet a really skinny woman with the same reading interests, I suspect that I'm going to be single for a long time.
Notes from the Single Life
The Independent Weekly
September 10, 1997
One week later, a friend spotted this ad in the Missed Connections: "Phil from Notes -- Your bed sounds just like mine. Perhaps we should start a self-help group. Let's talk. Call #5023"
Jan 20, 2004
Estwing Nylon-Vinyl Grip Framing Hammer
Back in 1997-1999, I wrote a few short pieces for the Independent Weekly -- first for their "Notes from the Single Life" column (which they used to run alongside the Personal Ads), and later for "Front Porch." Writing for the Indy was a lot of fun and it's only a shame that I didn't try to do more. But I had other things on my mind, so I moved on and hardly did any "creative" writing for years until the Archer Pelican came to life last month. In today's weblog, I'm self-publishing a true story that I submitted for "Notes...", which I was told would run but never actually did. It's been waiting five years to see light of day -- thank you, Typepad.
On the Interpretation of Dreams
Back in 1993, I lived in Chicago for a few months, and it was very cold. But one consolation was that I got to visit with my long-lost friend Paula, who had moved there from our home state of North Carolina. One week, we made plans for dinner and met up at her apartment where I was briefly introduced to her boyfriend, James. James was a handsome but surly fellow who didn’t say much. They kissed goodbye, and Paula and I drove off to dinner.
While we were eating, Paula told me about a recent dream in which she and James had been sitting at home with an important but unidentified other woman. “It was an odd triangle,” Paula said, “I couldn't tell what her relationship was to me…were we friends, or lovers, or what? But I knew that she and James were intensely connected... I’m not sure what to think.”
“Did you mind that she was there?” I asked.
“No,” she said, so I continued with an interpretation:
“I don’t think you’re looking for a ménage a trois, and I don’t think you’re interested in ‘sharing’ your boyfriend. I think you’re looking for another woman to start dating James so that you don’t have to. That’s why she’s important, and that’s why you approve of her presence.”
“Ummmm, no." she replied after a pause. "I don’t think that’s it.”
“Well, we’ll see,” I said. And then we talked about other things.
Soon after that dinner, I moved back to North Carolina and didn’t see Paula again until 1997, when she returned to Chapel Hill with her new partner Carl. She called one morning to ask if I’d help them frame a little cabin they were building in Chatham County, so I grabbed a hammer and drove out to lend a hand.
We worked through the afternoon, talking little. But after one long stretch, Paula paused from her hammering and said, “You know, Phil, I never did thank you for helping me break up with James.”
Slowly, I recalled our long-past conversation. “Ahh…,” I said, “So my dream interpretation was correct, and another woman did come along to take him off your hands?”
“Umm, no,” she replied, “What happened was that James was such a jealous ass about us going out to dinner, I finally saw what a jerk he was and broke up with him.”
“Oh,” I said, “Well, that’s good, too. Hand me that box of nails, would you?”