Thursday, April 30, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/29/15: I Didn't Lose My Cart, David Simon Talks About Baltimore, Swedish Wallander

1.  A couple of days ago, I went to the Co-op and I took three bottles of seltzer water off the shelf and turned around and my cart was gone.  I looked up and down every aisle.  I talked with a checker to see if anyone had reported a lost cart.  Then, about five minutes later, I found it.  Today, I went to the Co-op and kept my cart with me the whole time I was there.

2.  David Simon was a chief writer, executive producer, and show runner for HBO's The Wire. Former New York Times executive editor and current editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project interviewed David Simon about recent Baltimore history and what people outside of the city need to understand about the death of Freddie Gray and the response to it, here.

3.  I watched about half of the first episode of the first season of the Swedish version of Wallander before I got too tired and had to go to sleep.  It's intense.  I'm eager to get back and see how the story of this episodes turns out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/28/15: Lake Walk and Pictures, $$$, Frank Serpico

1.  I enjoyed a stroll around the circumference of Greenbelt Lake and I took pictures of its late April beauty.  Afterward, I posted Sibling Assignment #161.  Christy assigned the three of us to write about where we go to find beauty and to reflect upon this place.  I did more photographing than reflecting, I think, but if you'd like to see the picture and read what I said, just go right here.

2.  The Deke and I had another good round of discussions with the money guys and are getting closer to making some decisions.  

3.  My library card gives me access to movies and television shows through a service called Hoopla, and I was browsing the movie offerings, I came across Serpico and realized I'd never seen it.  So, I settled into a brilliant performance by Al Pacino and plunge into police corruption and the dilapidated streets and neighborhoods of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn of about forty to fifty years ago.  I couldn't help but think how much movie tastes have changed since, say, 1973, when Serpico was a commercial success.  I kept thinking that if Serpico were made in the same cinematic style in 2015, it would be, at best, a small market independent movie playing at art houses, never making its way into the multi-plexes.  Maybe I'm wrong, but, sadly, it just didn't have the look or feel of 2015 feature film.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sibling Assignment #161: Quiet in the Midst of Constant Noise

Christy gave us siblings a photography and writing assignment to do next.  She raised this question:

When you want to surround yourself with beauty, where do you go?  Take five pictures of that place and share your thoughts on its beauty. 
Christy presented a photographic essay on her gardens and leaving them behind, here, and Carol put together a photo essay of our hometown, Kellogg, Idaho, here.

When the Deke and I decided to move to the greater Washington, D. C. metropolitan suburb-a-maze, it went without saying that we would be leaving behind some of the richest natural beauty found anywhere by saying good-bye to the Willamette Valley, the cities of Eugene and Portland, the Cascade Mountains, the Coast Range, and the Pacific Ocean.

Until we were here a while, I had no idea where, in the midst of the thousands of miles of freeways, toll roads, state highways, streets, turnpikes, avenues, boulevards, and county roads; of more buses, trucks, cars, trains, and vans than I'd ever seen before traveling on these routes ; of apartments stacked on one another, tight city streets, and miles and miles of strip malls, shopping  malls, plazas, and high rises, I'd find beauty.

And, certainly today, with pictures of fires, broken glass, turned over vehicles, and broken store front windows in Baltimore dominating the news, friends of mine back in Oregon and Idaho have wondered if I was all right -- after all, all of this is happening just thirty-two miles away.

Things are quiet here in Greenbelt and today I went on a walk around Greenbelt Lake.  It's my closest and primary source of beauty here in suburbia, a peaceful park and human made lake that sits still and quiet, while all around it exists the never-ending buzzing and whirring of people on the go.

I took pictures today -- more than the five assigned (sigh) -- hoping to convey some of the peace and beauty and variety that is alive all around Greenbelt Lake, to convey some of what calms me as I walk the trail circumventing the lake.

First, though, the Deke and I are very fortunate to live in an apartment complex that is almost like a park with its many trees and large expanses of grass, dotted with buildings holding the apartments.  I took a couple of pictures as I left the complex today.

First, here's the main entrance to the complex:

And here is a look at what the grounds look like as one approaches the entrance:

The park, as I mentioned, is calming, and here you can see the expanse of the water and a woman and a child, holding hands, enjoying the company of a couple of ducks near the shore:

I'm not alone as a member of the over sixty set walking the circumference of the lake and I enjoy nodding a hello to other people.  This man walks faster than I do -- which is easy to do -- and you can see, if you look closely, a runner on ahead of him, and see all the trees and other growth that line so much of lake's path:

I never know what I'll see each time I walk and, today, I imagined that someone dangled this reminder of the Easter season from the branch of tree along the path:

Flowers grow along the lake's trail, like these daffodils:

And, every day, gaggles of geese swim and fly and feed around the lake:

It's not just those of us of the over sixty set who stroll around this lake.  Youngsters come here as well -- and they hold hands!

Now that it's spring, I've walked around Greenbelt Lake during each of the four seasons.  Each season the reflections on the lake's surface are unique to the season.  Here you get a sense of what the lake reflects back to us who stop and look during the spring:

Springtime is famous in the Washington, D. C. area for cherry blossoms,  I have to admit that I'm not sure these are cherry blossoms, but I'm going to say they are until I'm corrected!  I'm not sure the bee at work here really cares if I got the identification exactly right.  The bee is having a zen moment of union with these blossoms.

I enjoy the sensation of feeling lost among the trees and flowers and water and birds and other walkers at Greenbelt Lake.  This feeling of being lost in the beauty of this place is a feeling of union. Rather than feeling that, as a human, I'm alien and different in this place, I feel a part of it all -- the colors, the smells, the shapes, the sensations of heat and coolness and breeze.

I'm very fortunate, in the midst of all the movement and busy-ness of this place I now live, to live so near an oasis of beauty, so near Greenbelt Lake.

Three Beautiful Things 04/27/15: Alicia Helps Me, Angela Helps Me, Mom Flings Her Sling

1.  After I turned the Subaru over to the body shop, I saundered into the Enterprise Car Rental shop located right there at Capitol Cadillac and Alicia had everything ready to go and set me up with a Chrysler 200.  Then, a few hours later, when I had some questions about the electronic door lock system and went back to ask about it, she was patient and informative in assuring me that the way the system was working was the way it was supposed to work and helped me wrap my 2004 auto ownership mind around it.

2.  I had to return to LabCorp today. The blood sample mailed to the lab in Baltimore two weeks ago was rejected because the label didn't have the date or the phlebotomist's intitals on it.  The good news was that I got to visit my favorite phlebotomist again, Angela (Angie).  She listened patiently, without any defensiveness, to why we had to send another specimen in and I think we got it right this time and I deeply appreciated her commitment to making sure that we did just what the lab in Baltimore wants and her good humor about it all.  I have my fingers crossed that I don't receive another "your specimen has been rejected" letter from Baltimore.

3.  MOM UPDATE:  I stayed up until 10:30 p.m. so I could call Mom after Jeopardy got over.  She saw her doctor today and he liked what he saw in the X-ray picture and freed her from her sling and told her she could do light duties around the house.  Mom has decided that she doesn't need anyone staying with her all night, As Mom put it, "I'm on the road to recovery!"

Monday, April 27, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/26/15: Jack Schools Bop on Rescue Bots, Jack Rigs Hooks and Pulleys, Jack Trumps the Monster

Before I get going on today's 3BTs, I'd just like to note that my grandson Jack's name for me is Bop. When he first started to talk, when he tried to say "Grandpa", it came out Bop and Bop stuck.

1.  Jack loves Rescue Bots and has a toy Heat Wave.  I had no idea what a Rescue Bot is, so Jack and I got on my computer and he schooled me on the fine points of Rescue Bots.  I then found an episode of Trainsformers in which Thomas the Train transforms into a superhero like Optimus Prime, only he is Opthomas Prime.  Jack became unglued with peals of rolling laughter when he saw Thomas become a Rescue Bot.

2.  I went on the back deck with Jack and he took his ingenuity with rope, clip hooks, and pulleys to new levels, especially when he rigged up a pulley system on a hook that comes down from the interior of the roof above the deck and he figured out way after way after way to clip the rope to all kinds of objects and pull them as high as the deck's ceiling and let them down again.  Every time Jack tried hooking something new or ran the rope in a different way or figure out something else to lower to the ground below the deck and back up, he enthusiastically, sometimes breathlessly, proclaimed, "I have an idea!"

3.  Jack hooked me to a rope and attached the rope to a hook on the deck and told me to walk forward. I did and then I couldn't go any further and I snapped my whole body back in an exaggerated way. I've never seen Jack laugh so hard.  After doing this for about ten minutes, Jack enthused, "I have an idea!" and he created a series of rope and toy obstacles for me and told me to be a monster who tries to come after him and eat him.  I asked Jack if he was sure he wanted to be eaten and he replied, "Bop. It's pretend."  Relieved, I played the role of the monster, but I never could catch Jack and my failures made Jack, once again, double over with laughter.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/25/15: Driving Upstate, The Cooperstown in My Mind, Jack's Rescue Missions

1.  I followed a circuitous route provided by Google maps to drive from Nyack to Cooperstown today on purpose.  I've never been to upstate New York before and thought it would be fun to drive through small towns and see the countryside.  Well, as it turns out, that's the only way to get to Cooperstown from Nyack since Cooperstown is a rural town on the southern tip of Lake Otsego.  I had one flub up as I wound my way on state highways and country roads past barns and silos, green fields and horses and cattles, past lakes and rivers, and a Girl Scout troop inviting drivers with big signs to a roadside barbecue in the middle of town, but I recovered, and arrived in Cooperstown, already wishing I was staying for several days rather than an afternoon so I could walk around the village more and take more drives into the countryside with ample time to take pictures.

2.  I spent over three hours in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.  One of the first things I wished was that I could be there with a fellow fan of baseball, preferably someone I grew up with and we could talk now in the Hall of Fame and the museum about the stuff we talked about when we were young.  I especially thought of Dad.  Not having a companion for the day, the details of the plaques in the gallery and the exhibits in the museum gave way to the Hall of Fame and baseball museum in my mind.  I found myself looking less for artifacts (say, the bat Willie Mays hit his 600th home run with) and looking for pictures or videos of moments I have loved most:  every hit I ever saw Roberto Clemente stroke, the thunderous home run George Brett hit into the third deck off Goose Gossage in Game Three of the ALCS on October 10, 1980, Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases after crushing a 3-2 pitch in the bottom of the ninth off Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, and more.  I found a video of the Gibson homer, but almost everything else I would have enjoyed seeing was triggered by stuff in the museum and I saw my life as a baseball fan, especially from the time I was about eight years old until I was about forty pass before my eyes.

3.  While I was away on my visit to Cooperstown, the Deke and Jack had gone to Home Depot where the Deke bought Jack some light rope and hooks.  When I arrived back to Adrienne's, Jack took me out on the deck and showed me how he hooked sticks and other stuff onto the end of the rope and lowered them to the ground below and how he hooked stuff down below and pulled them up to the deck.  These were rescue missions.  Jack loves rescue missions.  He also has a lively four year old's imagination for what ropes and hooks and sticks and other stuff become when lowered and raised over the rail of the family deck.  The Deke struck gold when she bought him these materials to play with.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/24/15: Making Movies on Location, Back to the Growler and Gill, Anthropods with Jack

1.  Before the Deke and I started our drive to Nyack, I made a quick trip to the gas station and listened to Dire Straits perform "Skateaway", my favorite of all pop songs ever.  The words "But the music make her want to be the story/And the story was whatever was the song what it was" kept echoing in my mind and great joy filled my whole being as I thought back to the two years I taught at Whitworth, over thirty years ago, and how kind Claudia and Colette were to me, as we listened to music together and the music became our story and we were making movies on location and I don't think we knew what it meant, but, for me, in many ways a broken young man whose life was in a tailspin, the movies we made while we talked and laughed and ate food and sometimes danced made me feel much less the lonely one, the only one.  Bridgit and I made movies, too, and I always think of walks we took in downtown Spokane and talks we had in the Westminster Basement and what a comfort these times were and how grateful I am that these times with Bridgit and Colette and Bill and Susan-Louise and Val continue and how grateful I am that I've met Diane and that all of us are still making movies on location and we all love music and it "make [us} want to be the story".  One Dire Straits album.  One song. So much gratitude.

2.  Once in Nyack, the Deke and I went to my favorite watering hole east of the Mississippi, the Growler and Gill and Nanuet.  I'd only been there once before, but I got very excited last time about Festina Peche being on tap and I enthused about it with one of the kindest beer servers ever, and that was back in February, and today when I went to the counter to settle up, the kind beer server remembered me from my other visit there and told me how nice I'd been and this made me very happy.  It also flustered me a bit.  I didn't expect to be remembered, so I forgot to ask her for her name so we could greet each other properly when I return next time -- but I will, or the Deke will.

3.  Jack resists going to sleep, and I didn't totally succeed in helping him settle down for the night, but we did have some fun looking at a book about lobsters and spiders and crabs.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/23/15: Shakespeare's Birthday, Best Red Curry, Subplot Deepens the Story

1.  Even more than usual, William Shakespeare was on my mind today.  After all, tradition, if not factual history, tells us he was born 451 years ago today in 1564 and it's known that he died on this day in 1616.  Mostly I reminisced: teaching Shakespeare at Whitworth, again at the Univ. of Oregon, and for many years at Lane Community College.  I remembered all those years at Shakespeare Camp, seeing almost every Shakespeare production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for about fifteen years. I had wonderful memories of performing in a handful of plays at Lane Community College and thought about the many Shakespeare Showcases I got to work on (and occasionally perform in) with Sparky.  Thanks to the plays of Shakespeare and my work with them, I've made many, many friends over the years, short and long term, all whom I cherish.  Those plays live in me, inform my ways of seeing the world more than any other influence, and give my soul a source of nourishment I draw upon daily.  I did, however, forget to order a cake.

2.  I decided to get started early this afternoon fixing dinner.  I wanted to let the curry simmer longer than usual and give the eggplant a chance to cook a lot.  I was inspired by how fully cooked the eggplant dish I brought home from Silver Spring a week ago was.  I made a red curry today with onions, potatoes, broccoli, eggplant, and red pepper.  While the vegetables cooked in the electric frying pan, I stir fried red curry paste in a pot in coconut oil and after about three minutes or so added the thick coconut milk, a tablespoon (or maybe two) of oyster sauce, a few shakes of soy sauce, and about a tablespoon of sugar.  I let this boil and dumped it over the vegetables and then added two cups of not thick coconut milk.  All of this cooked on a low heat for nearly two hours.  By mistake, when I bought the carton of not thick coconut milk, I got "regular" instead of "unsweetened".  I think this turned out to be a fortunate mistake because what made this red curry the best the Deke and I have ever had at home was the simultaneous sweetness and heat.  Since all of this came out of my head and not from a recipe, I hope I can duplicate it.  I really should take notes while I'm cooking and depend less on my memory -- after all, as I write this passage about this particular red curry, I'm not sure I remembered right.

3.  The main story in tonight's episode of A Touch of Frost was absorbing enough, but the subplot involving a new copper and a snooker tournament and young men nicking cars deepened the episode -- and I couldn't help but think, with my happy belly full of red curry and it being Shakespeare's birthday, that I always sense a touch of Shakespeare in Jack Frost's stories.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/22/15: Dickens Makes Me Laugh, Dinner at the Old Line, *Dallas Buyers Club*

1.  One of my favorite novels is Robertson Davies' Tempest-Tost, a story about a community theater in the fictional town of Salterton and its performance of The Tempest.  I experienced a similar delight this afternoon in a single chapter of Great Expectations.  Pip has known Mr. Wopsle for a long time and accepts Wopsle's invitation to see him in a London amateur production of Hamlet, with Wopsle leading the awful production as the melancholy Dane.  It's a hysterical chapter.  Everything about the production is terrible and everyone knows it except the company mounting the play.  I suppose the chapter adds to the overall story of Pip going from being a boy to becoming an adult, but, really, it's a digressive chapter and a digressive delight -- it's one of several chapters I can see myself going back and rereading for another good laugh.

2.  The Deke and I decided to take a rare night off of home cooking and went to the Old Line Bistro in Beltsville where we had some really good beer talk with our server, Ryan.  I enjoyed a pint of Starr Hill's Grateful Pale Ale, out of Charlottelsville, VA and the Deke went deeper into the South for an Imperial Stout from Sweetwater Brewery -- and I can't remember its name -- I only know that the Deke went out into the adjacent liquor store (a former Circuit City outlet) and looked to see if the beer was available in bottles.  We each stopped at one beer. The Deke enjoyed her burger and I scarfed down my steak sandwich rolled in flatbread and our dinner out in beautiful downtown Beltsville drew to a close.

3.  I topped of a fine day of reading, dinner out, and movie viewing by watching Matthew McConaughey's riveting performance as Ron Woodroof in, a Texas electrician-rodeo rider-womanizer with a profound nausea for gay men, who finds out he is carrying the HIV virus.  This discovery kicks the movie into overdrive and McConaughey brings to life Woodroof's fearless, profane, and shrewd determination to circumvent the FDA and to use not yet approved treatments for HIV and to make them available, at a club membership cost, to patients in the USA.  His business becomes the Dallas Buyers Club and his business partner is Rayon, an equally fearless, profane, shrewd trans woman, meaning that Woodroof must work day to day with a person who embodies what he hates and has made him sick.

I enjoyed watching this movie, but I didn't find the movie uplifting, as the DVD cover said I would --not that I needed it to be uplifting.   I never really liked Ron Woodroof, although I deeply admired McConaughey's portrayal of him. Rayon's story was never uplifting. Rayon's drug addiction, progressive illness, and rejection from much of the world disturbed me.  Yes, Woodroof and Rayon learned to work together, but their business partnership and Woodroof's fierce commitment to Rayon's well-being, did not uplift me. The larger picture of the USA in this movie was too intransigent for the movie to leave me feeling uplifted.  I was left with a complex of feelings, mostly anger and disappointment.  Memories of the bewilderment I felt back in the 1980s (and forward) returned, triggered by the overall callousness of governmental response to AIDs.  This movie portrayed that callousness too well to be uplifting, in spite of Ron Woodroof's individual and heroic efforts to fight for his life and help others.

I've read LGBT criticisms of the movie. In my life on the World Wide Web, I read  LGBT perspectives about all sorts of matters quite a bit and I've learned a lot and I take these perspectives very seriously.  Nonetheless,  I am too ignorant to comment on the movie as seen from any LGBT perspective.  I take the criticisms seriously.  I learn from them.  But, I cannot comment as far as agreeing or disagreeing.  I don't know that I'll ever be able to.  I would be repeating others' thoughts, not articulating my own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/21/15: Pip at the Body Shop, Penne, They Flee from Me

1.  I took the car down to the Captiol Cadillac Collision Center and Kevin took some photos, told me the Sube looked good for being ten years old, and went in the back to draw up the estimate.  While waiting, I read more of Great Expectations and enjoyed Pip's elaborations upon earlier descriptions and tales about the Pocket household as well as his growing distaste for housemate Bentley Drummle.

2.   It's not that often that the Deke has a specific dinner request, but tonight she wanted penne pasta with olive oil, garlic, basil, and Parmesan cheese all mixed together in a bowl.  I hadn't fixed this before and so I asked for specific directions which the Deke was happy to clearly provide and we both enjoyed this simple meal a lot.

3.  The series Inspector Lewis consistently portrays Oxford University as populated by weirdos and the episode I watched tonight was no exception.  The story involved a man murdered by drowning in a bathtub of scalding water and developed from there into a story about atheism, romantic longing, a line from Thomas Wyatt, and more murder.  Intense.  Here's the Thomas Wyatt poem alluded to in the episode, a poem I really liked thirty-one years ago as I prepped for my Renaissance Literature field exam -- and now I have no idea what got me so excited about it back in 1984 at the University of Oregon.  I've pretty much lost touch with that version of myself.....

They Flee From Me

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, “Dear heart, how like you this?”

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/20/15: It Works!, I'm Old, Pip Meets the Pockets

1.  The DVD/CD drives in my computer and the Deke's are wearing out, so I bought an external drive today at Best Buy.  I bought one of these back in about 2011 and I'm thinking it must have been a cheapo or something.  It never worked.  I was happy today.  I plugged the drive into both my machine and the Deke's and it worked.  This will help my movie viewing habit a lot.

2.  After school, the Deke and I went to the Greenbelt Fitness Center where I've already signed up for a year and now the Deke is signed up as well; then we went to the library and the Deke has a library card now.  Several of her students were at the library and one of them said I looked old and I decided to let these girls believe that I am older than the Deke -- you know, if that's what they want to think.

3.  Yesterday I wrote a Sibling Assignment about how I don't read as much as I'd like and after a long session with a tech guy from Amazon -- he was very patient (and so was I) -- , I continued reading Dickens' Great Expectation.  You know how I marveled at Gregg Toland's cinemaphotography in Citizen Kane?  I have a similar response reading Dickens' descriptions of London of the 19th century and of his character descriptions.  In the part I read last night, Pip met the sizable Pocket family, the worn out father, the eccentric and almost indifferent mother, the two nurses, and the unnamed children, popping up all over the place.  Pip will be staying with the Pockets for a while and I have no idea what his stay will involve, but I have a pretty clear picture of the what this unusual family looks like from Pip's point of view.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sibling Assignment #160: Crack Open Some Books....It's All Right

It's been a hectic time for me and my two sisters -- I've been seeing doctors, nurses, and technicians over the last seven weeks to establish my readiness for the kidney transplant that lies out there in my future sometime; Christy has decided to retire, sell her house in Kettle Falls, and move to Kellogg; in addition, she has been doing all she can to help Carol, whose busy life has been made even busier by the way she has committed herself to Mom's care and well-being since Mom fractured her arm on March 5th and then, a while later, had surgery.

The upshot?  We haven't been writing our Sibling Assignments.  

But, things settled down, slightly, and my sisters reminded me that it was my turn to give an assignment and here it is:  

Do you have anything in your life that you've not been doing that you used to a lot more of?  In other words, have you let something important in your life slip away -- maybe not completely, but more than you'd like in a perfect world.
Write about it -- why it matters to you, how you miss it, and how you think you'll go about getting back to it. 
Carol got right on this one and wrote about the way she has let writing her books get away from her, here, and in the busy rush of her life, Christy has lost track of the act of just being, of quieting down, of being still, here.

Where was I?

Right.  I remember.  I was seated in Panera Bread just down Colesville Road from the American Film Institute movie theaters, enjoying a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin before going to see Citizen Kane.

Seated with me, in London, were Herbert Pocket and Pip Pirrip.  Herbert was telling Pip all that Pip didn't know about Miss Havisham and my mind went wandering to two other fictional characters, women,who, because of heartbreak or disappointment, freeze time.  I was thinking of Faulkner's Emily Grierson and of Norma Desmond from the movie, Sunset Boulevard.

I thought someone, somewhere must have written about these three women and I wondered if maybe Miss Havisham was written about in Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's seminal study, Madwoman in the Attic.

I didn't know because I've never read Madwoman in the Attic and suddenly I felt melancholy about how little I have read and how little I do read.

Reading is the thing in my life that I used to do more of that has slipped away, even as I have been reading bits of Great Expectations since October.

Not reading.


It's about guilt.

For years, my reading was connected with getting something done.  I read for courses and exams, especially in graduate school and all of it was, in my mind, preparation for teaching.

When I landed a full-time teaching position, my reading was almost always connected with my job and when I read different books, I always justified the time I was spending not getting anything else done, by asking myself, "How can I use this in class?"

Somewhere, sometime, I can't pinpoint it, I connected reading with getting in trouble because I wasn't getting something done.  Most recently, when I was a homeowner, I'd try to read and my mind wandered to the weeds that needed pulling, the lawn that should be mowed, the laundry that was piling up, the papers I hadn't graded, and on and on.

I didn't think about these things when I was out enjoying some beers with the Deke or with the Troxstar or other friends in Eugene.

If I was out walking, taking pictures, I didn't think of myself as being unproductive, needing to get things done.

No. It's a guilt connected to reading.

There was one summer, back in 1992, when I read for about a month without stopping.  I used to be able to rattle off all the titles, but, right now, I mainly remember reading Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy and a ton of stories by P. G. Wodehouse and I love into the novels of David Lodge and I know I read Brideshead Revisited.

Why all the reading in the summer of 1992?

I had folded up the tent on my dissertation.

I didn't have that to do.

I was living alone, though married, because my ex-wife was in Micronesia.

We were renting.

I remember watching our landlord coming over to the duplex we lived in and working in the yard, pulling weeds, mostly, and thinking, "I don't have to do that. I can just read."

No guilt.

I've never done again what I did that summer -- just read.

I don't know exactly who, in my mind, I hear telling me to get up off the couch and get things done when I read.  I don't know exactly who I think is keeping score, marking down when I've done enough house cleaning or gardening or other things to get come reading done.

But someone is and I've got to tell that voice to shut up.

I want to finish Great Expectations (maybe I'll get to it after I finish this assignment and after I put money on our laundry card and do some washing and drying and after I move the boxes out of our bedroom into the back closet.....see? this is what happens!).

I want to keep reading Marcus Borg, not just at the bus stop across from the Co-op or on the Metro, but in this chair I'm seated in with a nice light above me and a stout cup of tea.

I write every day.  That seems fine.  I guess it's because I'm getting something done.

Now I think it's time to enjoy some reading -- find out what happens to Pip, enjoy the insights of Marcus Borg, read the memoir my friend Jose wrote, and possibly read the books the mystery series I'm enjoying so much are based on.

I think I've gotten enough done now and can read.


Three Beautiful Things 04/19/15: Eastertide, Back to IKEA, Jack Frost Puts Hazel Wallace at Risk

1.  These Eastertide services are uplifting with so much emphasis on the way life springs from death, even as the willow tree behind our apartment is turning from brown and lifeless into green and alive.

2.  Silly me.  I thought we were done at IKEA, but it turns out we needed some slats and the Deke and I decided a couple more side tables would be good for our apartment home.  So, I held my head high, strolled into IKEA, and BOOM! I took care of finding the products and getting checked out in no time.  I am getting so good at this IKEA thing, I nearly started asking people around me if they needed some help!

3. I watched another episode of A Touch of Frost.  The series portrays Jack as unorganized, always chafing at the bureaucratic demands of his job, and difficult for his supervisor, Mullet, to, well, supervise.  But, Jack Frost hates crime.  He pursues criminals with intelligence and intuition and bends rules to find out what happened.  In the episode I watched tonight, Jack Frost faced the difficulty of apprehending a serial rapist and the story intensified when he asked Woman Police Constable Hazel Wallace, without official approval,  to serve as a decoy, putting herself in the rapist's path.  I'll leave it at that, but suffice it to say that the episode was very intense and it also uncovered Jack Frost's deep understanding of the crime of rape as he upbraided fellow cops who had lousy attitudes and as he continued to visit one victim in particular so she would have someone to talk with in the long aftermath of being assaulted.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/19/15: *Gett*-- An Israeli Movie in Bethesda, Smashing the Subaru, Wendy's for Dinner

1.  I drove over to Bethesda this morning and joined two other audience members to watch the 10:40 showing of an Israeli movie,  Gett:  The Trial of Viviane Amsalem.  The movie was psychologically excruciating.  Viviane Amsalem married her husband when she was fifteen and now, after many years, she's had it with him and wants a divorce and he won't grant it.  Only a court of rabbis can legitimize a divorce -- and only with the husband's consent --  and the movie tells the story of Viviane's Bleak House-like years of trials as she tries to secure the dissolution of her marriage.  I didn't know going into the movie that two of my very favorite Israeli actors from the movie The Band's Visit appear in Gett.  First, Viviane is played by Ronit Elkabetz who was Dina, the restaurant owner in The Band's Visit and, secondly, the Alexandria Ceremonial Band leader, played by Sasson Gabai, plays Viviane's husband's advocate in Gett.  Both Ronit Elkabetz and Sasson Gabai were unforgettable in The Band's Visit and they are equally memorable in Gett while playing very different characters from who they played in The Band's Visit.  Just for the record, The Band's Visit is an uplifting movie, rich in hope and romance and humor; Gett is, as the title suggests, a trial.  It portrays a trial.  It's a trial to watch. I'm very glad I made the trip to the Landmark Bethesda Row theaters to see it.  I have been enjoying movies made in the Middle East for many years.  Gett is a long exposure of one of Israel's patriarchal systems.  For me, it was compelling, frustrating, engaging, and enraging.

2.  I made sure that a body shop in the local area as well as a claim adjuster will continue to have work when I hit a parking garage pillar with the Subaru after the movie.  Fortunately, the car was not disabled and I got right on filing a claim, rather than procrastinating, but I sure felt foolish.

3.  The Deke and I last did this in late October.  We ate Wendy's cheeseburgers and fries for dinner. I shopped at the Co-op and then flew over to the Greenway Center, picked up our dinner, and we enjoyed it a lot.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/17/15: Navigating Silver Spring, Gregg Toland's Pictures, Kao Thai Plates of Awesome

1.  I arrived in Silver Spring about an hour before Citizen Kane started at the AFI movie theater.  So I learned more about downtown Silver Spring and it was time spent well.  I used the Wayne Street Garage for the first time and it made a huge difference for my getting around downtown and learning my way around.  I'll leave it at that.  I can't quite explain what a big deal all this navigation and learning is to me.

2.  I sat in a 400 seat theater with two other people and watched a 2:10 showing of Citizen Kane.  I suppose it's only about the fourth time I've seen it, and I've never seen it since I bought the cameras I now own and started taking pictures.  The movie's photography stunned me.  I wish I'd had a pause button and could have frozen the screen many, many times to admire frames of Gregg Toland's black and white photography, his genius in creating a wide array of moods, visual moods that perfectly helped tell the movie's story.  Maybe, in past viewings, I was most taken by the story of Charles Foster Kane and its moral/political/social explorations.  Today, it was pictures that I marveled at, that made me want to watch the movie over and over again.

3. Across the street from the AFI movie theater is a Thai restaurant called Kao Thai and I dropped, after some more walking and figuring out of downtown Silver Spring, and purchased Drunken Noodles and Thai Spicy Eggplant, brought them back to our apartment home and the Deke and I found our food to be awesome.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/16/15: Brown Rice and Quinoa Salad, I'd Better Wake Up, Fun with *The Lincoln Lawyer*

1.  I had a couple of cups or so of cooked brown rice left over from last night and decided I'd make a salad with it and so I stopped off at the Co-op for a couple cucumbers, some cherry tomatoes, a tin of almonds, and a bunch of fresh mint and dropped into Safeway for a jar of Kalamata olives.  Once home, I realized I didn't really have enough rice.  Suddenly, I thought, hmmm, quinoa might be fun, so I cooked up a few cups, combined it with the rice I had and mixed in the cucumbers, some red pepper, Kalamata olives and some of the juice from the jar, the cherry tomatoes, and a heaping helping of almonds. I poured olive oil into the mix, stirred it around, added a generous amount of lemon juice, and took out the scissors and cut cilantro leaves, mint leaves, and kale leaves into shreds and mixed that in.  I stirred the greens into the salad and topped it with a moderate sprinkle of red pepper flakes.  I hope I never forget how I made this salad and what went into it -- I now have a record of it here in my blog, I guess!  Every bite tasted different from every other, depending on whether the bite had cilantro, mint, or kale and depending on whether some of the heat from the red pepper flakes was present or if a bite was particularly lemony.  This salad provide me and the Deke with a really tasty dinner.

2.  I unpacked the vaccum packed mattresses and unpacked and laundered the sheets and blankets and I took the big boxes to the dumpster.  On hundred percent sober, I returned to the apartment -- or should I say an apartment? -- put my key in the door and it didn't work.  I tried, tried again, stepped back to make sure I was at apartment #2.  I was.  Then the door opened. "Oh my God!  I'm sorry!  I'm in the wrong building!" I cried out.  "I'd better wake up."  Luckily, the guy who opened the door got a kick out of my mistake and told me it was no problem. I shuffled off, embarrassed, and made my way back to the apartment home I actually live in.

3.  I don't know why, back three or so years ago, the movie The Lincoln Lawyer caught my attention. I might have been curious about a story about a guy who basically lawyers out of the back seat of his Lincoln Continental. I never saw it, though. Finally, tonight, I did.  For me, it was a really fun movie, primarily because of the cast, and because the story was convuluted and fun to follow.  But, oh my, the cast. Yes, Matthew McConaughey was perfect as Mick, a slick, swaggering, hard-drinking defense lawyer whose clients are mostly bikers and prostitutes and other downwardly mobile criminals. When, a wealthy young man living the American Dream seeks his services, Mick accepts, the story gets complicated, and gradually a cast of superb character actors appear, sinking their teeth into their supporting roles, really making this movie great fun.  

First, and she's the best, Marisa Tomei. Others appear, with varying amounts of screen time: John Leguizamo, William H. Macy, Frances Fisher, Bryan Cranston, Ryan Phillpe, Michaela Conlin and more. I had a most enjoyable time watching these pros work while getting caught up in the tangle of the movie's plot threads.  Now I'm ready to contine my brief McConaughey film festival and watch Dallas Buyer's Club, which I have checked out from the library, and, before long, I'll watch Mud.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/15/15: Purchasing Batteries and Updating PayPal, Scan Away, Namya Curry Dinner

1.  I purchased the Deke and me laptop computers at the same time a few years back and now both machines need new batteries.  I stewed over this decision for a couple of days and finally decided to pay extra money and buy from the manufacturer of our computers.  I decided, for no reason other than I hadn't done it for a while, to pay through PayPal and realized it had been about 100 years since I had used my account and everything was out of date -- so buying a couple of batteries got to be even more time consuming as I had to do a million things to get my PayPal account operating again -- ha!  Twice during this purchase ordeal, I needed to get a hold of the manufacturer of our computers and what this is all coming down to is that I am really grateful for the service that allows a customer with questions or concerns to chat online with a service rep.  I have used this chat service several times, very successfully with Norton, and, today, I got my questions answered and a slight problem solved without having to talk on the phone.  That is a bonus for me -- to get information and solve problems in real time without having to be on the phone.  Yes!  And batteries should arrive in the next three days or so.

2.  Having rolled the battery to the top of the hill, I decided it was time to get more of our paper life at home organized. I am ready with the paperwork for my next twelve monthly blood draws, but the big job was scanning and storing our 900,000 pages of tax documents and starting to do a little research regarding how much estimated tax to pay the state of Maryland on my pension earnings. Rock on, ooh my soul.

3.  When I got my echo cardiogram a couple of weeks ago, I also went to Hung Phat grocery and, among other things, bought a curry paste I'd never tried:  Namya.  It's a fish curry paste and its pleasing heat comes late in the sequences of tastes it produces.  I don't know much about Namya curry and was feeling tired and lazy, so rather than look up a recipe, I stir fried tofu, onion, and eggplant and mixed some paste with coconut milk, oyster sauce, and a little sugar.  I combined all of the above and served it over brown rice and it was surprisingly good.  I have work to do in the curry area -- mostly with how thick/thin I want my curry sauces to be, but tonight's experiment made for a pretty good dinner and the Deke will have more at lunch tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/14/15: Pho Ga Thap Cam at Pho Saigon, Was IKEA Half Empty or Half Full?, Carbs Again

1.  During my handful of trips out to the clinic where I see my primary care doctor, I often stop off for a coffee at Starbucks at the Centre at Laurel.  Around the corner from Starbucks is Pho Saigon.  I had never been to the Centre at Laurel at lunchtime -- until today.  I had deposited our tax refund checks at the shared branch I go to in north Beltsville and the Laurel Centre is just a ways up from this credit union, so I had lunch at Pho Saigon today.  To start, I ordered two tasty Cha Gio, crispy, deep fried egg rolls packed with shrimp, vegetables, and chicken, served with a fish sauce with grated carrots floating in it.  I was off to a solid start.  Then I dove into a most satisfying and hearty large bowl of Pho Ga Thap Cam, pho featuring large chunks of both dark and light chicken meat in a light, deep, clove-y broth, and a generous wad of rice noodles.  I loaded up my soup with the bean sprouts, fresh squeezed lime juice, jalapeno pepper slices, and fresh basil leaves that were served on a garnish plate and slowly enjoyed the great variety of flavors and warming richness of this soup.

2.  It's taken us several months to decide (what's the rush? Right?) but the Deke and I have decided to furnish the second bedroom of our apartment home with a couple of twin beds the grandchildren can sleep in -- as well as any other visitors we might have.  I drove straight down Baltimore Avenue after eating my soup to IKEA and my jaw nearly dropped as I entered the parking lot.  It was full of empty spaces.  I'd never seen this sight at the College Park IKEA before.  I slipped between two cashier lines to get to the warehouse part of the store, rather than navigate the labyrinth of the marketplace, and found the bed frames I wanted without much hassle.  When I returned home, I decided I could carry the boxes inside on my own and got that done.  All that's left is assembling them.  It's at this point, well, I vanish.

3.  All the driving around, taking care of things, left me bushed at the end of the day and so when the Deke agreed that a bowl of spaghetti would be a great dinner, I was happy that I'd be fixing such an easy meal.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/13/15: Angie Chokes Me Up, D.C. Brau Expedition, Superb Soup

1.  One blood draw every thirty days.  That's what I do now so the transplant center has a fresh sample month to month.  I sauntered into the LabCorp lab I always go to with the kit and the papers the transplant center sent me so the blood sample could be mailed in.  These materials discombobulated the front desk employee.  I thought, before going in, that I couldn't be the first person in the history of the Berwyn Heights LabCorb office to bring in an order from the U of Maryland Transplant Center to have blood drawn and sent to them. I think I was wrong.  Well, the front desk employee, after some huffing and puffing, said the magic words, "Angie'll know."  I knew exactly who she was talking about.  Angie has drawn my blood both times I've visited this office and, sure enough, Angie popped up front, studied the paperwork, sent me to waiting room #3, and came back and drew my blood and I have every confidence she mailed it to Baltimore and all is well.

I've worked with a bunch of really good medical services people since arriving in MD and Angie is among them and, to be honest, her calm, her reassurance, her telling me she'd remember me next time when I return, choked me up.

2.  Right over the border that divides Maryland south of Hyattsville from the upper reaches of north east Washington D. C. sits the first D. C. microbrewery, D. C. Brau.  I had one of their beers Saturday at the E Street Cinema.  I knew, when I drove to D. C. Brau that their taproom is closed Monday through Wednesday, but I wanted to scout it out, wanted to make sure I really knew how to get there.  And I did.  So, now, if I (the Deke and I) decide to go about twenty minutes or so south of Greenbelt for some fresh beer in NE D. C., I know how to get there.

3.  I know the Deke really likes the Chicken Sweet Potato and Kale soup I made once before, and, with this being her first day back to school after spring break, I figured she'd enjoy a soup she really likes -- and I was right.  It's a great recipe with layers of contrasting flavors and we won't be eating it much once the summer humidity arrives, so it was fun to have it today.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/12/15: Lazy Day, The Kid Wins the Masters, Carb Loading

1.  The Deke didn't return home until around 5:30, so no car and the G12 I rely on for transportation out of our neighborhood doesn't run on Sundays.  So, regrettably, no church, but a lazy x 100 day in our apartment home.

2.  Some fellow golf fans would say I did go to church by watching the final round of the Master live online.  For many, it is the most hallowed golf course of all.  It was fun to watch the youngster Jordan Spieth make a handful of nervy shots on his way to securing his first major title -- and fun to watch golfers like Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson do their best to make a run at him, but fall short.

3.  The Deke arrived home, a bit weary, but safe and sound and I whipped up a late evening spaghetti dinner to help us carb load for the upcoming week.  Ha!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/11/15: *Salt of the Earth*, Cherry Blossom Mob Scene, Helping the G12 Driver

1.  The Metro trains today were packed, thanks to the glorious blue skies and the cherry blossoms peaking and the Cherry Blossom Festival events.  I rode to the Archives stop on the Green Line and strolled over to the E Street Cinema and joined six other people for a 2:10 showing of Wim Wenders' and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado's documentary movie, Salt of the Earth, a complex retrospective of the life and photography of Sebastiao Salgado. For about forty years, Sebastiao Salgado has traversed the world, documenting with detailed, often haunting, still photographs, among other subjects, workers and their labor in countless countries, victims of starvation in Ethiopia, Sudan, and elsewhere, the atrocities of wars and exodus in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Kuwait, and elsewhere, and the stunning beauty of natural landscapes across the globe.  The photographs ranged between the sublime and the horrifying, the glorious and the sickening.

I was deeply impressed by the movie's gorgeous cinematography.  As I watched the movie follow Salgado as he photographed his current work, exploring the planet's beauty, it was thrilling to see that his son, Juliano, and the other Directors of Photography, made the filming of Salgado at work and being interviewed by Wim Winders, every bit as stunning as Salgado's pictures.  I loved the movie Finding Vivian Maier, primarily for its many examples of Vivian Maier's photographs, but the movie's cinematography was not exceptional.  The visual, photographic experience of watching Salt of the Earth being filmed was exquisite.  The telling of Salgado's story, the exhibiting of his photographs, and the movie's visual presentation of the story were all, in their own ways, stunning.

2.  I walked for a while in D. C., letting the movie settle in, and boarded the Metro for Arlington National Cemetery and from there I walked along the Potomac for a bit, crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge, and joined the surge of people milling and horseplaying around the Lincoln Memorial, then the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, on my way to be among the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin.  It was a mob scene.  I thought I was at Six Flags, not walking in the history of the Korean War, the life Martin Luther King, Jr, nor enjoying the shade and the splendor of the cherry trees and their blossoms.  I might try to return during the week.  I think there will still be blossoms, say, on Monday, and the theme park/bucket list crowd should be thinned out.  It was a great day for walking.  I logged over 5.5 miles, over 11, 000 steps!

3.  I boarded the 8:30 G12 and a rider had asked the driver to let her off at Research Road.  I really felt like a Greenbelt lifer when I helped the driver remember where Research Road is on her route.  If she doesn't drive the G12 route very often, I can see why she was confused -- it has to with leaving Ridge Road and returning to it again -- and I thought, well, finally, my love of town geography and mass transit routes paid off beyond the eccentric personal pleasure I take in reading maps and riding buses and trains.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/10/15: The Marcus Borg Room, Quiet Vacuuming, Snug and Philomena Lee

1.  The Deke is still in Nyack with Adrienne and Jack and she has our car.  Because the G12 bus runs on either a 30 or 60 minute schedule, depending on the time of day, being without a car takes some planning and patience -- and gives me stretches of time at the bus stop across the street from the Co-op to read.  I returned the DVDs that were due today at the library and did a bit of shopping at the Co-op and waited at the bus stop for about forty-five minutes and read a good chunk of Marcus Borg's Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time:  The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith. Starting twenty/twenty-five years ago, I began to experience a long and slow deepening of my experience as a Christian and an Episcopalian.  This long, slow deepening continues.  Marcus Borg contributed mightily to the deepening of the spiritual life I try to live, both when I heard him give lectures in Eugene and when I read some of his work.  He's a great scholar and has a most admirable talent for writing what he has learned through his many years of research and his personal experience in calm, readily accessible, direct prose -- much the same as his lectures.  I am reading Borg's work while in email conversation with long time fellow teacher and retiree, Dan, who was friends with Borg many years ago at Oregon State University, and we are having splendid conversations about our experiences reading Borg and what we've each experienced in the church over the course of our lives --- and what we are pondering and experiencing now in the later stages of our lives.  Jesus assures us in the gospel of John that in His Father's house there are many rooms.  I'm grateful to be joining Dan and spending time again in the Marcus Borg room.

2.  Our dogs hate the vacuum cleaner and our dogs' shedding gives us the primary reason why we should vacuum often.  Until the Deke returns from NY, the dogs are staying at Molly and Hiram's and I really enjoyed vacuuming the house without having to put the dogs behind a closed door and listening to them scream-bark their brains out while the vacuum runs.  Ha!

3.  I was trying to remember tonight, as I watched the moving and disturbing movie, Philomena, just when I first saw Judi Dench.  A quick look at reminded me that she was Titania in Peter Hall's 1968 movie, A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Right.  Then I realized I'd seen her in A Room with a View and 84 Charing Cross Road, but I think she first deeply imprinted herself in my mind as Mistress Nell Quickly in the 1989 movie, Henry V, especially as she mourned the death of Sir John Falstaff.  Since then, I've enjoyed her in a number of movies and other videos (but not yet in James Bond!) and my history with her came rushing into my mind as I loved her playing the role of Philomena Lee, a woman in search of her son, a child born out of wedlock, a son sold to an American family by nuns while Philomena labored at a Magdalene laundry/asylum.  I didn't expect the movie to awaken my longings for my deceased dog, Snug, but that's exactly what it did and so tears rolled down my face, both for Philomena's loss of her son and my loss of Snug, tapping into feelings that are raw and complex.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/09/15: Doc Says Heart is Strong, *The Grand Budapest Hotel*, *The King's Speech*

1.  Today the kidney transplant evaluation process, which began on March 2nd, ended.  After taking the G12 to Greenbelt Station, I rode the C2 for the first time and rode through the U of Maryland campus on through a few suburbs to Wheaton Station and then, as planned, walked a mile and half or so south on Georgia/Rt. 97 for my third visit to the cardiology center and had another first-rate experience with the friendly, superb staff there.

I now have passed every test without a hint of a heart problem:  my blood pressure has been near perfect; the EKGs have been great; the echocardiogram showed nothing of concern; and, I huffed and puffed my way through the echo-stress test and the doctor was very pleased with everything he saw as he gradually ratcheted up the treadmill and then looked at the pre- and post-treadmill pictures of my heart.

The story remains the same.  My kidneys are diseased.  There's no going back on that. But everything else inside of me checks out great -- no exposure to TB, good chest X-Ray, no prostate problems, no additional blood problems, no need for a colonsocopy for another three years, and a strong ticker.

I am transplant ready, with the only question being how far in the future the transplant might be.

I celebrated by continuing my walk south on Georgia/Rt. 97 over a mile to the Forest Glen Metro Station, rode the train to Silver Spring, and then walked a half a mile to Denizen's Brewery for a pint of Indian black lager (Sexy Panther) and a plate of bbq and then walked back to the Metro and made my way home on the train and the G12.

I not only learned that my heart is strong, but I walked over 9000 steps over the course of the day.

A good day.

2.  I settled in at our apartment home and dove into a movie double feature and watched two movies entirely different from each other, but both featuring a cast of superb actors.  First, I watched Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel.  I have to admit that I am always at a loss for words to describe the pleasure Wes Anderson's movies give me.  As a writer, Wes Anderson spins odd stories, written with existential oddness.  In The Grand Budapest Hotel, the world is exquisitely detailed and the story is like a ten cent paperback adventure story, featuring bravery, romance, loyalty, cunning, atrocity, and intrigue, always deepened with its explorations of aloneness, emptiness, and its heroes searching for beauty and purpose in life. I loved watching the movie's magnificent cast.  I know I've written this before about Wes Anderson:  it must be a blast to work with him, to occupy the worlds he creates, and speak language so beautifully crafted, and to tell such odd and wonderful tales.

3.  The King's Speech took my evening in another direction.  It is a very different existential story than The Grand Budapest Hotel.  The plot is simple:  can Lionel Logue, a self-trained, undegreed speech therapist and frustrated stage actor help the eventual King George VI overcome a lifelong problem of stuttering?  Bertie/George VI's stammering alienates him, throws him into deep self-doubt, and forces him to wrestle with the very meaning of his existence, not only as a royal, but as a human.

Geoffery Rush plays the audacious Lionel Logue brilliantly as he develops a deep relationship with Colin Firth's Bertie/King George VI, a role Firth completely occupies.  Firth's Bertie is insecure, haunted, quick to anger, determined, and courageous -- he's a difficult client for Lionel Logue -- and I deeply enjoyed the depth of human flawedness and humaneness both characters embodied as they worked together throughout the story with Bertie's deeply embedded stammer.  Tonight, for me, was as moving an evening as I've had in a long time watching exquisite acting.  Lord.  The King's Speech featured, for starters, Geoffery Rush, Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Guy Pearce, Eve Best, Claire Bloom -- oh my! this was a movie that made me ache with pleasure to watch such superb acting, listen to such an exquisite screenplay, and to be moved by such a noble story.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/08/15: Bus to Roosevelt Center, Walk Home, Fried Egg on Broccoli

1.  The Deke has the car in Nyack, so I am dependent on buses and trains to get around the suburbanapolis I live in.  I rode the G12 today down to the library and the Co-op, picked up a couple of things on hold at the library and bought a few groceries at the store.

2.  I walked the bus route back home and got in a good 6000 steps or so and enjoyed the route along Ridge Road I have driven and ridden, but never walked.

3.  I fried a couple of eggs and placed them over brown rice and broccoli, covered with grated sharp cheddar cheese and soy sauce.  It seems like restaurants put a fried egg on top of everything these days, so I thought up this simple dish and gave it a shot.  It worked.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/07/15: A Touch of Rick Blaine in the Air, Mass Transit to Greenbelt, Mom Update

1.  Sally and the Deke went out to a knitting store and Ted went into NYC for a car show and I enjoyed the solitude of Ted and Sally's house by watching a bit of Casablanca.

2.  Since I was returning to Greenbelt by myself, I rode the AmTrak from Metropark Station in Edison Township to New Carrollton Station in Maryland and then rode the Metrobus from New Carrollton to the corner stop a short way down the street from our apartment complex.  When Sally dropped me off at the Metropark, she pointed me in the right direction to the station and I had no problem getting on the right train and enjoyed the two and a half hour ride to New Carrollton.  I didn't know quite where the correct bus bay was to catch the G12 bus, and two WMATA employees were most helpful and I arrived to our apartment home around 8:30, relaxed, having let AmTrak and Metrobus do all the work.

3.  Almost immediately upon walking in the door of our apartment home, I called Mom and learned that things are going beautifully.  Yes, she has to be in the arm sling for at least another three weeks, but all the news at her Monday check up was good and she is very happy with the help coming to her house to help her exercise, check on her healing, help clean her house, help her get cleaned up, fixing her food, and spending the night with her.  She spoke glowingly of both Carol and Christy and all the help they have been and is most grateful for friends of hers in Kellogg who have sat and talked with her and helped her out when needed.  Mom is also a bit more capable of doing some things on her own and this also makes her increasingly happy.  You know how there's no crying in baseball -- well, there's no self-pity at Mom's!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/06/15: Walking with Ted, Beer Lunch with Ted, Duke Wins

1.  Ted knows I like to get in a good walk every day I can, so he took me on an excellent walk (Bill and Ted's excellent walk) into downtown Metuchen, to First Pres. where Sally works part-time, and on back to the house again.  It was fun to see more of the town and even more fun to get better acquainted with Ted, who has lived in the borough of Metuchen for nearly his entire life.

2.  Not long after finishing our walk, Ted and I went back downtown for lunch at Hailey's Harp and Pub, a fine watering hole with sold food and a really good selection of beers.  For nostalgia's sake, I had a pint of the first craft beer I ever drank, Anchor Steam, and then had a couple of pints of Harp Lager and Guiness Stout, a favorite drink of mine.  It all went really well with the corn beef and hash topped by a fried egg I ordered.  Once again, Ted and I had great conversation and I got to learn more about his years on the Metuchen police force.

3.  It was a riveting game.  It had plenty of drama, plenty of lead changes, and plenty of exciting plays, but I found it painful to watch the final ticks of the clock as Duke defeated Wisconsin to win the men's NCAA basketball tournament.  It was fun during the game, as it had been during Saturday's games, to text observations back and forth with the Byrdman, especially since we were both pulling for Wisconsin.  But, Duke won and, to be honest, it turned out to seem inevitable to me. It was a fate I hated surrendering to.

Three Beautiful Things 04/05/15: Easter All Year Long, Easter Feast, Women's NCAA Action

1.  Watching NCAA basketball in the Eastern Time Zone means being up really late, at least it's really late for me.  Consequently, because Ted and Sally and the Deke and I had to leave at noon for a family Easter party, because I slept in a bit, and because I was not really sure where the local Episcopal Church was, I didn't go to church on Easter morning.  I have to say, though, that if there is a holiday that seems to be with me every day of the year, it's Easter.  Every day, in one way or another, whether it's the life/death/life again cycle the world of nature, in healing that takes place in family and friends or others I hear about, or in being aware of people who were dead inside coming to life, every day is a day of resurrection to me and it's Easter all year long.  Yes, I would have enjoyed the joy of the Easter liturgy, but I didn't make it happen and Easter will live with me all year long just the same.

2.  Ted's son hosted an Easter feast at his home in western New Jersey and his father-in-law, a Greek restaurateur, oversaw the cooking and carving of turkey and leg of lamb and it provided the foundation of a magnificent meal.  I also got to have some wonderful conversation with Ted's brother and enjoyed being a part of such a festive dinner party.

3.   I enjoy the women's NCAA tournament, but was dismayed to see the squad fifteen minutes away, the Maryland Terrapins get dismantled by UConn.  At the same time, UConn dazzled me.  The Notre Dame/South Carolina game was great fun and, because I like underdogs, I had really wanted to see the Gamecocks win and it was painful to see them lose with so little time left and to see them unable to get off a good final shot.  I was happy that Ted and Sally and the Deke and I got to watch these games.

Three Beautiful Things 04/04/15: Driving to New Jersey, Seeing Adrienne, Glee Erupts

1.  The Deke and I got ourselves pulled together over the course of the morning, got packed, and got in the car and drove to Metuchen, N.J. to see Ted and Sally and to join in on their huge neighborhood Final Four party.  The drive was great.  I really enjoy going around Baltimore, going over the Delaware Memorial Bridge at Wilmington, and joining the traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike. I don't know how long this feeling will last, but driving to New Jersey it's romantic to me.  I have to pinch myself, finding it unreal that I live in Maryland and now can make trips to these states and go by places like Baltimore and Aberdeen and New Brunswick, places I've heard about, read about, but never been so close to in my entire life.

2.  Because I have one last test to take on Thursday to complete my pre-transplant evaluation, I won't be going with the Deke to Nyack to visit Adrienne on Tuesday, but, fortunately Adrienne came to the party so I got to see her and got to meet the great friend she invited to come with her.

3.  Ted and Sally have about a million great friends who all come to their annual Final Four party and I enjoyed being a part of it, especially when the partiers erupted in glee as Wisconsin handed the vaunted, undefeated Kentucky Wildcats their first loss of the season.  Let's just say that among these fans, their least favorite coach in all of NCAA basketball is the always polarizing John Calipari. Personally, I'm not a Calipari hater; rather, I have really liked Wisconsin's basketball program for a long time.  But, in not being strongly anti-Calipari, I was in a strict minority!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/03/15: Opening the Vault at the Foot of the Cross, Potato Soup, The Quality of Mercy

1.  I took part in St. Andrew's Episcopal Church's noon Good Friday liturgy today.  It was austere. No music.  The altar was stripped.  The priests were dressed in black.  A cross stood in front of the altar bearing a crown of thorns.  There was no music.  The bread and wine of the communion were not sanctified during the service -- rather, we were served bread and wine that had been sanctified the night before on Maunday Thursday.  Before taking communion, we were all invited to process to the front of the church, light a candle, and kneel at the foot of the cross and pray, leaving our lit candle at the cross. When I worshiped at St. Mary's, I regularly lit a candle in the chapel. Within myself, I called my prayers "opening the vault".  During the week, I would store inside myself the concerns I had for family and friends. I could never be expected to remember and recite all of these concerns in a moment of prayer while lighting the candle.  But, I could open the vault of all these stored concerns. During the Good Friday service, when I went to the foot of the cross, I knelt, put my lit candle in the sandy material that held our candles, and I opened the vault. Many of you reading this right now were in my vault: you are troubled, going through an illness, facing the difficulties of aging, going through challenging change in your life, supporting a family member who is ill, have had good fortune and are grateful, have lost a loved one to death, and so on. For me, the power of prayer is in the connection I feel with those in my prayers.  Miles separate me from almost everyone in the vault, but prayer somehow closes the gap of physical distance, replacing the distance with closeness.

2.  Molly fixed a rich and delicious potato soup for her family and the Deke and I, down for a visit, got to join in.  We were warmed not only by the soup, but by the fact that the Deke used to make this soup for Adrienne, Patrick, and Molly and passed on the recipe and so Molly is warming her family with the same soup that warmed her so many times growing up.

3.  I ended the day watching a Merchant of Venice themed episode of Inspector Lewis. Portia's words to Shylock, that the "quality of mercy is not strained" came into play between Lewis and Hathaway. Will Lewis forgive Hathaway?  Hathaway discovered who killed Lewis' wife in the hit and run accident in London some time ago, but was slow to reveal his discovery to Lewis, deeply angering Lewis. This part of the story rendered the main murder plot of the episode, well, not quite meaningless, but forgettable.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/02/15: Echocardiogram, Shrimp Dumplings and Nam Tak Moo, Existential Maunday Thursday

1.  Debbie, the technician, walked me through a small maze of short hallways at the Johns Hopkins Community Physicians Heart Center in Silver Spring to a room with a bed and a machine and once I removed my shirt, she got underway taking pictures of my heart and in about twenty minutes, I had had my first echocardiogram. If you happen to be keeping score at home, I return to the Heart Center in Silver Spring on Thursday, Oeact. 9th for an echo stress test and then I will have finished all the tests, for now, to determine my fitness for a kidney transplant.  Until I have the transplant, I will return once a year for these heart tests.  That's fine.  I'll see my kidney doctor every three months.  No problem.  I'll have blood drawn and sent to Baltimore once a month.  That's A Okay.  This is my life now, as I'm sure many of you with chronic illnesses understand, illness is one other way to measure time in our lives.  We deal.

2.  I returned to Thai Taste by Kob after the echocardiogram, eager to try a new appetizer and a different soup.  I started with four shrimp dumplings -- and it was a fine choice.  The steamed wonton skins were stuffed with ground shrimp, chicken, and pork, water chestnuts, and spices with a small bowl of a sweet and tangy soy sauce topped with crushed peanuts.  Then my bowl of Nam Tak Moo, a dark pork broth packed with sliced pork, pork balls, crispy pork skin along with broccoli, cilantro, preserved cabbage, scallions, bean sprouts, a variety of herbs, and, my chosen noodle, vermicelli. When the soup arrived, I breathed in its complex aroma, nearly ready to stop there and spend lunch enjoying its smells alone, but I dived in and enjoyed soup heaven for the next ten or fifteen minutes or so.

3.  This is fact, not a complaint.  I'm doing fine with this. So far, living in Greenbelt, my day to day life is what the existentialists explore all of life to be, at its most fundamental level:  we are strangers. Right now, except in my apartment home, I am a stranger wherever I go.  I think some cashiers at the Co-op recognize me, but socially we are strangers to one another and when I go to Target or Greenbelt Lake or College Park or ride the bus or train or go anywhere else, I am a stranger.  The same is true at church, so far.  I am a stranger and all the people with whom I share the peace, after we confess our sins, are strangers to me and I to them.

Tonight, I went to the Maunday Thursday service, the most existential service of all.  Jesus, betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, forsaken, he feels, by God, about to face capital punishment, arrives at another moment in his life when he must come to grips with the meaning of his existence and face the possibility that it is meaningless.  He cries out to God like a child.

Tonight, about a dozen congregates, as the service ended, stripped the altar of everything and it sat before us, bare, just as Jesus is stripped bare, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, a stranger, before he is crucified.  To me, the essence of the Judeo-Christian experience is experienced in the existential crises we face.  Abraham, Moses, David, Mary, Jonah, Job, Paul, biblical character after biblical character, faced these same crises.  They had to confront the basic existential questions: What is the meaning of life? Does life have meaning? What is the meaning of my life? When life events call me into account, what's there? Who am I?  They, and we/I,  often feel estranged in these moments, alienated, alone.  They/we/I feel like strangers.

It was the liturgy, the theater of the altar becoming bare and the priests' vestments moving from red to black, the experiencing the existential crisis of Jesus' last hours that made tonight's Maunday Thursday service a time that left me silent and prompted me to continue to wrestle with life's most difficult questions.

The darkest time is yet to come, at noon, at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, on Good Friday.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 04/01/15: Wallace Stevens at the Co-op, Walking Greenbelt Lake, Frosty Adultery

1.  I spent time at the Greenbelt Public Library today, perusing the audio books, thinking that it might be fun to listen to something on the way to New Jersey/New York the weekend and back next week. I was indecisive about that, but, for myself, I found an audio book of Wallace Stevens reading his own poetry and then I sat in the Co-op parking lot and listened to him read "Infanta Marina" and "Fabliau of Florida" and pondered this stanza: "She made the motions of her wrist/The grandiose gestures/Of her thought" and it took me back to the spring of 1973 and Intro to American Literature at North Idaho College and Mr. McLeod introducing our class to Wallace Stevens, and I pondered, before going in the store to buy peanut butter and milk and some broccoli, how from that spring day until now, hardly a day goes by that I don't think a little more about Wallace Stevens' poem "The Idea of Order at Key West" or "The Snow Man" in ways, I suppose, that are similar to how some hear The Grateful Dead in their minds every day and others always have the writings of Audre Lorde.

2.  Before I went to pick up the Deke, I walked the circumference of Greenbelt Lake, about a mile and a half or so.  I walked briskly and paid close attention to how the walk made me feel and I'm happy to report that none of the sensations I experienced on Monday returned.

3.  Inspector Jack Frost is very good at his job and is a deeply flawed man.  In the episode I watched tonight, he visited Emily, his partner in adultery whom he hadn't seen or made contact with since the illness and death of his wife.  She angrily confronted him with the fact that he was fine sharing her bed when his wife was alive but couldn't do it when his wife became terminally ill and died.  It's developments like this in A Touch of Frost, which have nothing to do with the case he's inspecting, but everything to do with his character, that make this one of my favorite programs.  Tonight's episode portrayed him as caring quite a bit about a 22 year old petty thief and drug addict who'd been beaten to death and as quite cold as the sexual partner of his mistress.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 03/31/15: Walk Without Incident, Simple Dinner, British Shivers

1.  I picked up a couple of dvds the library held for me and went on a shorter walk, only about a mile, and was more than curious to see how it would go in light of yesterday's incident.  It went fine. That's a relief.  I am definitely going to take the advice of those who have recommended that I be sure to have eaten well before I go on my (almost) daily walks.

2.  The Deke was very happy that I cooked a very simple dinner tonight:  I stir fried onion, zucchini, eggplant, red pepper, and broccoli, scrambled three eggs, and stir fried brown rice in sesame oil and, voila, that was dinner tonight.  Simple.  Not the usual complex of flavors.  Really good.

3.  One of the dvds that came to me on interlibrary loan was the third installment of the Johnny Worriker trilogy, featuring Bill Nighy playing a British spy on the run with his former lover (Helena Bonham Carter), but working with an ex-spy turned journalist back in England to bring down the prime minister (Ralph Fiennes).  The whole trilogy was a fascinating story about power and corruption in British politics -- and, in particular, the corruption that grew out of the USA/British response to the attack on New York and the Pentagon on 9/11/01.  I experience it as more true than history when it comes to the nature of corruption and its cumulative nature -- or, maybe I should say, its metastasizing nature. Two other things strike me about watching these British shows, namely A Touch of Frost and the Johnny Worriker trilogy.  First of all, in spirit (not in direct references or allusions), the influence of Shakespeare as a story teller, creator of characters, and master of the English language is always present, even if I can't put my finger on exactly where.  I often get this Shakespeare shiver down my spine as I watch these shows.  I also get another favorite shiver.  I'll call it the Harold Shand shiver. This shiver is a soundtrack shiver.  It's a saxophone shiver.  If you've seen Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand and Helen Mirren as his wife,  Victoria, in the 1980 movie The Long Good Friday, then maybe you, too, find the movie's soundtrack unforgettable, especially the saxophone.   I do.  It is in my head a lot.  A similar saxophone soundtrack accompanies moments of action in A Touch of Frost, making me shiver, and Johnny Worriker loves jazz, and, at some key moments, saxophone jazz swells up on the soundtrack and I get that Harold Shand shiver.

By the way, here are the titles of the three films that comprise the Johnny Worriker trilogy:

Page Eight
Turks & Caicos 
Salting the Battlefield