Sunday, January 31, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/30/16: Costco Mob Scene, Flopping Around in the Pool, Awesome Party at Old Line

1. We didn't do or buy anything special -- just the same old stuff -- broccoli, cauliflower, butter, sweet onioins, almond butter, mushrooms, etc. etc. -- at Costco, but it was fun just piling in the Sube with the Deke and heading over to Beltsville and joining the Saturday Costco mob scene.

2. I enjoyed flopping around in the pool this afternoon, jogging in place, doing jumping jacks, running my version of water wind sprints, stretching, cross country skiing, and swimming a few laps. I enjoyed seeing pre-school children taking swimming lessons with their tender parents cradling them in the water.

3. I returned from the pool and the Deke and I made a spontaneous decision to go back to Beltsville to the Old Line Bistro to split a burger and enjoy a beer or two. We had fun and lively conversation all evening long with Laura, our twenty-something server who not only took care of us but enjoyed us old buzzards. The Deke and I split a Breaking Bad burger -- it's a monster of a sandwich -- half a pound of ground brisket with seasoned shrimp, bacon, avocado, pepper jack cheese, onion, and dill pickle and sides of homemade potato chips and house Parmesan truffle fries.  I enjoyed my pint of Jenny Greenteeth, a solid English-style IPA created as a collaboration between Starr Hill and DC Brau and then the Deke and I split a snifter of a boozy figgy pudding-styled dessert beer from Three Stars Brewing in Washington, D. C. called Madness Old Stock Ale. We enjoyed it so much we ordered a second snifter to split.  I loved how its flavors of figs and raisins and dates became more pronounced as the beer warmed up. It was a great way to finish a fine meal -- well, that, and our great conversations with Laura and the sudden appearance of a guy with a bagpipe popping up out of nowhere and playing while leading another kilted man with some kind of food on a platter back to one of Old Line's banquet rooms. I'll quote the Deke who proclaimed, as we filed back to the Sube:  "That was an awesome party."

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/29/16: Awesome Soup, A Diaz Visit, The Sounds of Silence

1. I decided to put the odds and ends of food in the kitchen to good use, so I roasted cauliflower, broccoli, red onion, about 12 cloves of garlic, a sweet potato, and a couple of russet potatoes, put them in the blender with vegetable broth, cashew milk, and coconut cream, blended it, and, presto! -- an awesome soup.

2. Molly brought Olivia, David, and Ana over to our apartment home and suddenly our quiet little abode was filled with the sounds of children happily at play.

3. The Deke followed Molly and the kids back to the Diaz home -- and took the dogs with her! -- and I had a long period of quiet time and I all I did was enjoy the silence.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/28/16: Swim Cut Short, Quiet Vacuuming, Relaxing After Wins with Spirit and Rare Earth

1. The Greenbelt Aquatic Center reopened and I went down to get some aquatic exercise and no sooner did I get in the pool than a little kid threw up in the water, the pool was cleared, and after waiting about a half an hour for the clean-up to be completed, I gave up, took a shower, shopped at the Co-op, and came back home, eager to hit the pool on Friday.

2. The Deke decided to go visit Molly and I immediately responded with, "And take the dogs?" -- you see, the corgis hate all housecleaning machinery and so if the Deke took the dogs with her, I could vacuum our apartment home in peace, take my time cleaning the furniture, and even half way enjoy getting this task done.  The Deke didn't even hesitate when I said, "And take the dogs?" She knew exactly why I wanted them to be gone and so the Deke and dogs left and I freshened up the joint without Maggie and Charly scream barking, crying, whining, and howling while the vacuum cleaner was on.

3. I followed the scores online and was happy that Maryland and Oregon both won big games against Iowa and Arizona, respectively, and I poured myself a pint glass of brandy and hot water with lemon, went to You Tube, found the entire album of Spirit's Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, listened, remembered when I used to listen to this album when I lived in a rented trailer on Government Way, and then, when it was over, treated myself to a few tunes performed live by Rare Earth and remembered how much I loved their Live in Concert album and how I loved to play it and groove on the congas, flute, bass lines, vocals, and their guitarist's love of the wah-wah when I got home from putting in another shift at the Zinc Plant or needed to get pumped up for playing another American Legion baseball game.  I thought the album cover was really cool -- remember it?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/27/16: Jonas Continues to Cripple the Region, Baked Ziti at the Diazes, Double Duckpin

1. The region continues to recover from winter storm Jonas. The crippling effect of piled up snow, unplowed roads, and the thaw/freeze cycle have kept the Prince George's County Public Schools closed since a week ago. The Deke has not seen her students since January 20th. We found out this evening that schools are closed again on January 28th. In our little world, things are fine.  Our roads in Greenbelt are cleared. I had no problems getting to the Co-op and the library today. We never lost our power. I'm grateful for our good fortune.

2. The Deke checked things out with Molly regarding the road conditions in the Diaz part of Montgomery County and Molly gave us the all clear.  I went to work late in the morning assembling a baked ziti casserole featuring cauliflower sauce, mushrooms, broccoli, and three kinds of cheeses. It contributed to a warm and long overdue dinner together with Molly, Hiram, Olivia, David, and Ana.

3. With the roads clear between Greenbelt and Colesville, the Deke and I decided to stop in at the Quench tap room before we drove over to the Diazes and we were so happy with the fact that Quench had Double Duckpin from Union Brewing on tap that we had a growler filled so we could enjoy it at home as well as in the bar. Again, I'm very grateful that we can enjoy such a simple luxury as carrying tasty beer home in a jug.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/26/16: Back to the Co-op, Photo Walk, Corgi Hell Ends

1.  I leapt into the Sube and glided down wet, but mostly bare, roads to the Co-op where there was limited parking and where people and machines were hard at work moving snow, digging out. I am grateful that I live in Greenbelt where it appears that getting the main roads passable wasn't too big of a problem. In other parts of the county and in Washington, D. C., there are numerous neighborhoods where streets have not seen a plow and people are shut in.

2. I took a walk around the apartment complex and on into the neighborhood nearby in search of snow figures to take pictures of.  I didn't find a ton of snow art, but if you scroll down to the end of this post, you'll see that the pictures I put in a Facebook album called "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Snow Figure" -- it's the now melted figure in the back of our apartment building and you'll find other snow figures I photographed on my walk.

3. What is hell for our corgis?  The high pitched beep of a snow-moving Bobcat. I think the operator is mandated to beep beep beep beep beep beep when the machine is in reverse and that sound drove our corgis into pained barking and howling, off and on, for about two hours or so.

It ended.

That was a beautiful thing.

First, here are thirteen ways I looked at that snow figure.  Toward the end you'll see pieces of the figure are falling off as the snow figure thaws:

And, here are some other snow figures I came across on my walk:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/25/16: Checking Out a Shovel, Digging Out (with Help), Snow Art

1. I shuffled down to the management office of our apartment complex and the guy working the desk acted as if he'd just scored tickets to see a Led Zeppelin reunion concert when I asked him if a shovel were available to dig my car out of the white ridges of Jonas.  "Yes! We're here to help!" he exclaimed as he grabbed me a snow shovel, asked for my driver's license, and told me that last year when they didn't ask for some kind of collateral, they lost a dozen shovels.  I wondered if that was why our rent went up in October, but didn't say anything. I have to admit:  his excitement at issuing me a snow shovel was contagious.  I nearly sprinted down to the Sube to dig it out.

2.  I was, however, wary about digging out the Sube. My Twitter feed had featured about eight different posts from local newspapers and television stations, each reporting the plight of yet another Maryland man who died of a heart attack shoveling snow. Luckily, last April, I had tests done on my heart as part of being listed for a kidney transplant, and the doctor praised the strength of my ticker. So, I decided I would not shovel snow like the young man I once was at 516 W. Cameron, Kellogg, Idaho when I could feverishly clear the sidewalks and driveway in no time flat.  No, I decided, I would shovel with the temperance of a wise and aging sixty-two year old. I would take breaks.  I would hydrate.  I mean, the very mayor of Baltimore herself had tweeted out advice for snow shovelers, telling us it was an aerobic workout and to hydrate and not overdo it. I loved watching The Wire, so I decided to heed Mayor Rawlings-Blake's advice.

After I dug for about an hour, took about a half an hour break and drank a bunch of water, I started shoveling again and Keegan came downstairs into the parking lot  with a shovel and I figured he was going to go dig himself out, but, NO!, he simply said, "Two hands are better than one!" and helped me finish the job.  I was so grateful that I didn't correct him and tell him that actually I was digging with two hands and he should have said four hands are better than two* and, before too long, the Sube was ready for the Deke and me to pile in it and head off wherever we wanted to go.

Which was nowhere.

We just stayed home.

*I'm kidding.  I didn't think of this smart alecky comment until I started writing this post.  I mean....

3. So, my digging done and the shovel returned and my driver's license back in my wallet, I poured myself our last bottle of Ommegang's Lovely, Dark, and Deep, spiked it with a splash of brandy, and while I was relaxing, two of the cheery college-aged students who live above us tramped out into the snow outside our apartment home and went to work building an endearing snow figure and, after dark, I snapped several pictures of it, including this one:

Monday, January 25, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/24/16: Up Jonas Creek Without a Shovel, "The Snow Man", Snow Stroll Pictures

1.  I felt zeal when we sold our house in Eugene and my days as the owner of a house came to an end. I was particularly happy that my days of anxiety about the lawn, the upkeep of gardens, and other household maintenance were over. I also remember being happy that in an apartment complex like the one where I now live, management sees that the walks get shoveled.

But, in my zeal, I overlooked something.

In a snowstorm, the Sube would get walled in by snow in the parking lot.

So, today, the Sube sits snowed in and on Monday, I'll go in search of a shovel -- maybe the apartment management has shovels for people (idiots) like me to borrow or maybe a fellow resident will have one I can use.

We'll see. Luckily, it's not terribly urgent -- but once I solve this problem, I'll dig out the Sube and head to a store somewhere and buy a shovel.

Maybe I can earn my Idaho Man Card back -- but, honestly, after this little fiasco, I've probably lost it forever...ha! Actually, I can think of about a dozen reasons why I lost this card long ago -- if I ever had it.


2. Christy gave me and my sisters a new Sibling Assignment. We were to choose a favorite winter poem, discuss it, and post photographs that connect with the poem.  I immediately knew that I would write about Wallace Stevens' poem, "The Snow Man" and post pictures that connected with the poem in both denotative and connotative ways.  If you'd like to read my history with this poem and my reflections upon it, just go here.

3.  I snow strolled and took post-Jonas pictures today.  Since I didn't have a shovel, I decided to make myself useful with my camera.  If you'd like to see all the Jonas pictures I've taken, I have an album posted on flickr, right here.

Out Back -- 9:30


Slow Down

Ivy Lane

1:30 Out Back 

Wiper Socks

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sibling Assignment #176: A Mind of Winter

Our next sibling assignment comes from Christy:

This assignment is in three parts. First, choose a poem that you feel best exemplifies snow and post it. Second, explain why you chose that particular poem.  ( Questions you could consider: What drew you to that particular poem? Was it  a new poem or one you were familiar with? ) Third, find photos you have taken that connect in some way with the poem and your own writing about the poem.
Carol wrote about Robert Frost, here.  Christy wrote on a poem entitled, "Winter Grace", here.

The runner-up poem is Robert Frost's "Desert Places".  In fact, much of what I will write about "The Snow Man" would also work if I wrote about Frost's poem.  Want to read "Desert Places"?  Just go here.

The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

I've been living with this poem and it's been always toward the front of my mind ever since Jim McLeod assigned to our Survey of American Literature class back in the spring semester of 1973.

The poem stirred me with its invitation that I might consider that I could have "a mind of winter" and that possibly I "ha[d] been cold a long time" if I were deaf to misery, if I were unable or unwilling to understand that the scenes of winter, the winds of winter are the scenes and sounds of suffering.

The poem was among the first to confront me with the idea that I might be nothing, that, as T. S. Eliot put it, I might be one of the hollow men, and, as Robert Frost put, that the most frightening desert places might be in myself.

This chilled me.

I think I had assumed that somehow I was born with meaning hard wired into my life. It had never dawned on me that I might be responsible for that meaning and that to shirk this responsibility might leave me empty, hollow, cold, possessing a mind of winter.

As time went on, I took a course in modern writers from Virginia Tinsley-Johnson and we studied existentialism and I confronted the idea that at my core I might be nothing, a blank slate, a story to be written that I could take responsibility for, or, I could ignore my emptiness, live a meaningless, unexamined life and surrender or neglect my own role as my life's author.

Wallace Stevens' poem gave me a way to experience this existential dilemma. Did I want to be cold? Did I want to have a mind of winter? Did I want to be a beholder of nothing? Did I want to be a snow man?

Coming from North Idaho, I was familiar with ice glittering in the distance, trees "shagged with ice", with "pine-trees crusted with snow", but I'd never scene these winter images as anything more than physical realities.

Stevens cracked open these images as metaphors for me. These trees and the wind pointed me to invisible realities, to larger truths having to do with what I thought I knew about the world and my life and how I thought I arrived at that knowledge.

I began to wonder if a tundra lived in me, a frozen tract of emptiness, an expanse of nothingness, a huge desert place.

And, so, these images of vacancy in the external world gave me a way to look at the vacancy within myself and I began to wonder what I could do to live a meaningful life, one of fulfillment, not of emptiness.

The concept of nothingness has informed my love for Shakespeare in profound ways and has helped me see more .deeply into the wisdom not only of the Tao de Ching but into the teachings of Jesus.

It should not be a surprise, then, since I've been grappling with emptiness and nothingness for over forty years, that it would also be central to my style of photography.

When I think of pictures I've snapped that connect with "The Snow Man", I think of the pictures that could serve as literal illustrations of the poem -- in particular, I think of "shagged with ice" and "crusted with snow" pictures I took back in January 2013 at Manito Park on a sibling outing with Christy and Carol:

But, there's a deeper connection.  It is more metaphorical, but it also has to do with an aspect of my style of photography.

I'm always looking for ways to portray emptiness and nothingness in my pictures.  I'm drawn to expanses, whether at the ocean, on a lake, or even in an empty parking lot.  When I take pictures in nature, I'm always looking for pictures I can take of negative space and I have taken a lot of pictures where the physical subject of the picture is way off to the side, sometimes even in a corner, and the rest of the picture is unoccupied, whether it's water or beach or sky.

A couple of pictures that reflect my enjoyment of negative space spring to mind.  One is framed and sits on a living room shelf in our apartment home.  It's of an egret at Delta Ponds in Eugene.  Rather than composing the picture with the egret near the center of the picture, I positioned the egret to the left and leaves reflecting on the pond and blue of the pond fill the rest of the frame. Much of it is negative space:

Another picture pops to mind. I took it on one of the beaches at La Push, Washington.  It not only is built around negative space, it also explores the existential idea that possibly we as humans are insignificant and that world around us is vast.  In short, we are both "the nothing that is not there and the nothing that is."  

I'll close with a winter picture.  I took it at the tip of a peninsula at Greenbelt Lake. I had no idea when I took it on Thursday that Christy would be giving us this prompt, but it is a perfect example of how I'm always looking for images of vastness, emptiness, and expanse. It's a cold picture.  If I knew a person looking at this picture had read "The Snow Man", I would title the picture, "Mind of Winter":

Three Beautiful Things 01/23/16: Storm Pictures, The Deke Makes the Perfect Soup, Back to Jack Frost

1. Jonas seemed indefatigable. For a short time this afternoon, the snow subsided, but, otherwise, it fell for over thirty hours straight.  I took pictures at different times during the day and here's an example from each set:

Out Back at 8:30

Wiper Blades Up at 11:30

The Sube at 3:30

Out Back at 7:06

Out Back at 10:15

2.  With the snow came excitement in our apartment building -- normally quiet college students spent time out back making snow angels, building a snow figure that looked like Jabba the Hut, trying to sled down the slope outside the swimming pool, and rolling a big snowball.  This commotion drove Maggie to distraction and I spent an hour with her and Charly in our bedroom, also known as "the quiet room", and while I was spending quiet time with the dogs, the Deke imagined a Thai-styled soup with chicken, mushrooms, ginger, coconut milk, chicken broth, onion, red pepper flakes, and I'm not sure what else and she cooked it and it was perfect, especially as a source of warming comfort in the midst of Jonas. 

3.  The streaming service provided by the Prince George's County Library System can be wiggy at times, but I decided to give it a try this evening so I could watch the first episode of season 4 of A Touch of Frost.  It worked and I loved watching Jack Frost in action again.  I also loved that I recognized the actor who played Karl (Danny Webb) from the 1989 movie version of Henry V. Webb played Gower alongside Ian Holm's unforgettable Fluellen. It was also fun to recognize Marc Warren, who was the bad guy in this episode of Frost, from his role as Dominic Foy in The State of Play -- the British television version, not the U. S. movie. Recognizing Danny Webb brought back a rush of memories to all of the great times I had in and out of class watching and loving Henry V.  I watched clips from the movie tonight.  It's hard to believe it's over 25 years old -- it still looks as fresh and innovative and alive all these years later, to me, as it did when I first saw it in about 1990 at the Bijou in Eugene.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/22/16: Before the Storm, Brandy for the Snowastrophe, Accidental Juliet Stevenson

1. With the catablizzmic snow storm Jonas about to descend upon Greenbelt, I knew I wouldn't be getting any walking or swimming in this weekend, so I took a three mile walk -- I trudged down to Greenbelt Lake, walked the path around it, and lumbered back home again and took some pictures of what things looked like at the lake before the storm started. It was a pleasant walk.  The air was still and the sky steely and several of us Greenbelters were out strolling or running before we'd soon be shut in.  Here are a few pictures:

2.  I don't want a lot of brandy in my thermal springer spaniel glass -- enough so I know the brandy is present and then I fill the glass with boiling water and throw in some cloves and drink slowly, letting the water and the brandy warm me and this is what I do when shut in during the impending snowastrophe.

3. While I boiled a whole chicken for some yet to be determined purpose tomorrow, I watched the first episode of season 4 of Inspector Lewis and much to my surprise, who should be integral to this story? The remarkable, fierce, complex Juliet Stevenson.  That's two straight days of Juliet Stevenson and my enjoyment of her work continues to grow. Then I found a clip of her reading Shakespeare's Sonnet 116.  Sublime.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/21/16: Jonas on our Minds, Drumsticks and Green Bean Salad, An Evening of Suspense

1.  I made another trip to the store with the storm named Jonas in mind.  We now have plenty of broccoli, eggplant, chicken, rice, pasta, tomatoes, water, coffee, beer, wine, brandy, milk, cereal, and other items in store to eat and drink while the snow piles high and winds howl starting Friday afternoon, continuing through the weekend.  I know I've experienced blizzards and snowfall in Kellogg and Spokane that were as mammoth as what is predicted for here, but the impact of such weather upon an area as densely populated as where I live now boggles my mind. I'm grateful that the Deke and I can stay inside and we really hope that the region doesn't suffer power outages.

2. The other day I bought a package of fat chicken drumsticks and this afternoon I mixed garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper into some flour, floured the drumsticks and fried them and then baked them. The Deke made a green bean, boiled potato, tomato, red onion, garlic and other seasonings salad that is out of sight. It's a great pleasure when the Deke decides to whip something up in the kitchen -- she's a wonderful cook , I love what she fixes, and I learn a lot from how she goes about preparing food.

3. I did a search of programs and movies that are a part of our Amazon Prime subscription and decided to watch a mystery, a work of fiction, entitled, The Place of Execution. It's a story that moves back and forth between the mid-1960s when a thirteen year old girl disappeared in the north of England and a young detective becomes obsessed with her case, and the present, when a documentary filmmaker, played fiercely by Juliet Stevenson, is working on a film looking back at the girl's disappearance, the work of Detective Bennett,  and the trial that resulted. I responded to the story with alternating feelings of anxiety, disgust, admiration, fear, horror, and outrage and with great respect for how beautifully acted the story was.  Then I decided to stay up pretty late and I watched an episode from Season 3 of Inspector Lewis and it was like meeting up with old friends again to watch Lewis and Hathaway and Dr. Laura Hobson at work again.

To any of you who have watched Inspector Lewis, does Clare Holman, who plays Dr. Laura Hobson, ever remind of you a bit of Judi Dench?  She does me -- and I love them both.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/20/16: Phone Call to Mom, Exploring Vellichor, D. C.'s Nightmare Commute

1. I called Mom this morning, the morning after her birthday rather than on her birthday because of how busy she was on her very happy birthday with phone calls, lunch with Jane at Sam's, the chicken dinner Christy prepared, and a visit from Carol and Paul.  She sounded strong and happy, eager to have her television dish service installed and looking forward to her second birthday dinner at Carol and Paul's on Friday.

2. I wrote up the prompt for Sibling Assignment #175 a while back and both Christy and Carol wrote their explorations of the neologism vellichor first (here and here), and I spent much of the afternoon figuring out my post, finding pictures I'd taken at Sligo Creek Park to illustrate it, and writing it up, here.

3. In an area as densely populated as the DC-opolis, it doesn't take much to throw the intricate system of roads and freeways and parkways into gridlock and this evening about an inch of snow fell and the roads were encased in ice and the late afternoon/early evening commute had not yet ended at 11:00 p.m.  I couldn't tear myself away from Twitter, reading updates from a variety of feeds I follow about freeways becoming parking lots, city buses stalled, bus drivers abandoning buses in the middle of streets, and commuters reporting two to three hour travel times from, say, Arlington to East Falls Church.  President Obama was not spared.  It took his motorcade an hour and fifteen minutes to travel from Andrews Air Force base to the White House, a trip that usually takes twenty-five minutes.
Prince George's County Public Schools cancelled classes for Thursday, so the Deke has a day off at home.

Living only a five minute drive from where the Deke teaches is a luxury I am most grateful for.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sibling Assignment #175: The Past Living in Me Along Sligo Creek

I gave this latest sibling assignment:  "Write a piece of creative non-fiction that ends with this sentence (or a slight variation): 'Suddenly, bittersweet vellichor filled my enire being.'"

I made one rule: we couldn't write about bookstores.

The word "vellichor" is defined at the end of this post.

Christy wrote about her spurts of activity and her fallow periods. It's the art of waxing and waning, here.  In her piece, Carol wonders how she could possibly ever find the time to read all the books she'd like to read, here.

Since arriving in the Washington, D.C. area back in July, 2014, I have spent more time alone than at any other time in my life.

I like this.

Most of all, I enjoy seeking out green spaces in Washington, D. C., Maryland, and Virginia to walk, take pictures, and pay attention to whatever is happening in my mind.

As you can see in the picture below, these walks in green spaces are not always tranquil because green spaces in D. C. or Silver Spring or other suburbs are skirted by busy streets with a lot of traffic and horns honking.  Even when I'm out of earshot of these busy streets, often the quiet of the woods or the tranquil rushing of streams is accompanied by faraway sirens and police or media helicopters hovering over a crime scene in some part of the city, sometimes not far away.

Sligo Creek Park and Sligo Creek Parkway

 I remember when I took this picture how much I looked forward to following this path into the shade, into the unknown -- in fact, I looked forward to the moment Dante describes in the opening of his Inferno:  "I found myself in a forest dark/For the straightforward pathway had been lost."

The straightforward pathway I lost when I ventured into Sligo Creek Park was the straight path of time, if there is such a thing.  Often we act as if time is moving on a straightforward pathway to the future and that as we move forward on this pathway the past recedes, not to be looked back upon.  We are to keep our eyes steady, looking straight ahead.

I see the worth of this.  I do all I can not to live in the past.

But, I'm keenly aware that although I try not to live in the past, the past is always living in me.

On this day, Wednesday, October 14, 2014, something about the Sligo Creek park's pathway seemed to invite my past into this October afternoon.

Was it the sight of the old stone bridges?

Stone Bridge Over Sligo Creek

Or somehow did this tree, bridging the two Sligo Creek banks somehow invite the past to stroll with me in Sligo Creek Park?

I don't know what the trigger was, but suddenly former girlfriends joined me as I walked along Sligo Creek.

I was walking along the trail, but I was also slow dancing in the KHS cafeteria with Marilyn (I'm using all pseudonyms) on Prom Night, smelling lilacs -- it must have been a soap -- and I could still taste the bleu cheese from the salad before dinner at Duff's in Rose Lake.

Suddenly I was in Coeur d'Alene sitting at a dining table with Kathy, singing along with Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman album and working together to write a letter to Walter Scott's "Personality Parade". We'd heard a rumor that Cat Stevens was dead. We thought surely Walter Scott would publish our letter and give us the straight scoop. He never did. I don't know if Kathy and I were still together when we learned Cat Stevens was still alive -- it was at least four years later that I learned about his conversion to Islam. We never knew that together. That day, we made out.  I hadn't shaved. Cathy's sister later told Cathy that she knew we'd been making out because of the whisker burns on Cathy's face.  I'd never heard of whisker burns before I knew Cathy.

I didn't know when we moved to Washington, D. C. that this area was so wooded. I didn't know the trees would become more than trees to me. On this day in Sligo Creek Park, Orlando's words in As You Like It popped to mind: "these trees shall be my books."

Somehow, this multitude of trees at Sligo Park became like books holding stories about my girlfriends from the past. I suddenly realized that I hadn't read many of these books and never would.

In breaking up, these girlfriends and I left many stories about our lives untold to each other. I realized that day that in the same way that unread books leave me feeling a slight ache of melancholy that I'll never know what is inside them, so these trees which suddenly were my past, my past living in me along Sligo Creek as a multitude of memories of past girlfriends -- and then memories of other friends -- and then of past students -- and finally all those in my life I've known for some amount of time, but don't know any longer, are all like unread books, holding countless stories and insights that I will never know and that I never sought to know.

It was then, standing on a bridge crossing Sligo Creek, dry leaves scattered at my feet, that suddenly bittersweet vellichor filled my entire being.

from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

n. the strange wistfulness of used bookstores,
which are somehow infused with the passage of
time—filled with thousands of old books
you’ll never have time to read,
each of which is itself locked
in its own era, bound and dated and papered over
like an old room the author abandoned years ago,
a hidden annex littered with thoughts

Three Beautiful Things 01/19/16: Snow Prep, Mom's Birthday Flowers Arrived, Quick Comfort Food

1. You've probably heard about it. Weather forecasters predict a cataclysmic snow storm will arrive on Friday in our nation's capital and in the surrounding suburbs, including Greenbelt. So, today I went out and bought cans of tomatoes, chicken broth, pasta, two whole chickens, lots of vegetables, milk, coffee, and other supplies so we will have plenty of food on hand if we can't get out of our apartment home. I hope we don't lose our electricity -- if we do, well, I bought a bag of kale salad and we have a huge can of peanuts.

2. I stopped at the library to pick up a gorgeous illustrated history of D. C. neighborhoods and I noticed I had a voice mail message.  It was from the florist in Kellogg and I called back and found out the bouquet of flowers I ordered on behalf of the Deke and me for Mom on her birthday had been delivered to her.  Christy took some pictures of the bouquet and here's one of Mom on her 85th birthday posing with the flowers:

3.  I had some leftover eggplant from when the Deke and I had fried eggplant sandwiches and I sauteed it with a yellow pepper, poured diced tomatoes over the vegetables, jazzed it all up with garlic powder, basil, oregano, and black pepper and served it over spaghetti for a quick and tasty little dinner.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/18/16: The Reading Hiatus is Over, My No Thought is Contented Swim, Calming Brandy

1. My reasons for having taken a break from reading books really have to do with trying to separate myself from reading as an academic undertaking. I'm not sure I can explain that and, for now, I won't try. I'm back to reading again -- I finished Ann Rule's book In the Still of the Night this evening. It will haunt me for a long time. Reading again takes me back to when I was an instructor and that, along with a handful of conversations I've had online in the last few days, has stirred up memories of reading and teaching Into the Wild. A long -- maybe my longest -- blog post is brewing inside me -- and has begun to leak out in some of my conversation -- as I come to realize that that book, and how I worked with it in writing classes, came to epitomize what I valued most in teaching and why I thought we even have college courses in the first place.  All the thinking Into the Wild has triggered in me began in early April of 2000 in the parking lot outside Linda's Restaurant in Bigg's Junction, Oregon on a Greyhound bus, during a dinner stop,  as I traveled from Eugene to Kellogg to be at home during my mom's bout with cancer and as I recovered from spinal meningitis. I was on the only sabbatical I ever took at Lane Community College.  Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, my mother's illness, and my slow recovery from meningitis all conspired to give my sabbatical project shape and profoundly informed and deepened my future reading, writing, teaching, and faith.  Out of this project arose the Copia Lecture series. I think my longer piece about all of this is starting to take shape.

2. I absorbed online conversations with D. A. and Kathy and Susan-Louise and I thought about Kelly and what she wrote years ago in her essay growing out of Into the Wild and suddenly Richard II, on his knees in Pomfret Castle, was all over me, and I could hear Richard's meditation in his final soliloquy:

My brain I'll prove the female to my soul,
My soul the father; and these two beget
A generation of still-breeding thoughts,
And these same thoughts people this little world,
In humours like the people of this world,
For no thought is contented.

It was time to go to Senior Swim.  I waded into the welcoming warm waters of the Greenbelt pool and stretched and crunched and jumped and jogged and let my motion in the water soothe my haunted and stimulated mind and I eventually settled down and found a still place in my mind's churning thoughts and fears and regrets.

3. In the Still of the Night ends without a conclusion and so I did some exploring online to see if final resolution has been reached in the death of Ronda Reynolds since the book was published. The answer is no -- however, for Ron Reynolds and his sons no uncertainty exists. They insist Ronda took her own life. Suddenly, I was very grateful, on this cold Maryland night, that a bottle of brandy sits on our kitchen counter and I warmed my bones and settled my mind by drinking some brandy and hot water -- so simple, so calming.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/18/16: Rockville Visit, Double Duckpin, Reading Ann Rule

1. It's not every day that the Deke and I head out to Rockville, MD, but when we do, it's so the Deke can get some arts and crafts supplies at the A. C. Moore store and I can get more experience dealing with the back up on the Capital Beltway when there's been a collision.

2. From Rockville we took Randolph Road all the way back to Colesville, MD, close to the Diazes, and stopped in at Quench and I relished a juicy pint of Union Craft Brewing's Double Duckpin Imperial IPA and couldn't resist a couple samples of one of my very favorite stouts, Firestone Walker's Velvet Merlin.

3. Back home after spaghetti dinner at the Diazes and a visit with Hiram's brother, Alejandro, I settled back into the mournful and creepy story of the death of Ronda Reynolds in Ann Rule's book, In the Still of the Night.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 10/16/16: Driving to Dupont Circle, Bookstores, Game of Thrones at Old Line Bistro

1. I first visited Washington, D. C. in 2012 and as I wandered the National Mall and the streets of Downtown, Chinatown, the Penn Quarter, Dupont Circle, and other areas, I was dizzied by the way streets and circles were laid out and by the intensity of the traffic.  I swore right then that I would never drive a car into the center of our nation's capital.

All I can say now is,  be careful what you swear.

Today the Deke and I decided we wanted to check out Second Story Books and Kramerbooks in the Dupont Circle neighborhood and we decided to take the car.

I studied our route and pictured the whole plan in my mind with the help of Google maps.

I punched our destination into my phone's navigation app.

It was kind of thrilling to come into D. C. on Maine Ave, briefly merge onto Independence, veer onto 17th, see the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Monument on the left and the Washington Monument seem to jump into our windshield as we skirted the National Mall and then  to drive on Pennsylvania to 20th and turn east on P and look and look for a street parking spot and find one on Q Street -- where, knowing my limits, I jumped out the car and the Deke took the wheel and parallel parked.  I've damaged the Sube's body enough in its nearly twelve years of existence in reverse and wasn't in the mood to do it again.  Again, I know my limits.

2. The Deke and I enjoyed walking to Second Story books, seeing where the Phillips Collection is located, gawking at the embassies of Indonesia and Portugal, and, then, after browsing for a while, navigating Dupont Circle on foot and browsing around at Kramerbooks.  We had a blast, and it was made all the more fun by finding our car where we parked it.  I got back behind the wheel, entered Dupont Circle for the first time, succeeded in shooting off onto Massachusetts Ave., headed toward New York Ave. and soon we were flying north on the Baltimore Washington Parkway leaving a most successful trip to Washington, D. C. behind.

I was jazzed.

3. We decided to cap off our trip downtown in Beltsville at the Old Line Bistro where the taplist is always top notch and we enjoy trying out (and splitting) their unusual burgers.  I was thrilled to see they had DC Brau's winter beer, the December '15 version of Alpha Domina Mellis on tap, and I enjoyed a couple of snifters along with the Game of Thrones burger we split.  It's a half pound wad of brisket accompanied by prosciutto, bacon, and brie on a brioche bun. We had a premium gab session about beers with Ryan, our server, making our late afternoon dinner a perfect conclusion to our day out and about.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/15/16: Learning More about D.C., Pool Therapy, Eggplant Sandwich and Cookie/Brandy Dessert

1. I don't live in Washington, D. C., but it's nearby -- I can be in the very northernmost reaches of D. C. in less that fifteen minutes, traffic allowing. I act like I live in Washington, D. C., though -- again, today, I spent time searching for podcasts, looking at websites and blogs, reading maps, locating bookstores and places to eat and drink, searching for book titles, anything that will help me understand the geography of Washington, D. C., especially beyond the National Mall. It excites my imagination.

2. I had a therapeutic day in the swimming pool. For me, just being in motion in the water is therapeutic.   I did exercises, jogged in place, cross country skied, and ran in the pool's work out area and then I swam seven laps. I couldn't safely swim any more laps than that.

3. The Deke requested an eggplant sandwich for dinner.  I halved the ciabatta rolls, crushed garlic on each half, poured a small puddle of olive oil in the electric frying pan, put crushed garlic in the puddle, and grilled the bread.  I salted the eggplant slices, grilled 'em, grilled slices of red pepper, and cut slices of feta cheese.  I forgot to buy fresh basil for our sandwiches, but, I gotta tell ya, the eggplant, red pepper, feta combo on the grilled and garlic-ed ciabatta rolls was outa sight tasty. One bonus:  I bought one rosemary ciabatta roll, so each of our sandwiches was half regular and half rosemary. For dessert,I poured myself brandy, without ice, in a glass and dunked a Pepperidge Farm Chocolate Brownie cookie into the brandy, bite by bite -- then I poured myself a little more brandy and pulled another cookie out of the bag and did it again. Spine chills.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/14/16: Exploring NE DC, Bookstore Tour, It's a Little Casino!

1. I wedged myself into the Subaru and headed down the Baltimore Washington Parkway to New York Avenue, ignoring the GPS navigation voice coming over my phone, and did some exploring in Washington, DC, NE on my own, on my circuitous way to Walls of Books on Georgia Avenue, NW. I drove into the Brookland neighborhood and laid eyes on a restaurant I've read a lot about, Brookland's Finest Kitchen, and just tried to get some kind of feel for this part of our nation's capital. It's all unfamiliar to me -- the rowhouses, niche cafes and bistros interspersed with rundown dollar stores and quick loan joints, corner markets -- I don't know these neighborhoods and I'm eager to learn more, to get out of the car and walk around a bit -- sometimes I think it would be fun to have a guide.

2. Walls of Books just opened on January 13th with a grand opening planned for early February. It's in the Park View neighborhood next to a post office in a rundown, short strip of shops in various states of repair and disrepair on the 3300 block of Georgia Avenue NW. I enjoyed browsing the shelves -- I bought a paperback copy of The Lincoln Lawyer and I purchased David Simon's book Homicide.  Simon was a chief writer and creator of The Wire. Then I drove north on Georgia to Upshur, in the Petworth neighborhood, found a parking spot on a residential street, and strolled to Upshur Books, a tiny new books bookstore, quiet, handsome, sort of like J. Michael's in Eugene, but about a tenth the size. I bought a copy of The Talented Mr. Ripley, crawled back into the Sube, and drove further north on Georgia into Silver Spring and visited the Silver Spring Bookstore, a narrow, deep mess of loosely organized bookshelves, boxes of books, bags of books, and books stacked on the floor. I didn't buy anything, but, as with all three of these bookstores, I'll go back, not only to poke around in the stores, but to become more familiar with these different parts of D. C. and the suburbs.

3. The Deke and I went over to the Diazes for some dinner and conversation. Before dinner, I dropped into Colesville Beer and Wine to buy some wine for dinner and the joint was a tiny casino featuring a tv screen broadcasting horse races for off-site betting, Keno machines, and other lottery stations. Two guys were working the counter, trying to keep the gamblers happy as they brought their tickets forward for payoffs. On occasion, they glanced over toward the two registers where a guy like me might purchase wine or beer. It was kind of funny, standing there, waiting, waiting some more, calmly waiting a little longer, just wanting to buy this box of wine, but standing on a low rung on the customer service priority ladder.  The top priority of Colesville Beer and Liquor at around 5:30 p.m. was keeping the gamblers quickly served, happy, and ready to lay down more bets. I get it.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/13/16: Corgi Teeth Cleaning, Not M. Phelps, Library Uplift BONUS: A New Casserole

1. Maggie and Charly went in at 7 a.m. for their teeth cleaning today. It all went well -- in other words, Maggie didn't have to have any extractions, but she has had a few teeth fall out and there are not problems with Charly. I hardly knew what to do while they were at the vet's all day and no one was here to alert me with urgent barking to our neighbor leaving his apartment, someone knocking on a door upstairs, the mail being delivered two floors above us, or a breeze making a blade of grass move outside.

2. I put myself through a good series of exercises at the pool and kicked my lap count up to eight. This is not exactly Michael Phelps territory, but I could sure feel in my arms and shoulders and legs and torso how much good the swimming and exercising is doing for me.

3. I spent about an hour in the stacks today at the Greenbelt Public Library, scanning book titles, marveling at all the different subjects writers tackle and admitting to myself that any number of books exist that deal with awful things that have happened, and  I just can't bring myself to read. Our Greenbelt Public Library is, by any measure, a modest-sized library with a small collection.  Every time I go in, I am grateful for this place. It's a popular library. Its computers are always occupied. The study rooms and the meeting rooms are always being used. Mothers (mostly) bring their pre-school children in for programs. The staff offers friendly direction. I enjoy going to a table and watching all the activity and listening to the staff answer questions and help people find what they need. It's a great hangout.

BONUS: I want to have a record here in my blog that tonight I made a Mushroom Alfredo Penne Bake. It was easy -- it involved making a cauliflower sauce, boiling up some penne, sauteing garlic and mushrooms, throwing it all together, topping this mixture with different cheeses and then, after it baked for 10-15 minutes, topping it with fresh sage and basil.  I am really enjoying winter cooking -- enjoying using the oven and experimenting with different kinds of casseroles.  I also imagined variations on this basic recipe that could be fun to try.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/12/16: Deanna Wants Her People, Scone and Bosch, Anticipation

1. I drove over to the Diaz house to fill Deanna's bowl with food and to give her some companionship. She'll be very happy when her people are back home again and she not only has company, but can do some roaming around outside.

2. I took The Concrete Blonde to the Panera store in Beltsville and sat down with a dark roast coffee and a wild blueberry scone and re-entered the world of Harry Bosch -- his wayward hunches, his grueling court trial, and his complicated love life.

3. I wash, dried, and folded a ton of laundry with the payoff being the anticipation of fresh bedding when I finished drinking a hot buttered brandy and finished reading The Concrete Blonde. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/11/16: Senior Swim, Three Cheese Baked Ziti, Tool to Vivaldi

1.  The Senior Swim (water aerobics) class I'm taking only meets on Mondays and today was a most satisfying and therapeutic series of exercises.  I'll be back to the pool as often as possible this week and will try to replicate as many of these exercises as I can remember and keep looking for new ideas on the World Wide Web.

2. I've been in the mood for casserole-ish meals and I have been wanting some baked ziti, so this afternoon I followed a recipe I found on Pinterest and made a three cheese baked ziti with mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan cheese combined with onions, garlic, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, flour, and cashew milk. It was a great dish on a chilly evening, more like mac and cheese than the baked ziti dishes I'm used to -- and it inspired praise from the Deke.

3.  While I crept closer to finishing The Concrete Blonde, I put the Clutch station on Pandora and listened to Clutch and Tool and Primus et. al., and then switched gears and put on the Baroque station and listened to Handel, Vivaldi, and others -- all of which animated me.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/10/16: Plunging into DC Brau, Great Conversations, Yakkin' at Franklins

1. After the Deke and I checked on Deanna at the Diazes and made sure everything was A okay at their house, we plunged into the outskirts of Washington, D. C. NE and piled into DC Brau.  We were both longing for some On the Wings of Armageddon Imperial IPA and getting to the brewery on Sunday only takes about twenty minutes.  It was perfect. Clutch was playing its growly rock and roll on the house stereo system and the joint was nearly empty which meant we could sit in a booth and we totally enjoyed the beer.  I couldn't resist a little taster of Public Pale Ale and Corruption IPA before splitting a couple of 12 oz pours of On the Wings of Armageddon with the Deke. We totally nirvanaed out slowly enjoying this beer.  We also bought a sixer for our pleasure at home. 

2. Growler room manager Lizzie always has her dog, Angus, a calm and friendly mutt, at the DC Brau tasting room and, since business was slow, and she could see we loved her dog, she came over and told us Angus' life story and she and the Deke talked more about dogs and suddenly our party reached a new level of fun. For me, the fun got more fun when I went to settle our bill and J. D. (or was it JT?) and I had a longish conversation about Clutch, the 930 Club in the District, and, most enjoyable, beer -- DC beer, saisons across the country, and the the fact that the 2017 Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America will be held in Washington, D. C in April.  The Deke and I had a great party.

3. By returning home via Alt 1, we could stop off at Franklins -- a brewpub and general store in Hyattsville -- for a bite to eat and some more yakking. The food at Franklins is unremarkable -- we know that going in -- but yesterday it was a comfortable place to have a glass of white wine and eat some Greek salad and oyster fritter and continue our party. The general store is a quirky place with everything from penny candy to stuffed animals to an impressive variety of bottled beers and we poked around in there for a while before heading back home.  We enjoyed a perfect Sunday afternoon and evening rollin the way we roll. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/09/16: Corgis Out for a While, The Dinner Challenge, Mom Sounds Great

1. It's much easier to do carpet cleaning and to vacuum the carpet and our furniture if Maggie and Charly are not in the house.  They get very excited barking to warn us about and protect us from the carpet cleaner and the vacuum cleaner The Deke took them out for a walk and I got busy freshening up our apartment home. I especially enjoyed doing this chore free of the chorus of frantic corgi scream barking.

2. I'm having fun asking the Deke on an almost daily basis what she imagines would taste good for dinner and then trying to make it happen.  Today she said, "I'd like curry with onions and green beans and peanuts." "Would tofu be okay?" I asked.  "Gawd, yes," The Deke replied.  So, I did it.  I combined green curry paste with oyster sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and coconut milk and poured it over the tofu and vegetables I stir fried in coconut oil, made a pot of rice, and it was, to quote the Deke, "Perfect."  After we finished dinner, I realized a couple of additions -- lime kaffir leaves and cilantro -- would have made the curry even better, but I often don't remember everything when I cook out of my head.

3. For Christy's birthday, Mom joined Christy and Everett and Carol, Paul, and Coco for lunch at the City Limits in Wallace and after they'd been home a while I called Mom and I learned that Mom had made a yellow cake with chocolate frosting birthday cake from scratch that would be served later. (I felt a twinge of envy!) Mom sounded great -- and she had plenty of stories to tell as well as medical updates and the latest updates regarding her television service.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/08/16: Dental Spa, Deanna's Good, On the (Glorious) Wings of Armageddon

1. Thursday,  I lumbered into the offices of the McCarl Dental Group to see about making an appointment for a routine checkup and they got me in today, on Friday.  So, here's the deal.  When I was a youngster, I dreaded the dentist, I dreaded the treatment, the lectures, the threats ("your Dad will kill me if you end up with dentures like he did"), but ever since I started going to Dr. Stephenson's practice in Eugene back around 2000 and then when I went to see Cathy for cleanings at Bird Family Dental during my visits to Kellogg in late 2014 and again in July of 2015, I have experienced going to the dentist as a visit to the spa.  It's so comfortable, so easy, and everyone is so calm and friendly.  I don't walk out feeling like I just boxed 12 rounds with Joe Frazier. My visit to the McCarl Group continued the spa tradition and, not only did I get comfortable and comprehensive dental care, I had some great conversations about Homer, the corgis, the Zinc Plant, and moving out to Greenbelt to be close to our grandchildren.

2. I took a drive over to chez Diaz to check up on Deanna, the cat, and to make sure things looked unbothered over there.  It was all good.

3. The Deke and I went to the Old Line Bistro and split the burger called Scandal: roasted red peppers, sweet ketchup, pickles, and provolone cheese piled on a half pound slab of brisket inside a brioche bun topped with sesame seeds served with homemade potato chips.  We are much happier each eating a half of such a burger, and, as good as it was, the best part of the meal was that Old Line had DC Brau's perfect Imperial IPA on tap, the glorious On the Wings of Armageddon.  We enjoyed the beer so much that we bought a 32 oz jug of it to take home -- and savor!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/07/16: Waiting and Reading, A Perfect Dinner, A Look Back at the Wah-Wah

1.  I dropped off the Sube for an oil change, not knowing when it would be done. I didn't feel like walking home, so I walked around the Roosevelt Center area until the Co-op opened at 9, bought a bagel and coffee, sat outside in the town square in 34 degree weather and read my book (Concrete Blonde) and then walked to the library where I read more of my book and then walked back to the service station, found out the car would be ready in about an hour, so I went to the New Deal Cafe for a coffee and read some more. It was all pleasant and fun -- not only the reading, but the overhearing of many conversation while I read.

2. Late this afternoon, at the Co-op, I bought a loaf of sesame semolina bread and a chunk of Dubliner white cheddar cheese and to make the dinner the Deke requested:  toasted cheese sandwiches with cabbage salad. I made a vinaigrette of garlic, red wine vinegar, honey, Tom's hot sauce, olive oil, lemon, and oregano and it worked  well on the cabbage salad and the Deke told me it was a perfect dinner, just what she had hoped for and imagined.

3. I took a trip over to and for no reason I can explain found and watched an hour long documentary entitled, Cry Baby: The Pedal that Rocks the World.  The film is a history of the wah-wah pedal.  I had no idea about how it came about and what it meant to a variety of guitar players and I really enjoyed listening to the wah-wah at work in songs like "Papa Was a Rolling Stone", "Tales of Brave Ulysses", "The Theme from Shaft", and, of course, both Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn summiting the wah-wah Everest with their respective versions of "Voodoo Child".

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/06/16: Back to the Pool, Back to the 80s and 90s, Hall of Fame Outrage

1. After I swam six laps, I went into the area of the pool where I go to water aerobics and exercised for over a half an hour.  It was fun and prompted me to go online and look for more aquatic exercise ideas -- now if I can only remember them.

2. It was back to the 80s and 90s day in the kitchen. I chopped up an onion, some garlic cloves, some red potatoes, a purple sweet potato, a yellow summer squash, and an eggplant, sauteed them, added barley, oregano, basil, and diced tomatoes and some water, cooked it covered for a while and then transferred the vegetables into a casserole dish and stirred in grated sharp cheddar cheese. After it cooked for about 40 minutes or so, I took the lid off, covered the top with more cheese, and put it back in the oven so the cheese would melt. I made this dish countless times in graduate school and on into the 90s, including my early days of marriage with the Deke.  Then, as often happens, I guess, this comfortable and tasty casserole got lost -- but now it is found again.

3. Two of my buddies from American Legion baseball days, Wucky and Byrdman, contacted me with outrage that Ken Griffey, Jr. was not unanimously elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Both of them asked the same basic question:  What three #!%**$ moron/idiots left Griffey off of their HOF ballots? I figured there were three grouches out there who didn't think anyone should ever be elected unanimously -- or maybe three grouches who don't think anyone should ever be elected in their first year of eligibility.  I don't get it -- but, then, I don't get how any writers left Henry Aaron or Willie Mays off their ballots when both of them were elected.  I think some members of the Baseball Writers Association of America have weird egos and abuse their voting privileges in weird ways -- evening scores, using bogus criteria, and sometimes just being plain ornery.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/05/16: Unicorn Tears, Eggplant 911, Popcorn Dinner

1. Hiram's mom just got out of the hospital and the Diaz family is driving to Miami to see her and so I was over there a couple of times to deliver a car seat and, later, to sit with Olivia and David while they ate dinner and explain how their Nana enjoys the blueberry tears wept with joy by unicorns to put on her morning cereal. Funny.  They didn't know that when unicorns burp they bring pears into the world.

2. EMERGENCY! I went to MOM's Organic in College Park and the store did not have any eggplant! I breathed deeply, talked myself off the ledge, calmly decided not to call 911, gathered the other items on my list, and barreled back to Greenbelt to the Co-op and heaved a great sigh of relief when I saw how the produce section there was generously stocked with eggplant.

3. It's been months since the Deke and I decided to indulge ourselves and have a popcorn dinner. It was tasty and really fun. I'll get back to that eggplant tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/04/16: Shyness at the Senior Swim, Roaming at the Library, My Favorite Post Office

1. My shyness kicked into double overdrive today when I arrived at my first Senior Swim water aerobics class.  The class went really well. I enjoyed being in the water and enjoyed the exercises.  By finding a spot to exercise on the fringes of the group, I was able to tamp down how self-conscious I felt as the only man in the class. But, after about 30 minutes, I was used to the situation. I like to be as invisible as possible among people I don't know and I couldn't figure out a way to hide or blend in this morning. Legitimate feelings or not, I felt like a sore thumb. I swam 100 yards (or were they meters?) after the class and look forward to more lap swimming.

2. I took some time this afternoon to roam around the Greenbelt Public Library, looking at what Great Courses are on DVD, thumbing through some cookbooks, and seeing what Harry Bosch novels were on the shelves and found Concrete Blonde and checked it out along with a Great Course on Shakespeare and another on Beethoven. I watched about 15 minutes of the Shakespeare course and I'm taking it back. I hope I find the Beethoven lecturer more interesting -- but it might be that I'm really not into lectures on DVD.  I'll see.

3. The Beltsville Post Office always has an employee working the floor -- she talks to people in the line, seeing if there's anything she can do to help shorten the line and help people on the spot. She walks people to self-service machines and helps them operate them. She laughs, reassures, guides, and helps alleviate the frustrations customers often feel when in the Post Office line. I was in line for about ten minutes -- it was legit -- the employees at the counter were doing efficient work -- and I saw this roaming employee give significant assistance to at least six people.  She's a terrific public employee in a post office fully committed to excellent customer service.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/03/16: Lake Walk, Chicken Soup, *Bosch* and Cinema 7

1. The day was clear and chilly.  The Deke and I walked the circumference of Greenbelt Lake. It was the Deke's first walk around the lake and we both enjoyed the walk and one another's company.

2. With the help of a meatless Tortilla Soup recipe from The Heart of the Plate, I made a chicken soup that featured chilies, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, onion, garlic, tomatoes, black beans, corn, limed avocados, and the chicken stock and chicken I made yesterday. When the Deke requested this soup, she had a certain soup in mind and what I made was exactly what she had imagined. It's really good.

3. I watched several episodes tonight of Bosch and finished Season 1.  The main story chilled me, unnerved me. The acting thrilled me, though. For me, it was similar to reading Dickens because of all the quickly drawn and detailed characters in the show, characters brought to life by brilliant character actors, many of them older actors, including Titus Welliver who plays the role of Harry Bosch. Of special interest to me was Veronica Cartwright -- she's now sixty-six years old and played a character who might be older than this. Seeing her took me back to 1980 and an obscure, unforgettable movie I saw at the Cinema 7 theater in Eugene entitled Inserts. It featured Richard Dreyfuss as a stubborn maker of silent movies, who refuses to make talkies, and so confines himself to his rundown mansion where he makes silent blue movies. Veronica Cartwright contributed beautifully to the movie's study of decadence and delusions and I enjoyed thinking back to that afternoon at movies about thirty-five years ago when Eileen and I  and John and Barbra watched Inserts and another movie by the same director, John Byrum, entitled Heart Beat, a movie based on Carolyn Cassady's memoir of life with Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady.  I loved those days of double features at Cinema 7 -- the Bijou showed double features back then, too. I also love that certain days watching movies stick with me forever.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/02/16: Fire Alarm, Chicken in the Pot, Ducks' Game Feels Familiar

1. I don't usually get out of bed at 3 a.m., but when I do, it's because our apartment building's fire alarm is ringing. The Deke and I got the dogs outside. Fire trucks barreled into the apartment complex.  I'm not sure exactly what the problem was with the hot water heater in the next door apartment building attached to ours, but within about forty-five minutes the fire fighters rolled their hoses back up, took down the ladders, loaded up and left and we had hot water again in our apartment home about twelve hours later.

2. I'll figure out what to do with the chicken I cooked and the broth I made.  Mostly, I cooked it because the smell of chicken cooking is a sensory pleasure that makes me inordinately, if temporarily, happy.

3. I don't imagine many Oregon Duck fans want to be reminded of the good old days -- oh, you know, when Oregon surrendered a 29-10 lead in the 1992 Independence Bowl and lost to Wake Forest and other come from ahead losses the Ducks suffered over the years. At the level of belief, it's been hard for me to believe the Ducks' football success over the last several years -- is that really the University of Oregon playing in the finals of the college football playoffs? --, but, tonight, those good old days came back to me, the days of drinking from wine-filled and peppermint schnapps-filled boda bags with Terry and Roger and standing behind "the wall" in the part-filled Autzen Stadium (before it was remodeled) and suffering frequent losses, but exhilarating in the rare upset win (or tie). The Ducks' lack of depth at quarterback and center and shaky defense got exploited tonight. They surrendered a 31-0 halftime lead to TCU and lost 47-41. It felt familiar to me. It was a Ducks' experience I could believe, and, while I didn't enjoy their collapse, I did enjoy the way it transported me back to when I first moved to Eugene in 1979 and all the fun I had being a Ducks' fan when they were a run of the mill program with few expectations, a lot of afternoon games, inexpensive tickets, and when a Ducks' win was a thrill, not something we fans felt entitled to.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/01/16: It's Authentic Eggplant, New Dinner, Back to *Bosch*

1.  The stickers on the purple skinned oblong globes at the Co-op said "aubergine".  To my eye, they looked like eggplant.  Fortunately, I always carry my Eggplant Authentication Scanner with me -- I can actually keep it on my key ring -- so I scanned this thing called "aubergine" and to my relief, it was an authentic eggplant.  I nodded to myself, bagged the eggplant, and moved on to the dairy section.*

2.  The Deke and I decided to spend the day in our apartment home, thus interrupting our viewing of the Star Wars saga.  I fixed a new dish for dinner: I stir fried tofu, added onion, fried it, then stir fried eggplant. I made a little space in the center of the electric frying pan's surface, oiled it, and dropped minced ginger into this area and put minced fermented garlic into the stuff I'd already fried. Separately, I toasted sesame seeds and combined chicken broth, sesame oil, and soy sauce and poured both over the eggplant, onion, tofu, ginger, and garlic mixture.  I served this in a bowl with couscous and both the Deke and I heated up our bowls with sriracha sauce. This meal was a success.

3. I returned to the difficulties in the life of detective Harry Bosch today and watched two more episodes of Bosch.  His court trial is over, but he's really up against it with the serial killer Raynard Waits, played expertly by Jason Gedrick.

*By the way, if you are feeling the urge to tell me that "aubergine" is what eggplants are called in England and sometimes in Canada, I know that. I wrote this entry mostly to brag about my Eggplant Authentication Scanner, a device, until now, I haven't mentioned in my Three Beautiful Things.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/31/15: Cleaning Sube Carpeting, Senior Swim, *Star Wars* Surrender

1. Some of the carpeting in the Sube got really wet during a downpour last week when I put wet plastic grocery bags in the very back and the recent humid conditions kept the carpeting from drying and the poor old Sube started to smell like an old, damp basement. I got that carpeting out today, brought it into our apartment home, cleaned it with my new Bissell spot carpet cleaner, cleaned it again with Dr. Bonner Sal Suds, let it dry in front of fans for eight hours, and then put some of the citrus scented powdery stuff I've got on it and that needs to be vacuumed up.  I think I got it freshened up and ready to put back in the car.

2. I went to the Greenbelt Community Center this afternoon and signed up for Monday morning Senior Swim, a class of stretching and toning in the pool. I know I won't be leaving on any trips across the country in the next few months, so I decided I could sign up for this class and attend.

3. We had leftover soup and toasted cheese sandwiches at the Diazes today and we watched The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi.  I hadn't seen The Empire Strikes Back since team teaching with Rita when we showed it as part of our Joseph Campbell aided studies of metaphysics and I hadn't seen The Return of the Jedi since attending it on opening night in May of 1983 in a multi-plex on North Division in Spokane. I'm pretty sure Colette, Claudia, and I went together. The movies were really fun. I especially enjoyed Yoda training Luke and how the Ewoks helped fight the Imperials with all those logs and other primitive traps and I was moved again, as I was in 1983, by the unmasking of Darth Vader.  I really enjoy watching these movies uncritically. Nothing is implausible to me.  I give myself over to whatever happens, accept it without a second thought, get nervous, excited, relieved, moved and then when I go to bed I find that scenes are replaying in my mind and that this stuff got inside me, right where it belongs.