Monday, July 6, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 07/05/15: Morning Coffee, Ghosts, Wal Mart Trip Delayed

1. I woke up and enjoyed coffee and some morning conversation with Carol, and later, Paul, on their patio in the coolish morning air. Why not just "cool morning air"? Kellogg is in the midst of a terrible, wildfire feeding heat wave.

2. Ghosts. I helped Christy and Everett move a few things into their new home next door to Mom and friendly ghosts, like Lois sitting at the kitchen table smoking cigarettes and Lelo tearing around in the back yard, appeared.

3. My takeover of Mom's kitchen hasn't quite happened. We were going to drive out to Wal Mart for some groceries.  It would have been her first trip to a store since she broke her arm back on March 5th. But, she as we were thinking about going, Mom started feeling woozie and she nixed the plan. I wondered if it might be the heat. Mom sent me to McDonald's where I picked each of us up a third pound sirloin burger and we split an order of fries. Mom felt better as afternoon turned into evening.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 07/04/15: Best Hair on the Flight, Scanning the Competition, Back in Kellogg

1. Early on during the flight from Baltimore Washington International to Sea-Tac, one of the flight attendants said to me, in reference to her fellow attendants, "By the way, we've been talking and we have decided you have the best hair on this flight."

2.  Blown away by my status on Alaska Air Flight 767, I began scanning the rows ahead of me as I sat and behind me when I visited the lavatory, looking at everyone's hair.  I gotta admit:  the competition wasn't too stiff.

3. Carol and Paul were at the curb almost the second I picked up my bag at GEG and they not only drove me to Kellogg, they let me eat some leftover steak and morning potatoes before I went to bed and gave me a cool, comfortable bed in their basement for the night.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 07/03/15: Maryland's Coffers Swell, Jack and His Cousins, Checked In and Packed

1. No state income taxes are withdrawn from my pension, so I hunkered down today in the world of the Maryland Comptroller online and did my best to figure out my estimated tax bill for the year 2015 and contributed some money to the Old Line State treasury. I now expect to see the rest of Maryland's pot holes filled and the state's public teachers to get raise after my contribution. I think that's realistic.

2.  The Deke and I went to Molly and Hiram's new house for dinner.  Jack and Adrienne had been there all day and it made me happy to find out Jack had had so much fun all day long playing with his cousins, David and Olivia, and that his sleepover with them went so well.  As I left, I found out he's going to spend another night at the Diaz home. This couldn't be working out any better!

3.  I'm flying to Seattle and Spokane and Carol is driving me to Kellogg on July 4t h at 5:30 p.m. and I'm checked in with Alaska Airlines and my bags are 95% packed.   No last minute rushing around -- my favorite way to do things.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Three Beautiful Thngs 07/02/15: Drizzly Walk, Unadvertised Retirement, Co-op Basil Grace

1.  The Sube needed some clutch work done and so, after I dropped off the car, I got in a misty, drizzly, cool, humid walk this morning from the Greenbelt Service Center/Sunoco station back to our apartment home

2. Adrienne and Jack rolled in from Nyack this afternoon and Molly and Olivia and David were already here and Hiram came later and the Deke and I teamed up to make a pot of pasta, olive oil, basil, parm cheese, garlic, and tomatoes and the Deke made a cabbage salad and the kids loved playing and running from room to room dreaming up games to play and laughing and it was a good family time together.  It was one of those times in my retirement that never makes it on the retirement ads on television.  Neither does spending two nights in a dumpy Super 8 near East Lansing.  I'm not experiencing retirement as advertised.

3. Down at the Co-op I asked the produce supervisor if they were out of fresh basil and she said they were and so I was planning a trip to Safeway when the produce supervisor reappeared with a fresh basil package that was already opened. She told me she'd needed to take some basil out of it for something she was working on and I could have the rest at a reduced price and I almost sang the opening verse of "Amazing Grace" aloud, but instead I thanked her very much.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 07/01/15: Outta the Dump, Pretzel Dog Boost, The New House

1.  The Deke and I spent two nights in a Super 8 dump by mistake. Once we realized what we'd done, we were too worn out to do anything about it. We survived, had some fun mocking ourselves, and, after I took a shower under a sluggish dribble of water, we got out of there and made everything seem good in the world again with two Pikes from Starbucks.

2. Back on the road again for an all day drive from East Lansing, MI to Greenbelt, MD. Gray cloud cover all day made the drive easier and we both marveled at the beauty of Pennsylvania and of the mountains and foliage in Western Maryland. At one point, I was starting to fade and needed a food boost and, Ha!, a pretzel dog at Aunt Annie's at the Oakmont Plum Service Plaza in Pennsylvania got me revved up again.

3. Have I mentioned that even though they were making a major move from Virginia townhouse to the house they bought in Silver Spring, MD, that Molly and Hiram looked after the loud mouthed corgis while we were away?  Well, they did and upon arriving back in the D. C. suburanopolis, we drove straight to Molly and Hiram's and not only picked up the dogs, but saw the interior of their beautiful new house for the first time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/30/15: Pike Blend Boost, Tommy Maddox Comeback, Farewell to Phyllis

1. Sometimes a tall paper cup of Pike Market blend from Starbucks with some 2 percent milk just hits the spot and gets the day off on the right start.  That was my experience this morning.

2. Do you remember when the supposed washed up Tommy Maddox led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a heart stopping 36-33 victory on January 5, 2003?  If not, don't feel too out of it.  I hadn't thought about this game for years, but, as I was getting caught up on my blog this afternoon in the inspiring confines of our Super 8 motel room, this game was featured on the NFL Network and I got a big thrill out of watching Maddox lead the Steelers to a most improbable come from behind victory.  It was fun to enjoy a little livin in the past.

3. Our most enjoyable visit with the Deke's stepmother, Phyllis, came to an end this evening over bar food and a beer at Spag's Bar and Grill in Williamston, MI. John came by and so did Nella and Cecie and her friend Connor joined in and we had a fun time together and then the Deke and I went to Phyllis' condo, loaded up a couple of pieces of furniture in the Sube that had belonged the Deke's Grandma Cassie, said good-by to Phyllis, and a great day came to a close.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/29/15: Farewell Breakfast, Reunion Pasta, Super 8 Relief

1.  Our time in Battle Ground, Indiana wound to close Monday morning, but Aunt Suzy, having observed how much we enjoyed breakfast at Lisa's and breakfast at the Eye Opener, fixed us a fried egg and hash brown breakfast with leftover sausage gravy from Saturday's breakfast at Lisa's. We ate, were properly fueled, and hit the road for our drive to Williamston, Michigan.

2.  Why, you might ask, Williamston?  The Deke's Mom and Dad divorced and the Deke's Dad remarried. His new wife, and now widow, Phyllis, lives in Williamston and we drove to see her and two of Phyllis' daughters, Nella and Gwen. This means the theme of family reunion continued on our trip to the midwest and so Phyllis, Nella, her daughter, Cecie, Gwen, her husband, John, and son, Jake, and Phyllis' daughter-in-law, Gwen all gathered around a big bowl of spaghetti and sausage sauce and we had great reunion dinner together at Nella's house.

3. The Deke and I reserved a pretty lousy room at a Super 8 near East Lansing and we had a terrible time finding it for a variety of reasons, but after about an hour of driving hither and yond, I've never been so happy to see the words "Super 8" lit up as a sign along a city street!

Three Beautiful Things 06/28/15: Eye Opener Cafe Steak and Eggs, Matinee at the Fiddlers' Gathering, Lisa Fixes Heavenly Ribs

1.  I love few things more than an authentic small town diner/cafe, especially for breakfast.  Well, I was one very happy man this morning when Suzy, the Deke, Donna, Lisa, Ted, and Sally and I walked into the Eye Opener Cafe in Battle Ground, Indiana.  I ordered steak and eggs with a side of hash browns and sourdough toast -- AND, I helped Ted eat his bowl of grits. It was a peak experience enjoying this meal.  Here it is:

Steak and Eggs at the Eye Opener Cafe
2.  I attended the entirety of the entirety of the last concert of the Indiana Fiddlers' Gathering this afternoon and listened to some superb string band music and saw some superb clogging.  Here's a list of the bands I got to enjoy:  The Whipstitch Sallies, The Fiddle River String Band, The Battle Ground String Band, and Bahler's "Golden Age" Band.  Superb lineup and exhilarating music.

3.  Wow!  As if Lisa had not fed us superbly enough on Saturday morning, she fixed the Deke and Aunt Suzy and me the best meat falling off the bone tender bbq ribs I've ever eaten along with various bread rolls, green beans and bacon and buttery mashed potatoes.  Absolutely heavenly.

Three Beautiful Things 06/27/15: Breakfast at Lisa and Donna's, Beer Tasting, Indiana Fiddlers' Gathering

1. So all the cousins and their spouses and Aunt Suzy and the Deke and I drove up to Suzy's daughter's house with the huge screened in porch in back and I met Aunt Suzy's daughter Lisa and her partner Donna and we dove into the most extravagant Indiana breakfast I had ever laid eyes on:  plain pancakes, pecan pancakes, blueberry pancakes, tons of bacon, biscuits, sausage gravy, white gravy, grits, watermelon, a separate bowl of mixed fruit, scrambled eggs, coffee peculated on the store, orange juice, and maybe there was more. Honestly, I could have sat at Lisa's and Donna's on their screened in porch and eaten this food for the rest of the weekend.


Lisa and Donna's Screened In Porch 

Lisa and Donna's Screened In Porch 

The Deke's Aunt Suzy and Lisa's Dog Named Alice

Aunt Suzy

Family Reunion for the Deke

The Deke and Aunt Suzy Surrounded by The Deke's Cousins and Brother Brian




2. Debbie's brother, Brian, and his daughters Allison and Danielle arrived at Lisa and Donna's and they brought an ice cooler bag with them crammed with premium beer from Greenbush Brewing in Sawyer, MI and Burn 'Em Brewing in Michigan City, IN.  A beer tasting party got underway at Lisa and Donna's and shifted into high gear back at Aunt Suzy's.  From Burn 'Em, Brian brought us cans of Creamed Corn Cream Ale.  It was refreshing and popular among family members.  He brought a growler of Distorter Porter and another of Juice Box Hero Citrus Ale and two howlers Atomic TaunTaun Overdrive Strawberry Habanero Ale from Greenbush.  OH MY!

3.  The rains cleared. The music was on and,with several members of the Deke's extended family, I sat under a huge leafy tree in a lawn chair in the park and listened to some marvelous music played by these ensembles:  Solas, The Barefoot Movement, Red Tail Ring, The Whipstitch Sallies.  Earlier in the day, I sat of a flat surfaced stump and listened to circles of stringed instrument players play in impromptu groups together.  It was all awesome.

Fiddle Gathering Vendor

Three Beautiful Things 06/26/15: Twelve Hours of Driving, Indiana Feast, Screened In Porch

1.  The Deke and I piled into the newly lubed Sube at about 7 a.m. and twelve hours later drove into Aunt Suzy's driveway in Battleground, Indiana. I wish we'd had an ark. The last three hours of our trip were a workout with severe rain pounding Ohio and Indiana, at times blinding me as I drove, but, we got through it and were ready for the margaritas awaiting us, thanks to the Deke's cousin, Sally.

2. Yes!  Margaritas, a variety of beers, braut dogs, sloppy Joes, potato salad, ham salad, pasta salad, potato chips and dip, brownies, cookies, and carrot cake awaited us and I was a glutton, eating like a man who who had just finished driving twelve straight hours, a quarter of it in a treacherous rain storm.  (Oh!  Julie!  No fired catfish...dang!)

3. As the rain continued to pound the township of Battle Ground, the first night's concert on the main stage of the Indiana Fiddlers' Gathering, in Tippecanoe Battlefield Park, across the street from Aunt Suzy's house was canceled. So, all of us gathered at Aunt Suzy's got to know each other better.  It was a family bonanza for the Deke.  Joining us at the Deke's Aunt Suzy's house were her cousins Bill, Bob, and Sally along with Bob's wife, Nini, and Sally's husband, Ted. More would join us on Saturday, but on this night we all sat on Aunt Suzy's lovely screened in porch, protected from the rain, but enjoying the cool night air, and just shot the breeze, leaving whatever might be troubling us far away.

Recently, I've been adamant about never wanting to be a homeowner again, but the one thing that might TEMPT me back into a mortgage would be a house with a screened in porch.  I love screened in porches.

Three Beautiful Things 06/25/15: Jarvimakis in Bethesda, Cory's Gratitude, Liz!

1.  The Deke and I piled into the newly lubed Sube and drove to Bethesda to meet the Jarvimakis, friends from Seattle we hadn't seen for years. We ate at the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery and suddenly I was transported back to October 20, 2012 when Byrdman and I drove to Rock Bottom in downtown Portland and made friends with a couple pool shootin' gals, Bethany and Sarah.  Bethany was terminally ill with intestinal cancer and was doing all she could to enjoy herself before she couldn't any longer.  I had a great time with the Jarvimakis in Bethesda, and, at the same time, I thought back to Bethany and the pictures she insisted on having taken with me and Byrdman and I thought about the kiss on the cheek she asked each of us for because we we were there and we were fun and we helped her live the way she wanted to live as she neared the end of her days.  I couldn't help but wonder how much longer Bethany lived and whatever happened to the pictures -- but, most of my attention was on the fun yakkin' we did with the Jarvimakis and the fine food and refreshing beers we enjoyed at Rock Bottom in Bethesda.

2. I was checking Facebook messages and noticed that a couple had come into my "Other" box, a box I check all too infrequently.  One of the messages was from Cory, a student of mine at LCC twenty-four years ago.  He had taken time to express his gratitude for how I had inspired him in an English Composition course back in 1991. His note staggered me. I regained my equilibrium and wrote him a most grateful note in return.  In retirement, it slips my mind that my work as a teacher mattered a lot to some number of my students and it was deeply gratifying to be reminded. 

3.  The other message filled me with joy. I hadn't heard from Liz since the spring of 1974 -- possibly around the time she got married.  Over the years I've thought of Liz often -- we spent a lot of time together as being more than just friends back in 1973. I hope that the messages we sent back and forth will put us more frequently in touch with each other so we can find out more about what's happened in our lives over the last forty years or so. It's funny.  Even though 1973 was the year I was seriously injured and nearly died at the Zinc Plant, overall it was one of my favorite of my 60+ years and the times Liz and I talked and laughed and were part of a fun group of friends and drank beer and listened to music and hung out in Cd'A and held each other close -- and the many times she came to the hospital to visit and comfort me -- were the best times I had during that memorable year. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/24/15: Busy Garage, Lots of Walking, Dizzy with Gratitude

1.  Turns out the shop where I take the car for routine maintenance is very popular and right now is packed with customers. I tried to get the car in on Tuesday morning and was turned away and told to come back at 8 a.m.on Wednesday. I arrived at 8, filled out the ticket detailing what I wanted done, and was told about 10,000,000 cars were ahead of me -- it turns out customers were bringing their cars in the night before and leaving them overnight.  I called the garage about noon, found out that it was unlikely they'd get to to it, so I took the bus down to the garage, retrieved the Subaru, and, this evening, shortly before 8, I took the car in and left it in the nearby Co-op parking lot overnight. We'll see if they get to it on Thursday in advance of our trip to Battle Ground, Indiana on Friday.

2. The good news about not getting the car right in to be maintained is that I got a lot of walking in today and that the temperature was about 10-15 degrees cooler, making the walking pleasant. I hadn't expected a longish evening walk after I dropped of the car, but I boarded to wrong bus to get home and got off the bus about a mile from our apartment home and hoofed through the surprisingly comfortable evening air back to our apartment home.

3. Gratitude. Having the car back in the early afternoon opened the way for the Deke and me to drive to Groveton/Alexandria. In an immeasurable act of generosity, Molly and Hiram are minding the corgis while we travel to Indiana -- and maybe Michigan -- , even though their lives are in great disorder as they prepare to  move this weekend out of their townhouse and into the new house in Silver Spring they recently purchased. So we took the dogs to the Diazes and we all shared in a pizza/salad dinner and as we returned to Greenbelt, I felt kind of dizzy with thankfulness.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/23/15: Friendly Heat, Grooming Day, Quinoa Salad and Refreshing Drinks

1. Normally, people I don't know don't talk to me around Greenbelt. There's nothing unique about that. But, today, with temperatures pushing the 100 degree mark and with the heat index higher than that, about a half a dozen people I didn't know asked me if it was hot enough for me or remarked that it was brutal outside or told me they guessed it could be worse -- we could live on the desert.

2. I went to Hair Cuttery today after I dropped the dogs off at the groomer. A woman waiting for her stylist had seen me about ten minutes earlier with the corgis and asked me if I left the dogs in my car in this hot weather.  I assured I don't do that and told her they were getting groomed.  She laughed and remarked, "I guess it's grooming day in your house!" Ha!  I said, "You're right!" and laughed along with her. Then, after one stylist turned down the opportunity to trim my hair, Angela stepped up to the task and, later in the day, I passed the Deke eye test.

3. Once home, the Deke and I enjoyed the cool, refreshing, and tasty quinoa salad I made with quinoa, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, almonds, Kalamata olives (and some juice), fresh mint leaves, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, cumin, and cinnamon.  I refreshed myself before and after eating the salad with a couple of bottles of the stellar Yeungling lagers, brewed by the nation's oldest operating brewery. For a nightcap, and as a tribute to the hot weather, I enjoyed the finest of all hot weather drinks, a gin and tonic.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/22/15: Marie Was Patient, Computer Delivery, Lazy Night

1. I needed to drink some water before my monthly blood draw this morning. Marie was very patient with my veins and slowly but surely drew a sample out of my slightly dehydrated veins. This has never happened before, but usually I drink water before going, so I'll remember to hydrate before my blood draw in the future.

2. It's often good I'm home during the day:  the Deke left her school computer behind this morning and I was home to make the delivery.

3. We were lazy tonight.  Maybe it's the heat.  Maybe it's my nature.  I don't know. The result?  We settled for cheese and crackers and popcorn as our nourishment this evening. Hiram and Molly bought us some Fresh Squeezed IPA (my favorite, I think) in Virginia -- it's not available yet in MD) and I enjoyed a bottle with some stout cheddar cheese and saltines before diving into the popcorn.