Friday, April 29, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 04/28/16: Tire Repaired, Sharp Dressed Man, Hard Copies

1.  After I dropped the Deke off at school, I blasted over to the Sunoco station/Greenbelt Automotive and not only did the Sube's front left tire get looked at almost immediately, it turned out that it was slowly leaking air because of a nail had taken residence in the tire. While I had a bagel and coffee at the Co-op and got a prescription refilled at the Co-op pharmacy, the tire got repaired and I was back home within an hour.

2. I never buy clothes and it shows. I've decided, at least for a while, that I should make one clothing purchase a month so I have a few more shirts and some pants beyond a pair of church slacks and three pairs of jeans. This afternoon, I darted up to Costco and bought a short-sleeved shirt and a pair of pants. I think I will wear my new ensemble at Phyllis's 90th birthday party on Saturday in Lansing, MI -- or, maybe I'll wear my new clothes on the flight to Detroit.  Look at how many new possibilities suddenly opened up.  It's dizzying.

3. Every time I fly somewhere and can check in at home and print out a boarding pass, I am unusually giddy when the electronic process is successful. I haven't reached that magic moment I'm sure many others have where I can take these things for granted. I also like having hard copies of stuff in my keeping when I travel. The hard copies reassure me and help me relax. That's just how I roll -- and fly.   So, I got out a manila folder and now it holds our car rental confirmation, our flight confirmation, our boarding passes, our receipt for our checked baggage (I enjoy boarding a plane without my suitcase -- I'm part of a dying breed), and our auto insurance information. If I had made the Hampton Inn reservations, I'd have a hard copy of that confirmation, too. Oh! Wait.  I think I have an email that was forwarded to me with the confirmation number on it!  I'm headed to the printer right now!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 04/27/16: Air Machine, Party with Brian, "Secret" Restrooms

1.  I discovered that the Shell station across from the Beltway Plaza on Greenbelt Road has a machine I'd never seen before. It's an air machine with a setting that makes it possible to put a specific amount of air in a tire to reach a specific pressure. The Sube has a tire with a slow leak -- getting it checked on Thursday -- and I was happy to be able to put just the right amount of air in the tire.

2. Molly, the Deke and I piled into the Sube and buzzed down to Union Station where we parked and we made our way to the bar at the Washington Court Hotel and met up with the Deke's brother Brian and his business associate, Josh.  We fell right into easy conversation and then made our way to Johnny's Half Shell where we ate seafood and capped off the night at Kelly's Irish Times.  It was a superb party, with lots of good stories, pictures, updates, and laughs.

3. My occasional drives into downtown DC and knowing my way to the parking garage really paid off this evening as we got downtown fairly quickly, parked easily, navigated Union Station efficiently, making the whole evening very relaxing. When we got back to Union Station after our time with Brian, I impressed Molly and the Deke with my knowledge of the what seemed like secret upstairs restrooms at Shake Shack -- a lifesaver.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 04/26/16: Voting, 28mm, The Ache of Neil Jordan

1.  When was the last time I strode into a physical polling location and cast a vote? Having lived in Oregon for so many years after Oregon instituted voting by mail, I really don't remember. Today, however, I did dash up to Greenbelt Elementary School and pick up a ballot and ink in the circles; then, instead of dropping my ballot in a box, I placed it in a scanner and my vote was electronically tallied.

2. Earlier in the day, I exercised some photography muscles that were going to atrophy if I continued to neglect them. Over the last few months, I've been taking pictures exclusively with my Sigma 18-200, f/3.5-6.3 lens, with automatic focus and built in light meter.  It's the perfect lens, really, for the kind of pictures I've been taking at the aquatic gardens or on the National Mall and other such places because I can easily alternate between wide angle shots and zooming in on subjects.  Well, today, I took my 28mm, f/2,5 manual lens for a stroll around Greenbelt Lake and I suddenly realized that I didn't know much about what the strengths of a wide angle lens are.  I returned home, looked at my pictures -- they are okay -- and I found this article. It's a beginner's guide to the 28mm lens and now I want to get it back out and see if I can more consciously take advantage of what the 28 mm lens is best for.

3. I've been watching movies I first saw 20-40 years ago. Titles pop in my head and I see if they are available at the library and it's been fun to experience again, now that I'm in my sixties, movies I watched when I was in my twenties and thirties and early forties. I've been especially keen on watching movies that are, to me, stories about loneliness, or, put another way, about longing, the longing for companionship, closeness, and, sometimes, intimate love. Today, I two watched movies written and directed by Neil Jordan:  Mona Lisa and The Crying Game.  Both movies made me ache. In both, loneliness and longing had multiple effects on characters, ranging from the development of deep loyalties to outbursts of physical violence to tenderness to acts of courage in the face of mortal danger.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 04/25/16: Splish Splash, Big Rice Salad, Dogfish Head 120 Minutes

1. After a two week absence, this morning I was back to the senior water aerobic class I take, flopping around, splashing, getting some good exercise, not even wanting to wipe the smile off my face.

2. I decided to go all out and cram the rice salad I made today with more flavors and textures than I ever have before.  I combined brown rice and couscous. I used fresh cilantro, basil, and mint. I added sweet orange pepper to the usual ingredients: tomatoes, feta cheese, almonds,garbanzo beans, cucumbers, lemon juice, and olive oil.  It is a dense, flavorful salad and will be even better as it sits overnight.

3. The Deke and I continued the ongoing project of figuring out our lives at Old Line Bistro. We each enjoyed a flight of beers. On the way out, we bought two 12 oz. bottles of Dogfish Head's 120 Minute Imperial IPA. It is about 18% ABV and so we split one of the bottles after we chilled it back at our apartment home. It is the booziest, most aggressively hopped, and most unusual beer I've ever tasted. Six ounces of it was about right. It was so different tasting and smelling that it left me speechless, unsure of what I thought.  Ha! It'll be fun to split the other bottle one of these days. I'll try to decide if I think it's really nasty, kind of sublime, or somewhere in between.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 04/24/16: Mother Carol is Retiring, More Turtles and Geese, DC Brau Blowout

1. I enjoy worshiping at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and I know that the rector, Rev. Dr. Carol Jablonski contributes mightily to why I have such a good experience there. This morning, I found out that Mother Jablonski has decided to retire and will not only be leaving the parish in early June, but she and her husband, a deacon at St. John's, will be moving to North Carolina. She wrote an eloquent letter to the parish about her decision, the family matters that led to her decision, and her confidence that St. Andrew's will carry on well in her absence. Her letter and her decision deepened my respect for her. I never met Mother Jablonski. I only worshiped in her congregation, but I'll miss her as a celebrant and a preacher, for her leadership, and for her liturgical dignity and imagination.

2. I returned this afternoon to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. I figured (correctly) that on this clear, warm day I'd find happy turtles basking and geese both placidly gliding on some ponds and protecting their nests of eggs. Thanks to the warming weather, the lilies, lily pads, irises, and other flora are waking up and the difference in plant life from just two days ago was, in a few ponds, dramatic.  I took more pictures and if you'd like to see them, just scroll down.

3. DC Brau is not far from Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and I had a little time on my hands, so, aware that last weekend was DC Brau's 5th anniversary party and, more important, aware that DC Brau had collaborated with five different brewers to create five different beers for the occasion, and, most important, knowing that those beers were still on tap, I headed to DC Brau's tasting room. I savored a pint of Ripa the Dipa, a rye double IPA, brewed in collaboration with Indiana's Sun King Brewery of Indianapolis. I wanted a six pack of this superb beer, but I learned awesome news when I inquired about it.  The brewery is selling a  Fifth Anniversary Collaboration Series six pack. It features each of the five collaborative beers along with the divine DC Brau Double IPA, On the Wings of Armageddon. I took the six pack to the Diazes where Molly, the Deke, and I had a spectacular beer tasting party.  I loved them all.  

Here are the five collaboration beers:

  • Celestial Garden, an India Pale Lager, brewed with Austin Beerworks
  • Pink Pallet Jack, a saison with hibiscus and rose hips, brewed with Perennial Artisan Ales of St. Louis
  • Ripa the Dipa, a rye double IPA with Sun King Brewery of Indianapolis
  • The Wise and the Lovely, an imperial mild stout with Cigar City Brewing of Tampa Bay and Harper Macaw Chocolate Makers, located next door to DC Brau on Bladensburg Rd., DC NE
  • Zehn von Zehn, a dunkel, brewed with Port City Brewing of Alexandria, VA
If you'd like to read a comprehensive article about these breweries and these collaboration, click right here. And if you'd like to see the design for the can of each beer, just scroll past the Aquatic Gardens pictures and you'll find them.

Still here?  Well, here are some pictures from my stroll through the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens on Sunday:

And here are the Collaborative Series beer can designs:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 04/23/16: Light from the Past, Soup on the Spot, Grandpa Popcorn Again

1.  I haven't had pictures I've taken printed for a while and I suddenly remembered that in my Flickr account I have an album of hundreds of pictures I set aside to possibly print one day. I sorted through those pictures today, and some others from the past, and picked out about a hundred or so of them to print some time soon. It was fun to remember back to taking pictures at our Eugene house. The natural light that streamed inside that house was sublime, especially some mornings and some late afternoons and I enjoyed looking at some of the still life pictures I took there.  Likewise, I enjoyed still life pictures I took inside Christy and Everett's house at Martin Creek. I remember snapping some pictures when I was the first one up and around some mornings and the light was just perfect. It'll be fun to see how the prints look.  I'll post examples of light from the past at the bottom of this post.

2. The masala curry with coconut milk over green beans, potatoes, and chicken I made the other night got thick in the leftover container, so I thinned it with some leftover chicken stock turned it into a splendid soup.

3. Molly brought David and Olivia to our apartment home for to sleep overnight and I got to become Grandpa Popcorn we all shared in a big bowl of buttery, salty Orville Ridenbacher popped on the stovetop in a stock pot with oil.

Here are a couple of pictures from the house we lived in Eugene, followed by a couple of still life pictures I took at Martin Creek:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 04/22/16: Turtles and Geese, Leafy Rockville Visit, Balkan Food and RyePA at 7 Locks

1.  I'm probably repeating myself (again), but back in Eugene, I loved walking around the Delta Ponds taking pictures. I must just be enamored with wetlands. When we lived in Groveton, VA, I loved the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park. And, now, living in Greenbelt, I can drive about twenty minutes south to NE Washington, DC and visit another wetland area, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. I motored down there today. At this time of year, the spectacular lotus and lilies and other late spring and summer blooms are dormant, but it's fun to look at emerging plant life, to admire the geese, and to find turtles on snags in ponds sunbathing. I took some pictures today.  If you'd like to look at them, scroll down to the end of this post.

2. The Deke and I glided in the Sube over to Rockville, MD this afternoon. The Deke wanted to visit a colleague she met at a conference a couple of weeks ago and see her school. I waited in the parking lot and further absorbed myself in the book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. The school is in a leafy, comfortable Rockville neighborhood and coming onto the school grounds and witnessing the long lineup of parents and grandparents picking up students in cars much nicer and newer than our 2004 Sube reminded me of the Deke's days teaching in the Fox Hollow neighborhood of Eugene at Charlemagne.

3. After the Deke's visit, we streaked straight to 7 Locks Brewing and dove straight into one of our favorite of all beers, 7 Locks' Surrender Dorothy Rye IPA. I wonder if other beer drinkers who enjoy Extra Special Bitter ales would agree with me that there is something ESB-y about Surrender Dorothy. I guess all that matters, ultimately, is that for me, there is, although Surrender Dorothy is more bitter than ESBs tend to be. The tasting room was quiet and relaxing -- we were there shortly after 4 -- and the Deke and I elevated the pleasure of our party at 7 Locks when the Balkanik Taste food truck opened for business at 5. Wow! We started by sharing a Balkan platter of grilled chicken, a pork patty, potato salad, Shopska salad (tomato, cucumber, feta with olive oil and vinegar) and Tzatziki sauce on the side. We loved it.  Then we decided to split a lamb burger, served with cabbage slaw in the sandwich. We loved it. We didn't want to leave the Rye IPA or quit eating the food, but we owned up to our human limits and brought our party to a rousing end by dropping in on the Diazes on our way back to Greenbelt.

Here are some pictures from my visit today to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 04/21/16: The Machine Works!, Drinking Like a Buddhist, Mulligatawny Soup Stirs Memories

1.  In our apartment building we have two washers and two dryers and to operate them we put a money card in a slot. The machine we use to add value to our laundry card is over at the leasing office building. I had one more load of laundry to do, but the value adding machine at the leasing office building was busted. Yesterday, I lumbered over to the leasing office building twice, but the sign telling us that repairs were forthcoming was on the machine.  Today, however, I experienced a small victory. The machine had been repaired. I added value to our card. I took care of our last load of laundry for a while.

2. Stone Brewing is marking its 20th anniversary with an Encore Series by bringing back some of its anniversary beers from the past. Late this afternoon, the Deke and I split a bomber of one of our favorites.  It's the 12th anniversary Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout and it's yet another specialty beer we wish wouldn't go away -- but the Deke and I know we live in a world where everything is temporary and Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout will be with us for just a short while, inspiring us to savor the bottle we had tonight and to enjoy each and every glass, bottle, or can of beer we drink in the knowledge that it, too, may (or will) one day pass.

3.  You probably already know that mulligatawny soup is an English soup derived from an Indian sauce recipe, but back in the late 1980s I didn't know that. It wasn't until one afternoon when I walked into the Bagel Bakery (when it was located on 8th Street where Pacific Winds is now) and I saw Mulligatawny Soup listed as the soup of the day. Linda, the British co-proprietor of the Bagel Bakery, was working the counter and I asked about mulligatawny soup and she explained what it was and I figured if it tasted any where near as delicious as it smelled, I was in for a deep pleasure. I loved it and when I finished the soup I immediately thought that I had to make some of that (and I did) and this afternoon this memory and the deep pleasure of mulligatawny soup returned to me as I assembled onions, ginger, garlic, carrots, Granny Smith apples, diced tomatoes, lentils, and chicken stock and seasoned it all with curry powder, cumin, tumeric, garam masala, red pepper flakes, and thyme and poured in a can of coconut milk after it was all cooked. In the bowl, I added cilantro and lime juice -- I could have added a dollop of yogurt -- and, oh my, what a great soup and how fun it was to remember how much I loved Bagel Bakery all those years.  My gratitude for Linda and her kindness and her mulligatawny soup returned. It was a perfect meal -- stimulating flavors, complex aroma, and sweet memories. Want the recipe?  It's right here.  I'm sorry I can't link you to my many happy memories of Bagel Bakery, though.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 04/20/16: Never Stops Being Special, Spinach Yogurt Soup, Loneliness Studies

1. I was remembering today the giddiness I used to feel when I was a kid when Mom and Dad would take our family to the Sunshine Inn for dinner -- and, I remember one Su nday morning when I had a paper route, going for French toast breakfast with either Mom or Dad. This morning I realized that I still feel some of that giddiness when I go out to eat. It's funny. All I did this morning was cruise up to Panera in Beltsville for a wild blueberry scone and a cup of dark roast coffee to enjoy while I continue to read Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and that old feeling of enjoying something special, of being treated, came back.  I guess I've never quite reached the point where I take going out for a bite to eat, even if it's just a scone, for granted.

2. I sometimes forget I have cookbooks.  Back in December, Sister Christy gave me a very handsome cookbook, The Heart of the Plate. It's a Mollie Katzen cookbook and part of what I enjoy about having it is that starting about 30 years ago, I cooked out of Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook and her Enchanted Broccoli Forest all the time. So, today, I made a spinach rice soup with yogurt.  I was simple, quick, and very delicious.  All I had to do was chop up an onion, throw the pieces in hot oil, add cumin and tumeric, add garlic after the onions got soft, let that cook a short while, add spinach leaves, let it cook, and then add vegetable broth and let it all cook at a very low heat for ten minutes. In the meantime, I cooked up some rice and added it to the soup along with a cup of plain yogurt and the soup was ready.  The Deke and I enjoyed it a lot and I will make it again.

3. Today I read reports about studies connecting loneliness or social isolation with heart disease and stroke. Coincidentally, loneliness has been on my mind a lot lately. I've been troubled by how lonely I was, off and on, at certain periods of my life. I don't know if this loneliness affected my physical health, but I've been thinking a lot about how it distorted my judgment. I did stupid things and, looking back, I can see how much I was trying to cover up how lonely I was. I suppose this connection between poor judgment and loneliness is a common psychological insight, but I've only recently begun to see it as I get older and as things I did in the past flash forward to me, usually uninvited.  By the way, I made some very good decisions back then, too, and am proud of many things I accomplished -- but those good things don't seem, as Joan Didion put it, to "come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night, and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, and who is going to make amends"  (qtd from "On Keeping a Notebook").

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 04/19/16: David Simon Continued, Clean Bedding, Hiram's Baltimore Gig

1. For no good reason, I rarely stay home all day and read a book. I always feel compelled to go out and do something -- shop for groceries, go on a photo stroll, run errands, something, you know, to feel useful. Well, today, I stayed home and continued to read David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and I kept thinking about the month I spent serving on Lane County's Grand Jury where I heard testimony day after day from police officers and detectives and where I saw the members of the District Attorney's office wading through their overwhelming workload. The book has also had me thinking about the documentaries I've watched and the reading I've done about public defenders, other defense attorneys, and, in addition, the Innocence Project. Tonight I read articles about the aggressive and abusive tactics practiced by the police in D. C. and I'm keeping an eye on journalists Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly's trespass case from when they were arrested in Ferguson, MO at a McDonald's. It's unresolved.  It's hard to believe that prosecutors are pursuing it so aggressively. I don't read about these matters all the time, but, when I do, I have to confront complexity and inherent contradictions and the co-existence of honor and abuse -- in other words, I have to read it all with the ways of seeing and understanding I have learned from Shakespeare over the years.

2. While I read, in our bedroom, where the corgis are at their quietest, I wasn't completely unproductive regarding household chores -- I got a ton of laundry done, including the blissful task of laundering our bedding and the reward was sweet when I slipped between the clean sheets and under the freshly cleaned blanket, and bedspread and felt waves of pleasure as I fell asleep.

3. Molly invited the Deke and me over for delicious pasta and sauce and cabbage salad.  We learned that Hiram will be playing trombone for a weekend in May with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. If you'd like to read more about the dates and the program, just go here.  The Baltimore Symphony's music director and frequent conductor, by the way, used to be the conductor of the Eugene Symphony -- some of you might remember the giddy days in Eugene when Marin Alsop conducted.  I immediately wondered if Hiram would be playing under Alsop's baton, but, no. We'll see if Hiram plays with them again one day and if Alsop conducts then.