Saturday, February 28, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/27/15: More a Greenbelt Guy, Lucky 7, One Bowl Curry

1.  It was a good day for deepening my involvement as a resident of Greenbelt, MD.  I secured a library card and went over to the fitness center and bought a ten buck pass enabling me to ride any U of Maryland shuttle bus and, for a ridiculously low price, bought a year long membership at the Fitness and Aquatic Center.  This was one of my first experiences of paying a greatly reduced rate because, at this place, I am a senior citizen.

2.  After I'd been to the Co-op, the only store in Greenbelt that can sell beer (I still don't quite full understand Maryland's laws regarding beer sales in grocery stores) (well, maybe convenience stores can sell beer), the Deke sent me an emergency text requesting that I pick her up some red wine or a sixer of porter/stout.  There's a liquor store on Greenbelt Road, on the same side of the street as Staples, where I had a visit planned, so I went to it and, at first, nearly bought a sixer of Double IPA, corrected myself, returned to the cooler and could only find one porter, Lucky 7 brewed by Evolution in Salisbury, MD.  I took a risk, hoping it would work for the Deke, and it did -- big time.  She loves it. This made me very happy.  I took a gulp from one of her servings, and, yeah, it is really good.

3.  During the day, I soaked and cooked up some chick peas and, upon returning home, I sauteed some onions, garlic, and ginger, later added curry powder, let it cook for a while, added a can of diced tomatoes, let that mixture cook, and then added the chick peas, more cooking, and finished it off my folding fresh baby spinach leaves into the mix.  We ate this over brown rice and garnished it with cilantro and plain yogurt.  For the 107,000th night in a row we ate a one bowl dinner and we totally enjoyed it. (I'm wondering -- would eggplant have worked?)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/26/15: Snow Day, Ready to Roll, Perfect Soup

1.  Here's what I don't like about this cold weather and today's snow day:  it cuts into my developing walking routine.  I keep believing that I'll get back to it soon because, damn it, it can't stay cold forever.  Here's what I like:  the Deke had a snow day today and so we go to lounge around our apartment home and work on getting things done and enjoying each other's company.

2.  What did I get done?  Well, with my March 2nd appointment at the Transplantation Center looming, I made photcopies of all my recent medical records so that when I take these records to Baltimore, if they want to keep them, it's no sweat.  I also divided my records into a few categories and folders and if I had to walk out of my apartment home today and show up in Baltimore in an hour, I'd be ready.  (We also have a hotel room reserved for Sunday night.)

3.  Yeah.  That mushroom barley carrot celery onion garlic spinach soup was perfect, especially on a cold day spent mostly indoors.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/25/15: Forms, Eggplant, Wildcats

1.  Going to the U of Maryland Transplantation Center for an all-day appointment requires some paper work, mostly filling out of questionnaires about my health history and my mental state.  I sat myself down and filled these forms out today.  I didn't really feel the stress of doing this until I was finished and collapsed on the bed with the Corgis and fell into a coma nap.

2.  I had fun chopping up eggplant, sauteeing it for a while in garlic and seasoning it with red pepper flakes.  After a bit, I poured a cup of water over the eggplant, along with fish sauce and sugar, and let the eggplant steam until soft.  The coup de grace was a generous heaping of fresh basil leaves on the eggplant.  I served it over brown rice and the Deke and I marveled at how lucky we are to experience so much pleasure from such simple food.  This dish was really good.

3.  A Facebook thread initiated by Doug Schonewald reporting Van Troxel's initiation into the Idaho Sports Hall of Fame turned into a discussion, still ongoing, about North Idaho basketball in early 70's and later a look at KHS basketball in the late 50s and on into 1964, the last time KHS won a state title. Coincidentally, while we were gabbing on Facebook about the good old days, Kellogg defeated Bonners Ferry, 53-39, to advance to the state tournament.  Should the Wildcats claw their way to a state title, it would be Kellogg's first since 1964.  I'll keep my fingers crossed for the purple and gold.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sibling Assignment #157: Pinterest Has Become an Unexpected Source of Happiness

I was responsible for Sibling Assignment #157 and here's what I challenged my sisters and me to write about:

Write a piece about Pinterest.  What do you value about Pinterest?  How has it made a difference in your life?  Can you tell a story about a particular thing you did at a particular time that went really well because you are a part of Pinterest?  On the flip side, is there anything about Pinterest that disappoints you?
Both of my sisters are very happy with Pinterest and you can read about Christy's life at Pinterest, here, and about Carol's, here.

For quite a while, in my own oblivious way, I've been vaguely aware that my sisters and the Deke were signed up on Pinterest.  I never gave signing up much thought.

For some reason, a batch of stuffed peppers, of all things, woke me up.  Before I explain, let me say that before these stuffed peppers, I'd eaten great meals and enjoyed tasty drinks made from recipes both of my sisters had found on Pinterest.  But, for some reason, the stuffed peppers woke me up.

You see, Carol is a participant in the Bountiful Basket cooperative and when her food comes, she has to figure out how to make good use of what's in her basket.  Near the end of my Nov.-Jan. stay in Kellogg, she invited Mom and me over for dinner and, because her Bountiful Basket had a bounty of peppers, she needed a good recipe for fixing them. The stuffed peppers with mushrooms, rice, and feta were perfect.

I don't know if she had made these peppers before, but I do know that they were so delicious that I thought that I might give this Pinterest thing a try when I get back to Greenbelt.

Now that I'm home in Greenbelt again, I am back to eating a primarily, but not exclusively, vegetarian diet.  My understanding is that plant-based proteins are easier on my kidneys than animal-based proteins.  I had a time in my life about 20-25 years ago, when I was a strict vegetarian, but over the years I've lost the recipe books I used to make tasty vegetarian meals.

With Pinterest, I've struck gold.

Whether it's peanut sauces, Thai stir fries, ways to prepare tofu, vegetable soups, bean soups, or a variety of other meals I haven't tried yet, the recipes I've found in Pinterest have helped greatly boost the Deke's and my enjoyment of nightly dinners.

As a side note, this development in my life embodies what I am enjoying maybe the most about retirement.

I'm no chef.

I know that.

But I cook some pretty good meals here in our apartment home.

I have time to investigate the eighteenabillions of recipes available on Pinterest and have time to shop for ingredients and have time, if the recipe is a bit time consuming, to give over a half a day or so making certain things.

For example, Molly and Hiram visited us a couple of weeks ago and the Deke said something about wanting chicken soup.  I found this recipe.  It required some work:  boiling a whole chicken, giving it time to cool, and tearing the meat off of the chicken.  I could tell that if this soup was going to work, I needed to give my self about five hours to do it right, including the time that the soup would simply sit still and stew before I served it.

I think it's the best soup I've ever made.  It was a bit peppery, but it also had an Italian/oregano/basil component.  It's taste had depth.  It was medicinal for Molly and the Deke's nasal congestion. Everyone loved it and I was as happy as I've ever been after making a dinner.

If you are still reading this, I ask you not to underestimate the power of this happiness.  I love being able to serve meals that people, especially family members, love and when we eat the food together, I experience us growing more closely together in the enjoyment of the food and in the gratitude we feel for our good fortune to eat simply and to eat well.

And, really, right now, I owe this happiness to Pinterest and the many people who have so generously pinned recipes so that a regular old guy like me can bring happiness to my wife and to my family -- and that I can know that my sisters will bring the same kind of happiness to our family when we are together in Idaho and Washington with the great cocktails and meals they prepare and serve, thanks to Pinterest.
Coda:  I also use Pinterest boards as storage.  For example, I have a board where I store webpages about things to do in the D. C. area, especially outdoor stuff like gardens and hiking areas.

I store these things for myself.

But I have one board that I wish I could attract more people's interest in, and that I don't, disappoints me.  I have a board titled, "Favorite Pictures Posted by tumblr Photographers".  I follow a number of fellow (mostly) amateur photographers on tumblr and when I am especially struck by one of their pictures, I pin it to this board.  

I'd love it if more people saw their pictures.  It's a small thing, but because my Pinterest account draws little interest, these pictures don't get much attention, well, beyond other of their followers on tumblr.  

So, if you'd ever like to look over this Pinterest gallery of mine, it's here and you can see some good street photography these people have done and some other styles as well.  

Three Beautiful Things 02/24/15: Beltway Sludge, Great Stir Fry, Terrapins Defeat Badgers!

1.  It was time to drive to Groveton/Alexandria and pick up the dogs and bring them back.  I decided to wait until a little later in the morning to head out so I wouldn't be caught in the sludge of rush hour traffic.  So, what happened?  Some kind of road work closed two right hand lanes for a stretch of about seven miles and I got caught in the sludge of road construction traffic.  Ha!  You just never know what'll happen on the Capital Beltway.

2.  I found a recipe for Thai style stir fried tofu and basil.  Lately, fresh basil has been unavailable at the Co-op, so I was ready to substitute lemongrass and see how that worked, but, I lucked out today.  The Co-op had a generous stock of basil leaves.  I improvised a bit on the recipe -- green curry pasted instead of chili paste and I used peanut butter instead of crushed peanuts and green onions instead of shallots.  It all worked out great.  Both the Deke and I enjoyed this stir fried combo over brown rice.

3.  I went online and found the radio broadcast of the U. of Maryland's men's basketball's team huge game with the visiting Badgers of the U of Wisconsin and listened to it.   The Badgers sit atop the Big Ten standings. They had only lost twice this season and were ranked 5th in the nation.  The Maryland Terrapins, led by senior Dez Wells and freshman Melo Tremble jumped to an eleven point half time lead, held off the Badgers in the second half, played great in the final two minutes, and triumphed.  I had a great time swapping comments about the game, via text messaging, with the Byrdman back in CdA.  I'm starting to get a little more excited about living so close to College Park and getting into Maryland's teams.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/23/15: Backlash, Great Drive Home, Dinner and Rest

1.  Adrienne and the Deke took Jack to day care.  Later they went to Costco together.  I had a quiet morning doing some writing and starting to learn about the backlash Particia Arquette's comments last night instigated among women of color feminists.  I'm learning a great deal about long held resentments and about strong perceptions of white privilege I've known next to nothing about.

2.  The Deke and I blazed down the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Parkway, left I-95 onto I-895 to skirt around Baltimore and go through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, returned to I-95, and hit our only real traffic snarl about six miles from home as I-95 fed cars onto the Capital Beltway.  But, slowly we inched our way to the Kenilworth exit and soon we arrived home, very happy after a splendid weekend in Metuchen and Nyack.

3.  A bowl of pasta and with eggplant, onion, yellow squash, and tomatoes brought a nourishing conclusion to our day and we settled in, resting up for the demands of the upcoming seven days or so. My March 2 all day appointment at the U of Maryland Transplant Center in Baltimore looms in the next week, as do the final preparations I have to do to get ready for it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/22/15: Clearing Snow, Growler and Gill, New Friends and Boston Sports

1.  Overnight, several inches of snow fell and so Jack and I went out and he helped me knock the snow of of Adrienne's car and our Sube.  Not only was Jack a great help, he had all kinds of directions to give me about what snow should be knocked off first and what next and next, etc., and he knew what parts of the car he could work on what parts to delegate for me to do.  He's a great workmate.

2.  Over in Nanuet, there's a superb tap house and beer shoppe called Growler and Gill.  I fell in love the second the Deke and Jack and I walked in the door with the shelves of manifold beers covering one of the walls and more, the din of happy beer drinkers, and, as I made my way to the tap counter, the great list of  16 beers on tap.  I also liked that they had a variety of glass choices, starting with the pint glass on down to a taster.  I ordered an amber from New Jersey (can't remember the name or brewery).  Later I had a Founder's All Day IPA.  After pizza, I closed out my tab with the perfect after dinner beer, and one of my very favorites of all beers, Flying Dog's Festina Peche.  I held off on this beer until I was done eating thin crust cheese pizza and also some pepperoni/bacon.  I asked when I first arrived if that keg was in pretty good shape and the most helpful woman at the counter said it was in great shape, so if I waited I wouldn't risk having the keg blow.  As I settled my bill, I remarked that I didn't think I'd see Festina Peche this time of year and she told me it was a keg they'd had for a while and I smiled, remarking on my good luck that I could have one of these fruity and slightly sour ales "out of season".  This was a totally unexpected pleasure.

3.  We had dinner with Dave and Phyllis.  Phyllis and Adrienne work together at the Salvation Army. The Deke had had dinner with Phyllis and Dave and Adrienne and Jack on one of her earlier visits.  I was very happy that we hit it off right away and soon I learned that not only is Dave a Bostoner, her's a devoted fan of the Boston sports teams.  Me, too.  We had an especially great time reminiscing about the Red Sox and enjoying the successes the Pats, Celtics, Bruins and Red Sox have had in the last fifteen years.  This, too, was a totally unexpected pleasure.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/21/15: Bagel Blow-Out, Arriving at Adrienne's, Ahead of the Snow

1.  I woke up in Metuchen to a generous Ted bagel blow-out.  He loves to buy guests bagels from a hole-in-the-wall joint downtown and gets anything his guests order.  I'll just say that I had a sesame bagel untoasted with sliced lox and a cinnamon raisin bagel toasted and a side of cream cheese.  The sesame bagel was my meal and the raisin cinnamon was my dessert.  Ted and Sally served us Peet's coffee, a perfect way to round out a great morning of conversation and bagels.

2.  The Deke and I hit the road around 11:30 and made out way up the Garden State Parkway to New York and then a short distance into New York to the village of Nyack where Adrienne and Jack live.  To Jack, I am Bop and it took Jack a little while to warm up to me.  Maybe I wouldn't look so scary if I had gotten a haircut .  But, Jack came out of his shy shell and before long I had a new friend and learned all about different toys and bots, wonderful playthings beyond anything I could have ever imagined when I was four years old.

3.  As the day wandered into the late afternoon, snow began to fall and I got curious about what was happening back in Maryland and so I started to read dispatches from around D.C. and the Capital Beltway of the worst possible driving conditions and combinations of snow and ice falling from the apocalyptic skies.  It should clear up by Monday when the Deke and I will return.  I'm grateful that our travels, so far, have been clear and easy and hope that the same will be true for Monday.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/20/15: Dog Delivery, Heading North, My First HopDevil

1.  It was a great day in the Subaru.  It began when I leashed up the corgis and secured them in the back seat and we drove down I-495 to Molly and Hiram's -- they are looking after Maggie and Charly while the Deke and I hit the road and head north.

2.  I decided to head back to Greenbelt via I-295 and it was a parking lot out there -- standstill traffic for a few miles -- but eventually things got moving again and the Deke and I packed some stuff into the Sube and headed up 1-95 and then the New Jersey Turnpike and arrived in Metuchen, NJ so we could visit the Deke's cousin Sally and her husband, Ted.  I had never met them before and we hit it off right away and piled into one Sally and Ted's rigs and headed downtown to Hailey's Harp and Pub, a popular watering hole packed wall to wall with people (I think Ted knew them all!) and offering a generous and various taplist.

3.  I was very happy to learn that Hailey's Harp and Pub was serving Victory Brewing's highly regarded HopDevil IPA and I can't remember ever drinking it before.  OH MY!!  What a fine IPA.  It is as nicely balanced and easy to drink as any IPA I've ever drunk.  Yes, it hits the nose and mouth immediately with hoppiness, but those hops don't dominate the beer and give way to a subtle sweetness, but that's not the finish.  I slight bitterness is.  Lord, I wished that beer was not an intoxicating beverage.  I could have quaffed this HopDevil all night long!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/19/15: Hunkering Down, Hot Soup, Listening

1.  The wind chill continues to unrelentingly freeze the greater Greenbelt suburbatropolitan area and I am just not the hardy soul I used to be and so I hunkered in all day, doing laundry, cooking, and continuing the kind of reading I've mentioned in this blog the last couple of days.

2.  The Deke and I need hot soup -- not just temperature hot, but peppery hot.  Today I put together our Ninja food blender and after I sauteed a couple of onions, cooked down some cauliflower, broccoli, and celery, I put the contents in the blander, returned it to the soup pot, and added coconut milk and some red wine vinegar.  I seasoned the onions while they sauteed with pepper, cumin, garlic powder, tumeric, salt, and red pepper flakes and the end result was a soup that I, at first, thought was too hot -- but it wasn't.  The Deke and I are both fighting colds and the chill outside our apartment home and the soup was perfect.

3.  This evening, I listened as the Deke talked (did not complain) at length about the challenges of her job and, that despite all the difficulties, how glad she is to have moved so far out of the comfort of  Charlemagne into a school that is not only challenging her professionally, but on a deeply personal level as well. She has never worked, or studied, or done anything in an overwhelmingly African-American environment before (I never have) and it's demanding for a variety of reasons, many that go way beyond the fact that this particular third grade group is (and has been since kindergarten) a behavior problem for everyone.  I don't have a firm enough grip on how to talk about these challenges to write about them and I'm not sure it's my place to do so.  I admire the Deke's determination to learn, to serve her students, and to talk with me about her work, about this move we've made.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/18/15: Jessica Williams and Ester Bloom, Black Bean Soup, RIP Jerome Kersey

1.   With the frigid weather occupying Prince George's County and beyond, I was content to continue to follow links on Twitter again today. I learned more even more about racial tensions in the world of feminism, much of that tension focused on Jessica Williams' public statement that she sees herself as unqualified to take over has host of The Daily Show and her indignant response to a piece written by a white feminist, The Billfold's Ester Bloom. Bloom argued that Jessica Williams was a victim of Imposter Syndrome, a name for the way underqualified men round up their resumes for jobs and qualified women round down -- when, in fact, they are qualified. Ester Bloom suggested that Jessica Williams was selling herself short and  recommended that she get the best Lean In group of all time together and this group could give Williams a pep talk. That's all she needed.  Williams found the Bloom piece offensive, both condescending and presumptuous. She resented being considered a victim. She told Bloom, "you don't own me". 

By today, Ester Bloom had apologized, writing, "I was wrong. I was offensive and presumptuous; I messed up, and I’m sorry. Williams should not have had to deal with this shit: my calling her a 'victim' of anything, my acting like I know better and could diagnose her with anything, all of it." I learned from reading other responses to Bloom's piece that this was not a superficial show biz dust up, but that Bloom's well-intentioned presumptiousness, as a white feminist, came off as oblivious and maternalistic and it struck a nerve in many of Jessica Williams' followers, far beyond the world of entertainment.  The resentment runs deep.

I'm thinking back on my days in the English Department at Lane Community College, thinking back on our well-intentioned, and sometimes successful, and sometimes not, to hire minority faculty in our department.  It turned out to be more complex than I thought it would be -- I had a very simplistic understanding of how this might work out when I was division chair, as well as when I served on several search committees at Whitworth College as the Affirmative Action representative, (and wasn't always welcome).

I don't have anything intelligent to say -- only that I'm understanding how even the best of intentions can come off as presumptuous, pater/maternalistic, and oblivious.

I guess I'd rather have good intentions and be eager to learn, and possibly be naively offensive,  than have undermining intentions and be defensive, closed-minded, and cynical -- attitudes I experienced a lot in my academic work and read a lot in my many tours of the World Wide Web.

I'll keep reading and listening, not in service to some bankrupt, lazy, divisive, scornful idea like political correctness, but in pursuit of understanding some fraction of the messy, complicated, many-sided, frustrating, often foggy truth reality realities of living in the USA.  

2.   Even when in pursuit of understanding, a guy has to eat -- right?  My favorite bean is the black bean and so I cooked some up and created a chicken broth based soup with onion, carrots, celery, red pepper, and canned diced tomatoes, seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, basil, bay leaves, and crushed red pepper.  I cooked it up early in the afternoon and then let it stew for a couple of hours before heating it up again and enjoying a solid meal, a perfect way for the Deke to combat the respiratory infection she's fighting and for both of us to stand up to this current Maryland cold snap.

3.  Back in the fall of 1984, the Portland Trail Blazers played the L. A. Clippers in a preseason game at Mac Court in Eugene.  MQ and I went together and after the game we both were mightily impressed with a player we had never heard of.  He ran the floor, hustled for rebounds, could score, and played relentless defense.  Who is this guy?  Well, it was Jerome Kersey, and this evening I read the sad news that Jerome Kersey died at the age of 52.  That great hustle and passionate play defined Kersey's career.  I'll continue to think back to the years he played and remember him with a ton of enjoyment.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/17/15: Twitter Links to Learning, Portage Not Snapshot! :), Dude: Hey! Commit!

1.  Twitter is becoming a source of expanding my understanding of how a wide variety of thinkers see and understand the USA.  I follow quite a few academics, both men and women, involved in the large tent of African American Studies (this enterprise goes by many different names) and I see myself making up for reading and study I didn't do before I retired.  Today was a great day for such reading. I learned more about slave ships, different perspectives on the recent NYTs book review of Lynching as Racial Terrorism; I read a long statement a black Mississipi federal judge made to three white men who killed a black man in Jackson, in what the Atlanta Black Star described as "the unconscionably brutal 2011 lynching of James Craig Anderson during a 'nigger hunt'"; I read about students at the U of Oregon doing research on the Warm Springs Reservation, following the research protocols structured by indigenous scholar Eva Marie Garroute's concept of "Radical Indigenism":
By asking scholars to enter (rather than merely study) tribal philosophies, Radical Indigenism asks them to abandon any notion that mainstream academic philosophies, interpretations, and approaches based upon them are, in principle, superior. … Entering tribal relations implies maintaining respect for community values in the search for knowledge. This respect is much more than an attitude, it requires real commitments and real sacrifices on the part of those who practice it.
Today, I read much more than I've listed above and this has been true for me for a while now.  For many months, I've used Twitter as a way to get reports on traffic in the DMV area, find articles on sports, to access links to the BBC, NYTs, and other news outlets.  I've expanded this and the links I am finding to different kinds of research and opinion pieces is giving me ways to understand all kinds of things about the USA, the area where I live, debates going on among all kinds of thinkers and writers, and approaches to research and education and teaching that are eye-opening for me.

2.  Well, I took a break from reading articles and debates and got the Subaru out from under the 4-6 inches of snow that fell last night and made my way to the Co-op to buy the Deke some porter.  I decided to see how New Belgium's Portage would work.  The problem is, well, instead of pulling Portage off the shelf, I pulled off New Belgium's wheat ale, Snapshot.  The Deke said she'd give the Snapshot a go, but it didn't work for her.  I decided, what the hell, I'll go back and I picked up the Portage on trip #2, in addition to a few other things we needed, and the Deke was very grateful for my efforts.

3.  All I have right now is five 8 x 10 frames, but you'd think I had 105 given all the work I'm doing trying to figure out what pictures I want to have printed to fill those frames -- and a couple of 5 x 7s. I received these frames as gifts on Christmas Day 2013 and, still, to this day, I can't seem to make up my mind.  I've enjoyed looking at the thousands of pictures I've taken over the last several years, but, c'mon, man, I tell myself, commit, dude.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/16/15: Emergency Trip to Shoppers, Averting a Dog Food Disaster, Green Curry

1.  The Deke and I spent another night at Molly and Hiram's and awoke to a bulletin that our region would be ravaged, starting in late afternoon, by a massive snow storm and that we could expect the DMV region to be paralyzed.  I sped to Shopper's supermarket and piled a shopping cart high with eggplant, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, yellow squash, cans of tomatoes, coconut milk, curry paste, bullion, and other emergency supplies, saving us a trip to the store in Greenbelt, should we be fortunate to make it back to our apartment home alive.

2.  We joined other drivers grayed with anxiety on the Capital Beltway and made our way back to Greenbelt.  Surprisingly, our trip went smoothly, but when we arrived, I realized we were dreadfully low on dog food.  I decided I could get to the Co-op and back ahead of the impending doom of the snow storm.  Once at the store, I helped an elderly woman load her groceries in her car and then entered the Co-op where I jostled my way through the mob of other frightened shoppers and plucked a bag of Rachel Ray dog food off the shelf, picked up Dingo treats for the dogs as well, paid the nearly frozen and dispirited checker, and got back to our apartment home before the snow event got underway.

3.  Earlier in the day I had bought green and red curry paste and decided that green curry would be a great dinner as the temperatures continued to plunge and the snow started to blanket our region.  I had also, for the first time in my life, bought coconut oil.  I sauteed onion, garlic, and ginger in the coconut oil, then added cauliflower, green beans, mushrooms, eggplant, and red pepper.  While these vegetables slowly became tender, I made a mixture of green curry paste, fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce, and turmeric, dumped it in the vegetables, let them cook more, and then poured in nearly two cups of coconut milk and added cilantro and spinach.  While this awesome Thai mess cooked, I had been making brown rice, and soon the Deke and I were eating bowls of a warming dinner, a perfect way to fight off the cold and wind and snow outside our sliding glass doors.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/15/15: What Have We Done?, Courageous Return, Gyro Dinner

1.  The callous deep freeze won't leave.  Njorour and Aeolus continue to ally themselves in a frigid rage, driving even the most hardy among us indoors.  The streets are empty, abandoned.  We continue to shelter the children, keeping the blinds closed so that their innocent minds remain unexposed to the cruelty and misery of these vengeful gods.  Soon angry thundersnow will deafen us and blanket us in their anger.  Lord, what have we done?

2.  Molly and Hiram braved the salt and slush of Pittsburgh and the howling winds of I-70 and courageously steered their way back to Groveton.  They fell into their town house exhausted, gaunt from fear, and we celebrated their return as David and Olivia fell joyously into their arms.

3.  The Deke and I decided we'd like more time with the Diaz family and so delayed for a day the gruesome drive back to Greenbelt and Molly and the Deke sent me out into the calamity of wind and cold and dark to Mama's Kitchen where I picked up a bag of gyros. We ate them lustily and gratefully, relishing the lamb and feta and tzatzki splendor of these Greek piles of pleasure.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/14/15: Njorour and Aeolus Join Forces, Sheltering the Children, OMG! No Milk!

1.  Things grow more desperate by the day.  Today the battle between Njorour and Aeolus ended. Today the wind gods joined forces and roared into Groveton, VA and turned those of us who are lions into cowering lambs, driving the strongest of us indoors for shelter against the wind.  Will this Norse/Greek occupation ever end?  Will I ever be able to take a daily walk again?  Things grow more desperate by the day.

2.  The Deke and I protected David and Olivia from the anger of Njorour and Aeolus by keeping them indoors and they responded like champions, playing together all day, including joining in with their Nana to make stuff at the dining table.

3.  Indeed, desperate times call for desperate measures.  In a panic, I realized, as the sun set and the wind howled in Groveton, that we were out of milk and so I walked into the teeth of the wind to the Subaru and, with great resolve, steered my way to Giant, and with the other shoppers, gaunt from their own battles against the cold, got the milk and few other staples, like a little plastic box of brownies for the Deke. !

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/13/15: Njorour Outdoes Aeolus, Document Box, Unexpected Nostalgia

1.  Impatient with the futile efforst of Aeolus to keep me indoors yesterday, today Njorour, the Norse  God of sea, wind, fish, and wealth swooped into Greenbelt and with his seething and frigid exhalations of jealousy and rage, sent temperatures plummeting to near zero and not only outdid Aeolus, but succeeded in keeping me indoors, forcing my rational self to decide it was not a good day for walking.  Njorour tested my hubris and I triumphed rather than being transformed into a stiff, frozen corpse on the February tundra of the Greenbelt Lake trail.

2.  With our move from Oregon to Virginia to Maryland, documents related to our house sale have come flying through the mail to two different addresses and I sorely wanted to find one of those documents as I prepare to file our tax return and after much careful searching in our box of documents and files, I found it.  I might be one phone call shy of being ready to visit the tax prep. guy.  I'm eager to get this task done.

3.  The Deke and I piled a couple of bags each into the Subaru and squeezed ourselves onto the bumper to bumper cluster tangle of the Capitol Beltway and made our way slowly, but without incident, to Alexandria to spend the weekend with David and Olivia while Molly and Hiram travel to Pittsburgh to see Hiram's brother dance the role of the Beast in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater production of Beauty and the Beast.  I haven't been to Groveton/Alexandria since I went to Kellogg and I sincerely enjoyed being back on Rt. 1 and seeing the familiar unbroken line of franchise businesses, strip malls, and big box outlets that defined so much of the two and a half months we lived in Groveton with Molly and Hiram.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/12/15: Hounds of Aeolus, Rusty Letter, Quick Meal

1.  Something has enraged Aeolus, the Greek god keeper of the winds here in the greater MVD area and starting late this afternoon the great Aeolus began to unleash hell winds from the Arctic upon us. I had thought his angry hound winds had begun to howl in the early afternoon and I was ready to cancel my daily walk, but, as a test, I walked to the mailbox at the entry way into our apartment complex and, not having suffered frost bite or nearly died from exposure, I decided to keep going and got in about two and a half miles by going up to the business park on Ivy Lane, after a stroll around the perimeter of our good sized apartment site.

2.  It's been a long time since I wrote a letter of recommendation, but a student of mine from 2011, a student I've stayed in touch with, asked me to support his efforts to gain scholarship aid, and this morning I got that letter written.  I felt like the Tin Woodsman in need of having my letter writing joints and muscles oiled.

3.  Lentils mixed with corn.  Quinoa. Salsa. Parmesan cheese. All thrown together in a bowl. Quick. Easy. It worked.  Made me and Deke laugh at how easy each of us is to please.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/11/15: Scrooge Writing, Thinking About the Deke, 1970 Oakland Raiders

1.  I thought about it long and hard and concluded that I am a Valentine's Day Scrooge and wrote about it this morning, and now Sibling Assignment #156 is complete.  I didn't name names or go into great detail about how my Scroogery came into being, but you can learn the general facts and join me in relishing the fact that it's a day blissfully ignored by both the Deke and me, if you click here.

2.  I enjoyed a sunny walk through the skeletal trees and close to the icy shores of Greenbelt Lake this afternoon, with my head full of thoughts and questions about the difficult challenges the Deke faces day to day in her job.  When she came home today, the news was good: she reported that several of her home room students experienced breakthroughs in the world of fractions and a handful of her students stood before the class and explained how it is that even though 12 is a larger number than 5, in the perplexing world of fractions, 1/12 is smaller than 1/5.  Her students are also deeply interested in the reading they are doing about Rosa Parks and are having trouble wrapping their minds around several facts:  Rosa Parks broke a city law when she didn't leave her seat on a Montgomery bus (it was a law?), the Deke was a little kid when this happened (how old are you?), and the Deke lived in an all white suburb of Chicago and didn't know any black people growing up (this fact is really astonishing to these Prince George's County third graders), among other things.  These children have no idea how much the Deke is learning from them, and, second-hand, me, too.

3.  Via email and the wonders of videos on the World Wide Web, Byrdman opened up for me a really fun trip back to the 1970 NFL season and the heroics of the Oakland Raiders' forty-three year old back-up quarterback and kicker, George Blanda, as well as the pleasure of listening to play by play genius, Bill King.  Not only did the videos take me back to that season, they also triggered a ton of memories of things that happened in my funny personal life as a junior at Kellogg High School.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sibling Assignment #156: I Admit It: I'm a Valentine's Day Scrooge

Carol assigned the three of us this task: "Think back to celebrating Valentine's Day in Elementary School, and share about any memory or memories you may have from one or more of those celebrations, and how it made you feel."

If you go here, you can read about how much Christy loves Valentine's Day and, here, you can read about how all the feelings of Carol's boy crazy youth are now reserved only for Paul.

Well, I am going to have to invoke the Fleetwood Mac option on this assignment.  I'm going to pretend that when any of us cannot answer the question as given, we would say to the other siblings, well, sib, go your own way.

Back in 1997, the Deke and I emailed each other through a lot of the summer.  We made each other laugh.  We told stories.  We revealed that we each had an encyclopedic memory of the tv cartoons of our youth.

It wasn't like we were emailing each other across the country or even across the state.

We lived about six blocks from each other.

In late August, the Deke emailed that enough was enough and said we ought to get off line and go do something. (Somewhere in this period of time we also decided to write scenarios of things we might do -- we've both kept them -- neither of us submitted "live in Maryland" to the other -- and when I get the story straight, I'll have to write about this one day.)

We decided to go watch the Eugene Emeralds play.  Jerome had given me a couple of tickets and I'd been looking for someone to use them with me, and so we walked from 940 Madison to Civic Stadium and back again, and somewhere, either coming or going, stopped at Field's for a drink.

That night, this happened.  Here's the conversation:

Out of the blue, I said, "You know what?  I hate Valentine's Day."

Deke: "Really!  Me, too!"

Me:  "Let's get married!"


I didn't really say we should get married, but I could have, and, as things played out, Deke and Molly and Patrick and Adrienne moved into my house in November and we did get married in December.

I don't want to get into the details of why I don't pay attention to Valentine's Day and am very happy to be married to the Deke who also doesn't pay attention to Valentine's Day, except with Molly, Patrick, and Adrienne when they were younger and with our grandchildren now.

She bought M, P, and A chocolate when they were younger and right now Valentine's Day cards for the grandchildren are ready to be mailed.

(Sibs: If you have sent or are going to send me a Valentine's Day card, no problem:  I'll enjoy the thought.  I'm not that big of a Scrooge!)

I know that my ill feelings about Valentine's Day do not go back to elementary school.  All I can really remember about Valentine's Day back then is that some kind of a card exchange used to happen and the best part of that was that I felt some of the twinges of attraction to girls in my room that felt fun and made me act silly and that I didn't know anything about.

I pretty much have one generalized memory of those days and it's all harmless.

As I got older, though, Valentine's Day turned into a pressure day.

Like I said, I won't go into detail, but with more than one woman in my life over the years, Valentine's Day could have been renamed Anxiety Day.

I had little feeling for the day and I so on the run up to Valentine's Day, I never gave it much thought. When I did give it thought, I resisted buying a card or flowers or chocolates (that seemed so cliche), but I never made any real effort to replace the cliche with something else.

Within myself, I just didn't care.

But, if I didn't do something -- well, on more than one occasion my inaction brought about tears of disappointment and, in one case, I was with someone for whom Valentine's Day was in the same holiday league as Christmas or a birthday.  She showered me with gifts and I didn't have much to show in return -- maybe a chocolate truffle or something.

One Valentine's Day during that time in my life, I remember driving all over Eugene, racking my brain as to what to buy and where that would bring happiness on Valentine's Day and not disappointment or criticism.  I can't remember if I succeeded.  I only remember the pressure I felt -- well, and the resistance, too.

I hated it.

This year, when Saturday rolls around, the Deke and I will wake up in Molly and Hiram's townhouse while they are in Pittsburgh to see Hiram's brother play the role of the beast for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater.

We'll have coffee.

We'll help David and Olivia with breakfast.

I'll probably go to Huntley Meadows or even go into D. C.

Sometime during the day, I might say:

"Deke.  You know what day it is?"

Then, in a pretend mushy voice,I'll croon:  "Happy Valentine's Day..."


Three Beautiful Things 02/10/15: Tuscan Chicken Stew, Dinner for the Children, Nilsson to Sleater-Kinney

1.  Here's what I enjoy about retirement:  After some recipe research, I landed on a chicken stew ("Tuscan Chicken Stew") and so spent much of the afternoon simmering a whole chicken in water and chicken broth and some vegetable broth, seasoning and simmering vegetables, letting the chicken cool, pulling the meat off the chicken and putting it together with the vegetables, straining it all through cheesecloth, and letting it all stew for a couple of hours.  The result was a soup that temporarily helped  Molly with her stuffed up nose, satisfied Hiram, and really pleased the Deke.  It was fun spending an afternoon making this meal, being able to send a container home with Molly, and having a container for ourselves here at home.

2.  I also pleased David and Olivia, our grandchildren.  All I had to do was peel an apple and cut it into pieces, slice a green pepper into lengths, and melt cheese between two warmed up tortillas.  I also poured the children some milk.

3.  Having purchased headphones yesterday allows me to go into a personal music pleasure zone without interfering with what the Deke is doing, and tonight my personal concert included "Jump into the Fire" by Harry Nilsson, "Taxi" by Harry Chapin, and a series of songs by the Oysterband and other trad/rock bands on the Oysterband Pandora channel.  I ended my evening in grand style looking at and listening to youtube videos of Sleater-Kinney over the years, a deep pleasure.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sibling Assignment #155: My Corner of the World

For Sibling Assignment #155, Christy assigned the three of us siblings to write about the corner of the world where we live.

Christy and Carol are both longtime residents in their respective corners of the world.  Christy wrote about her love for northeastern Washington state, here, and Carol wrote about our hometown of Kellogg, here.

Well, unlike my sisters, who have established deep roots and great familiarity with their corners of the world, I am a stranger in a strange land, having just moved to Greenbelt, Maryland at the end of September, 2014.

Take your choice as far as what you want to call this strange land.

I live in suburban Washington D. C.

I live on the Washington-Baltimore corridor.

Whatever you call it, the Deke and I have happily moved to the DMV (DC, MD, VA) suburbanopolis and it's stimulatingly unlike anywhere I've ever lived before.

For starters, for me, being new to the suburbanopolis life, I have experienced this world as a bewildering labyrinth of local, state, and federal streets, roadways, freeways, routes, parkways, pikes, drives, boulevards, streets, and avenues, many with dual names, both what I would call a street name and a route number.  For example, when I take the Deke to work, I could say I go south on Kenilworth, but many would say I go down Rt. 201, known on signs as MD 201.

The school where Deke teaches is right off of Rt 201/Kenilworth/MD 201 and sits on Edmonston Rd.  Drive north from the school on Edmonston Rd. and it reaches an end, dissolving into a large apartment complex parking lot,

BUT, head north on Rt.201/Kenilworth/MD 201 and out of nowhere it suddenly becomes Edmonston Rd and keep driving toward Laurel and it becomes the Old Baltimore Pike -- and, I think, it continues to be MD/Rt 201, but I'm not 100 percent sure.

I'm not 100 percent sure.  That's life in my corner of the world.  When I set out to go somewhere, I'm not 100 percent sure I have the directions right (I don't use GPS) and I'm not 100 percent sure I'll get where I'm going in some set amount of time because I'm never 100 percent sure what traffic will be like.

But, I don't always drive.  I also ride the Metrobus and the Metro train and while I'm much more sure of what station will come next and what route I'm on, I'm never 100 percent sure that the train won't be suffering residual delay because of a track repair at Branch Station or because of a medical emergency at Silver Spring.

All these place names are becoming mythic to me.  The same thing happened when I rode the Underground in London. I started to have deep feelings about places like Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road or the Strand or Angel or Moorgate.  Often I wanted to travel to these stations just because I liked the name, say, of Finchley Road and Frognal or Finchley Road.  ,

Now, I board the train and I start feeling attached to names like Largo and Foggy Bottom and I wonder what's going on at Crystal City and what's new at New Carrollton.  I see names like Landover and Bethesda, names I know from the world of professional sports and sometimes I wonder if the Grateful Dead ever played at Shady Grove.

Did I expect, when we moved to Maryland, that I might find getting around bewildering? Did I expect to spend a lot of time reading maps, navigating scores of roads, and learning to get a grip on the geography of our nation's capital?  Yes.

I expected crowded roadways and crowded trains.  I expected to walk the streets and ride buses and trains with more people different from me that I've ever been in the company of my whole life.  I expected that, along with hearing different languages and hearing English spoken in variety of musical, fascinating ways.

I expected all that.

What I didn't expect was to learn that I was chauvinistic about Pacific Northwest beauty.  Even though I have traveled by car across the country several times and seen what natural variety and natural beauty there is across the USA, I was always pretty much fixed on the idea that true beauty only exists in Oregon, Washington, and North Idaho.

I especially thought that I'd never find natural beauty in the miles and miles of towns sprawling in all directions from Washington, D.C. but would have to get used to miles and miles of strip malls, apartment complexes, gas stations, and suburban sameness.

To a degree, living in this suburbanapolis has been this way, but I've been struck by how much natural beauty is all around me.

I have yet to explore much of the beauty Maryland and N. Virginia, and Washington, D. C. hold. Down in Alexandria, I've spent quite a few hours in Huntley Meadows, a wetland teeming with fowl and foliage secluded just minutes from Rt 1 (also known as Richmond Highway, Baltimore Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue and host of other names).  Likewise, here in Greenbelt, I'm becoming more and more familiar with the beauty of Greenbelt Lake. I've walked its circumference in the autumn under canopies of orange, red, and yellow leaves and now in the winter with the trees standing like skeletons against gray skies, stark and gorgeous.

I have books and the World Wide Web to guide me to nearby lakes, rivers, reserves, parks, an arboretum or three or four, as well as hiking trails to waterfalls and historical sites.

I'm not a hundred percent sure I'll visit all these places that are available, but I am one hundred percent sure that in my new corner of the world, in the midst of all that is perplexing and concrete and crowded, there are trees, trails, birds, bays, lakes, rivers, and other green sources of beauty in the city and in the country and these places will give me respite from the push and pull of the bewildering place I call home.

Three Beautiful Things 02/09/15: Another Inspection, Shoppers Again, Stan Rogers Revisited

1.  I enjoy it when things that need to be done require that I go out into the bewildering maze of national and state and local routes and roads of the suburbanopolis where I live and learn more about getting around in this place I now live.  Ha!  It turns out that after I registered the Subaru back in October, I had three months to take it into a state emissions testing station to make sure the old Legacy wagon was not befouling the pristine air of the Old Line State.  This fact blew right by me, but I got a notice over the weekend that I needed to get this done.  I got on the google map, found the closest testing station down in the general Hyattsville metropolitan area and set off today, not taking the most efficient route, but the one I thought I'd learn the most from.  I meandered down MD 201 to MD 410 and made a left here and a couple of rights there and arrived, got right in and right out of the emissions testing station, after I paid a small fee and a penalty for being late.  I came back on MD 410 and mixed things up a little by returning to Greenbelt on the Baltimore Washington Parkway and continued to school myself on the difference between east and west when coming into Greenbelt off the BW Parkway, giving me the opportunity to see some areas traveling east on Greenbelt Rd. I hadn't seen before.

2.  The first grocery store I went to with Molly back in July was Shoppers in the Greater Alexandria suburbanolitan area and, today, I drove over to College Park to pick up some cords and headphones at Best Buy and the Best Buy is next to a Shoppers and I needed a few vegetables and broth for tonight's, as it turned out, out of sight Quick Red Thai Curry Soup, and so I shopped at Shopper's and enjoyed the friendly service our entire line received from Leatrice, the overworked, but cheerful checker.

3.  I used my new headphones to go down memory lane and listen to some stirring sea songs sung by Stan Rogers who was the unofficial minstrel laureate of Canada until he died in a jet plane accident back in 1983 at age 33.  I especially enjoyed listening to "The Mary Ellen Carter: and "Barrett's Privateers".  Here's the latter, in a scene taken from a documentary film of Stan Rogers' life entitled, "One Warm Line".  After an ad you can skip by Budweiser, you can hear Rogers talk about how he came to write "Barrett's Privateers" and then see and listen to a rousing version of it sung around a kitchen table.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/08/15: Writing, Kindness, Curry

1.  I gave my legs a rest today and spent much of the day thinking and writing about my visit on Saturday to the National Gallery.  I have to admit, though, in the piece I wrote I never quite got at why the art that transfixed me had the effect it did.  One day, I might get this down in words.

2.  The Deke and I each do our own laundry, but today she broke with our usual way of doing things and put in a load for me, voluntarily.

3.  I found a recipe for vegetable curry using red curry paste and coconut along with fish sauce and soy sauce.  I built the meal around onions, garlic, ginger, eggplant, broccoli, spinach, and cilantro. We had leftover rice, but it wasn't quite enough, so I made some couscous to supplement it and it was a kind of perfect dinner.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Saturday Afternoon Visiting the National Gallery of Art

Some Background

I'm remembering back to the fall of 1979 when I began graduate school at the University of Oregon and Prof. Richard Stein, in a Victorian Literature course, assigned us to read some art criticism by John Ruskin and we spent one day in class looking at slides of different paintings from the 19th century and Prof. Stein read passages from Ruskin about those paintings.

I'm fairly certain we looked at some Pre-Raphaelite paintings that day and I'm hoping, but I can't remember, if we looked at some of Turner's paintings.  The details don't stick with me.  But, in a general way, that day in class made paintings come alive to me in a way literature already had.  While I've forgotten what Ruskin was explaining in support of painters who were his contemporaries, I haven't lost the change in my own mindset that occurred that day when it comes to looking at paintings.

I was 25 years old when I took that class.  Back then, I dreamed of doing what writers I admired were doing, and, so, back then I imagined myself going to art galleries and writing about paintings just like Ruskin did, with a sweeping historical knowledge, a keen sense of aesthetics and beauty, and penetrating insight.

Ha!  That dream never came true.

What has come true, though, is that I love visiting galleries and I love looking at art, all art, from two-dimensional Medieval representations of the crucifixion to the baroque three-dimensional glorifying of the human figure that followed to the Shakespearean complexity of characters in Rembrandt's portraits to the landscapes of Reynolds to the slow disappearance of representational pictures as Impressionism and Cubism and Expressionism and the Abstract came into being.

So, today I strolled into the National Gallery of Art with the intention of going to an El Greco exhibit. I didn't know where the exhibit was and I didn't find out because I enjoy what happens when I wander semi-aimlessly around looking for what I think I want to see.

II.  Three Women

Today I wandered into the galleries holding French paintings of the latter part of the 19th century (and one Italian painting of the early 20th) and the paintings intoxicated me.

It's hard to put to words how or why the one nude portrait by Amedeo Madigliani and the two portraits, one nude, one not, by Auguste Renoir stirred me so.

I think what's going on is that I carry the plays of Shakespeare with me everywhere and I see the complexity of his portrayals of different characters with me everywhere and with this mindset I looked at these three women.  It wasn't really my desire that was stirred, but I was stirred, in the first painting, by the desire portrayed in the painting.  In Madigliani's "Nude on a Blue Cushion", I experience the woman as a more erotic than seductive, sure of herself, as much full of desire as desirous. Madigliani did not represent her in a photographic way, but with shape and color that brings the pleasure she takes in her desire alive.

Renoir's nude, "Bather Arranging Her Hair" is painted with a soft focus, as if Renoir were photographing with a soft focus lens.  The painting is more dreamy, more idealized, but not a fantasy. The bather's clothes strewn about her keep the portrait grounded in the world and her concentration on fixing her hair means that she is oblivious to being seen and so her face does not communicate to the viewer the way Madigliani's does. In fact, as viewers, we might be voyeurs. I'm not titillated by being a voyeur. What I do enjoy is the sensuous roundness of the painting's composition. It is as if she is painted within an oval and within this roundness is the circle of clothes around her, the roundness of her figure, and the round shape her arms form around her head.

Renoir's other painting against this wall is entitled, "Odalisque, Woman of Algiers".  An odalisque is a concubine, a member of a harem.  Renoir, much more than in the bather picture, paints this woman with depth and complexity.  She is voluptuous, especially in the folds of the various colors and fine fabrics she wears and her pose is sensuous, especially her legs, slightly opened.  Unlike the bather, we make eye contact with this woman and all that is physically voluptuous about her is in tension with her look of fatigue and of contempt.  If we were looking to see a portrait of an exotic, sexual concubine, Renoir subverts that expectation, This woman is at once portrayed as living in physical luxury and is hardly enriched by it, but is rather weary of what she does and who she is.

III. Burnt Out Ends of Smoky Days

I thought of the woman in "Odalisque" as I spent time with the world of prostitutes and barrooms in the handful of Toulouse-Lautrec paintings on view.  I stared at these pictures and the first thing that came to mind was that I was experiencing a painter who, in my mind, is as good as Rembrandt in his ability to reveal human character through the face.  Much like the woman in "Obalisque", the women who populate Toulouse-Lautrec's world are cynical, burnt out, participants in the world of sex and booze they occupy, but weary of it, and scornful of the men who buy and sell them.  Lines from T. S. Eliot's "Preludes" sprang to mind:

The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps        5
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,        10
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.

In Eliot's metaphors of "ends" and "scraps", and "withered leaves", in "broken blinds" and "lonely cab-horse steams and stamps",  I have a pictorial way of experiencing the the death of spirit, the hollow, soulless life of these characters in Toulouse-Lautrec's sordid world.  Even when there's vitality, as in "Marcelle Lender Dancing the Bordello in 'Chilperic'", the vitality is a scene in a staged operetta, and, to my eye, the performer, Marecelle Lender's face is full of ambiguity and uncertainty, even as she dance sensuously.  What unsettles me in the painting is the man (or the character) to her right, as we view the picture.  I don't know the story of "Chilperic", but I think the man looks like a pander sizing up Marcelle Linder and his gaze might be why she cannot fully enjoy the dance, but is dubious about her performance.

IV.  Tiny Dancer

It's performance that dominates the current Edward Degas exhibit called "Tiny Dancer".  Degas was especially interested in painting scenes of ballet dancers behind the scenes, slumping in fatigue, receiving instruction in ballet classes, getting ready to go on.  In one painting, he captures this variety in a wide angle shot that I coveted, wishing I could use my camera in the same way.  On picture especially puzzled and thrilled me.  I enjoy non-realistic paintings and "Four Dancers" portrays its subjects abstracted from the studio or the stage.  It is as if they have become members of nature, their tutus looking like bunches of leaves on trees and they are in circular motion in the foreground with in front of a hedge with, what?, boulders?  haystacks? something in the background.  It is a beautiful Impressionist painting and I don't know if Degas was painting a dream or what.  Maybe it's playful, giving us the swirl of dancers as if they were being swirled by winds whistling through trees.

I don't know.

(I just read they are preparing to go on stage.  That means what I called the natural world, stylized, is a stage set, a painted background.  Ha!  Okay.  It's fun to read what's actually in the painting side by side with what I experienced looking at it!)

V.  Darkness in America 
I went back to looking for the El Greco exhibit and wandered into a room of American painters from the early part of the 20th century. I ended my visit among these American painters.

I'd heard of two of the ones who knocked me out and one of them I'd forgotten about and one I didn't know at all.

The first painter I was familiar with:  Edward Hopper.  However, I hadn't previously seen his painting "Cape Cod Evening".  At first glance, I thought it was an idyllic scene that Norman Rockwell might have painted.  In the foreground, in the midst of a grain field, is a handsome border collie and in the background a man is sitting on the porch , looking as if he's beckoning the dog to come back to the lovely house.  A woman (is it his wife?) stands by.  Upon closer examination, there's something cold going on between the husband and wife, and, what looked an American Dream scene, is really a portrait of emotional distance.  Her arms are crossed and whatever pleasure the man is taking in the dog, she's feeling none of it.  Then there are the trees to the left of the house.  Rather than verdant, they are blue, shooting melancholy through the house.  And, lastly, the dog ignores the man.  The dog's head is turned away, as if wanting nothing to do with the alienation back there.

A few months ago, the Andrew Wyeth painting in this room was a part of an exhibit of Wyeth paintings, all painted from inside a room looking out a window.  I took some pictures at my mother's house last month from inside her TV room.  The window was closed, so unlike this picture, the lacy curtain wasn't blowing into the house.  But, I owe the concept and what ever was good about those photos to Wyeth's "Wind from the Sea". "Wind from the Sea" is gorgeous and, in this room, is a break from the other darker pictures along with being a fun study in perspective.

The last pictures I had the energy to absorb were by two artists I can't remember ever knowing about, John Sloan and George Bellows, although I am very familiar with two of Bellows' boxing pictures -- I just never knew who painted them.

Sloan's single painting in this room, "The City from Greenwich Village", continues the room's realist them.  Ever since I visited NYC back in 2012, I've been following scores of photographers who take pictures in Manhattan and a favorite subject is the Flatiron Building.  To a person, everyone of these photographers' pictures presents a romantic view of the unique architecture of the Flatiron, presenting it as one of NYC's coolest buildings.  From Joan Sloan's perspective, the Flatiron is a grimy pile, standing in a benighted, dark Manhattan, hardly grand, hardly distinguishable from the other griminess as viewed from The Village.

The George Bellows painting I had seen many times without know who painted it depicts the violence of the stunning moment when Luis Firpo sent Jack Dempsey flying out of the ring in the first round of their championship bout in 1923, a fight Dempsey won. This painting is not in the National Gallery, but another boxing painting is, "Both Members of this Club"  Painted in 1909, it portrays a boxing ring in a fight club as an integrated place.  Like the Firpo/Dempsey painting, the moment captured is violent. The white boxer's face is bloodied, possibly by a head butt, and the energy of both boxers is violent, forceful.  Moreover, the crowd watching the fight is delirious, glorying in the blood and muscular mayhem of the fight.

Bellows paintings of New York City do not flatter Gotham City. They focus on crowded living conditions, social inequality, chaos, and the pressures endured by the poor.  Like Hopper and Sloan, Bellows' paintings contest the idea of the American Dream and after I spent time with these American Realists, I found the El Greco room, took a quick glance at the dark paintings with their emaciated figures and often ghoulish settings and decided it was time to do other things in our nation's capital.

Three Beautiful Things 02/07/15: Wrong Time at the Cinema and 17,453 Steps, Mesmerizing Paintings, Nectar Nugget at the ChurchKey

1.  I took the train to Foggy Bottom this morning, with the intention of seeing the Oscar nominated short documentary films at West End Cinema.  But, I had read an outdated schedule and the films weren't playing until 1:30.  I thought they began at 11:40.  So, I decided to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, let the Obamas know I was back from Idaho (they were delighted), and head to the National Gallery of Art.  I decided to have a different kind of cultural day and get in plenty of walking.  As you'll see, I got in plenty of both.  By day's end, I walked 8.5 miles or 17,453 steps.  All day, the temperature was around 35 to 40 degrees, perfect for walking long stretches of the nearly abandoned Washington, D. C. streets.

2.  I strolled into the National Gallery of Art thinking I'd go find the current El Greco exhibit and take it in.  Now, when I go to an art gallery, I prefer not to know where something I want to see is. Instead, I go searching for it, knowing I'll find art along the way that will sidetrack me, slow me down, and surprise me.  This happened today when I suddenly couldn't take my eyes off the exotic portraits painted by Amedeo Madigiani and Auguste Renoir. Then I stumbled into a thrilling exhibit of ballet dancers sculpted and painted by Edgar Degas and one room over was mesmerized by a row of paintings by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.  A little while later, I accidentally came upon an unnerving room featuring the American painters Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, and George Bellows. Having sat with all these paintings for quite a while, by the time I got to the El Greco exhibit, I didn't have the energy to look at them, so I hope to get back before the exhibit closes.

3.  I left the National Gallery and started the long trek to the Logan Circle neighborhood so I could have a beer at the ChurchKey.  The ChurchKey is a long narrow craft beer haven at the top of a flight of steps and today the joint was jam-packed with young people, delighting in the many taps and bottles available at the ChurchKey.  I managed to find a seat at the very end of the bar and ordered a beer from Pennsylvania's Troeg's Brewing Company, an imperial amber, Nectar Nugget, recommended to me by Julie, who keeps me posted on tasty beers brewed in the Keystone State.  I enjoyed it a lot.  Its alcohol content warmed my insides and, while a bit hoppier than McMenamin's Hammerhead, my favorite beer of all time, its taste threw me back to the many pints of Hammerhead I've enjoyed over the years at the High Street joint in Eugene.  So I enjoyed an excellent beer, some pleasant memories, slid off my seat, and walked down to the McPherson Square Metro Station and started my trip back to Greenbelt.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/06/15: Picture Project, Checking Out Ivy Lane, Beans and Rice

1.  I will, before they leave the West End Cinema in Foggy Bottom, go see the Oscar-nominated documentary shorts, but decided it wasn't today.  Instead, I kept working on making the first round cut for pictures to print, potentially frame, and potentially hang in our apartment home.  I have taken a lot of pictures that should just stay in electronic folders, but I keep because of memories or what I can learn from them.  Others are good for electronic display, but not suitable or appropriate for apartment home display.  It's narrowing it down to the home display I'm working on, but other ideas about gifts, calendars, little books, that sort of thing, have also been alive in me.

2.  I took different route today walking.  Across Kenilworth (Rt 201) from where we live is a business park and a Marriott hotel.  I blazed through it the other day when I walked to the Metro station, but today I did some looking around.  First, I walked up the hill to the Turner Historic Cemetery and it's really the size of a church cemetery, and walked around its small perimeter, decided it didn't have a ton of photo potential, and came back down to Ivy Lane and in the course of my stroll, checked out the Marriott for emergency reasons:  it has a Starbucks and is the closest coffee shop to where we live and it has a hotel bar, in case the Deke and I want to pop out for a drink and not travel far.  All of this was good to learn about and I made my way back home and had had over a two and a half mile walk.

3.  The Deke and I went for a tried and true dinner tonight:  I fixed black beans and rice.  Sold,  Tasty. Comfortable.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/05/15: Photo Project, Photos Over the Years, Coconut Milk

1.  Our apartment home walls are partially bare and I'd like to put up pictures I've taken.  I started the task of going through the thousands of pictures I've got on file.  On the one hand, it's a tedious undertaking, but, on the other, it's fun to remember all the photo strolls I've taken by myself and with Russell and a few with Mary.  I have a lot of pictures I like that I'll keep in my Flickr account and in electronic albums, but that I don't see any reason to print.  I have decided to print a lot of pictures to inspect them in hard copy and see which ones I want to frame.

2.  I'm not analytical enough to say here's what I do better now than I did in the past.  But, in general, I think my picture taking has improved.  That said, I've really enjoyed pictures I took back in '12 and '13 at Delta Ponds in Eugene and I miss that place.  It is a great compensation, though, that I live so close to Greenbelt Lake and that my reading and research makes it clear that an abundance of wetlands and ponds and parks and other such places exist throughout Maryland.  I'm eager to go visit them and to return to Huntley Meadows down by Molly and Hiram's place.

3.   So, this evening I made a simple stir fry of tofu, green beans, cabbage, and spinach and decided to make a coconut milk sauce without peanut butter in it, just to see if it might be lighter.  I whisked together coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, a little sesame oil, garlic powder, a sprinkling of sugar, red pepper flakes, and ginger and it was really good, making our evening meal a pleasure.  (Just for the record, if we'd had cilantro, I would have added it.)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/04/15: Metro Stroll, Helpin' Out, Ratatouille Redux

1.  Here's how I roll:  I like to find out what I can first hand.  If possible, I like to find it out on the ground, not in a car.  So, as I have been figuring out local Metrobus schedules for getting from my apartment home to any number of places, I wondered today if the walk from our apartment home to the Greenbelt Metro Station is a safe one -- and, by safe, I mean with sidewalks.  So, I set out today and walked to the station.  Along the way, I discovered a Starbucks at the Marriott, good to know in an emergency.  I saw, for the first time, where the Greenbelt Cemetery is located, good to know for future photo strolls.  And, best of all, I discovered that I can walk to the Greenbelt Metro Station in about a half an hour, meaning that I can get a lot of my daily walk taken care of, that there are sidewalks all the way, and, by bus or by train, I can travel to any number of places in the Washington, D. C. metropolitan sprawl.  This was all good news.  (In fact, with my walk to the station and back and by doing a few small errands on foot, I tallied 9500 steps today.)

2.  On my way back to my apartment home from the Greenbelt Metro Station, a man stopped me.  He spoke little or no English, but he a Greenbelt Rd. address written on a small piece of paper and was trying to figure out where he was on his Smartphone.  I could not communicate to him that he was on Greenbelt Metro Drive (I have no idea how he got there) and was nearly two miles from Greenbelt Rd.  The best I could do was signal him to follow me to Cherrywood Lane.  At that juncture, I walked north, but I sent him south and mimed to him to walk a long way and turn left at Greenbelt Road. Now, with the help of his phone, he understood what lay before him, smiled broadly, thanked me, we shook hands, and went our separate ways.

3.  We didn't eat all the ratatouille I made last week so I froze it and tonight we had it brown rice and it was even better than it had been before.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/03/15: Tables, Steps and Pictures, Lemon Garlic Orzo Soup

1.  Having a printer at home now, I got to work and made two tables and printed them.  One lists the many items we donated to Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul's as we were emptying our house in Eugene and the other is a table to enter, each day, my blood pressure and the number of steps I walk.

2.  I took a 4:00 walk today.  Today was a cloudless day and I thought the light might be interesting around 4:00 as the sun was getting ready to set.  Mostly, I wanted to concentrate on stretches of walking without stopping, but I stopped a couple of times to take pictures.  The first two come from an empty lot, not quite a park, on the west side of  Ivy Lane, a street I walk on my way to Greenbelt Lake.  The second two come from a stopping point, where two or three trails intersect,  on the Greenbelt Lake trail, that I like a lot.

3.  One of the reasons the Deke and I went to Whole Foods on Saturday was to buy some orzo.  I haven't seen it at the Co-op and I had found a recipe called "Lemon Garlic Orzo Soup" that I wanted to give a whirl.  Today I whirled.  I sauteed an onion, some garlic, and later added some chopped carrots.  I poured the vegetable broth I made last night into the post, brought it to a boil, and threw in the orzo and about ten minutes or so later I poured in the juice of a single lemon and sprinkled some basil in the soup.  I thought this would have made a pretty good soup as it was, but I decided I wanted just a little bit more, so I put more lemon juice in the soup and I steamed some broccoli, lemon juiced it, and put the broccoli in each bowl I served.  I wanted this soup to be plenty lemony and I succeeded, happily, and the broccoli was a welcome addition.  Both the Deke and I enjoyed this soup. It helped warm us and we both thought my first shot at cooking with orzo worked well.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/02/15: Doc Visit, Garlic Mushroom Quinoa, Vegetable Stock

1.  With my appointment in Baltimore to see if I get on the kidney transplant list coming on March 2nd, I did one of the things today I wanted to do to get ready:  went in for a physical. My blood pressure was pretty good -- my readings at home have been better.  I lost some weight since I'd seen him last.  If any red flags went up for my doctor, he didn't say anything.  He'll report back to me through an online service the clinic is a part of.  This was a stress-free visit.

2.  I tried out a simple recipe called "Garlic Mushroom Quinoa" and added zucchini to it and when I zested up my bowl of it with lemon juice.  It worked.

3.  I closed out the evening by doing everything to make a big pot of vegetable broth/stock except strain it, which I'll do in the morning after it cools overnight.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/01/15: Quiet Day, Printer Solution, Light Thai Dinner

1.  The day can best be summed up this way:  no television, no Super Bowl, no noise, no parties in our building:  just quiet so the Deke and I could work on things that are best done in silence:  writing, school preparation, figuring out how our new printer/copier/scanner works, and me checking in at from time to time on the progress of the football game, free of the commercials and the halftime show and the confetti.

2.  When I gave the printer a print order, its default move was to direct the job to PageManager PDF Writer and with some calm fiddling around, I figured out how to change this so that the print order went straight printing the page.  It was a triumph I enjoyed.

3.  Through the afternoon, the Deke and I finished the leftover vegetable soup from last week and it aged very well.  For an evening meal, I fixed rice, steamed broccoli, sauteed an onion, mixed them together and sealed the deal with "The Best Thai Peanut Sauce" from Friday  -- a perfectly light and satisfying dinner.  And we haven't yet finished that splendid sauce.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sibling Assignment #153: On Being an Introvert

This Sibling Assignment comes from me and it's an outgrowth of a conversation my sisters and I had with our mom back in December.  It's also an outgrowth of conversations I've had with other introverts and of comments I've had directed at me about my personality.  The assignment is simple:

Write about yourself as an introvert.  You can do with this whatever you want.  Discuss what it means, tell about your experience, or anything else.
Christy write an insightful autobiography of her progress toward accepting herself as introverted, here, and Carol explores how her extroverted personality is growing a bit more introverted as she ages, here.

Almost every time I write that I am an introvert or tell someone I am, immediately the response is, "No you're not" and the other person tries to talk me out of it.

This tells me that stigma is attached to introversion -- I suppose introverts are thought of as anti-social, reclusive, weird, unattractive, without passion in social settings, and, among other things, not fully developed people.


Not true.

I think this is why I get the "No you're not" response so often.

No one ever says, "Good for you!"

I'm not anti-social.  In the right doses, I love being with people, especially people I know.

I am energized and most comfortable when I am alone or when I am sitting, as I am today, in the apartment with the Deke, hardly a word spoken between us, no television, no radio, just quiet.  Our silence with each other is far from hostile.  It's what we like.  When we need to discuss what's happening in our lives, make a plan, or if we come across something while reading that one of us enjoys, we let the other know, but we live much of our married life being quiet.

I suppose people try to argue that I'm not an introvert because I am good in all kinds of public performance situations.

I am a good public reader.  I was an enthusiastic and, students and colleagues told me, a passionate teacher.  This translated into years and years of high level performance.  I preach good sermons.  I have been a sound leader in group situations, even in committees.

In the limited amount of acting I've done, my work was solid.

In fact, I love to read in public, teach classes, act, and do other things that involve other people.

So where does the introvertedness come in?

While I enjoy these things, they wear me out.

After a sermon, I was genuinely friendly and interested in my fellow parishioners, but when I was done preaching, I dreaded the welcoming line after the service only because it exhausted me.  I would go home and sleep for a couple of hours, wrung out by that social exchange.

Back in the many years when I was the Shakespeare Guy for a Methodist family camp called "Shakespeare Camp", I would give the campers an introduction to each play we saw in Ashland before we went into town and saw the play and then I would facilitate discussion about the play the next morning.

I loved being the Shakspeare Guy for this camp -- and I enjoyed the campers a lot -- and did it for about fifteen years, starting in 1986.

I also loved that the people who ran the camp gave me my own cabin.  After I would present or lead discussion, I always went straight to my cabin and fall on my camp pad and sleeping bag and, without thinking, a voice always said, "They don't know how hard that was."

And I fell asleep.

The voice wasn't referring to the content of the plays.  It wasn't referring to the people who came to camp.  It was referring to my need, after an intense time of social interaction, to be alone, be with my thoughts, and to recover, get my energy back.

When I was in plays at LCC, I spent a lot of time in solitude.  In rehearsal, when I wasn't needed, I often went on walks around campus, with my camera (an introvert's dream hobby) and took pictures. In the building, I found places I could retreat to, away from the more extroverted actors to energize myself with solitude, and to get my concentration right.

I am happy to say there was an exception.  I enjoyed very much hanging out with my fellow Rude Mechanicals during the times we were not on stage in A Midsummer Night's Dream.  The conversations were lively, the stories were good, and we had a lot of good laughs together.

When I was a narrator for the Shakespeare Showcase, my call to the theater was always about an hour before performance and I always slipped out the theater's back door into the empty hallways where the music and dance and acting faculty offices were housed -- to be alone.

Readers of this blog know that I go to almost every movie I see alone.

I take long walks almost every day.  Alone.

Even when Russell and I went on photo walks together, we both broke off and went our own way. Much of the time we were alone.

I'm not anti-social.  I deeply enjoy time with my friends, especially my longtime friends from Kellogg, Whitworth, and in Eugene.

I think it goes without saying, we live in a nation that favors extroverts.

Over the years of the Obama presidency, I've read editorials deeply critical of our president because he isn't good at glad-handing, twisting arms, dining or drinking with members of Congress.

Obama is a great orator, typical of certain introverts (like Abraham Lincoln), but it's pretty clear to me that he is most comfortable when he's apart from the crowd, reading, thinking, playing the introvert's dream game, golf, and keeping the company of close friends and family.

Over the years, a number of people have said to me, "It's been really good to get to know you.  I always thought you were so aloof, even arrogant."

It's the curse of the introvert, I suppose.  Especially if the introvert lives a public life.  What is really a feeling of awkwardness in social situations, especially new ones, or of shyness, is often mistaken for arrogance or aloofness.  I have often thought, speaking of President Obama, that what people call his arrogance or aloofness, might very well be his unwitting expression of introvertedness -- likewise, President Richard Nixon -- and in contrast to President Bill Clinton or LBJ.

Most people don't see the introvertedness of Marshawn Lynch, do they?

It's a personality trait, not a personality failure.  It's a trait we see in presidents as well as actors and teachers.

The other day, I was on a solitary walk in Kellogg and a guy about my age or older was sitting on a bench beside the bike path that cuts through town.  Piles of snow surrounded him and I thought it might make a good picture.

But, as is almost always the case, I couldn't bring myself to ask him permission to take his picture.

I know that my introverted nature, especially with strangers, has cost me many opportunities when I've been out taking pictures.

I marvel at Ed, my lifelong Kellogg friend, who strikes up conversations with people wherever he goes:  the casino, on a jet plane, on a tour bus in NYC, when he's on a cruise, when he helped run the Tall Pine -- well, everywhere.  He finds out fascinating things about people.

I almost never do this, and, if I do, it's only after a great effort within myself.

And it's not because I'm conceited or think I'm too good.

It's because I'm basically an introvert.

Have I ever mentioned that the Deke and I got to know each via email and that we sent emails back and forth for about two and a half months before we got off line and went to a baseball game together?  And we lived about seven blocks apart.

I'm grateful that I'm not a 100% introvert, that when I was in Eugene this past December it was energizing to see my many friends at Billy Mac's, to crawl to a few pubs with the Troxstar and Loren, to have dinner at Pam's, to have coffee with Margaret, Jeff, and Michael, to drink beers with Dick, Don, and Cliff, to run into Sherri and Jay, to have long visits with Rita, to have long talks with Sparky, to meet and work with Marci, and to see old friends from the theater at the Shakespeare Showcase.

Likewise, I'm energized when the Hall of Fame of Great Guys convenes in North Idaho.

I don't retreat from these things.

But, on a day to day basis, I seek solitude.

I enjoy doing things by myself.

If you are reading this and you are an introvert, there's nothing inherently wrong with you.

And you'll probably want to take some time to yourself and reflect on that.

(And don't let anyone talk you out of it.)

Three Beautiful Things 01/31/15: Walking Wheaton, Whole Foods Mob Scene, Great Beer at Denizen's

1.  The Deke and I ventured into the suburbanopolis of Silver Spring and Wheaton today with most favorable results.  While the Deke checked out the Yarn Spot in Wheaton, I walked over two miles, heading north on Georgia (Highway 97) and then west on Hermitage, hoping to get as far as the southern tip of Wheaton Regional Park, but I got the "Done" text from the Deke and didn't quite make it to the park -- where, by the way, I will return, especially to enjoy the Brookside Gardens.

2.  Our Co-op in Greenville is my favorite place, by far, to buy groceries, but, for what I like to cook, it has some gaps.  Let me just say, that out West, say in Moscow, Idaho, if a grocery store is a co-op, the place would be teeming with bulk bins.  Likewise, in Eugene, stores like the Kiva or Sundance aren't co-ops, but they have the vibe of a co-op, or an alternative grocery store, and are teeming wth bulk bins.  But, the Greenbelt Co-op isn't.  I wanted to buy some quinoa and couscous and orzo for some recipes and so the Deke and I headed south from the Yarn Spot and joined in the mob scene at Whole Foods in Silver Spring.  The aisles were packed -- I did not just get in and right out of the bulk bins.  No problem.  I enjoyed being in the midst of so many people, listening to conversations, other languages, and being sort of dumbfounded that I live in Maryland.  Over the course of my life, I never saw this coming.  I got some quinoa and some couscous and we picked up a few other things and moved on.

3.  Our final stop in the suburbanopolis of Silver Spring was the best.  With little effort, we found Denizen's a microbrewery I'd read about.  Denizen's partnered with a superb barbecue food truck, BBQ Bus and offer their menu as well as beer brewed in the basement and served fresh.  I started with a pint of Born Bohemian, a Czech-styled pilsner.  Its balance of malty sweetness up front followed by a light bitterness at the finish delighted me.  Glancing over the food menu, I was very happy to see I could order two sliders, a bbq chicken and a bbq pork, on a single plate.  Perfect.  I never like eating a large amount of barbecue food and, with a corn and black bean salad on the side, the sliders were just what I wanted.  I finished my lunch with a sample (not even a half pint sized glass) of Ponch's Porter, and, again, the balance between chocolate, coffee, and hops made this a perfect dessert beer that tasted better and better the warmer it became.