Sunday, August 31, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 08/30/14: Pastry at Paul, Billy Collins Reading, D.C. Pictures

1.  I boarded the Yellow Line train and headed straight to Archives/Navy Memorial because at that stop I can purchase a pastry and cup of coffee at Paul and that's just what I did:  a chocolate and almond croissant and a cup of coffee.

2.  Breakfast snack eaten, I headed up 7th Street to the Library of Congress Festival of Books at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, just past Mt. Vernon Square, and was part of the crowd standing in a jam packed standing room only audience in a huge room.  We squeezed in to hear poet Billy Collins read from his work for about forty minutes and it was awesome.  Just awesome.  I could have stuck around and heard a variety of other writers, but I didn't want any other voices in my head nor any other works interfering with Billy Collins.  I dug him that much.

3.  For the first time since arriving in the D. C. metropolitan area, I took pictures while walking around in Washington, D. C. itself.  Today, I took pictures with my inconspicuous Canon S95 and felt some of that surge of excitement I feel when taking pictures in a city.  Here are some of my pictures.  The last two are of the Kogod Courtyard that sits between the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum.  If you like to see more of my Washington D. C. pictures from today, go here

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 08/29/14: W & OD Trail, Mad Fox Has Mad Beer, Dogfish Head Pub

1.  After riding the Fairfax Connector to Huntington Station, taking the Yellow Line to King's Street, the Blue Line to Rosslyn, and the Silver Line to East Falls Church, I got oriented in East Falls Church and walked a part of the W & OD Trail, a suburban rails to trails project.  The bicyclists whizzing by and I all got along handsomely and safely and I worked up a pretty good sweat and enjoyed the chunk of the trail I ambled on.

2.  My destination was the Mad Fox Brewery on W. Broad Street in Falls Church.  It's a large, airy, windowy restaurant with a fierce commitment to brewing good beer.  I did the smartest thing I've done in 2014 and ordered a flight of four 4 oz tasters, all top notch.  Having walked and become heated up, the Kellenbier Kolsch was perfectly light and refreshing.  The flight was off to a superb start.  Then I dove into the very slightly and also light Praha Pils.  Again, superb.  Then things got more complex with Saison Licht and I ended my flight with a beer worth of a Troxstar-Shane Johnson-Loren Crow Belgian Blow-Out:  the Abbaye des Chutes.  It was boozy and fruity and I'd cooled off enough that a warming beer was richly satisfying at the end of my flight.  Then, having read the brewery's description of it, I ordered a pint the Dingo IPA, and I it was one of my favorite IPAs ever.  Its hop character is on the citrusy side and not overpowering.  It didn't punch me in the mouth with ABV and its overall balance was nearly perfect for my taste.  The Deke arrived nearly comatose after a long day at Robert Goddard French Immersion School, I ordered a second pint of Dingo, and she thoroughly enjoyed her reviving Stir-About Oatmeal Stout.

3.  The stop at Mad Fox was a prelude to the Deke driving us just down to road to meet Hiram, Molly, David, and Olivia for dinner at Dogfish Head's pub in Falls Church.  We had a great time visiting.  I ordered a black and tan made with Dogfish Head's chicory stout and 90 Minute IPA and it was okay, but not a beer I'd order again.  The stout was little to chicory-y for me and I think the British Black and Tans have spoiled me and make American ones difficult to fully enjoy.  But, I continue to try them.  Hiram drove me and David and I learned more about this densely populated patchwork of suburban cities where I now live. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 08/28/14: Holding Hands Again, Non-Attachment is Difficult, First Pumpkin Ale

1.  It was tedious going through every folder of my pictures in search of pictures I've taken of people holding hands, hugging, about to kiss, and with arms around each other, but I did it and now all of these pictures are located in one folder and are in a flickr album.  Now I need to find more people holding hands and doing the other stuff to take pictures of.  

2.  I'm doing my best to be faithful to Christian and Buddhist ideals of non-attachment.  Back in about October of 2012, an external hard drive of mine crashed and with it went a ton of my pictures.  Luckily, I kept the memory cards and recovered many of the photographs, but today I realized that there's a serious gap in the chronology of my picture taking in 2011 and I'm doing all I can to not be attached to these can I be attached?  They don't exist....but, it's painful to have lost the pictures I took when Carol, Christy and I went on a sibling outing and did the following:

  • Ate breakfast at Sam's in Kellogg
  • Drove over Moon Pass
  • Stopped in Avery and poked around
  • Drove the mean streets of Calder
  • Stopped at the Marble Creek Interpretive Site, and learned about logging practices in the early 1900s
  • Drove to Clarkia
  • Left Clarkia to go the nearby ranger station to get a clearer idea of how to get to the Hobo Cedar Grove
  • Drove to the Hobo Cedar Grove
  • Walked an interpretive nature trail at the Hobo Cedar Grove
  • Stopped at the liquor store in Fernwood
  • Stopped at the liquor store in St. Maries (success -- grasshopper [aka grasshoppahs] to come
  • Met Mom at the Mission Inn in Cataldo for dinner  
I have a couple of pictures from this day in project folder and on my blog, but, sigh, unless they are tucked in a folder that I missed, the majority of those pictures are like dust in the wind.

3.  I tried my first one of the season this evening.  Schlafly does indeed make a tasty, spicy refreshing pumpkin ale.  I enjoy fun beers and this one was really fun to drink. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 08/27/14: Prime Lens, Holding Hands, One Pot Pasta Again

1.  I mounted my fixed 50mm lens on my Nikon and decided it's time to take pictures of David and Olivia around the house again.  The 50mm was packed away and I took some time to look for it and after a little bit of fear that I had left it somewhere, I found it.  

2.  Since June, 2011, I have been taking pictures of people holding hands, or showing public affection in some other way -- walking with arms around each other, a hand on the shoulder -- you get the idea.  I realized today that I have pictures of people holding hands scattered throughout my electronic folders of pictures, so I have started going through each folder and I'm finding quite a few hand holding photos. I'm making sure I have them all in one folder.  I've also enjoyed remembering days out taking pictures -- Saturdays with Russell, gorgeous days at Delta Ponds, outings with my siblings, tons of flowers, Eugene strolls, and other fun days.  Yes, I/ve taken some lousy pictures, but I've always had fun doing it.  Just for fun, here are a couple I found -- I chose them pretty much at random:

3.  Molly and I decided tonight would be a good night to return to the one pot pasta dinner and I had a fun time chopping up the garlic, onion, basil, and tomatoes, and then Molly took over and fixed the meal while I made a quick trip to Target to pick up meds for the Deke.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 08/26/14: flickr Update, Pumpkin Ale, First Day of School

1.  I spent quite a bit of time today updating my flickr account, here.  I'm afraid I manage this account in ways that are antithetical to inviting people to view my pictures.  Some of my albums have over a hundred pictures -- my "Sibling Outings" album has over four hundred.  Looking at these albums means looking at some successful pictures and some failed ones and at how I've tried to take the same picture from a variety of angles and with a variety of settings.  But, it's not like people are exactly breaking the Internet in the rush to see my photographs and it has actually helped me out a few times to have such a huge record of pictures I've taken.

2.  It was fun talking with Chris and Leah about the pumpkin ales they've enjoyed and they claimed that the best of all is made by Schlafly out of St. Louis.  I bought a six pack at Giant, didn't try it myself, yet, but Molly really liked it and Hiram took a swig and enjoyed it, too.

3.  I'd have to say that the Deke got a pretty good introduction to some of the challenges her new job will present.  It was the first day of school.  The children couldn't take recess because of fire ants on the playground so had to stay in their classroom where the Deke had to do some improvisation to keep the children occupied.  There were other challenges as well, including a sobbing mother, and after heavy traffic during her drive back to Groveton, the Deke was pretty tired tonight. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 08/25/14: Light, Heron, Cubed Tofu

1.  For much of the time I was over at Huntley Meadows, the temperature was moderate and the sunshine moved me to focus on taking pictures of light, with less concern about the things of the world I took pictures of and more concern with how I could take pictures of the light itself.  Here are three examples:

You might, upon looking at these pictures, say to yourself, "Wow!  He's got a lot of work to do taking pictures."  You're right.  I do.  But, here's where I'm at right now.

2.  I also had the good fortune of happening upon a heron at Huntley Meadows.  Here are a couple pictures of this heron, snacking and then, I think, wanting more.

3.  I not only found the tofu at Giant this afternoon, I discovered that I can buy tofu already cubed for the same price as an uncubed chunk.  Wowza!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 08/24/14: A Salon of Many Nations, Virginia Beer, Awesome Dinner, BONUS: Frost and Palestine

1.  In the summer of 1983, I taught a summer Introduction to Literature course at Whitworth College populated by students from all over the world:  Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Taiwan, and other countries I don't remember.  It was three hour evening class, as I remember, that met twice a week, and it was meeting during Ramadan and the Muslims in the class came to me and asked if we could take a break when they signaled to me that sundown had arrived so they could break their daily fast as soon as possible.  It was one of my favorite classes of students ever and we affectionately called ourselves the United Nations class.  (I just now remembered how much depth the Muslim students, and the Catholic Venezuelans, for that matter, brought to our discussion of Kafka's story, "A Hunger Artist" about a man who fasts in a cage as a public performance.)

Anyway, the Deke and I went to the Hair Cuttery at the Beacon Mall on Richmond Highway and it was like walking back into my summer of 1983 classroom at Whitworth.  I don't know what all countries the stylists and the customers were from.  Suffice it to say, not only did I love the sound of English being spoken in so many different ways and not only did I love the spectacularly different ways people were dressed, I also knew once and for all that I no longer lived in Eugene, Spokane, Cd'A, or Kellogg any longer!  And, I'll add, Ben, from Tunisia, did a great job cutting my hair, as well as the Deke's, and does beautiful work keeping Molly looking so good. 

2.  After our haircuts, the Deke and I decided to enjoy some beer at the little pub inside the Whole Foods store on Duke Street in Alexandria.  I immediately went for a pint of Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, having read about its awesomeness, and I, too, found it awesome.  The Deke drank three five oz. servings of Lost Rhino Woody Stout, and I had a very tasty five oz. glass of Hardywood's Bourbon-Aged double IPA.  It was a boozy beer, over 9% ABV, so I was grateful to be able to order just a five ouncer -- and that amount was perfect.  The Deke and I were both in a great mood after our haircuts at Hair Cuttery and our happy mood grew significantly drinking these fine Virginian beers.  I am learning a little more all the time about beers brewed around here and am enjoying them a lot.

3.  Molly sliced the rest of the hard crusted loaf of bread I bought at the Farmers' Market Saturday and buttered it and put it in the oven and it was divine and tasted awesome with the fresh, tender aspargus, mashed potatoes and steak we had for dinner. 

BONUS:  If you are still with me, during that Intro. to Lit class at Whitworth, I made a big deal out of Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"  and the line, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep."  In November, I was walking across the pine-treed campus of Whitworth College on a gorgeous foggy night and near the library I heard the voice of the Palestinian  student I'd had a few months earlier.  No hello.  No how are you.  He simply called out to me in his distinctive Palestinian voice, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep" and walked into the library.  I nearly cried with joy.

I never saw him again.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 08/23/14: Farmers' Market, Rainy Wetlands, Latvian Crime

1.  I woke up at around 6:30 and hopped in the car, filled it with gas, stopped off at Starbuck's for a cup of coffee, parked the car in Old Town Alexandria and went to the Farmers' Market and bought peaches, apples, a rustic loaf of bread, white eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes, an oat bran raisin muffin and probably some other food.  It was really fun going so early with the air being so cool and the crowds so light.

2.  I drove over to Huntley Meadows so I could have a get away car in case it rained, which I wanted it to do -- even though I don't have the right clothes for rain -- but I wanted a chance to take pictures of the wetlands in the rain.  And it happened.  A warm and temperate downpour took place and I hid under different trees to stay sort of dry and snapped pictures, mostly, from under those trees.  Here are some of the pictures I snapped:

3.  The Deke and I held down the fort while Hiram and Molly went out to see Guardians of the Galaxy and, after Olivia and David settled in for the night, we watched our eighth episode of Wallander and I concluded that I don't want to mess with either the Latvian police or the mob in Latvia.  By the way, this episode had the feel of a Cold War spy story -- it was shot on location in Riga, and the sense the episode gave of this former Soviet state -- the electric buses, the chilling police headquarters, the elegant hotel, the markets, the way once beautiful buildings were run down and in disrepair -- was remarkable.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 08/22/14: Single Mothers, The Duchesse, *Hopscotch*

1.  Having watched Boyhood had me thinking all morning about all the single mothers who were students of mine at LCC and about the single mothers who have been my friends and colleagues and those who are in my family and about all the stories the Deke and others have told me about being a single mother over the

2.  Before the Deke and I met at Bilbo Baggins for oysters, calamari, and, for me, a couple of refreshing Oktoberfest ales, I stopped in at the SourFest at Pizzeria Paradiso for 10 oz of absolute sour beer heaven:  Good Lord I love Duchesse De Bourgogne brewed by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in  Vichte, Belgium.  I had never drunk the Duchesse from the tap before and I think my sighs and exhalations of beer sipping pleasure made the couple sitting next to me at the beer curious.  When the woman asked me if the Duchesse was "a pretty sour sour", I had to tell I thought it was and I think I dissuaded her from trying it.

3.  Before I went to sleep tonight, I finished watching the movie I started watching last night:  Hopscotch (1980), a movie I originally saw in Milwaukie, OR or some other suburb in Clackamas County with Terry and Nancy Turner and my first wife.  I remember loving the movie that evening.  I remember having so much fun being out with Terry and Nancy and I loved seeing this movie again.  I had forgotten what a terrific actor Walter Matthau is, so easy, effortless, physically gifted, and so funny.  He paired wonderfully with Glenda Jackson (again...remember House Calls?) and their spy intelligence romance shenanigans were much sexier to me watching as a sixty year old than they had been when I watched at age twenty-seven!  
Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne
Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne
Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne
Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne

Friday, August 22, 2014

How I Experienced the Movie *Boyhood*

  • In a good way, Richard Linklater's movie Boyhood meanders.  It's a movie of vignettes.  They hang together, in the way a writer's collection of short stories or poems often do, but it's not a conventionally plotted story.  I flashed from time to time to Robert Altman's movie Short Cuts -- the way one part of the movie jumped without an explicit transition to another and how it always worked.
  • As I rode the train to downtown D. C., to the Landmark E Street Cinema and as I dined at Lincoln's Waffles before the movie, I thought about movies I'd seen about young boys and teenagers that had had the most impact on me over the years.  One came to mind:  Ordinary People.  When I saw this movie back in the fall of 1980 with my first wife, I remember feeling I'd never experienced the emotional turmoil of my teenaged years (as well as my twenties) more immediately and accurately than in Timothy Hutton's portrayal of Conrad, the boy who couldn't save his older brother, Buck, from being killed in a sailing accident.  On the surface, I had nothing in common with Conrad.  His family was affluent.  Conrad spent time in a psychiatric hospital.  He tried to commit suicide.  None of these things are or were true about me.  But, on the inside, Conrad and I were both afflicted with insecurity, self-loathing, constant berating of ourselves, guilt, and an inability to stop it.  Conrad experiences a breakthrough, as I remember, with his therapist, Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch).  I'd never experienced such a breakthrough.  Conrad's was temporarily cathartic, but didn't lead to a breakthrough.  Nonetheless, alienation I had felt, isolation I had felt with my inward life did break down.  Although it didn't free me from how I regarded myself, I no longer felt alone.
  • I didn't know if Boyhood would transport me back to my own boyhood and to my own experiences of becoming a teenager and graduating from high school and starting college.  For whatever reason, the movie did not do this.  Instead, my involvement was with the adults in the movie, especially Mason, Jr.'s mother.  Without needlessly creating sympathy for her, the movie, in a matter of fact way, documents the mother's difficulties with being a single mother.  I don't want to give plot details away.  Suffice it to say that the movie strongly challenged the concept of life being a series of choices that are either good or bad, reflecting either strength or weakness, being a good person or not.  I can't explain why the mother married the men she did.  I can say that from my experiences working with students at LCC and from many long talks with the Deke, who had been a single mother with three kids for over ten years when we got married, that the portrayal of the kids' mom in this movie was complicated and authentic. 
  • Because I was the most emotionally involved with the adults in this movie, I was uncomfortable, nervous, fearing the worst much of the time.  For about half of the movie, I was afraid for the safety of the children when they were with their biological father.  I never thought he would do anything mean to them.  He wasn't a dangerous guy.  But I thought he might do something stupid or negligent because of his arrested development and his constant line of bullshit.  Two other men in the mother's life were awful and dangerous.  At first, they both offered security and order to the mom and her children and their ever changing family life.  But, I'll just say she had to get her kids and herself away from them both.
  • Throughout the movie, I thought about a course I taught at Whitworth College (now University), The Family in American Drama.  I taught it in Jan. '83 and '84.  The course was initially inspired by an essay by Arthur Miller, "The Family in Drama".  He outlines how family relationship have provided the backbone of plays from the beginnings of drama to the present.  My deeper inspiration came from the self-righteous phrase that gained traction during Ronald Reagan's presidency:  family values.  When I arrived in Spokane for a temporary teaching appointment at Whitworth in the fall of 1982, I had been divorced for only a few weeks.  I was chafing at the simplistic story the "family values" people were telling about the sanctity of the stable family and the values that needed to be held and practiced to keep it from disintegrating.  My study of O'Neil, Williams, Albee, Hellman, Miller, and other playwrights and my viewing of movies like The Godfather, Godfather II, Ordinary People, and host of others inspired me to teach a course that would, through fictional plays and movies, not only examine how complicated the American families portrayed in these stories were, but how they might help students have more compassion for the complications of their own families, often Christian ones, especially the families that didn't seem to fit the image of a family adhering to "family values".  The course was very successful.  I watched Boyhood wishing that I could reunite the students from those two Jan terms and watch this movie together and discuss all that it was helping us see and all that it was exploring about the family in the U.S. A.  Now many of these students, after thirty years, would be parents, heads of families. I know some of my students never had children, never started a family with children.  I know that some of these students were gay.  I'd love to know how many of them have joined with a partner to raise a family.  Have any of the gay students married?  How many never raised families?  Would these former students be interested in my experience of two childless marriages and in how I became a stepfather in 1997, changing not only my experience with family, but my attitudes about family?  Boyhood would give us so much to talk about and in a dream world, such a reunion and viewing of this movie would happen.

  •  Boyhood  moved me to self-examination.  Because I experienced the movie with much more interest in the adults than in the two kids, I found myself examining myself as (step)father to the Deke's three kids.  The movie portrayed the difficulties of being a parent, or, for that matter, being an adult dealing with young people, whether as a teacher or a boss or in some other role.  I experienced this working with college students for thrity-five years. And I experienced it at home. I thought a lot about how the Deke and I tried to work out our roles in getting after the kids when they broke rules, slacked on chores, lied to us, or when, for other reasons, we had to get after them.  I looked at how frightening the two alcoholic husbands in the movie were.  I remember listening to the Deke early in our marriage about how her kids weren't used to having a man around the house and that I should know that even though I didn't mean to, they might find me scary at times.  This shocked me.  I never wanted to be scary, but I wanted to show the Deke my support and help her out when the kids were not doing their schoolwork or were being disobedient.  I remember pulling back and, in these disciplinary matters, the Deke took the lead and I focused on other roles in the family, especially involving material support and working to keep things together, often out of sight, often behind the scenes.                                                                                                                             
  • All of these memories came rushing back to my during Boyhood and I couldn't help but think, during and after the movie, about our family today, the different ways we relate to each other, the way the Deke and I moved to the D.C. area to be closer to Adrienne and Molly, but had to move far away from Patrick to do so.  It's complicated.  I was happy while watching Boyhood that the movie worked with these complications from the inside out, subtly, as they emerged, as the characters all aged, and it was satisfying for the movie to end with little resolution, but with hope that families can endure, not because of "family values", but families endure in being flawed, in the capacity of family members to be understanding, to forgive, especially as members come to realize that while families can be a source of fun and good feeling, at the same time, much of the time, being a family is difficult.    

    Three Beautiful Things 08/21/14: Smoke on the Train, Intro to Scrapple, *Boyhood* Worked for Me

    1.  When I used to ride the Lane Transit Authority bus to and from LCC, the heavy load of travelers going over the 30th Street hill would put a strain on the bus' brakes, making them smoke and, from time to time, I could smell the smoke.  Today, on the Metro Yellow Line, I started to smell a similar odor, but by the time the train reached the Braddock St. station, smoke was everywhere and we all got out of the train and the smoke covered the platform.  Luckily, I wasn't on any kind of a schedule, and, because it was raining, Molly texted me out of the blue to see if I needed a ride from the Huntington station.  I told her what happened and, bless her heart, she drove to the Braddock station and gave me a ride home.

    2.  I went to downtown D.C. today and decided to have a late breakfast at a divey diner, Lincoln's Waffles.  The joint was a labyrinth of counter space, tables, and junk for sale and a good number of people dined there.   I decided to have some eggs and, for the first time, scrapple and grits with coffee and English muffin.  Unfortunately, for my taste, my eggs were dropped on a very hot grill, making them leathery.  I'd definitely order scrapple again and I love grits.  My bread was over toasted.  Unless I want waffles, I probably won't go back to Lincoln Waffles, but I sure enjoyed trying out scrapple and I'll always order grits when I can.

    3.  I went downtown to see *Boyhood*, the Richard Linklater movie that had been recommended by three of my favorite people from LCC, Pam D., Mary P., and MB.  I also planned on hearing Hiram play at 8:00 at the Sylvan Theater near the Washington Monument, but the concert was canceled by rain.  *Boyhood* worked for me.  I loved the concept, of shooting a movie over a twelve year period, so that the actors aged just as their characters did. Hmmmm.  You know, I'm going to write a separate blog post about this movie.  I have too many thoughts for 3BTs entry.  For now, suffice it to say that the movie stirred me in a variety of ways, some unexpected, in that it was the adults who really got to me, much more than experiencing the development of Mason, Jr. as he went from being a five year to eighteen. 

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/20/14: Target Kindness, Nap Therapy, Daytime Jeopardy Finale

    1.  I'm having some difficulties securing a bottle of Lisinopril at the Richmond Hwy Target at the corner of Southgate Drive.  Same old, same old.  The prescription expired.  I had to call my Eugene doctor to get it renewed since I'm not established here.  I thought the Eugene had called Target, but found that hadn't happened yet.  On and on.  BUT, the pharmacy people at Target have been so pleasant to deal with that any frustration I might have felt never happened and, as a bonus, to help keep my blood pressure where it should be,  Rhadika, the pharmacist, gave me some pills to take until this gets straightened out. 

    2.  The Deke and I talked about whether we were going to D. C. in the evening and I surprised myself with my crankiness on the phone.  I realized it was from not getting enough sleep and remedied that problem with a couple of afternoon naps. 

    3.  The death of Don Pardo this week got me thinking about watching Jeopardy on weekday mornings at home in Kellogg and I wondered if I could hear Art Fleming say "thank you, Don Pardo" again when he entered the television studio.  Since, as I've heard, everything is on, I figured I could watch some old daytime Jeopardy footage and I was right.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching the final episode of daytime Jeopardy, broadcast on Friday, January 3, 1975.  You can, too. Just click here.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/19/14: Meds, Costco Excursion, Beer Run

    1.  Because I think we'll live in Maryland and, I think, we'll move within the next month, I was dragging my feet on having my meds transferred, but I needed to do it today and went to the local Target and took care of that piece of business, knowing I'll be having the prescriptions transferred again when we get settled in Maryland.  (And, who knows, we might end up living in Virginia.  I'll believe we've made a decision when we sign a lease....)

    2.  Molly needed some things from Costco and I volunteered to go buy them and it was fun -- it's hard to explain why it was fun -- I enjoyed tracking down the things I purchased and continuing to get a feel for this area where I'm living.

    3.  I got back from Costco and we made a quick unanimous family decision that we'd like to have some more beer in the house, so Molly and I went to Giant and I bought us some Crispin Pear Cider, a six pack of Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat, a six pack of Lagunitas A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale, and a six pack of  Breckenridge Vanilla Porter.  There was something in this purchase to please everyone (I hope) and it gives us all a chance to try some new beers and enjoy ones some of us have relished in the past.  Molly and I had a good time picking out these beers as we did our best to please each member of the family. 

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/18/14: Done, Dog Peace, Sublime Cider

    1.  I got some small business things taken care of that were putting more weight on my mind than they deserved.

    2.  When Yzerman, Charly, and Maggie were all resting and sleeping on the sofa together and I was seated at the end, it was one of the most extended times of serenity I've experienced in months.  

    3.  I blissfully discovered today that in that six pack of beverages the Deke brought down from Nanuet, New York was the very best hard cider I have tasted:  McKenzie's Seasonal Reserve Hard Cider, out of West Seneca, NY.  It was brown sugary, cinammony, but not awful sweet.  It was like drinking a superb apple pie. 

    Monday, August 18, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/17/14: Two Versions of the Same Selfie, Fruit Beer Fest, Yakking in the Kitchen

    1.  It was fun working with pictures I took, after I'd been away from it for a couple of weeks.  If you read this blog from time to time, you know I enjoy taking kind of oddball self-portraits -- well, selfies.  I took this one in color on King Street in Old Town Alexandria on Saturday and edited it in both color and black and white.  Here are the two versions:

    2.  The Deke returned from her visit to New York with a six-pack of four beers and two ciders from Growler and Gill in Nanuet.  Molly and I enjoy fruit beers and especially enjoyed the Strawberry Lager and the Lemon Wheat from Abita Brewing Co. in Covington, LA. 

    3.  Sitting there at the kitchen table splitting bottles of beer, tasting, commenting was more more than a mini beer fest.  The Deke, Molly, and I got in some good time shooting the breeze about all kinds of stuff.  Hiram did a lot to get David and Olivia ready for bed and it left the three of us about forty minutes to enjoy one another's company and yak.

    Sunday, August 17, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/16/14: Wandering Around Old Town, Sushi at Momo, States and Capitals

    1.  I took the bus to Old Town Alexandria and wandered around, checked out the Farmer's Market at City Hall Square, and enjoyed listening to a string quartet made up of members of the same family.

    2.  Next door to Bilbo Baggins is a Japanese restaurant, Momo, and I stopped in for lunch and ate three orders of Nigiri sushi, eel, sweet shrimp, and sweet fried tofu and two spicy Maki rolls, scallops and tuna.  It was delicious and I always find the variety and the surprises of eating sushi a lot of fun.

    3.  I also listened to a father quizzing his, I'd say, five year old daughter on states and capitals.  I silently chuckled as he told her the capital of W. Virginia was Wheeling and, until his wife corrected him, that the capital of New York was Buffalo.  I wanted to pass him a note, telling him that Charleston is the capital of W. Virginia, but I figured some day the family would figure it out. 

    Saturday, August 16, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/15/14: Inertia Broken, Molly Likes Peach Beer!, Soup and Family

    1. I broke some  inertia. I cleaned up my laptop's desktop.  I backed up all the pictures I hadn't backed up for a while and got other documents organized. 

    2.  Molly was getting dinner ready and the Deke skyped from Nyack to tell us about the great taproom and bottle house she'd been to in Nanuet called the Growler and Gill and this led to Molly saying she'd like to try Flying Doghead's Festina Peche and she loved it and I enjoyed a glorious bottle of this peach infused, tart, very refreshing neo-Berliner Weisse along with Molly.  I'd called it a landmark moment in our seventeen years as (step)father and daughter!

    3.  Molly fixed a divine potato soup and she fried bacon really crisp for a topping, along with grated Mexican cheese, and eating this superb soup together got Hiram, Molly, and I talking about how privileged we feel to have good family. 

    Friday, August 15, 2014

    The Day a Cop Drew a Gun on Me

    Back in the spring of 1994, in Eugene, OR, Jeff swung by the house and we made sure we had our tickets and we headed off toward the WOW Hall to enjoy the first of a three night run of shows given by Zero, one of our favorite jam bands.

    As we were strolling through the alleys, we nonchalantly noted that there sure were a lot of police in the area.

    What we didn't know was that an armed man had just stolen a vehicle from Valley River Center, a mall about ten minutes away, come into our neighborhood, forced his way into a woman's house, and, for reasons I don't remember, fled on foot.

    The woman called 911 and described the caller as having a pony tail and wearing a black Levi jacket and jeans.

    Jeff's hair was pulled back in a ponytail.  He was wearing a black Levi jacket and jeans.

    As we continued down the alleys between Madison and Lincoln Streets, we came to a vacant lot at the corner of W. Broadway and Lincoln and a SWAT team confronted us.

    They weren't wearing camo, but were dressed in the all black SWAT team gear and the team's leader, head shaved and amped up had his pistol drawn and was pointing it directly at me and Jeff.


    Immediately, the officers separated us, handcuffed Jeff, and began to question us.

    It took about twenty minutes, but, thanks to a security officer at the mall who had seen the real perp and came to the scene and identified that Jeff was not the guy, the SWAT team let us go.

    I've thought quite a bit about this incident over the last four or five days.

    From the moment I saw that cop's gun drawn on me, I had confidence that this situation would all work out.

    I never once thought we'd be hauled in.

    It never crossed my mind that I might be treated unjustly. 

    I never once thought that that officer would shoot me.

    I did nothing to earn that confidence.

    I was born into it. 

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/14/14: Comfort of a Bed, Confused Corgis, Grocery Bag Excitement

    1.  While the Deke and I figuring out where to live -- Virginia or Maryland?  near Molly and Hiram or near the Deke's job? -- Molly and Hiram are letting us stay with them.  I have been sleeping on the couch in the living room and I'm fine with that, no complaints whatsoever, BUT, I have to admit, that when the Deke left today to go to Nyack to visit Adrienne and Jack, I darted upstairs and laid down on the bed she's been sleeping in, enjoyed its comfort, and caught up on some of the sleep I've lost sleeping on the couch.  I look forward to a bit more comfortable night's sleep tonight, as well. 

    2.  Another reason I holed up in the room upstairs was to keep Maggie and Charly behind a closed door with just me as company for a while.  Understandably, they are not quite sure what's going on.  One day they lived in Eugene.  Then they lived in a car for a long day.  Then they lived in Kellogg for about three weeks and then the car again and a motel in Rapid City and then an unfamiliar lake house on Lake Michigan and then back in the car and now this townhouse in Groveton/Alexandria.  They have two children to keep an eye on.  Charly is freaked out by the cat.  They don't want the old dog Yzerman coming into "their" room.  I think they wish we'd get our minds made up about where to live and settle in somewhere.  As I write this, they are both stretched out, relaxed, Charly on the bed,  Maggie on the floor.  They've been settled down for several hours now and I hope they enjoyed a more peaceful day and don't resent me keeping them away from all the things that rile them up. 

    3.  Molly and Hiram returned today from the Ft. Belvoir Commissary and I couldn't help but wonder if Olivia and David feel any of the excitement when paper bags of groceries come into the house that I felt when Mom came home from her Saturday weekly grocery shopping spree at Stein's IGA when I was a youngster.  As Molly and Hiram unpacked Gatorade and grapes and chips and pretzels and breakfast cereal and lunch meat and many other goodies, I was suddenly back in Kellogg, happy that Mom had bought pop and potato chips and cans of green beans and ice cream and cans of chili and milk and orange juice and all the other stuff I loved to eat and drink as a kid.  I felt some of that same excitement today.  I guess it makes sense.  It is, after all, Throwback Thursday!

    Three Beautiful Things 08/13/14: Danny Almonte Doc, Portland Mavericks Doc, Martha Stewart in a Pot

    1.  Via, today I watched a 30 for 30 Short entitled "Kid Danny".   Remember Danny Almonte?  Back in 2001, he was a dominating pitcher in the Little League World Series and played for a team from the Bronx.  It turned out he was two years older than the Little League 12 year old age limit and this movie is a documentary in which Danny Almonte tells his story.  I enjoyed watching it, but, predictably, found the adult behavior that lay behind Danny Almonte's cheating to be just awful.

    2.  I was on a baseball documentary roll today and watched The Battered Bastards of Baseball, the fascinating and entertaining story of when actor Bing Russell, actor Kurt Russell's father, owned an independent Class A minor league baseball team in Portland, OR and called them the Portland Mavericks.  The movie chronicles the five year life of the Mavericks. One the one hand, it's a fun story about how these players (including Jim Bouton), rough and tumble, playing for the love of baseball and nothing else, were unaffiliated with any major league teams and created a devoted fan base in Portland; on the other hand, it also tells the story of the corporate personality and interests of Major League Baseball and its minor league farm system.  For now, you can watch it instantly on Netflix.

    3.  I tried to remember the last time I cooked a Martha Stewart recipe.  I hadn't.  Tonight, I plunged into a single pot linguine meal that involved just boiling linguine, cherry tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil, red pepper, salt, and pepper into a pot and boiling it for awhile until the pasta was cooked.  It was a good thing. 

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/12/14: Grandpa at the Range, Molly Likes Pils, Groundwork and *The Wire*

    1.  I got to do one of my favorite all things this morning:  fix bacon and eggs for David and Olivia.  It's fun being Grandpa at the stove in the morning.

    2.  It's been a rough few days for Molly.  This evening, she appears to have come through it.  It makes me really happy when I can listen to what someone likes in a beer and then pick out a good one for that person.  I bought a six pack of Wright Pils from Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland today with Molly in mind and she liked it.  That made me very happy. 

    3.  Molly and Hiram have just started to watch The Wire and the Deke and I joined them tonight. They are at Season 1, Episode 3 and I watched in thinking, "Oh, man!  Wait until you see where all this is going with Omar and Lester and Daniels and the rest."  It's fun to see the groundwork being laid for really riveting stuff to come. 

    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

    Briefly: My Experience with Depression

    Since Robin Williams' death yesterday, I've read several posts where people I know have written about their experience with depression.  My sister did so here

    I don't know if the "press" present in the words"depression" and "pressure" are related to each other etymologically.  What I do know is that my years of suffering from depression had less to do with feeling sadness and much more to do with feeling awful internal pressure, pressure pressing down on me, in my head and throughout my body, making me want to escape, isolate myself, and, most of all, sleep; sometimes I tried to escape with manic episodes of too much enthusiasm for my work or for other things in my life.    

    I never hated myself, but I hated the pressure.  I wanted to be out from under it.  I didn't contemplate suicide for reasons having to do more with luck than strength.   

    For mysterious reasons, this pressure and my bouts of depression disappeared in the spring of 2009 after two hospitalizations, neither for depression, but for pneumonia and then c-diff.   

    I don't know if Robin Williams experienced this pressure.  I don't know if this sensation of pressure bearing down on one's mind and body is a common experience for those who suffer depression.  I do know that I never wanted to take my own life, but I wanted to escape the pressure. 

    Now, every morning when I wake up, I feel apprehension that the pressure will return or has returned.  That it hasn't returned since 2009 means that for over five years I have lived with daily boundless gratitude that I experience my life directly.  While under the influence of depression, I experienced things in whatever way they came to me after passing through the fog and pain of the pressure itself.   

    That was exhausting.

    It's much better now.

    I didn't do anything, to my knowledge, to bring this improvement about, but I do all I can to do what I enjoy:  relish time with family and friends, take pictures, watch good movies, pursue new experiences, do some writing, and enjoy good beer. 


    Three Beautiful Things 08/11/14: Reunion, Williams and Whitman, David's Passenger

    1.   I witnessed a former patient have a reunion with his doctor and the doctor, well, she was warm and gracious, the model of a humane professional taking time to bring joy to a former patient.  Their interaction made it clear that a physician's deeds of healing are as much (or more) spiritual as they are physical.

    2.  Friends and family mourning the death of Robin Williams posted favorite clips and favorite quotations  from movies Robin Williams appeared in.  Several cited Dead Poets Society, a movie that came out when I was living out in the countryside and rarely seeing movies.  I remember renting it and watching it late at night and my mind was preoccupied with the pressure of a failed marriage and with general fatigue.  It was as if I never saw it.  Well, until tonight, I had forgotten that Williams' character in Dead Poets Society loved Walt Whitman and tonight I thought back on the few times I got to teach Walt Whitman and how much I loved reading his exuberant poetry aloud and how I would go into a zone, much like with Shakespeare, where I didn't know if any of my students were with me in feeling the passion of Whitman's poetry, but I let myself be transported and, if they wanted, they could watch me falling in love right before their very eyes. 

    3.  In case you missed it, the Deke posted this picture of a model car of David's with a pair of fingernail clippers in the passenger seat.

    Monday, August 11, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/10/14: Safeway Guilt, Heavenly Soup, Golf on Twitter/Facebook

    1.  When I obliviously took my full cart of groceries to the 15 or fewer Express Lane and loaded items onto the conveyor belt, I didn't get arrested or kicked out of Safeway.  No one called me a jackass.  Claudette, the checker, and the customers behind me seemed to realize I'd made a mistake.  Maybe my face turning pale, my trembling hands, and my being on the verge of guilt sobbing tipped them off that I wasn't pulling a fast one. 

    2.  The Deke thawed those turkey drumsticks and made a thick turkey soup and dumplings.  OMG.  It was heavenly.

    3.  With no television reception in the house, I followed the PGA Championship on Twitter, by keeping a tab open, and via live commentary on Facebook messaging from Rick. my lifelong friend who lives in Myrtle Beach.  Doing it this way helped me feel the thrill of Rory McIlroy's charge on the back nine to come from three strokes down and win his second consecutive major title. 

    Sunday, August 10, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/09/14: Diaz Family Returns, Bold Rock Hard Cider, Grilled Steak Dinner

    1.  Olivia and David are back!  Molly and Hiram are back!  Their Florida vacation has come to an end and the Deke and I get to kick it into a higher nana/grandpa/parent gear again. It's wonderful all being together again.

    2.  My ongoing mission to try every kind of DMV beverage I can continued this afternoon in a most refreshing way.  I picked up a six-pack of Nellyford, Virginia's own Bold Rock Hard Cider.  I enjoyed it a lot, even though it was just a little bit sweeter than my favorite ciders are.  But it wasn't too sweet and I'd drink it anytime, anywhere. 

    3.  I purchased the steaks.  The Deke whipped up some sour creamed mashed pototoes and a green salad.  Hiram grilled the steaks.  Hiram is a pepper sauce aficionado and I joined him in pouring some pepper sauce in a little container to dip bites of steak in.  (I hope Pert Woolum wasn't watching from the other side...he would have hated me doing this....I enjoyed it...[sorry Dad]).  Oh my!  What a great dinner! 

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/08/14: Not a Lost Cause, Bringing the Dead to Life, Whole Foods BeerFest

    1.  Well, the Deke had some business to tend to at the Prince George's County school district Human Resources office and arranged to meet one of her principals at her school so she could take pictures of her classroom.  So we hit the DMV (District/Maryland/Virginia) highways and, well, the district office was closed (strike one!) and the principal wasn't at the school (strike two!).  Ha!  It's funny how this sort of thing doesn't bother me like it might have when I was younger.  I enjoyed the drive with the Deke.  I enjoyed becoming more familiar with the area.  Neither the Deke nor I considered it a wasted early afternoon and decided the thing to do was go do some shopping at Whole Foods and enjoy some time at their little coffee/beer bar. 

    2.  OK.  So the district office was closed.  Had it been open, we would not have been flagged down by a young man whose mother had done something to run down the battery of her car.  Yes!  That's right!  After I ran down the battery in our car on Tuesday, now here was someone on the same property with her battery run down.  Fortunately, we carry jumper cables with us all the time and, ha!, fortunately we had a new battery, and so we got these people's car running again and she canceled her service call to Geico. 

    3.  That beer at Whole Foods?  Fantastic.  The Deke loved her Woody Stout brewed at Lost Rhino Brewing in Ashburn, VA.  I enjoyed a tasty IPA, the Corruption, from DC Brau, one of Washington DC's fine breweries.  Making the transition from those excellent WaOrCaliCo beers to these DMV beers is really fun and it's working out great. 

    Friday, August 8, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/07/14: Tiger's Karmic Debt, Black IPA, Curry for Dinner

    1.  It's only because he's such a graceless athlete that I follow Tiger Woods shrinking before our eyes.  He messed with karma and now karma is messing with him.  Big time.

    2.  I drove over to Belle View to pick up some groceries and check out the beer selection there.  The best news?  I found a six-pack of 21st Amendment's Back in Black, a black IPA, a style of beer the Deke enjoys and that I've had trouble finding in the Alexandria area.

    3.  It was fun chopping up onion, potato, eggplant, red pepper, and mushrooms, sauteing them, fixing a pot of rice, and using the curry out of a jar that the Deke bought the other day to make our dinner. 

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    Three Beautiful Things 08/06/14: I Know the Way to 9A, Pilsner Perfection, Couples Counseling

    1.  Alexandria's Huntington Station is cut into a hillside.  It's bordered on the south by N. King's Highway and on the north by Huntington Avenue.  Today I figured out at least one way of walking from the bus bays on the south side to the bus bays on the north side.  It involved using a parking garage elevator.  To the casual reader, this might not seem like much, but for me it was a huge breakthrough in my continuing mission to learn as many ins and outs of public transportation as possible.

    2.  Being able to walk from the Fairfax Connector (161) bay to the Metrobus (9A) bay at Huntington Station meant that I could take the bus into Old Town and get off a few blocks from Bilbo Baggins and meet the Deke for Happy Hour beer and 10" pizzas.  I enjoyed two pints of an exquisite pilsner:  Eggenberg Pilsner, brewed in Schloss Eggenberg, Austria.  I thought, my Lord, had the brewers of the macrobrewed pilsners I drank from about 1972-1984 and drank again starting in 1996 cared about making really good beer, I could have grown up drinking beer this good.  This afternoon, I felt like I was the drinking pilsner perfected, a feeling I last had at Novak's Hungarian Restaurant on March 8, 2013 in Albany, Oregon when I drank a pint of two of their crisp, light, and tasty house pilsner. 

    3.  Tonight's grisly episode of Wallander ended with Kurt and his his first post-divorce girlfriend, Vanya, seeing a couples counselor.  I thought, "Whoa.  This relationship is over."  After the session, Kurt reveals a telling detail about his past dealings with this counselor.  It's all professional.  It felt like that revelation would end things once and for all between Kurt and Vanya. I'll see if my instincts are worth a hill of beans next time the Deke and I watch more Wallander