Thursday, June 10, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 06/09/2021: Nap Drive with Ellie, Gwen Drops By, Beer and Getting Ideas on the Table

1.  The workers are making solid progress on putting the siding up on Josh and Adrienne's house, but in order to sleep during her nap time, Ellie has to be taken for a ride in the car.

I volunteered to be today's driver. Debbie secured Ellie in her car seat after I cooled the interior down by jumping in the car earlier and running the a/c. I drove Ellie down Rt 303 -- yesterdays rivers and ponds and lakes had completely receded. Just before entering New Jersey, we exited Rt 303 and merged onto the leafy beauty of the Palisades Parkway and I drove to its terminus, followed the signs in the roundabout that pointed me south again, and eventually arrived back in Valley Cottage.

Ellie slept soundlessly the whole time. 

2. I arrived back at the Langford home at almost the same time Debbie's stepsister Gwen arrived. Gwen had been in Massachusetts and dropped by to say hello. She had her big, curly dog, Ryder, in tow. Ryder is about ten times bigger than Gibbs, but no problem. Gibbs pranced around him, leapt up on Ryder, and insisted that they play. Ryder was unfazed and even humored Gibbs a bit, but not with nearly the energy that Gibbs put out. 

It was all good.

So was Gwen's visit. Gwen had been on another trip out east back in September of 2016 and visited Debbie and me. I hadn't seen Gwen since we dined at Old Line Bistro in Beltsville and at the Greek Village in Colesville. In the meantime, Gwen's mother, Debbie's stepmother, Phillis, passed away just over a year ago. It was fun today recalling stories about Phillis and talking about other news in Gwen's family. 

I hope we'll see each other again -- and maybe not have five years pass.

3. Debbie and I are slowly and without conclusions just yet talking about what the next several months might look like. We like to discuss these matters over beer. It's almost automatic, when we are in this neck of the woods, to grab a table at Growler and Gill,  try out some beers, and commence some serious discussion. We did just that late this afternoon. I drank small pours of Kolsch and cucumber cream ale (I wish I had jotted down the names of the beers and the brewers). I also finished a couple of small pours of IPAs that Debbie wasn't crazy about, but that were fine with me(!). I ordered one full pour to end my session -- it was brewed in Queens at SingleCut Brewing, the same place that brewed one of my favorite beers, Softly Spoken Magic Spells. Spells wasn't on tap at Growler and Gill, but SingleCut's Double Dry Hopped 2IPA called Green Plastic Watering Can was and I slowly sipped my way through this smooth and potent hops explosion. 

Debbie wasn't 100 percent pleased with any of the beers she drank at Growler and Gill. I was about 93.5% pleased (!). But, Debbie's beer night was soon redeemed. She reached into the cooler and bought a pint can of Tin Barn's Back 40, cracked it open back in our room, and she loved it. As a bonus, Josh visited us while we were winding down and he poured me a small glass of a tasty saison from District 96 and poured Debbie an IPA or two of theirs which she also loved. 

It was good to see Debbie's beer fortunes change for the better. Even better was the fact that we had a great time together, talking, trying out some beers, and happily arriving at no hard and fast decisions or plans for what might happen on down the line. We do, however, have plenty on the table and that's just the way we like it! 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 06/08/2021: Virtual School for Jack, Dodging Flood Waters, Pizza and Kolsch

 1. Because I live on the opposite side of the USA from our grandchildren, I don't have many opportunities to be Grandpa (or, as I am known in the Langford home, Bop). Today, though, Jack's had to do go to virtual school because the school he attends was closed because of the heat. I didn't actually have to, but out of curiosity, I sat at the dining table for a while and listened to Jack's teacher chat informally with her students on Zoom before school actually started and then listened for about ten minutes or so as she launched into the morning's social studies lesson.

I was favorably impressed with Jack's teacher's rapport with her fourth graders and with the way the children talked openly with her. My practice as a teacher was to try to persuade the students that I was on their side, that we were not engaged in teacher vs. student conflict, and it sounded to me like Mrs. Parnther was on her students' side and loved working with them.

The social studies unit focused on child labor in the USA. MB and I used to put some focus on this subject back when we taught American Working Class Literature together so I have some familiarity with it. I thought Mrs. Parnther covered it very well and I wondered if Jack and the other children could imagine what it would be like if, as children, they were working to help support their families. I didn't see the pictures Mrs. Parnther showed them of malnourished, underdressed children working, but I looked up some photographs on my own and, felt, as I have before, outrage at the cruelty of children being laborers. 

Later, Debbie took Ellie on another nap drive -- it's too noisy for her to nap with the workers putting new siding on the house -- and I kept an eye on Jack, from a distance, and was happy to see him staying on task with his school session before the lunch break.

2. Around 3:00, I drove to The Salvation Army Eastern Territorial Headquarters to give Adrienne a ride home from her job. In the car, Adrienne told me that Jack's dad, Nathan, wouldn't be able to pick up Jack to go to the rock climbing facility in New Jersey for Jack's weekly climbing session, but would meet Jack at High Exposure Rock Climbing in Northvale. 

I volunteered to drive Jack to the facility. 

By this time, a heavy rainstorm had moved into the area. 

I didn't think much of it and Jack and I headed south on Rt 303 around 4:30.

We weren't quite to New Jersey yet when we came to an intersection blocked off by the police because a river of water was running over Rt. 303. I followed other cars to the west and then the south and back east and we circumvented this flooded area and returned to Rt. 303. 

But, the hard rain was causing water to pool up all around us on the streets. We came to another blocked off place and on the second try, I managed to circumvent this and, with the help of google's gps, I got on the correct route to the rock climbing facility.

I had already decided that I was not going to drive the Nissan Versa I had rented through any of the standing water in the street. I was able to bypass one pond by cutting through a parking lot, but while driving toward our destination, another lake on the road was filling up in front of us and I said to Jack, "I'm not driving through that!"

Let's just say that at this moment I had just become the world's least popular grandpa.

Jack said he could just walk to the facility -- I thought to myself, you must mean swim.

As Jack's agitation grew, I called Adrienne (no answer) and then called Debbie (who answered), hoping one of them could reach Nathan (I didn't have his number). While I worked on this, Jack saw Nathan drive past us and go through the lake I wouldn't drive through. 

Debbie texted me Nathan's number. I reached him, told him where we were, and he backtracked, found us, and Jack leaped out of the Versa and joined Nathan. 

(They went to the rock climbing facility and discovered it had been closed because of the local flooding.)

I cut back through the parking lot I'd used earlier to bypass one pond and made my way back to Rt. 303 only to face the blocked off flooded area again.

I turned left on a street and about three blocks down faced the largest collection of water on the street I'd seen yet. I made a U-turn, was going to make a turn to the north and drive parallel to Rt. 303, but the street was a one-way going south. I turned around again, hoping to find another route and I saw a car disregard the one-way street prohibition and turn north on that street so I turned around again and I, too, went the wrong way on this street.


That was the ticket. I navigated my way back to Rt 303 and knew that another blocked area was to the north, but, before I reached the spot on 303 where the river ran through it, I saw the exit off of Rt 303 to get onto the Palisades Parkway -- where I had driven yesterday on our nap drive with Ellie.


I exited Rt 303, got on the Palisades Parkway, and from that point forward it was an easy and uneventful drive back to the Langford house in Valley Cottage. 

I uttered a brief prayer of gratitude that, thanks to Ellie needing to get out of the house to nap, I had a bit of knowledge about travel routes I wouldn't have had otherwise, and, as they say, it saved my bacon!

3. I had sent Debbie a melodrama free text flatly stating that I wasn't sure how I was going to make it back to the house. She called me, while I was inching my way up Rt 303. At this moment, I was fairly confident I'd figure something out -- and I did -- so Debbie asked if, on my way home, I could stop at Jose's Liquor Store and purchase a bottle of Maker's Mark. 

No problem.

Because of the route I took to return to Valley Cottage, I didn't go right by the liquor store, but I did go right by the Langford house. I stopped in front of the house, called Debbie, and told her how I had succeeded to navigate the rental ark back to the house, despite the local flooding here and there.

Well, it turns out that Dee Maria's Pizza and Pasta is just two doors down from Jose's Liquor Store -- sandwiched between them is the home of the tongue taco, Cielito Lindo -- and when I phoned Debbie from in front of the house, we decided that she would phone in an order for a pizza and I would bring it back.

I returned with the pizza and cracked open one of the pints of Kolsch I brought back from Notch Brewing.  The beer was perfect -- light, slightly sweet, refreshing, and easy to drink. It was, for me, the perfect ale to drink with pizza because I like sweet drinks, like soda, with pizza and this beer was just right. 

The pizza, too, was just right. Yes, I admit, I like pizza crust on the crunchier, crispy side, but it's not mandatory for my enjoyment. Debbie ordered a half sausage and half pepperoni pizza and I loved it. I served myself a second pint of Kolsch, enjoyed my pizza slices, and felt very relaxed. It was as if the demands of navigating my way from the top of New Jersey back to Valley Cottage had never happened. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 06/07/2021: On the Road with Ellie, Plans Change, Mexican Dinner

1. The workers who replaced Josh and Adrienne's roof a while back, started work this morning on replacing the house's siding.  Their work was loud, making it highly unlikely that Ellie could sleep during her late morning nap time. Therefore, Debbie, Ellie, and I piled into Adrienne's vehicle and eventually jumped on the Palisades Parkway and headed north to its end and then reversed field and drove back south on the Parkway and made our way home.

It was an easy drive. Traffic was moderate and considerate. 

More important, Ellie slept the entire time until we were a short distance from Josh and Adrienne's house. 

Moreover, resting in Debbie's lap, Gibbs slept much of the way, too.

For the two of us awake in the car, we enjoyed the handsome scenery and talked about how the rest of this week might play out.

2. With the remodeling project underway and how it affects Ellie, it became clear that it would help Debbie a lot if I didn't make the trip I'd planned for Tuesday to meet up with Scott and Cate in NYC.   In addition, a stifling heat wave is also underway and the administrators at Jack's school decided that instruction would be delivered virtually on Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning Jack will be home both days. Grandpa duty calls and I'll help Debbie look after Jack and Ellie and we'll hope the noise isn't as loud today. The project foreman told Adrienne that he thought the rest of the project would be quieter now that most of the old siding is off. We'll see. . . . 

3. Josh brought us all a variety of Mexican entrees for dinner tonight from a local spot, Cielito Lindo Mexican Deli.  It was delicious and I was happy to accept the invitation to try, along with the quesadilla and enchiladas and other food, a tongue taco and pork stomach taco. I'd eat them both again. I loved this meal and would eat regularly at Cielito Lindo Mexican Deli if I lived in Valley Cottage. 

By the way, this makes two terrific take out meals in a row that Josh has brought home. I thoroughly enjoyed Friday's food from Grub, too. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 06/06/2021: Eloise's Baptism, Family Party and Imagining Being with Ted, Five Deer Enjoy Dinner

 1. Debbie and I hopped into the rental car and dashed over to Grace Episcopal Church in Nyack, NY to join the rest of the family for the baptism of Eloise. The service took place in the courtyard adjacent to the church's building and we all moved chairs into the shade of a generous tree. Even though the baptism took place at 9:30, the morning was already hot and it was a relief to be out of the sun. 

I hadn't worshiped in person for well over a year. Entering back into the rhythms and the language of the Episcopalian liturgy was deeply satisfying and I loved being a part of the family's and the congregation's collective vow that we would do all we could to help Ellie make her way in the world, to instruct, protect, and love her. 

2. After the baptism, we all returned to Josh and Adrienne's house for a party featuring a light and delicious strawberry shortcake cake, blueberries, strawberries, macaroons, a plate of delicious assorted candies, and other treats. We'd had bagels from Nyack Hot Bagels before the baptism and I was especially happy that there were plenty left over and so I ate a couple of those. It was especially fun to see Sally. I hadn't seen her since Josh and Adrienne's wedding. Being with Sally again made me happy in the moment and also brought up a lot of memories of times we spent with Sally and her late husband, Ted, back when Debbie and I lived in the east. I missed Ted today. When I was by myself I imagined conversations we might have had during this party about golf and basketball and other things and thought a lot about what a kind and fun friend he was.

3. Debbie and Sally teamed up and made a pasta salad and a three bean salad and Debbie marinated chicken tenders in the refrigerator. Josh grilled the chicken for dinner and the salads were terrific, reminding me of how much more variety in food Debbie and I enjoy together when we are living under the same roof. 

After dinner, as the sun began to set, four adult deer and a fawn visited the trees and grassy area between Josh and Adrienne's lot and the next door neighbor's. I stood on the lower deck for over a half an hour just watching the deer calmly munch on grass, leaves, and other vegetation. Their calmness calmed me. Eventually, they made their way up to the street, crossed it, and, I suppose, moved on to other suburban pastures. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 06/05/2021: Croton Gorge Park, Tin Barn Brewing, Hamburger/Hot Dog Dinner

 1. After a quick stop at Dunkin' Donuts for a cup of coffee, Debbie and I hit the road and traveled about thirty miles north and visited the grandeur of Croton Gorge Park. An imposing masonry dam, its base is 266 feet broad and at its crest the dam is 297 feet high. On the left side of the dam, as one faces it, is a spillway of a series of stunning cascades and to the right of these waterfalls the water runs down to the river over a series of masonry steps. The sight was astonishing, but I loved the sound of all that cascading water even more. 

Debbie, Gibbs, and I sat at a picnic table in the shade and ate some snacks. I just kept drinking in this wondrous structure and the sound of the falling water's power soothed me.

The scene at the park was perfect. Large groups of families and friends of various ethnicities and religions were gathered in picnic areas across the park's green expanse grilling food, kicking soccer balls, taking walks around the park, snapping photographs, and enjoying this glorious late morning. The vibe in this park and among the people enjoying themselves in various ways was playful, peaceful, generous, and, above all, happy.

2. We all piled back into the rental car and drove to Applewood Winery, under the mistaken impression that we could drink some wine outside with Gibbs in tow. The place was pastoral, very inviting, but, alas, no pets were allowed, and so we piled back into the car and headed to Tin Barn Brewing, not far from Sugar Loaf, NY. Dogs were welcome on leashes. The people who run Tin Barn Brewing had a watering station dedicated to dogs. There was an abundance of outdoor (and indoor) seating. We sat outside at a picnic table under an umbrella near a mister and shared 5 oz pours of three of their Hazy Imperial IPAs and later we shared a five oz pour of a pastry Imperial Stout that was sweet, bourbon barrel-aged, and, for me, the perfect way to finish our session of moderate beer drinking. 

The master brewer's mother, probably a bit older than we are, spotted Gibbs and came over and pet him and talked with us, emphasizing how proud she is of her daughter that she got this brewery started,  brews such delicious beer, and that Tin Barn is doing very well as it approaches its first anniversary. I loved being out in the country at a brewery, loved that this place attracted young and old beer lovers alike, loved the samples of beer I tried, and loved that Debbie and I had a couple of long conversation with a beaming thirty year old guy working at the brewery (pouring inside and clearing tables outside). He's a native of the area, born and raised in Sugar Loaf, and we told him about being out in New York from Idaho and he told us about how well the brewery is doing and was happy to know we love traveling around his native state. 

3. We made our way back to Valley Cottage. Josh's mom and stepdad were at the Langford house because Ellie is being baptized on Sunday morning. We all joined around the dining table and enjoyed a great dinner. Josh grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and the whole dinner he built around them was great. Debbie and I were a bit tired from all our traveling during the day, but were really happy to be out to see such beautiful landscapes as we toured this neck of the great state of New York. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 06/04/2021:Walking Rockland Lake, A Great Bagel!, Korean BBQ and Walking with Debbie and Gibbs

 1. After a cup of coffee, a bowl of Cheerios with blueberries, and writing a blog post, I leapt into the rental car and tore just a short distance north and east of Valley Cottage and visited the expansive, leafy, and peaceful Rockland Lake State Park. A level paved trail goes around the lake's circumference -- it reminded me of the walks I used to take around Greenbelt Lake, but my walk today was over twice as long. 

Fortunately, the heat late this morning was moderate, but the air was thick with humidity. Luckily, a cooling breeze blew throughout my walk. The only natural feature I knew I could count on today was looking at scores and scores of stately deciduous trees, but it turned out I saw much more than trees. Swans glided on Rockland Lake. Ducks calmly paddled about as did many geese. A few yards into my walk, I saw the largest turtle I've ever seen, but I didn't stop long to look because the turtle had attracted quite a crowd and I projected my own desires for solitude onto the turtle and moved on! 

I used to love to walk the shores of the Delta Ponds in Eugene and around Greenbelt Lake in Maryland and I used to go in search, in Maryland and Virginia and Washington, D.C. for wetland areas with boardwalks or trails and especially loved the National Aquatic Gardens and, in the Alexandria area, Huntley Meadows Park. I miss such areas when I'm in Kellogg and today restored some old feelings of love and wonder I hadn't felt for a while. 

2. After my nearly 3.5 mile walk, I headed down to a strip mall called The Hub and strolled into the Nyack Hot Bagels and Deli, thinking this was the spot where Adrienne and Josh go whenever they load up on bagels. Later, I confirmed that this is, indeed, their go to bagel spot.  I hadn't had a great cinnamon and raisin bagel with a light smear of cream cheese for many months and I ordered just that today and bought a bottle of water and I loved this mid-day treat after my gorgeous walk.

3. Adrienne and Josh love to get take out food from an Asian fusion spot in Nyack called Grub. I looked at their menu online and ordered a Korean Beef BBQ bowl served with jasmine rice and delicately steamed vegetables. Debbie and I split this entree. We also split an order of Hand Rolled Pan Fried Shrimp Dumplings which were served with a superb Thai sauce. What a splendid dinner we enjoyed! 

A little later, Debbie, having introduced me to the short loop she walks some days, took me and Gibbs on the "long loop" walk today and I really think that by the end of this loop, I had racked up over four miles of walking today, an exhilarating accomplishment. 

Three Beautiful Things 06/03/2021: Sitting Still, A Stroll Before Dinner, Trees in the East, Partying with Debbie

 1. After several days of being in nearly constant motion, flying, driving, riding, walking, eating out, and trying beers, today I mostly sat still and committed a healthy chunk of the day to writing in this blog and drinking coffee.

2. Debbie fixed a delicious meal of mashed potatoes and sliced sausages fried in chopped onions with a fresh green salad. Before eating it, I drove over to Foodtown and bought us some groceries and then Debbie and I took Gibbs for a walk on one of the routes Debbie likes to take. This neighborhood features houses on pretty good sized lots, none of them very close to each other, and an abundance of deciduous trees. I began coming to this part of New York, just north of NYC, near the Hudson River, back in 2015 and whether the leaves are green, the leaves are sporting their autumn vermillion and gold, or the trees are bare, I love the trees. I loved them in Virginia. I loved them in Maryland. I loved New Jersey. Earlier this week, I loved them in  Massachusetts.  I love them in New York.  

3. After dinner, Debbie wondered if I'd go to the liquor store and buy her a bottle of wine. She also requested that I bring home a surprise. I made sure she meant a "liquid surprise" and she did and I knew exactly what I'd do. I picked up a bottle of Tanqueray gin and one of dry Vermouth. I didn't know about Debbie, but I was seeing a dry gin martini in my very near future.

The liquor store didn't sell olives, so I decided that I would gladly drink a martini without olives -- or, I'd use whatever olives were on hand back at the house.

It turned out that there were black olives available at the house. I've used them before in a martini (some would call it a desperation martini!) so I mixed myself a cocktail and decided to go all the way with something little different and made the martini dirty with black olive brine.

Debbie asked me to pour her some gin over ice and so I did.

We enjoyed our drinks while talking with our niece Danielle on FaceTime.

Then Debbie and I settled into having ourselves a party, our first in nine months.

We talked a lot about how the summer might play out, without arriving at any certain conclusion, but we have some solid ideas before us and a lot more to discuss while together here in New York. 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 06/02/2021: Plymouth, Driving Back to NY, Garam Masala Excites My Senses

 1. The Troxstar checked out of the Charlesmark Hotel and returned to the Quincy Adams station, found the Trax, piled in it, and made our way to Plymouth.

We were near the waterfront in Plymouth and after a quick peek at Plymouth Rock we walked alongside a calming creek to the Plymouth Grist Mill where we were seated at Lucioso's Pub. 

I enjoyed a thick burger and fries with a Pepsi for lunch and enjoyed further yakkin' with the Troxstar. 

On our way back to the car, the sun was getting to me and I found a shaded place to sit and the Troxstar retrieved the Trax and picked me up.

2. I hung out for about 20-30 minutes at Ellie and Ernie's and then hit the road to return to New York. I don't quite remember where, but somewhere in Connecticut a car crash occurred and we all rolled to complete stop for about 40 minutes or so until the I-95 was open again. Soon after the delay, I stopped at a Service Plaza, resisted any temptation I might have to buy another Dunkin' Donut, but visited the men's room and filled the car's gas tank.

The rest of the drive went smoothly -- a slight slow down coming through New Haven -- and I arrived back in Valley Cottage tired, but safe and sound.

3. Debbie had made a turkey lentil dish seasoned beautifully with Garam Masala and served with cucumber slices. This dinner really hit the spot. It's been months since I'd eaten Debbie's cooking and it was a very welcome pleasure. 

Three Beautiful Things 06/01/2021: Three Guys and Isabella in Salem, Mass Whole Lager, Meeting Em at Notch

 1. The Troxstar and I dove into our Whole Foods styled wrapped fig bars and granola bars (the hotel's pandemic offering for continental breakfast) and slurped down coffee before jumping on the train and speeding to the Wonderland station in Revere, MA. 

Adam survived making a wrong turn or two in the Wonderland parking garage vicinity and getting yelled at for being in a bus only lane and, shaken but not vanquished, picked us up with his five year old (is that age correct?) daughter, Isabella, in tow. 

We wove our way through a tangle of streets and angular intersections and parked near the waterfront in Salem. At a coffee shop I enjoyed a bracing cup of cafe au lait and an apricot and ginger scone and Isabella led us to the Salem Commons, a bustling park buzzing with walkers, children on playground equipment closely guarded by eagle-eyed moms and dads, the occasional jump shooter arching jumpers at a nearby basketball hoop, and dogs of every size, all leashed, under control. Isabella played. I fell asleep upright on a bench. We strolled across the expanse of the commons and made a brief stop at the gazebo.

As we made our way into a nearby commercial area, we managed to resist the temptation to waltz into any of the several business peddling witch merchandise. We did, however, duck into an indoor mall and each ate a slice of pizza. After a visit to a tiny, very handsome bookstore, we walked a quarter of a mile or so to the end of a jetty to a squat lighthouse.

2. After our walk to the lighthouse and back, it was time for Adam and Isabella to say farewell and return to their domestic life. The Troxstar and I wished them well and hustled to a coffee/beer shop with outdoor seating and enjoyed two 12 oz glasses of smooth, refreshing Mass Whole Lager, an excellent beer from Wormtown Brewery of Worcester, MA. 

3. As our events coordinator, the Troxstar had worked out a rendezvous between the two of us and Emily Sauter, our beer pouring/Red Sox and NY Giants loving/beer cartoon drawing/big-hearted/beer expert friend from nearly ten years ago when we were all buddies thanks to Emily's job serving beer at Sixteen Tons. We met at the outdoors patio seating area at Notch Brewing, a Salem brewery specializing in session beers, beers with low ABV. 

Emily arrived and after I enjoyed a can of Kolsch, I joined the others for a couple of foamy milk pours of Czech pilsner. 

Here's a picture of the Troxstar and me enjoying one of our pours:

It was great fun talking with Emily. It had been nearly nine years since I'd seen her and she had news about a variety of people who used to work at Sixteen Tons and great stories to tell about her life since she returned back East after leaving Eugene. 

The Troxstar and I made our way back to Boston, back to the Charlesmark Hotel and decided that we'd done enough for one day and we each retired to our rooms. 

Three Beautiful Things 05/31/2021: Dunkin' in Connecticut, *Passion Spirit* at the Isabella Stewart Gardner, Eat at Joe's

 1. My original plan had been to spring out of bed as early as possible, pack a bag, and drive to Massachusetts. 

Well, I did pack a bag.

I did drive to Massachusetts.

But, after last night's session at the dining table, I was a little slow getting going. 

I got my stuff loaded, put my travel info into my phone, and headed east across the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo  Bridge (the former Tappen Zee Bridge) and eventually headed north on I-95, through Connecticut, into Rhode Island, and eventually on up to Wareham, MA. 

I entered Connecticut in nearly giddy anticipation of the fact that every travel plaza I've ever seen a sign for in Connecticut features a Dunkin' Donuts.

I was in desperate need of a cup of coffee and I also had it in my head that two sugary, doughy donuts from Dunkin' would help offset the dregs of the beer still in my system from last night.

I pulled into the first available service plaza, stood in line for nearly ten minutes, and ordered a cup of Midnight Dunkin' dark roast coffee with three milks and a glazed donut and a cinnamon something or other.

As you might expect, the coffee did its job and jolted me much of the way out of my beer session fog and the donuts gave me about fifteen minutes of sweet relief. Yes, the pleasure was short-lived, but, in this particular moment, I loved it and, now that I was coffeed up and sugared up, I returned to I-95 and headed to the Troxstar's parents' house.

2. I exchanged a few pleasantries with the Troxstar's mom and dad (Ellie and Ernie) and piled into the Troxstar's rental Trax (one letter off) and we headed off to the Quincy Adams train station. Hungry, on the way, we stopped at a place called Boston Tavern for lunch -- I had a salmon salad with a Pepsi and water -- and made our way to the train station, got parked, and journeyed on a Red Line train to a Green Line train and hopped off at the Museum stop.

The Troxstar had secured free tickets to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for the two of us and his lifelong friend, Adam. 

I'd been driving for nearly four hours. I hadn't quite shaken off the effects of last night's superb beer drinking session. 

I wasn't in the best frame of mind for a museum visit, but I gave it my best (if feeble) effort. 

We made our way from the top floor to the ground floor and I spotted a room with a bench. An artistic video was playing. I've had very good experiences over the years with videos in art museums, so I sagged onto the bench and watched a piece by Shen Wei entitled Passion Spirit. I think I watched it twice -- or maybe one and a half times. The content of the piece didn't have much of an impact on me, but I enjoyed its photography/cinematography. I think because the movie Visions of Light was fresh on my mind, I watched Passion Spirit with an imaginary narrator speaking in my head, talking about light and shadow and distortion and soft focus and other such things. 

3. Normally, the mile and a half walk from the museum to the Charlesmark Hotel, wouldn't be a problem for me, but I was tired, still recovering from Sunday night, and I'm not in very good physical condition right now. A walk that should have only taken us about 30 minutes dragged on longer than that because I kept needing to sit and rest. It was embarrassing, but it was what it was.

Once we reached the hotel, I told the Troxstar and Adam that I needed some time to lie down. They went about a block away to Joe's Bar and Grill on Newbury and I joined them around 45-60 minutes later. I was a bit refreshed, ordered a gin martini before having an order of Kung Pao(ish) chicken wings, and enjoyed yakkin' away with Adam and the Troxstar.

We returned to the hotel. I dove under the covers of my queen bed immediately and fell into one of the deepest sleeps I've experienced in months, if not years. 

Three Beautiful Things 05/30/2021: Beer to Go, Back to Growler and Gill, Epic Dining Table Beer Session

Correction: In my 05/29/2021 post, I wrote about Josh's sister Andi and Andi's daughter. Andi's daughter's name is Nya -- I had referred to her as Nyla. Her name is Nya.   

1. After spending the morning and some of the afternoon relaxing, Josh, Andi, Debbie, and I piled into the Langford van and headed north to Haverstraw, NY, planning to enjoy some beers at the Industrial Arts Brewing Company. 

It turned out we couldn't quite do that.

It was raining hard. Industrial Arts only had outside seating and they closed it. 

Not all was lost, however. The brewery was selling cans of beer to take out and so we bought some four packs of barleywine, wheat stout, and different IPAs and made a new plan.

2. I hadn't seen this coming, but the new plan that emerged was a trip to the first taproom I ever visited in this area, The Growler and Gill in Nanuet, NY. It's also my favorite. 

I loved being back in the Growler and Gill again. Debbie and I ordered a flight including a lager, a sampler of La Fin du Mode, and four other IPAs. As we finished the flight, Josh very pleasantly surprised me when he purchased me a pour of saison. I'm not sure of its name or the brewer, but I'd only drunk one saison since moving to Idaho and I not only loved its taste, the way it finished kind of like a sour, but I also loved the memories that flashed in my head as I remembered the great saisons and farmhouse ales I'd enjoyed in the past, especially in Eugene.

3. We arrived back at chez Langford and sat down to a tasty chicken dinner.

We then embarked on an epic session of beer sampling. It's been years since I've sampled so many different styles of beer in one session. Debbie and I sat at the dining table and Josh kept us supplied with short pours barleywine, wheat stout, and a variety of IPAs. All of the beers were from NY -- mostly from Industrial Arts, as I recall, but Josh had also bought cans of Great Notion (from Portland, OR) and, as I recall, my participation in this session ended with this great IPA from out west. 

As I anticipated coming out east, I had fond thoughts about a lot of things. It wouldn't be fair to say my fondest thoughts were about returning to the great beers of New York and New England, but I was really looking forward to sampling these beers again. Our visit to Growler and Gill and our session this evening exceeded even my most romantic imaginings of how much I would enjoy drinking these beers. I can't drink beer like this very often, but this one day and evening of trying out so many beers was a blast. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 05/29/2021: Back East Again, Beer Nirvana, Sloppy Joe Dinner

1. To my everlasting relief, everything went smoothly today as I flew from Spokane to Seattle and Seattle to Newark on Alaska Airlines and picked up the rental car I had reserved at Newark Liberty International Airport. I know it's odd because I live in North Idaho and I'm supposed to hate driving back East, but I could hardly wait to get back on the Garden State Parkway and the New York Thruway, read multiple direction signs with lots of arrows, and drive through E-Z Pass toll road stations and look at New Jersey service centers again. I loved driving from Newark to Valley Cottage and look forward to Monday's drive to West Wareham, MA to meet up with the Troxstar. 

2.  I'd only been to Valley Cottage once, a day or two after Josh and Adrienne's wedding, while they were moving into their new house. Upon my arrival this evening, Debbie poured me a genuine hop bomb, a Triple IPA, called More Political Flow, a collaboration between District 96 and Obercreek. It was perfect, packed with citrus flavors, refreshingly bitter, and amazingly smooth and easy to drink for such a power packed 10% ABV beer. I enjoyed a small glass of More Political Flow and then had another small glass of a second Triple IPA. District 96 asserts that F.O.A.P.B. (Father of All Photo Bombs) is the biggest IPA they've ever brewed. I'll take their word for it. It also weighed in a 10% A.B.V and deeply satisfied me with its multiple tropical and citrus flavors and its remarkable smoothness. 

As I sipped on these beers, I was reminded of a sunny day, February 4, 2017 to be exact. That day I visited Eastern Market in Washington, D.C.'s Capitol Hill neighborhood, visited Capitol Hill Books, and strolled on down to a quiet eatery called EatBar on Barrack's Row.

I ordered a Double IPA I'd never heard of, brewed in Astoria, Queens, NYC by SingleCut called Softly Spoken Magic Spells (the closing line of Pink Floyd's "Time"). 

I loved that beer. It put a magic spell on me. While there were many, many good reasons for us to move from Maryland to Kellogg in September of 2017, I knew that once we did, I would be giving up ready access to this kind of New York/New England IPA and now, nearly four years since our move, I continue to feel the loss.

But, tonight, sitting at Josh and Adrienne's dining table, back with Debbie after nine months apart, what once was lost now was found in the two beers I drank tonight and I experienced a small, but significant source of amazing grace.

3. Debbie also fixed a delicious dinner for all of us. I don't know the last time I had sloppy Joes (better than salami sandwiches). Debbie cooked up a delicious batch with potato salad and cabbage salad as sides. What an evening! I met my granddaughter Ellie, got to be around Jack and see how much he's grown up in the last couple of years, enjoyed a splendid reunion with Adrienne and Josh, and, as a bonus, Josh's sister and daughter, Andi and Nya are visiting this weekend. 

Three Beautiful Things 05/28/2021: Pre-Flight Aimlessness, Relaxing with Salami, Easy Airport Time

1.  I decided not to stay in Spokane Friday night before boarding my 6:00 a.m. flight to Seattle and then Newark, so I spent much of today wandering around the house, tidying up, cleaning up, trying not to forget anything, and trying to calculate when to leave the house for the airport and whether I wanted to sleep before I left. 

2. I was unusually nervous about this trip and to calm my nerves I turned to eating sandwiches made with Oscar Meyer salami, Cracker Barrel cheese, and mustard on Dave's Killer 12 Seed Bread accompanied by handfuls of Lay's Classic potato chips, and can after can of Coca-Cola minis. I realize it probably would have been healthier to calm down with yoga or Transcendental Meditation, but these sandwiches, chips, and cola really did the job. 

Tums helped, too.

3. Around 10 p.m., I decided to nap and slept off and on until about 1 a.m. Somehow, this was the perfect amount of sleep and, coupled with a shower, left me feeling refreshed and I was alert on my easy drive to the airport. I arrived shortly before 4 a.m., was the first person served by the baggage person at the Alaska counter and I flew through TSA in no time flat. 

I love getting to airports early and, since Starbucks was not serving salami and cheese sandwiches with potato chips, I bought a coffee, sat down, relaxed, and waited to board my flight. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 05/27/2021: Quick Shopping Trip, Rotini and Beans, Bacon and Eggs and Beans

1. I decided I needed some short sleeved shirts and shorts for my trip. I buzzed over to CdA and did some quick shopping at Kohl's and Fred Meyer and came straight home. No breakfast. No beer. No lunch. I just wanted to get this task completed and return home and continue preparing for my trip.

2. Years ago I was in Cincinnati and was staying near a Skyline Chili. I regret that I didn't try Skyline myself after our hosts told us they thought chili on pasta was weird. I've never been back to Cincinnati, but have since heard other people rave about Skyline Chili.

Oh, well. No problem. 

I bring this up because tonight I had some rotini in a bag and some of the beans around that I had prepared for Monday's family dinner.

I thought, well, why not try boiling up the rotini, covering it with my baked beans, and topping it with Parmesan cheese. 

I really liked it. I admit, it wasn't really anything close to what I've heard and read about Skyline's chili, but without knowing about Skyline, I don't think I would have imagined this combination.

3. Now that I think about it, I thoroughly enjoyed how I ate those leftover beans. Both today and yesterday I fixed myself a breakfast that was, to me, a variation on a breakfast entree I ate in England many years ago. I fried some bacon, fried a couple of eggs, and served myself baked beans warmed up with the bacon and eggs. I also brewed myself a cup of black tea. I admit, it wasn't exactly like the breakfasts of a banger, beans, eggs, and toast I'd eaten in England, it was a fun approximation. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 05/26/2021: Organizing, Cleaning, Cinematography

 1. I'm flying out of Spokane Saturday morning and today I started my nervous process of getting myself ready to go, trying to make sure I remember to take what I want and figuring out ways to occupy myself in the airport and on the plane. Read? Audio book? Podcasts? And, what do I need to shop for?

2. I like coming home to a clean house and so I started working on that, too. The other day I read a comment from someone who noted that now that they are older, it takes about twice as long to do household chores as it used to. I guess I was relieved to find out it wasn't just me. It seems like housework takes me forever these days, so that's why I got a jump on it today.

3. I'll send the dvd, Visions of Light, back to Netflix just before I head to Spokane, but, in the meantime, I will just keep watching it. I played it for about a half an hour before I went to sleep last night, savoring each of the segments on the cinematography of movies like The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, and Mildred Pierce and other film noir works.