Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/24/17: Drive to Baltimore, Transplant Evaluation Day, Debriefing at Old Line

1. I sprang out of bed at 5 a.m. this morning to clean up, get dressed, and drive to the University of Maryland Transplantation Center for my once every two years day of evaluation so I can stay on the kidney transplant list. By leaving an hour before I actually needed to, I drove up in moderate traffic, easily found a parking spot in the hospital parking garage, and had time for a bagel and a cup of coffee at Au Bon Pain.

2. About seven of us were at the center for evaluation and through the day, after we watched a kidney transplant video together, we got called in, one by one, for a conference with a surgeon, social worker, cardiologist, nephrologist, financial/billing/insurance person, and a phlebotomist for blood work.  I spent much of the day waiting for my next conference and read almost the entire issue of the most recent New Yorker. At the end of the day, I had a final conference with the nurse coordinator and in the next few weeks I will get a TB skin test, chest X-ray, echo/stress test, and a kidney ultra-sound. Then the committee will meet and decide if I stay on the list. No one foresaw any problems.

3. I drove back to Greenbelt, picked up the Deke at school. It was the Deke's first day back after spring break and, since I was away all day, I hadn't been to the grocery store to stock the pantry after our visit to New York, so we went to Old Line and enjoyed a light dinner and told each other about our day. April has gone by in a most enjoyable blur of travel to North Idaho and New York and now I look forward to settling back into some days in our kitchen and getting back into the swimming pool and on some walking trails.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/23/17: Family Service, Jack's Basketball Practice, LuvPlates at DC Brau

1. This morning Jack, Adrienne, the Deke, and I sauntered down the hill -- Jack and Adrienne live on the hill's crest -- to Grace Episcopal Church for the 9:00 family service. The rector, Owen Thompson, has fashioned a condensed Eucharist out of the traditional one and it is direct, to the point, and beautiful. The congregation gathered around the altar for the blessing of elements and then filed toward the back of the church, down the middle aisle, where Father Owen and those helping him administered the Communion. If this pared down liturgy and its more common language is meant to help the youth of the congregation experience the outline of the liturgy and its fundamental rhythms. this service accomplishes this beautifully.

2. After church, Jack, Adrienne, the Deke, and I raced to a local middle school gym where we watched Jack go through basketball drills and then participate in a short scrimmage. Jack is currently obsessed with basketball and it was fun watching him respond to instruction from the coaches about dribbling, shooting, passing, playing defense, and pouring shots through the iron.

3. Early in the afternoon, the Deke and I left Nyack and as we roared down the turnpike, we decided we'd breeze right by Greenbelt and drive straight to DC Brau. We arrived and immediately fell into conversation with Chef Jay who spoke to us from inside his food truck, LuvPlates. We found a place to sit and I immediately dashed back outside and ordered us three containers, one each of mac and cheese, Mama's greens, and chicken and sausage gumbo.  The food was divine and we told Chef Jay how much we enjoyed it and he told us more about his background as a chef and shared his dream of one day turning his food truck into a storefront restaurant. I will be watching to see if his dream comes true.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/22/17: First Drive to NYC in the Sube, *Sunday in the Park with George*, Burgers

1. Instead of taking the train, the Deke and I decided to drive into NYC to see Sunday in the Park with George at the Hudson Theater. I had never driven to NYC or in NYC before and the prospect made me nervous. All went well until we arrived on W. 43rd to park the Sube in a parking garage where Adrienne had reserved us a parking place. Something was going on inside that garage that caused a huge delay and we sat on W 43rd for forty-five minutes before finally turning our car over to an employee who parked it. When I turned off of 11th Ave. to enter W. 43rd, I didn't realize the line of cars waiting to get into the parking garage was not moving and I obstructed traffic in the right lane of W 43rd. When, finally, cars in the parking garage lane could move forward a bit, I got out of the way. I'd been blocking a guy in an SUV who honked one last time, rolled down his window, and roared at me that I should get the f**k back where I came from.  I was thinking at that moment that Kellogg, Idaho sounded like a much simpler place to be!

2. With the car parked, the Deke and I hoofed it down 43rd and then 44th, experienced the mob of people, garish lights, and amplified noise of Times Square, and stopped in at a grocery-deli and split a tuna sandwich before going across the street and getting settled into our seats in the front row of the balcony.

The production of Sunday in the Park with George moved me deeply. Even though it's been around since 1983 and even though I had heard general comments about it over the years, I went into the theater not knowing the way the story would be told and I didn't know the music at all.

I had no idea it would be such a thrilling and moving exploration of the creation and power of art. We went to this production because the Deke has been having her third graders learn about painting through the art of George Seurat. Am I ever happy for the happy coincidence between the Deke's curriculum, the dates of her spring break, and the fact that the relatively short run of this production was still going.

3. Our drive back to Nyack was much less dramatic and, back at Adrienne's apartment, Alex grilled hamburgers served with sweet corn on the cob and a leafy salad.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/21/17: Relaxing, Defiant Brewing (and Smokehouse), Dinner at Hearth & Tap

1. The Deke and I decided not to go to a sheep farm in New Paltz, NY and so we relaxed for much of the day at Adrienne's apartment.

2. By about 2:30, we decided to give Defiant Brewing Company, here, in Pearl River, NY a try and were we ever happy we did. Since we arrived early in the day, few other people were there and Jen, our beer and food guide, lavished us with most welcomed attention, pouring us samples of beer, telling us about their food smoking operation, and giving us some tips about places to eat in New York City. We ordered a charcuterie and cheese plate. The three meats were smoked on site, as were these divine, crunchy, and peppered thin cornbread pieces -- we'd never heard of smoked cornbread before. The three cheeses were superb and so were the balsamic pickles. The Deke and I enjoyed the beers we drank and, if we lived here, we would be coming to this place regularly to try out more of their menu and to enjoy their beers.

3. We only ate a snack of cheese and meat slices because we had a dinner date with Adrienne and Alex at 5:30 at Hearth & Tap, a terrific restaurant, here, just over the New Jersey border in Montvale.  We shared and enjoyed a portabella and arugula flatbread to start. I was sipping on a Dark 'n' Stormy. Soon my dinner arrived: roasted lemon chicken on a bed of polenta with lightly grilled carrots and asparagus on the side. It was a substantial and delicious dinner.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/20/17: Mary at Fraunces Tavern, Scott and the Lower East Side, Nightcap with the Deke

1. Back on the train today -- the Deke buzzed me over to Tarrytown and I glided along the Hudson River to Grand Central and hopped on the subway to Bowling Green. I'm not very familiar with Lower Manhattan and, to me, it's a tangle of streets and I struggle to even get a sense of northsoutheastwest. I sat down, got out my trusty electronic tablet, went to Maps, and figured out how to stroll the short distance to Fraunces Tavern, New York City's oldest standing structure.  If you'd like to see or read more about this place and how it's connected to George Washington and the American Revolution, among other things, you can go here and here.

I was at Fraunces Tavern to meet with Mary McGrail for lunch. Mary arrived and we dove into some wide-ranging conversation about plays and tennis and readings and the Shakespeare Showcase and her work with the Community Service Society of New York, here.  She came to the tavern after attending a rally at the Federal Plaza to help in the fight against budget cuts to HUD.

2. As I finished my second glass of beer -- wow! -- get this name: it's brewed in the Bronx at Gun Hill Brewing Company, here, and it's a 2IPA called E. Pluribus Lupulin 4: Citrea -- I ordered it as "that Gun Hill beer you've got" -- and as I finished a ham sandwich on ciabatta bread that featured a cheese I'd never heard of and don't remember the name of -- it was kind of sweet and really delicious, yes, as I finished all of that, in walked Scott Shirk.

Scott jumped very smoothly into Mary's and my conversation, but Mary had to return to work uptown and Scott and I had plans to hit a dive bar in the Lower East Side. I think we all wish Mary could have played hookey and joined in, but, alas, that couldn't happen.

Scott and I waltzed over to the Broad Street station and lept onto either a J or a Z train to Essex Street and in a hop, skip, and a jump we were at the Parkside Lounge on E. Houston St. Immediately, I was elated to see that the Parkside had Bell's Two-Hearted Ale on tap.

Scott and I were the only patrons in the Parkside Lounge. Two televisions were playing two different movies, one with Harrison Ford that we didn't identify and the other a black and white classic movie we couldn't place.

Right away, Scott and I launched into scintillating conversation about LeVon Helm, The Band, Tom Petty, the Highwaymen, and other music and musicians before we got going on New Wave Australian movies from nearly forty years ago. Not long ago he and Cate had watched Picnic at Hanging Rock and I wished he could find The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and then I nearly fell off my stool with the special passion I feel for Breaker Morant and I rambled on too long about how Scott must watch it as soon as possible.

Time flew. Damn. We had to wrap it up.

I wanted to make it back to Nanuet, NY to meet the Deke at our favorite NY taproom, Growler and Gill, so Scott and I staggered back to the subway (at 2nd Street?) and he headed to Brooklyn and I took the F train to Herald Square and hoofed it down 34th to Penn Station where I found the New Jersey Transit ticket machines and successfully purchased a ticket to Nanuet, took the train to Secaucus, and transferred onto the Pascock Valley Line, got off the train at Nanuet, and had a nice short ride on Uber to the Growler and Gill with Hamed.

3.  The Deke and I wound down and capped off our day at Growler and Gill. I enjoyed a shorty of Wolf Among Weeds 2IPA from L. A.'s Golden Road Brewing, but, even more, I enjoyed our charcuterie and cheese plate. The Growler and Gill was quiet, we were helped by the friendliest server imaginable, and it was relaxing and fun to shoot the breeze for a while before returning to Adrienne's for the night.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/19/17: Train to Grand Central, Seeing *The Glass Menagerie*, Waiting for Sally Field

1. This morning the Deke and I piled into the Sube and roared across the Hudson River on the Tappen Zee Bridge and made our way to the Tarrytown Metro-North station and leaped on a commuter train and rumbled into Grand Central Terminal, the first time we have been to New York City together.

2. We split a tri-tip sandwich in the Grand Central food concourse, went upstairs and gawked at the gorgeous cheeses, cuts of meat, fresh seafood, produce, flowers, baked goods, and other delights at the Central Market, and then, after a quick stop at Banana Republic, strode up 44th to the Belasco Theater where we watched Sally Field in the role of Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.

My experience watching this production was personal, in fact, autobiographical, and I'm very grateful that the Deke, like me, does not want to leap up and dash to the exits when we finish watching something (or when we go to church). I had to sit for a while and gather myself, regain my equilibrium, and transition out of the Wingfield apartment and its world of illusions, memories, glass figurines, nostalgic music, and a gentleman caller, back into the world of Manhattan.  I plan to write a separate blog entry about what I experienced watching this play later. One thing, though: my experience was autobiographical because of the nearly 45 years I've lived with this play -- and with Tennesee Williams, not because it recalled events from the story of my life.

3. I have never waited outside a theater after a show for the actors to emerge. This afternoon, however, a small knot of people were doing just this and the Deke figured out what was going on and suggested we hang around for a little while. Most of the people wanted to see American Horror Story's Finn Wittrock (he played Jim O'Connor) or were friends of Madison Ferris (Laura Wingfield), so by the time Sally Field came out, the small crowd had nearly disappeared and I stepped right up to the little barrier that we stood behind.

Theater security people announced before she emerged, that Sally Field would not be posing with others for self-portraits.

Sally Field autographed my playbill right after the Deke snapped this picture of her:




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/18/17: Preparing to Leave, Getting Updates on Mom, Driving to Nyack

1. I got packed, the apartment vacuumed, the kitchen cleaned up, and dogs rounded up in preparation to drive to Nyack, NY today. Shortly before 1:00, I dropped Maggie and Charly off with Molly and enjoyed having some time to chat before I hit the road.

2.  Three times on my drive to Nyack, I stopped at rest areas to read updates from my sisters about how Mom's day was going and to thank them and to add brief thoughts or ask questions. I am very happy and relieved that Christy and Carol will both go with Mom on Wednesday morning to see Mom's primary care giver at 7:30 a.m. to talk about their concerns regarding Mom's difficulties, especially over the last five days or so.

3. I loved my drive to Nyack -- I've just got a thing about enjoying the drive through Baltimore, making my to the New Jersey Turnpike, and driving it.  Today, for the first time, I stayed on I-95 in New Jersey -- instead of taking the Garden State Parkway. I wanted to see the view of Manhattan off to the east and I wanted to have my first experience driving on the Pallisades Parkway.  I loved it all.  I arrived safe and sound at Adrienne's, enjoyed a Dogfish Head 60 IPA and ate a couple of superb shredded chicken tacos. Alex joined us and we all sat around and gabbed while Jack entertained himself with toys and then got ready for bed. I love being in Nyack.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/17/17: Mom's Easter and Today's Lunch, Old Line Relaxation, Casseroles on *The Chew*

1. I called Mom this morning and she told me how much she enjoyed Easter Day with Carol and Paul. I knew from communicating with Carol that Mom was off kilter over the weekend, but I could tell from talking to Mom that the Easter dinner meant the world to her -- she loved the ham Carol prepared -- as did the tour she made of her yard in her wheelchair, with Paul's help. She was also excited that two of her longtime friends, Flo and Dorothy, were going to come to her house and bring lunch on Monday.  Mom is always at her best when friends or family are with her or when she can leave the house for an outing -- like when we went to Marguerite Gallaher's funeral, when we went to the Easter Cantata, and, on Sunday, when she toured her yard.

2.  After running a couple of late afternoon errands, I went to Old Line to relax a bit. I decided to see if a couple of Green Hat gins might help settle my nerves and it was a good decision. I enjoyed a hamburger and a dinner salad and tried out and enjoyed a small snifter of Firestone Walker's new Double IPA, Leo Vs Ursus Fortem. (I have no idea what that name means!)

3. I don't often have trouble getting to sleep, but tonight was an exception and I helped myself settle down, first, by doing an online acrostic puzzle and then watching an episode of The Chew that focused on casseroles. It turns out that watching Mario Batali make a chili rellenos casserole Michael Symon make a Brussel sprout/noodle casserole stimulated me more than relaxed me, but, finally, I suppressed the urge to make a midnight run to Safeway to buy ingredients and bake a midnight casserole and eventually fell asleep.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/16/17: Easter Service, New Beers and a Surprise, Dinner with Betsy and Martin

1. I attended the Easter service at St. John's in Bethesda where Betsy Tesi is Associate Rector. The service stirred me, especially the Easter music. My hectic Sundays of late, with travel and visitors, have kept me out of church, and I loved being at home again in the liturgy.

2. After church and after checking in on Maggie and Charly, I drove down to DC Brau and enjoyed drinking samplers of three of their latest collaborations, Green Card Pale Ale (Firestone Walker), Conflicts of Interest Imperial Pilsner (Melvin), and Yonder Cities, a Farmhouse IPA (Union). In addition, and I never dreamed this would happen, DC Brau had a year old keg of one of my very favorite collaborations from a year ago, The Wise and the Lovely Imperial Milk Stout (Cigar City). I thought that beer was dead but it was resurrected and was the perfect Easter treat.

3. From DC Brau, I drove over to Ft. Totten, having accepted Betsy and Martin Tesi's invitation for Easter dinner. Marin fixed gorgeous, really thick rib eye steaks and Betsy fixed tender asparagus. We had mashed potatoes and Betsy fixed strawberry shortcake for dessert. We had splendid conversation. Our dinner capped off an unexpectedly superb Easter Sunday.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/15/17: The Deke Hops on Amtrak, Recovery Day, Potato Soup and Dumpling School

1. The Deke and I spent one full day together upon my arrival back to Greenbelt. Around 11:30 this morning, I dropped her off at the New Carrollton Amtrak station so she could travel to Nyack, NY to see Adrienne and Jack. I'll join them on Tuesday.

2. For the most part, today was a recovery day of resting after travel and a late-ish night at the Diaz's last night. After arriving back at our apartment home from the train station, I only went out one more time for Maggie's dog food and some groceries.

3. After making potato soup at Mom's the other night, I decided to give it another go with a few variations. I used up a little bit of half and half and used whole milk, not evaporated milk. I wanted my soup to have a deeper flavor and I was pleased with my idea to season it with cumin. I tend to like spinach in almost anything. I noticed we had a clump of frozen spinach in the freezer so I tossed that in. So, I started by cooking chopped onions and celery in butter until they were tender. Then I added chopped carrots, potatoes, cumin, and some flour, covered them with water, brought them to a boil, added the frozen spinach, turned down the heat, and when the carrots and potatoes were tender I poured in half and half and whole milk. I salted and peppered the soup at various intervals and ended up with a dinner I enjoyed.

Later, in preparation for a possible visit to Dumpling Galaxy in Flushing, Queens this coming week, I watched an episode of Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse on amazon.  In it, Lagasse and Mario Batali travel to Shanghai to sample dumplings at three different places and then one of the establishments lets them use their kitchen and they make dumplings and serve them to the staff. I very much enjoyed learning more about the art of making dumplings and the technique of eating them.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/14/17: Greedy for Sleep, Everything is Back on the Table, Meeting Eduardo and Adriana

1. After flying across the USA, I arrived home greedy for sleep and didn't emerge from the sack this morning until 10 o'clock. A half an hour later, I called Mom to let her know I had arrived home safe and sound.

2. While I was in Kellogg, the Deke decided to resign her position as a teacher at the French Immersion school and probably not pursue another full time job. This puts us on familiar ground: we don't know what's next and everything is on the table. Tonight, at Old Line, we started piling ideas about our future on the table (well, the bar) and started to imagine just what might be next in in our life together.

3.  After eating some mussels and calamari, the Deke and I jetted over to the Diaz house where Hiram's brother, Eduardo, and his wife, Adriana, are spending the weekend. I hadn't met Eduardo and Adriana before and it was fun to get acquainted -- and, later, to exercise the freedom I always have at the Diaz house to sack out for a while.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/13/17: Goodbye to Mom, Flying with Podcasts, Back in Our Apartment Home

1. Christy and Everett honked in front of Mom's house at exactly the right time, before 11:30, to pick me up to go to the airport. Mom's friend, Flo, called just as Christy pulled up, so Mom and I waved good-bye to each other. Simultaneously, I love my life in Maryland and, at the same time, I feel a strong pull to be back in Kellogg with Mom and to do things with Christy and Carol and to see my friends.  I accept -- that is, I don't fight with the fact -- that I live a life divided between two places and two ways of life, but seeing Mom slowly become more frail and knowing I probably won't see my sisters until late spring or summer made walking out the door difficult.

2. My day of flying on Southwest was easy. As I did when flying out to Spokane, I flew over the USA listening to podcasts. I learned more about an annual day of corned beef sandwiches sold by the Jewish community of the Mississippi Delta town of Greenville, MS on the podcast Gravy, here; I listened to Ed Levine interview Helen You, the owner of and dumpling creator at Dumpling Galaxy in Flushing, Queens on Special Sauce, here; Radiolab, in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Times, is looking deep into police shootings in the USA and I got started listening to it, here and here; Burnt Toast presented a fun story on a 1950s kitchen appliance, the Roto-Broil 400, here; The Big Listen posted a segment of its episode coming up this weekend and it featured the show's two favorite middle-aged Jewish ladies, Ronna Glickman and Bev Ginsburg, characters played with little reverence by improv comedians Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo -- you can hear the entire episode, here; I went to the podcast Death, Sex, and Money where host Anna Sale interviewed Rashema Melson, the woman known as "the homeless valedictorian", about why she left Georgetown University, here; this interview led me another Anna Sale's interview, replayed on an episode of Snap Judgment, with "Emma", a sex worker, who talked about how and why she got into this line of work and how it affects her day to day. To conclude this episode, Anna Sale described a conversation she'd had with "Emma" recently that updated her story (spoiler: she quit giving sensual massages for money).  By the way, I skipped the first two stories of this episode of Snap Judgment and found my way to the third story, featuring "Emma", here.

Have I mentioned that I love the way podcasts help me fly over the USA and make the trip seem brief?

3.  I took a cab from the airport to our apartment home. The Deke had texted me that she was still up, so I was happy to walk in the door, embrace, and have a good talk about my week in Kellogg and the Deke's week in Greenbelt. It was good to see Maggie and Charly, too.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/12/17: Lunch at Daft Badger, Potato Soup for Mom, *Chopped* Chef Judges Compete

1. Late this morning, I scaled the 4th of July Pass and coasted into Coeur d'Alene. I dropped by Byrdman's house and we plopped down at a table at Daft Badger Brewing and enjoyed some of the finest beer anywhere along with great sandwiches. Darrell Dlouhy, Daft Badger's proprietor was working. Byrdman and I both go way way back with Darrell and enjoyed shooting the breeze.

2. Mom asked me to cook potato soup with carrots, celery, and onion and I found a recipe, here, that I thought was pretty similar to the potato soup Mom made for us over the years.  Christy, Carol, and Paul joined Mom and me for a bowl and everyone seemed to think it was pretty good.

3.  Once again, after Mom got settled into bed for the night, I strolled over to Christy and Everett's to watch two very impressive episodes of Chopped featuring chef judges of the show squaring off against each other, demonstrating their phenomenal, sometimes balletic, skills.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/11/17: Mom's Sleepy Day, Everything Dinner, *Chopped* and *The Chew*

1. Mom slept much of the day. In fact, Mom rarely goes back to bed, but this afternoon she returned to her bedroom and slept on her bed for a while. Today was the only day since I arrived that she didn't eat lunch. Heather, the cardiology nurse, called back and reported that the doctor is concerned about Mom's fast heart rate and would like to administer a medicine to help slow it down, but, before doing so, he needs Mom to have some blood work done to make sure her kidney function is good enough to take this pill. Mom and I will head down to have the blood work done on April 12th.

2. I decided to cook and warm up all kinds of food for dinner in order to make good use of odds and ends around the house -- I fried the last two potatoes, cooked the last of the asparagus, warmed up the leftover macaroni and cheese, fixed a green salad, and anchored dinner around pork chops and a pork steak with a choice of applesauce or cranberries.

3.  It's fun going over to Christy and Everett's to watch Chopped and tonight we watched another installation of Chopped: Star Power. It was a fun episode. The four contestants were actors, very gracious actors I might add, and each one was creative and really good in the kitchen. Earlier in the day, I watched the last half hour of The Chew. The show focused on pasta dishes and I must be sure to post Michael Symon's "Midnight Pasta" recipe, a very flexible dish he used to cook with stuff he had around his flat late at night/early in the morning after a day-night of 9 dollar an hour line cook work and few cocktails with his fellow workers. I loved that as he presented this recipe, Michael Symon took several minutes to discuss the virtues of anchovies and the different kinds of anchovies we might find at the store. The recipe is here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/10/17: Mom Update, Macaroni and Cheese, Dinner with Scott and Ed

1.  Christy called Mom's cardiologist's office to report on how Mom was doing a week after going on oxygen all through the day and night. The office returned the call later in the afternoon. I took the call and had a very pleasant conversation with Heather who expressed concern for Mom's high heart rate, explained the way Mom's reduced heart function causes edema, and expressed support for Mom napping as often as she wants to. She will pass the notes of our conversation on to the doctor and we'll see if he makes any adjustments in Mom's medicine that might help slow down her heart, but not lower her blood pressure which is already on the low side.

2.  Because I wanted to be home when the nurse called, I didn't go to the store this afternoon, but I was able to make a macaroni and cheese dish out of onion, ground pork sausage, macaroni, sharp cheddar cheese, milk, and flour.  I don't remember ever making macaroni and cheese before and it made me happy that Mom and Carol both thought this simple dish worked pretty well.

3.  Scott drove over to the Silver Valley from Spokane, picked up Ed, and they came to Mom's house and talked with her for a while before the three of us went to Best Shots for a bite to eat and to shoot the breeze. We had fun joking around with and hearing stories from our server, Baylee, about when she was a student of Scott's son in middle school.  I capped off the night with a visit to Christy and Everett's for a slug of Knob Creek Kentucky Bourbon and some superb conversation.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/09/17: Mom Gets Good Sleep, Wheeling to the Church, Easter Cantata Takes Me Back

1. Mom slept in until about 7:45. She ate her breakfast about forty minutes later and then slept in her chair for the rest of the morning. Once she woke up and some mental fog lifted, her mind was sharp and she had no problems getting ready for the day's major event and she continued to be right on top of things on into the late afternoon and evening.

2. Mom got dressed up in one of her Sunday best outfits and consented to my idea that I push her in her wheelchair across the street and into the church parking lot and building without her having to do the much more difficult task of climbing into and out of her car. This worked great. Inside, I situated Mom right where she wanted to be toward the back of the church behind the pews. We arrived about twenty-five minutes before the Easter Cantata started. Before and after the concert, many of Mom's friends stopped by to tell her how good she looked and to chat about any number of things.

3. The many people from up and down the Silver Valley who sang in the Easter Cantata performed beautifully and Christy, Mom, and I were very proud of sister/daughter Carol's performance as a soloist. Listening to the Easter Cantata (directed by fellow 1972-74 North Idaho College choir member and lifelong friend, Joy Persoon) transported me back to a Sunday at least fifty years ago when a combined choir of Silver Valley churches and a small instrumental ensemble performed Handel's Messiah in the same church. Our Boy Scout troop, Troop 300, directed parking for the event and then we got to come in and listen to the performance. To this day, whenever I hear the Messiah or when I have sung it at both community sing-a-longs and as a choir member at North Idaho College, I remember that day when I first heard it performed and what stands out most clearly is the beauty of hearing a harpsichord for the first time -- that day, when I was about 12 years old, the harpsichord mesmerized me -- and never stopped.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/08/17: Mom's Pretty Good Day, Sibs at Best Shots, Inland Lounge Session

1. I thought Mom had a pretty good day today. It made me wonder if yesterday's outing was restorative. She nodded off less frequently and was more alert. She's had a card table up in the living room for quite a while and, today, she finished working with the papers on it and I got to take it down, giving the room much more space. I seared and roasted four or five chicken breasts and later made a chicken soup and, at about four o'clock, I boiled a ton of egg noodles and so we had chicken noodle stew/soup for dinner with a baguette and salad.

2. Carol, Christy, and I went to Best Shots this afternoon and told each other what we think about Mom's condition at present.  We did our best to get a sense of what the summer looks like for each of us. Even though summer is almost here, Carol and I are both unsure about just how things will pan out in June and July. We had a really good time. Christy had just finished her shift at work and had some good stories to tell about her work and the people she talked with who patronize the library. The library is a life saver for any number of Kellogg people, youth and adults, and Christy is making a vital contribution to the library's mission.

3. After dinner, I joined Byrdman at the plank at the Inland Lounge and we were the beneficiaries of proprietor Bob Casady's fine barmanship and great company. The former owner of Eddie Joe's, another distinguished Kellogg watering hole, local raconteur, Eddie Miller (Lite) was seated at the bar and Byrdman, Eddie, and I got into some first-rate conversation and Eddie told some great stories. Soon, Eddie's ninety-something year old pop sashayed in, as did one of the kids from the neighborhood, Patrick Kenyon. It was a great evening, but as the time crept toward nine o'clock, I drove back to Mom's, figuring she'd be just about ready to go to bed. I was right and I helped her get situated, bringing a full day of cooking, drinks with my sisters, dinner, and a fun session at the Inland Lounge to an end.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/07/17: Preparation for Mom's Outing, Mom Perks Up, My Past Rushes to the Present

1.  Mom and I were up at 6 a.m. No more of this lazing around in bed until 7:30! We had a big day planned with Marguerite Gallaher's funeral coming up at 5 p.m. Mom knew she couldn't come into the church through the front door, primarily because of the steps leading from the foyer into the sanctuary, but she and my sisters told me about a wheelchair ramp in the back of the church. Shortly after noon, I drove over to the American Lutheran Church and checked out the ramp, mainly to assess whether I thought Mom would want to push her walker up it or ride in her wheelchair. The last time Mom went to a funeral at this church, the back door at the top of the ramp was locked. After I scouted the ramp, I drove up to the funeral home to talk to the director to make sure the door would be open and to find out what Mom would be facing once inside that back door. Our conversation helped me a lot and I came home with a report that eased some of Mom's anxiety about getting in the church.

2. Mom had another day of falling asleep frequently, but as the time drew near for the funeral, she perked right up and dressed up really nice. We decided it would be best for Mom to use her wheelchair. When we arrived at the church, about forty minutes before the service, several members of the Grandmothers Club were panting their way up the ramp, making me glad Mom was in her wheelchair. When the women ahead of us got to the back door that goes into the fellowship hall, guess what? -- it was locked. But, one of the grandmothers rapped sharply on the door and one of the caterers opened it and cleared the way for me to wheel Mom through the hall and into the sanctuary. I don't know if Mom was relieved that with my help she got down the steps at home, into her wheelchair, into the car, out of the car, back into the wheelchair, up the ramp, through the door, and into the sanctuary, but I sure was.

3. In 1959-60, when I was in morning kindergarten and Mom was teaching at the Silver King school and Dad was working at the Zinc Plant and Christy was four years old, Marguerite was our babysitter each of my parents' workday. Today, nearly sixty years later, those days flashed before my eyes as Pastor Bartel read memories Marguerite's grandchildren and great grandchildren had written, and they were startlingly similar to things I remembered, yes, nearly sixty years ago: Marguerite's love for her parakeet, her enjoyment of cards and other games, her love of knitting, crocheting, and other handiwork, how she took us to parades, the great food she prepared for us, and her love of television -- ha! I chuckled during the service thinking how it seemed to me that I Love Lucy was always on when we were at Marguerite's.

After the funeral, at the dinner, I visited with people who were my boyhood elders, many whom I hadn't seen in decades. Marguerite's youngest daughter, Sandy, married the son, Dan, of our other babysitter when we lived on East Portland in uptown Kellogg, Mary Pavelich. I delighted in talking with Sandy and Dan.  I hadn't seen them since I was in grade school. Maybe I'll see them again at the All-Class reunion in August. I got to chat with Mary Pierce, re-introduce myself to Sano Haldi, talk with Joanne Schonewald, shake hands with Carolyn MacPhee, say hi to Donna White, and visit with Millie Savage.

Millie is nearly 100 years old and she startled me, in fact, staggered me, when she told me she always thought I was the most handsome boy in our Sunnyside neighborhood and always thought I should have been an actor -- because of my "good looks".  I got to tell her that I have done some acting and that tickled her.

I wheeled Mom out of the fellowship hall and helped her back into the car. Once home, Mom struggled going up the steps to get in the house, but, with my assistance, she made it and we settled into a relaxed evening, much of it with Christy.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/06/17: Mom Update, Gnocchi and Shrimp Debut, *Chopped:Star Power*

1.  Mom has been sleeping more than usual lately. Again, this morning, she slept until about 7:30 this morning and during the day she nodded off frequently in her chair.  Mom has had short periods of fogginess, slow to respond to questions sometimes, and her memory hasn't been as sharp as usual. Mom is far from incapacitated. We worked together to get her Avista bill straightened out. It is. She is eating well. We are making plans to go to Marguerite Gallaher's funeral at 5:00 on Friday afternoon and the Easter Cantata on Sunday.

2. When I was last in Kellogg during November and December, our friend Rosie dropped by and she and Mom talked a bit about gnocchis. At the time, I looked at some gnocchi recipes and told Mom that I thought I could make gnocchis. This morning, as I started to trot off to the grocery store, Mom told me she wanted fish for dinner. I did some reading around and found a gnocchi and shrimp recipe and decided I would go all the way with preparing and cooking things I'd never done before. I bought raw shrimp. For the first time ever, I shelled and deveined shrimp, successfully(!). I think I kneaded the gnocchi dough too much and I'm not sure I got the ratio of flour and potatoes quite right. I might bake, rather than boil, the potatoes next time. I also want to figure out which variety of potato works best.  I'm hoping my next gnocchis will be lighter, and after doing some post-dinner reading, I learned some ideas about how I might make them lighter and better. The dinner I prepared was a skillet dinner -- boiled and browned gnochhi, shrimp, broccoli, shallots, chicken broth, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese.

3.  I capped off the day with a visit to Christy and Everett's to watch an episode of Chopped: Star Power and had fun watching Dorothy Hamill and three other athletes compete in the kitchen. I won't give away who won the day, but I'll say it was an entertaining half an hour of cookery t.v.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/05/17: Morning with Mom, The Essentials, Dinner and a Couple Drinks with Ed

1. Normally, Carol comes over in the morning to help Mom get situated for the day, but she was in Boise today for work, so I sprang into action at 7:30 this morning, more refreshed after about 5 1/2 hours of sleep than I thought I'd be, and prepared Mom some breakfast, tidied up her bedroom, got some things straight with Mom's pills, helped Mom put on her compression socks, washed and dried a load of laundry, and did whatever other small thing Mom requested.

2. Later, I ventured out to Walmart to buy some T-shirts -- even though I enjoyed packing a day early, I didn't put everything in the suitcase, and I know just how my oversight happened. I also bought some items for Mom. And guess who else was shopping at Walmart? Christy! Ha! We talked for a while, saw longtime family friend, Bev Danielson, and I finished shopping and headed to Yoke's to get the essential creature comforts I want: coffee, whole milk, and a six pack of Sierra Nevada Torpedo (by the way, Yoke's beer curator does a first-rate job. Many superb beers are always available).  Then, I thought, why don't I check out the liquor store? See if there's a bottle of rye I might like to have around -- and there was! It's an Idaho whiskey, something I've never tried. I purchased a bottle of Seven Devils Rye Whiskey from Koenig Distillery of Caldwell, Idaho.  Read more about them right here.

3. I told Christy and Carol that I would cook every dinner while I'm here.  I found a pound of ground beef in the freezer and wanted to use up some of Mom's potatoes. I found a recipe for potatoes au gratin with ground beef and I had a lot fun making it and it turned out really good, as did the fresh asparagus I skillet fried and the salad we ate. Christy and Everett came over for dinner and it was a great evening -- a great evening which I capped off with Ed over at Best Shots where I had a glass of Fresh Squeezed IPA and a shot of brandy on ice and, once again, enjoyed sitting in the room that was once the Kopper Keg and has been transformed so fully that it's hardly recognizable as the beer bust venue of my youth.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/04/17: Flying with Podcasts, Free Drinks!, Back in Kellogg

1. It was a long day of travel and, as I always do when I fly across the country, I listened to a series of podcasts and doing so made both flights, Baltimore to Denver and Denver to Spokane feel short. I got got caught up on episodes of The Big Listen, enjoyed three episodes of Special Sauce, learned about the origins of chili powder on an episode of Gravy,  deeply appreciated a great episode on the early 20th century mine wars in West Virginia on Inside Appalachia, and went back to Burnt Toast and listened again to Calvin Trillin read his famous essay, "Spaghetti Carbonara Day", his wry and witty argument to start a new tradition by replacing the Thanksgiving turkey with spaghetti carbonara.  I learned about a podcast today that I plan to listen to a more. It's, of all things, an art history podcast, The Lonely Palette.

2. I redeemed my free drink coupon on the flight to Denver with ginger bourbon and liked it so much that I redeemed my Denver to Spokane coupon by ordering the same drink, but the flight attendant forgot the ginger ale, so I enjoyed a bourbon and bourbon over ice. That worked.

3.  The flight to Spokane was delayed a bit and we arrived about twenty minutes late and then our baggage was slow coming out. Christy patiently waited for me and we had a great drive to Kellogg and I arrived at Mom's about 1:30 a.m. PST, kind of wound up, but eventually I calmed down and fell into a deep sleep.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Three Beautful Things 04/03/17: Oil Change, Business Select, Packed

1. I probably could have waited until my return from Kellogg next week to get the oil changed in the Sube, but I decided to get it done a couple hundred miles early today. If the mechanics saw any problems that needed their attention, I wanted to have them taken care of before leaving for Kellogg Tuesday afternoon. There were none.

2.  Because I bought my airline ticket to Spokane so late -- Sunday evening, in fact -- the only tickets left on Southwest were Business Select. Today, when I checked in, I forgot I was flying Business Select so I had the fun experience of learning that I will be the second person to board the flight in Baltimore and the first in Denver -- you know, after the people who have early seating privileges. I've never had this experience. At least I know I'll sit on the aisle! I also get a complimentary adult beverage and that's such a unique experience that I've been contemplating for hours what I will order.  On the return flight from Spokane, I return to reality and have less expensive ticket.

3.  I won't be leaving our apartment home until in the afternoon on Tuesday, but I enjoy packing early for a trip and I'll double check my bag and satchel as Tuesday rolls along, but I'm pretty much ready to walk out the door.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/02/17: Taxes, Beer, Popcorn and Trip Out West

1.  I am always relieved just to have our taxes done, whatever the verdict. This year, we had overpaid a bit, so we will get a refund, but, for me, the best news is that our tax preparer and I had an easy time getting the forms filled out and submitted.

2. The Deke and I love going to DC Brau on Sunday afternoons and I packed up some cheese and crackers and we buzzed down to the northeast edge of our nation's capital and enjoyed some On the Wings of Armageddon and had a good time shooting the breeze with Mike and Leah.  It was a good session.

3. Back home, we decided it was a good night for popcorn and several times the Deke asked me what I did this time to make the popcorn taste so good. I couldn't really say, but I was very happy that it turned out so well.

While eating popcorn, I also bought a round trip flight to Spokane and back so I can spend some time with Mom and my sisters in Kellogg.  I will arrive on Tuesday the 4th and fly back to Baltimore on Thursday the 13th.  It's a short trip, but comes at a good time.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/01/17: Carol's Call About Mom, Zags Win, Splendid Leftovers

1.  It was an eventful day in Kellogg. I had a good conversation with Carol about it all. Earlier, Mom fell in the living room. She didn't fall hard. She used the emergency button she wears around her neck to call for help. Christy got the emergency call at work and called Everett who came over from next door and helped Mom get back up. The local emergency personnel arrived and checked her vitals and talked with her.  Carol and Paul also got the emergency call and came over to be with Mom. My sisters have concerns about how Mom is responding to a recent change in medication. They also want to double check with her doctor in Kellogg as to whether she should be on oxygen during the day as well as at night. On Monday, they'll be able to call and check these things out with Mom's doctors. I am starting to plan a trip to Kellogg in the near future, either soon this month or early in May.  Right now, my plans are uncertain.

2. The Deke and I went up to Old Line and had a couple of beers and talked about things. While there, the Deke's friend Martha strolled in with a friend and, for a while, the Deke joined them at their table and I watched a bit of the first half of the Gonzaga basketball game. Once home again, I kept a close eye on the score via espn.com. I started getting nervous when I saw that the Zags surrendered a fourteen point lead in the second half.  But, the Zags fought off South Carolina's comeback and iced the game with late free throws and will be playing North Carolina for the NCAA men's basketball championship Monday night. I was asleep before the Oregon/North Carolina game was finished, but before the night was over I got up to drink some water and checked the score. I had sorely hoped for a Zags/Ducks final, a game where I would be very happy with either team winning, but, alas, the Ducks lost a heartbreaker.

3. The Deke ingeniously combined the potatoes I had fried for breakfast this morning with leftover vegetables from dinner last night and poured the leftover curry sauce on top of them and then mixed in our leftover rice and we had an easy and splendid dinner when we got home from Old Line. It was so simple and, for whatever reason, I never would have thought to do it.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/31/17: Maggie the Trooper, The Ongoing Curry Project, My Life Wrote to Me Today

1.  First thing this morning, I zipped Maggie down to the vet for her six month comprehensive exam. The check-in desk was crowded and Maggie gets very nervous and barky around other dogs. Luckily, there is plenty of room, so I backed Maggie away and she stayed quiet and as relaxed as she can be. I picked her up again around 4 o'clock and the vet had no problems to report. On the summary, I would have written something very clinical like "Maggie is a trooper".

2. For the first time in a week, I cooked dinner in our apartment home. Today I resumed my ongoing effort to get the balance between Thai curry paste and coconut milk right so that we feel the heat, but aren't overwhelmed by it. To my surprise, I discovered I only had one can of coconut cream left in the cupboard so I very carefully measured out just a half tablespoon of paste, figuring we could increase the heat, but with only one can of coconut cream, we would not be able to decrease it. The half tablespoon with some fish sauce and brown sugar worked perfectly. I fixed crispy tofu cubes, chopped onion, red pepper, and eggplant and we ate red curry over basmati rice. It was fun to cook again and we enjoyed our dinner in.

3.  Today emails and messages and Facebook comments and even a picture of Whitworth's baseball team from around 1975 came flying into my life. It was a remarkable day. I had contact with friends from many different points of my life -- from boyhood and adolescent days in Kellogg, my student days at Whitworth, my teaching days at Whitworth, and my many years living in Eugene. In the best way possible, much of my life flashed before my eyes today -- oh, a few regrets were in the mix -- but not a single one of those regrets involved any of these longtime friends, only love and respect and happiness.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/30/17: Get Together, Babes with Axes in Eugene, House Concert

1. About once a month or so, the Deke and I meet with a group of people who work (or once worked) for the Prince George's County Public School District and today we got together at Old Line and the stories flew.

2. It's looking official -- I mean, it's posted on their Facebook page.  The Babes with Axes will be playing at Eugene's WOW Hall on Saturday, July 22, 2017. The Deke told me on the way to Old Line that the date had been changed today from July 21st to July 22nd.  The show will start at 8 o'clock.  Now the Deke and I can make summer plans, knowing we will be in Eugene for about ten days so the band can practice and prepare for the show and knowing that the KHS All-Class Reunion starts August 11th.

3. Once home from Old Line, the Deke and sipped a little George Dickel Rye Whiskey and I created a spontaneous concert of videos by Guy Clark, the Highwaymen, Waylon Jennings, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, duets by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, and others and we ended the evening with videos of Fry and Laurie, sketches we have watched and listened to frillions of times and that make us laugh out loud as if we were hearing them again for the first time.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/29/17: Talk with Mom, Town Center Market in Riverdale, Strolling at the U of MD

1. I called Mom this morning to report on all the stuff I've been up to over the last month and that my nephrologist was so happy to see my bloodwork looking good. Mom sounded strong and I thought about how much better she is right now than she was back in October when she got that awful infection in her leg.

2. Through Jo and Jim, I found out about the Town Center Market in Riverdale, about 4.5 miles down the road from us. It's a combination Western Union outlet, convenience store, liquor store, bottle shop (a ton of beer and wine), and taproom, offering twenty-two beers. I checked it out today. I scanned the whiskey shelves, gave the beer on the shelves a good look, glanced at the wine, and located the taps. I didn't order any beer in the taproom, but I did buy a four pack of Evolution's Lot 6 Double IPA and a fifth of George Dickel Rye Whiskey. As I purchased my selections, I asked the cashier what time the taproom opened. He told me, "6 a.m." and I suddenly thought how fun it would be if I were still working the graveyard shift, stripping zinc at the Bunker Hill Zinc Plant and, if the Zinc Plant were in Riverdale or Hyattsville, I could drop in here for a Double Duckpin when I got off work. It had a quick dream of Town Center Market being Riverdale's very own Happy Landing, just like in Smelterville, Idaho, which was always open for a few cold ones after the graveyard shift.

3.  After checking out the Town Center Market, I dropped in at the Bagel Place in College Park to satisfy a hankering I had for a toasted sesame bagel with butter. I also decided to take my first ever stroll on the University of Maryland campus and wandered aimlessly for over a half an hour and did not succeed in getting my bearings, but I admired the many columned buildings and the open spaces. I remembered, but didn't long for, the many years when I felt right at home on university or college campuses, felt so much a part of all that happens on a campus. In my retirement, I've either lost or let go of that feeling and it surprised me a bit today that I didn't yearn to once again feel the excitement that animated me for so many years to be teaching, attending lectures and presentations, visiting libraries, and attending conferences.

Other things animate me now -- little trips nearby, hosting friends and family from out of town, being with family and friends in Kellogg and Eugene, discovering new beers and enjoying tried and true ones, exploring the D. C. area, anticipating exploring Baltimore more, finding various places to walk and hike, seeing our children and grandchildren, taking pictures, listening to podcasts, floppin' around in the pool, and enjoying time with the Deke. Retirement opened up a lot of space in my life and I've enjoyed filling it more than I have yearned to have what I once had back again. I yearn for time with my friends in Eugene, but soon I will see many of them again, as well as Kellogg friends at the All-Class Reunion in August.  Details about our trip to Eugene will be forthcoming.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/28/17: Blood Draw, Kidney Doctor Appointment, Workout

1.  And, so, I had another vial of blood drawn and mailed to the transplant center in Baltimore.  Routine. Easy. Done.

2. I see Dr. Malik, my nephrologist (kidney doctor), every six months and today was the day. He was a little giddy when I strolled in his office. He'd just seen my blood work and, as I reported on this blog a month ago when I had my annual physical exam, nearly every number had improved, including my kidney function. Dr. Malik said, "You seem to get better the less you see me!" We had a good laugh. He listened to my lungs and heart. He checked my ankles for swelling -- there was none --, and we both expressed our happiness, and I expressed my relief, that my abnormal kidney condition continues to be stable. That's been the goal for the twelve years that I have been treating this disease and, so far, my kidneys are cooperating pretty well.

3. I missed my weekly swim class on Monday when the Deke and I were out enjoying the beauty of eastern Virginia and Maryland, so, today, before I went to see Dr. Malik, I went to the pool. I had time for only about twenty minutes of floppin' around, but I made my workout as intense as I could. I entered the pool feeling sluggish from being in the car so much over the weekend.  I left the pool revitalized, my blood flowing, my lungs burning a bit, and my legs tingling. I was a little tired, but no longer sluggish.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/28/17: Driving Eastern Virginia and Maryland, Evolution Lunch, Ana Loves Books

1. The Deke and I situated ourselves in the Sube and headed south toward Norfolk and Virginia Beach and turned northward on U.S. 13. We crossed the twenty-three mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and journeyed through Virginia's Eastern Shore region on into Maryland before making a stop at the Evolution Brewery's Public House in Salisbury, MD. The drive through Virginia and Maryland excited our imaginations for future trips out that way. We stopped at a rest area in Maryland where the Deke picked up a bag brimming with brochures and maps with information about places to visit in the entire state of Maryland.

2. Our lunch at Evolution deeply satisfied both of us. I enjoyed steamed clams served in a buttery onion,  white wine, and garlic broth and the Deke loved her kale and quinoa salad. We both nearly gasped with pleasure as we each drank a glass of Evolution's Lot 6, their superb Double IPA.

3. We drove straight to the Diazes to pick up the dogs. As much as I loved driving from Yorktown/Newport News to Silver Spring, still, it wore me out, and while the others talked about our trip and looked at maps and brochures the Deke brought in, I retired, alone, into the television room to rest where it was quiet. Ana found me. She brought a book for us to read. Then another. And a third. She identified more animals than I had ever heard her be able to before, some by saying their names, others by sound. It was really fun.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/26/17: Jamestown Settlement, Brewery Visits, Birthday Dinner at Fat Tuna

1. We hung around our room for the morning so the Deke could make more progress on getting grades completed. Soon, we piled into the Sube and buzzed north and east to the James River to visit the Jamestown Settlement and to learn more about the economic hopes and physical and mental tribulations of this project, the delicate relations with the Powhatan tribe, and the introduction of slaves. We walked the grounds of the recreation of the settlement, visited the Powhatan Indian village, and gazed upon the recreation of the ships built to transport people and supplies to and from Jamestown.

2. Museum fatigue started to creep in on the Deke and me, so we decided to check out Aleswerk, a brewery in Williamsburg we knew nothing about. The tasting room was quiet. Most people were seated outdoors listening to a duo playing string music and a guy singing. We ordered a flight and loved Aleswerk's beer and had a great chat with the guy who served us. Just down the street we had seen The Brass Cannon brewery and so we stopped in to sample some of their beer and agreed that while the beer was fine, we'd probably not return if we were in the area again.

3. The best of times lay ahead of us. In order to redeem the birthday money Mom had given us back in December with the expressed purpose of treating ourselves to a nice dinner, I had reserved us a table at Fat Tuna Grill and Oyster Bar in Williamsburg. Lord! What a superb choice! We got seated and our very capable and friendly server went over the oyster menu with us and we ordered a dozen oysters, four each of three different types, and a shot of Knob Creek Whiskey. The oysters were superb and so we ordered six more and a plate of superb calamari. It was becoming clear that neither of us wanted to order a dinner, but we thought we'd top off the night with a half a pound of unpeeled shrimp and they were the freshest, sweetest, most delicious shrimp we had ever eaten. We both loved our birthday dinner and the combination of whiskey and seafood and were very grateful to Mom for giving us such a thoughtful and tasty gift.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/25/17: The American Revolution, Perfect Matinee at the Bar, Outside at Traditions

1. The Deke and I sprang into action this morning, piled into the Sube, and set out on a 3+ hour drive to Yorktown, VA for a weekend vacation. We hit stop and go traffic on I-95 after the E-Z Pass Express Lanes ended, slowing us down a bit, but we were patient and arrived in Yorktown a little after two. We went straight to the American Revolution Museum and watched an odd film about liberty and then dove into the permanent exhibits and spent some time at the outdoor encampment and saw, but didn't visit, the museum's replication of a colonial farm a ways off. We knew we could never take in this whole museum. We enjoyed what we had the energy to look at and read about. I left the museum thinking more about the economic dilemma its colonizing project put England in. England profited from the tobacco and sugar and other products it extracted from the U. S. colonies, but financing, occupying, securing, and administering the colonies was costly and difficult to manage. If I ever return to this museum and if I do any follow up reading, I'll be the most interested in looking into the economic demands and administrative difficulties of colonizing another land and of being a force of occupation.

2.  The Deke and I then drove a short ways to the Water Street Grille overlooking the York River. We snagged a couple seats at the bar in the round and enjoyed the marine breeze blowing through the joint and settled into some superb beers. Never in my life have I tried a beer from Clown Shoes Brewing up in Ipswich, MA, and I ordered a snifter of Space Cake 2IPA and it was perfect. The Deke went for Lagunita's splendid and sweet Imperial Brown Ale, Brown Shugga'. As our happiness grew, we decided to bump it up to just shy of ecstasy. We ordered calamari drizzled with an awesome sweet and sour chili sauce and balsamic glaze. With visions of redcoats and minutemen dancing in our heads, the Deke broke off and headed to a bench overlooking the river and I stuck around the bar long enough to drink 4 oz. of Blue Mountain Brewing's Sour Geist, a peachy wild ale, perfectly fruity and sour, just what I love in a dessert beer. I then joined the Deke at the bench she'd found. The temperature was in the 70s. The breeze was refreshing. We gazed out over the York River, relaxed, carefree (for the moment), enjoying the union of beer, calamari, water, slight wind, and one another's company.

3.  Our studio suite at the Staybridge was about twenty minutes or so away from Water Street and, once we got checked in, I told the Deke that we were fairly close to a brewery in Newport News. We bolted out the door and buzzed to Traditions Brewery. Had it not been so gorgeous outside, we wouldn't have stayed because the spacious concrete tasting room was hosting a loud live electric band who was playing "Sailing" by Christopher Cross as we headed to the bar. The Deke got right out of there and found us a place to sit outside and I ordered a red ale and an Irish stout and joined the Deke and we enjoyed the evening/night air and the low ABV beer so much that we just kept talking and watching people and didn't really want to leave. But we did. We bought a bag of popcorn to microwave in our suite at the Staybridge. I marveled at the Oregon/Kansas score, stunned that the Ducks beat the Jayhawks so handily, and I enjoyed and appreciated Terry Turner's texts to me, filling me in on what the Ducks did so well in order to defeat the Jayhawks. Wow! The Zags and the Ducks are in the Final Four.  I never ever even dreamed this would ever happen.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/24/17: Trip Preparation, Our Grandkids Loved the Chicken, Quiet/Bliss

1. Aside from Alexandria and Mt. Vernon, the Deke and I have never traveled in Virginia. The Deke has a three day weekend coming up and we have decided to stay in Yorktown so we can visit the American Revolution War Museum and visit the Jamestown Settlement. I managed to do a little preparation for our trip by getting some laundry done.

2. Molly and Hiram are going to take care of Maggie and Charly while we are away and late this afternoon the Deke and I delivered the dogs to their house. I volunteered to cook and deliver some dinner. A week or so ago I had bought one of those packs of 89,000 chicken thighs at Costco and today I thawed eight thighs, fixed a flour mixture of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. I heated a shallow pool of olive oil in our larger cast iron pan and for a short amount of time fried the chicken really hot on both sides and then turned down the heat and let the pieces continue to cook slowly for forty-five minutes or so, turning them over from time to time. The result?  A FIRST! David and Olivia liked something I cooked! I nearly wept with joy. The adults all loved the chicken, but, wow, I cooked food pleasing to David and Olivia. It was the snow-capped summit of my life in the kitchen.

3.  Most of the time, our dogs are quiet. They spend a lot of time relaxing on the couch and especially enjoy when the Deke is home to sit with them. That said, we never know when something outside or in the building might excite their barking. Tonight, we didn't have to think about that. The dogs were at the Diazes. The silence was blissful. The Deke and I sat in the quiet of our apartment home. About one pour a piece was left in our bottle of Redemption Rye Whiskey and we enjoyed it as we read. I silently looked back over the day's news in Washington, D. C. and at basketball scores. We soon retired to bed, barely a sound anywhere.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/23/17: Finally Got Goin', Concrete and Recovery, With Mary at Hank's Oyster Bar

1. I lollygagged for much of the day, checking in from time to time on the negotiations underway in the House of Representatives and with members of the Trump Administration, wondering if the AHCA would come to a vote today, as planned. I finally left our apartment home in the afternoon to get some groceries so I could fix the Deke some dinner. I had plans to eat on Capitol Hill tonight with Mary and, knowing the Deke would be exhausted after work, wanted to save her the trouble of having to fix her own dinner. I fixed one of our favorite standbys, black beans and rice.

2. Mary was down from NYC to attend a conference in D. C.  and she and I made a plan to meet at 6:00 near the Shake Shack and Starbucks in Union Station. I was a little bit late getting on the road to meet her, but then I got seriously delayed by something I've never experienced at Union Station. The Union Station parking garage has two entrances, on on Mass. Ave. and the other on H Street. I find the Mass. Ave. a little easier to get to and when I drove to it today it was barricaded by concrete barriers.  Now I had to figure out how to get over to N. Capitol Street, turn east on H Street, and see if that entry was open.  I drove to F Street, slight disoriented, and took a chance on a right hand turn on 2nd and it worked out because soon, Mass. Ave. appeared in my windshield.  Ah! Now I knew exactly what to do and eventually the barrier-less H Street entrance welcomed me, once I got out of the taxi lane (no problem, btw) and I snagged a first-rate parking spot on Level 1. At a red light, I'd been able to cryptically text Mary I'd run into a parking problem, so please be patient (!), and so when I was a half an hour late to meet her, she knew I was all right.   I was especially excited to see Mary again and I was also pumped up that I overcame the parking challenge those (mysterious) concrete barriers confronted me with.

3.  Mary enjoys seafood and so I thought it would be fun to stroll a bit in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and make our way to Hank's Oyster Bar.  I wanted to show her more of the neighborhood than we really could do -- I had hoped to show her the Capitol Hill Bookstore and Eastern Market, for example -- but the walk was gorgeous as the sun set behind the Capitol Dome and the Washington Monument and we got some good views of both.

Hank's Oyster Bar was alive with chatter and a lively string of young people at the bar. We were seated at the window and before long Mary and I dove into an order of a dozen oysters on the half shell from six different locations, including British Columbia, Washington State, and Maine. Julie has written enthusiastically about drinking whiskey while eating oysters, so I ordered a Brooklyn Sixpoint Res to sip on before our oysters arrived and a George Dickel Rye to drink while slurping the oysters. It was a good move. I loved how the brown sugary burn of Dickel was soothed by the sea water buttery creaminess of the oysters. Mary and I talked and talked about movies -- I particularly enjoyed her dream to one day host (or attend) a Karen Black Film Festival and it was fun talking about Karen Black movies from the 1970s and 80s. I think I saw the entirety of Come Back to Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean flash before my eyes.

We took our time eating the oysters and once they were cleared away we both dove into sweet, slightly crunchy crabcakes and Mary ordered a very tasty cauliflower side. I ordered an amber/red ale from Maine Brewing called Zoe to accompany my crabcake and Mary and I continued our conversation about movies -- we were both overwhelmed by I Am Not Your Negro and Mary helped me increase my list of movies to see.  Our check arrived with a complimentary dish of broken pieces of bittersweet chocolate, a perfect way to cap the dinner.

We took an Uber back to Union Station and I offered to give Mary a ride to her hotel on Woodley Road where her conference was being held. I thought I got some fairly erratic directions from the Google Maps voice instructing me how to drive from the Union Station Parking Garage to the Marriott Wardman Park, but I learned a lot during the circuitous trip. Ha! I successfully negotiated both Scott Circle and Dupont Circle --at night! a first! -- and, eventually, dropped Mary off and buzzed north on Connecticut Ave. to the Beltway and easily found my way home.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/22/17:At Last:Taxes,Good Times at Old Line,Simple and Exquisitely Delicious

1. I've been itching to upload our tax documents to our tax preparer and make an appointment with him. When I was younger, I put taxes off and always filed for an extension. I was kind of a wreck about this. But now, in my old age, I am eager to get the taxes done, but this year there was a holdup on a couple of our tax documents. On Tuesday, I had everything. So, today I spent a couple of hours scanning and uploading and tracking down a document at the Maryland Comptroller's website and elsewhere online. I worked deliberately, trying to do everything right on my end, and I might have succeeded. I do know one thing: I have an appointment in early April with our tax guy to get things done.

2.  After the Deke got off work and before we came home for dinner, we stopped in at Old Line for a couple of beers. We have a good thing going with James, a server there, and we hadn't seen him for a while. It turned out he'd been away for about a week, traveling to South Carolina and Florida. A while back, I gave him our DVDs of all the seasons of The Wire and he's into season three now and it's got him hooked. We also had fun talking with the Firestone Walker rep who was going from table to table serving up samples of Firestone's new take on Velvet Merlin -- Nitro Merlin Milk Stout. If we'd ordered a glass, we would have been served a free cookie with our Velvet Merlin -- a good pairing, I'm sure, but the Deke was into her 7 Locks Red Lager and I wanted to follow up my Firestone Walker DBA with Calvert's Mortal Double IPA. As we left, we chatted with the retiree who checked us out when we bought a bottle of wine and learned taht he has had a varied and fascinating life between living in far upstate New York and Maryland.

3. I had one box of pasta left, one onion, and plenty of canned tomatoes and butter and I wanted to keep dinner simple, so, before picking up the Deke, I whipped up a batch of Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce and when we arrived home I boiled pasta and grated some parmesan cheese. We had a very good dinner.  I know I've posted the Marcella Hazan recipe about 1000 times, but if you haven't looked at it, forgot to look at it, or if this is the time you'd like to give it a look, just click here. It's exquisite and so very easy.

Before I go, ever eat Campbell's tomato soup with a pat of butter? If you liked it, then you have had a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom of Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/21/17: Charly's Dental Cleaning, Going to Yorktown, *I Am Not Your Negro*

1. First thing this morning, before I'd enjoyed even a sip of coffee, I drove Charly down to the vet so she could have her teeth cleaned. Later in the early afternoon, the vet's office called me to report that Charly had come through the procedure just fine and would be ready for pick up a little later in the day. I picked her up and I would have never known that she'd been under anesthesia. She came home hungry and happy to be reunited with Maggie.

2. The Deke has a three day weekend coming up and we've decided to explore the history of the American Revolution by taking a two-night trip to Yorktown, VA where we will visit the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown and the Jamestown Settlement. Since the Deke's and my birthday fall very close together, Mom gave us each some money to put together to spend on a nice dinner and we will go to a seafood restaurant in Williamsburg and enjoy some good food and wine, thanks to Mom's gift. If we can squeeze it in (ha!), we'll also go to a brewery or two and sample some fine Virginia beer.  I spent time today preparing the way for us to make this trip.

3. I picked up the Deke at school in time for us to go to the Old Greenbelt Theater to watch a late afternoon showing of I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary of the writer and intellectual James Baldwin's reflections upon the experience and his experience of being black, narrated entirely in his own written and spoken words. The only other documentary I've ever seen that took the approach of giving a dead person a voice from the grave to narrate his own story and movie was the film Tupac: Resurrection. In a way I welcomed and enjoyed, I Am Not Your Negro overwhelmed me with the sheer volume of its visual and spoken  and musical content. I wanted to stay in the theater, have the movie go back to its beginning, and watch it all again.  I wanted to listen again, among other things, to Baldwin's understanding of the nature of reality, his understanding of history, and his insights into maturity and social responsibility.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/20/17: Splish Splashin' Away, Surprise Eggplant Chili, I Love Maryland Beers

1. Last week, Mike and Ed and I headed out for a car tour of D. C. and so I missed my water aerobics class. Today, though, I was back at it, splish splashing away, smiling broadly, enjoying my body in motion. I stuck around after class and added twenty minutes to the class workout running in the pool and doing the old 9th grade football agility drill. Any sluggishness I had felt from not being in the pool for a couple of weeks melted away.

2. So, I didn't feel like going to the store and I wondered if I could make something with the black beans and onion and eggplant and other things I had on hand. A quick search of Pinterest turned up, of all things, a chili recipe combining eggplant, carrots, celery, onion, black beans, canned tomatoes and lentils. I jazzed up the recipe a little with Worcestershire sauce, a few squirts of lemon juice, cumin, and oregano and went kind of light on the chili powder and red pepper flakes. The recipe is a vegan one, but I had beef broth in a box I wanted to use, so I did. This soup turned out, to me, to be a big surprise. The Deke put her chili in a bowl with sour cream and leftover basmati rice -- and I followed her example -- and it tasted really good. We were both glad I didn't make it too hot.  Would you like to look at this recipe? Just click here.  (I think there's more a person could do to improve this recipe -- for starters, I'd add cilantro, garlic, and poblano chile pepper and I'm sure others of you would love to add other kinds of chile pepper.)

3.  Before dinner at home, the Deke and I enjoyed a couple of beers at Old Line. I tried two local IPAs that were new to me, The Alpha Effect, a delicious brew from Baltimore's always reliable Heavy Seas Brewing and there's a brewery down the road in Upper Marlboro, MD called Calvert Brewing and I found out tonight, as I sipped on a snifter of their brand new limited release Mortal Double IPA, that they brew solid beer -- the Deke and I gotta get down there for a visit.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/19/17: NYC Theater, Trying to Get Curry Right, D. C. Pictures

1.  The Deke wanted to get things organized for school and so we stayed put today. She will go to work on Monday with a clearer mind it will give her a leg up when the next report cards are due in a week. I also stayed put and read Rebecca Mead's review essay, here, about David Byrne's  and Alex Timber's musical theater treatment of John of Arc entitled, Joan of Arc: Into the Fire, playing in at The Public in New York City. My interest in NYC theater was piqued this weekend when the Deke ordered us tickets to see Sunday in the Park with George and Sally Fields in The Glass Menagerie in April during her spring break.

2. I am working hard to make curry that is not too blistering hot and not meek and mild. It's all about the balance between the amount of paste I use and the coconut milk. Today, I made a sauce with 1 Tbs plus 2 Tsp of paste combined with one can of coconut milk and one can of coconut cream and some oyster sauce. I served this sauce over tofu, onion, eggplant, and red pepper, all diced, and white basmati rice. The Deke thought the curry was very good and, at the same time, wondered if I might figure out a way to make it about five degrees milder. Yes. I think I can do that by lowering the quantity of paste by one teaspoon -- maybe two.  By the way, this was a great improvement over the last two curries I made which were too hot to eat until I diluted it with more coconut milk and chicken broth. I'm still in search of the golden mean.

3.  On the vacation Ed and Mike and I enjoyed together, I found that I wanted to enjoy the sights and enjoy my friends' company without fiddling around much with my camera. So, I took few pictures. Today, I edited those few pictures I took, and here is a sampling of them.

We arrived at the ceremony of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier a little late and I had no sight lines to take pictures of the ceremony. I retreated away from the tomb's gallery and loved taking pictures of the amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and want to return on another sunny day and take more pictures of the light and shadows.

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Mike at the Lincoln Memorial

Mike and Ed at the Jefferson Memorial 

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Ed at the Lincoln Memorial 

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Mike and Ed at the Lincoln Memorial 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/18/17: The Moth at Costco, Deepening the Stroganoff, Reading with Ana

1. I went down to the Co-op, up to MOM's Organic, and over to Costco and replenished our kitchen. The Moth Radio Hour came on the radio as I pulled into a parking spot at Costco and I sat in the car and listened to the first story. It was told by Maurice Ashley, the first African-American International Grandmaster of Chess. He told the story of his early days playing chess in Brooklyn, of playing with men at Prospect Park whose game was Blitz. I was reminded of the young boy in the 1993 movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer, who comes under the influence of a speed chess player, played by Laurence Fishburne, in Washington Square Park. In both the movie and in Maurice Ashley's telling of his experiences with the Prospect Park players, known as The Black Bear School of Chess, a boy and a young man experience a reckoning. Both come to grips with how the game of chess and how they learn to play it informs the development of their inner self, their character, will, and sense of fellow feeling. It was a great twelve minutes and fifty-seven seconds of parking lot listening.

2.  The Deke and I accepted the Diazes' invitation to come over for dinner and I volunteered to be tonight's cook. I needed to fix something relatively quick, so I shopped with beef stroganoff in mind, drawing upon a recipe that calls for ground beef -- usually, I make it with cut up round steak. The recipe I used is simple, but as I read it, I thought it seemed incomplete. When it came time to brown the ground beef, I put a little butter in the cast iron pan and sauteed three finely chopped cloves of garlic. Into the two cups of beef broth the recipe called for, I added a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and a quarter cup of red wine. I love beef and black pepper, so I peppered the ground beef a bit more heavily than the recipe suggested. I am happy to report that Molly, Hiram, and the Deke genuinely loved this beef stroganoff and they heaped praise on my efforts. Thank goodness. If you'd like to look at the recipe, just click here.

Oh! Two more notes. My stroganoff included the mushrooms and, for our family, the 12 oz. package of egg noodles was not enough and, luckily, Hiram and Molly had another package at their house.

3.  Ana loves looking at books and she and I had a fun time looking at a picture book of baby animals. Ana can identify almost all the animals, either by saying what they are or making a noise that sounds like the animal. We also read a story about a red tow truck driver who rescues a stuck school bus and Ana made a lot of engine sounds.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/17/17: Maggie's Teeth Cleaning, My Teeth Cleaning, Brookeville Beer Farm and Quench

1. Maggie is insistent, very insistent starting about 6 a.m. that we feed her in the morning. Today, however, she was going to have a dental cleaning at the vet. It requires anesthesia. Therefore, no food. A battle of wills transpired between Maggie and me. I could not relent or the surgery would have to be canceled. Finally, about 6:45 she and I piled into the Sube and I took her down to the vet to drop her off. Being in the car and arriving at the vet took her mind off her morning chow and all went very well with the check in and, about eight hours later, I picked her up. She'd been a trooper. Once home, she got to eat a reduced helping of kibbles and was recovering well from her surgery. No grogginess. No nausea. A happy reunion with Charly. Maggie never fails to impress me with her fortitude.

She's a good dog.

2.  I, too, visited the dentist today for a cleaning and a check-up. I didn't have to be sedated. I just relaxed and a hygienist who was new to me cleaned and polished my teeth and we talked a bit about how I could take even better care of my teeth. I once had a hygienist who hectored me about dental care, but this hygienist didn't. She just talked with me, answered my questions, and gave me ten dollar off coupon for an electric toothbrush should I decide to go that route. I think the coupon could be thought of as incentive.

3. I picked up the Deke from her job and we drove about a half an hour to Brookeville Beer Farm, here, about a half an hour away. People we met recently and joined for beers a couple of weeks ago at Franklins were meeting at Brookeville and one of these people, Jim, was playing in the Irish band providing live music. The tasting room at Brookeville Beer Farm was packed solid. It was a very cool place, but it was so packed we never found Jo, but we did find Sara with her mother, Joan, for a short conversation. We enjoyed the time we spent listening to Jim's band, but without a place to sit and given how noisy the place was -- the good kind of noisy, by the way -- we decided we'd return to Brookeville Beer Farm another time and hoped we'd hear Jim's band again under different circumstances. We were very happy to have made the trip out to the farm.

One of our favorite spots, Quench, was on the way back to Greenbelt and we stopped in. It, too, was very busy, but we snagged a couple of seats at the bar and enjoyed some of Union's divine Double Duckpin Imperial IPA with a little Jameson's Irish Whiskey and we split a very tasty shepherd's pie.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/16/17: Getting Laundry Done, Reunion with The Truth, Welcome Back Mr. Dickel

1.  Today and yesterday those bone chilling winds that Mike, Ed, and I experienced in New York City were cutting through all of our coats, hats, gloves, pants, shoes, and socks here in Greenbelt. I stayed in. I gathered up the towels and sheets we used during the boys' visit and laundered them and cleaned up the bathroom. I'll vacuum tomorrow when Maggie is at the vet for her dental cleaning so that there will only be one corgi -- that is, Charly -- barking frantically while I get the carpets in our apartment home clean.

2. I anticipated that the Deke might want to go to Old Line after school and I was correct. I experienced that feeling of having a reunion with an old friend when I dove into my glass of Flying Dog's stupendous Imperial IPA, The Truth. It's almost always on Old Line's tap list, but I enjoy trying out new things, so it had been quite a while since I enjoyed The Truth and it was as close to perfect for me this evening as a beer possibly could be.

3. Back at the Red Owl Tavern in Philadelphia, I ordered a pour of George Dickel Rye Whisky. I have a history with George Dickel Tennessee Sour Mash Whisky that goes all the way back to 1983 in Spokane, Washington and extends forward to evenings with Rita in Eugene, evenings with the Deke and friends from OFAM in Eugene and some backyard summers on Madison, also in Eugene. To us, George Dickel was Mr. Dickel and as I left the Old Line store this evening, I decided to add to our history with Mr. Dickel and I bought a fifth of George Dickel Rye Whiskey and the Deke and I relaxed, sipped, and enjoyed a couple short pours of good old rye whiskey, neat, perfectly capping our night.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/15/17: Slowing Things Down, Eggplant Sandwich Dinner, Quiet Party

1. I had been scheduled to go to Baltimore today for a once every two years all day visit to the University of Maryland Transplantation Center. I rescheduled this appointment on Monday because the weather looked so iffy. It looked possible that Ed and Mike might get snowed in and need to stay an extra night. Well, that didn't happen, but today the Deke had a two hour delay (after school was closed yesterday). I was happy today that I didn't have to go to Baltimore. I slept in. I slowed down after nine days of travel, touring, and being in and out of our apartment home. I started to get back into my daily routines of writing and doing domestic duties around the house.  I'm grateful for the snow/blizzard scare that moved me to schedule my visit to Baltimore in April.

2.  I got back into the swing of kitchen life today. I went to the Co-op and started to get caught up on grocery shopping. Once home, I chopped an eggplant into small cubes, did the same with a red pepper, and did much the same with half a red onion and a few garlic cloves. I fried this mixture up in olive oil. I mashed the soft eggplant mixture and spread it on halved and toasted ciabatta rolls. The sandwich could be open faced or closed. I also made lemon yogurt sauce and we had feta cheese to put on the sandwiches. As a side, I made a basmati rice salad by folding olives, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, rice vinegar, and olive oil into the rice I cooked. The lemon yogurt sauce made a tasty additional dressing for this salad.

3. After being away for nine nights while I hosted Mike and Ed during our incredible vacation, the Deke was back in our apartment home tonight. We had a great party. We split a bottle of Double Bastard Ale, split a bottle of Heavy Seas 21, and then we had a couple small pours of Jameson Caskmates whiskey, aged in stout barrels. We relaxed. We enjoyed the quiet of our apartment home and the quiet of one another's company. The corgis rested peacefully. It was a perfect evening of good food, superb beer, smooth whiskey, and restful quiet.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/14/17: Sleeping In Again, Silver Diner, Wrapping Up the Trip

1. Ahhh! Another sleep in! Ed and Mike got their belongings gathered and we sat around and yakked, relieved that we were on the very edge of the big storm that hit the Northeast. Yes, school was cancelled for the Deke, but we could tell that we would have no problem getting out to the airport and we knew throughout the day that Mike and Ed's flight to Seattle was not in danger of being cancelled.

2. Late in the morning, Ed, Mike, and I descended upon the Silver Diner at Greenbelt Plaza for a bracing breakfast, guaranteeing that Mike and Ed would be well fed for their flight out west.

3. Indeed, as anticipated, we had no problems getting out to Baltimore Washington International Airport. I dropped off Mike and Ed and then I returned the Cambry to Enterprise and an employee gave me a ride home. I experienced the relief I always experience when I return a rental car and nothing has happened. Once home, I relaxed with a little whiskey and went to work catching up on writing all the Three Beautiful Things I hadn't written while hosting my lifelong friends and enjoyed remembering all the fun we had over the last nine days, seeing the sights, meeting friendly and good people, and enjoying one another's company and long friendship.  We are very fortunate indeed.

Three Beautiful Things 03/13/17: Ahh! Sleeping In, Car Tour of DC, A Deke Reunion and Jameson Caskmates

1. I love spurts of go go go go go activity in my life and I love that Ed, Mike, and I have been squeezing every hour out of our days with trips to the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery and to Philadelphia and Eastern Maryland and to New York City. I also love to sleep. Ahhhh! I slept in this morning.

2.  Late in the morning, I took Ed and Mike on a tour of DC that did not include the National Mall. We came in on Route 50/New York Ave. and made our way to Massachusetts Ave and admired many embassies and drove into the Kalorama neighborhood where the Obamas, the Kushners, and others have bought expensive, plush homes. We didn't see the Obama house and I didn't know the Kushners' address, but we went up and down some of the narrow streets of wealth, gawking at handsome old homes.   We drove through Rock Creek Park and made our way over to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception where Pope Francis celebrated Mass in 2015.  I wanted my friends to see the fairly ordinary Brookland neighborhood, in contrast to Kalorama, where I like to hang out and walk around. Then we stopped in at Franklins for a drink and a bite to eat and a visit to the Franklin General Store and drove on Rt. 1 through the campus of the University of Maryland.

3. We met the Deke at Old Line. I was eager to hear how her trip to New York to see Adrienne, Jack, and Sally went and was ecstatic that she loved seeing the musical Beautiful on Saturday at the Steven Sondheim theater. On the way out the door at Old Line, I bought a bottle of Jameson Caskmates Irish Whiskey so I could find out what happens when Irish whiskey is aged in stout-seasoned oak barrels. I poured myself a small drink, neat, and enjoyed it. It brought a relaxing end to great day of seeing some of DC not navigated by our Big Bus tours and some of the places in DC that I enjoy visiting on my own.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/12/17: Strolling in the Ice Gale, Oh! My! The Views!, O'Hara's and a Megabus Rescue

1. After a Megabus ride to New York City, where I got some much needed sleep, we braved the icy winds for as long as we could, strolling around Penn Station and up to Times Square.

2.  Soon we took the subway to Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan and wandered around a bit until our mostly outdoor 9/11 walking tour in the biting bitter windy cold.  At the end of our tour, we flew up the elevator in the WTC, where the history of the NYC skyline developed on a video on three sides of the elevator and entered the indoor observatory and marveled at the 360 degree views of NYC and the surrounding area from over 100 stories in the air.  This trip up to the observatory was astonishing and awesome and breathtaking and transporting and and and and.....

3. Before taking the subway back to Penn Station and the Megabus, we stumbled into O'Hara's Restaurant and Pub and I enjoyed a couple of pours of Jameson and a couple bottles of Dirt Wolf 2IPA. I also enjoyed a much needed French dip sandwich. This was one of my best sessions in a bar ever. I sat next to an woman from L. A. named Diana and she and I and Ed and Mike had great conversation. We started to get to know the bar's owner, Paul, and as we were getting ready to leave, he invited us behind the bar for a picture. Like us, Diana was headed uptown, so we all piled into the subway and Ed, Mike, and I got off at Penn Station and Diana would deboard at Times Square.

We almost missed our Megabus, thanks to a screw up on my part, and going to the wrong place to board the bus, but a Megabus driver with an empty bus let us get on his bus, and he drove us, Uber-style, but at no charge, to where we were supposed to be to board the bus to D. C. and at the very last minute/second, we each found a seat and, thank God, made it back to Washington, D. C. after one of the best days any of us could ever remember having had.

Three Beautiful Things 03/11/17: Slow Morning, Double T Breakfast, Touring Eastern Maryland (and a Bit of Baltimore)

1. Ed, Mike, and I got up this morning and relaxed, drank coffee, shot the breeze, and let the full day we had yesterday in Philadelphia soak in. We spent much of the morning recharging our batteries.

2. But we didn't sit around for long! We leaped back into the Camry and drove to the Double T Diner in Annapolis, enjoyed a great breakfast, and I gave us all a too brief tour of the area of Annapolis around the Maryland Statehouse.

3. We left Annapolis, crossed the Bay Bridge, and headed out into the countryside, and after a couple of hours or so, took a short tour of Berlin, MD. We stopped in at the Ocean Downs Casino near Berlin for an hour or so and then left Route 50 not long after we crossed back over the Bay Bridge and zoomed up I-97 to Baltimore and the Horseshoe Casino where I immediate went to the Heavy Seas Burger counter for a pint of Loose Cannon IPA and a serving of Old Bay Chicken Wings.

With more time, I would have enjoyed lingering in Annapolis more. I would have enjoyed making some stops as we drove east toward Berlin. I would have enjoyed hanging out in Berlin. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this day a lot because we got to experience so much of the variety of Maryland, how the landscape and the energy changed so much in just over a couple of hours as we traveled from Berlin to Baltimore. We arrived back home late and happy, and we braced ourselves to turn the clocks ahead, sleep about three and a half hours, and head back to Union Station to catch the Megabus to New York City.

Three Beautiful Things 03/10/17: Touring Philadelphia, Liberty and Cheesesteaks and Whisky, Returning Home

1. Ed, Mike, and I piled onto the Megabus at 6:30 a.m. and rode to Philadelphia and then piled onto a Big Bus Tour bus and rode the 90 minute route in a driving snow storm without hopping off.  I want to return to Philadelphia and make my way to see the post-impressionist paintings at the Barnes Foundation and the art at the nearby Rodin Museum and I'd like to venture up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I would love to see this part of Philadelphia when the wind and snow aren't blowing and when the trees have leaves and I could enjoy a walk in the green areas and enjoy looking at the Schuylkill River.

2. I don't remember the order, but after deboarding the bus, we had lunch at Grand Olde Cheesesteak in the Bourse Food Court. I had a Philadelphia Cheesesteak sandwich with a side of cheese fries and enjoyed my lunch a lot.  Even more, I enjoyed the young man working the counter. His family owns Grand Olde Cheesesteak -- they've run it for 35 years, and he was just a great guy to talk to. It looks like the Grand Olde Cheesesteak is going to close soon and he told me what he hopes to do afterward. It had to do with technological things that are over my head, but I will always hope he succeeds.  We also visited the Liberty Bell Park and Independence Hall and then we sat down at the bar at the Red Owl Tavern and I enjoyed, no, I profoundly enjoyed a pour of George Dickel Rye Whisky, neat.

3.  We decided to see what Philadelphia's Sugar House Casino was like. I played a little bit and retired to a table at the Refinery Bar in the casino where I charged my phone and slowly sipped away on the House Ale brewed by the Yards Brewery in Philadelphia. Before long, Ed, Mike, and I were back on the Megabus, flush with excitement about our Philadelphia day trip. We had a very interesting visit with a friendly and talkative woman who has worked at the Pentagon and now works for the Department of the Navy and we learned a lot of great stuff about her work, D. C., and her life living in Wisconsin, D.C., Virginia, and Philadelphia. She was taking a test in morning in the D.C. area for becoming certified as a project manager and I wish I had a way of finding out if she passed. I fervently hope she did.