here to there

Moving meant taking my efficient commute that was 5 minutes on highway, 5 on surface street and 10 minutes of walking and shifted it to a half hour twisty stoplight heavy trip through neighborhoods I wouldn't walk through after dark.

I spend the first month driving to work a slightly different way each day sometimes finding streets that dead end in parking lots or make a sudden turn instead of intersecting with the major road I wanted. Most of them put me at a red light every single block.

There were some fun discoveries along the way. I made a 2 lane quick pull over for what turned out to be a good Caribbean restaurant playing some really good dub. I got kind of a cold shoulder at the counter until I asked for a takeout menu because I just moved.

I discovered a secret: The Bus!
In the limited context of getting from my house along Harford rd to the Harbor I hit public transportation jackpot. I now take a route from a block away from my house to 2 blocks from work. The longest I had to wait (with one very notable exception) has been 15 minutes. There have been times coming home from work that the bus schedule gets screwed up in my advantage and there are 5 buses in 10 minutes (no joke).

So instead of having to wait at stoplights I walk up the street listening to podcasts. I listen to stuff or play around with the iPod or read and wait a few minutes for the bus. I almost always get a seat and I hunker down to play with nanoStudio making some musical sketches and all too soon I have to save my work and get off the bus.

Only once did I have a too over crowded trip where I got punched in the leg for stepping on someone's foot in the isle when the bus lurched. My mean side was screaming "Close your damn legs woman" while my self preservation side just mumbled a sorry as I ducked out of striking distance.

This is all convenient, except for one night where I went to a show at the SideBar which is along the route. I looked over the schedule and thought I could have a fun night out with out worrying about the car, budgeting a taxi or coordinating a ride home. What I didn't see was that the line only runs to North Ave at closing time. Getting stuck at Harford and North at that hour was a no-go, so I took a couch nap at work until the line started running again and a nap at home before going out again.

Most baltimore public transportation is not this easy and convenient. The lightrail really screwed me over many times, MARC was better, but the problems when they had them were even larger. One of the things that is broken that I find funny is at least twice a week now the fare collector is broken. Usually even the worst bureaucracy is really good at taking money.

Yes Kyle I have most of the pix and have a plan to get the rest.

The summer of 2010 Part I, the house:

Amy bought a house, a 4 square in Hamilton/Lauraville. I found it when someone I knew from the water ballet posted about it in facebook.

Being involved in the house buying process was intense. There are endless go around involving a game of telephone where people loose their names and become "buyer" and "seller". Buyer and Seller have rolls to play and interests to protect and agents to conduct their business. Things run on a series of check lists until everything stops and breath is held until after a ritual of signatures. When that is done there is a few minutes to sit there and blink wondering what just happened before having to kick into high speed. The slow packing and not knowing if an emergency apartment search and move will happen suddenly becomes focused and never ending.

Schedules were tight so we had just over a week from signing to get the bulk of the move done. First we did take some time to paint and day dream about the new spaces. I found picking colors to be kind of difficult until I realized that the floors are beautiful and has good afternoon evening natural light. So I picked a custard color that is warm, and kind of plain. Then at the last minute I got honey beige for one wall just to add a little more definition and character to the room. I want to paint the trim someday to add a little more shape and color. Now that I have method to the madness of picking from isles and isles of paint chips it's kind of fun. The bedroom got painted mid-day mocha, which sadly is not a scratch and sniff.

Every night was more packing and a trip or two to the new house. I had 2 trips of just my instruments. Every box that was filled and moved seemed to reveal as much small and random stuff to be sorted and boxed, again and again.

The day before the move I spent yelling at Rider rental customer service asking them why a rental company didn't know if they had trucks and if they were in service or not. I detailed how a computerized system recording what sized truck was where and what state it might be in would be much better than calling up a list of independent stores and asking them. I also pointed out how the independent stores were very bad at answering their phone. I know that they had very little to do with it, but if their company screwed up my moving schedule and put the whole timed process in jeopardy I was going to use my free time for stress relief. They did find me a truck in their system and I only lost 4 hours of my life trying to figure out where the trucks have gone.

The big moving day came and we tried to pull any favors and good karma with friends to get help. We had a rough night packing and readying things and still were not as far as we needed. Luck was with us and the 100+ degree days leading up to the move were only at really hot and muggy with light cooling showers. We had just the right amount of help, any more people there would have been going too fast for us to finish and coordinate. We had lunch on the new back deck where everyone sat on the benches in the light rain and it was really really nice.

With our necessities all in one place, but not out of boxes we brought the cats over. Our guys are usually pretty unflapable, they sit in my lap when I play tuba or fire up the sewing machine, the vacuum cleaner is an annoyance to them that they have to get up, pills are swallowed with out a fight and the trip to the vet is a chance to go see new people and dogs. I got everyone in cages in less than 10 minutes and with only a token struggle. Fatty and Other constantly meowed back and forth in the car trip while pig remained stoic. We put them in the bedroom where I figured it smelled the most like us, opened the cages and nothing happened. No one came out on their own. After dragging them out and crouched slinking under dressers I took fatty out into the hall for exploring, he sniffed around and went back. I then took him downstairs for more exploring and let him poke around the piles of boxes. Pig had gone back to the cage and turned around so we couldn't see him. Other I brought down and after a tentative walk around the room started a crazy zigzag bonking his head on as many boxes as he could. Pig was still caged.

We went to bed that night to find pig hiding first under the covers and then trying to tunnel underneath us. It was so very heart breaking to me because the cats trust us explicitly and we did something beyond pig's understanding and we couldn't un-do it. Day 2 there was eating a bite or two from under the dresser and a tour of the house where he hid in the filthyest part of the basement and then under the couch where he stayed for 3 days.

After reducing the random city of boxes to a few mountains and putting the furniture in place the cats could start to see the shape of the rooms and the advantages of having 2 entrances/exits in avoiding conflict. The strange sounds of the hardwood floors grew familiar and me and Amy would be around often with encouragement and treats. Pig has sense found the center of every room and proudly greets guests and I don't feel like such a bad cat dad. The basement still creeps him out which is a problem because that is where the litter is. Other than that the house has found a new peace where Fatty has given up eating on his chair (don't ask) and will eat next to his brother and will be bumped down the line of dishes with out raising a paw.

I spent some time early on making my room a functioning place while Amy tackled the kitchen and bathrooms where I would have set up a jumbled mess. I have discovered that closets make for cleaner rooms with out piles on the floor. I have boxes in the closet but you can transverse my room freely now.

The rest of the month was spent packing and trashing the rest of the things at the now designated 'old' house, which never seemed to end until I turned over the keys to the handyman and put the last pile on the curb. 8 years of tromping on carpets, tacks in walls, leaky roofs and cats doing what cats shouldn't do fell into the "normal use" category and by some oversight we got our deposit back.

One of the small lessons I learned in this is Home Depot isn't a craft store on a different scale. There were weekly trips there and to pick up a million little things that are accumulated over time but needed for a house.

One of the bigger lessons is that until it is re-done any home improvements or fixes I do, I will have to look at daily. The screen door I put in with 3/4 inch of shivs from 2 different sizes of wood will catch my attention every time I open the door, even if no one else will ever look there. The slightly warped wood on the railing I installed to keep the insurance company happy will hover just ever so slightly off the carefully hand cut angles I measured so very carefully. The cement the posts are embedded in will always be in doubt. It is a good daily meditation on doing things right with the best tools available.

I miss my neighbor friends, who I get to talk to just as often as when we were on the same block. The new neighbors are all nice enough, but there isn't anyone on the street that I would run into at a show or anything. I see those people occasionally, but I really miss the animals on the old street.

Drive by update.

I have to remind my self that LJ isn't just a travelogue. I don't have plans to go anywhere until fall but I can still keep updating.

The things that have been taking up most of my time and thoughts are:
Amy bought a house and we moved last week. (which is almost like traveling, but not very far)
Directing a scene in this years water ballet.

We are still not done with moving, and it kind of seems with home ownership that you are never done. Always one more thing to do. Having to consider all the things I have and see them abstracted into loosely categorized boxes of various weight and size and then re-constitute them into a new context is kind of fascinating. So many questions arise, What is that? Where did I get that? Why did I do it that way? Didn't I just see the other part of this in a different box? New house is fantastic and I hope to make it a social place.

Directing has been really interesting too. I have been part of many spectacles over the years with the bands, fire spinning and other fluid movement shows. I have coordinated things for getting bands to shows, PDF rangers and being a camp councilor. I am very luck and have a great co-director and my cast has taken every challenge and said "Yes we can do that" or identified where a problem might be and worked it out. If you are in Baltimore you have to go see this years show! (and it is worth traveling to see too!)

Fluid Movement

DId you know you could be in the water ballet? I know you have heard me talk about it because I'm kind of a bore and talk a lot about the projects I'm working on. This is your chance for awesome!

Fluid Movement Wants You!

Swimmers, Non-swimmers, Sew-ers & Tech Crew, come sign up for this year’s Water Ballet,
”Jason and The Aquanauts: 20,000 Legs Over The Sea”!

Recruitment Night is:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 from 5:30 to 7:30
at Joe Squared
133 W. North Avenue

doin stuff

I don't know if it's a inclination of modesty but if you ask me what I am up to and I'll usually answer "dunno, not much". But really I mean "It's weird and complicated to explain"...

That is to say, I'm trying to figure out how to fly a tuba cross country and I am going to be tormented by harpies this summer. Also I'm learning about transistors for burlesque performers.

Then I have to explain Honk Fest West, Water Ballets, Node and Iluminopolis. All of which I'll get to in turn.

So, yeh. I'm keeping busy and thats pretty cool. How about you?


Not so long ago I was doing experimental electronic music. It was fun, I played shows where everyone in the audience was in a band or was recording it and taking pictures for their zine. Once I played a 4am downtempo set in a foggy field in Delaware to a sleeping camp site. I was in a goth/industrial band and we played at shows with fetish acts. Leave it to Baltimore's own American Visionary Arts Museum to do something that rattled me.

It's their gala fund raiser and Barrage Band is asked to do their parade and just be colorful and awesome at the after party. The parade is filled with all of Baltimore artists usual suspects. The West Sider drum core was doing their laid back kicking ass thing. Fluid Movement's Milk Maids being as sweet as the chocolate of their homeland. Nana Projects were all glitter and stilts making me dizzy looking up at their radiance. It's a weird scene but all my most favorite local people.

Just before we go on we are told that we are closing the parade so we will go out and at the end they will drop pingpong balls from the rafters. What actually went down is they dropped the balls in front of as we came out so we are trying to play, walk on top of pingpong balls and a thousand or so wealthy donors throw pingpong balls at us. The whole thing was Twin Peaks midget and man talking backwards weird. You could go to town analyzing it if I were at a therapist recounting it as a dream. I was thrown and lost where I was in the song, forgot a lot of notes and took a while to recover.

I love the AVAM!

Ukulele available!

Like everyone else I know, I am Ukulele crazy. I picked up one at Appellation Bluegrass last year because I was in the neighborhood and I really like that shop and want to give them money. It's the mass produced standard Mahalo. It really isn't a great instrument. It is hard to tune and has buzzes and is dull/lacks any pop.

This puts me in an unusual position. I think a good player can make any instrument sing. I am still far from being good at ukulele. I really want to step up in instrument quality. As you may know, I have no problem with obtaining an instrument on whim but what should I do with this student model instrument? It has an Octofoil sticker on it and that kind of makes it special and mine. Aside from a died on the table circuit bent keyboards and a clarinet I got off of free cycle for the local middle school I don't think I have ever gotten rid of an instrument before no matter what the condition.

I can't just throw it out and I really don't want to hang on to it until I eventually parts it out for the crappy tuners and then wonder what to do with a tuner less uke. Does anyone want to take it from me? I'll deliver it anywhere in the Baltimore area after the snow is gone and the DC area when I get a chance. I'll ship it anywhere at cost!

I wonder if the antique banjo ukulele at Teds is still there...


Also, DC is just kind of very awesome to bump around in for an afternoon. Got a good cappuccino, saw fish, wales, giant squid, mammals of all types, skeletons and more skeletons at Smithsonian Natural History. There seems to be a surprising number of colonial skeletons found in basements in St Marys. The botanical gardens are a warm humid delight in winter. A dosent excitedly showed us a plant that smells faintly of rotting meat. He loves his job a lot. Air and Space reminded me of all the badass crazy it took to get to the moon starting with the Mercury missions which answered such basic questions like can we swallow food in 0g and survive a 50 mile straight up trip on top of a missile. Air and space also showed stewardess fashion retrospective and quasi digital/mechanical pre computer airline reservation system. It's also startling to realize that the Atlas missile guidance systems gyros and computers are probably no better than an iPhone or $60 worth of off the shelf hardware and a weekend of tinkering with open source code. And why are the space shuttle jump suites only available in kid sizes from the gift shop?

mini bar

Like most of my informative experiences if you ask me directly about mini bar I'd say that it was pretty amazing and just leave the topic hanging as I fail to know how to succinctly sum it up. If you eat with me any time in the next few months you will probably want to tell me to shut up about it as I tell you about the adjective/verbed course of noun at minibar for the the 17th time.

For those of you who don't watch food network, mini bar is a restaurant inside a top restaurant in DC that does molecular gastronomy. That is they use science to take the best part of any dish and apply it like an artist to explore different aspects of it from texture to a single quality of taste. Like most art, it can get pretty silly but why should we not play with our food?

To get a reservation is difficult, you have to call every day exactly at 10 when they open to get the day one month later that they are booking. Mini bar is literally a corner with 6 stools and 2 seating a night. By 10:08 each day, it is booked. It is a lot like trying to win tickets at a radio call in contest. If you do get through then you have to email/fax back a confirmation listing any food allergies that you have in 48 hours before you get knocked off the list and the stand byes are called in. The staff loves to chat and were telling me that their biggest fan, the mayor of Mini Bar as they called him as been there 11 times. After trying for a month before lucking into a standby spot that actually opened up, getting in feels like winning a lottery after buying scratch off tickets every day.

What you get is a $120 prix fixe menu, 3 dedicated rockstar chefs working right in front of you, a dedicated bus boy and waiter always there for wine pairings, getting drinks and filling water. There are 28 small courses starting with a drink and munchies moving on to the savory course of flavors and textures ending with deserts. The three chefs put together each course right in front of you and put it up on the top of the bar and explain what it is and how to eat it before everyone takes down their plate. The plate then quickly disappears and something new is served. Nothing is more than 3 bites.

Everything served is really quite remarkable. It is the HD of eating. Flavors are sharp, textures are pushed into extremes. Little balls of flavor explode and mix in your mouth. Un imaginable richness is doled out into a single bite leaving a different note of savory lingering. One bite is perfect where two would be too many.

Some of techniques are very scientific in origin. There is a bubbling smoking container of liquid nitrogen in use, liquids are suspended as single drops or marbles using algenate. The mojito was a single blob on a spoon that plumply bursts in your mouth and tickles with carbonation. Dragon's Breath kettle corn is dipped in liquid nitrogen and causes steam to pour out of your mouth and nose and you bite into it.

Other techniques are just virtuoso and patience, like de-seeding a zucchini, separating parts of it, cooking separately and re-assembling it for a dish that is all zucchini but is far superior to just zucchini.

There are some rare and expensive items. The "bagel and lox" was a crunchy cone filled with what works out to about $4 dribble of premium caviar to be eaten in a single bite. There were flowers from cucumber plants with bean sized baby cucumbers dwarfed by the flower.

The chefs will tell you in great detail the answer to any question you have about the preparation or providence of an ingredient. They were bragging about how little money they make to the couple sitting next to us that work in kitchens and taking pictures of every dish as it was presented. It is a coveted honor to work there. The meal has a 4 person prep team working about 8 hours to get everything together before the seating. An hour a day is spent picking out each seed of the zucchini.

I found the whole experience to be almost a WillyWonka exploration of tastes, complete with having to win the golden ticket to get in. Like any good artwork, play, movie, show, etc I can see talking about it, comparing things to it and thinking newly about meals, cooking, and what and why I eat things. For adventurous eaters I recommend it at least once and I would love to later go with a group of friends to share the experience. For those of you who are just hungry, I recommend Ben's Chilly Bowl, or a Big Slice.