Monday, February 29, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/28/16: Good People in the World, Long Talk, The Dogs Relax

1. Ed ended and I ended our superb time in the mid-Atlantic together with a full breakfast at the Silver Diner. Our server was sweet-natured and very attentive and it made me think of all the great people Ed and I talked with and joked around with on this trip. There was the woman with a touch of the flu at the Arlington Cemetery Visitors' Center, the Big Bus Tours driver who offered to let Ed drive the bus and then, later on, popped the bus door open and really let a jerk cab driver have it because he wouldn't let her merge into a traffic lane, the Big Bus Tours guide from Wyoming, the woman who'd lived in Rexburg who gave us friendly service and bright conversation at the Verizon store on Rt 50 east of the Bay Bridge (was that in Easton?), and, of course, Tony and Juanita at Bobby's Burger Palace, along with any number of people from Mississippi, southwest Virginia, New Orleans, and other places we chatted with on the tour buses. I would have to say that Ed got to experience just how friendly and helpful people out here in Maryland and D. C. can be and it made our getting out and seeing things all the more enjoyable.

2. I dropped off Ed at the airport right where he needed to be and eventually made my way over to the Diazes and met up with the Deke who was napping after her drive back to Maryland from Nyack, NY. Last week was one of the worst weeks the Deke has ever experienced in her life as a teacher and we had a good long talk about what happened.  It's all very upsetting and it was good to have some time to hash it all out and talk about our future.  It's not for me to go into detail about what happened. Suffice it to say that the Deke was seriously chewed out, verbally attacked, by the mother of a leukemia stricken student in the Deke's class. It happened at a meeting with school administrators, a district administrator, and other staff at the school. The Deke got blindsided.

3. After our long talk, the Deke and I returned to our apartment home and enjoyed seeing Maggie and Charly relax after their stressful time by themselves at the Diazes. They are fine now, back into their routines of intense barking as they guard our apartment against the sounds in the hall, the mail being delivered, and the tiny dog who lives across the hall and who runs around out back a couple of times a day to do his business. The Deke and I picked up a few threads of our earlier conversation, but mostly we let things rest for the evening and went to bed kind of early.

Three Beautiful Things 02/27/16: On the Boardwalk, Dog Care, Childhood Friends

1. Ed and I staggered into the rental car and pointed it north and drove to Atlantic City, NJ. We found a city in decline as we walked the boardwalk and stopped in at a few casinos. Everything was rundown. We were both glad we made the trip and that we experienced this place we'd both heard so much about over the years, but I know the only reason I would ever go back might be to go on a photography outing or to drive on south and see other places along the New Jersey shore.

2. As it turned out, all of the adults in our family were out of town today.  The Deke traveled to Nyack, NY to see Adrienne. The Diazes went to Virginia Beach for a reunion with friends from Georgia. Ed and I went to Atlantic City. Maggie and Charly were alone at the Diazes. So I went over and fed them and took them outside and because I couldn't transport them in the rental car, left them overnight at the Diazes, sorry they would be spending the night alone.

3. Ed and I decided we wanted one more burger at Bobby's Burger Palace at the Maryland Live! casino so we buzzed the twenty-five minutes or so up the road, stood in a longish line to order, arrived at the counter, and the man in front of us offered to buy our dinner. I couldn't accept at first, but then he explained that he had 100 bucks of free food coming because he was a Black Card member and that he and his friend couldn't eat 100 bucks worth of food. So, Ed and I accepted and we sat at a table with Tony and Juanita and shot the breeze for a while. It turns out that Tony and Juanita were childhood friends from Baltimore just like Ed and I are boyhood friends from the Silver Valley, so Juanita took a selfie of the four of us that she titled, "Childhood Friends".  Here we are:

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/26/16: Quick Stop in Annapolis, Headin' to the Ocean, North to Baltimore

1. Time to get outta town. Ed and I headed for the Atlantic Ocean.  Our first stop was a short drive around the area of Annapolis featuring St. John's College, the state capitol, and the Naval Academy from outside the gates.  We both would have enjoyed parking the car and strolling around Annapolis, but we had a long day ahead of us -- and, to be honest, the wind chill was close to brutal.

2. We crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and curved south toward Cambridge and Salisbury and then stopped for a short visit at the Ocean Downs Casino. After playing for a bit, we leaped back into the car and drove to Ocean City and went to the beach and admired how beautiful it is.

3. After I stopped at a Verizon store for a in-car phone charger, we broke off from Rt. 50 and headed up 97 toward Baltimore so we could visit the Horseshoe Casino.  After about an hour there, we headed to Maryland Live! as a way of closing out a day of fun driving, gawking, and getting to know Maryland a little better.

Three Beautiful Things 02/25/16: Arlington National Cemetery, Laughin' with Mike, Night Tour BONUS: Shake Shack

1.  Ed and I took it easy in the morning and headed back down to Union Station around 10:30 or so and had a cup of coffee and a quick bite to eat before jumping back on the bus, making a transfer at the Lincoln Memorial, and riding out to the Arlington National Cemetery where we paid special attention to the Kennedy grave site and the eternal flame and where we watched the guarding and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

2. Thanks to a Big Bus Tours guide named Mike who took a liking to Ed and me, we had a gas joking and laughing our way back to Union Station where we grabbed a quick cup of coffee and boarded the bus for the D. C. Night Tour.

3.  It was too cold outside to ride in the open air atop the Big Bus Tours' double decker bus. No problem. We enjoyed seeing the great monuments of our nation's capitol at night and it was inspiring to walk into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and to see his statue looking across the Tidal Basin at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial was also especially stunning at night.

BONUS: Ed and I piled off the Night Tour bus into Union Station's Shake Shack restaurant and enjoyed a burger and fries and a pop. We hadn't eaten since our breakfast snack in the morning and I know that the my level of hunger made the Shake Shack burger taste even better than in might have normally.

Three Beautiful Things 02/24/16: Making our Way in D. C., Capitol Tour, Jefferson and Lincoln BONUS: Brau and Live! and Bobby Flay

1. I cannot adequately express how happy it made me, after breakfast at the College Park Diner with Ed, to drive into Washington, D. C., park at the Union Station parking garage, and, with Ed, navigate the Union Station and find our tour bus. I look forward to many more trips to this parking garage and to using the Circulator Bus to get around to the different places I want to visit throughout the downtown area and beyond.

2. Ed and I hopped off the bus at the U. S. Capitol and used out tickets for the 10 o'clock tour, a fascinating stroll through the majestic building and through the history of the U.S.A.  We loved it.

3. We hopped back on the bus and got off at the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial and both were awesomely majestic.  A beautiful mist hung over the Tidal Basin, making the views from the Jefferson Memorial mysterious and stirring. Both memorials were stirring sanctuaries full of elegant and inspiring words.

BONUS: Ed and I stopped off at the D. C. Brau Brewery tasting room.  I had a quick pint of Corruption IPA, but mostly I wanted Ed to see this most favorite hangout of mine.  Later, we went on up to the Maryland Live! casino where we played some machines and enjoyed juicy and delicious burgers at Bobby's Burger Palace.

Three Beautiful Things 02/23/16: Rental Car, Picking Up Ed, Ed Eats at Old Line Bistro

1.  Today Ed Hanson arrived at Baltimore Washington International airport and to help his visit and our plans go smoothly, I went to Enterprise to rent and car and had a fun conversation with the guy I did business with, making the whole transaction pleasant.

2.  I went out to BWI a bit early, sat down at Dunkin Donuts with a couple of chocolate frosted raised donuts and a cup of coffee, read, and waited for Ed who arrived right on time and we made our way to the rental car, piled in, and our four and a half days together in Maryland and D. C. was officially underway.

3. We kicked off our visit by meeting the Deke at Old Line Bistro and introduced Ed got to eat the Empire burger, a half pound of ground brisket with pulled pork and house cole slaw.  He loved it and the Deke and I were very happy that he enjoyed our favorite place to eat and drink beer so much.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/22/16: Good Medical News, Invigorating Aerobics, The Return of Cheese Sauce

1. My heart skipped a beat. It was mild anxiety. An email arrived telling my lab reports were ready for my perusal.  First, though, I read my doctor's comments on the reports.  Vitamin D is down. Buy pills. Everything else is OK. I thought, well, this looks promising so I checked all my numbers to see just how OK my blood work is. My kidney function had improved slightly. My cholesterol numbers were all in good shape. The acid content in my blood is no longer too high. I guess I'll work on upping my Vitamin D, keep swimming and walking, stick with my mostly (not exclusively) vegetarian diet, and be grateful that I continue to hold steady in the face of this chronic kidney disease I live with.

2. It was invigorating to have Senior Swim meet again after losing last Monday to the snow storm. I think because we don't meet next Monday, our instructor pushed us a little harder than usual.

3. During the days of being single in graduate school, I used to make cheese sauce for steamed vegetables or to make my own version of eggs benedict all the time. For some reason, after the Deke and I got married, I stopped. I can't remember why -- doesn't matter.  What does matter is tonight I brought back the cheese sauce -- tonight's was very simple: butter, flour, milk, sharp cheddar cheese. I served it over roasted cauliflower, broccoli, onion, red pepper, and mushrooms and brown rice. The Deke loved it. I began to remember some of the variations of this simple recipe I used to toy with over twenty years ago and I'm going to get back to some of those variations again over the next several months.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/21/16: Postlude Reverie, Kitchen Shaping Up, Talented and Deplorable

1.  Really, there is only one reason why it works for me, right now, not to know anyone at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. The worship service in the Episcopalian Church, being liturgical, takes all of us through something like a several act play and when it concludes, much like at the movies or at the theater, I like to sit in silence and not talk to anyone. At church, this means listening to the organist play the postlude -- for me, it's very similar to staying for the credits at the end of a movie.  I don't stay for the credits to read the credits. I stay to listen to the music. The music playing while the credits run enhances my experience with the movie. Sometimes the music reviews the movie. Sometimes the music offers something like an interpretation, especially if the music includes sung lyrics. If nothing else, the music gives me a time to let the movie settle in.  I see a movie, it ends, and I'm not ready to jump up and leave. Likewise, the postlude gives me a way to let the church service settle in and, often, the postlude offers a kind of interpretation of the service with its mood -- so, this morning, it being the Second Sunday of Lent, the postlude had a decidedly lenten mood and moved me deeper into however I am living out this season. No one interrupted my experience with the postlude (because no one knows me!) and that works for me. And, yet, I look forward to when I get to know some people.

2.  At IKEA on Saturday, we bought two shelf units and the Deke constructed the second one and put it alongside the first one, in the kitchen, and I had a fun time reorganizing our kitchen, making cupboards and counters less crowded and making it easier to reach many of our canned goods and utensils.

3.  I keep reading more deeply into The Talented Mr. Ripley. I will finish it, but it means entering into the consciousness of Tom Ripley, one of the most deplorable characters I've encountered in any story -- at least so far.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/20/16: Adult ADD, "Just Follow Me" (in IKEA!), The Sofie Test

1. The Deke and I are case studies in lack of focus, not being able to stick with one task at a time, and so our attempts to do routine cleaning chores together in our apartment home got underway today, but aren't finished yet.  A focused couple would have had this place spiffed up in a couple of hours. We have more to do on Sunday.

2. I never saw this coming. When the Deke and I went to IKEA today to buy some shelves for the kitchen, I was our navigator in the store. No. Really. You might remember that back in the fall of 2014, the winding aisles of IKEA gave me vertigo multiplied by claustrophobia, but I've since confronted my IKEA demons and vanquished them, and, today, I actually said to the Deke: "Just follow me." And, afterward, back in the Sube, I smiled and enthused: "That was fun."

3. Goose Island brews one of my favorite farmhouse ales, the sublime Sofie. It's a Belgian style ale, aged in wine barrels with citrus peel. It's light, tart, bubbly, spicy, easy on the tongue, and refreshing. I bought a couple 12 oz bottles the other day and split one (poured in our new IKEA 6 oz. drinking glasses) with the Deke, hoping to determine once and for all whether she might like having more farmhouse ale/saisons as part of the stash in the icebox. Great news! The Deke enjoyed Sofie! I will now purchase the occasional saison/farmhouse ale with added confidence that chances are good we will both enjoy them.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/19/16: Annual Physical, Shopping Spree, Old Line Party

1.  I won't know the whole story about my annual physical exam today until the results of my blood work come in, but, so far, so good.  Blood pressure was golden. The doctor didn't find any problems as he poked and felt around. I got a shingles shot. I'm optimistic that while my kidney function continues to slowly decline, no other big problems seem to be emerging.

2. Since my doctor is in Laurel and I don't get up there very often, I thought I'd do some shopping for beer at Total Wine and I hit the jackpot. I bought several bombers of specialty stouts and imperial IPAs and, most important, especially as far as the Deke is concerned, I found three more bombers of Stone's Black IPA.  We now have a varied and generous beer list at home that will last us for a while.

3. The Deke and I sure enjoy going to Old Line Bistro on Fridays. Tonight, we split a breaded eggplant sandwich on flatbread (because we never seem to have eggplant at home -- ha!) and we each had a flight of four tasters of beer.  I enjoyed three splendid Maryland beers: the Groove City Hefeweizen from RAR, the Riot Rye Pale Ale from Monocacy, and Flying Dog's HBC-291, a single hop double IPA. I rounded out the flight with a Shake Chocolate Porter from Boulder Brewing, a perfect dessert beer to drink after enjoying our eggplant sandwich.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/18/16: Taxes Done, Nick's Diner, Planning for Ed

1. I made a smallish miscalculation regarding my tax debt to the state of Maryland, so we will be paying them some more money, but we also will be getting money back from the IRS and Oregon, so I'm happy to report that when it comes to our 2015 taxes, we didn't get any alarming news.  I'll take my Maryland lumps, adjust my estimated payments to the Old Line State, and try to come out closer to even next year.

2.  As a reward for getting the taxes done, I drove over to Wheaton where I learned there's an old diner and I gave it a try.  It's called Nick's Diner. It's a cash only spot. It's at the corner of University Blvd. and Viers Mill Rd. The food was just fine, not remarkable. As with many diners, the toast was a disappointment. I enjoyed my sausage and eggs and home fries.  I liked being in this little family run place with its long counter and tiny dining table space and friendly help. I'll go back.

3. Ed will be arriving at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport this coming Tuesday and tonight I reserved us 48 hours worth of hop on, hop off bus time and tickets to tour the U. S. Capitol Building on Wednesday. Friday we'll hit the road -- and maybe on Saturday, too. Casinos, Annapolis, Chesapeake Bay, eastern Maryland, the Atlantic Ocean -- we'll get in as much as we can.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/17/16: Fools Haven Party Pictures, Like Drinking a Candy Bar, Pool Reflections

1. The people at Eugene Seen posted, on Facebook, over one hundred photographs of the festivities at Tuesday night's party celebrating Fools Haven Shakespeare becoming the Wildish Theater's resident Shakespeare company. The costumes, the food, the joy, the scenes, the familiar faces all helped me get as close to attending the party as I could, living so far away as I do. Sparky asked me to contribute to the party by writing a bit about the twenty-five years she and I have been working together as collaborators and friends and I was happy to learn that Mary Spilde read my remarks and that they were well received.

2. After getting our several tax documents scanned and emailed to our tax preparer, I went to Panera for a scone and coffee and spent some time reading The Talented Mr. Ripley.  It's creepy. I picked some things at Costco and then went over to the Old Line bottle shop and bought a sixer of Atlas Brewing's Rowdy Rye Ale and a bomber of an Oregon beer, Caldera's Mogli, an oak-aged imperial chocolate bourbon porter.  The Deke and I split the bomber and it was, I'm sure, the sweetest, most chocolate-y beer I've ever tasted. I thought I was at Dairy Queen, eating a chocolate sundae! We both enjoyed the Mogli and I'm sure if I ever drink it again, it'll be as an after dinner beer.

3. After too many days away, I was back in the pool today with my new pool shoes. I bought them so that when I run in the pool the bottoms of my feet don't get all scraped up. While working out, I thought a lot today about how different my life in Greenbelt and my life as a retiree is in contrast to the life I lived in Eugene.  I enjoy living in Greenbelt, but I can't imagine I'll ever again have a time in my life similar to what I knew in Eugene with so many friends, friends I made at the U of Oregon and Lane Community College, friends at church, friends at the tap house, friends in the theater.  I'm happy I can stay in touch with friends through social media and email -- and an occasional visit to Eugene, but it's sobering to realize that the days of having regular get togethers taking pictures, drinking beer, sipping coffee, planning theater and church projects, and eating meals are probably over. This wasn't a depressing or melancholy reflection. I was simply reflecting upon all the change in my life -- and, maybe such reflection will move me to get involved, say at church or elsewhere. I have to overcome being so shy -- a quality I rarely had to deal with in Eugene with so much of my social life related to work and church and theater where people already either knew me or knew a bit about me. Here, I'm a total stranger.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/16/16: Winter Slide Show, Taxes, Listening to Bill Davie Reflect and Sing

1. Students used to tell me they could do a much better job writing an essay if they just had more time. I did my best to discourage them and told them I'd rather have the assignment finished than really good. For about a week, I've been trying to figure out how to complete Sibling Assignment #177 and today I decided it was more important that I finish it than be too concerned about whether it's good. You can read about the assignment, here, or, if you'd just like to watch the slide show, here it is:

2.  I used to always do taxes after April 15th for no good reason other than I didn't want to face them. Several years ago, I resolved to change this lousy habit and I've been successful.  Today I went to a few sites to print off tax documents and  I determined that I have all our documents gathered and, on Wednesday, I'll call our tax preparer and make an appointment and get this done.

3. As the evening wound down, I poured myself a brandy and boiling water, spiced it with cloves and cinnamon, and listened to two of Bill Davie's recent oddyoblogs. Bill has begun a series of podcasts/oddyoblogs looking back at songs he's written over the years. First, he goes back to his first album and reflects upon "Old Town" and "Sacred Ground" You can listen to his thoughts and the songs, here. His second piece, here, begins with his reflections upon having lived with MS for a year now and then shifts into his discussion of "The Man in the Dead Machine" and "King of the Art".

Bill's songs send me into a private bliss. They take me back to times I loved working at Whitworth, to fun times in Eugene when Bill performed several times, including a couple of house concerts at my house back in the mid-90s, and back to more recent times when I've spent time with Bill and Diane and Bridgit and Susan-Louise at Bridgit's parents' place and later in La Push with Bill and Diane and Bridgit and Dan.

Bill talks in his oddyoblogs about his role as an archivist and I realized that Bill is, for me, a living archive of many of the best times I've had in my life in Spokane, Seattle, Eugene, the Kalama River, and La Push -- and the many sounds and stories and images tucked away in the folders of this archive came to life for me tonight as I listened to Bill ruminate and perform.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sibling Assignment #177: Scenes from a Chilly Winter + Cormorant Love

Carol assigned us to make a slideshow with music depicting love. She mandated that we use our own photographs.  

Carol had a Godspell song in her head as she took pictures at the arboretum at the U. of Idaho in September, here. Christy's Valentine for Everett is here

I don't exactly love winter, but I do love pictures of winter.  So I set winter pictures I've taken to Glenn Gould's 1981 version of the Aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Then I remembered a set of pictures I took in Eugene, at Delta Ponds, back in December of 2012, of two cormorants being love birds. I like the short winter love story these pictures tell, so I thought I'd add this set to my slideshow.  

Three Beautiful Things 02/15/16: Fickle Winter, Melting Frustration Away, Leftovers

1. Snow. Rain. Sleet. Ice. I called the Aquatic Center Weather Hot Line. Open. Good! I braved the elements and squeezed into the Sube after I cleared it of snow and puttered down to the Aquatic Center. Newsflash! Just closed. Senior swim, canceled. I took a deep breath, gathered myself, and determined I'd just have to get down there on Tuesday and put myself through the workout on my own -- if the Aquatic Center opens.

2. Snow. Rain. Sleet. Ice. The Deke had an appointment for a routine test and we bundled up and piled into the Sube and braved the weather, the roads, and the traffic and I drove her there. Everything was running late at the clinic, so I plowed my way to the liquor store for some brandy and to the Co-op for some supplies and returned to the clinic where the Deke was very frustrated that she hadn't been called. Then she was. And fewer than fifteen minutes later, we were out of there. We slid home and celebrated the success of our outing by splitting our last can of Hopslam and then splitting a Sierra Nevada Torpedo. The Deke's frustration melted away.

3. Snow. Rain. Sleet. Ice. Darkness. Perfect conditions for leftover red curry sauce poured over left over rice noodles fried in sesame oil and roasted cauliflower, sweet onion, and red pepper.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/14/16: The Great Litany, Human Spirit, Inside Jokes with Olivia and David

1. I decided as Lent approached, that I would worship at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in College during Lent, and, probably, beyond. I was very happy with this decision today -- well, I've never been unhappy at St. Andrew's. The liturgy was solemn. We chanted the Great Litany to begin the service. This might be a First Sunday of Lent tradition -- I'm not sure -- but, I was thinking how much I'd welcome chanting the Great Litany every Sunday in Lent.

2. After worship, I buzzed north to the Hollywood District of College Park to MOM's Organic Grocery to pick up a few things. At church, there'd been a spiritual conviviality among the people there and at MOM's the atmosphere was the same -- good people, good spirits, friendly, lots of smiles, and people who knew each other having enjoyable conversations together. About forty years ago at Whitworth, a group of us tried to get a discussion group going that we called "Holy Spirit, Human Spirit" to discuss spiritual experience in its many manifestations inside and outside the Christian experience. Today, I enjoyed this spiritual morning, both inside and outside MOM's Organic Grocery and St. Andrew's Church and it kept my spirits up for the rest of the day.

3. Actually, the rest of day fed my spirit, fed my soul. The Deke and I went over to the Diazes to visit and have some dinner. David and Olivia were making something called slime when we arrived and, although the slime didn't quite turn out, they had a lot of fun and, as I watched them and talked with them, they said all kinds of funny things to me, a bunch of inside jokes about cooked carrots and butter and me being too scared by slime and spiders to sleep at night and other stuff, and it was really fun having these jokes between us and that David and Olivia look forward to joking around with me. One day, I hope Ana will join in -- I think she's getting ready -- she's making all kinds of noises that make me think that she's trying to talk as she responds more and more to the world around her.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/13/16: Angela Cut My Hair, Cold Day -- Slow Beer, Rice Noodle Ropes and Red Curry

1. I readily admit it. I'm not a sharp dressed man. I don't have well-coiffed hair. But, I had reached my limit of shabbiness over the last week and today the Deke and I went down to the Hair Cuttery and both got haircuts. The best part of the experience for me was having Angela cut my hair -- she's really kind and I like how she cuts my hair. As I've written before, I am very fortunate to have found two wonderful Angelas here in Greenbelt: Angela the phlebotomist and Angela the hair cutter.

2. It was bitterly cold today. The temperatures plunged and a strong wind kicked up. It was a good day to stay indoors and enjoy some more of that great beer we bought yesterday. The Deke and I split a couple 12 oz cans of RaR's Nanticoke Nectar and one 12 oz can of Bell's Hopslam. With these high quality beers, a little bit goes a long way -- and we still have a can of Hopslam in the icebox, as well as three cans of Nanticoke Nectar.  Slowly. Surely.

3. I helped warm up our evening with a big batch of Thai red curry over stir fried tofu, eggplant, sweet potato, gold potato, and mushrooms. I had bought some big rice noodles at Hung Phat a while back and I decided to try those with the curry. They took a bit longer to cook and it was worth the wait. We'll definitely return to these noodles again -- we entered another new frontier in the world of our kitchen.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/12/16: College Park Diner, Kitten Fight Song, Beer Jackpot!

1. I drove the Deke to Laurel for her annual physical exam -- a 7:30 appointment -- and after I dropped her off at school, I decided to give the College Park Diner a try for breakfast. This was my next stop in my ongoing attempt to find a breakfast place that approximates my favorite spots in Eugene, Kellogg, Coeur d'Alene, and Spokane. I'll go back to the College Park Diner. The coffee was good, the atmosphere was perfectly ordinary, which I enjoyed, and the food came out fast, lightning fast, in fact. The food was all right -- there was nothing special about the sausage patty -- I would have enjoyed a little more adventure. My eggs were cooked beautifully and the hash browns were solid, but I think they'd been frozen, so didn't have the power of freshly grated hash browns. It's rare to find a diner anywhere that serves toast made from really good bread and the rye toast I had was without distinction. After eating at two places in Beltsville that served breakfast on syrofoam plates with plastic forks and knives, I was very pleased to have real dishes and eating utensils this morning!

2. Just before I went to the swimming pool this afternoon, Scott Stuart texted me, wondering if I remembered the words to the Kellogg Junior High School fight song. For Scott and me, junior high was the pinnacle of our public school experience in Kellogg and we go down memory lane a lot. So, I did my best to remember the words to the Kitten fight song -- yes, the high schoolers were the purple and gold Kellogg Wildcats -- in junior high we were the red and white Kellogg Kittens. We were filled with Kitten Pride. I motivated myself  to continue my exercise regimen in the pool thanks to the inspiring Kitten fight song.  It went something like this:

We're going to fight fight fight for red white
We're going to win this game today
We're going to fight fight fight with all our might
For victory will come our way today.
We're going to win win win this basketball game
For victory is our cry
Victory junior high!

3. The Deke and I hit the jackpot at the Old Line Fine Wine and Spirits store.  Before we went back to the bistro for dinner, we checked out the beer offerings in the store.  They had cans of Bell's Hopslam. I've been reading a lot about Hopslam lately and customers at Old Line were limited to three cans a piece ($4.49 a can!) and we purchased our limit.  We figured they'd be out of the Stone Enjoy by 2-14 Black IPA, but NO! One bottle remained. We snatched it. Then, I spied a six pack of a Cambridge, Maryland beer that a guy wrote about as his preference over Hopslam or Troeg's Nugget Nectar --YES! There they were.  Six packs of RaR (Realerevival)'s Nanticoke Nectar.  We have some most enjoyable beer sipping hours ahead of us!   

Friday, February 12, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/11/16: Relishing Days in Eugene with Sparky, Simple Dinner, Rum and Hot Water

1. All Sparky asked from me was two minutes worth of words to be read at Tuesday night's get together at the Wildish Theater in Springfield to celebrate Fools Haven becoming Wildish's resident Shakespeare company.  Sparky and I became best of friends and artistic collaborators beginning back in 1991 -- so I sat here trying to write something in under 300 words about the Shakespeare Showcase and the relationship I've relished for nearly twenty-five years with Sparky. We've worked on countless projects together for everyone from part-time faculty at LCC to donors to the Knight Library to the Lane County Landlord Association to prospective LCC students to the entire faculty and staff of LCC. I've performed in four plays Sparky directed. We have shared countless meals, traveled to Seattle and Portland together to see plays, gone to plays together in Eugene, as well as movies, and have had innumerable conversations in her kitchen and dining area. How to address this rich friendship and string of collaborations in two minutes? I did my best. Whatever I said was going to feel paltry and inadequate, but I hope those who hear what I wrote will know that Sparky has brought vigor and exhilaration and vitality to my life in ways I never dreamed I would ever experience. I just wish I could be in attendance for the bash on Tuesday night to congratulate Sparky, Joe, and Fools Haven on having been invited to establish a home at the Wildish Theater.

2.  The Deke and I took a little trip to Michael's in Laurel and stopped at Shopper's to pick up a cooked whole chicken and a baguette and we then drove to the Diazes for a simple dinner and a good visit with Molly, Hiram, and our grandchildren.

3. A deep chill is moving into this area.  We will probably experience sub-zero temperatures on Saturday with the wind chill factored in. During such cold snaps, I like to drink any kind of alcohol mixed with hot water. Tonight, at the Diazes, I pinched about a shot of white rum from their stash, poured it in a mug, mixed it with hot water and a bit of brown sugar and drinking this simple cocktail warmed me right up.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/10/16: Ash Wednesday and Compline, Noodle Success, Beer Success

1. As I worshiped during the 12 o'clock noon Ash Wednesday service at St. Andrew's Espiscopal Church in College Park, I thought back to Ash Wednesday of 1977 and my role as the leader of the Wednesday night Compline service held at Whitworth Presbyterian Church. I was a Chaplain's Assistant that year at Whitworth College and the Compline service was a liturgical, meditative, service, offered as a way to worship different than the weekly Sunday Campus Worship with its acoustic guitars, Young Life songs, and sermon. I thought about Herb Stocker, a Presbyterian minister who worked in Whitworth's administration, and how he was supportive of Compline and how he agreed to impose ashes on worshiper's foreheads that Wednesday, and, if I'm not mistaken, he asked me to help him mark worshiper's foreheads. I loved writing and leading that service every week. And, today, thirty-nine years later, I miss it.

Note:  I just discovered via the World Wide Web that Herb Stocker died on December 9, 2014. I will continue to remember him with deep gratitude for the many ways he generously helped me in my work with Compline, including serving Communion whenever asked and, as mentioned, imposing the ashes on Ash Wednesday.

2. Tuesday, I went to Target and bought one of those aquatic foam rubber noodles. In the water aerobics class, we exercise with a noodle, and I wanted to work with it outside of class.  Today, I successfully put the noodle to work on my own, making what would have been a good workout in the pool even better.

3. The Deke wanted to drink some good beer at the Old Line Bistro right after school because her day ended with a meeting with the vice principal who had observed her at work in the classroom. The Deke listened to the most negative comments she's ever heard about her work. We hit it lucky at the Old Line Bistro.  A new brewery, 7 Locks of Rockville, MD, had taken over four of the taps and we really enjoyed their IPA -- I also enjoyed their rye IPA -- and the atmosphere at the Old Line was fun and positive and, as a bonus, when we went into the Old Line beer store, they had bombers of Stone's Black IPA, a beer the Deke has been wanting to find for over a year now and Stone just released it as part of their "Best Enjoyed By" series -- so this black IPA is best enjoyed by Valentine's Day, we bought a couple bombers, and enjoyed one when we got back home and we'll definitely enjoy the other before Sunday.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/09/16: Cleaning Day, J. Witnesses in the Hallway, "Oye Como Va" Lenten Discipline?

1. I built my day around cleaning:  laundry, vacuuming, mopping the kitchen and bathroom floors, cleaning the sinks and the bathtub, just making things as fresh as possible. The ultimate reward? Fresh bedding to crawl into at day's end.

2. Maggie and Charly go ballistic with barking whenever a visitor knocks on any door within earshot of our apartment home in our apartment building. Today, a couple from the Jehovah's Witnesses visited our building, knocking on every door. When I heard them creaking down the last flight of stairs headed our way, I stepped out into the hallway. We'd had a pleasant exchange when they entered our building about forty minutes earlier, and the Jehovah's Witness man said, perceptively, "You probably don't want us to come in, do you?" I smiled broadly and replied, "No. I don't think it would work." He saw that I was doing laundry, told me that a "man's work is never done", handed me a tract, told me I would not be disappointed in it, and he and his partner knocked on the door across the hall, the corgis barked their brains out, and this really nice man and woman left the premises. Charly and Maggie shut up. I haven't read the tract yet.

3.  I noted the other day that Rolling Stone was once again promoting its list of the 100 best guitar players -- a list the magazine compiled several years ago, I think. It got me thinking how I have no idea who is the best, if best means having some kind of mastery over the instrument and if it includes some kind of technical brilliance. If I were to rank guitar players, I'd use one criteria:  if I want to be moved by the sound of the electric guitar, who do I search for on YouTube?  Off the top of my head, here's who I turn to:

Jerry Garcia
Neil Young
David Gilmour
Joan Jett
Mark Knopfler
Eric Clapton

And, lastly, Carlos Santana.

Tonight, I found Santana's album Abraxas on YouTube.

I mind traveled back to high school -- in boys' chorus we played "Oye Como Va" over the music room sound system all the time, as if it were our theme song.

Then I thought, maybe for Lent I ought to enter into an Oye Como Va discipline and, rather than deny myself any pleasure of the flesh, I ought to deepen my spirit with forty days and forty nights of Carlos Santana.

We'll see.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/08/16: Happiness, Christy at the Pool, Trying Madras Curry

1. I hope the Monday swim class I'm taking is doing my body some good. If not, at least it's having a positive impact on my overall happiness.

2. I hope the same holds true for Sister Christy. Today on Facebook she reported that she is joining her lifelong friend, Teresa, for water aerobics in the morning at the pool in Mullan.  Great news!

3. I roasted the rest of our broccoli and mushrooms and an eggplant and an onion in the oven and on the stove top I sauteed tofu in one pan and in a big pot I whisked some Madras curry paste into a quart of milk and combined it all in the big pot and fixed some rice and the Deke and I enjoyed a chili peppery, tumericky, cinnamony, clove-y dinner, our first Indian curry at home. I had hoped when I picked up this jar of paste at Hung Phat that it would be tasty -- and it is.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/07/16: Snug and Charly, Ads Interrupted, Dinner with the Diazes

1. I have been assigned to make a slide show by my sister Carol and so I began poking around, looking for music -- not much luck yet -- but, I found about a half a dozen cd's with pictures saved on them from 2007, pictures I took with the first digital Canon I bought back in 2006. Of the pictures I looked at, the most fun was a little series of shots of Snug playing with Charly. I had forgotten that when they were young dogs, they played. For a few minutes, it made me feel a little better about Snug's life.

2. We went over to the Diazes. From another room, and from time to time in the television room, I could hear and see that the television was broadcasting a series of advertisements for movies, cars, CBS programming, beer, relief from constipation, food, and other stuff and that the ads were occasionally interrupted by Super Bowl pre-game interviews and analysis, a man named Seal singing, and some patriotic programming, featuring singers from the armed forces, some of whom Hiram knows. It was fun having him point out these people.  By about 6:45, the ads began to be interrupted by a contest between the Panthers and the Broncos. I'm aware that the ads were interrupted at halftime by an extravagant pop music show, but, by that time, the Deke and I had returned to our apartment home and settled in with the dogs. I checked from time to time to check on the game's score and so I know how it came out.

3. We also ate dinner with the Diazes.  The Deke and I took over potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic, and sausage and the Deke roasted the onion and broccoli and made a dish of mashed cauliflower and potatoes and she fried up diced chunks of sausage. It was an awesome meal, both for the food and the company around the table. We had a lot of fun playing with Olivia and David -- they really liked it when the Deke acted like a radio interviewer and asked them funny questions and they gave funny answers -- mostly about the numerous food related nicknames their Nana has for them.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/06/16: Visiting Lincoln's Cottage, Value Village in Adelphi, Mental Trips

1. The Deke and I jumped into the Sube and barreled down New Hampshire Ave to N. Capitol to Rock Creek Church Rd and before we knew it we had arrived at the Soldiers' Home -- or as it's known today, the Armed Forces Retirement Home -- the grounds upon which sit the Lincoln Cottage. In the 1860s, this wooded oasis atop a hillock was separated from the city of Washington, D. C. by about three miles.  For Abraham Lincoln, this cottage was a place he regularly traveled to by horse or by carriage to get away from the summer heat and stench and noise of Washington, D. C. He spent about a quarter of his presidency here where the air was cooler and the water was cleaner and where he could ponder the great questions and face the great challenges of his presidency in solitude and quiet. We enjoyed our tour and I want to return soon and read more of the displays set up around the visitors' center.

2. As we dashed north on New Hampshire, I spontaneously decided that it would be fun and interesting to head east toward Greenbelt via University Boulevard rather than going on up to the Beltway. I wanted the Deke to see the chaos of mattress stores, bakeries, quick loan outlets, international groceries, fast food stops, liquor stores, pho restaurants, Latin American eateries, and more that are crammed into the New Hampshire/University Blvd. intersection and I thought she'd be interested in going by the Value Village in Adelphi. The Deke was more than casually interested in this Value Village.  We stopped and poked around for a while looking at everything from cookware and bakeware to picture frames to books to children's games and puzzles to DVDs, magazines, and more. It's a huge store. The Deke picked up some fun stuff for the grandchildren to play with when they come over. We had a good time.

3. As I often do, after spending time in a part of Washington, D. C. I'd never been to before, I spent a bunch of time looking at maps, figuring out other routes to drive, looking at proximity of places, like, say, of the Lincoln Cottage to the Hellbender Brewery.  Honestly, I wanted to jump right back into the Sube and rumble around some more, get more of the geography of the NE and NW committed to memory. But, alas, I tried out routes in my imagination and looked up pictures of other places I'd like to visit or patronize and further developed my knowledge of our nation's capital.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/05/16: Outing Plans, Friday Party, Wheaton Regional Park

1. The Deke told me this morning that she'd like to pay a visit to a historical house in or around Washington, D. C. on Saturday, so I poked around on the World Wide Web and looked at three possibilities:  the Frederick Douglass House (in Anacostia, SE D. C.,  sold out), the Clara Barton National Historic Site (in Glen Echo, MD), and the Lincoln Cottage (near Petworth in NW D.C.). We decided to venture into Washington, D. C. and we'll be touring the site where Abraham Lincoln retreated to compose speeches, letters, and policies.

2. As we enjoy doing on Friday when the Deke's work week ends, we buzzed up to the Old Line Bistro. One of our favorite servers, Marcus, saw us arrive and asked Laura, who was the evening's hostess, to seat us at one of his tables.  Marcus was eager to update us on the month long artist's residency he served in Estonia. It was fascinating -- he painted, mounted a show, and survived the brutality of the Estonian cold in January. I very much enjoyed that Troeg's Nugget Nectar release time had arrived and enjoyed the explosion of fresh hopped pine and citrus -- and remembered back to about a year ago when I enjoyed a pint of this beer at the Church Key. Next I slowly made my way to the bottom of a snifter of a power house triple IPA from Brooklyn, the Six Point High Res IIIPA, and, after eating my half of the Game of Thrones burger we split, along with House Parmesan Truffle Fries and the house homemade potato chips, I finished off the evening with a half pint of a sour ale -- I love sour ales for dessert -- a collaborative effort between Union Brewing of Baltimore and Austin Beerworks of Texas called Union Craft Bolo. It had a little bit of everything going on -- funk, peach notes, biscuit, and what some call hay notes -- ha! -- I like those hay notes.  This was definitely a great party.

3. Earlier in the day, I drove much of the length of University Boulevard (MD 193) all the way to Georgia St. (MD 97) and made my way to the Wheaton Regional Park. I'd last been there in August and the sunlight was brutal so I didn't take pictures that day of the Japanese Tea House.  Today, that's what I wanted to do.  The tea house sits about half over land and half over a pond and I had no idea when I arrived today that the pond would still be frozen -- in fact, I had no idea so much snow would still be on the ground in the park.  So I walked nearly 5000 steps and took about eighty-five pictures of paths, shadows, leaves, people walking, bridges, benches, and, as planned, the tea house.  Would you like to see all eighty-five pictures? Keep in mind, when I post my pictures to flickr, I put every picture in my albums because what might seem like a crappy picture today might look much better to me on down the road.  All eighty-five pictures are here.  Here is a sampling of the pictures I took:

Friday, February 5, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/04/16: My Right Foot, Hung Phat Rocks, B. Dalton Flashbacks

1.  My right foot has been giving me trouble for a while.  It's not debilitating, but pain regularly swoops around my heel like a wake of vultures. I put inserts in my shoes, a big help, and I wear an ankle support, another big help. I'm determined to see if my foot will accept 5,000 steps a day -- or about two miles.  Today, I racked up 5,000 steps, not at one time, but over the course of the day, and, yes, I experienced some discomfort this evening, but nothing alarming. Here's what I must do:  get that ice pack out and treat my foot at the end of the day.

2. After a cup of coffee and a triple berry scone and some time with The Talented Mr. Ripley at Panera in Beltsville, I strolled a couple of blocks to an International Market, hoping it would be a reliable store closer to home than the other two international markets I really enjoy.  No such luck. It was a dismal, ill-lit, depressing, ill-stocked store.  Oh, well. I jaunted back over to the Sube and rumbled out to Wheaton and had a fun time shopping at Hung Phat, my favorite Asian market, and now we have a pretty good supply of coconut milk, curry pastes, sesame oil, and rice noodles. I swear, if I lived closer to Hung Phat, I'd visit this small, superbly stocked, well-lit,  jam packed store all the time.

3. The Deke needed some supplies at JoAnne's and so I lumbered down the ill-lit desultory mallway of the Greenbelt Plaza a ways to Books-a-Million and suddenly I jetted back in time to downtown Spokane in about 1977 when a B. Dalton Bookseller opened. Like B. Dalton,  Books-a-Million had the table of remainders at the front of the store, shelves jam packed with paperbacks as I drifted deeper into the place, and a great magazine selection on the left wall. When independent bookstores were plentiful, say, in Eugene or Portland, I became snobby about bookstores like B. Dalton, but, now, with independent bookstores having been swooped upon and pecked alive by the wakes of vultures of Amazon and other online merchants, it's a pleasure to have any bookstore nearby and I felt that naive, pre-snobbery B. Dalton Bookseller pleasure of my youth today as I scanned the shelves of Books-a-Million.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/03/16: Afternoon Swim, Return of the Peanut Sauce, Surprise Visit!

1. I jogged, kicked, scissor stepped, stretched, and ran for about forty-five minutes in the five foot deep area of the pool before moving over to the lap swim area and swam six laps. I'm trying to build up to ten laps. That's my current goal. The quiet of the pool area in the early afternoon suits me perfectly.

2. I suddenly remembered, while flopping around in the water, that it has been months since I made a peanut sauce for a stir fry dinner. The recipe I use has layers of taste -- peanut, lime, hot sauce, soy and fish sauce, and, when I have it, coconut milk. I didn't have coconut milk today, but we always have cashew milk on hand and I subbed cashew for coconut and it worked beautifully.

3. Molly texted me, asking if she and the children could come over while Hiram played in a concert and so we had a most welcome and unexpected visit and Olivia and David filled our apartment with energy and giggles and Ana continued to try to figure out just what it means to be six months old in this world she lives in and the corgis went crazy over the dog across the hall and other of our neighbors' perfectly normal activities and we adults ate stir fry and peanut sauce and the children had a Cheerio snack with a banana and when the Diaz visit ended, our apartment home fell as quiet as the Greenbelt Aquatic Center when old people are swimming in the early afternoon.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/02/16: Beep Beep Beep, Gratitude, Cornbread Redux

1.  Yes, again.  The beep beep beep beep beep corgi torture sounds returned today. Maryland State Highway 201 is very near our apartment complex and over half a dozen tree branch trimmers and huge shredders congregated along the side of the road and their sawing and shredding included the dreaded beep beep beep beep beep. I had planned to go out and do some grocery shopping and other stuff, but I couldn't leave the dogs alone with that sound and so we retreated into the quiet room and waited things out -- and by afternoon, it was over and the corgis showed their appreciation by barking at me to feed them early today.

2. I appreciated the congratulations and good wishes sent to me after I announced that, with professional guidance,  I successfully withdrew from my psychiatric medicine for three months, starting in August, 2015, and then went off the medicine completely starting in November and am done checking in with the nurse practitioner I was working with.  As many of you know, when dealing with the challenges of anxiety and depression, the support and love of friends can be every bit as important, if not more important, than the pharmaceutical medicine. I'm most grateful.

3. After yesterday's slight failure in the world of cornbread baking, I decided to give cornbread baking another shot today. When I blended the ingredients, I added melted butter to the mix and I baked this pan of cornbread at 350 degrees instead of 400 degrees. I kept a more vigilant watch over its progress in the oven and I'm happy to report, this pan was a success.  I know I can still bake even better cornbread and I will -- but, today's effort, drawing upon the lessons I learned from Monday's mistakes, gave me a much needed shot of cornbread baking confidence.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/01/16: Going Off the Meds Worked, Another Man Showed Up!, Cornbread Lesson

1.  I dropped the Deke off at work and rumbled down to LabCorp for my monthly pre-transplant blood draw. I arrived for my 8:45 appointment early, about 8:15, got checked in, and suddenly my heart stopped. I was seized by the realization that I might have another appointment elsewhere really soon.  I fumbled through the cards in my wallet and, sure enough, I had a 9:00 appointment with Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Carolyn Clark. Almost immediately upon realizing this, good fortune smiled on me and I was summoned to a blood draw room, my favorite phlebologist, Angela, drew my blood and I jetted over to West Greenbelt and was early for my 9:00 appointment.  Carolyn Clark and I talked for a few minutes, long enough to establish that we had made the right move weaning me off of the psychiatric medicine I'd been taking for many years -- my last three months without this medication went beautifully without any problems.  Now, unless any problems should surface again, Carolyn Clark and I closed the books on my case.  To be honest, this felt to me like I closed out yet another after effect of my 1999 bout with bacterial meningitis. I know the kidney damage will always be with me, but the headaches, the temporary loss of my tasting sense, the mood swings, nearly chronic fatigue, the bouts of fuzzy brain (to use a technical term) are all gone. Let's hope they stay gone.

2.  It was my day for early arrivals.  I was in the pool for fifteen minutes before Senior Swim began and so I did some pre-class working out. The class went great and I didn't even mind that I lost my status today as the class's only man.  Today, there were two of us men participating.

3.  I fixed a corn and okra and tomato soup. The recipe said it was a Creole soup, but that felt like a reach to me.  I also fixed a pan of cornbread and, sadly, over baked it. We ate it, and it was acceptable. But, I want better.  I am eager to fix cornbread again at a lower temperature in our oven, keep a closer eye on its baking progress, and see if I can do a better job. I'd really like to get good at making cornbread again. Back in my grad school days, when I was single, it was a sweet staple in my diet -- and a perfect complement to the bean soups and casserole dishes I fixed back then.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 01/31/16: Relieving Maggie's Pain, Retreating to the Quiet Room, Leftover Soup

1. Maggie is rarely aggressive.  She's occasionally territorial, but this morning she aggressively went after Charly, unprovoked. She didn't harm Charly, but alarmed the Deke and me. The Deke and I agreed that Maggie must be in arthritic pain again and so the Deke called the vet and we got a refill of her pain medicine. Because of its potential effects on her kidneys, we use this medicine sparingly with Maggie, but definitely the time has come to help her out with the medicine again. I drove down to the vet and returned with more of Maggie's prescription dog food, her pain medicine, dental chews, and the dogs' mouth rinse that goes in their water bowl. I think we're set for a while.  Maggie improved as the day went on and didn't get cranky or aggressive with Charly any more.

2. The Deke went over to the Diazes to babysit Ana while Molly and David and Olivia went to a concert in Fairfax, VA to hear Hiram play a solo in a President's Own Marine Band concert. I spent quite a bit of this time in our bedroom -- the quiet room -- with the dogs so that they didn't hear any comings and goings in our apartment building and so they wouldn't feel the need to commence with high alert barking.

3. Home alone for dinner, it was handy to have the leftover cauliflower-broccoli-etc.-cheese soup in the ice box to warm up and enjoy.