Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/29/15: Farewell Breakfast, Reunion Pasta, Super 8 Relief

1.  Our time in Battle Ground, Indiana wound to close Monday morning, but Aunt Suzy, having observed how much we enjoyed breakfast at Lisa's and breakfast at the Eye Opener, fixed us a fried egg and hash brown breakfast with leftover sausage gravy from Saturday's breakfast at Lisa's. We ate, were properly fueled, and hit the road for our drive to Williamston, Michigan.

2.  Why, you might ask, Williamston?  The Deke's Mom and Dad divorced and the Deke's Dad remarried. His new wife, and now widow, Phyllis, lives in Williamston and we drove to see her and two of Phyllis' daughters, Nella and Gwen. This means the theme of family reunion continued on our trip to the midwest and so Phyllis, Nella, her daughter, Cecie, Gwen, her husband, John, and son, Jake, and Phyllis' daughter-in-law, Gwen all gathered around a big bowl of spaghetti and sausage sauce and we had great reunion dinner together at Nella's house.

3. The Deke and I reserved a pretty lousy room at a Super 8 near East Lansing and we had a terrible time finding it for a variety of reasons, but after about an hour of driving hither and yond, I've never been so happy to see the words "Super 8" lit up as a sign along a city street!

Three Beautiful Things 06/28/15: Eye Opener Cafe Steak and Eggs, Matinee at the Fiddlers' Gathering, Lisa Fixes Heavenly Ribs

1.  I love few things more than an authentic small town diner/cafe, especially for breakfast.  Well, I was one very happy man this morning when Suzy, the Deke, Donna, Lisa, Ted, and Sally and I walked into the Eye Opener Cafe in Battle Ground, Indiana.  I ordered steak and eggs with a side of hash browns and sourdough toast -- AND, I helped Ted eat his bowl of grits. It was a peak experience enjoying this meal.  Here it is:

Steak and Eggs at the Eye Opener Cafe
2.  I attended the entirety of the entirety of the last concert of the Indiana Fiddlers' Gathering this afternoon and listened to some superb string band music and saw some superb clogging.  Here's a list of the bands I got to enjoy:  The Whipstitch Sallies, The Fiddle River String Band, The Battle Ground String Band, and Bahler's "Golden Age" Band.  Superb lineup and exhilarating music.

3.  Wow!  As if Lisa had not fed us superbly enough on Saturday morning, she fixed the Deke and Aunt Suzy and me the best meat falling off the bone tender bbq ribs I've ever eaten along with various bread rolls, green beans and bacon and buttery mashed potatoes.  Absolutely heavenly.

Three Beautiful Things 06/27/15: Breakfast at Lisa and Donna's, Beer Tasting, Indiana Fiddlers' Gathering

1. So all the cousins and their spouses and Aunt Suzy and the Deke and I drove up to Suzy's daughter's house with the huge screened in porch in back and I met Aunt Suzy's daughter Lisa and her partner Donna and we dove into the most extravagant Indiana breakfast I had ever laid eyes on:  plain pancakes, pecan pancakes, blueberry pancakes, tons of bacon, biscuits, sausage gravy, white gravy, grits, watermelon, a separate bowl of mixed fruit, scrambled eggs, coffee peculated on the store, orange juice, and maybe there was more. Honestly, I could have sat at Lisa's and Donna's on their screened in porch and eaten this food for the rest of the weekend.

Lisa and Donna's Screened In Porch 

Lisa and Donna's Screened In Porch 

The Deke's Aunt Suzy and Lisa's Dog Named Alice

Aunt Suzy

Family Reunion for the Deke

The Deke and Aunt Suzy Surrounded by The Deke's Cousins and Brother Brian

2. Debbie's brother, Brian, and his daughters Allison and Danielle arrived at Lisa and Donna's and they brought an ice cooler bag with them crammed with premium beer from Greenbush Brewing in Sawyer, MI and Burn 'Em Brewing in Michigan City, IN.  A beer tasting party got underway at Lisa and Donna's and shifted into high gear back at Aunt Suzy's.  From Burn 'Em, Brian brought us cans of Creamed Corn Cream Ale.  It was refreshing and popular among family members.  He brought a growler of Distorter Porter and another of Juice Box Hero Citrus Ale and two howlers Atomic TaunTaun Overdrive Strawberry Habanero Ale from Greenbush.  OH MY!

3.  The rains cleared. The music was on and,with several members of the Deke's extended family, I sat under a huge leafy tree in a lawn chair in the park and listened to some marvelous music played by these ensembles:  Solas, The Barefoot Movement, Red Tail Ring, The Whipstitch Sallies.  Earlier in the day, I sat of a flat surfaced stump and listened to circles of stringed instrument players play in impromptu groups together.  It was all awesome.

Fiddle Gathering Vendor

Three Beautiful Things 06/26/15: Twelve Hours of Driving, Indiana Feast, Screened In Porch

1.  The Deke and I piled into the newly lubed Sube at about 7 a.m. and twelve hours later drove into Aunt Suzy's driveway in Battleground, Indiana. I wish we'd had an ark. The last three hours of our trip were a workout with severe rain pounding Ohio and Indiana, at times blinding me as I drove, but, we got through it and were ready for the margaritas awaiting us, thanks to the Deke's cousin, Sally.

2. Yes!  Margaritas, a variety of beers, braut dogs, sloppy Joes, potato salad, ham salad, pasta salad, potato chips and dip, brownies, cookies, and carrot cake awaited us and I was a glutton, eating like a man who who had just finished driving twelve straight hours, a quarter of it in a treacherous rain storm.  (Oh!  Julie!  No fired catfish...dang!)

3. As the rain continued to pound the township of Battle Ground, the first night's concert on the main stage of the Indiana Fiddlers' Gathering, in Tippecanoe Battlefield Park, across the street from Aunt Suzy's house was canceled. So, all of us gathered at Aunt Suzy's got to know each other better.  It was a family bonanza for the Deke.  Joining us at the Deke's Aunt Suzy's house were her cousins Bill, Bob, and Sally along with Bob's wife, Nini, and Sally's husband, Ted. More would join us on Saturday, but on this night we all sat on Aunt Suzy's lovely screened in porch, protected from the rain, but enjoying the cool night air, and just shot the breeze, leaving whatever might be troubling us far away.

Recently, I've been adamant about never wanting to be a homeowner again, but the one thing that might TEMPT me back into a mortgage would be a house with a screened in porch.  I love screened in porches.

Three Beautiful Things 06/25/15: Jarvimakis in Bethesda, Cory's Gratitude, Liz!

1.  The Deke and I piled into the newly lubed Sube and drove to Bethesda to meet the Jarvimakis, friends from Seattle we hadn't seen for years. We ate at the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery and suddenly I was transported back to October 20, 2012 when Byrdman and I drove to Rock Bottom in downtown Portland and made friends with a couple pool shootin' gals, Bethany and Sarah.  Bethany was terminally ill with intestinal cancer and was doing all she could to enjoy herself before she couldn't any longer.  I had a great time with the Jarvimakis in Bethesda, and, at the same time, I thought back to Bethany and the pictures she insisted on having taken with me and Byrdman and I thought about the kiss on the cheek she asked each of us for because we we were there and we were fun and we helped her live the way she wanted to live as she neared the end of her days.  I couldn't help but wonder how much longer Bethany lived and whatever happened to the pictures -- but, most of my attention was on the fun yakkin' we did with the Jarvimakis and the fine food and refreshing beers we enjoyed at Rock Bottom in Bethesda.

2. I was checking Facebook messages and noticed that a couple had come into my "Other" box, a box I check all too infrequently.  One of the messages was from Cory, a student of mine at LCC twenty-four years ago.  He had taken time to express his gratitude for how I had inspired him in an English Composition course back in 1991. His note staggered me. I regained my equilibrium and wrote him a most grateful note in return.  In retirement, it slips my mind that my work as a teacher mattered a lot to some number of my students and it was deeply gratifying to be reminded. 

3.  The other message filled me with joy. I hadn't heard from Liz since the spring of 1974 -- possibly around the time she got married.  Over the years I've thought of Liz often -- we spent a lot of time together as being more than just friends back in 1973. I hope that the messages we sent back and forth will put us more frequently in touch with each other so we can find out more about what's happened in our lives over the last forty years or so. It's funny.  Even though 1973 was the year I was seriously injured and nearly died at the Zinc Plant, overall it was one of my favorite of my 60+ years and the times Liz and I talked and laughed and were part of a fun group of friends and drank beer and listened to music and hung out in Cd'A and held each other close -- and the many times she came to the hospital to visit and comfort me -- were the best times I had during that memorable year. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/24/15: Busy Garage, Lots of Walking, Dizzy with Gratitude

1.  Turns out the shop where I take the car for routine maintenance is very popular and right now is packed with customers. I tried to get the car in on Tuesday morning and was turned away and told to come back at 8 a.m.on Wednesday. I arrived at 8, filled out the ticket detailing what I wanted done, and was told about 10,000,000 cars were ahead of me -- it turns out customers were bringing their cars in the night before and leaving them overnight.  I called the garage about noon, found out that it was unlikely they'd get to to it, so I took the bus down to the garage, retrieved the Subaru, and, this evening, shortly before 8, I took the car in and left it in the nearby Co-op parking lot overnight. We'll see if they get to it on Thursday in advance of our trip to Battle Ground, Indiana on Friday.

2. The good news about not getting the car right in to be maintained is that I got a lot of walking in today and that the temperature was about 10-15 degrees cooler, making the walking pleasant. I hadn't expected a longish evening walk after I dropped of the car, but I boarded to wrong bus to get home and got off the bus about a mile from our apartment home and hoofed through the surprisingly comfortable evening air back to our apartment home.

3. Gratitude. Having the car back in the early afternoon opened the way for the Deke and me to drive to Groveton/Alexandria. In an immeasurable act of generosity, Molly and Hiram are minding the corgis while we travel to Indiana -- and maybe Michigan -- , even though their lives are in great disorder as they prepare to  move this weekend out of their townhouse and into the new house in Silver Spring they recently purchased. So we took the dogs to the Diazes and we all shared in a pizza/salad dinner and as we returned to Greenbelt, I felt kind of dizzy with thankfulness.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/23/15: Friendly Heat, Grooming Day, Quinoa Salad and Refreshing Drinks

1. Normally, people I don't know don't talk to me around Greenbelt. There's nothing unique about that. But, today, with temperatures pushing the 100 degree mark and with the heat index higher than that, about a half a dozen people I didn't know asked me if it was hot enough for me or remarked that it was brutal outside or told me they guessed it could be worse -- we could live on the desert.

2. I went to Hair Cuttery today after I dropped the dogs off at the groomer. A woman waiting for her stylist had seen me about ten minutes earlier with the corgis and asked me if I left the dogs in my car in this hot weather.  I assured I don't do that and told her they were getting groomed.  She laughed and remarked, "I guess it's grooming day in your house!" Ha!  I said, "You're right!" and laughed along with her. Then, after one stylist turned down the opportunity to trim my hair, Angela stepped up to the task and, later in the day, I passed the Deke eye test.

3. Once home, the Deke and I enjoyed the cool, refreshing, and tasty quinoa salad I made with quinoa, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, almonds, Kalamata olives (and some juice), fresh mint leaves, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, cumin, and cinnamon.  I refreshed myself before and after eating the salad with a couple of bottles of the stellar Yeungling lagers, brewed by the nation's oldest operating brewery. For a nightcap, and as a tribute to the hot weather, I enjoyed the finest of all hot weather drinks, a gin and tonic.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/22/15: Marie Was Patient, Computer Delivery, Lazy Night

1. I needed to drink some water before my monthly blood draw this morning. Marie was very patient with my veins and slowly but surely drew a sample out of my slightly dehydrated veins. This has never happened before, but usually I drink water before going, so I'll remember to hydrate before my blood draw in the future.

2. It's often good I'm home during the day:  the Deke left her school computer behind this morning and I was home to make the delivery.

3. We were lazy tonight.  Maybe it's the heat.  Maybe it's my nature.  I don't know. The result?  We settled for cheese and crackers and popcorn as our nourishment this evening. Hiram and Molly bought us some Fresh Squeezed IPA (my favorite, I think) in Virginia -- it's not available yet in MD) and I enjoyed a bottle with some stout cheddar cheese and saltines before diving into the popcorn.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/21/15: Honoring and Remembering Dad, U. S. Open Golf, Stay at Home Salad

1.For Father's Day, Christy and I both posted pictures on Facebook to remember Dad by. I posted one of me apparently taking a swig of Oly as a way of hoisting a cold one in memory of Dad. Christy posted one of Dad about to go to an American Legion baseball game as one of the Kellogg team's coaches and one of Dad, me, and a box of good old Lucky Lager beer.  Here they are:

2.  When Dad was alive, we either watched the final round of the U. S. Open golf championship together or talked about it on the telephone, when we could. Today, I remembered doing this as I went online and watched several hours of the U. S. Open.  The Fox network's online live coverage ended about an hour or so before the tournament did. Go figure. So, I had to imagine the riveting final hour or so of the tournament by reading Twitter tweets. Fox's online broadcast was crappy to begin with, but to have it just end with so much golf to be played bewildered me and struck me as bizarre.

3. It's hot and humid here in Greenbelt, especially with all the moisture in the ground after last night's series of thunder storms, so I stayed indoors and did one of my favorite things:  make dinner with whatever is on hand.  I cooked up chickpeas, drained them, and combined them with leftover brown rice. Ah! We had a package of cherry tomatoes, a bunch of mint, cilantro, a head of garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, a tin of almonds, lemon juice, black pepper.  All of these things mixed together in a big bowl resulted in a great meal that kept me inside and made the Deke and me very happy.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/20/15: Takin' Care of Business, Grandpa Ghost Closet, Flashlight Fun

1.  If you'd dropped by our apartment home this morning, you would have found me going through a stack of papers sorting,filing, scanning, recycling, writing a check: in short, takin' care of business.

2. Hiram and Molly attended a party in Del Ray (Alexandria) and so the Deke and I invited David and Olivia over for a sleep over. We have a closet just off our dining area and David and Olivia decided to sit in it and then I acted scared to death when they pushed their fingers and toes under the closet door and this grew into a game called "Ghost in the Closet".  Olivia and David thought of all kinds of ways to scare me, turning their hands into a claw, a spider, a gaping jaw, and other monstrous beings that came out of the closet and both of them perfected ghost noises. I did my best to express my terror and tell them my night was going to be haunted by bad dreams, so they created benevolent creatures, like their fingers became "nice worms", out of concern for my dreams. David was the most concerned with my "terror". Periodically, from inside the ghost closet, he reassured me that "it's just me". This was a great relief to Grandpa.

3.  Olivia couldn't find her stuffed animal, Lenonata, so I handed them flashlights and David and Oliva got a full search and rescue effort underway. Nana (The Deke) didn't have a flashlight, but she found Leonata wrapped in a blanket on the couch. With the search ended, Oliva took some time to use her flashlight to cast her shadow puppets on the wall. David used his flashlight to continue to shine light on things room to room. He didn't need an objective. He just liked shining the light. And looking.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/19/15: Postponed Outing, Jordan Spieth's Response, A Simple Meal

1.  I had an outing planned to the Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, but as I gathered myself to go, I realized that both of my camera batteries needed charging. I postponed my outing. Instead, I went back to reading articles and commentary related to the killings in Charleston, SC and the story of Rachel Dolezal.

2.  As I was reading away, a text message came to me from Byrdman marveling at Jordan Spieth.  I think Byrdman was marveling at his play at Chambers Bay in the U. S. Open, but now I know how Spieth responded with one of his playing partners, Jason Day, blacked out thanks to vertigo on the players' 18th hole (the course's 9th hole) and Spieth's concern, care for, and protectiveness of his fellow player transcended his marvelous play in Round 2. I'm sure when I return to Kellogg in a couple of weeks, Byrdman and I will have some premium discussion of this dramatic episode.

3. It was a simple request: broccoli, zucchini, and onion served with brown rice. I made a quick trip to the Co-op and the Deke and I agreed:  this simple meal hit the spot.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/18/15: Shakespeare and Nixon, *All the President's Men*, The National Arboretum

1. I watched the last segment of the documentary, Watergate:  A Third Rate Burglary.  Nixon's story became Shakespearian to me. Shakespeare builds certain of his tragedies around the growing confinement of his tragic characters. Macbeth comes to think he can secure the throne he has killed for by commissioning more widespread killing and as he has these murders carried out, he comes to see that he is "cabin'd, cribb'd, confined bound in/To saucy doubts and fears". Nixon's world, similarly, grows smaller and smaller as he nears his resignation. Within himself, he is bound in emotionally by paranoia and physically he is confined to the White House. It reminds me of how Othello's world also closed in on him. Once occupied by jealousy, a primary feeling, by the way, of Nixon, Shakespeare shows us that whereas he once traveled the expanse of the world, both the northern and southern hemispheres, now his world is confined to a citadel and within that citadel to a small bedroom where he murders Desdemona, cannot escape,  and kills himself. Exploring and portraying murder, murder prompted by paranoia and jealousy, is a way that Shakespeare magnifies what destroys the soul. It helps us see that a man like Nixon, who politically destroyed rivals with dirty tricks and crimes, confined himself in the futility of covering up these deeds, and used the office of the presidency as an instrument of revenge, was eventually suffocated by the pressure and confining consequences of his actions, making him, to me, a man who can be understood, in part, by these stories of Shakespeare.

2.  I finished the documentary and immediately went to amazon.com and rented All the President's Men. I first saw this movie toward the end of my senior year at Whitworth in Spokane at the Garland Theater and it riveted me, no doubt because it's a thrilling work of art and because the story was so fresh.  Now, nearly forty years later, the movie thrills me even more. More now than forty years ago, I am thrilled by the cast and the brilliant acting of the entire cast, no one plays a prominent lead role, but all play character roles in scintillating support of one another. Yes, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman lead the cast, I suppose, but the rest of the cast is equally compelling and memorable whether it's Jane Alexander or Jason Robards, Jack Warden or Lindsay Crouse, Martin Balsam or Hal Holbrook, Stephen Collins or Robert Walden -- for starters. It's among my favorite movies ever made.

3. Earlier in the day, I drove down the Baltimore Washington Parkway and exited onto New York Avenue and entered the gates of the National Arboretum.  I left much unexplored, but I walked to the Grove of State Trees and then to the Fern Trail.  The Fern trail took me into a heavily wooded and shaded area, perfect for a day where the temperatures were rising into the high 80s.  I took pictures at the Arboretum.  Here are a few of them:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/17/15: Watergate Again, Grandpa Pasta, Dick Cavett Again

1. Back in 1972-74, as the story of the break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Headquarters at the Watergate Complex in Georgetown developed, I had trouble keeping it all straight. It didn't help, I suppose, that I was drinking a lot of beer in those days and that I was hospitalized following the accident I had at the Zinc Plant. While in the hospital, I remember Mom being a little put out when the Watergate hearings were shown in place of All My Children.

Back then, I thought that I'd wait until the whole situation came to a conclusion and then I'd try to understand it by looking back, rather than trying to comprehend it as it happened. Today, over forty years later, I once again dove back into the story. I watched the first two thirds of the 4 1/2 hour documentary, Watergate: A Third-Rate Burglary (1994) and I am arriving at a better understanding of who was involved, the gravity of their actions, and how crazy some of the stuff that happened was.

For me, G. Gordon Liddy, sounding  in the interviews disarmingly like Maxwell Smart, personifies the craziness. The craziness, to me, was also expressed in how matter of fact Howard Hunt, Bernard Barker, Bob Haldeman, John Erlichman, and the others sounded about the schemes they worked up and carried out. In tone, they sounded like they were talking about picking up their kids from school or what they had for dinner the night before.

This entire documentary is available in three installations on YouTube.

2. Much to my surprise and delight, Molly brought Olivia and David over and we had a simple and delicious pasta dinner together.  The "grown-up" pasta was dressed with olive oil, garlic, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Very simple and mighty tasty.

3.  I had forgotten that Dick Cavett had many of those involved in the Watergate situation on his late night talk show. Not long ago (unknown to me) an hour long documentary entitled Secrets of the Dead:  Dick Cavett's Watergate was filmed.  It's a compilation of clips from Cavett's show and contemporary interviews with him and others looking back forty years.  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are prominently featured.  I watched Dick Cavett most often when his show was on PBS and when I was sleeping on the couch at the end of my first marriage. Back then, I found it a satisfying way to end my day of studies and teaching and to relieve myself of the stress of a failing marriage.  Tonight, the impact was less dramatic, but it was fun to, once again, have Dick Cavett help me end a day of contemplation, house cleaning, and some cooking.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/16/15: No Hearburn!, G and T at the Blue M Bar, Cool Pasta Salad

1.  I now have 400 sodium bicarbonate pills to last me for three months as I work to elevate the levels of carbon dioxide in my blood and lower the potassium. There's another upside to this: I guess I'll be living in a constant state of heartburn relief -- before the heartburn has a chance to start burning!

2. The Deke called and said she'd like to go for a drink after work and I really didn't want to get in high volume traffic driving to Hyattsville or Beltsville to Franklin's or Old Line, so I thought...hmmm...that Marriott is really close to our apartment home and it has a hotel bar so let's give it a try.  Aside from being overpriced (oh, well), it was a perfect place to relax and have a gin and tonic. It's quiet, making it easy for the Deke and me to shoot the breeze and we had a long conversation with a J'American (his word) name Ki about everything from what it means to be flawless to how the English language is changing every single day (not everyday).

3. I had the pasta cooked and cooling before I picked up the Deke and when we got home I chopped up the broccoli, red pepper, purple onion, and tomato, mixed it with the pasta, and the Deke made a killer dressing for our delicious and cool pasta salad on another very hot day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/15/15: Kidney Update, Hodge Podge Salad, Sylvia Telford Seeks a Job

1. I drove to Bethesda for my appointment with Dr. Fahim Malik. He greeted me with a broad smile and a friendly handshake and we talked about my chronic kidney disease, our favorite topic. Over the past year, my numbers have remained mostly stable, so, for the present, it's good news that my failing kidneys continue to fail slowly. My blood pressure and heart and lungs were all good. I've lost four more pounds. That's good. Dr. Malik took me off the diuretic I've taken for many years out of concern for dehydration (and my black out incident) and started me on a course of medicine to raise the bicarbonate levels in my blood and, hopefully, lower the potassium. That's good. The decrease of the one and the increase of the other are common effects of kidney disease.

2. It was time to use up the lettuce here, the leftover rice there, the odd red pepper, an apple, as well as the last slices of bacon and bits of chicken left from previous meals.  So I made a salad, combining all these things and asked the Deke to dress it.  She added almonds to the salad along with the splendid dressing she made and we had a great meal.

3. I watched episode #3 of Telford's Change.  The Telford's marriage is at the center of the program's drama. Mark Telford's decision to leave international banking and his office in London and manage a branch in Dover was unilateral. His wife, Sylvia, loves London. She does not want to live in Dover at all. She has decided that rather than use her many talents on volunteer theater committees, she'd like to join the work force and, much to Mark Telford's chagrin, is pursuing a position working for a theater director in the West End. The episode ends with Mark Telford raising a toast of sherry to his wife's pursuits, but is hardly convincing as he lifts his glass, making a weak toast:  "To whatever will make us both happy."

Monday, June 15, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/14/15: Mustard Seed, Ordinary Shopping, I Found *Telford's Change* Online!

1. In the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion, we are all settling into the long season of Pentecost, also known as ordinary time. Today, in the gospel reading from Mark, Jesus did what he often did: he invites his listeners to see the Kingdom of God in terms of an ordinary earthly thing. Today it was a mustard seed. It's subversive and a bit bewildering that he compares the mighty Kingdom of God to something so tiny, so scattered, so unimpressive -- well, something so ordinary. These seeds grow into bushes, the largest of garden (not forest) plants -- not like the mighty cedars of Lebanon -- large enough for birds to perch in their shade, but hardly extraordinary in the ways we think of grandeur. Consistently, this is where Jesus goes when he speaks of the Kingdom of God. Like ordinary things -- say a lost coin -- the Kingdom of God is in our midst, so everyday, so ordinary. What's profound about God's presence isn't necessarily to be understood in terms of grandeur, but in terms of how mundane it can be.

2. The Deke and I took a little trip up to the Laurel Corridor Marketplace and bought a few articles of clothing and couple of pillows.  Very ordinary.

3. My first marriage was annulled by the Roman Catholic Church just over thirty years ago. While the Church ruled that that marriage never happened, my memories of that marriage (1976-82) have not been annulled. A favorite memory was a week to week one in the early months of 1979. A ten week series, Telford's Change was playing in England while Eileen and I were touring the country. On Sundays,we stayed in bed and breakfasts based on whether there was a tv room where we could watch the next installment of the series. I don't remember at what week of the series we picked up Telford's Change, but I know we saw several episodes right to the end. We loved it. Over the last several years, I've tried to find DVDs of the series but haven't been confident that the disks I've found would play in the USA. Over the weekend, however, I discovered that someone downloaded all ten episodes on YouTube back in November and I watched the first two episodes tonight.  Mark Telford has succeeded in his request to be transferred out of the international branch of the bank he works for to a become a most ordinary branch manager in Dover, a significant step down the corporate ladder. His very gifted wife wants to stay in London and is about to land a theater job there. The conflicts are established -- the Telfords' marriage is in peril and we will see if Mark is fit to perform the tasks of a small town banker. I'm eager to get going on Episode 3.  I'm very happy to be able to watch this series again.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/13/15: Spiderman Upside Down, Chef Lou's Desserts, Skooterpalooza

1. The Deke bought David a Spiderman figure and David slept with his Spiderman last night.  When David woke up this morning, the first words out of his mouth were that Spiderman "fell off my bed and was upside down on the floor."

2.  Before returning to the Beltway today, about 12:30, to drive down to Ft. Washington, I made my first ever visit to Chef Lou's Desserts and hoped I could get a box of brownies to take to Skooterpalooza. When you walk into Chef Lou's dessert shop, there's only room for about two people to stand in front of his dessert case. Chef Lou greeted me with "I'm just now getting my case set up." He was way behind for the day because he freshly baked a cake earlier in the morning for a Saturday wedding. I asked him about getting 10-12 brownies, he checked his fridge, said yes, but he'd need some time to cut them up and frost them. That was no problem for me, I took a walk, came back, he got tied up with a couple and a baby ordering little bowls of ice cream, but, before long, he had the brownies, cut, frosted, packed in a box, and he sold them to me for a little less than the posted price. The brownies were gorgeous, moist, super chocolate-y and fudge-y, and were a perfect contribution to the party. I'll be heading back to Chef Lou's tiny shop any time I might want cupcakes, pie, brownies, or other sweets for any occasion.

3. Skooterpalooza:  A party to get a handful of Facebook followers of Rick Wainright's together. On Facebook, Rick's dog Skooter is a legend. So attendees (Friends of Rick) got to meet Skooter and see him in action, as well as enjoy a relaxed and delicious afternoon together. I arrived way early for Skooterpalooza. Rick and the party's host, Lorna, were out picking up ribs and crabs, but Lorna's Italian nanny, Sara, and her friend visiting from Italy, were at the house and we visited for a good spell until Rick and Lorna returned. Soon, other guests arrived, a lot of fun yakking got underway, and we all dug into a generous feast of crab, ribs, and plentiful and delicious side dishes.  In case you are reading this and don't recognize the name Rick Wainright, we were great friends in our teenage years and go back together even farther than that to when Rick was in Mom's second grade class at Silver King Elementary in about 1958-59.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/12/15: Video Village, Rick and Skooter, Grandpa Popcorn

1. In its brand newness and perfectly laid out streets and style of buildings and store signs and stuff, when I drove into National Harbor, MD, I thought I had entered the world of Monty Hall's game show, Video Village.

2. I was in National Harbor to have lunch with Rick Wainright and to meet, after lunch, his intrepid beagle, Skooter. Rick and I have known each other for over fifty years and it was a lot of fun to shoot the breeze again over a meal and then to head over to a dog park in Alexandria so Skooter could stretch his legs.  On Saturday, Rick's hosts in Ft. Washington, MD are hosting a party, known as Skooterpalooza, bringing together people in the area who hang out and make wise cracks on Rick's Facebook page.  I look forward to a really good time.

3. I got to play the role of Grandpa Popcorn this evening.  David and Olivia were spending the night and got to eat popcorn while watching a movie together before going to bed. Grandpa Popcorn is a pretty good role to play.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/11/15: Steamy Walk, Deal Closed, Pictures in *Moonrise Kingdom*

1.  I enjoyed a walk around Greenbelt Lake late this morning in the building humidity of northern Prince George's County.

2.  I met with Dilon at the Marriott Starbucks and we had fun non-business conversation while also closing out a transaction we've been working on, one way or another, since about February.

3.  I watched the 2012 Wes Anderson movie Moonrise Kingdom.  It's a topsy-turvy fantasy movie. It portrays two children in love behaving with maturity and devotion while the adults are often childish, prone to panic tantrums, grudges, and rigidness. All through the movie, one thought consistently popped up:  I would love, with any of my cameras and lenses, to take pictures in the style of Robert Yeoman, the movie's Director of Photography.  My interest in the story of this movie often flagged, but the thrill of the movie's pictures never did, whether the frame featured the two young lovers discussing whether to get married with a champion trampolinist doing awesome acrobatics next to them or featured a far away shot of a mob chasing Sam in a pasture in the mist, just to name a couple. I sometimes think I could enjoy Wes Anderson's movies as silent movies so that almost all my attention would be focused on the movie's beautiful and unusual and often thrilling frame by frame pictures.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/10/15: Peggy to the Rescue, Intro to Wegman's, Eulogy for Dad and Friends the Turnbows

1. I bought groceries at the Co-op.  Peggy was my checker.  I left a bag behind when I left and she grabbed the bag and came outside, tracked me down, and made sure I left with my entire order. Peggy was the checker who reassured me over a month ago that my cart of groceries had to be somewhere in the store when I lost track of it.  She was right.

2. Betsy announced on her Facebook page that the grocer Wegman's was opening a new store in Alexandria. I've been hearing nothing but great things about Wegman's since I moved out here, so I looked up where it is in Alexandria and, lo and behold, there's a Wegman's within about twelve miles or so of us, down in Woodmore Towne Center. I drove there today and after surveying the four or five crowded eateries, the expansive fresh seafood counter, the mammoth produce section, and after walking up and down countless aisles of products, I decided that if the Deke and I wanted to go out on a culinary safari one day south of here, we might go down to Wegman's for a visit. When I told the Deke about Wegman's, I had to be honest and tell her in one section of the store there was a toy train on tracks running overhead, tooting.  Silence.  A few minutes later, the Deke said, "I'm never going to Wegman's."

3.  I spent a good part of the afternoon writing a blog post about friends of ours in Kellogg, the Turnbows, with focus on the historic 1966 NCAA basketball tournament final between Texas Western and Kentucky.  Texas Western was the first team ever to start five black players in an NCAA championship game. All of this led me to think about what I enjoy most about being a man.  If you'd like to read what amounts to a eulogy about my dad, his good friends, why they rooted for Texas Western, and a few of my thoughts about being a man, just click here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sibling Assignment #165: Remembering the Turnbow Brothers and What I Enjoy in Life

Carol gave us this sibling assignment.  It's straightforward:

Since the last of the Turnbow siblings just passed away, I think it would be nice to write a special memory or memories about time spent with this family as we grew up.
Christy wrote about her times with Judy Turnbow and The Beatles, here.  Carol's post is still to come.

Over the years, especially during my over forty years in academic life, both as a student and an instructor, the question of what makes a man a man arose repeatedly. I studied and put before my students epic tales, novels, essays, plays, novels, short stories, poems, television programs, interviews,and movies that addressed this question by exploring the hero's journey, rites of passage, and initiations and that called into question assumptions about what makes a man a man.

I think about this question a lot -- and, recent essays written about what makes a woman a woman, especially in relation to transgendered women, have me thinking a lot about what makes a woman a woman.  No matter which sex or gender is under question, I haven't come to any absolute conclusions and I keep reading and listening, having surrendered myself to never really knowing.

But, here's what I do know:  I know what experiences I've had in my life, as a man, that have been the most fun for me.

At or near the top has been all the time I've had in Kellogg with other men watching sporting events on television, or, if nothing is on, sitting around on Don Knott's patio or getting together in a bar somewhere or having lunch together in a casino or getting together with the guys in Portland or Lincoln City or Coeur d'Alene or Pendleton and telling tall tales, laughing at the same stories time after time, drinking beers, giving each other a bad time, and generally shooting the shit.

I learned the pleasure of this from my father.  He initiated me into this world of ball games, beer, food, bullshit, and laughter by including me in gatherings at the homes of Gerry or Ted or Bob Turnbow.

If I could change anything in my life as I live it day to day right now, I would have a group of men to get together with to watch any kind of athletic competition or, lacking that, to get together and drink and tell tales and entertain each other.

When I was young, the Turnbow brothers had a rotation going for many years:  Gerry hosted Thanksgiving; Bob hosted Christmas Eve; Ted hosted New Year's Day; Gerry had the Fourth of July; and Ted's place up the river had parties I don't think I ever really knew about.

As I was growing up, there were some monumental (in my mind) events in the history of football and basketball and I often took in these events in the company of my dad, friends of his, and the Turnbow brothers.

The first such event that I remember didn't happen at a Turnbow brother's house, but they were all present at Bob Emmingham's on Saturday, March 19, 1966.  The NCAA finals were held right down the road from where I live now in Coles Fieldhouse in College Park, MD.  The championship game featured Texas Western (now U Texas at El Paso) and Kentucky.  Texas Western's starting five were all black.  There had never been an all black starting five before in an NCAA title game.  Kentucky, on the other hand, not only started an all white team, the University of Kentucky had never had a single black player in its long history as one of the premier programs in the U. S. A.

I don't know if any of the men in Bob Emmingham's living room -- Don Bowles, Bob Emmingham, Mouse Faraca, Pert Woolum, Gerry Turnbow, Ted Turnbow, Bob Turnbow, Jack Carney, Floyd Cassidy, or anyone else (Mike Turner?  Terry Turner?) who might have been there -- supported the emerging Civil Rights movement. I don't really know what they thought about the increasing number of black players on teams in all the major American sports.  

I've thought about this a lot because my dad and his friends were like nearly every other adult man I knew in Kellogg when it came to talking about African-Americans.  They made jokes about black faces, lips, noses, and hair. They mocked and criticized African-American speech patterns. They laughed at African-American names.  They freely used a wide variety of pejorative words for African-Americans. When I was in junior high, I called my dad on this from time to time, tried to get him to change, and he mocked me, told me his home was his castle and he could talk any way he wanted. It was a battle I soon gave up on.

But, that night, when the Texas Western players were introduced -- Bobby Joe Hill, Orsten Artis, David Lattin, Willie Cager, and Willie Worsley -- and the Kentucky starters -- Pat Riley, Larry Conley, Louie Dampier, Tommy Kron, and Thad Jaracz -- were introduced, the rooting energy in the room was for Texas Western.

I've often wondered why. What moved these men to take the side of the all black team?

The Kentucky program was coached by a smug and arrogant sports elitist named Adolph Rupp.  His players, I'll bet, seemed privileged to my dad and his friends.  They needed to be brought down a notch or two.

And another thing.  Ted Turnbow was a Zinc Plant supervisor where Dad worked as a maintenance mechanic. A guy who was also a boss of some sort at the Zinc Plant and who Dad liked a lot, named Ed Whitley, was a graduate of Texas Western.  In fact, until 1949, Texas Western was named the College of Mines and Metallurgy.

 Whit graduated from Texas Western.

Dad and Ted liked Whit.

Texas Western was a mining school.

Kellogg was a mining town.

Adolph Rupp was an asshole.

Ergo, Dad and his friends rooted for the all black team, and, as it turned out, they were on the right side of history.

This game would have been historic no matter who won, because of Texas Western's starting five. But this disciplined, fundamentally sound team from a school few had heard of, defeated the mighty Kentucky Wildcats that night, 72-65.

I'll always remember the game for its early turning point in the first half when, on two consecutive possessions, Bobby Joe Hill converted steals into layups.  I was dumbstruck. The two buckets put Texas Western up 16-11, and it was a lead they never lost that night.

I saw other great games with the Turnbows -- great New Year's bowl games, Bill Walton's 44 point performance against Memphis State in the '73 NCAA finals, and some great USC/Notre Dame football battles.

I learned from those games and those get togethers what is most fun for me as a man.

Soon I'll get to have this fun again.

I'll be returning to Kellogg late in the evening on July 4th and I am stoked that I'll see members of the Hall of Fame of Great Guys -- Stu, Lars, Donnie, Abby, Byrdman, Jake, Ed -- maybe all at once, maybe not, but we'll get together and eat and drink and shoot the shit and give each other shit in the grand tradition I learned from my dad and his lifelong friendship with the Turnbows and his other friends.

Ted was not only the last Turnbow to pass away, but he was the last surviving man of all the names of my father's friends I've mentioned in this post.

I hold their memories dear, first because of what good friends they were to Dad, and, secondly, because they opened up a world to me of how to enjoy my friends that has brought me hours of laughter, lifelong friendship, and a deep sense of belonging.

Three Beautiful Things 06/09/15: It Had Been a Long Time, Mom Update, *Heat* Bonus Disk

1.  Tonight the Deke and I did something that felt really good that we haven't done in a long time. (Are you ready?) I fixed us BLTs.  We ate them. I bought us each a ciabatta roll at the Co-op, fried us up some bacon (almost crispy) and we each built our own sandwich with romaine lettuce, tomato, and basil. The Deke added sweet onion.  I added red pepper.  She went with mayo.  I went with yellow mustard. Perfect dinner.

2. I got an email from Carol who told me the doctor at the pain clinic determined it wasn't safe to give Mom a pain shot because her blood pressure was high and because of the way her ankles are swollen from water retention. This dismayed me and I called Mom to see how she was doing. She agreed with the doctor. She was glad he was being cautious. Yes, she is having sciatic pain at night. The shot has brought her relief in the past. But, her attitude on the phone was good. As is often the case, Mom is ready to tough it out -- as best she can.

3. I spent the afternoon watching the bonus disk that came with the movie Heat.  Michael Mann fascinated me with his explanations of what he had in mind in making the movie Heat. I might write more about this in a separate blog entry.

For now I'll just say that without alluding to Sophocles, Mann made it clear that the understanding of human nature and human life that he worked out in his movie is right along the lines of Sophocles' assertion that fate is character, or, to put it in George Eliot's words, "Our deeds determine us as much as we determine our deeds."

I had thought this was Mann's vision as I watched the movie. I was right about another thing, too: Mann worked to fill out the development of Lt. Vincent Hanna, Neil McCauley, and Chris Shiherlis by probing their love lives. I came away thinking this is an idea that sounds better than it played out.

I'll just say, for now, that while many who were interviewed on the bonus disk asserted that Neil McCauley getting involved with Eady made viewers care more for him, their instant romance had the opposite effect on me. I cared less for McCauley. He exploited Eady's kindness, withheld from her the facts of his life, and chased her down, grabbed her, and pinned her down when she tried to leave him. This didn't make me think he was a professional thief with a romantic side or that "love" had softened him and increased the sadness of his eventual demise. He continued to be a thief with Eady, stealing her heart, robbing her of her trusting nature.  I'd like to think that, well, my response was closer to the movie's truth and that the interviewees were trying to elevate McCauley by assigning him qualities of character that he didn't actually possess.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/08/15: Mom Update, Rice Salad, *Heat*

1. I had a good talk with Mom on the telephone. She's still learning what she can do and can't do because of the dizzy spells she has. She saves newspaper sports pages for Paul -- a good thing -- and she bent down to pick them up and when went to stand up straight again she experience dizziness. Carol was there to help steady her, but it's becoming more apparent that Mom needs to let someone else bend down and pick things up. This might seem a small thing, but Mom is a habitual pick things up off the floor person -- like food bits and other small pieces of things her eye catches that didn't get swept of vacuumed -- and she talked with me about not bending over to pick up such stuff. My fingers are crossed.

2. It made me very happy tonight that the salad I made of brown rice, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, almonds, basil, kalamata olives, olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh basil tasted so good and made such a fine dinner.

3.  Al Pacino and Robert De Nero. Together on screen for the first time! I remembered back twenty years ago that this was the way the movie Heat was marketed. Twenty years later, I watched this movie for the first time tonight. The scheming of the thieves and the work the police did to bring down the thieving crew worked for me. So did the idea that the cops and robbers live and work, not in contrasting worlds, but in parallel ones -- they are very much like each other.  What didn't work for me were the detours the movie took into the tedious love lives of the characters played by Val Kilmer/Ashley Judd, Pacino/Diane Venora, and De Nero/Amy Brenneman . I could hardly wait for these scenes to end -- even though they helped underscore the movie's exploration of cops' and robbers' parallel worlds.  Likewise, I found the shoot out scenes, especially the central one following the crew's last bank robbery, tedious. But the complications the thieves faced, with each other and in their work and the work of the police was fascinating.  I also enjoyed all the terrific character roles played by John Voight, Ted Levine, Ted Sizemore, Dennis Haysbert, and, ha!, even a bit role played by Bud Cort.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/07/15: Who Me?, Diaz Table Talk, Heron and Wetlands

1. After Rev. Dr. Carol Jablonski's final blessing at church this morning, the woman who sat in front of me turned around and said, "You sing very well.  It's a pleasure to sit in front of someone who sings so nicely."  I blushed and thanked her very much.

2.  The Deke and I had a fun time at Molly and Hiram's. Hiram painted David's face as the Green Lantern and Olivia's as a cat and over the course of the afternoon we all had good conversation about our families and the near future, which promises much change as the Diazes make ready to move into a new house and welcome their third child into the world.

3. I took a most comfortable walk, racking up three miles, at Huntley Meadows Park.  A steady breezed kept the temperature moderate and a light cloud cover meant no unrelenting sun beating down. I was especially happy to encounter a heron and to try some wetland forest pictures from spots I hadn't shot from before:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/06/15: Tiger Talk, Old Line and Jailbreak and Burger, Glad Bags

1.  Russell and Rick and I took some time out of our busy, busy lives to do a little online armchair analysis of the demise of Tiger Woods. Really, it was like the good old days when I'd sit around and dig into the demise of characters from some of Shakespeare's plays, with the difference being that Tiger Woods' demise isn't (to the best of my knowledge) following a playwright's script and no denouement is in sight.  (By the way, I see his downfall rooted in arrested development and I never admired his father and how he raised his son. In the long run, I think his domineering ways stunted Tiger Woods and left him scarred.)

2. The Deke brought the Diaz-mobile back to Groveton and we hopped in the Subaru and decided to drive the magical suburb of Beltsville for a beer and burger at the Old Line Bistro.  I enjoyed my burger crusted with black pepper and topped with crumbled bleu cheese. Although it was a little malty for what I like most in a beer, the deeper I got into my pint of Jailbreak Infinite Amber Ale, the more I enjoyed it.  I ordered it because I wanted to try a beer from Jailbreak, a brewery located in nearby Laurel, MD.

3.  After a week of house and pet sitting, it felt comfortable to be back in our apartment home, sitting in the chair I'm used to, assessing our food and coffee supply, and, of course, making a trip down to the Co-op to pick up some things.  The highlight? I deliberately, and with careful scanning of the shelves, found a box of Glad kitchen garbage bags with NO ODOR SHIELD.  I can't stand the odor blocking kitchen garbage bags. With our apartment's rubbish room just up the stairs, like forty seconds away, I can get any stinky garbage out of here quickly, making the lingering chemical fake fruit Febreze-y smell of odor blocking bags totally unnecessary.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/05/15: Claire's Done with 3BTs, Sweet Tooth, Starting at Mt. Vernon

1.  I popped over to visit the original Three Beautiful Things blog/website and learned that all good things must end one day. Claire announced that she's dropped the final curtain on her 3BTs project which she began in 2004.  Over the years I've had some brief correspondence with Claire and am grateful that she inspired me to make Three Beautiful Things the way I keep track of what's happening in my day to day life and, at times, to reflect upon this and that. I'll keep plowing forward, keeping this record, writing about things, posting some pictures, and referring back to these entries often to sort out when such and such happened and what was going on at such and such a time.

2.  I passed a building on Belle View Blvd in Alexandria.  Inside were a Dunkin Donuts, a Baskin-Robbins, and a dentist's office.

3.  I drove to the southern terminus of the Mt. Vernon Trail at the Mt. Vernon estate itself.  As is so often the case with D. C. area historical sites, I thought I'd arrived at a theme park.  I didn't linger long in the parking lot. Rather, I began to walk the trail and enjoyed the lush greenery and the variations in terrain. I went only as far as the Riverside Park and returned to the car.  Here are a few of the pictures I took.

Early in the hike, my attention was arrested by the sweet smell of honeysuckle:

The trail is comfortably paved and winds its way through verdant forest land:

It's fun to zero in on some of this greenery;

Friday, June 5, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 05/04/15: It's the Water, Subway Memories, Cold Chicken and Rain

1.  The longer I love out here in DMV, the more I realize it's like Olympia beer:  It's the water.  At first, I thought it was all about the freeways and the mind-boggling routes -- Rt. 193, Rt. 201, Rt. 50, Rt. 450 . . . . But, as I settle in, the beauty of where I live is so much about the water.  Today I began to explore the George Washington Memorial Parkway and began to learn about its access to marshes, the  18 mile Mt. Vernon trail near the Potomac, and other sources of beauty.  I sauntered around Fort Hunt Park for a while, marveling at the greenery, thinking it must thrive on its proximity to the Potomac and the damp climate. Today the damp climate was pleasant -- it was misty, a few sprinkles, with temperatures in the low 70s.  Just last week the climate would have been humid, with temperatures peaking in the low 90s.  I will return on Friday to the trailhead of the Mt. Vernon Trail and explore it more.

2. It's been a long time since I ate at Subway, but today a 6 inch tuna on white bread with mustard, dill pickles, olives with a side of Lay's potato chips and a cold Coke triggered fun memories of driving across the USA with the Deke and stopping at Subways along the way for quick food so we could get on our way -- and now, here we are, across the USA!

3. I drove up to Greenbelt to put the kitchen back together after the pest control people did their job and the Deke and I ate some cold chicken and Caesar salad and split a pretzel roll and before long I ventured out in the wind and the rain and drove back down to Groveton without encountering a single problem on the Beltway.  It's good when it works out that way.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/03/15: Huntley Meadows Photos, Perfect Burger Enchant(ing)ed Foyle

1.  I took a stroll with my camera into the copious beauty of the Huntley Meadows in Groveton, VA and took some pictures.

The first thought that came to mind had to do with Oregon.  When I was an Oregonian, my fellow Oregonians and I marveled at how green the western part of our state is. Today, I once again marveled at how little I knew about how green and lush the land in Virginia (and Maryland) is:

I wished two things after seeing this picture.  One, that I knew what kind of bird this is, and, two, that my Sigma 18-200 had just a bit more reach.  I would have loved to have had a clearer image of this bird's eye.

I love the wetlands at Huntley Meadows, both in color and in black and white:

2.  The first time I went to Five Guys I left having eaten way too much.  The burger was too big.  I went back, forgot about my previous experience, and repeated it, to my discomfort.  I thought I'd never return. Today I returned, I remembered my previous errors, and I got it right. I ordered a Little Burger (just one patty) with ketchup, mustard, pickle, and relish and a little order of fries. Ha! I got it right.  I loved this burger, The Cars played "My Best Friend's Girl" while I enjoyed it and I left the joint satisfied, not uncomfortable.  When I go back someday, I might pass on fries, though.....the burger is plenty.

3.  I returned to the Diaz home, settled in, and decided to watch the first season's first episode of Foyle's War and not only did I find Foyle's old-fashioned detective work impressive and refreshing, there was an added bonus:  I recognized the actor Michael Kitchen from his role nearly twenty-five years ago as the kind, oboe playing villa owner George Briggs in one of my favorite of all pastoral comedies, the movie Enchanted April.  It was sweet and nostalgic remembering back to when I saw that movie at the Bijou and when I showed it to one of my Shakespeare classes to help them understand and more deeply experience the enchantment at work in A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It --ha!  I'm not sure they were as enchanted by the parallels as I was!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/02/15: Drive to Columbia, Divine Greek Wine, Pacino and Depp and Bob Weir

1.  First thing this morning I drove up to Columbia, MD to take care of some business and hoped the whole way that I had left Alexandria early enough to compensate for the volume of traffic on the Beltway.  I did.  I arrived just in time -- in fact, about five minutes early -- for the appointment and was pleased with resulted from this meeting.

2.  Upon my return to the Diaz home, with a quick stop in Greenbelt to check on the corgis, I went to a Greek/Italian restaurant a short distance away and enjoyed a lamb and beef gyros with a side Greek salad and enjoyed the Greek red wine I ordered more than I can ever remember enjoying a wine.  All I can say about it is that is that when I lifted it to my nose, I could smell the presence of berries I enjoy so much in the red wines I enjoy, but this one also faintly reminded me of my favorite single malt scotches over the years.  It might have been the most welcome presence of the barrel it was aged in, I'm not sure, but, whoa!, I loved this glass of wine.  Rachael, who was my most friendly and helpful server, recommended I come back when they have their Greek Merlot on. She assured me that if I loved this Greek red, I'd also enjoy the Greek Merlot. I almost requested an email notification, but thought better of it.

3. I relaxed into the evening by firing up the Diaz's Netflix subscription on TV and watched the rest of Donnie Brasco and then dramatically switched gears and watched the documentary, The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir. Regarding Donnie Brasco: I appreciated how deftly Al Pacino played the role of Lefty, a man who is faced with the existential dread that his life as a Mafia soldier and hit man hasn't really amounted to much and who invests what's left of his heart and soul into guiding Donnie Brasco along in the mob life. But, this, too magnifies the futility of Lefty's life because Donnie Brasco is an undercover agent for the FBI and investing in Donnie turns out to be helping assure his, and his Mafia family's, own downfall.  Johnny Depp's performance as Joe/Donnie deeply impressed me, especially as he became so entangled in the life of the Mafia that he became less and less sure of his identity.  The movie itself, how the story was pieced together, how it moved from episode to episode, left little impact on me.  As good as the actors were, the story's development didn't work well for me.

I poured myself a Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA and watched the Bob Weir documentary and it moved me -- in fact, by the end of the movie I was tearing up. I expected to, and I did, love hearing the bits and pieces of Grateful Dead performances.  I enjoyed listening to Bob Weir talk about what he worked to accomplish as the Grateful Dead's rhythm guitarist, especially when he explained what he learned from listening to McCoy Tyner playing piano in tandem with John Coltrane, and began to experiment with jazz inspired chords and rhythms as he played in tandem with Jerry Garcia. It was Bob Weir's life after the death of Jerry Garcia that moved me.  He matured.  His grief deepened him. He filled the void left by the death of his best friend in ways I won't give away, but that, according to this movie, have brought him deep happiness and serenity.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/02/15: Interstate Mulligan, The Blind Can See, Resuming *Donnie Brasco*

1.  The Deke asked me to come up to Greenbelt to let the dogs out and I decided to come up via I-295, which turns into the Baltimore/Washington Parkway.  I got screwed up after I left I-495 and, got so turned around, I ended up back in Alexandria and, to my surprise, Old Town (!).  I got my bearings, though, and, since I got a mulligan, I decided I'd be wise to go the familiar route and traveled back on the Beltway, late, a little embarrassed, but a more learned driver in the area surrounding our Nation's Capital.

2.  Thunderstorms rolled into the the greater Greenbelt suburanolitan area after I got home.  On the radio flash flood warnings went out. I had to get back to the Diaz townhouse to care for the animals. Somewhere between 6 and 7, I rolled onto the Beltway and it was thick with traffic and for about twenty miles, much of it in a downpour, thunder cracking, lightning flashing, I drove at under 35 mph.  But, at around Andrews Air Base, the clouds parted, the traffic thinned out, the lame could walk, and the blind could see again and my drive to Groveton became easy and I felicitously  returned to my sitting duties in Groveton.

3. I settled in, returned to my viewing of Al Pacino and Johnny Depp in the so far bewildering movie Donnie Brasco, fell asleep, and decided I'd finish watching the movie tomorrow, hoping it would begin to really come to something.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sibling Assignment #164: The Birth of My Love of Top 40 Music

Christy assigned this Sibling Assignment.  Since she's moving back to Kellogg, next door to Mom, in the neighborhood we used to live in, she assigned this:  "Write a memory of hanging out with people from the hood during childhood."

Christy's post about Halloween in our neighborhood, here and Carol wrote about the Sunnyside Bike Gang, here.

I realize I can't be trusted to get all the dates and facts correct, but I'm writing memories here, not a news story, so I'll write what I remember.

If anyone reading this wants to fact check me, go ahead -- for your own pleasure, but I'm going to stick with what I remember.

This story really begins in the summer of 1964, not in our neighborhood, but on a family vacation.

For some reason, that summer, Mom and Dad (well, probably Dad) decided that we would take our annual summer trip to Orofino, ID via Missoula, MT and spend a few days and nights with Ron and DeerDeer (I don't know if this is how she spelled her name).

Carol was barely a year old and Christy and I were in grade school, about the enter the fourth and fifth grade.

On the drive from Missoula to Orofino, on the gorgeous Highway 12, the car radio was on and the Drifters came on singing "Under the Boardwalk".

For some reason this song arrested my ten year old attention and, as I look back, it was my come to Jesus moment for Top 40 music.

I began to listen more and more intently to Top 40 music on Spokane's main Top 40 station, KJRB, when allowed to tune in to it in the car and whenever I could at my Grandma's house in Spokane.

It was in the late summer or fall when it sunk in that the Fabulous (now Silver) Valley's lone radio station, KWAL, played Top 40 music in the early evening.

Each week, on one of the days of the week, KWAL did some kind of countdown of the top five or three songs of the week -- I don't know whose list they worked from, but anticipating the weekly top songs became as suspenseful and exciting to me as reading the baseball box scores and standings in the morning and afternoon newspapers.

And I wasn't alone.  I know the Absec boys were into this.  And I think Valerie was and Claudia and Ricky and Ronnie and Cheryl and Christy and Marcia and Jim and I'd like to include Chris and Vicki and there had to be others.

We rooted for songs to hit the top of the charts.

Someone had a transistor radio we could listen to outside and for what seemed like 100 weeks in a row, the top song was "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison.

Now, here's where my memory is probably playing tricks on me, but there were other songs like Lorne Greene's "Ringo" and "Leader of the Pack" by the Shangri-Las and The Beatles were a force, of course, and when we weren't singing "I saved the life of Ringo",  or "Where or where can my baby be/The Lord has taken her away from me" or "I wanna hold your hand" or "Dead Man's curve/ It's no place to play" or "We'll have fun, fun, fun/Now that Daddy took the T-bird away" we were having arguments about which songs were the best and should be #1.

You see, we didn't realize that the #1 song was the best selling song.  We thought these songs were voted on or something, based on which song was best.

It was a source of great disillusionment for me when I learned that sales dictated a song's rank.

We gathered under the streetlight on the corner outside Mr. Anderson's house and across the street from the Absecs and the Kenyons.

Our parents let us be out together, without supervision, as long as we came home when we were called from our porches to come home and get a bath and, possibly, do our homework.

A sponsor of KWAL's Top 40 radio program was Gamble's in Wallace and the 45s were sold upstairs.

The only reason I ever looked forward to going to the dentist in Wallace was because sometimes I got to go to Gamble's and go upstairs and buy a 45 or two.

The first one I ever bought was a favorite song to sing under the streetlight, a song about a way of life far away we knew nothing about:  it was Petula Clark's "Downtown", a song I seem to remember reigning as #1 for a long period of time.

The other record I remember buying in these fresh new days of my conversion to Top 40 music was the Kinks performing "All the Day and All of the Night".  Did my neighborhood friends and I sing "The only time I feel all right is by your side"?

Maybe we did, but what I hope I did was hold an air guitar in my hands and play Dave Davies' awesome riff, the riff that converted me, right there on Riverside and Utah, for life, to the power of the electric guitar.

Three Beautiful Things 05/31/15: Sleeping In, Rest in Peace, *Muscle Shoals*

1.  Since I was not in our apartment home tonight, maybe it was not having the corgis wake me up at the break of dawn to eat; maybe it was the quiet of the empty Diaz townhouse;  maybe it was being pretty tired after Saturday's travels between Greenbelt and Groveton; whatever the reason, for the first time, maybe ever, since moving to the eastern U.S.A., I slept until 9:00 a.m. this morning.

2.  Refreshed after such a long night's sleep, I spent much of the day doing next to nothing, a luxury. I interrupted my do nothing afternoon and called Mom.  She is saddened, as am I, by the death of Ted Turnbow, and, if I'm not mistaken, he is the last of the Turnbow brothers to pass on -- he's definitely the last of the ones our family spent time with regularly -- Bob, Gerry, and Ted. Our family has always owed a great deal of gratitude to these Turnbow brothers for great holiday gatherings and, especially in my father's case, being among the best friends he ever had. After my dad's passing on June 1, 1996, these three Turnbow brothers helped bear his casket to to his grave.

3.  Late in the afternoon, I discovered that the documentary movie Muscle Shoals is streaming on Netflix and I loved watching it, and even more so, listening to it. It's a great story about Rick Hall, the founder of FAME studios and a great story about his studio musicians (known as the Swampers -- referred to in Lynyrd Skinner's "Sweet Home Alabama in these lines:  "Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers/And they've been known to pick a song or two") who broke off from Rich Hall and started their own studio, The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.  It's remarkable what a magnet this small Alabama town and its two studios became for performers ranging from Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Wilson Pickett to Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers, and Alicia Keys among countless others. I often wonder and think about how the historical moment was just right in the late 16th and early 17th century for William Shakespeare to write and bring his plays into being -- would he have flourished at any other time?  This movie added to my wonder at the flourishing of rock and roll, Southern rock, rhythm and blues, and other music that emerged between about 1965 and 1975 -- and this movie helps us see how the freedom these small studios enjoyed was just what Aretha Franklin needed, what inspired a sliver of the Rolling Stones' recordings, and what helped launch Percy Sledge and reinvigorate Etta James, and many others.  Yes, I know this time period also gave us the Ohio Express and the Archies and some real crap.  But down on the  singing Tennessee River in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a significant body of U.S.A. and a sound, unique to this country, was being created.  Two music documentaries in the last few years have deeply moved me:  Muscle Shoals and Twenty Feet from Stardom.