One week later, recovered from birthday madness
David and my sister collaborated on my birthday gift: a set of Wüsthof knives. I've always skated through life buying cheap knife sets (the last was a ten-dollar special from Ikea. Stylish but flimsy.) These Wüsthof knives make chopping an onion near to a religious experience. It is glorious.
The early part of the day I spent up to my elbows in potting soil, planting some groundcover and installing a new brick border in the tree well outside our house, and putting together new windowboxes to replace the dead stalks left from last year. It was a very satisfying way to begin the day - I thought my windowboxes turned out just as nicely as the professionally assembled ones we got when we moved in. My adventures in gardening will be the metaphor for the year, I've decided - making things grow, and perhaps getting a little dirty.
Later that day, David and I strolled around the Inner Harbor; it was an appealingly windswept and blustery day (the kind of weather I like.) We walked to the American Visionary Arts Museum, where I had never been before. The galleries are fascinating: many of the artists suffered from mental illness. I found the artist's life stories displayed next to their work to be as intriguing as the works themselves.
I was most affected by "Tapestries of Survival" by Esther Krinitz. These intricately sewn panels depict how Esther, 15 years old in Poland during World War II, escaped to the forests with her 13 year old sister, hiding from the Nazis. She began to create the collage-tapestries almost fifty years later. The power of the story comes through in a palpable way. They are amazing.
In the evening, a swarm of friends arrived for a party. Among them were many bloggers: Linda, Cara, JWER, Jen and her partner Karen, Zenchick, and special guest star Faustus, who braved Greyhound to travel to scenic Baltimore. Much wine was consumed. It was delightful. Zenchick bestowed a book of movie scandal and trivia upon me, so that we will have more to whisper about when David is looking the other way; Jen and Karen brought the most inventive gift - the "Instant Circus", a collection of multicolored capsules which transform into sponge circus animals when tossed into a glass of water.
Linda had searched in vain for a "Strange Change" toy on eBay, but they have vanished into the past. It's actually for the best that she didn't find one, because I'm sure I would have burned down the house and/or gotten melted dinosaur all over everything. And you know pterodactyl stains never come out.
On Saturday, we went to see the touring production of Little Shop of Horrors, starring my friend Jonathan. I've known Jonathan since he was cast in a production of a show of mine in Minneapolis in 1997. His voice is incredible - he has the gift that very few singing actors have - whatever he sings seems to come right from his soul - always truthful, always moving, never overdone. Jonathan made the move from Minneapolis to New York as an understudy for the show "A Year With Frog and Toad"; he was then cast as the understudy for the role of Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors." I saw the first night that he went on in the show. I cried for him - I knew it was his dream role, and I knew how hard he had worked to finally arrive on Broadway. He was perfect in the part - in my opinion, better than the guy he was understudying. He has been touring the country in the show - a strange existence, arriving in a new city every week. It takes endurance and commitment to perform in such a physically demanding show - the cast is incredibly dedicated. It was great to see it here in Baltimore and to spend some time with Jonathan before he continues on his cross-country journey.
On Monday, Goblin had to return to the vet to have her Mysterious Spot excised. Although everything went absolutely smoothly and the whole procedure was finished in about an hour, I couldn't help getting a little choked up while we waited in a nearby Starbucks. Ah, the joys of parenthood.
Even though we are almost the cliche of male-couple-with-small-dog, I can take solace in the fact that we are nowhere near the heights of ridiculousness achieved by Brandon and Ryan, the gay couple on "Showdogs Moms and Dads." This series on Bravo is our current guilty pleasure - like a reality show version of Best in Show. They are completely unprepared to be dog owners, it seems - every episode seems to involve them having a screaming bitchfight in front of the cameras, and one or the other of them holding their tiny dog Liberace as ransom from the other one. The dog has already broken its leg falling down the stairs (or more likely, trying to climb out the bathroom window to escape from this psychotic pair.)
So - that's the story of the birthday festival week. Now that I'm recovered, I think I need to go sharpen my new knives.