so, the other day there was a mention of the "ham-sneeze incident" by stinky. (stinky is my brother-in-law's little known real name.) kevin o'mara, an odd-acting and very long human being from cookeville, and who actually knows the story concerning the ham sneeze, saw that heading and wrote that he'd actually liked to see it printed here.

so, in honor of that request, alison has reached into some of this computer's more dusty files and has found a typed version of the story, originally written around 1995 and named Ham Bolus. It has been pasted here (in a slightly edited format) for kevin's reading enjoyment.

ham bolus

when i was a little kid opryland didn't exist. briley parkway didn't exist either. now, i don't actually remember this, but my sister, who is like 10 years older than i am, has said that the two of us and the becker kids and mike willis used to play where that busy highway now runs.

* * * *

alison and i live in east nashville. a few months after we moved here she pointed out that we didn't have to take such a long way to my parent's house--she meant traveling down ellington parkway to briley parkway, over the briley parkway bridge and then on to two rivers parkway and then mcgavock with finally a right onto windemere drive, the street of my youth.
she said we could simply take mcgavock. she had seen it on gallatin road on her way to kroger. had she followed that road to see if her theory were correct she would have eventually driven into the cumberland river. true, with a little bit of speed and a vw bug she might have gotten to the mcgavock that sits on the other side, but i doubt it. the current of the cumberland is swift and dangerous. she wouldn't have made it.

* * * *

andrew jackson was our 7th president. he married a girl that grew up next door to where i lived as a kid. her name was rachel Mcgavock. (note: do not trust my historical accuracy. wb 2005) It was said that he loved her very very much. wrote her some touching letters when he was out on the battlefield killing off black people or indians or mexicans. i'm sorry that history has become marred for me.
as a kid, we used to drive by rachel's old house and i loved to look up the driveway at the place. if i squinted my eyes up just right i could narrow my vision down so that all i could see was the entrance to the driveway and on up to the house, blocking out all the modern pavement and the shadow of the automobile as we raced by. what it looked like through my squinty eyes was this: an old stacked rock wall with an ornate gate that was open. on up into the tiny pebbled, beige-orange driveway with a line of thin grass cutting through the center sat a cool, wide, green yard with magnolia and cedar trees scattered about. near the house the driveway was split by a circle of hedges that held a fountain in its center. behind all this was the house itself, tall and thin, made of red brick and faced with square and gently fluted white wood columns.
of course, as i said above, i would take all this in with squinted eyes while going by in an automobile at 50 or so miles per hour. the actual glimpse of the house as we passed lasted only seconds, but the movement up the driveway on towards the house was the scene i played in my head when my eyes went from the squint to a full closed. there in my head i could erase the golf course that sits behind the house where they once made the bricks that made the house. i could get rid of the high school that practically sits in the mansion's side yard--the largest high school in the whole state. i could even replace the road we were on with the same gravel that made up the driveway.
i could see miss rachel maybe getting in a carriage preparing to visit the young mr. jackson where he was building a house out near tulip grove. the town around that house is now called hermitage. it took its name from the house he was building.
the thing that i thought about the most was the distance between these two houses. back when andrew jackson and rachel were alive was it a big deal to go from one of those houses to another? like was it dangerous? bandits in the woods? no indian problems, of course, old hickory had taken care of that, but would you worry that your wagon might have a flat?

* * * *

so jim ridley, the current nashville scene movie critic, and i have a connection.
i love seemingly random connections. i discovered a version of this--the parallel existence--or an approximation thereof--on tennessee tech's campus. one day, as always, i was on the patio covertly drinking beer, playing guitar and trying to seduce women. a guy behind me was talking about when he was a kid and he would wake up early and all excited on saturday mornings just raring to watch cartoons. i did this, too. he said that he would get up so early sometimes that the cartoons weren't on yet. i did this too. okay, nothing so impressive so far, but then he said that he would sit and wait impatiently for the damn farm report to go off so he could see bugs bunny. that's what did it. i was beside myself with glee. this guy and i both hated the farm report! even better than that was the fact that i had been walking around for years knowing that i got up early on saturdays, knowing that i was excited about the prospect of watching cartoons, knowing that something had kept me from doing that. i just couldn't remember what. it was the damn farm report! two old farmers in over-hauls talkin bout pigs and tomatoes. wow, what a moment. i'm thrilled just thinking about it.

* * * *

When alison was a kid she said that each time she heard the 20th century fox theme she thought that star wars was coming on. i don't experience this exact phenomenom, but i know what it means to be this way.
when i was a kid, i would come home from school and get a snack from the kitchen. then i would go into the den and no matter what the temperature outside, would curl up in front of the t.v. underneath one of the afghans my grandmother made me. i would stick my little toes through the holes in my cover and kind of mindlessly flick them on the bottom of the t.v. set.
at four o'clock or something like that, a film reel would roll across the screen. a lot of film reels would do it actually. they were each colored very brightly. like alison and her star wars thing, this to me signified that a godzilla movie was fixing to come on. more times than not godzilla didn't actually come on, but hope was always there. every once and a while, though, a film that i ended up enjoying just as much came on instead. like the attack of the killer mushroom people. that movie terrified me. i had nightmares for weeks. to this day i'm scared stiff of mushroom people.
other days a western would come on and that was the worst.

this t.v. time was called The Big Show. just like the damn farm report, i had forgotten the name of it but had retained a vivid overall memory. jim ridley kicked this back on in my head recently when he mentioned a fond memory of The Big Show and its rolling film reels.

i always got a snack to watch the big show. most of the time mama gave me cookies--3 oreos, or 5 of those chocolate nabisco rectangular cookies that are best if eaten by their stratified layers rather than vertically. sometimes mama left me unattended, or maybe we were experiencing a shortage of snack food and i had to be creative. fend for myself.
in these events i would experiment. one day i ate butter. it was pretty good but too rich for a snack because i couldn't eat enough of it. one day i found a treat that to this day i still enjoy: uncooked oats in a cup. no water, no nothing. just oats. try it sometime.
so like one day i come bopping in and head to the kitchen for the big show snack and i can't find anything. i start looking around for options. the day before i had gotten out the big bucket of crisco and carried it along with a spoon into the den and had finished most of it before mama came in and got mad at me so i knew i couldn't eat the crisco.
in the fridge i found a new package of ham--cool and salty and thinly-sliced sandwich meat kind of ham. i got a piece of it out and crammed it into my mouth. i was headed away when i decided that it was pretty good, so i reached back in and got another piece. and then another and another and of course more and more, until the package was empty. i had so much ham in my mouth that i couldn't swallow or breathe. the saliva didn't have anywhere to go but up into my sinus passage, or passages, whatever.
now, my parents house, the house i grew up in, was built the year that the old maxwell house hotel burned down. that was where teddy roosevelt said that their coffee was "good to the last drop." our house was built from the bricks and other pieces that hotel. i thought this was cool when i was a kid. so i was headed around to the den, going the long way through the entrance hall--the marble floor of which was the maxwell house's marble floor where teddy offered his critique of their coffee--with my mouth totally full of processed ham. my cheeks were bulging, my eyes were popping when suddenly...i needed to sneeze.
there was no stopping it. as my head went back and i wheezed for breath around the ham bolus i've got in my mouth i remember thinking about where was the best place for the ham to go? i knew i couldn't keep it in my mouth and the sneeze had come too fast for me to spit it out into my hand or something.
and so the sneeze came! whoomp! and kind of like the passing of a big storm i stood there with a placid feeling. i could breath again. i felt good...and then i remembered the ham. where had it gone? i started looking everywhere. it had to be a huge wad. it couldn't have disappeared, but this ham was just no where to be found. it wasn't on teddy's marble floor. it wasn't on the nice leopard print carpet that covered the steps. i was looking in the next room, dumbfounded by the missing food, when i sort of snorted a post-sneeze snort and suddenly...my mouth was full of ham again...

it had gone up my nose.

a few more quick snorts and i retrieved most of it, but for days after that, everytime i blew my nose a little bit more of it would come out into the kleenex my mama had given me.

here is a picture of my nose:

Trey and Megan Visit

This week has been pretty intense for me--first week of classes at the College--but rather than talk about that right now, I want to share the exciting news that Trey and Megan are in town for the weekend and are our first official visitors to Charleston! (My mom doesn't count as a visitor since she actually came to help us move.)

We all danced in the living room on their first night in town (we've actually been doing a fair amount of in-home dancing since they've been here), and then later Walter cut Megan's hair on the back porch. We also went to the beach and spent several hours playing in/being battered around by the ocean. Today I read in the paper that there have been dangerous undertows and rip-tides on Folly Beach, where we were, which helps explain why we kept finding ourselves being swept fifty feet away from our starting point every time we entered the ocean.


The Great Ham-Sneeze Incident,
or Someone New Moves to 575 Rutledge*

So, we got us a renter! Nick will be moving into our extra room the beginning of September. I'll see if he'll let me post his picture here--do you think that would freak him out?

He knows what he's in for, living with us--he got a pretty mild, but accurate, introduction to us two minutes after coming into our house. Walter and I have been noticing how when the two of us are together, men tend to talk to him rather than me, even if I'm the relevant party. (For example: we were at the beginning of the year picnic on campus, and a math professor approached us and started talking. I introduced myself as the new director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program, and he was excited and had heard of me. Walter said, "I'm just here with her." And the guy then proceeds to direct all his comments to Walter. Subconscious sexist socialization at work, kids.) So poor Nick starts speaking to Walter, Walter draws his attention to that fact, we give him a little mini-lecture, and then he's got to maintain his composure while being scrutinized by two on-duty feminists. And he's still decided to live with us.

*See Trey Piepmeier's comment to the previous post.


We had a pretty active Saturday, which I thought I'd blog about. I went to my first Charleston yoga class at Holy Cow--I hadn't done yoga in about five weeks, so I was drenched in sweat (which, honestly, is sort of a normative state of being in Charleston anyway). Then we took the Deez to this incredible dog park where she got to run around and swim in a big pond. Because she's been a landlocked dog her whole life, the ocean freaks her out a little, but this pond was just her speed--every time Walter stopped throwing her ball into the water for her to retrieve, she'd let out this ear-piercing bark until he threw it again. Walter and I actually did a little swimming in the pond, too.

Then last night Walter had a bluegrass gig at this restaurant called Sewee. Friday night when we were being urban and cruising around downtown on our bikes, we passed a club where a bluegrass band was playing. Walter went in and left them a note on the stage that said, "Nashville picker, wanting to play, give me a call." When we went back by later, they were taking a break, so he went in and talked to them. They asked if he was any good, he said, "Yeah!", and they invited him to come play. This sort of thing doesn't happen in Nashville. He had a great time, and since, as we all already knew, he is really good, he can get up to three gigs a week with them if he wants--so this is yet more incentive for him to spend lots of time in Charleston during his last year in grad school.


I forgot to blog about the fact that Walter and I went to Cookeville last weekend to help host the Gridge and Mary's first wedding shower! Trey, Megan, Walter, and I hosted--we took over the Hamiltons' party-friendly deck and did it up, with all the goofy shower traditions and games. We had barbecue, Trey and Walter made fruit salad and broccoli slaw, I wrote a brilliant wedding-themed madlib, and even the guests who complained about having to play admitted that it was fun. The award for the raunchiest madlib goes to Mrs. Fudge Pie, Julie, and I have to admit that I didn't know she had it in her.

If you look closely, you can see how excited Gridgey is about all the gifts.


We had our first social event at 575 Rutledge tonight--not a party, as Walter kept reminding me ("party" sounds much more elaborate and planned than what we were up to) but a gathering or, as one Charlestonian put it, a drop-in. We started inviting folks on Monday. Our invitation said:

are invited to a get-together
to celebrate the nice people (you)
we've met since we moved to Charleston.
...get a gift just for stopping by...

It was a blast! A lot of folks from the English Department came, and some Women's and Gender Studies folks who live in the neighborhood, along with--as the invitation suggests--nice people we've met. David, who worked with Walter at Bean Central back in the day, and Wendy and their son Seth. Sean, who went to grad school with me and now teaches at the Citadel. Fred, our realtor. Loads of kids who entertained themselves in our sandbox yard. Apparently the appropriate food for a drop-in is wine, beer, and cheese, and we had all of those in abundance. I also made a batch of chocolate chip cookies (one of my three specialty dishes--the other two being fudge pie and granola). There were kids walking around with chocolate smeared on their faces all evening.

I was glad to have people in the house; it felt like a kind of inaguration. At one point I joked with a group on the back porch that I'm trying to bribe folks into being friends with me because the friend transition has been and will be one of my biggest hurdles in leaving Nashville. I really do feel like walking up to people and saying, "I need you to be my friend!" I recognize that building a community here will take time, but it was pretty gratifying to be able to pull together a shaggy semblance of community on such short notice. Oh, and the gifts just for stopping by: we gave away a bunch of random stuff that we like, or that gives a little insight into us--everything from boxes of Goo Goos to Listerine strips to a bottle of Astroglide.

Okay, here are some photos of the rest of the rooms of the house, for those of you who have been anxiously awaiting further documentation of the unbelievable hipness in which Walter and I are living.

In the living room, Baxter's sitting right in front of Walter's big-ass TV. The empty room is the room we're trying to rent out. Alas, Eddie Cosmic--our fortuitously named first potential renter--never called back, and since then we've had several nibbles but no bites. My office is pretty ugly still, but looking better. And the bedroom is looking great--Walter made the bed, which is called One Slow Cousin.

Sudden floods hit downtown all the time--Rutledge became a river on Wednesday night. At one point a trash can floated down the street, and later traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see. It all happened really quickly--apparently the floods depend on when the rain comes in relation to the tides, or something.


hi. some friends across the continent have requested pictures of the rest of the house. we'll have those up in a couple of days, along with some thoughts on painting walls and some shots of a brick sidewalk i've put in. right now i have something else on my mind...

a proud thing for me--something that i was proud of at the time and continue to be proud of to this day--happened back in like 1990 or something. back then, instead of chat rooms, we had bbs'. maybe they still exist. hell, maybe they had chat rooms back then, i don't know. whatever, man.

anyhow, these bbs' were internet thingies where people talked to each other. the bbs this small anecdote is about was one at me and alison's alma mater. i was pretty bad about getting on there and talking a bunch of trash. i realize now that i was being obnoxious most of the time.

the thing i'm proud of, though, was that i was constantly bashing wal-mart. i hate wal-mart with a purple passion, and 15 years ago i feel that i was beating a lot of folks to the punch by hating it then. anyway, so some people got sick of me trashing wal-mart (and generally being a jerk) and pulled a prank on me. they, being very computer savvy, got into my bbs account and changed my screen name to this:

my name is walter.
i hate wal-mart.
i argue with fenceposts.

i remember all this because i was wounded. the truth hurts, you know? the long and short of it is, though, that wal-mart sucks doesn't it? like john the baptist, i was a locust-eating know-it-all foretelling the devastation this sucky store is raining down on all our heads.

how this has got anything to do with this blog is this: listen, everything in the world is connected. it's all just one long linear thing curled up on top of itself. like a really long snake. or sorta like the elevator cable in the empire state building that saved those two old sisters. in this case, the connection is between the evil that is wal-mart and the incessant advertizing that we're inflicted with on a day to day basis. jeez, can't i just watch a simple newscast on the tee vee without them trying to foist some product on me?

this being how i feel, you can understand my consternation when i went to look at the "comments" section at the end of one of my entries. hey, i'm just like everybody else: i like some attention now and again. well...actually, i'm not like everybody else because i'm a black hole for attention. it's what keeps me alive. but still, i was pleased to see that there were six comments at the end of the entry. that's pretty neat. i excitedly clicked the button to find...yep, a bunch of punk-ass advertisements. blogspam. man, if i could find those people (and that poor african man that keeps writing me about his million dollars) i'd beat 'em senseless with a trout. (the trout would be dead. no living trout abuse here, thank you.)

so please. fuss at your grocery store when they want you to use that silly upc discount thing you've got on your keychain. don't wear clothing with someone else's name on it. don't give stores your zip code, and no, you don't have to fill out all stuff about how much money you make and whether you're a backpacker for your warranty to be valid. don't enter contests--and that includes state lotteries. listen to commercial free radio. i suggest bob parlocha...i mention that because i care, not because he slipped me a few bucks...but, for bob, maybe i'd do it.

anyway, you know what i'm getting at.

here's a picture for your viewing pleasure...



It's Alison. I want to draw everyone's attention to the incredible new logo for our blog, created by Trey Piepmeier, Web Genimusk. He's the proprietor of www.syntheticrabbit.com and is available for freelance web design work, so you should definitely hire him.

Since Baxter's gotten a little space on the page, I think Zooey and Inky deserve the same, so here they are.

I hope to God I'm not the kind of person who only blogs about her pets! I promise I'll put a good feminist rant on here soon.


more on the heat of charleston and house design... our house at lischey in nashville had transoms above the doors. however, as is wont to happen in depressed neighborhoods, the upkeep of the homes go by the wayside. in the case of 1116 lischey, i reckon that at some point one of the renters, or perhaps the landlord, removed all of the brass fixtures that open and closed the transoms and then sold them. the result was five non-functioning, caulked and painted shut door transoms.
at rutledge, we actually have operative transoms. when we first looked at the house i though that someone had done a bad trim job on them. this is what one going to the outdoors looks like:

i thought that maybe, just like lischey, the windows were about to fall out due to having no hardware, but really that little slanted piece of trim is the window stop. if you look you can see the hinge there at the top of the slanted trim piece.

now, the exterior door right across the hall has the same slanty trim feature, but it opens the other way. here is what it looks like:

the long and short of it is, before the advent of air conditioning (the sucker of 16% of america's energy needs), we'd figured out lots of ways to keep ourselves relatively cool. so, the windward side of the house has large double hung windows. in the heat of the summer one would have dropped the top half of the window to let in the breeze. the door transoms let out the heat trapped at the tops of the room.

a quick thought on tools: alison was telling me the other day that i am a good painter--house painter, that is. i can't paint my way out of a bag as far as canvas painting goes. it's true, i'm a pretty good painter, but there's really nothing to it. alison said she wasn't any good at it. anyway, this short conversation got me musing on the nature of tools and thier proper use.
okay. so like computers, televisions, automobiles, etc. are all things still in the midst of changing rapidly. in ten years, none of these things may look or perform anything like the ones we're using now, right?
on the other hand, a hammer, a number 5 jack plane, a western backsaw, a flat head screwdriver, all look pretty much as they have for a couple hundred years or more (although bessemer's invention of the blast furnace in 1865 did have a big effect on most of the above).
just to keep it simple here, though, my point is that all those tools--as opposed to the new fangled stuff--must have already reached their evolutionary apex. they stopped changing because they had become about as good as they were going to get to perform the job at hand.
what's at stake in all this, you might ask? well, if you're a tool, then being good at your job means doing it well--and doing it simply. so, the next time you're engaged in some physical labor like hanging a picture or screwing in a screw and you find that you're having a hard time, then just STOP! stop because you're doing something wrong. it shouldn't be hard. in fact, it should be a breeze. the tools you're using have been designed for maximum efficiency--you're just using them wrong. keep in mind that there's a dedicated screwdriver for every screw in the world. take some time to learn the proper tool and technique and thereafter fixing things for yourself will be much easier.
the far-reaching ramifications of this are less dependence on manufactured items, keeping things out of landfills, more money in your pocket, exercise, a sense of independence and well-being and on and on and on.


hi. it's walter writing now. alison had said we changed the color in the hallway--well, here is the change. i like it, but i always worry about passing color fads, you know? how soon is that green gonna get tired?

some interesting stuff, history wise: we live in a house called a "charleston single." they're called that because they're a single room wide. those who have been to charleston have probably noticed all those front doors that simply open onto porches running alongside the house. actually, those are side doors that open onto porches that run along the front of the house. does that make sense? it's probably the way that our house was originally set up. so, the hallway in the photo used to be a porch. all the doors to each room are on the right side of the hall. back in the day, that porch would have had bamboo screens that would drop down for privacy. everyone would have just slept on the porch to avoid the indoor heat.

now, the reason for the sideways set up was to keep the street frontage down. the houses in alexandria, va are like this, too. the reason they did it there, i think, was because the property taxes were levied by how much street footage your house took up. in charleton, the purported reason was a civic design plan that kept the walking to a minimum. i.e., if the bank was 5 doors down, and each house was 25 feet wide, then one only had to walk 125 feet, right? on the other hand, our house is like 90 feet deep. so, if all those houses were turned the other way--so that their fronts were facing the street--one would have to walk...what? like, 400 feet, right? when it's 90 degrees and really humid, the shorter walk is obviously better.

speaking of walking: alison and i are now proud new urbanists. we've bought ourselves a pair of way-too-hip bicycles. alison's bike's design allows her to reclaim a little barbie crap in the name of feminism. here it is:

my bike perfectly represents my leit motif: flaming dice. in another words, i am baddass. and here i am:

anyway, it's a beautiful thing. we can simply ride just about anywhere. school is 10 minutes away for alison. you probably can't get there that fast in a car, even if you subtract the 20 minutes needed to find a parking spot. the park, complete with a dog water fountain, is a minute up the street. the neighborhood coffee shop is too close to ride to. the two grocery stores are maybe five minutes. salt water fishing is another five to the west. a great noon meeting is just down the street.

Okay, it's Alison again. I wanted to include a couple more pictures. Here's our incredible screened-in back porch, and me in my new favorite place: the kitchen counter, making use of our wireless internet. I think we're really going to like our house.


The Biffle-Piepmeiers have left 1116 Lischey Ave for Charleston, SC. We got here on July 29, and after five days the house is almost totally unpacked (because Walter is a machine when it comes to things like this). It's beginning to look truly beautiful, and I think we're going to be really happy in this space.

Our new contact info: 575 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

Our sad news: on Saturday, Franny died of liver failure--we knew she was sick, but I didn't know how sick she was. I fully expected that she'd recover. I'm very grateful that my mom was with me when it happened, and she found the emergency vet clinic that we could go to, even though Franny died before we ever made it out the door. That's been a pretty devastating blow to us--we've had her since she was a kitten, almost ten years ago. Then on Monday Burlemow disappeared and hasn't come back. So we came to Charleston with four cats and currently only have two.

Here are some photos of our new house--although these are all images from before we moved in, so rest assured that much has changed--for instance, the hallway that Walter's standing in is now marigold and light pine colored, and filled with an eclectic assortment of bookshelves and art.