Category Archives: Trout Towers

I have no idea what your name is

I am great with faces, and not so good with names.

Yes, that’s a cop out. If you see a familiar face and are friendly to the person it belongs to, who cares if you know them? They either walk away thinking it was nice to see you, or how friendly people are in this town.

I am by-face-only friends with a woman who goes to the same events I do at least three times a year. Before we became face-only friends I waved and said hello repeatedly, thinking she was my friend Paula. She is not. She is somebody else, who looks, dresses, and walks just like Paula. One day, on probably the 17th smile and wave, I explained myself and we have been strangers who chat frequently ever since.

“Strangers who chat” is my ideal situation, and probably the reason I can’t remember names. Strangers who chat is my happy place. I am perfectly content staying there. I will see the same person every week for several months and be quite happy not knowing names. There is of course a point where it is too late to admit you don’t know their name and then you’re out of luck unless you sneak a picture and run it through the facial recognition software you don’t have but should totally get.

It’s different when you see someone whose name you are expected to know. I don’t know why people expect others to know their names. I almost always remind people who I am and how we know each other, unless it’s my husband or someone related to me by blood. Not everyone does this though. It’s like some kind of test.

As we talk my brain goes through a search function to glean context. Where are you from? When did we last see each other? How much am I supposed to know about you? I haven’t even started to wonder what their name is. It’s like in “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” where Geena Davis realizes she knows everything there is to know about someone and surmises that they were once in love when actually she was supposed to assassinate him.

You have no idea how often this happens to me.

I used to begin the recognition process with “friend or foe?” but found it clogged the machine. Now I figure if I am accidentally nice to someone who dumped my best friend in high school* they will see it as me taking the high ground and will accordingly become a better person, seeing the error of their ways.

There are those people who can sense you don’t know their name and taunt you with it. They refer to you by name. You counter by mentioning something you have in common, which has miraculously surfaced in your brain. They up the ante with your husband’s name, and as you try to remember if they’re even married or not, they ask about the kids by name, acknowledging their correct ages. This is blatant overkill. No one can keep track of kids’ ages, not even their parents.

Five minutes after one of these exchanges I say to no one in particular, “Lisa.” Her name is Lisa. She is the ex-girlfriend of my ex-neighbor.

Twenty minutes later: Her husband is Tariq.

Twenty two minutes: We still know each other because our kids were in playgroup together.

3 AM: Daniel and Lydia. Now 9 and 12.

Don’t ask me to tell you what they look like. For the life of me I can’t picture them.

*As if any of us had boyfriends.

Trout Towers eggs

The best possible way to cook eggs

Whoever said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results has never had my eggs.

[“It was Einstein, genius” – my entire family, including the dog]

I can totally cook eggs. I can make a poached egg so perfect it will make you quietly weep. I have to watch a video when I’m doing it to remember the steps, but I can do it. I also do a mean scramble – both the fancy slow cook method and the here’s-your-breakfast-eat-it-on-the-way-to-the-bus method. But those aren’t the eggs I cook daily.

Daily, I make path-of-least-resistance eggs, aka fried eggs on the griddle. Lately I’ve been frying eggs every morning because we are overrun with eggs. Eggs are the new zucchini.

Making them on the griddle means they have a little extra trace of iron. It also means I don’t really have to clean up after myself because you’re not supposed to wash cast iron. Instead, you wipe it off with a cloth, or vacuum it or something. DO NOT let the dog lick it off because it turns out that completely removes the “seasoning” aka layers of absorbed fat and your eggs will stick. Also, people think it’s gross but only if they see the dog doing it. Ignorance is bliss.

So I make these eggs on the griddle and every single time they come out differently. I have heard people in restaurants order all the kinds of eggs I’ve ended up making, so I know they’re legit: over easy, over hard, over easy with a broken yolk, sunny side up with a side of shell, etc. It’s not that I don’t know how to make eggs. I just like to mix it up so people don’t get in a rut. I don’t have a method, I have a repertoire.

Okay, fine. They never come out the same way twice, despite my efforts to do the exact same thing every time except a little more this or that to avoid whatever went wrong the morning before. It’s Mystery Breakfast Theater at my house. You can order whatever you want in my kitchen, but you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Scrambled, you say? Here’s your sunny side over hard.

I see my eggs as a morning meditation for my family. It’s a metaphor for the other things that may well happen to them during the day. Things don’t always come out the way you planned, or were told. Broken yolks, surprisingly rubbery whites, and perfectly solid over easy eggs are a gentle way to encourage my family members to be okay with things that really don’t matter. They get fresh eggs, with a side of buttered toast. When life hands you something unrecognizable on a plate, focus on the toast.

At least until I learn how to make a fried egg.

Cartoons, chocolate cake, and the silent treatment

When we were kids, my sister and I would get up crazy early on Saturday mornings and do things we weren’t allowed to do. It required stealth, dedication, and complete silence – attributes we honed over the years. We were so good at being bad.

We really knew how to live it up. While our parents slept, we’d make ourselves bowls of cereal and rot our brains in front of Saturday morning cartoons. By not waking them up, we could go rogue and put Quik on our Rice Krispies, approximating the highly coveted, sugar-laden cereal mom refused to buy. We’d creep into the den and watch cartoons, sometimes in a pillow fort, banking hours of t.v. time before anyone started paying attention. It was the greatest.

Later, it occurred to us that mom and dad were probably awake, lying in bed silently but for the occasional high five. Furthermore, mom may have forbidden our making of Quik Krispies to ensure that we washed all evidence out of our cereal bowls when we were done. As an added bonus, we had to do all of this without arguing. She’s an evil genius.

To our credit, we figured this out before we both had kids and understood the value of a morning off.

I was reminded of all this today, Saturday morning. It is not early, but I am still being quiet in the hopes no one notices me. While the kids exceed their allotted computer time, I am in the kitchen eating leftover Buffalo chicken strips and chocolate cake. No one is judging me. No one is criticizing my choices. And no one is asking to share.

Do I hear them whispering? Are they saying things like “shhhh, if we’re really quiet she won’t notice.” Or are they completely hip to my shenanigans, bookending me between generations of people benefiting from my silence?

Frankly, I don’t care. It’s Saturday morning and I have cake to eat.

tiny chicken sympathy

Congratulations on your grief

I realized that “Congratulations! So proud of you” was the wrong thing to write on the group sympathy card almost as soon as I signed my name. I say “almost” because it wasn’t until I looked at what others had written that I realized it was a sympathy card. Things like, “So sorry for your loss” and “Our hearts are with you,” and nine other distinctly non-congratulatory expressions.

In my defense, I have signed a lot of congratulatory cards this month. Plus, I am a Pollyanna sort of person who thinks “oooh, who has news?!?” when the phone rings, not “who died this time?” Note: I still won’t pick up. It’s not what I use my phone for, and that’s why God made voicemail.

Anyway there I was, the last one holding a thoroughly signed card.

I tried to figure out how to make my words make sense with additions like, “so proud of your strength” but there was really no way around “congratulations.” Which left me with only one possible alternative because putting the card in my purse and never speaking of it again is something I’m trying to give up.

“I’ll go ahead and mail this,” I said, sealing the envelope before anyone else could see. I tucked it in my purse (where it will never be seen again), and set about making a forged duplicate.

I tried to find the same card but honestly who will know? I resisted the urge to get a graduation card on the sale rack and went straight to the bereaved section of the store, where I picked out a suitably sad yet supportive expression of our shared grief. And then I proceeded to forge my friends’ notes and signatures.

Some were completely illegible, so I made up something appropriate in their place. “We’ll always have Paris,” is my go-to in such cases. Most notes were easy to replicate. To make them more authentic I utilized what I know of the Stanislavski acting method, and became each person as I performed their signatures. Note: I am not an actor, but I rock at googling “what is the Stanislavski technique?”

By the time I got to my own contribution I felt totally legitimate writing “my thoughts are with you.” Like, you have no idea how much my thoughts are with you. In reenacting the others’ laudable thought processes I had spent more time thinking about my friend than it would have taken me to make a casserole. Or a grieferole, as we call them.

I felt actual grief, and compassion, and an overwhelming desire to go to Paris.

Now I’m not saying you should intentionally screw up a group card, but I am saying that if that’s what it takes to overcome a knee-jerk interaction, go ahead and screw up the card.

Also, congratulations. I am so proud of you.

 

10 things I meant to do before my book release party

I imagined this going down differently. The launch is now 5 hours away and I am out of time for a whole list of things I envisioned myself doing. Specifically:

  1. Sit in the sun to cut the leg glare
  2. Have my makeup done again
  3. Decide what to wear
  4. Try on that thing I decided to wear
  5. Give up and buy something new to wear
  6. Send an email to people who subscribed for the sole purpose of hearing about a book launch and now will never make it omg
  7. Live in a country that is part of the Paris Climate Agreement
  8. Warn people who are in the book
  9. Get a fancier carrying case for Turnip the chicken
  10. Write a blog post about my upcoming book launch

Things I did:

  1. Marry someone with a cool last name because it will look so great on the cover
  2. Write a book.

There is a book. We have a gorgeous venue. I will have clothes on.

I’m calling it a win.

Book release party!

Frying Pan Gallery
250 Commercial Street
Wellfleet Harbor, Cape Cod
June 3, 5-8 PM

Books by Susan Blood $15 signed by the author
Prints by Rob Conery $10 signed by the author (includes free download)

Food! Drinks! Books!

Music by Brady Signs
Flowers by GATHER

 

a Cape Cod diet

The Monomoy South Beach Diet

I was listening to Robert Finch talk about his new book The Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod’s Atlantic Shore with Mindy Todd on WCAI this morning, and discovered that Cape Cod has its own South Beach. Which means Cape Cod has its own South Beach Diet.

Still listening, I looked up Monomoy South Beach to find out which ice cream stands and clam shacks were closest because surely that would shape this diet. If you’ve ever been to the Cape in the summer, you know it’s all about ice cream and fried food.

I was mistaken. The South Beach Bob mentioned is in the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, which changes everything.

Not only is it a NWR, but it is an IBA too – which of course I know is an “important birding area” because obviously my finger is on the pulse of all things ecological, biological, and geological in my adopted region. Or at least it is while Bob is reading. According to Mass Audubon, Monomoy and South Beach are home to many significant species, including Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle, Roseate Tern, Piping Plover, Tern both Least and Common, Common Loon, Northern Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Pied-billed Greeb, Short-billed Dowitcher, Sanderling, Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Hudsonian Godwit, Whimbrel, Willet, American Oystercatcher, Black-crowned Night Heron, and Snowy Egret.

If you want to go on the Cape Cod South Beach diet you have to eat marine worms, insects (fly larvae and beetles), crustaceans, mollusks, fish, frogs, seeds, berries, leaves, pigeons, and songbirds.

Which just figures.

I may not know what birds can be found in our IBAs, but I do know that local, native New Englanders do not mess around. They are a hardy, no-nonsense, un-mess-withable lot. They know how to do everything, can fix anything, and will do it themselves, dammit.

People here see your pile of watercress and acai berries and throw a squid and some bear sausage on it. Note: we did have a bear wander over the bridge once – probably in search of ice cream and fried food.

Totally unrelated, did you know that there’s a fish called a Sarcastic Fringehead? Do not look up images of it or you will never sleep again – unless you’re a New Englander in which case you probably eat them with scrambled eggs.

As I have mentioned, I am not from here. I am therefore skipping the diet and going straight to reading Bob’s book instead. I’ll let you know if he includes recipes for marine worms and sand shrimp.

The Outer Beach by Robert Finch

 

I'm told my face looks like this

Writing guitar face

It has come to my attention that my face is talking behind my back.

When I write, my face makes all the expressions of the words in my head, as if I am speaking them. Sometimes I feel this happening, but I hadn’t realized it was noticeable until my teenager pointed it out. Teenagers notice things and then share what they find fascinating. Like what your face is doing when you are lost in thought, for instance.

Unfortunately, odds are good that this is happening all the time. I write for work, I write for play, and I write for my mental health. I write reminder notes and grocery lists. I am writing right now. Before I sat down to write I made coffee and tried some of these words on in my head to see how they sounded together. In other words, I was writing while I made the coffee.

I have thought about setting up a video camera and training it on my face to capture what is happening, but that way madness lies. That’s probably what happened to Greta Garbo, J.D. Salinger, and Richard Simmons. I suspect I have Guitar Solo face when I write, but I’d prefer not to have that confirmed. Rowan Atkinson had the same problem:

The only thing to do is to write about puppies, and subjects that don’t make me ponder deeply. I have an uncanny ability to ponder deeply about things – like why no one has ever called their band Desmond’s Tutu, or what should go on my hospitality rider when I start that band.

To be clear, I am not an open book. I am really good at stuffing my emotional response out of sight in actual conversations. But if I am having a conversation in my head in addition to the one we’re having? All bets are off. I need some kind of alert when I start sorting words in my head publicly. It would work like a posture corrector for my face.

Maybe that’s what meditation is about. Today I’m going to have one conversation at a time and Be Here Now. When I revisit arguments I never had in the first place, I will shift my focus and envision what it feels like to be a leaf in the spring. Today will be stunning and my face will not collapse from exhaustion promptly at 3 p.m.

I’ll let you know how it goes – but it will probably be obvious. It’s written all over my face.

(Illustration is from The expression of the emotions in man and animals, by Charles Darwin, 1872)

makeup lesson

How my makeup lesson went

I was asked for a new headshot. One where you can see more than my eyes over the edge of a coffee cup. One not taken in the ’90s.

And so I set to work fretting about it, which is a long process. Pictures are the reason I drive with an expired license.

In the midst of the fretting process I remembered that I had taken Sugarplum for a makeup lesson and had promised her I would have one done, too. This is why the fretting process is so helpful and important. It brings to light things you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Without the fretting process I would have gone barging into a photo session with my own face, and now I don’t have to.

When Sugarplum had her makeup done I had to look twice to establish that she had makeup on. She looked like the inside of a seashell – all glowy and smooth. I want to look like the inside of a seashell, too, so I scheduled an appointment with the same consultant.

It turns out I am the outside of a seashell.

My makeover starts with extra moisturizer because the foundation is falling into my pores. I don’t know what that means, but it doesn’t sound good. She applies foundation over the moisturizer, bronzer to replace the color taken out by the foundation, and then blush to lift my face. “See how lovely and dewy it is?” she says, handing me the mirror.

Where she sees dewy, I see damp. Dewy is my lawn in the morning. Damp is my face after I’ve had a hot flash, or run up the stairs, or covered it with wet makeup that is still…wet. I am at a place in my life where I’m more likely to opt for a jar of cornstarch and a poof. But I go with it. At this point there is so much moisturizer on my face it’s only a matter of time before something hydroplanes.

And then it’s the eyes. She puts highlighter and concealer under my eyes to get rid of my dark circles. We both pretend it worked.

She has to remove a little leftover eyeliner before continuing. I don’t tell her it’s yesterday’s mascara, doubling handily as today’s eyeliner. I have time management and economy down to a science and I don’t want her stealing my moves.

Next she gives me eyebrows. I have eyebrows of my own, but they’re the same color as my skin. She fixes that with a $42 pencil, which I buy in a drunken moment of having eyebrows. I also buy the lipstick she swears by because she puts hers on in the morning and it stays put until she eats. In my case that means about an hour of wear, but I vow to eat gently and without using my lips.

I accidentally wipe half my face off on my sleeve in the car on the way home and now I have to change my shirt, which sets me back because I really like this shirt and wanted it in my headshot. Maybe I’ll hold it.

I need to take the photo fast before I lose the other half of my face. Based on her recommendations, it will run me $342 plus tax to replicate this look at home. Tonight I will sleep flat on my back like after face painting at a fair, in hopes I can wear it again tomorrow.

J. Geils, Peter Wolf, and a rock nymph

I love J. Geils, don’t get me wrong. Specifically, I loved (and wore out) Love Stinks and Freezeframe. But it was Peter Wolf’s face I cut out of the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with manicure scissors, gluing him to my bedroom wall. I dreamt of the day when my high power music industry career would give me the chance to meet and mingle with the likes of Peter Wolf. I would be a smart, savvy, rock nymph. There would be affairs.

When I at last had the opportunity to meet Peter Wolf it was exactly like I had never imagined. I did not, for instance, imagine myself middle aged and 7 months pregnant. We were having our second child, so I looked like I was overdue with triplets.

Chris mentioned it so nonchalantly: Peter Wolf was making a guest appearance at a music festival he was doing sound for. He said it like “there will be lobster fritters, Peter Wolf, and free parking.”

I actually stopped what I was doing and made him back up. “The Peter Wolf?” I asked.

“And a line array,” he most likely answered. It was awhile ago, but chances are good that’s how it went down.

It was my big chance. Most people Chris does sound for end up hanging out with him at least a little and there I would be. I tried on my entire maternity wardrobe to find the perfect look, rejecting stretch pants with belly panels, empire-waist tunics, and a sundress made of two circus tents. Try as I might, it was impossible to create the illusion of 17, so I settled on something that didn’t bind, itch, or ride up when I sat down.

I bought a string of food tickets long enough to circumnavigate my belly and Sugarplum and I set to work festivaling while the first bands played. We downed fish tacos, fried oysters, onion rings, funnel cakes, and maybe some nachos. We stayed outside near the food trucks until Sugarplum couldn’t take it anymore and made me go inside to see the bands.

Sugarplum has been a dancer since she was in utero. Wherever Chris was working, we’d go. She heard a lot of bands through amniotic fluid and would faithfully start to shake it when the music started. Once she reached terra firma, she danced whenever there was music – from a cell phone ringing to a New Jersey rest stop.

She danced while I sat and watched, too slow, cumbersome, and self-conscious to join her. When she got tired we sat in the front row watching more bands until she fell asleep in my arms. It was 9 p.m. and there was no sign of Peter Wolf. I couldn’t believe how close I was, and how much I wanted my pajamas. We said goodnight to Chris.

I carried my sleeping rock nymph to the car, past the tour busses and the parties, and home to bed.

For the record, love does not stink. Rest in peace, J. Geils. And thank you.

Pages from Sugarplum’s autograph book:

David Lowery (Cracker), Colin Hay (Men at Work), Evan Dando (The Lemonheads)
Juliana Hatfield, Frank Black (The Pixies), Peter Wolf (J. Geils Band)

spring concert for small rock stars

Barfing on the band

So cute, right? My little indie rocker decided what to wear to Spring Concert a few days ago. He even did laundry. The suit jacket is obviously still big for him – a hand-me-down from an older musician he quietly admires – but it has a certain indie band David Byrne quality to it and paired nicely with his favorite skinny jeans.

On the third song all the kids changed places. Studley made his way off the risers and to the front of the stage, where he barfed like a rock star.

Not that anyone can blame him. This entire spring has felt like someone threw up on it.

I didn’t see the barfing. I saw him being escorted out of the room and thought “wait, he’s getting kicked out? What on earth did he do?” Studley is more of a pensive, layers of electronica musician than a hard core rabble rouser. Although now that we know about the barfing, we might want to change that up.

I climbed over seats and parents and video cameras and went to my son in the hall, where he was stifling sobs over his ruined suit. We got him cleaned up and headed home, totally beating the traffic jam. This is not our first rock show, people.

Because I respect his privacy, I may or may not have mentioned all this at work. I work with performers, and they had stories of their own.

“I barfed on someone’s head.” “I wet my pants at the second grade assembly.” “I had diarrhea at the bows.”

They all seem completely unscarred, with full lives both on and off stage. They also told me what probably happened: He had locked his knees.

I think they need to practice this in music class when they rehearse for concerts. As for Studley, we’ve been coaching him in case it ever happens again. The next time he feels woozy on stage he’ll yell “thank you, Detroit” into the mic, vomit on the front row, and collapse victoriously in the wreckage.

I suggest you sit toward the back.

The real Trout Towers

Imported from the old blog, because people still ask:

In yesterday’s comments, Kristin said “you know, Susan, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t visualize Trout Towers, with the musicians and the upstairs neighbors and the chickens and all.”

I don’t blame her one little bit. I thought about her comment and thought it would be fun to encourage readers to describe the mental picture they have of Trout Towers. I would rather like that. Please go ahead and do that, even though I am about to spoil everything.

Trout Towers is a full Cape – two stories and a full basement. Fun Fact! The person who built it made the windows and chimney larger than normal to make the rest of the house look smaller. It is the clown car of houses.

It looks kind of like this:*

Or it would look like that, if it weren’t for a few curiosities we like to leave around the yard. Like the lawnmower. And a woodstove. Doesn’t everyone have a woodstove in their driveway? No?

This shows the woodstove in the front yard, which would be tacky. Ours is in the driveway and therefore totally classy.

I may have mentioned at some point that Chris likes to bring things home from the dump. Specifically, windows. He’s fond of shower doors, but those must be around on the other side of the house because I couldn’t find a good picture of them. Also, my mother-in-law’s electric cart which we forbade her to drive because she was a maniac. And blind. But whatever.


We are also great fans of the exercise thing and have various wheeled contraptions around the yard for that purpose. Mostly bikes, a tricycle and a jog stroller that birds may possibly be nesting in by now. I do not jog.


And let us not forget the chickens.

Lucky for everyone, Chris took down the geodesic dome he built and left to die on the lawn. It was going to be a garage, but never quite worked out that way. It was kind of an awesome, if overly large, sculpture – until we had kids and the kids had friends and the dome started to look like a really, really big home owners’ insurance claim.

So, it doesn’t look like that at all.

It looks like this.

* Whoever actually owns the house I used in this illustration, I am really, really sorry.

Help me pick a cover for my new book

We’re down to the wire on the book cover and I need help deciding. Please leave a comment and vote for your favorite version. Extra credit for reasons why you like it.

Thank you!