Monday, September 26, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 09/25/16: Taking Pictures at Watkins Regional Park, Nate's Coming to DC, Man Sprawled on the Trail

1.  I took some time to make sure the settings on my camera were what I want them to be, filled my water bottle, packed an extra lens, and slid into the Sube and wove my way south on MD 193 to Watkins Regional Park near Upper Marlboro, MD. It's a sprawling facility with a carousel, miniature train, picnic shelters, prodigious playground, nature center, and, to my delight, mildly challenging hiking trails. The weather was perfect -- low seventies and sunshine, and I was experiencing no discomfort in my feet. I walked the Wetland Trail and marveled at the numerous opportunities this heavily wooded area afforded me to take pictures of light and shadow and I thought more about eye-popping pictures and I realized that when something pops, I recoil, making me realize that I'm inspired to take pictures not to astonish, but to invite a viewer in.  Come in. Find quiet. Learn from this face. Enjoy the interplay between light and shadow and enjoy the shapes and textures and symmetry and asymmetry of the natural world. Do these images "pop"? I don't know. I actually hope not.  I'd rather they do something less dramatic.  At the end of the post, you'll find some of the images I created at Watkins Regional Park today.  If you'd like to see an album of such pictures, go here.

2. Before I left for this hike, I received an email from Nate Beard, who once was a student of mine at LCC and afterward became a friend and coffee and beer drinking mate in Eugene. He confirmed that he would be in Washington, D. C. on Monday, the 26th and so we made plans to meet when he arrives at Union Station at the Bolt Bus terminal.  I began to imagine how we might have some fun over the four hour visit we'll have in the afternoon. I'll keep my thoughts to myself for now, but will report back tomorrow on what we did and whether we were able to carve out a short visit to the D.C./Maryland border and enjoy a beer after its 4 p.m. opening at DC Brau.  

3.  As I was leaving the hiking area and making my way back to the Sube, suddenly I saw a young man sprawled out, face down, on the trail. An older woman -- maybe his mother -- was standing next to him and just as I was about to ask if they needed any help, he sprang to his feet. The woman looked at me and smiled, "He was taking a picture." I smiled back, relieved that he was all right, and happy that he was putting out such an effort to get the picture he wanted. "Hey!" she continued, "You want to see it?" "Sure."  I looked at the picture on the back of the camera of the trail leading out and the trees in their still summery leafy splendor looming over, their nobility heightened by the on the ground looking up angle. "That's beautiful," I said.  "Thank you!" he replied. I went on my way, uplifted. 

About these pictures: None of these images looks like what I saw with my own eyes today as I walked the Wetland Trail at Watkins Regional Park.  In order to play with the light and the shadows, I shot most of these pictures at f/8 and then used as high of a shutter speed as I could. I am experimenting with just how much darkness a picture might tolerate, yet, as I took these pictures, I thought of myself taking pictures of light. Then I edited them.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 09/24/16: Shoe Inserts and Eye-Popping Photos, Beer Bliss, Is Potato Salad a Salad?

1.  As I walked the path around Greenbelt Lake this afternoon, my feet felt fine and, hoping not to jinx myself by thinking this, I wondered if maybe I have, through trial and error, fashioned the right shoe and the right combination of shoe inserts.  I also thought a lot about taking pictures. Mostly, I questioned the value of the description I read often: "eye-popping" -- or the idea of "make your photographs pop". I'm not ready to post them yet, but I took pictures along the trail that I like because they are not eye-popping, not dramatic, and don't arrest a viewer's attention. They capture quiet moments of light slanting on a tree or dappling the path.

2.  From Greenbelt Lake, I drove down to DC Brau's tasting room.  I wanted to try their recently released Oktoberfest beer and then enjoy some Wings of Armageddon. I loved the Oktoberfest -- I'm not sure I have words for what I loved except to say that because it's a lager, the beer had enough taste similar to the lagers of my youth that I smiled nostalgically, but its flavors were more complicated than Lucky Lager beer, hoppier, while also tasting a little sweet, just as I had hoped it might. If it weren't for the irresistible allure of the Wings of Armageddon, I would have quaffed another Oktoberfest, but I couldn't stop myself and went to the counter, ordered a pint of Wings, and as I carried it back to seat, without even putting my nose to the rim of the glass, I could smell the citrus rising from my beer and my knees nearly buckled with pleasure.  I was in for a pint of bliss.

3.  While I drank my beers, I listened to podcasts I had downloaded. One mini-podcast from the program The Sporkful really delighted me.  The podcast featured a seventeen year old caller. She wanted to discuss her conviction that potato salad, pasta salad, egg salad, ham salad, and other salads of this kind should not be called salads.  The ensuing conversation lasted just under ten minutes and I loved her arguments -- especially when one of the hosts said that if this was a court of law she would have to tell how she had been harmed by a salad that she didn't consider a salad being called a salad. She had a story ready. It happened at her Latin Club potluck She had been told there would be salads at the potluck and she felt she came to the potluck legitimately expecting vegetable salad to be available.  But, no.  Only pasta salad. Had she known that no one would bring a leafy salad, she could have packed her own vegetables to the potluck, and, moreover, if pasta salads were not called salads, no one would have brought one in the first place. They would have known to bring a real salad.  I loved this caller. She was the Sisyphus of food nomenclature. Want to hear this discussion?  Just go here.  (And if I didn't quite get the details of the call exactly right, please pardon me. It's the beer talking.)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 09/23/16: Morning with the Deke, Family Dinner Out, Stable Lab Numbers

1.  The Deke and I staggered into the Sube and fought the blinding morning sun low in the east and made our way to Laurel where the Deke had a final follow up appointment after her surgery. The appointment went fine and since the Deke had the morning off, we enjoyed a rare morning cup of coffee out together and hustled over to Michael's where the Deke picked up some school supplies and I surveyed their inventory of picture frames.

2.  The PTA at the Deke's school held a fund raiser today at Joe's Crab Shack, so the Deke and I invited the Diaz family to join us and we had a good time together. I was especially impressed with Molly and Hiram's children. They behaved beautifully and Ana had a good time eating a variety of food from other people's orders -- some salmon, some crab cake Caesar salad, fries, as well as Cheerios and other bits Molly had packed for her.  (The food was chain restaurant quality -- average -- as expected -- and our server was terrific -- but, what would keep me from ever returning to Joe's Crab Shack is the loud recorded music playing in the house.  I could barely focus on my own thoughts, let alone enjoy conversation with the others at the table. Want to know why the music is so loud at a place like Joe's Crab Shack? Bon Appetit gives an answer, here.)

3.  I had blood work done on Tuesday, and I got an email notice just before I left for dinner that my results were available.  Somehow, I missed the fact that LabCorp had changed the initial URL I needed to type in order to log in to their online reporting service. I called their Help Desk, found out what to do, and PRESTO!, the report of blood work suddenly flashed on my computer screen. I rushed to the number that measures my kidney function and, to my great relief, there's been no change since April. Yes, the number still denotes that I am experiencing Stage IV kidney disease, but what my doctors and I always hope for is stability, and I am maintaining stability.  My other numbers also had little change.  I'll see my kidney doctor on Tuesday and discuss these numbers.  I'm anticipating a positive conversation.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 09/22/16: Greek Potatoes, Greek Kale Salad, Sleep Over at the Diaz Home

1.  I determined, via my imagination, that a Greek potatoes recipe I found had a lot of promise and so I sliced the potatoes, covered them with melted butter, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper, chicken broth, and paprika and baked them twice in the oven, once with the pan covered with foil and once uncovered.  Next time I might increase the amount of lemon juice.  These potatoes turned out great and if you'd like to look over the recipe, just go here.

2. So, the other day I bought one of those bagged kale salads at Costco and decided to Greek it up rather than use the poppy seed dressing in the package.  I lavished the salad with cherry and grape tomatoes, chopped cucumber, leftover penne, chickpeas, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese. I didn't have red onion on hand, or else I would have added that.  I mixed up my favorite Greek vinaigrette recipe (it's here) and loved how it all came out.

3. After an emotionally raw get together at Old Line Bistro with employees of the Prince George's County School District, the Deke and I wound down at the Diaz household, enjoyed the food I had prepared, and spent the night so that our car would be off the property of our apartment home to make way for Friday's repaving project.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sibling Photo Assignment #6: Still Life -- Forest Fungus

For Sibling Photo Assignment #6, Christy assigned us to take a series of still life pictures, united by a theme. Carol's pictures are here. Here are Christy's.

I came upon this forest fungus on the Cascade Falls Trail at Patapsco River Valley State Park on September 21, 2016.

Three Beautiful Things 09/21/16: Trailhead Despair, Trailhead Ecstasy, Nanticoke and Tesla and Pumpkin Down

1.  I hopped into the Sube and rocketed up I-95 and west on I-195 and made my way back to Patapsco River Valley State Park.  I went to this park a week ago and couldn't find a trailhead.  In the interim, I did some reading and looked more closely at maps and figured out exactly how to drive to the Grist Mill Trail.  I arrived at the Grist Mill Trail parking lot, put on my pack, got my camera situated, and started to lumber toward the trailhead.  Suddenly a voice descended upon me, as if the clouds had parted and I was being addressed from above, "Hey, Boss! Don't be headin' that way. The trail is closed while we clean up fallen trees and stuff." I smiled grimly, existentially to myself. I spotted the guy who called out to me, asked him a bit more about the clean up project, enjoyed our conversation, turned away, sighed existentially, and returned to the Sube.

2.  I don't have a lot of inward determination, but, what little I have welled up as I turned over the Sube's mighty engine. I might have included a mild profanity or two when I uttered to myself, "I am going to find a trailhead." I darted up River Road and in a couple of miles or so I saw a trailhead sign: Ridge Trail. I needed to find a parking place, so I barreled forward, and came upon the popular and expansive Orange Grove picnic area. I parked and walked toward the Ridge trailhead and suddenly I spotted the terminus of the Grist Mill Trail -- and saw the park's famous Swinging Bridge -- which, of course, was closed. As I turned around, I saw another sign: Cascade Falls Trail. The sound of a multitude of angels singing "The Hallelujah Chorus" suddenly rang out. I uttered a brief prayer of thanksgiving.  I began my ascent to the falls and beyond.  I had a blast. I hiked. I took pictures (kind of lousy ones -- but I will return to these falls to try again). My feet didn't bother me. I left the park feeling really happy.

3.  As I dashed down the Baltimore Washington Parkway on my return to Greenbelt, road construction slowed traffic way down at about the same time the Deke called me and said she wanted to go to Old Line for dinner and beer. So we did. We struck up fun conversation with Joe, our server, and marveled at Old Line's always superb tap list. I enjoyed a pint of RAR's Nanticoke Nectar IPA from Cambridge, MD and for my second pint relished the most unusual lager I've ever tasted, the delightfully hopped up, souped up Tesla Lager from Sixpoint Brewing in Brooklyn. The Deke enjoyed her Pumpkin Down from Ballast Point in San Diego. She shared some with me and drinking a little at the end of the night made for a pleasant dessert.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 09/20/16: Walmart and IKEA, Football Interest Waning, Stir Fry and Side Dishes

1.  The Deke asked me to go to Walmart to see if I could find a wooden stool.  It's for her to sit on in the classroom.  She had already looked, without luck, for a wooden stool at Target and Home Depot, so I vaulted into the Sube and steamed up the Baltimore Washington Parkway to MD 198, found the Walmart Supercenter and uttered a prayer of thanks when I found a shelf of wooden stools, just like the Deke wanted.  This put me in the shopping mood, so I motored over to IKEA and bought picture frames and, later in the evening, I framed five 8 x 10 pictures I took back on July 3rd on the shore of Lake Michigan in Long Beach, IN.   I also framed a 4 x 6 picture I took back in 2009 of Snug and David, may they both rest in peace.

2.  This afternoon I finished watching the documentary I started last night:  ESPN's 30 for 30's The '85 Bears.  As I watched the film, I realized that I don't know anything about the current NFL season and very little about the start of the college football season. I used to dedicate hours to watching football games and reading scores and summaries of games. Those days are gone. We were over at the Diazes on Sunday and a game between Denver and Indianapolis was on in the TV room and I didn't even think about going in to watch it. It's possible that if I still lived in Eugene that I'd enjoy watching the Patriots with the Troxstar or if I were in North Idaho, I'd have fun watching some football in Byrdman's man cave.  But, all in all, I've lost interest. As I listened to the players and the coaches and watched action clips in The '85 Bears, I was surprised that I didn't feel more nostalgia or much admiration for that team or much excitement for the game of football.  So, I'm not longing for the "good old days" of football.  I guess as I get older, I just enjoy a lot of other things a lot more. Now, that said, if you are reading this and you are a friend who emails or texts me with football (or other sports) news or observations, please don't stop. I always enjoy the conversations.

3.  Without a doubt, I now spend much of the time reading recipes and cooking that I used to spend studying football stories and scores and listening to games.  I had volunteered this morning to prepare dinner and take it to the Diazes.  I decided to fix Szechwan Eggplant Stir Fry. I liked that the sauce had soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, garlic, and chicken broth, but I was concerned that it might not be enough of a meal on its own, so I did a Pinterest search of tofu side dishes.  I found a Korean recipe: "Pan Fried Tofu in Garlic Soy Sesame Sauce".  It's very simple. I fried the tofu in peanut and sesame oil and whisked together soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and minced garlic and poured it and some roasted sesame seeds over the tofu and topped it with chopped green onion.  Then, for another side dish, I sliced up some cucumber and grape and cherry tomatoes from a variety bowl of tomatoes I bought at Costco, put them in a storage dish, and poured rice vinegar over them.  It turned out that the stir fry, the rice I had made the day before, and the two side dishes combined to make a full dinner and we all enjoyed the many flavors and the way the eggplant, tofu, cucumbers, and tomatoes complimented and complemented one another.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 09/19/16: Packed Pool, Crash and Burn, Simple Sauce

1.  Exercising seniors packed the pool today for the water aerobics class.  I think our instructor wanted to find out who was really into it and she worked us out a little harder than usual and I enjoyed it.

2.  I spent a few hours this afternoon grocery shopping at MOM's, Costco, and the Co-op. While at Costco, I listened to a podcast episode of Snap Judgment called "Crash and Burn" and now when I shop at Costco, I'll always think of a group of rock climbers discovering a wrecked airplane filled with pot, an artist who went on a one night cocaine and scotch bender, eventually flipping his SUV upside down in Hollywood, CA, and a Lehman Brothers stock trader who flipped out one day on the floor and after a visit to a psychiatric ward, left his lucrative job.

3.  It's a simple recipe: for about 45 minutes, simmer 28 oz. of canned tomatoes with two halves of an onion and five tablespoons of butter. Ladle some over the pasta of your choice.  The Deke added red pepper flakes to hers. We both sprinkled Parmesan cheese over ours. It's called "Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce". Vickie recommended it. We thoroughly enjoyed it. You can read a little more about it and look over the recipe, here.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 09/18/16: I'm Not the Cool Music Critic Guy, Dionysus Rules, YouTube Goosebumps

1.  Ever since high school, when I looked up to the guys who were seniors when I was a sophomore and who seemed to go to all the cool concerts in Spokane and to know what LPs were cool at any given time, I have wanted to have cool taste in music.  This desire continued through college and graduate school and into my days teaching at LCC as I listened to others who talked much more knowledgeably than I ever could about jazz and rock and roll and folk music and Bach and the Grateful Dead and sometimes I tried to sound smart and recite some catalog of Richard Thompson albums -- or whatever --, but I really never was that sophisticated in my knowledge or cool in my taste when it comes to music.  This has been on my mind for quite a while and so I made taste in music the subject of our latest Sibling Assignment and tried to come to peace with how I enjoy so much music, but I'm not much of a music critic.  If you'd like to read my piece entitled "Go Your Own Way", it's right here.

2.  This afternoon, while I was writing about my much more Dionysian than Apollonian relationship with music, I took note that my coffee mug had a small amount of coffee and half and half lying cold in the bottom and I thought it would be a fun and Dionysian thing to do to pour some brandy over that coffee and sip on it while I composed my blog post.  I was right.  It was fun and tasty and and Dionysus paid me a visit in the form of a light and pleasant buzz.

3. The Deke and I ate a splendid dinner at the Diazes and when we arrived back to our apartment home, I broke the brandy back out and decided to get out the tablet, put in the ear buds, and go on a YouTube tour of the music I'd been thinking and writing about earlier and dive into the feelings and goosebumps of music that just gets to me.  I began with Fleetwood Mac and then turned to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and The Cars and Pink Floyd and Harry Nilsson and REM with Eddie Vedder because a few minutes earlier I had watched Eddie Vedder join the Hearbreakers and I also enjoyed Stevie Nix joining the Heartbreakers and I reveled in Mike Campbell's transporting guitar solo to close out "Runnin' Down a Dream" at what I came to understand was a video recording of a 30 year anniversary Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers show. I also listened to "You Wreck Me" and when I went to bed I thought back to dances in the Kellogg High School cafeteria and at the Northwest Metal Workers Hall in Kellogg and all through the night I smiled and in my mind replayed Tom Petty singing his immortal couplet:  "I'll be the boy in the corduroy pants/You be the girl at the high school dance".

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sibling Assignment #184: Go Your Own Way

I assigned the latest of our sibling assignments and here it is:

Write about how your taste in music has changed over the years -- unless it hasn't -- then write about how it's stayed the same.  If it's any help, you might write about music you didn't care much for 30 or 40 years ago, but that you enjoy today.  Work with this assignment any way that is good for you.

I think Christy could have written forever on this subject, but she narrowed down her response in this piece titled, "Only the Beginning", here.

Just a little over two months ago, I'd been to the Fourth of July parade in Long Beach, IN, overlooking Lake Michigan, and returned to my brother-in-law's lake house and my nephew Ben poured me a ginger whiskey and I thought to myself, "This would be a perfect time to listen to music played on vinyl LPs" and I thumbed through the selection of albums and, inexplicably, I decided to play Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.

I loved it.

On the one hand, loving it didn't surprise me because the songs triggered some idealized memories I enjoyed of living on Mt. View Lane near Whitworth College in the first year of my first marriage.

On the other hand, loving it surprised me a lot and my liking it helped an inner conflict of mine surface, one that I don't expect anyone reading this to necessarily understand, but that I'm going to write about anyway.

For decades, I have been in awe of and heavily influenced by friends who I regard as having sophisticated taste in music -- especially in the huge arena of rock n roll/blues/pop/jazz music.

Their influence, however, has not always been positive. Often when they stated their strong, often fierce opinions about songs and recording artists, I dived into my soul's dark self-doubt about what the music I enjoyed, most often, without careful evaluation.  I am not and have not been a deep analyzer of music. I mainly go by what moves me, even it the music commits the sins laid out by my friends.

I wish I were clever enough to list something like the seven sins of recorded music, as my friends see it, but I can't come up with seven.

However, here are three of the sins that almost always disqualify music from admiration:

- too "poppy" -- a derisive term criticizing music for being shallow, aiming for sales, trying to be popular, lacking an edge.  A song that's too poppy can be too bright, too upbeat, too comforting, regarded as too tame, and having the bland qualities of vanilla ice cream.  I think some of my friends thought that when the Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey" became a hit, that it was proof that the Dead had become too poppy and that something in the Dead-i-verse had been compromised.

-over produced -- this derisive term gets directed at studio albums that lack roughness, are too polished, seek perfection too obsessively, that are too removed from the excitement of live music.  This is a criticism commonly directed at Steely Dan, for example, as in "Yeah, the songs are on Aja are clever, but the whole thing leaves me cold. It's so over produced."

And..... Sin #3:  Another word used to deride songs that are too poppy and overproduced is formulaic -- it's as if there is a formula and if it is followed, a record is more likely to become a hit.  This criticism can be applied to genres has disparate as country and western music and disco and all styles in between.

Maybe more than anything, music that is too poppy or over produced struck my friends as inauthentic and so when a group like, let's say Chicago, released a new album, dread always underlay the moments between unwrapping the album and playing it because maybe Chicago had sold out, become too poppy, and were over producing their albums.  When a group crosses over into the dark side of selling out, a line of demarcation gets drawn between the "real" Chicago and the "sell out" Chicago and nothing inspires the disdain of the listener with high standards more than to conclude that a group has sold out, became inauthentic, has begun to chase sales, become too commercial.

So, to prime myself to write a little bit about Rumours, I've poured some brandy over the eighth of an inch of coffee and half and half at the bottom of my "bill and diane show" mug and I have the album playing in my ear buds.

Suddenly, I'm transported back to October, 1987.

Rolling Stone magazine turned twenty years old and they published an issue featuring the top 100 albums of their twenty year history.

I lived in a good sized house back then with some fun loving housemates and, with their permission, I planned and we put on a party that featured tapes I made featuring tracks from, I think, 98 of the 100 albums Rolling Stone had listed.

It was the best party I'd ever been to, let alone the best party I'd ever planned.

I published a list of the top 100 albums for everyone's perusal and taped the playlists on the living room wall of the songs featured on the tapes I made.

It turned into a raucous dance party with plenty of food and drink and joy as we danced to music ranging from T. Rex to the Sex Pistols to Prince to The Modern Lovers.

I don't remember which cuts I selected from Rumours, but I remember the disdain one of my friends expressed as Fleetwood Mac came on. He hated Rumours. I do believe he regarded the album as guilty of all three sins: too poppy, over produced, and formulaic.

I was in no mood to argue with him about this because all I knew was I liked the sound of the album and it reminded me of living with my first wife in our pine-paneled living room in our little mother-in-law rental house next to the Hunts on Mt. View Lane and how happy I was to be newly married and that songs from Rumours used to come on KREM-AM when my poker buddies at Whitworth and I used to sit down with cheap beer and Three Musketeer bars and play penny ante.

And, so, around 1987, and for many years to come, I felt dread when graduate school friends and I got together for coffee or talked casually in the halls of Prince Lucien Campbell Hall about music, dread that I was going to rouse the disdain of who I considered my more sophisticated friends because I loved Grand Funk Railroad or Aerosmith or Steely Dan, and, while I might joke about having no taste in music, the joking was a defense.

I felt inferior. My chief tormentor.

Out of fear of being regarded a low brow dolt, I just couldn't admit that I got dreamy listening to Rumours. I loved the sound of Stevie Nix's and Christine McVie's harmonies and underneath the "poppy" surface of those songs on Rumours was regret and sadness and loss and it all connected with my own history of regret and sadness and loss -- and still does. On other occasions, I couldn't admit that when the Styx sang "Come Sail Away" I felt transported in a way that had once been reserved for Grand Funk Railroad's "I'm Your Captain/Closer to Home", but I would have no problem admitting that in my pre-Walkman days in the winter of 1983-84 I used to walk down Stevens Street in Spokane on my way to the bus playing air guitar to the memory of David Landau's licks on Warren Zevon's Stand in the Fire album recorded live at the Roxy in L. A.

Warren Zevon: Authentic, raw.
Styx: Poppy, inauthentic, cliche

I love 'em both.

So, back to the question I posed for this Sibling Assignment:  how has my taste in music changed over the years?

I'd say the biggest change is that I have eliminated the phrase "guilty pleasure" from my thoughts about music.

I'm no longer interested in apologizing for my taste.

I prefer Tom Petty to Bob Dylan because Tom Petty's lyrics are straight ahead and I can understand him in the moment. I love the Heartbreakers for their economy ("Don't bore us, get to the chorus") and I love the Grateful Dead for how they stretch songs out, take me into a world far away and I love the way their songs transport me to an imaginary shady spot on the Long Tom River where I can hear Uncle John's band by the riverside and get carried away.

I came late to Pink Floyd.  My conversion experienced happened in August of 2008 when I heard the Floydian Slips at the Cuthbert in Eugene and since that night I love to find Pink Floyd tracks and let David Gilmour carry me away with his gorgeous, transcendent playing of the electric guitar.

I no longer apologize that he's my favorite of all.  I don't know if he's the best, but I don't know how to assess who is the best -- all I know is that no one carries me into more pleasant dimensions of feeling and remembrance and soul travel than David Gilmour.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions made albums forty years ago consisting of short tracks bursting with energy and emotion and I love them.  They are nothing like the Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd, nor are the Ramones, but I'm pretty sure if I were offered a handful of albums to take to a deserted island, I'd say, "Please, let me take that 1976 self-named masterpiece, The Ramones."

My musical tastes continue to expand and contradict themselves.  I only have one standard:  does the music move me in some way -- to dance, remember, dream, think, see a story, smile, weep, hope, pray . . . . ? One day I'm moved to listen to Neil Diamond and drink cheap Sangria -- and on another I want to sit in the quiet of our apartment home and listen to Glenn Gould play The Goldberg Variations and then there'll be an evening when I want to sit at the bar in the Old Line Bistro and put in the ear buds, drink a double IPA and listen to Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughn, and Ella Fitzgerald, among others, as part of a jazz playlist on Amazon Music.

Here's what is for sure:

I go my own way.

Three Beautiful Things 09/17/16: November Travel Plans, Talk with Mom, Greek Roasted Chicken

1.  I try to travel to Kellogg at least two times a year to see Mom and Christy and Carol. If I go out in November, I can join my friends for our annual Veteran's Day visit to the Wild Horse Casino in Pendleton, celebrate Thanksgiving with my Kellogg family, and help Mom start to get her house decorated for Christmas.  Today I purchased a flight to Spokane and will arrive in the great Inland Pacific Northwest on November 10. My only disappointment is that this year my November trip will not include a jaunt to Eugene and Portland.

2.  After I booked my flight, I called Mom, not only to tell her my plans, but I wanted her to tell me about her visit to Larry Keyser, P. A., on Friday. She and Christy definitely heard the same information from Larry and Mom seemed especially pleased that Larry had said that Mom, who is 86, had lab results that looked like a 60 year old!

3. The Deke spent the day with her stepsister, Gwen, and then the three of us met in Colesville at the Greek Village restaurant for a couple hours of conversation and story telling. I ordered a roasted half chicken with Greek potatoes and thought that if I were to ever roast a chicken just the way I want it, it would taste like this one and have the same level of moistness and tenderness.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 09/16/16: Mom Update, Getting My Life in (Some) Order, Dinner with Gwen

1.  Mom is under the care of a Physician's Assistant, Larry Keyser. He is patient, knowledgeable, and explains things clearly and fully. Mom saw Larry today and Christy took notes and I was very happy to read Christy's report.  Yes, Mom's heart is diseased, underperforming, and, yes, she is in atrium fibrillation. Still, her blood work looked good, the tests she's taken looked good, and Larry was pleased with her overall condition, given her age and her heart problems. Christy has seen improvement in Mom's energy level and alertness. I was seeing this, too, toward the end of my stay in Kellogg over the summer. I thought Mom showed signs of improvement when Larry, and then her cardiologist, adjusted her medications that helped her blood pressure come up and her pulse rate slow down.  Christy hopes she can take Mom on some short walks, using her walker.  This would be in keeping with the medical people's consistent concern that Mom get a bit more exercise.  It seems the efforts over the last several months to treat Mom's congestive heart failure are becoming more sure -- less of the inevitable trial and error -- and she is experiencing the benefits of her therapy becoming more clearly defined. Thank goodness Christy and Carol are on hand to provide Mom with so much support.

2.  I spent a lot of time today filling in gaps in my contact lists on my electronic devices and continuing to delete the names of and information about LCC students still in my contact lists. I learned more about working with google docs.  I made sure I have everything in order for my blood work appointments on Tuesday and again on the 27th. I see my kidney doctor on the 27th and go to a conference on transplantation on October 8th. I read up on the Maryland Kidney Program to understand better what assistance this program offers Maryland citizens who are on dialysis and who have transplants. I suppose it was kind of dumb to stay indoors working on all of this when the weather outside was so moderate, but my life feels less disordered and today inspired me to get going, in the near future, on a filing project I've been thinking about but haven't yet started.

3.  Many years ago, the Deke's father remarried and suddenly the Deke had seven new step-siblings. This evening, one of the Deke's stepsisters, Gwen, arrived in the greater Greenbelt-Beltsville area and she and Molly and the Deke and I met for dinner at the Old Line Bistro and had a splendid time sampling beers, enjoying our food, and yakking up a storm.  It was really fun to spend time with Gwen and doubly fun that Molly was able to join us.