Author Archive: Christopher Waldrop

The Not So Secret Garden.

Every spring and summer local libraries put in community gardens. It’s a great idea that brings people together—although at the Richland Park Library there’s also a weekly farmer’s market that draws big crowds so you have to get there early to find a parking space. Like a lot of Nashville’s libraries it’s also placed in a neighborhood where it’s within easy walking distance for a lot of residents so that helps.

The pizza garden is a brilliant idea since it brings kids into the community gardening project too. Obviously there’s basil in there but also tomatoes and in the larger plot they’ve planted zucchini and peppers. I’d like to see a pineapple planted in there somewhere. There’s also a large rain barrel set next to the library building that people use for watering its gardens. And the Richland Park Library has a “catalogue” of seeds for anyone who wants to take some seeds to try growing plants at home, or that they can donate to if they have any extras. As you can see it’s decorated with a very hungry caterpillar.

Looking at all this made me realize how much libraries and community gardens go together: they belong to everyone but they also need care and tending and also—librarians will get this—occasional weeding.

Parking Far Out.

Even in lousy weather I like to park in the far reaches of a parking lot, especially if I’m going to a big store with a big parking lot. For one thing I need the exercise and I always enjoy a good walk, and unless it’s absolutely pouring the rain isn’t going to hurt me. Even if it is absolutely pouring the rain still isn’t going to hurt me—it’s only going to hurt if it’s really large hail, and if it’s doing that I’m hopefully not out driving around anyway. I also like to park far away from other cars because we have a blue Honda CRV and there are a lot of those on the road. It’s reassuring, really, that they’re so popular. Our neighbors saw ours and liked it so much they got one too. Theirs is a slightly different shade of blue but still in crowded parking lots there have been so many times when I’ve walked up to a blue Honda and taken out my key, only to look in and say, “I don’t remember having Kermit the Frog in the passenger seat.” Granted that hasn’t happened that often but it has happened enough times that I’ve wondered what confluence of events causes the person whose copilot is Kermit to show up at some of the same places as me.

Anyway the third reason I like parking far away from other cars is that even though the Honda is a pretty good size there are a lot of cars, and a lot of trucks, that are much bigger, and parking spaces aren’t always big enough for them to open their doors without hitting my car. Or they have a small car but still didn’t park far enough over and bashed my car while they were getting out. Or back in. Or both. It hasn’t happened often but the Honda has a few scratches and dents in the side that remain a mystery because I’ve come back to find the spaces on either side empty, although once there were some pretty dramatic skid marks on the asphalt that I’m sure weren’t there when I went in. Parking far away from other cars just minimizes the risk of damage.

When I saw that white car in the parking lot my first thought was, well, there’s someone who had the same idea. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for them. Looking at it more closely now I see there’s a lot more going on. Something terrible happened to that front tire and it caused a lot of collateral damage. I’m glad they were able to get it parked before anything worse happened, and that they were able to park far enough from other cars that the tow truck could get to them easily.

Droning On.

So Washington state is trying to address the problem of graffiti by employing drones that will spray paint over it. The drones will cost about $30,000 each, not including the time and money that will go into training people, operating them, and filling the drones with paint for each outing. Naturally I have an opinion about this. It may not be worth much–it’s a lot cheaper than $30,000, though, and it’s based on my own experience of looking at graffiti and also sanctioned public art. Something I’ve noticed is that, for the most part, taggers will leave public murals alone. There are some exceptions. A Nashville mural for Gideon’s Army, a restorative justice program that works to reduce community violence, was vandalized because some people are terrible.

Mostly, though, the people who do graffiti want a blank canvas. There’s an area near where I work where I’ve photographed a lot of graffiti and it’s where I first noticed this. On one side of the street there are several empty buildings—the whole block is undergoing major renovation right now with some historic spots being torn down. The empty buildings have been tagged, scribbled on, even gotten stickers slapped on them in some spots. On the other side of the street there are several active businesses with murals that have been left as they are.

It’s not a perfect solution. As I said sometimes murals and other public art will get vandalized, and not every place that gets graffitied is necessarily a great spot for a mural. On the other hand $30,000 could buy a lot of art supplies with money left over to tap into local talent—giving some of those taggers a legal outlet—which would also be a way to brighten up cities. Sometimes the low-tech solution is better. Just consider what happened to a drone at a Renaissance fair.

Source: makeagif.com

I can’t find more information about what happened afterward but at some point that event was memorialized.

Source: imgur

 

Sky Lights.

I missed the recent auroras that lit up the sky even down here in Tennessee. My wife and I drove up to a hill where on a couple of occasions we’ve gone to watch the International Space Station zip across the sky at twenty-eight thousand kilometers an hour, just a tiny dot crossing from one horizon to the other, but the combination of light pollution and a high horizon and maybe even just bad timing meant we didn’t see the auroras. And it wasn’t until later that a friend had invited us to come see the auroras at her farm, well away from the city, with a very dark sky, though she’s also surrounded by trees so I don’t know if the visibility was any better there.

And maybe one of these days I’ll have another chance to see the auroras. Maybe I’ll get a chance to travel north—of course I’m happy to travel anywhere. One of the jokes my friends say about me is if someone offered me a chance to fly to Paramaribo right now the plane would be halfway over the Gulf Of Mexico before I’d think to ask, “So, wait, why is it we’re going? And did I pack my toothbrush?” Paramaribo gets picked because it seems like a random place—it could just as easily be Poughkeepsie—but also Suriname doesn’t seem to even make the top ten on most people’s desired travel destinations, even though it sounds like a really cool place with an amazing history, but that’s another story.

I missed the auroras this time but they will also come again. Even if I didn’t see them they reminded me that the Earth keeps spinning around the Sun, that our little planet isn’t a closed sphere but it’s part of, and affected by, the universe we occupy. We live small, brief lives on a world that’s constantly in motion, constantly changing. I couldn’t see the auroras but up in the sky there was a slender crescent moon, like a chalice without a handle cupping a few stars, and I was reminded of the beginning of the Wallace Stevens poem The Auroras Of Autumn:

This is where the serpent lives, the bodiless.
His head is air. Beneath his tip at night
Eyes open and fix on us in every sky.

Or is this another wriggling out of the egg,
Another image at the end of the cave,
Another bodiless for the body’s slough?

This is where the serpent lives. This is his nest,
These fields, these hills, these tinted distances,
And the pines above and along and beside the sea.

This is form gulping after formlessness,
Skin flashing to wished-for disappearances
And the serpent body flashing without the skin.

This is the height emerging and its base
These lights may finally attain a pole
In the midmost midnight and find the serpent there,

In another nest, the master of the maze
Of body and air and forms and images,
Relentlessly in possession of happiness.  

Back In Style.

I bought the t-shirt back in 2011, during the last great cicada invasion, and joked at the time that I wouldn’t be able to wear it again for another thirteen years. In fact I’ve worn it several times since then just because I like it. It was created by local artist Eli Moody who works as a freelancer. You can also check out some of his work at Eli’s Art Pad. He has a very distinctive art style I really like. He does great pictures of people but it’s his animals, with varying degrees of anthropomorphism, that really stand out to me. It’s also really cool that he sometimes includes detailed rough drafts, as in his Dapper Armadillo picture.

He also did the art for a fun webcomic about working behind the scenes at a library called Search & Research with a main character named Marc Record. That’s a joke for the librarians out there.

Source: Search & Research

The cicada is a good example of that. It’s definitely a cicada but it’s also got a slight smile. Their adulthood may be short but the cicadas are going to make the best of it. And one of the fun things about this shirt is sometimes when I’m wearing it people come up and tell me it scared them because they thought at first I had a giant bug on me. I wasn’t trying to scare people, and neither was Moody, but it does make me laugh.

He didn’t make one for 2024, having a lot of other projects going on, and who knows where we’ll be in 2037? Maybe I should put the shirt in storage, though, to preserve it for the next time around, just in case.

And, yes, that’s an actual cicada on the shirt. It’s been thirteen years since I’ve been able to have one on it. Maybe it thought the picture was real too, only it wasn’t scared.

There Will Be Bugs.

Most mornings are quiet when I set out for work, especially this late in the year. The summer solstice is still six weeks away and the days getting longer means the sun is now well up when I leave. There might be a few lingering crickets, a katydid or two, maybe even a tree frog, though I mostly hear those at night when I take the dogs out for one last trip around the yard before bed.

This morning I was hoping for a sound I’ve been looking forward to for thirteen years.

Nashville isn’t one of the lucky areas that’ll get overlapping cicada broods, that miracle that only happens every two-hundred and twenty-one years, but already I can’t walk more than a few feet with finding shells or the little red-eyed beasts themselves. This morning the car’s tires were covered with shells. Tree trunks I understand–they climb up from the roots they’ve been feeding on so a tree seems like a logical place. Why crawl another twenty feet and up a car tire to finally molt? Unless they’ve got a fiendish plot, like something out of a bad ‘70’s horror film, only without any real threat, unless you’re afraid of the bugs even though they can’t bite or sting. Not that bad ’70’s horror films are a threat to anything but good taste. And speaking of taste they–the cicadas, not the films, are even fine to eat, except, possibly, for people with a shellfish allergy. During the last great invasion some of my coworkers blamed me every time they found a cicada in their cubicles. I’m not sure why they blamed me—aside from the fact that I was the one who kept bringing the little winged wonders in.

Mostly they just bumble around and I’ve already had a dozen or so land on me when I’ve been out walking. And I understand. If I’d been asleep for thirteen years I’d be a little groggy and probably bumping into people too.

It’s been a cool May so far, though, and there have been heavy rains, which seems to have muted them. For all the cicadas I’ve seen out and about it’s still eerily quiet. Or at least it was. Right now, in my seventh-floor office, through the window, I can hear them tuning up. I lean back, close my eyes, and say, Children of the noon, what music they make.

Now it’s time to go and bring some in.

This Is All Improvised.

I’ve done enough improv classes now that I’m starting to feel like an old-hand at it, even though I can still count the number of classes I’ve taken on one hand. Recently I went to one at a local library that was the smallest one so far: there were only four of us, including the moderator, who’s a teacher and organizer with the Nashville Improv. It was fun but with only four people it felt like the pressure was on, and since most of the games involved two people at a time it also felt like there was never enough of an audience. Of course as soon as I say that I think of Whose Line Is It Anyway? with its four performers, but, first of all, they generally knew each other and worked together professionally, and they had a moderator—I won’t choose between Clive Anderson and Drew Carey since I think that’s like comparing apples and pineapples—and a large audience.

Because this group was so small any time I wasn’t participating I was trying to be focused and supportive and, in spite of one of the main rules of improv being “don’t overthink it” I was quietly sitting there overthinking what I might do if I had to jump in and say, “Yes, and…”

I’ve also done an improv class with a group of seven, which seemed like a much more comfortable number, even when we did some group games that involved everyone. And then there was the time I did an improv class with at least twenty people. We started out sitting in a circle in folding chairs and each introduced ourselves. A guy who was two chairs away from me said, “I’m Greg, I work as a waiter, and I also sell drugs.” When it was my turn I said, “I’m Chris, I’m an undercover cop and I’ve been following Greg.”

He got what seemed like a genuinely panicked look—did he really think I’d just blown my cover?—and so I quickly switched to, “but seriously…”

A group that large seemed a bit much, and while the leader did have some group games that involved everyone I’d say seven is close to the minimum for an ideal group, with fourteen being the upper limit, just from my experience.

While I enjoyed this latest one that jumbled looking sign on the floor made me laugh before I even went in because it looked so sketchy. I sent it to a friend who replied, “Holy cats, are you sure that’s not a trap?”

I didn’t know what to say to that so I said, “Yes, and…?”

Since it’s all about sharing and communication what are your experiences with improv?

Old School.

Source: FOBO (Fromoldbooks.org)

Grammar mnemonics and rules I found written down in a notebook from 7th grade that I had completely forgotten:

I before E except after C and when it sounds like “a” as in “neighbor” and “weigh”.

And also when it sounds like “i” as in “heist” and “Fahrenheit”.

And also for some reason when it sounds like “e” as in “protein”, which is weird.

 

Never end a sentence with a preposition unless the sentence ends with “a preposition.

 

Confusing “who” and “whom” is really the worst

So never ever ask “Whom’s on first?”

 

Be more or less specific and decisive if that’s okay with you.

 

“I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“Gray” is spelled with an “a”

Except in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and also the UK.

 

“Color” and “flavor” are spelled without “u”

Except outside the United States, pretty much anywhere you’d want to go to.

 

A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea, but it seems like ideas should get a category of their own.

 

“Sesquipidalian” should be replaced with something that sounds less like a deep sea animal.

 

Splitting infinitives is to usually be avoided.

 

A “dessert” has twice as much sugar as a “desert” if your dessert is sugar-free because deserts don’t have any sugar at all.

 

A “principle” is a rule or belief, a “principal” is a school leader who pretends to be your pal to maintain the status quo, and Victoria Principal wasn’t the one who shot J.R., was she?

 

Most sentences are subject-verb-object and “subject”, “verb”, and “object” are three nouns that really need a category of their own.

 

The “b” in “subtle” is pretty much what it says it is.

 

Now you know how to tow two toes.

 

Double negatives should never not be used.

 

Similes are like metaphors but different.

 

The only rule that has no exceptions is the rule that there’s an exception to every rule.

 

No one remembers who Mnemosyne is.

Source: Imgur