Friday, July 18, 2008

Word of the day

It's not often I encounter a word I've never read before in my word of the day, but today's is brand new to me. The first thing I thought when I read it: This sounds like a The Decemberists lyric. Uh, the?

Word of the Day for Friday, July 18, 2008
tatterdemalion \tat-uhr-dih-MAYL-yuhn; -MAY-lee-uhn\, noun:

1. A person dressed in tattered or ragged clothing; a ragamuffin.
2. Tattered; ragged.

Last time peasant blouses surfaced, in the 1960s and '70s, they were part of an epidemic of Indian bedspread dresses, homemade blue-jean skirts, Army surplus jackets, Greek bookbag purses and love beads, the whole eclectic tatterdemalion mix meant to express egalitarian sentiments and countercultural solidarity with underdogs everywhere.
-- Patricia McLaughlin, "The peasant look", Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, April 25, 1999

I was expecting a wild hair, clanking jewelry, a tatterdemalion velvet cape from whose folds wafted the scent of incense, a house full of candles, dream catchers, cats, and bad art.
-- David Rakoff, Fraud

To my ear, though, the prose has the tatterdemalion feel of something hooked together by commas, tacked together by periods.
-- Brad Leithauser, "Capturer of Hearts", New York Times, April 7, 1996

Tatterdemalion derives from tatter + -demalion, of unknown origin, though perhaps from Old French maillon, "long clothes, swadding clothes" or Italian maglia, "undershirt." Entry and Pronunciation for tatterdemalion

From Wikipedia:

Tatterdemalion is a fictional character and supervillain in the Marvel Comics universe, who wore gloves either coated with or secreting a chemical agent which dissolved any material composed of paper, such as dollar bills. His appearance (and, indeed, his name, which roughly means "ragged tramps") suggested that he was homeless, and he was apparently insane, which presumably explains why he would want to destroy currency.
A tattered or ragged person.
This is a lively, rattling, machine-gun word, one chosen by many writers as suitable accompaniment to invective or disparagement. Here’s Lady Wishfort, in William Congreve’s play The Way of the World: “Frippery? Superannuated frippery? I’ll frippery the villain; I’ll reduce him to frippery and rags, a tatterdemalion!”. Or James Joyce, in full flow in Ulysses: “Florry Talbot, a blond feeble goosefat whore in a tatterdemalion gown of mildewed strawberry, lolls spreadeagle in the sofa corner, her limp forearm pendent over the bolster, listening”.
But where it comes from is open to argument. The first part seems pretty certain to be our English tatter. Some writers trace the second bit to the French maillon, swaddling clothes. Others say it comes from the Italian maglia for undershirt or (British English) vest. Support for this comes from the very earliest use, by Ben Jonson in 1611, which he spelt as tatter-de-mallian, reportedly said as though it were Italian.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2008. All rights reserved.
And check out this link, an interesting and well-written blog entry about the word.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Last throw best throw

Last Friday, my friend Todd, a.k.a. Rex Lex, met me at Shady Oaks Forest Preserve, Streamwood, IL, where we played 18 "holes" of disc golf. We later played nine at Sunny Hill, also in Streamwood, where on the last throw of the day, I made my best shot, a carom off a tree into the basket from 50 feet.

For the unitiated, disc golf is just like regular golf, but with platters thicker and heavier than the standard Frisbee (tm) you'd play catch with. And you use different size and shaped discs. The three basic kinds are drivers (for teeing off), mid-range, and putters. Aficionados carry around cumbersome square bags full of 20 or more discs. Some are designed for sidearm throw, others for backhand spins or to tail left or right. There's a vast cosmology of discs I am not yet privy to because all the discs I own are found. All the ones I've seen have signatures from disc golf professionals. Who are these people? Can they make a living playing this sport? And the discs have bold, trailing names like Valkyrie and Banshee, with raised relief drawings of dragons and hellfire.

New discs cost between $12-15. Used are usually $5 or above. I've never bought one. Todd plays often and takes extra time to hunt around in the brush for lost discs, so he has a lot of discs. Six of my eight discs, Todd found. I found the other two. A couple weeks ago I played at Anna Page Park, Rockford, and lost a newly found disc high in the boughs of a conifer. Two holes later I found another glancing through deep brush on an errant throw. Throw poorly, find discs seems to be the lesson.

A few weeks earlier, at West Park, Joliet (Illinois' oldest disc golf course, built in 1979), Todd and I were hunting for a lost disc in an open, sunny glade with medium tall grasses, tramped already, unfortunately, by previous disc seekers, and couldn't seem to find the disc. We decided to let the group behind us play through, and the first guy nailed a hole-in-one. As his friends took their shots, he helped us look for our disc and spotted it, practically hidden from sight underneath a wood footbridge. He later asked us to sign his disc for posterity (an accepted form of grafitti is to write your name and date with a Sharpie marker on the tee sign or the basket if you make an ace). Two of his buddies wrote their DOC numbers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Video tour of my new home

I move in two weeks!

Songs: "Sittin' on a Tree Stump" -- Crash Test Dummies
"Rat Soup" -- Hunt the Wumpus

Monday, July 14, 2008

Soon, a new home

The ad in the Daily Herald caught my interest:

ELGIN NE 3br ¾ acre/wds fp, bsmt w/d, deck,porch, ac No pets.

Hmm. Three bedrooms! 3/4 acre woods! Fireplace!

I called and made an appointment to see the place today. It's on the end of a dead-end street in an older neighborhood of estate properties, surrounded by woods and bordering a bike path on the Fox river. A path from my yard leads to a small private beachfront, with winding trails laid down by the landlord.

There is indeed a fireplace in the wood-paneled living room. The kitchen is small, but the master bedroom huge, with windows on three sides, woodsy views, and no neighbors in sight! This is like a vacation retreat in the city. And while I'm close to the river, the house is uphill and shows no signs of flood damage. It's close enough to both schools I'll be teaching at that I can bike to work.

This is my first house rental and only the second place I checked out. My search criteria ruled out townhomes or any places in new suburban build, what I not-so-affectionately call "Yupville." I know my soul would die coming home to tract housing every night. I don't know how the vast majority of American homeowners do it. Ruling out Yupville housing in Elgin/Streamwood/Bartlett/South Elgin narrowed my search considerably. I was first going to look in downtown Elgin, the historic district nearby, drive around the neighborhoods on the perimeters of forest preserves looking for 'for rent' signs, and in Happy Valley, a blue collar enclave between St. Charles and South Elgin off of Highway 25. Former Geneva resident Arbo told me cheap rents could be had there. But the above ad caught my eye before I could enact that plan.

I've opted to pay a higher rent to have a house, but I want a safe place for my son to run and play, and room for me to stretch out after living lo these long years in cramped apartments listening to my neighbors plumbing.

This place is going to be awesome. I can't wait to have guests over so I can show off my cool new digs. Hey, I can have guests over now! What a concept. I won't have to bang into my bike every time I open the front door. And the front door won't open into the bedroom. I won't have to store boxes underneath the kitchen table or angle the couch away from the wall to create more storage space for Jonny's toys and other miscellaneous crap. I may actually have extra shelf space in a closet soon. The monsters can come back under my bed. All the stuff stored there can go elsewhere. I can be reunited with all my books for the first time since 2000, including the thousands of comic books from my admittedly nerdy youth.

Notably absent in my new digs will be a video game system or flat screen television. No new furniture either. The 21st century will be present -- a laptop, stereo radio, and a 13-inch TV/DVD combo -- but unobtrusively out of the living room.

Okay, I'm done bragging on the new place. But I'm so elated to find it. I've had my doubts about moving out here. I'm a Midwestern mountain man who's never lived in Chicagoland. For the past couple weeks, living at my brother's place in Hoffman Estates, I've noticed how "ALL THE SAME!" bland it is. Heavy traffic. High population density. A maze of strip malls and neighborhoods. What am I doing here? Making a living, doing what I love. I'm an adaptable creature. I'll make do. Better than that. I've found a place that suits my personality.

Can't wait to post pictures. I sign the lease Wednesday.

On another note, I will post excerpts from my Boundary Waters journals soon.