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Vacation: Defined October 17, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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To qualify as a real vacation, in my opinion, these conditions must be met:

  • It lasts at least a week.
  • One does not spend it at home.
  • One does not spend it visiting relatives in their homes.
  • One does not take work along.

By this definition, Tim and I recently took our first vacation in two years.


Lamentation October 9, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Only twenty-seven days after I heard the news that Mlle Vague was dying, she did, and though I was expecting it, checking every day, still, when the hard truth of it surfaced, I gasped aloud and felt pain, for Deloney and for all of us, mixed with relief for the end of hers, and that night I went to a concert (Seu Jorge Presents: The Life Aquatic, A Tribute to David Bowie), and even though I had procrastinated buying tickets for weeks, I was, oddly, front row and center, so close to Seu Jorge and his guitar, so close that I could grasp his hand at the end (and did), and he performed many songs from Ziggy Stardust, Mlle Vague’s first album—impeccable taste, you must admit—and it was a beautiful tribute to the late great Bowie but for me, a beautiful tribute to the mysterious, fetching, loved-by-even-we-who-never-met-her Mlle Vague, and I felt lucky to be in that time and space to consider, vaguely, a possible starman waiting in the sky or perhaps the Mademoiselle herself, which is a lovely, comforting thought.

Once More: Camden, Cabs, Chinatown September 22, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Next week, for the first time since 1979, I may be driving through Camden, Maine. If I do, I will surely go by the police station to see if it looks familiar.

Chinatown July 23, 2014

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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The first time I saw Chinatown, I was a seventeen-year-old kid passing through Camden, Maine, on vacation with my best friend’s family—in a motorhome. We had traveled from Maryland to Boston, to Cape Cod (taking in a play at Falmouth, I believe); taken a ferry (sans motorhome) to Martha’s Vineyard and back; then headed up the coast of Maine, getting as far north as Camden.

Sue and I were ready to be on our own, away from her parents and an accompanying couple. There was a movie theater in town, kind of art-housey, I guess, because they were showing Chinatown, and this was five years after its initial release. Could we go? Sure, Mary Helen said. Get a cab out to the campground after. Off they drove to the outskirts. Somewhere.

So we saw Chinatown. (“She’s my sister and…!”) Then, in the dark Camden evening, we found a phone booth (remember those?) and scanned the phone book for a cab service.

There was none.

Sue and I grew up in a small town. It’s not so small anymore, but it was then. In that small town, there were cabs to be called. A complete lack of cabs hadn’t occurred to any of us.

We didn’t know where the campground was or how to get there or how far a walk out of town it might be. There was no way to contact our peeps and have them disconnect all their hookups, leave their campsite, and come get us.

So we walked to the police station.

It turned out that despite our having always been told how helpful the police could be, these particular police were not very sympathetic to our predicament. They sat us down on a bench with other teenage hoodlums and made us wait. And wait. For what, I’m not sure. It seemed that there were more cops than hoodlums and perhaps we might be helped more quickly. Clearly, no one wanted to lower himself to cab service.

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

Perhaps an hour later, figuring we had suffered enough, someone loaded us into the back of a police car and drove us to the campground, several miles out.

That night, that station, that car—that’s what I think about when anyone mentions Chinatown. I remember very little of the movie.

But another Sue—one who has never seen the film and has had a DVD copy forced upon her by a mutual, well-meaning Faye Dunaway–freak friend (“What? You’ve never seen Chinatown?”)—plans to drop over this evening, right after she gets her hair done, and watch it on my big-ass TV screen. I haven’t seen Chinatown in thirty-five years. No doubt the police in this film will prove to be very helpful people. Right?

Bad News August 30, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

It feels like there’s some every day. It’s beating me down. I can’t write.

Tim’s father died in June. My aunt died this month. And my fellow 365ers know by now that Deloney’s Mlle Vague may be dying. Dying! It cannot be true. Perhaps it is not true.

From Deloney’s book, Songbook for Haunted Boys and Girls, I quote this (page 71):

Ziggy Stardust

Mademoiselle Vague’s first album was Ziggy Stardust. She bought it at twelve years old with her babysitting money. Impeccable taste, you must admit, for a girl who was still climbing trees. So the tender years go by as they tend to do, plodding at first, then a hurry-up-I-have-to-pee sort of pace. Gone are the fishnet stockings and leopardskin prints. She says she still listens to the album, often on Sunday mornings while vacuuming.

6BY2: Quarterly Report July 27, 2017

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Seriously, I couldn’t have posted this July 1? Life has been too ridiculous lately. Second quarter: eastern phoebe, American woodcock, Wilson’s snipe, Carolina wren, belted kingfisher, brown-headed cowbird, osprey, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, tree swallow, chipping sparrow, northern flicker, great egret, Cooper’s hawk, black vulture, yellow warbler, northern rough-winged swallow, eastern towhee, blue-gray gnatcatcher, snowy egret, fish crow, surf scoter, long-tailed duck, common eider, common loon, great black-backed gull, double-crested cormorant, house finch, broad-winged hawk, rose-breasted grosbeak, chimney swift, warbling vireo, barn swallow, brown thrasher, gray catbird, black-and-white warbler, indigo bunting (May 6!), yellow-bellied sapsucker, house wren, common yellowthroat, Baltimore oriole, bobolink, white-crowned sparrow, chestnut-sided warbler, American redstart, blue-winged warbler, ovenbird, northern parula, veery, ruby-throated hummingbird, eastern wood-pewee, American bittern, eastern kingbird, ring-billed gull, spotted sandpiper, red-eyed vireo, cedar waxwing, hermit thrush, green heron, glossy ibis, willet, Nelson’s (sharp-tailed) sparrow, great-crested flycatcher, wood thrush, scarlet tanager.

The most exciting of these for me was the American bittern. Before May 19, I had only seen one once, ever—and suddenly there were two!—and had never heard one in the wild, which I did, at last, the following day.

Year-to-date count: 115. (2012: 102. 2013: 162. 2014: 102. 2015: 120. 2016: 104.)

Yet More 153s July 27, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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I tend to see them in bunches. I saw one immediately after posting the last batch. When I work out, as often as not I glance down at the 1:53 mark. That said, it seems I often glance down at exactly 12:34 too. So here is my latest collection:

  • On March 29, Joe posted about Relay for Life at 1:53pm.
  • On April 3, I got this stat from FitBit, kind of buried in a bigger number, but: 72,215 total steps, 19,153 more than last week.
  • On April 10, reading for work: “For example, in 2010, the International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Group (IADPSG) recommended that a universal 75-g, 2-hour OGTT be performed during pregnancy and that the diagnosis of GDM be established when any single threshold value was met or exceeded (fasting value, 92 mg/dL; 1-hour value, 180 mg/dL; or 2-hour value, 153 mg/dL).”
  • On April 24: Does glancing at the clock at 1:53 pm count? (This happens quite a bit too.)
  • On April 25: Adding up my disparate bits of time working on a job during the day, I came up with 1 hour, 153 minutes (which is really 3 hours, 33 minutes, but that’s where the notation started).
  • On April 26, reviewing a manuscript, I find this endnote: “Ed Shenk, Fly Rod Trouting (Stackpole Books: Harrisburg, PA, 1989), 153.”
  • On April 26, as I ended a quick follow-up call with a new, very impressive author, I noticed our conversation lasted 1:53.
  • On April 29, when working on finances, and dividing a total amount of money I need for something by the number of pay periods I have to save for it, I got 153.36/pay period.
  • On April 30, on a search for our public radio station’s coverage of Trump’s first 100 days, the short newscast that came up first on the page (local headlines, it turns out) was 1:53 long.
  • On May 1, working out on elliptical, watching the first episode of a show, I feel that it’s dragging, I wonder when the hell it’s going to be over, I check the remaining episode time on the remote—1:53. (I made it through.)
  • On May 11, during another workout, watching Flight of the Conchords (that’s for you, Mali), I paused it at the end of my workout to mark for next time, with 1:53 left in the scene.
  • On May 15, my reflexologist was telling a story about living in New Jersey—which exit? 153.
  • On May 15, I was watching Santa Clarita Diet and trying to figure out how I knew the actress Grace Zabriskie—wasn’t she on Twin Peaks?—and IMDB lists 153 actress credits for her.
  • On May 19, I printed out an email I’d written to an author for my files, which I apparently sent at 1:53 pm.
  • On May 21, Comcast alerted me that among the channels I am no longer receiving is 153. Not that I have any idea what that was.
  • On July 6, in working on finding references for a recently deceased author, I find A. E. Eaton, “A Revisional Monograph of Recent Ephemeridae or Mayflies,” The Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, 2nd Series: Zoology (Part III [vol. 3, no. 3, April 1885, 153–230]).

Two Rivers (by a Guest Blogger) June 28, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Tim’s father died on June 2. Tim was able to be with him for the last ten days of his life, fully participating in hospice. The memorial service was June 24. This is Tim’s tribute, which he read at the service.

Here’s a little fishing story.

When I was a young boy, about 12 years old, I had a big night. I went fishing with my dad.

The river was low, it was a summer evening—perfect for wet wading in our cutoffs and old sneakers.

We stepped into the water just before sunset and started to fish. This was the first time Dad let me join him wading out into the Susquehanna.

“Always respect the river.” He always told me this. “Every year there is some tragic story of kids drowning because they took the river for granted. Stay alert and aware of what’s around you, and you’ll be fine.”

This was clearly no joke. It wasn’t about how to wade. It was about how to be when I waded.

So out we went. The water came up to Dad’s thighs and occasionally his waist. I was waist deep, then chest deep, staying close, fishing by his side.

We cast into the sunset. The river was alive, not only with fish, but with a strong, steady current that threatened to knock me off my feet. I tried putting my back to the current. I tried standing sideways to reduce the drag. It was awkward at first, but with practice I found that if I didn’t fight it, if I leaned into it, it supported me, even lifted me a little. The water was cool. I felt at home.

Two hours later it was dark. There were exciting and mysterious splashes up ahead. I wanted to reach them. Fishing is like that. There is a constant striving to cast a little farther, reach some pocket of water beyond your reach. So we cast, waded a little farther, and cast—looking for some connection with what we couldn’t see. I always think of Dad with that confidence that I lack, leaning hard into the current, fearlessly reaching out in any new situation, into the mystery ahead.

By this time we had discovered the ledges. They were easy to feel with your feet, even when you couldn’t see them. One step at a time. “Don’t move your left foot until your right foot is secure.” By sticking to the tops of the ledge, seeking the high ground, we found ourselves a quarter mile out. We didn’t talk much, and as Dad’s confidence in me grew, we found different forks of the ledge to wade on, but always within earshot.

I knew that he was worried about me, but at the same time he was a little bit proud. He wanted to take care of me, but he knew that I had some things to learn. So he gave me a little distance and simply checked in whenever he hooked a fish or heard me splashing around.


Three weeks ago, I had another big night. I went fishing with my dad.

I had the privilege to wade into the second river.

We were in Dad and Barb’s home. Just five days ago, Amy rode with him in the ambulance from the hospital. He was home.

I had just taken the hard lesson of learning about palliative care.

By some miracle, I was with him for his last ten days. Four of those were in the hospital and the last six in his home. Communication was hard in the hospital, but he had made it crystal clear that he wanted to leave. He wanted to go home.

We took turns at his side, helping in any way we could.

I learned a lot from my sister and brothers about how to help him. Changing sheets with him on the bed—thanks, Dave! Swabbing his mouth—thanks, Amy! Tom had a particularly challenging night before I arrived, and I was astounded by his courage and strength. With all this help, I gave it my best.

For a few nights I had the overnight shift with my nephew, Austin. He was an angel, at my dad’s side every night. Barb was there with me always, in a chair at his side.

In the early morning hours, everyone dozed off but me and Dad.


And there we were: back in the river, sticking to the top of the ledge.

His breathing frightened me, but he was leaning strong into the current, casting out to connect to the unseen. He would raise an arm, setting the hook, then he laid it back at his side. The water was cool; it was alive. We felt at home.

He wanted to take care of me, but he knew that I had something to learn.

Now, in Numbers May 30, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

29: Days since I’ve posted anything here.

131: Days since the administration change and beginning of darkness that has fallen o’er the earth.

140: Number of pages to go in Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, a book that is freaking me the #*¢¡ out.

6: Days since Tim left quickly for Pennsylvania to be part of the vigil of his father’s dying.

6: Days during which I’ve been unsure whether I should be here or there.

106: Number of bird species I’ve allowed myself to list this calendar year.

0: Number I’ve added since Tim left (I’ve mostly stayed indoors).

1013: Number of things I’ve discarded in my quest to get rid of 2017 things in 2017. Hundreds of these came from three drawers in my home office.

14: Number of items I have on my running list of 153s, not yet posted.

5: Cookies I ate at work today—four tiny homemade-by-coworker sugar cookies and a Tokyo banana cookie from a just-returned-from-vacation coworker.

3: Number of dogs at the office today.

5: Number of dogs that are sometimes at the office.

6: Seriously, I think there was a day when there were this many dogs in that small office.

0: My tolerance for dog skirmishes (followed by their people skirmishes) while I am trying to work.

20: Approximate number of feet between me and Cake at their concert Saturday night for a few songs. I love Cake.

100 Days May 1, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Hard to believe that the official horror of the current administration has been only 100 days long (now 102). Its existence has certainly cast a pall over just about everything, including things that are difficult all on their own.

Yet, on that hundredth day, the rose-breasted grosbeaks returned. At dusk, a woodcock let us listen in on his courtship flight. Then, under an intensely clear and star-filled sky, a shooting star appeared, remaining visible long enough for me to see it, recognize it, and point it out to friends, who turned to watch it too.

6BY1: Quarterly Report April 3, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Mali is OK with me posting lists, and it’s time for the first quarterly species report anyway.

Some of the more exciting sightings: Following (in my car) a bald eagle upriver to see it land on a tree branch by the bridge. Watching a barred owl fly off with a mouse. Spotting a beautiful rough-legged hawk. Viewing water birds, of course, when we trekked out to find them (remember the buffleheads?—and the other day, in search of a trumpeter swan we couldn’t locate, northern pintail and green-winged teal). And locating a brown creeper, because I hardly ever see them.

So far: downy woodpecker, common raven, black-capped chickadee, American goldfinch, white-breasted nuthatch, American crow, mallard, tufted titmouse, American tree sparrow, dark-eyed junco, European starling, house sparrow, mourning dove, blue jay, red-bellied woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, rock dove, red-tailed hawk, eastern bluebird, purple finch, wild turkey, bald eagle, northern cardinal, Canada goose, barred owl, rough-legged hawk, snow bunting, American robin, bufflehead, horned grebe, common merganser, herring gull, northern harrier, horned lark, brown creeper, pileated woodpecker, American kestrel, red-winged blackbird, killdeer, wood duck, turkey vulture, common grackle, eastern meadowlark, northern mockingbird, mute swan, song sparrow, northern pintail, green-winged teal, American black duck, great blue heron.

Year-to-date count: 50. (2012: 40. 2013: 53. 2014: 40. 2015: 43. 2016: 56.)