Saturday, November 22, 2008

What's That In the Corner?

It always surprises me when I catch of a glimpse of part of my life - like clothes or the car I drive or I hear myself talking about something - and that glimpse reveals that I'm a different type of person that I had planned to be. Not better or worse, just different.

For example I always thought I'd end up in some groovy Palm Springs-type sleek house, with low-slung armless sofas and Barcelona chairs. Instead I live in a dark little Tudor Revival house. My father made furniture his whole life and the various arms of the Strong family are chock full of it. I recently ended up with this corner cupboard that he made. I never thought I was a corner cupboard person - I mean, what's next? A butter churn? But you know what? I really love it. It's handsome - solid cherry - and not fussy and offers a world of storage and let me tell you: Tudor Revivals are a little skimpy on storage closets so that really does come in handy. And I get to display my skull and crossbones crystal! And Sister Meg's girly china.

I'm still not used to it yet; I catch it out of the corner of my eye and think for a second "what the hell is THAT?" But then I remember that that's what type of person I turned out to be. A corner cupboard person. Huh.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pussies in Heat

Well if you're looking for my cats this winter, look no further than the nearest heating vent.

Here's Miss Ellie, fat and fluffy. She likes the one behind the dining room door.

And Fanny, a hundred years old and about three pounds soaking wet. She prefers the living room, being an elderly spinster. I think she's waiting on a gentleman caller.

This, by the way, is the famous Fanny. As an added bonus, you get to see how dirty my house is in this picture and also what looks like a little cat vomit on the vent. Mmmmmmm!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Autumn and Really Old People

So today I had to drive 500 miles, from Nashville to Gatlinburg and back. I had to deliver some printed material I designed and couldn't get it delivered on Veterans' Day. Stupid Veterans! WHAT DID YOU EVER DO FOR ME? I decided to try and make it feel less work-like by jamming in a hike while I was there, since Gatlinburg is the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park....since 2008 is DG's Year of National Parks (Six, if you include Colorado Natl Monument, which you probably shouldn't).

I left at 4:30 am so I could make me delivery by 9 EST and then I decided to have some pancakes. Gatlinburg is chock full of pancakes and I've never been able to figure out why. I'm not exaggerating: there are at least fifty pancake houses in a ten-block stretch. I settled on Log Cabin Pancake House and I ended up having country ham biscuits because I am not really a pancake person, I think. I don't like sweet in the morning.

ANYWAY, the waitress was rude - I was trying to finish Somerset Maugham's Mrs Craddock, and with just eight pages to go, she asked me to get up because she "needed the table." So I told her I needed the 20% I was going to tip and left her a dollar. Sorry, lady....I was a waiter for a decade....there are subtler ways to get the humps out of the chairs, as my (yet another!) newly-re-found friend Melissa used to say. So I still have eight pages to find out what happened to Bertha Craddock.

Then I did the short drive to the Laurel Falls trailhead. This is an easy trail - it's paved! - but only because traffic was so heavy on it they had to pave it to prevent erosion. 1.3 miles to a lovely 30-foot cascade (it looks small in the pic, but that's a pretty good guess, I think), where I promptly slipped and fell despite the five hundred signs on the trail that say "yoo-hoo, this will be slippery: children have died!" And also there were bear warnings every ten feet. What there were NOT were warning signs about: OLD PEOPLE. Here's a note for you to type into your Blackberry or your iPhone or your Rolodex or to just yell at your ASSISTANT or WHATEVER you have for this sort of thing: Fall + Veterans Day + Paved Trail equals 10,000 Grannies. And they don't say HELLO on the trail and it pisses me off. By the end of it, after I had passed the cast of The Golden Girls fifteen times, I made a point of saying REALLY LOUD: "Hi! You're ALMOST THERE! Just a FEW MORE STEPS! YOU CAN DO IT" Even though it was still like a mile and a half away. That's what you get for not saying "morning," you stupid old bags.

Anyway, it was pretty, fall, leaves, waterfall, blah blah blah. The usual with this sort of shit. Very inspiring. Sigh.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Once You Go Blackboard...

I love my new kitchen chalkboard wall! I've recently taken to writing all of the possible upcoming meals on it - based on what's in the pantry - and Sister Meg makes a checkmark by the one that she wants for dinner each night before she leaves every day...then we erase it off the list after we eat it. It's an ideal collaboration: I choose and cook all the meals and she tells me when she wants them! Also, before you say anything? I'M AFRAID OF HER.

Monday, November 3, 2008

All Fall Down

We never get a real fall, it seems like. Things just turn brown and fall off the trees and that's it. But I looked out my window today and saw this tree in my side yard blazing yellow. It'll probably only last five minutes so I ran out and took pictures. I like the yellow and blue and the red brick all together.

You can all probably sleep better now.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Functioning Artoholic

So I quit making art about a year ago. I always tell people that it was for this reason or that reason but in reality it was because I was tired of making a mess in my house and then having to clean it up. I had already scaled down the size of things I was working on, going from door-sized charcoal drawings down to little foot-square collages that I could make while I was watching Project Runway. I liked the encouragement Tim Gunn offered me! I made it work. And then a gluestick got stuck to the sofa and that was, as they say, that.

But I was cleaning up my computer desktop yesterday and ran across something that surprised me...for the past year or maybe more, I've been doing these little illustrations for at the behest of my friend Karen who owns it. Most of them are computer-generated, though there are a lot of hand drawn things that get scanned and then manipulated in the box. It was weird opening them all up and looking at them together because with maybe two exceptions - the Ethel Merman one and the teacup - they look like work I would have done anyway!I'm pleased at how many of them reflect my personal aesthetic even though they were created to illustrate someone else's idea. Maybe I'm an illustrator!

So I didn't give up making art after all, I guess. It was surprising how many of them there were. Anyway, here's some of that, along with a couple that got rejected by mean Karen.

(Oh and everthing's ©DG Strong and I am just bored enough to sue you and burn your house down if you steal from me, bitches.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reunited and it Feels So Good!

Last night I had dinner with an old friend. Not a friend who is old but someone I've known longer than almost anyone I still speak to. But the funny thing is we hadn't spoken in like fifteen years. Maybe even longer. I acted like a jerk once and anyone who knows me knows I am not really an apologizer so the jerkiness stood uncorrected forever. And then out of the blue she emailed me and she didn't make me apologize and then we went to dinner and now it's like I have my old best friend back! It's like magic. Or AA where they make you make amends but you still get to drink! Best of both worlds! But I do know she reads this so I really do apologize for being a jerk.

Now our mutual best friend Jeff can talk about us in front of each other, which he couldn't do before and I think that has been making him crazy for fifteen years.

And Sarah's a camper so now I can quit bothering everyone else in my life with my constant "would you like to go camping?" inquiries. You're all off the hook!

Friday, October 17, 2008


Well since all the newspapers are publishing their presidential endorsements this weekend, I might as well do mine since I'm way more influential than that tired old Washington Post: Vote for Barack Obama. Oh, and you can just save your dissenting opinion - while America is a democracy, my blog most assuredly is not and I'll just delete any comments I don't agree's my Bush-iest quality. I told you everything would be different after the Revolution!

I've had this Obama sticker on my car for almost eighteen months...EIGHTEEN MONTHS! I've had it on there so long I had to buy it from Cafe Press; there weren't any Obama stickers way back then! That seems so crazy now, to think back about who seemed the more likely candidate at different times: Edwards (remember him?), Hillary, hmmm, whoever those other people were. Early on - beyond the eighteen months - I was a devoted Hillary supporter but even then I thought Obama's rightness was truly the better choice, even if it meant the party's eventual Election Day loss. So I switched allegiances and for once, I might have backed the right horse!

Over the months since, I've endured a little bit of heckling - one guy stood by my car in a parking lot and waited for me to come out of a shop just so he could call me a "nigger-lover." Another time, a woman in a car flagged me down at a red-light to tell me Barack Obama was going to drive America to ruin. That'd be a short trip, I thought, considering the ruins the current administration's left it in. But instead I said "why don't you just fuck off?" because that's just the type of guy I am. I know what you're thinking: this sort of abuse practically makes me the Rosa Parks of 40+ white guys...and I completely agree.

I early voted today. I pressed the Obama button with pride and glee, thrilled that for once I wasn't voting for the lesser of two evils - I was voting for a truly great candidate, one with vision, principles and a wife who can still move her face. A candidate who still believes there's such a thing as social justice and economic fairness and a woman's right to choose what happens in her own womb. A candidate who doesn't rely on Joe the Plumber horse-shit to make his point because he can make his point without using manufactured metaphors. I live in Tennessee and I harbor no illusions about the Volunteer State turning blue anytime soon. But there were long lines and more African-Americans than I've ever noticed before. So who knows what that means. But I'm hopeful that it signals an end to this brutal, ignorant, scare-tactic era run by a murderous, venal, dishonest handful of money-grubbers and that I can once again live in a country I'm proud of rather than one I'm too poor to move away from.

Don't be a dick: Vote Obama.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Birthday: Joshua Tree National Park

I spent my birthday last Friday wandering around (in some cases literally) and driving through Joshua Tree National Park. It's a pretty amazing place. My friend Carol and I got up pretty early, had a fifty-dollar breakfast in Palm Springs (that's the only kind they have there, actually), picked up our rental car and drove forty miles to the little-used Cottonwood Springs entrance. Palm Springs does a lot of things well, but promote nearby Joshua Tree isn't one of them. Virtually NO mention of the park in any of the promotional literature scattered throughout the whole town. NONE. Which explains why this nearby entrance is little-used, I guess.

We had decided to do a pretty good-sized desert hike, the Lost Palms Oasis hike at 8 miles. When we got there, we learned it was really only 6.8 but still: that's a long walk in the god-forsaken desert. We handled it with aplomb, mainly because it never got above 90 and was pleasantly breezy most of the time. Sand sand sand, ocotillo, sand. Oh look a rock. Lizard. Sand, cactusy thing. OOO a rock. And then ta-da, oasis. Then all of that backwards.

We then left that section of the park, the Colorado desert part, and went to the Mojave part which was like visiting Mars. Thirty degrees cooler and alien-looking. Lots of photos like this. 247 of them, actually. I sort of wish we'd hiked in this part rather than the hotter part but eh, what can you do. Then we committed some felonies and stole some joshua tree seed pods. Ha ha, eat it, Park Service.

It was a pretty cool place. Crappy gift shop, though, and if you're keeping score this year that's a LOT of crappy National Park gift shoppes. I really do need to just go up there to DC and get the Dept of the Interior t-shirts in order. It's shameful how awful most of them are.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

2008 Vacation No. 249

Off to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park for sun and fun and lots of hiking, sightseeing, and mini-bar abuse. See you next week.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Same View, Different Subject

I was just going through my digital photo library and it seems a LOT of crazy stuff happens outside my office window, though it's not all people fornicating. This picture is from a few months ago. I hope he's not dead.

And one day, this happened.

It's like going to the movies! Sex, death, stunts.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sex and the City

Well here's something you don't see every day! The view from my office window just moments ago (NSFW, unless you work in a porno factory, which you might, I guess):

Look closely! The gentleman on top was borderline homeless. The lady on the bottom was a business lady in a suit. And that used to be the library! ON ROSA PARKS BOULEVARD. When they were done, they looked up and saw us all looking and taking pictures and waving and they ran off top speed. And here's the best part: he was wearing a shirt that said KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS.

Only one word will suffice, I think. C-L-A-S-S-Y.

Update: after looking at some of the pics other people took, we think we have deduced that the "lady" in question seems to be wearing a hotel uniform of some sort. So we're going to go into the two nearby hotels (we think it's the less-fancy one) and look at her all sideways like we know something.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ballad of the Hot Beef Sundae

A couple of weekends ago, I went with my friend Meg (see milking parlor pic) to the sad, sad Tennessee State Fair. We heard somewhere it was the 49th worst state fair or something and I can't imagine which one is worse. There was lots to blog about and I might dole out a few stories over the next few days so that it's not one loooong post but I'll start with the Hot Beef Sundae.

Mmmmm! Pot roast with a scoop of mashed potatoes and then gravy and cheese and a cherry tomato. I'd eat it again, no problem. It would have been better if it hadn't been 90 degrees outside, but sometimes you just have to throw yourself on a sword, you know? We washed this down with a fried Goo Goo Cluster.

And then we died. Good thing Jesus was right next door to resurrect us...but more on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Whatever, Lady

So take a look at this:

This is a big, not-very-good drawing of a knot I did a decade or so ago and for the past few years, it's been hanging in a local restaurant. It's not a great drawing - I have no particular love for it - but it's big and this restaurant needed big art so I let them have it and it's been profitable to do so, as people have contacted me about other work. So win-win, right?

Until. Last week, three African-American ladies - who are regular customers and have been for years and have always been perfectly charming - called the manager-on-duty over to the table to complain that they were highly upset about the racist artwork hanging in the restaurant. Befuddled, the manager asked, "huh?" and then one of them went on a bit about how the big drawing of the "noose" was racist and made her uncomfortable and they were all offended.

Now, I'll give you a second to go back and look at the drawing. Do you see a noose? Yeah, I didn't think so. It really has me befuddled, as if she had said "this painting of a duck offends me!"

I'm not bothered if the restaurateurs decide to remove the piece; it's theirs to do with as they please. And to their credit, it's still up and they seem as amazed by the whole thing as I am. But I am bothered in a larger way, a more political one. Has the social climate become so charged that even someone who is walking around not bothering to pay attention to reality - remember, not a noose in sight - can invent outrage out of thin air and prevail? It's not like it's a matter of opinion - again, no noose in sight - it's an argument against actual fact. I can't figure out a way to be on the winning side of this argument - either I say "no, madam, you obviously don't know what a noose looks like" and piss them off or I say "oh, gee, I see your point!" and take it down which I of course won't... because it's not a noose.

(Just thinking about it, though....I think those book pages that the drawing is on are from Dickens' A Tale of Two which case a noose would have been entirely appropriate! I must check the next time I'm in there; I can't remember what book I used for it.)

Anyway, at least they didn't comp her food. While she seemed incapable of choking down her "outrage," she had no trouble with the crab cakes, apparently.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Trip to Bountiful

Enormous CSA basket this week. My mouth hurts from eating tomatoes already. That one yellowish stripey thing is some sort of Asian melon and I have no idea how to tell if it's ripe. The whitish thing to the right is a Lebanese squash, which tastes like regular squash. Two heads of lettuce. In August. That seems crazy. Seven pounds of tomatoes. Hahahaha. Seven pounds.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Eastward Ho! Days 9-11: The BORING states

Did you think I died on my way through Oklahoma and Arkansas? Well I almost DID. OF BOREDOM.

After I left Dodge City, I drove straight south and was happy to see some sunflowers in the Sunflower State.

I tried to see some buffalo on a prairie preserve, but I didn't see any and the Beetle has low clearance and the road was a little rutted so I was worried about that so I turned around and kept going across the border to Oklahoma and on to Tulsa.

This is what all of Oklahoma looks like:

You have to pay to get on the roads into Tulsa, which is a big fat joke because you pay and then you pay again and then your reward is....Tulsa! I kid! Tulsa looked fun. I was happy to see my old friends J&D, though I was disappointed that their new house didn't smell like Indian food like most of the places I had been staying. We went out to dinner at somewhere fancy, which wasn't easy because every restaurant in Tulsa is closed up on Sundays, let me tell you. I guess they're all in church eating wafers one at a time. I had a fig salad and some scallops. I don't have a picture of that, but here's a picture of my Dodge City Across-the-Street steak from the previous night, as well as the weirdest creme brulee I've ever had, which the bartender set on fire in front of me.

Anyway, my friends had a houseguest who was, hmmm, let me be kind....five-star crazy is about right, I guess, but not in a funny way so I sort of felt like I was in the way a little and that maybe they were going to kill the crazy person later and put her in a trunk. So I got out of there the next day, not wanting to be a witness to anything.

This was the worst day, from Tulsa all the way to Nashville, almost ten hours, most of it in the rain. God I hate Arkansas. I have Arkanseen it.

And that is the end of the trip. Mom and Dad beat me back and they close on a house today. Champagne for everyone! But mainly for me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Eastward Ho! Day 8: Pueblo, CO ---> Dodge City, KS

Today was a sad day; this entire trip I've had it in my head that once I left Colorado, well, I was almost home. Through Kansas, drop down into Oklahoma for a nice dinner with my oldest friends in Tulsa and then straight through Arkansas - The Gem State! - and then home. And once I crossed the Kansas border, I admit I did feel a little down, though Kansas has a particular extreme quality that appeals to me. My disappointment doesn't have anything to do with Kansas itself, only that the geography is starting to signal the beginning of the end of one of the best things I've ever done. So the border crossing was bittersweet...and almost instantly classic Kansas.

Then on to Dodge City, which actually may be the saddest town I've yet visited. And I've been to Green River, Utah. By happy (?) coincidence, my friend Chris is either from here or maybe his grandmother just lives here...I never pay attention when he talks, so I don't really know. Anyway, he comes back to visit twice a year and is always telling me how awful it is and I always roll my eyes and say "now now, everyone says that about where they're from." WELL I WON'T SAY THAT ANY MORE. I asked the concierge (cough cough) about a decent place to eat and she recommended the Kentucky Fried Chicken. NOW. I don't have to have truffled risotto EVERY NIGHT but this is a strict no-fast-food trip. So I called Chris back in Nashville, who couldn't think of a place to recommend to me, so he called his fabulous father Charlie...who couldn't think of a place either, so he then called a friend who lives here and so on and so on and so on and in the end it looks like I'm having steak for dinner. Which makes sense, I guess, since I passed a hundred million cows in feed lots on the way into town. Yesterday I was in Royal Gorge; today, I am in the middle of a cattle feedlot, which I guess is a royal gorge of a different sort.

I made a quick trip to Boot Hill, an astonishingly tiresome imitation-recreation of an old west town built on a real site that would otherwise be compelling and interesting. It's too bad they don't know what they have; the actual museum is quite interesting (except for the part where you stand in a room and hear buffalo stampeding and the floor vibrates with threat; it's like that part at the Holocaust Museum where they make you walk through the train boxcar. Only different!) but it's all surrounded by so much fake stuff - the olde tyme ice creame parlore and the photographie shoppe and ye olde west footstoole museum - it sort of cancels the good stuff out. I like fake, but I like it to be completely sincere, if that makes any sense (though I will say...Dodge City houses the Kansas Teachers Hall of Fame & Gunfighters Wax Museum - THAT'S ONE THING in case you were wondering). This was very half-hearted fake, with local high school boys acting like cowboys and putting on medicine shows and not really bothering to believe any of it. It was a little like those people who when Halloween rolls around decide at the last second to dress up like a hobo because it's

Tomorrow, Oklahoma, which will be my first "new state" of the trip; I've been to all the others on the route before. Once I check off Oklahoma, I'll be up to 36 total. Stupid Nebraska; I've been all the way around it but never in it.

Oh and one more thing: when I was at Arches National Park, it seems Wall Arch collapsed. It has nothing to do with that Ziploc bag full of rocks in the car. NOTHING. I didn't even GO to Wall Arch.