Honors reunion

Last night Walter, my mom, Catherine, and I went to the retirement party for Connie Hood, my undergraduate mentor who developed and ran Tech's phenomenal Honors Program. It was such fun, and more moving than I thought it would be. The Honors Program was an incredibly large part of what made my education at Tech as meaningful as it was. And I'm not the only one--a surprising number of Connie's students have gone on to get Ph.D.s in various fields. Someone should find out what the percentage actually is.

I met up with some of my closest friends from college last night, but the thing I wanted to blog about here was the experience of meeting up with folks who I actually didn't know. Here's a conversation that happened several times:

Alison: "Hey--tell me your name."
Random Honors person: "I'm Random Honors person."
Alison: "Great to meet you! I'm Alison."
Random Honors person: "I know. I read your blog."

Or this one:

Random Honors person: "I really like your hair."
Alison: "Oh, thank you! I had it cut in New York."
Random Honors person: "I know. I read your blog."

At this point I thought, well, I have nothing to say to you, because all the interesting stories I have to share at a party I've already put on the blog, so you know them all!

Meeting all these folks definitely made me think that Biffle and I need to do a better job of keeping the blog up to date, and thinking of interesting things to say.

Here's your interesting thing for today: a picture of me from college. The caption they'd added to this photo for last night's slide show was "Alison goes crazy with the frosting." I thought, "Some things never change."


Santa's Little Helper Monkeys

Day-to-day life with the Piepmeiers usually revolves around a comedic theme. They are an habitual bunch...some may even say, well...compulsive, and as such are given to sticking to one joke until all possibilities are used up. Christmas is no different, and this year's comedic christmas theme (evidently because of something planted in Alison's head by none other than Kelly Love Johnson) was "helper monkeys."

Late in the evening last night, we sat around playing guitar (who knew Stinkfist could play guitar so well?) and singing christmas songs. The songs eventually de-volved into ad-lib caroles containing references to these helper monkeys.
For example, Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues became:

that Chistmas Train's -comin'
it's rollin' around the bend
it's full of helper monkeys
and i'm afraid of them

The pinnacle of all this creativeness came when we started in on Up On The Rooftop. Not an easy song to alter, Trey and I did what i consider a spectacular job of ad-libbing verses in which different people ask Santa Claus for different things--all of which, of course, had to do with helper monkeys, e.g. to replace their "leg-nub" for Christmas (the old leg having been chewed off by helper monkeys, of course), or asking Santa for helper monkey repellent, or even asking santa for a helper monkey, and on and on. I don't exactly remember what we sang, but it was funny, generally rhymed and had some semblance to the clipped tune and meter of Up on the Rooftop.

And then it was Alison's turn...

helper monkeys can carry rabies
so you've got to keep them vaccinated
they have sharp teeth and they sneak around your house
santa, i think i've changed my mind


Why I'd Just As Soon Chew Out My Own Eyeball As To Go Christmas Shopping

That title is a fake-out. Here's what's really on docket:

I have read the newspaper, listened to the radio, and have watched the news on television over the past few days. During that time i have become hip to many of the subtleties in the important and on-going argument concerning the use--and non-use--of the word "christmas."

I have listened and pondered the matter deeply and, i think, have developed a bit of Solomon-like wisdom on the subject that i would like to share. Here it is:

Y'all, shut the fuck up.


punching a hole in the atmosphere

Recently I promised a friend to blog some gloom and doom. It's not that they exactly asked for "gloom and doom", but they did point out how gloriously happy Alison and i make our lives sound on here. I hadn't really noticed, but the observation made me take a look and i agree: Too much sunshine!

I figure this is mostly because i've been on temporary hiatus from my usual marxist rants. I've been enjoying that hiatus, however, and think i'll continue it. So, today, as an alternative, I'll go with another sure-fire G and D staple: the environment. I'm going to address it in a roundabout kind of way though. Here it is:

I went to pick a little bit at a jam last night. I'm not quite sure what one would call the region of the state i was in, but i'm sure it has a name. (All areas of the state of South Carolina have a name. Alison and i live in the Lowcountry. Up north from here, but still near the coast and most likely the area i was near is The Pee Dee. There's also The Midlands and Upstate. I gotta tell ya: although almost all of these areas are indistinguishable from each other--all of them being entirely flat and sandy--you've gotta hand it to these South Carolinians: they really know how to name a place.)

Anyway, i went pickin'. In a very out-of-the-way spot, deep in the backwoods, several of us stood around a old fuel-barrel cum outdoor-woodstove. A herd of children there furiously stoked it with firewood 'til the stove was glowing red in the darkness.

We'd play a tune, talk a little bit. Play some more, talk some more. At one point (i believe it might have been between Soldier's Joy and Salt Creek) the topic of temperature came up. Turns out that that area of the state is warmer than it used to be. "...Gloowbal Warming", suggested one person laconically (with that strange, long vowel sound used by folks around here). I was pleasantly surprised to find this comment not met with derision. One older gentleman, just there listening, skeptically contributed this thought, however:

They talk about that gloowbal warming and they blame it on the automobile. But if you think about it, that stuff's been going on since we started sendin' up all them rocket ships. They punched a hole in the atmosphere 's what they did.

I wish you could have heard this. Although...uhmmm...ridiculous, it was beautifully and sincerely said. It also rendered the group of us entirely silent. For a moment we just stood there and listened to the gentle ping of the fuel barrel and the whoosh of air over it's flames. Finally, someone, with quite a bit of grace, quietly said: Well... . ...I guess that's one way you could luke at it....

Now, although i don't expect people to follow my twisted lines of logic or understand the emotional connections i sometimes percieve in stuff, I want to show you a headline from today's paper. I find this headline and that rocket ship moment tied together by millions of tiny, sad little filiments...there's just something similar about the sounds, about the brutalness of the actual words. There's something in the fantastical nature of both declarations. They each speak to where and how we live. They are matter-of-fact, and both address how everything, eventually and always, must come to some kind of end. This is the headline:

Chinese River Dolphin Was No Match for Prosperity


An honest bluegrass song

I know that many people still have things to say about weenie tots, but I just got a link that I had to share.

Biffle's been playing bluegrass and bluegrassy gospel since he was ten years old, but only this semester was he introduced to this song that articulates the message underlying most bluegrass gospel music.

The caveat: Don't listen to this is if you find blasphemy offensive. Biffle passed this on to one of his bluegrass friends here in Charleston, and he was absolutely appalled. He said, "I threw that CD into the garbage! But not before I scratched a nail back and forth across it so that no one else's ears would be stained with that blasphemy!"

Biffle notes that the phrasing in the song is just perfect--these guys are legitimate Southerners and bluegrass musicians.

So here's the song.


Weenie tots

Who knew weenie tots were so mysterious?

Apparently they're called different things in different places. Claire says they were called "whiska weenies" when she was growing up (I think Deandra's family may have called them something like this, too). What other names are there for them?


Holiday update

Biffle and I had our holiday party last night. We've been throwing a big holiday party every year for 13 years now (although a few years ago we decided that every party should be our "10th annual," so that's what it's said on the invitations since then). This was our first year of having it in Charleston.

In many ways it was very similar to our previous party experiences. Lots of people came. The gift game was as riotous as it always was in Nashville--this was the part that most concerned me, because the success of the party rests on the gift game. Our gift games in Nashville were so cut-throat and long-lasting that people would come up to us in June and say, "I've picked out my gift for this year's party!"

Brian played a very important role in the game last night: he was the person who opens a crappy gift and then sells it like crazy, trying to convince someone to steal it. He got some Christmas drinking glasses, and he tried to pass them off as goggles, large earrings, and voice distorters that make you sound like Darth Vader.

One major difference between Nashville and Charleston parties: Charlestonians apparently have no love for weenie tots. Every year in Nashville Walter and I would serve weenie tots, and I'd think, "No one wants these. This is such a ridiculous food! This is the last year we're having them." But then at the end of the evening, the weenie tot pot would be completely empty, because Nashvillians love weenie tots. At the end of last night's party, we had just as many weenie tots as we started with, if not more. So, sadly, this probably has been the last year for weenie tots.

The sugar cookies were a big hit, though.


Orange report #5


A new angle this time because some carpenters at Mrs. Simmon's house ate the ones visible from our window. (and Mrs. Simmons was mad as a wet hen about it, too! She told us "that contractor's gonna pay me for those oranges!")


A good day in Charleston

Yet again, Biffle and I are having one of those days that makes me wonder, does anyone else in the world have as much fun as we do? We slept in, I made an excellent batch of biscuits for breakfast, we took Baxter to the Farmer's Market, and then we got our Christmas tree (holiday tree? What do you call it when you're not actually Christian?). Walter dropped an entire box of glass ornaments from the attic to the hallway floor, and then we danced to "Run, Run Reindeer," the Muppets' version, in the living room. We had to dance sort of surreptitiously, because Baxter hates dancing.