Friday, May 26, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/25/17: Costco for Molly, Roasted Cauliflower Salad, Remembering the Tahini Days

1.  I volunteered to make a Costco trip for the Diazes in preparation for Adrienne and Jack's visit over the this coming weekend. I had Molly's list in hand on my phone (the Out of Milk app), but as always happens when I shop for Molly, I was gripped by uncertainty. What does she mean, apples, but not green or red? Grapes.  Should I get red or green? Are frozen fruit bars the same as popsicles? Does Costco have this chunky guacamole? Shredded cheese -- Mexican or mild cheddar? Text messages flew between Costco and chez Diaz and Molly patiently helped me find the goods she wanted, even sending me a picture of what the chunky guacamole packaging looks like. I succeeded. I delivered the groceries and then went to MOM's and did some shopping of my own.

2. The Deke had found a recipe on Pinterest for roasted cauliflower salad with spicy chickpeas and a lemon tahini dressing. I loved making it. I love roasting cauliflower (with red onion bits) because the roasting makes the florets taste like candy and, likewise, roasting the onion sweetens it up, too. The lemon in the dressing and the cumin and pepper flakes covering the skillet fried chickpeas gave this salad a nearly perfect blend of acid, sweetness, and heat and it was all made earthy by the tahini and the chopped parsley. Debbie and I were astonished by how delicious this recipe turned out. It's here.

3.  Making the tahini lemon dressing transported me back to Eugene over twenty years ago to a time when I was single and trying out recipes from a Lebanese cookbook I have since lost, a cookbook, by the way, that I purchased at the Book Bin during its short life span on the corner of 8th and Willamette (I think) in Eugene -- where Sushi Ya is now, right? I used to buy tahini in bulk at the Kiva or at Oasis/Wild Oats and I used to love making hummus out of this cookbook and, even more, I loved baking snapper and topping it with a tahini sauce. I wondered tonight if the lemon tahini dressing I made would work as a topping for baked tilapia and possibly help me approximate the pleasure of that recipe I've lost.  We'll see. I loved having tahini back in the kitchen. I don't think I've had tahini around since since the early days of being married to the Deke -- back then, I was cooking for Patrick and Molly as middle and high schoolers and the Lebanese stuff didn't go over very well! Ha! Now it would!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/24/17: Keeping Current About Mom, Touring the Teamsters' HQ, Kale and Podcasts

1. Christy, Carol, and I are working together to help Mom by writing to each other almost daily.  Our communications over the last twenty-four hours have been especially good, filled with goodwill, solid information, and constant care for Mom and each other.  Both Christy and Carol report that the rehab/physical therapy work Mom does is tiring her out and also helping her get a little stronger -- and it's also helping keep her edema settled down.

2. Today I shook hands with James P. Hoffa (Jimmy Hoffa's son), the General President of the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters.  Earlier in the week, I signed up for a tour of the Teamsters' national headquarters at Louisiana and D NW near Union Station.

While our group gathered in the lobby, our tour guide said, "Well, I'll be. There's Mr. Hoffa!" She invited him over and he welcomed us and talked briefly about the building and the frieze overlooking the lobby depicting scenes from the history of the Teamsters.  He was very proud that the frieze was done by the same artist who created the figures at the WWII Memorial on the National Mall. He shook each tour member's hand and darted off. The tour itself was informative and added to my ever increasing store of knowledge about the history of labor in the USA.  This was the third activity I attended during the month-long LaborFest DC. Next year, when LaborFest comes around again in May, I hope to see more of the LaborFest movies and participate in more activities.

3. Today, I remembered back to the very early 1980s when Dan and Betsy had moved into a new house and grew kale in their back yard. I had kale for the first time with Dan and Betsy and liked it a lot.  So, when I fix kale now, these nearly forty years later, I think of Dan and Betsy, and I thought of them late this afternoon as I cut ribbons of kale and prepared a lemon and oil vinaigrette to pour over them and then made a salad by adding cooked barley, chopped avocado, sunflower seeds, chopped red onion, garbanzo beans, and crumbled feta cheese to the kale. Sound good? Check out the recipe, here.

Let me add something else. The Deke and I relaxed this evening listening to podcasts, first from Inside Appalachia and then from Gravy. I had listened before to the Gravy episodes on the history of maize/corn, here,  and on the lasting influence of Ernest Mickler Matthew's book White Trash Cooking, here.

I hadn't, however, listened to the episode from Inside Appalachia looking at the historical roots between Pentecostal gospel music and rock n' roll through the fascinating story of gospel singer and electric guitar virtuoso Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  The episode also included segments exploring the history of the song "Amazing Grace" and featuring photographer Roger May and his work making pictures of tent revival meetings. The episode ended with a segment on the struggles of one man to stay put in his Appalachian home town. This episode is a compelling hour of interviews and music and you can find it here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/23/17: Monthly Visit, Cooking Project Ahead, Beer Talk and Popcorn

1. Maybe it's just the satisfaction of staying on schedule, of doing what I'm supposed to do. Maybe it's because Melody who works the front desk is so friendly and full of life. For whatever reason, I again enjoyed my visit this morning to LabCorp to have my monthly blood draw and felt some sadness that if the time is coming for me to spend a long stretch of time in Kellogg, I will miss making my monthly visit to this office.

2. Adrienne and Jack are coming to Maryland Saturday for a three day visit at the Diazes and today I contacted Molly to start working out plans for evening meals while they are here. We have plans made for Saturday and Sunday and I am happy that I have a cooking project to look forward to. It's just what I want and need to keep myself doing constructive things when I'm so weighed down by concern for Mom and my sisters and as I work with the Deke to figure out what we will do once the school year ends.

3. The Deke and I had a good talk over a couple of slow pints of beer at Old Line after school. We were both a little bit giddy that Old Line had Union Brewing's Double Duckpin Imperial IPA on tap. It's one of our favorites and not often available. The Deke and I haven't (and in some ways, can't) settled on a firm plan yet for the upcoming months, but we might be inching closer to deciding what to do and facing the challenge of how to go about it.

As we left Old Line, I mentioned that I'd been hankering a bit for popcorn and we hadn't indulged in a popcorn dinner for quite a while, so the second we arrived back at our apartment home, I went straight to the kitchen and popped us a fun and tasty mountain of buttery popcorn.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/22/17: Floppin' in the Fight Against Anxiety, Mexican Coleslaw, Trip to Dulles

1. Mom's illness and the many challenges it presents to our family is weighing heavily on my mind and I am doing my best to, at once, deal with the challenges and questions and do things each day that help relieve me of my anxiety. I'm not looking for escape.  I am doing things that help relieve the weight of the pressure I feel. About the best thing I can do is get out of the house and get moving. Walking all those steps in Washington, D. C. was perfect, as was the tour I went on and seeing Dick and Renae and talking about so many things, light and heavy, was not only fun, but a great lift to my spirits. Talking with the Deke helps immeasurably -- our conversations help give me perspective and always increase the range of possibility for how to move forward.

This is all to say that I loved floppin' around in the pool today. I missed my water aerobics class last week because of my echo stress test on my heart and today I loved jogging, doing jumping jacks, cross country skiing, stretching, jumping, and all the other movements we all do together. I extended my workout after class by twenty-five minutes and then soaked in the hot tub for ten minutes.

It's as if walking or going to the pool wears out my anxiety, as if getting a little bit tired with physical activity depletes the energy I need to feel anxious and pressured. I really don't know why it helps so much, but I am grateful that my once troublesome feet don't bother me at all and that I can get out and move around without discomfort and relieve myself of the sensations of anxiety, even as the causes remain.

2.  Anything I do in the kitchen, whether it's chop, clean, or cook, also takes the pressure off.

This morning, when I dropped the Deke off at school, I asked her what she might like for dinner. She told me she had sent me a recipe for a salad on Pinterest a couple days ago, but she couldn't remember what it was. Back home, I found a recipe. It was for Mexican Coleslaw -- it advertised itself as "taco salad meets coleslaw".  I was all in. The recipe is simple, creamy, and loaded with flavor ranging from the sweetness of corn to the mild heat of jalapeno pepper to the smokiness of the paprika to the blend of spices in the homemade taco seasoning I made.  The recipe for the coleslaw is here and you can see what you think of the taco seasoning, here.  

3.  After my session in the aquatic center, I listened to a voice mail from Hiram. He asked for a ride home at about 8:30 from Dulles Airport. No problem. Even after living here for nearly three years, I feel this sense of awe that I live where I do -- that I drive on the Capital Beltway and am just an under an hour away from Dulles, a place that has become nearly mythical over the years -- it always seemed history was about to be made in some dramatic way because of some important person coming into or departing from Dulles.   I picked up Hiram and listened to his stories about his time in northwest Washington state without making history, without becoming a part of Dulles International Airport lore and legend. We didn't attract coverage from The Washington Post either.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/21/17: The Deke and Molly, Bonus Army Documentary, Small Test Kitchen Project

1. After such a full day on Saturday, I stayed home today. For a while this morning, the Deke and I continued to try to figure out what is next for us. Mom was at the center of our conversation. We will pick up this conversation soon. For the Deke, today was a day with Molly and the grandchildren. David was sick and Molly is home alone and the Deke went over to give Molly some help and to enjoy some time with her.

2.  I finished yesterday's walking tour particularly interested in the mass of WWI soldiers, known as "The Bonus Army", who camped and demonstrated in Washington, D. C. in 1932 so that they might redeem bonds they'd been issued after the war for their service in the war. Because of the Great Depression, these veterans wanted to redeem these bonds early and not wait until the 1945 date the legislation creating this program had established for when the bonds could be cashed in. The Hoover administration called in the army to end the demonstrations and destroy the encampments. PBS made a short documentary about these men and our government, here, and I watched it today.

3. It didn't amount to much, but it was fun. After I watched several episodes of Chopped: After Hours, I thought about what might be easy to prepare and give me a chance to do some test kitchen cooking, so I finely chopped up a shallot, along with some celery, some ginger, and a couple or three baby carrots. I forgot the garlic. I added salt and pepper and oregano. I cooked this combination in hot oil until nearly tender and then poured black beans out of a can over it and let it all heat up together. In a separate pan, I heated up oil and fried small corn tortillas until they were crisp and broke them into pieces and put them over the beans and topped it with freshly grated parmesan cheese. It was tasty, easy, and I think I'll play with this idea some more and see if some kind of a dish or soup or casserole or something results.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/20/17: Walking Tour of DC, SingleCut at Church Key, Gabbin' with Dick and Renae

1. I sprang into action early this morning and roared in the Sube down to Union Station, parked the car, hopped on a Metro train, and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a scone at Peet's before joining a group of people at the AFL-CIO for a walking tour of labor history in Washington, D. C.  After a three day heat wave with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, today it was cool, overcast, and breezy, perfect conditions for a walk that took just under three hours. Because so many labor organizations have major offices in the Washington, D. C., the tour was, in many ways, a walk through the history of the Knights of Labor, a little bit of the I. W. W., the AFL, the CIO, their merger, the Teamsters and other labor groups. One of the group members knew a lot about Frances Perkins and when we arrived at the Department of Labor building, he spoke at length about her many contributions to the projects of Franklin Roosevelt and her commitment, as an Episcopalian, to social justice. We learned about the Bonus Army demonstrations of 1932 and the use of the the US military to disband these demonstrations and burn the tent cities and all the veterans' and their families' belongings. The walk ended on the AmTrak level of Union Station, right next to a Starbucks I've frequented, and there stood the statue of A. Philip Randolph. I had been oblivious to it every time I've been on that level of the station and when I returned to the Sube in the evening, I returned to the statue, read the inscription more closely, and thought more about all he'd done to organize workers and advocate for social justice.

2. I hopped back on a train to the North Farragut Metro station and then walked about fifteen minutes to ChurchKey, one of my favorite taprooms. I hadn't been to ChurchKey for well over a year. I was happy to see that it was only moderately busy so that it was easy to grab a seat at the bar, listen to Mose Allison being played on the sound system, have some quiet time alone with my thoughts, and order an IPA from a favorite brewery, SingleCut located in Queens -- Astoria, to be precise. I couple months ago, I'd drunk a couple snifters of SingleCut's Softly Spoken Magic Spells, a dynamite Imperial IPA and, today, I again drank a couple of snifters, but this time it was another tasty and satisfying Imperial American IPA called Is This the Real Life. I nursed these two beers and ate a ChurchKey burger, resting my legs after racking up well over 10,000 steps on D. C. concrete. Other beers on the tap list tempted me, but I didn't want any more alcohol and then a text message I'd been anticipating came in.

3. Dick and Renae Costa and I had a general plan to meet in Washington, D.C. this afternoon, but hadn't worked out the specifics. I've known Dick my whole life and I got to know Renae over forty years ago when she came to the Kellogg School District to teach school and used to carpool with my mom and Nancy Carter.

The much anticipated text message was from Renae. She and Dick were on a train bearing down on the McPherson Square Station, just ten or so minutes from ChurchKey. I settled my bill and strolled down 14th St. and met Dick and Renae at the Five Guys right next to the station.

We gabbed while Dick and Renae enjoyed their lunch and then we set out back toward ChurchKey and decided to go to a neighborhood bar familiar to Dick and Renae, The Drafting Table. Next time I'm in the Logan Circle neighborhood, I'll return to the Drafting Table. I enjoyed the vibe of the place and found it very comfortable.

Dick, Renae, and I had a great time and covered a lot of ground as we yakked about our parents, life in Kellogg, great memories, medical events, and the general state of the Union. We didn't quite get to the point of solving the world's problems, but we were getting close. Dick and Renae are staying in D. C. with friends Renae went to high school with in North Dakota, Bill and Barb, and they arrived at The Drafting Table and joined in our gabfest. I was reluctant to leave, but I gathered myself, jumped into an Uber for a ride to Union Station, and had an easy drive back to Maryland.

It was a perfect day: lots of walking in D. C., learning more about this fascinating city, enjoying a couple of slow snifters of great beer at ChurchKey, and getting to spend a few hours with great friends from back home in Kellogg.  I returned to Maryland beaming.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/19/17:Phone Call with Mom, Stir Fry, Inside Appalachia

 1. It was 10:30 a.m. in Kellogg and I got a text message from Mom's phone. Mom doesn't text, so I knew it was from Christy or Carol. Carol texted me wondering if I'd like to call Mom, that it would be a good time. Mom and Carol were sitting outside the Kindred facility, soaking up some sun, and enjoying the well-kept grounds. Mom and I had a good conversation about her lunch at Applebee's and what she ate and how much she was enjoying flowers coming into bloom. She's been fighting a cough this past week, but didn't cough at all during our conversation and her mind was working really well -- she was coherent and wasn't confused about anything. Mom wanted to know if the Deke and I have made summer plans yet, and I had to say that we aren't sure yet just how we'll work things out for coming out to Idaho and Oregon.

2.  I volunteered to make dinner to take over to Molly's. I made another recipe out of Cook's All-Time Best Asian Recipes -- this time a no meat stir fry with tofu, carrots, and eggplant. I wish I had digital copy of the recipe, but suffice it to say that the glaze poured over the tofu and the ginger/garlic oil mix added later and the sauce that went over the vegetables in the end made for a very tasty meal combining the flavors of soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame, ginger, garlic, and the tofu and vegetables. I knew the children would not be interested, so I fried them chicken thighs that turned out great.

3. Upon returning to our apartment home, the Deke and I listened to an episode of the podcast Inside Appalachia, entitled, "Inside Appalachia, West Virginia Mine Wars History", here. I had listened to this program a while back and thought we might enjoy it after seeing the movie, Matewan, on Tuesday night. I thought about all the ways these conflicts in West Virginia paralleled the labor conflicts in the Silver Valley back home and made me wonder if I might once again read J. Anthony Lukas' extraordinary and sprawling book about the mining wars out west at the turn of the century, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/18/17: Mom in CdA, Tam Cut My Hair, Enjoying Natty Boh-Tinis

1. Mom needed her toe nails checked out and clipped and so Christy and Everett drove her to Coeur d'Alene to a podiatrist. Christy reports that the appointment went very well.  Mom, however, was confused about a lot of things when Christy and Everett arrived to transport her to CdA. She was also confused when she talked about different things at Applebee's and while riding in the car. Christy is looking forward to Friday, May 19th, her first day in a month with no appointments, for herself or Mom, and not having to work so she can spend time planting her garden.  I have posted pictures from Mom's day below.

2. I have had great fortune in Greenbelt with getting my hair cut. Until she had a baby and left the Hair Cuttery, I loved going to Angela for a haircut and now I see Tam. Tam is efficient and most pleasant to work with. Each time I come in, she remembers exactly how I want my hair to look and gives me a great cut.

3. Every so often, a group of employees from the county school district get together at Old Line and the Deke and I join in. Today's get together was lively. Stories about the disfunction of this school district flew around the table and people got a lot of discontent and alarming stories off their chests. Of course, I had nothing to add, but listened intently and added to my store of understanding of what has made the last three school years so difficult for the Deke. I also tried a different beverage: a Natty Boh-tini. It's a Baltimore beverage through and through and it's simple: a glass of Baltimore's National Bohemian beer served with Old Bay Seasoning around the glass's rim. It was a lot of fun and refreshing.

Pictures from May 18th featuring Mom and Everett having lunch at Applebee's and a bouquet of flowers that Christy picked from Mom's yard to brighten and freshen her room:






Thursday, May 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/17/17: Mom Update, To Dulles with Hiram, DC Labor History Tour

1. Mom had an appointment today in Kellogg with her cardiologist. There is nothing new to report -- no change in medication or new insights about Mom's condition. Kindred offers a transportation service and today Mom used that service. It made things immeasurably easier for Christy since she didn't face the challenges of helping Mom in and out of her vehicle and didn't have to wrestle with the wheelchair or with Mom's oxygen tank. Mom has one more appointment, on May 18th, in Coeur d'Alene. Then (fingers crossed), she doesn't have appointments for another month or so. Christy and Everett will take her to Cd'A. When they are both involved in transporting Mom, it all goes better. Mom wants to eat at Applebee's for lunch and that will be a boost to her morale.

2. Hiram flew to Seattle this morning for a gig in Washington state that will last about five days in Bellingham, Arlington, and Anacortes.  I leapt into the Sube and picked him up shortly before 6 a.m. and made my first ever drive to Washington Dulles International Airport. It was fun having some time to talk about different stuff with Hiram and I enjoyed that the drive went smoothly and that it only took about forty-five minutes or so to get out there and that I was back to Greenbelt in under an hour. The drive also increased my already deep appreciation for the fact that the Deke and I live so close to the Baltimore Washington International Airport. I have now made drives from our apartment home to Reagan International and Dulles and, by far, the easiest airport to get to for us is BWI.

3. I was excited all day about having seen Matewan last night and looked online to see what else is happening at DC LaborFest in the next few days. I learned that on Saturday morning, at 10, a group walking tour of the labor history of Washington, D. C. gets underway at the AFL-CIO building. I signed up. I look forward to walking in areas of DC I haven't been to, seeing things where I have been before that I didn't notice,  learning where different labor events occurred, and am especially interested in visiting the A. Philip Randolph Memorial -- I am certain I have blithely and blindly walked right by it many, many times in Union Station.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/16/17: Mom's Care Meeting, Costco Packed, John Sayles and Maggie Renzi and *Matewan*

1. Staff at Kindred held a care meeting with Mom and Christy and Carol to review the care Mom has received and to assess her condition. Christy and Carol were both impressed with how much knowledge each of the ten or so Kindred staff in the room had about Mom and how kind and positive the staff were in talking with Mom. I know Mom would have loved to have heard that she can go home, but, if and when she does, it will be a while -- and no one is saying it will be soon. From talking with Christy, I learned that Mom has reached some level of acceptance about staying at Kindred, which means she seems to be coming to grips with how compromised her health is. The staff encouraged Mom to go to the dining room for lunch and dinner and encouraged her to eat with Penny Benson because Penny really wants Mom's company.  She will continue with physical and occupational therapy and will work to regain some of the independence that comes with becoming more mobile and able to do some everyday tasks on her own.

2. I enjoyed shopping for food items we were out of at both MOM's and at Costco, with a quick trip to the Co-op for some salami, beer, and laundry detergent. Costco was packed on a Tuesday around noon and I marveled at how the shoppers represented so many different countries and enjoyed the sounds of English being spoken in so many different rhythms and with such a variety of musical sounds. I heard other languages, too, adding depth and breadth to the symphony of shoppers and Costco employees talking.

3. The Deke I went to the American Film Institute in Silver Spring to see a 30th anniversary screening of the Matewan, Mingo County, West Virginia coal mine labor war movie, Matewan. The movie screening was part of the 2017 DC LaborFest and featured the film's director, John Sayles and its producer, Maggie Renzi. Before the movie, the DC LaborFest presented Sayles with the Tony Mazzocchi Labor Arts Award. You can learn more about Tony Mazzocchi, here.

John Sayles has been one of my favorite movie directors since I first saw Return of the Secausus 7 in 1980. I also have loved Maggie Rezi's work in his movies and have admired all she's done as the producer of his movies.

Hearing John Sayles introduce Matewan tonight stirred up a lot of feeling in me. I admire Sayles for being, at once, an artist with vast creative talent as a writer of screenplays and novels, a director, and often the editor of his movies and, at the same time, unpretentious, emotionally involved in the subject matter of his work, deeply humane, and intellectually brilliant. Likewise, Maggie Renzi touched me with these very same qualities.

Their stories about the making of the movie and their commitment to the people and history of Matewan, West Virginia deepened my respect for Sayles and Renzi and helped to make this one of the most enjoyable evenings I've ever experienced. I had never even ever bothered to dream or imagine that one day I'd see John Sayles and Maggie Renzi in person, so this wasn't a dream come true. Instead it was one of the most satisfying surprises of my life and I am seriously thinking about driving to Matewan, West Virginia this fall when they will appear there to show and talk about this movie -- I just need to find the date and see if I will be in Maryland at that time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/15/17: Mom Update, Echo Stress Test, Day After Mother's Day with Molly

1. Christy drove Mom to see Dr. McDonald, Mom's primary care provider. Dr. McDonald kindly and firmly worked to help Mom understand how her condition has deteriorated over the last 3-6 months and that she needs to be in the presence of skilled nurses. It is best if she stay at Kindred. On Tuesday, the 16th, Mom, Christy, and Carol will attend a care meeting at Kindred with different staff members of the facility to further discuss Mom's situation.

2. I crawled along with the other cars in the stalled stop and go traffic on the Beltway shortly after 7 a.m. and made my way to the Heart Center in Silver Spring for an Echo Stress Test, the last of the tests required of me, until next spring, to remain on the kidney transplant list. I huffed and puffed on the slowly elevating, gradually speeding up treadmill until my heart rate reached the level the cardiologist wanted to see and after the tech took some more pictures and the nurse got my last blood pressure reading, I learned that my heart is in good shape.

3. Molly texted the Deke and me and wondered if we could all meet at Old Line. Molly wanted to give the Deke her Mother's Day gifts. We met. We ate some snacks and enjoyed some beers together and had a fun time yakkin' about all kinds of stuff and the Deke loved the flowers and the three photo portraits within a single frame that Molly made of Adrienne, Patrick, and Molly.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/14/17: Mother's Day in Kellogg, Burrowing In, Marcella Hazan and Egg and Tuna Salad

1.  Early in the Maryland evening -- in Kellogg, it is known as late in the afternoon -- I got a text message from Carol telling me it was a good time to call Mom. Mom asked for Mother's Day dinner at Christy's house. Her hope had been to eat outside in the backyard, but it rained, so Christy, Everett, Mom, Carol, Paul, Molly, and Travis ate inside at Christy's. Mom requested ribs and Christy fulfilled the request along with corn on the cob, and fresh fruit salad, and she made a strawberry buttermilk cake with ice cream for dessert. Earlier in the day, Jody Robinson, Mom's childhood friend of at least eighty years, along with her daughter, my lifelong friend Jeri and her husband, another lifelong friend of mine, Don Windisch, visited Mom for about an hour at Kindred. By all reports, this visit made Mom very happy and, on the phone, it sounded like she and the rest of the family were having a lot of fun eating dinner. It's been encouraging to know Mom has been having better days after she had a rough patch last week.

2. The Deke and burrowed in and relaxed in our apartment home on this lovely Mother's Day. Adrienne, Molly, and Patrick all talked to the Deke. I made a quick trip to the Co-op. The Deke got materials ready to help her finish out the school year. First we listened to Jonathan Schwartz's Sunday program on WNYC-FM, here. Then, we listened to a couple of episodes of The Lonely Palette podcast, one on Jackson Pollock, here, and the other on Edward Hopper, here.  Later, I played episodes of Eat the World with Emeril Lagrasse on Amazon Prime. The Deke listened while I watched on my Chromebook and we learned more about food and cooking in Sweden, Spain, Cuba, and Shangai. I've watched the Marcus Samulesson/Sweden episode at least four times now and love it. Aaron Sanchez was a splendid companion for Emeril Lagrasse in the fascinating Cuba episode. I love watching Lagrasse and Mario Batali roam the streets of Shanghai, visiting soup dumpling shops. And, Jose Andres was absolutely on fire showing Chef Emeril the modernist food innovations in Spain.

3. While we were taking in all these superb programs, I made the ever reliably silky, rich, flavorful Marcella Hazan tomato sauce and we enjoyed in poured over penne, topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Later, I returned to my modest version of the test kitchen and made an egg and tuna salad for the Deke to eat at work with pita bread and bread and butter pickles. I haven't quite perfected the egg salad/tuna salad yet, but I am determined to come as close to perfection as possible.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/13/17: Saturday with David, Minding the Grandchildren, Mom Enjoys the Flowers

1.  David slept in until nearly nine o'clock. He enjoyed oatmeal with brown sugar for breakfast and then he and the Deke went to the library, picked up a few things at the store, and returned to our apartment home. They had bought a part of a very sweet watermelon and David plunged into a bowl of watermelon cubes and was unreserved in telling us how much he loves watermelon. He stayed with us until mid-afternoon and was easy to have around, thanks in large part to his well-developed ability to keep himself busy all on his own. He told us that some time he'd like to spend two nights, not just one.

2. Hiram and Molly and Hiram's brother and girlfriend had tickets to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform at the Swarthmore in Bethesda tonight, so the Deke and I watched Olivia, David, and Ana -- which didn't require a lot of us. Yes, David and Olivia resisted -- weakly, I might add -- the idea of going to bed when they wanted, instead, to play Zelda on their video game console, but the Deke was calm and firm in her approach to prying them away from the console and sending them to bed. It was an easy evening -- in fact, the Deke and I each took over a couch and slept quite a bit until the concert goers returned.

3.  Christy and Carol's reports from Kellogg comforted me. Mom seems to be feeling better. If the Wednesday trip to Post Falls tired her out quite a bit, she seems to have recovered well and she's looking forward to a Mother's Day dinner over at Christy's.  Carol ordered Mom a bouquet of Mother's Day flowers from the Deke and me that would work well in her room at Kindred and Mom really enjoys them. In fact, Carol took a picture of Mom, looking pretty good, I think, with the bouquet:


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/12/17: Mom Update, Ana and the Dulcimer, Fried Chicken for David

1. My impression is that on Thursday on into Friday morning, Mom was pretty worn out from her doctor's visit to Post Falls and slept a lot and her temperature was elevated some. She was still tired Friday evening, but Christy and Carol report that she seems physically a bit stronger and not feverish. Christy and Carol wheeled her out of her room and they sat and visited in a sitting area for about a half an hour.  She will go to Christy's house for Mother's Day dinner. She requested ribs. Mom will be making several trips out of the facility this coming week when she sees her Primary Care Provider, her cardiologist, and visits a foot doctor in Cd'A for help with her toenails.

2.  Molly picked up the Deke and brought Ana and David over to our apartment home in the late afternoon. David stayed for a sleepover. While Ana was here, she and the Deke sang some tunes together and then the Deke let Ana strum on a dulcimer and soon Ana was singing and strumming in rhythm. It was kind of outrageous.

3. Knowing David would be eating dinner with us, I tried to remember back to when I was five years old and what I enjoyed eating and recalled what I've seen David enjoy.

Of course.

Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Corn.

I floured our last four chicken thighs and cooked them in hot oil in the cast iron skillet, making the outside, top and bottom, crisp. Then I turned the heat down and slow cooked the thighs until done. I also made the mashed potatoes and heated up a bag of frozen corn. With some instruction from the Deke, I made chicken gravy and it turned out smooth and flavorful, not bad for my first real try at making gravy. In the past, I've always, well, chickened out and turned the making of the gravy over to the Deke -- or, in Kellogg, to Mom. But not tonight! I put on my big boy apron and made the gravy and next time I have the chance, I'll make it again.

It turned out that David isn't crazy about potatoes just yet, but he loved the chicken and corn and an hour or so after dinner, I popped popcorn and the three of us had a fun popcorn party.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/11/17: Minding Ana and David, Baked Tilapia Curry, John Sayles Tickets

I don't have any news or any update about Mom today.

1. This morning Molly texted me a request to come over to Chez Diaz to sit with Ana and be there when David got off the school bus close to noon. Molly had an appointment and Hiram was teaching a lesson and they needed to fill a 45-60 minute gap when neither of them could be home. I arrived around 11:30 and Ana was deep into apple slices and goldfish crackers and Dora was on the television. Ana was calm and only got a little bit excited when David arrived, but settled right down and sat on the couch with me to read a couple of books. At school, David made clay models on a circle divided into quarters of the life cycle of a butterfly and explained to me how the butterfly went from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. He had made clay figures of each stage.

2. Back home, I relaxed with an acrostic puzzle. Eventually I finely chopped a shallot and cut thin slices of red pepper. I cooked them in canola oil until tender and then added a heaping teaspoon of green curry paste and heated it for a short while. I added a can of coconut milk, a tablespoon of lime juice, and a teaspoon each of brown sugar and fish sauce. Later, after I picked up the Deke from school and we relaxed for a while, I laid salt and peppered tilapia pieces in a Pyrex baking pan, poured the curry sauce over them, and baked the fish until done. Earlier, I had made jasmine rice. When I removed the fish from the oven, I let it rest for about five minutes or so and topped it with chopped cilantro leaves. The recipe is here.

I now think of tilapia as the tofu of fish. It's light, doesn't have a lot of taste of its own, but works really well as a centerpiece in curry dishes, Mediterranean ones, fishcakes, the Brazilian fish stew I have made, and with other strongly flavored recipes.  It's been fun to try out recipes using talapia.

3. Matewan, a coal labor war movie, came out in 1987 and to commemorate its 30th anniversary, the American Film Institute in Silver Spring is showing it on May 16th and featuring director John Sayles in a question and answer session. For many years, starting in 1980, John Sayles directed a string of movies I loved -- The Return of the Secaucus 7, Lianna, Baby It's You, Eight Men Out, Passion Fish, Lone Star, and others. This evening, I bought the Deke and me tickets to go to the screening of Matewan. I hope the question and answer session is fun -- even though I often don't enjoy such sessions -- BUT, I went to a screening of Atlantic City back in August, 2014 that was followed by a most enjoyable question and answer session featuring Burt Lancaster's daughter, Joanna. So, maybe the John Sayles one will be good, too.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/10/17: Mom's Unstable, Working Out is a Relief, Tilapia -- Mediterranean Style

1. Christy and Everett drove Mom to see a cardiologist in Post Falls. Mom's condition is unstable. As is common with people with congestive heart failure, her heart rate and blood pressure are unstable. Her physical balance is not stable. Her weight fluctuates. It goes down when she takes diuretics, and the excess fluids get flushed, but then she loses too much weight, and must go off the diuretic, and the fluid builds up again. The doctor provided target weights that Mom should not go below and above.  Mom will continue her rehab program.

It was a tough day for Christy. Mom was in pain during the drive down and back. Mom can be cranky. Mom is very fortunate that Christy and Everett are free to take her to the doctor and that Christy is so attentive and takes such good notes while the doctor talks with Mom.  It's all taxing.

2. I returned to the aquatic center today and worked out in the pool for an hour, stretching, jogging in place with water weights, doing other exercises, and spending twenty minutes doing an old football agility drill and then running laps in the pool. Physically, the workout felt really good and, mentally, it helped lift some of the anxiety I'm feeling about various uncertainties -- Mom, the Deke resigning her job, when to go to Kellogg, and other things.

3. I chopped up kalamata olives, halved cherry tomatoes, and measured out a third of a cup of capers. I roasted these in a glass baking pan and then pushed them aside and laid down pieces of tilapia. I covered the fish with the tomato mixture, poured a blend of lemon juice and olive oil over it all, and returned it all to the oven, along with some leftover jasmine rice, until the fish was done cooking. When I took fish out, I covered it and the tomato mixture with basil and feta cheese. It was an excellent Mediterranean style dinner -- and, fortunately, we had some tabouli salad in one container and cucumber lemon yogurt salad in another and each went deliciously with the fish dish. I pretty much followed this recipe in preparing the fish.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/09/17: Mom's Busy Day, Tilapia Delay, Old Bay Bloody Mary

1.  When I talked to Mom today on the phone, she'd had quite a day. She had an MRI done in the morning and then, back at Kindred Care, she had physical therapy sessions. (I don't differentiate between occupational and physical -- and Mom didn't make it clear to me if she'd had two sessions or three.) She sounded stronger to me today than yesterday and not as hoarse. I could tell she was tired. Her speech was slow and I think she was trying to come up with things to tell me about. She told me, and Christy and Carol have also said the same, that she is gradually getting stronger, thanks to the rehab she is going through.

2. As I've said before, I'm dealing with my anxiety during the day by working in the kitchen. I found a recipe for tilapia that I wanted to prepare late this afternoon, but the Deke wanted to grade papers at Old Line over a couple of beers and when we returned home, we decided to eat the leftover curry from last night. I'll fix the tilapia on Wednesday.

3. At Old Line, Kristin, our bartender, told me a little bit about Natty Boh (National Bohemian) beer and the Boh-tini. It's a glass of Natty Boh rimmed with Old Bay Seasoning. Then Kristin told me that when she drinks a Bloody Mary, she always rims the glass with Old Bay Seasoning.  This piqued my curiosity, so when I finished my half pint of Union/Heavy Seas Collaboration Old Ale, I ordered a Bloody Mary the way Kristin likes it. It was really good. I stopped after drinking one.

Later, during an evening of playing America's Test Kitchen in our apartment home, I made The Deke some egg salad for a sandwich for her Wednesday lunch, and judiciously seasoned it with Old Bay Seasoning.

I think it works.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/08/17: Mom Sounds Tired, Aerobic Therapy, Cooking Helps A Lot

1. When I talked to Mom on the phone today, she sounded tired and hoarse. Losing water weight is helping her physical strength, Christy and Carol both report.  I am glad she had lunch with Penny Benson and that Teresa Baillie was there, too, at lunch, visiting. Mom's confusion about things persists. I heard some of her confusion on the phone. Christy and Carol wrote me about more things she's confused about. On May 9th she will have an MRI and has an appointment about her heart disease in Post Falls on May 10th.

2.  Floppin' around in the pool today at my water aerobics class, adding twenty minutes of workout to what we did in class, and lying in the aquatic center's hot tub for about twenty minutes helped settle my nerves and soothe my anxiety.  In times of difficulty, my experience has been that it's often physical activity or exercise that is the first to go by the wayside. I know when I'm in Kellogg, helping out with Mom, I don't get out much for walks, let alone some floppin' around in a pool.  Floppin' around and running laps in the pool after class got me out of my head for a while, at least, and that is always good.

3.  More than eating, cooking, working in the kitchen, is a good way for me to get some respite from the sometimes paralyzing flurry of thoughts and complicated feelings I have right now. I returned to green curry today served over jasmine rice because I still had eggplant, zucchini, and green beans in the fridge and I wanted to make good use of one of the blocks of tofu I still had.  I went to MOM's and picked up a red pepper and a bunch of green onions. I thought the green curry I made last week was pretty good and tonight's might have been even better tasting. I do know this: in many ways, the chopping of vegetables and the crackle they make when they hit the hot sesame oil in the cast iron skillet and the fragrance of the curry paste and the combination of fish sauce and sugar all combined to bring me pleasure and temporarily removed me from the uncertainty I feel, as well as my longing that things here in Greenbelt were simpler.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/07/17: Mom's Sunday, Comfort Soup, Music Store and Breweries

1. I talked to Mom this morning. Carol comes to her room in the morning and has re-established the routines she and Mom had been doing at home:  weigh Mom, take her blood pressure, check her oxygen levels, see about her heart rate. Mom's weight looked good. She's definitely expelled excess fluid caused by edema. Her blood pressure (118/74)was the best I can remember for a long time and her heart rate is at a much slower rate than it was last month. Her oxygen levels are very good. From where I sit, it looks like Mom's time at Kindred is helping her. She is back to being able to get out of bed on her own. This is especially important when she's taking the diuretic. I have no measure available to know if Mom is keeping herself hydrated. I know she finds it perplexing that she takes a pill that makes her have to do the hard work of visiting the bathroom more frequently and that, at the same time, shoe needs to be drinking plenty of fluids and staying hydrated.

In her update for today, Carol wrote that in the hour or so before the sun set on Sunday, she and Mom spent some time outside in the sun at Kindred.

2. There is a lot of uncertainty in the Deke's and my life right now regarding just what we are going to do next, once the Deke leaves her job, and with Mom's situation. After a week of medical tests and keeping up on the news about Mom and starting to work out the future with the Deke (everything is still on the table), I had a strong desire for comfort food around lunch time.

I peeled and cut up about six potatoes and boiled the pieces until they were tender. I also chopped up onion, carrot, and celery and sauteed them in a stick of butter. After these vegetables started to tenderize, I poured enough chicken stock over them just to cover them. let the vegetables get more tender, and then poured in the cooked potatoes. I mixed in a quarter cup of flour, stirred it up, and then added three cups of milk. I heated it all up and the Deke and I had comforting bowls of potato soup for lunch.

3.  Just before 3 o'clock, the Deke and I piled into the Sube and headed to Takoma Park, suburb about 20-25 minutes away, for a visit to The House of Musical Traditions, a music store filled with accordions, drums, guitars, mandolins, dulcimers, strings, picks, song books, posters advertising shows from the past and events to come -- in other words, for the Deke, this place is heaven. The Deke is getting ready for the July 22nd Babes with Axes concert and needed some picks and strings and stuff. Just five minutes away from this store sits 3 Star Brewing --- a brewery I'd visited once, but the Deke and I hadn't been to together.  I sampled three beers in 4 oz glasses and the Deke enjoyed an Imperial Pecan Brown Ale and then, as we are inclined to do, we drove fifteen minutes east to DC Brau and made our regular Sunday appearance for some Wings of Armageddon and some yakkin' with Angela and Mike who were running the tasting room.

Mike has a friend who lives in Glide, OR, and finding this out brought back a flurry of pleasant images of the North Umpqua River, of visiting Clearwater Falls, Watson Falls, and others, of the wild rhodies on the Watson Falls trail, and of the colliding rivers at Glide. It was fun taking a drive in my memory back on Highway 138, one of my favorite stretches of road in the USA.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/06/17: Mom Update, Egg Salad, Hanging Out with Molly

1. I tried to call Mom but she didn't pick up. I texted Christy and Carol about this and, later in the day, Christy called me from Mom's bedside and so I talked with Mom. She sounded tired. She told me she enjoyed the Cinco de Mayo lunch they had on Friday. She told me she's doing her best to get better. She sounded tired. Later in the day, Christy and Carol took Mom on a tour of the facility and she saw Penny Benson and Ray Faraca, two longtime friends, and she saw our longtime family friend and my high school classmate and great friend, Carol Fulton Jacobs. Carol was there visiting her father. Another classmate, Pam Bloom Sample, is a nurse at Kindred and Mom was her second grade teacher over fifty-five years ago. Mom recognized Pam and was happy to see another friendly and familiar face.

2. I had fun making an egg salad based on the recipe I used the other night to make tilapia fish cakes. This was the Deke's idea. The Deke strung her guitar and started playing different passages as she begins to get herself in shape to perform with The Babes with Axes on July 22nd.

3. Molly came over mid-afternoon to help us do some reorganizing in our apartment home and when she finished stage 1, we decided to go to Old Line to have some food and some beer and yak about stuff. It was a stellar party together with conversations ranging between stuff going on in the present and talking about some of the good times and some of the bewildering times in our shared past.  The Deke and Molly took a self-portrait at Old Line:


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/05/17: Mom Update, Mahogany Chicken Thighs, Electric Ana

1. The best news regarding Mom's second day at Kindred Care is that, thanks to Christy's phone call and the quick work of Heather, Mom's cardiologist's nurse in Coeur d'Alene, the order for Mom's diuretic came right through and Mom is taking the diuretic again. Mom had been taken off the diuretic at the hospital when she was so dehydrated earlier in the week, but without it, her problems with edema accelerate and being back on the diuretic should help her flush excess fluid out of her system.  It's tricky. She needs to expel the fluid from the edema and stay hydrated, too.

2. Last weekend, the Deke bought me in issue of Cook's Illustrated entitled"All-Time Best Asian Recipes". Today I got to plunge into one of the recipes: Mahogany Chicken Thighs. I'd say it's a teriyaki-ish dish -- I mean, maybe it's straight up teriyaki -- I just don't have the expertise to make that call. What I do know is that I loved this recipe. I love buying big packs of chicken thighs at Costco and I had a bunch on hand.

The list of ingredients for this recipe intrigued me. The first thing I did was combine water, soy sauce, sherry, sugar, molasses, and distilled white vinegar in our 12 inch cast iron skillet, and stirred the solution to dissolve the sugar.  I then placed the chicken pieces in the skillet and tucked smashed pieces of garlic and ginger between the pieces and let it simmer for five minutes before putting the skillet in the oven for 30 minutes at 300 degrees, took the skillet out, turned the chicken pieces over, and returned it to the oven for another 25 minutes or so. I removed the skillet from the oven, plated the chicken, defatted the cooking liquid, and with the addition of water and cornstarch, made a sauce to go over the rice I served with the chicken. If you'd like to read the recipe for quantities and a few other details, just go here.

3. I packed up dinner, picked up the Deke, and we steamed headlong in the Sube to the Diazes for dinner together. I experienced the snow-capped summit of my life cooking food when BOTH Olivia and David LIKED the mahogany chicken thighs. We not only enjoyed dinner together, but we spent much of the evening being entertained by Ana's seemingly endless knowledge as she answered questions posed to her about animals and family members and sang her ever increasing repertoire of songs. She performed some of them as sing-alongs with the Deke. She is a live wire, full of energy, curiosity, and a love for having fun.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/04/17: Mom at Kindred, Thank You to the Pros, Everything's on the Table

1. Christy took Mom over to the nursing home and helped get her admitted and into her room. Christy reports that the staff were good to work with. Mom knows some people who are residing at Kindred. I hope she will get out of her room and visit with other residents. I know she's been chatty with the nurses and I know she found out that her speech therapist comes from right here in Greenbelt, MD where his dad worked for NASA at the Goddard Center.  I'm hope she has a good Friday as she gets settled in a bit more.

2. It took Maria at the Johns Hopkins clinic in Fulton about two seconds to check my TB skin test and tell me that I don't have tuberculosis. Even though our meeting was brief, Maria made a very positive impression on me and, later in the day, when she called me to say that neither of the fax numbers worked -- I gave her these numbers so she could send the test results to Baltimore -- I was doubly impressed with Maria's conscientiousness and her determination to help make sure that the result got reported and the process of keeping me listed keeps moving apace. I have had a very good week with kind and solicitous medical professionals and it's actually made having to get these tests done a pleasure.

3. That table that has everything on it -- the one where the Deke and I lay out possibilities for our future -- you know the one I'm talking about, right? Well, it's got some radical possibilities on it, placed on the table at Old Line tonight where we went late this afternoon so the Deke could wind down from another difficult day at work and we could talk about our future, with special attention on the recent developments in Kellogg and Mom's serious and complicated health problems. We keep what's on the table to ourselves, but we do tell friends and family what decision we've made when we make one.  I can't tell just yet if we are close to a decision or how many more possibilities we might still pile on the table.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/03/17: Mom to Rehab, My Cardiology Appointment, Hung Phat and Green Curry

1. Christy called me this afternoon while she and Carol and Mom and the Loving Care person were discussing Mom's immediate future and the medical attention and care she needs. I agreed with my sisters that the best approach is for Mom to be admitted to Kindred Nursing Home and Rehabilitation across the street for what we hope is a short stay focused on rehabilitation, on building her physical strength through physical therapy. I talked to Mom on the phone this evening about this decision and, at the very least, she put up a brave front with me and is on board with this move. For a variety of reasons, the home care option can't work at this point.

2. This morning I braved the stacked traffic and delays on the Beltway because of a crash and road work and paid a visit to cardiologist Dr. Herman Segal in downtown Silver Spring.  After his nurse administered an EKG, Dr. Segal and I had an excellent talk about my medical history and he examined me and listened to my heart and lungs. All indications are that my heart is in good shape. The EKG uncovered no problems. I will return to the Silver Spring office on May 15th for a stress echo test and it looks like that will be the last thing I need to do to stay on the transplant list. I got the results of both my chest x-ray and kidney ultrasound today and neither recommended any further testing.

I also heard from the Nurse Coordinator assigned to my case and she will present my case to remain listed to the committee on Friday. The only number that is either not better or the same as when I was listed two years ago? I've gained about eight pounds. Not one of the medical professional expressed concern about this, but I'd like to get shed some pounds.

3.  I left Dr. Segal's office and headed over to Whole Foods, just for the heck of it. I went to the sandwich bar and, after eating half of my sandwich and packing up the other half, I did some shopping. It was a little bit like being back at Market of Choice in Eugene again and I enjoyed that, but nothing about Whole Foods made me wish I lived nearer to one. In fact, I far prefer the Co-op and MOM's for my day to day grocery shopping.

We were out of coconut milk and green curry paste and I wanted to buy some other things related to my attempts at Asian cooking, so I drove north to Wheaton and had a great time shopping at Hung Phat, my favorite Asian market -- maybe my favorite store of any kind.  When I returned to our apartment home, I got to work stir frying vegetables, roasting peanuts, and making a green curry sauce. Later, I boiled some wide rice noodles and I'm very happy to report that the ratio of one teaspoon of paste to one can of coconut milk and the addition of a tablespoon each of fish sauce and sugar seems to result in a curry sauce of moderate heat and great taste. I've been working for a long time to get this ratio right for me and the Deke and I might have finally nailed it.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/02/17: Talked to Mom, My Medical Day, Chanticleer at the Kennedy Center

1. I talked to Mom on the phone today.  She sounded overwhelmed by all that she's experienced of late -- the falling, the hospital visit, and the uncertainty of how the care for her will take shape. I know from the updates Christy and Carol wrote through the day that a Loving Care professional will visit Mom on Wednesday to evaluate what Mom needs and what services are available to her. When the Loving Care person visits Mom, both Christy and Carol will be there to help out with the sometimes delicate task of helping out when Mom's memory is fuzzy and helping to make sure the gravity of Mom's situation gets clearly and accurately communicated.

2. It was a smooth medical day for me. It started with a drive to Fulton for a quick TB skin test and then I barreled down to Silver Spring for a chest x-ray and a kidney ultrasound. In both places, I got in promptly, worked with efficient and agreeable medical pros, and, by early afternoon, I was back to our apartment home.

3. Until tonight, the Deke and I had never been to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, perched on the banks of the Potomac River near Foggy Bottom. Tonight that changed. The Deke had purchased us tickets to see the male a capella group, Chanticleer. Their concert was stunning. They sang songs focused on the idea of love with texts that extended back as far as Rumi, took us through the Renaissance, brought the love of a mother for her son lost at war alive through singing poetry of Walt Whitman, explored a contemporary Finnish composer, and brought us into the 20th century with Gershwin, Noel Coward, and Freddy Mercury's "Somebody to Love".  I've never plunged so deeply into the beauty and variety of choral music. The Deke and I left the Eisenhower Theater deeply moved and fully enriched by this performance.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/01/17: Mom's Back Home, Pool Floppin' Again, Tilapia Cakes

1. Christy, Carol, and Paul assisted Mom as she was discharged from the hospital on Monday around 7 p.m. Mom can no longer be in her house alone, so Christy and Carol worked out a schedule for Mom's care until professionals also come in from Loving Care to be with her.  Mom will have help trying to build strength in her muscles. She also needs to do all she can to stay hydrated, or, should I say, keep from getting so dehydrated again.

2. This morning, after many weeks of absence, I lifted my spirits and exercised my body by going to water aerobics. Especially after too long of an absence, the floppin' around felt really good.

3. I've had some tilapia filets in the freezer for a while and tonight I baked them and then flaked the fish meat into a mixture of egg, Old Bay seasoning, mayonnaise, mustard, red onion, lemon juice, and lemon zest, mixed it all up, formed about six falling apart fish cakes, covered them with broken up saltine crackers and fried them in hot canola oil. We ate these tilapia cakes with white basmati rice. The Deke and I were blown away by how much we loved this dinner. Here's the recipe I was guided by, but didn't follow strictly. Maybe I'll make the salad another time.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/30/17: Mom is in the Hospital, Meditations Upon Resurrection, Fun at DC Brau

1. Mom had a difficult weekend from beginning to end and, after she took a fall in the evening, the EMTs transported her to the hospital where she will be under observation. For how long? I don't know. She didn't break any bones and she is not suffering from cranial bleeding. Mom has had a rough go of it over the last two and a half weeks with a variety of problems that my sisters and Mom's doctors have been monitoring. Christy wrote to me that during Mom's stay in ER while waiting for a hospital room, Mom was not in pain and, in fact, started suggesting cleaning chores and talked about someone filling the hummingbird feeders.

2. I started the day by returning to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church for the 10:30 service and meditated throughout the service on Eastertide. In the Episcopal Church, Easter is a season, celebrated for the fifty days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday. That means that the scripture readings, the hymns, and the sermons (potentially) continue to focus on the resurrection and its aftermath. My meditations during church focused less on THE resurrection and more on the universal existence of life springing from death all around us, in the world of nature, in the awakenings we experience, and in our healing. New life isn't the whole truth, but this aspect of the truth, whether experienced in tulips emerging in spring, the remission of cancer, renewed vigor for life, or recovery from loss, heartens and animates us.

3. Late in the afternoon, the Deke and I made our regular trip down to DC Brau and enjoyed some On the Wings of Armageddon, the music from the seventies Stu and Angela played on the house sound system, and a lot of fun yakkin' with each other, the servers, and a guy who came in and told the Deke he grew up in suburban Chicago, not far from where the Deke went to high school.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/29/17: My Post on *The Glass Menagerie*, Clean Oven, Ana at the Bistro

1.  The Deke and Molly went out for lunch and I settled back into writing a blog post about my experience seeing The Glass Menagerie on April 19th at the Belasco Theater in NYC. Seeing the play and writing this post transported me back over thirty-five years to some of my favorite and happiest days of graduate school at the Univ. of Oregon and teaching at Whitworth, while also transporting me back to some of my darkest days as I suffered the confusion and heartbreak of divorce.  All of that and more made seeing The Glass Menagerie a deeply moving and satisfying experience as you can read, here.

2.  I cleaned the oven. I wrapped up the wet dish towel I used to remove the Easy-Off in the newspapers I used to cover the kitchen floor and took them up to the rubbish room in our apartment building.

3. The Deke called me to say she and Molly and Ana were going to Old Line and so I met them and we had a fun dinner. It's not easy for Ana at just shy of two years old to sit in a booth at a bistro, but she was very good and enjoyed watching Curious George on Molly's smartphone while eating a little cheese pizza. She also liked entertaining us with her physical vigor, her ever expanding vocabulary, and the increasing sophistication of her syntax. In time, Ana reached her limit of tolerance for being in an adult joint, so Molly and Ana went home and the Deke and I missed them as we made our way to the bar and returned to some discussion of what our lives might look like this summer.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Attending *The Glass Menagerie* by Tennessee Williams, Belasco Theater, NYC, April 19, 2017

When the play ended, tears streamed down my face.

What moved me?

I carried many memories and past experiences with me when I arrived at the Belasco Theater on April 19. As I watched the play, I was experiencing much more than what was transpiring on stage as Sally Field, Joe Mantello, Madison Ferris, and Finn Wittrock expertly and elegantly animated this tender, sad, nostalgic, maddening, fragile, illusory play.

I have been living with this play for over forty years. I first saw it on television. That 1973 made-for-television production featuring Katharine Hepburn, Sam Waterston, Joanna Miles, and Michael Moriarty became a touchstone for me. I can't remember if I read the play first or saw this production first, but I know I first read it in the spring of 1976, my senior year of college, when Whitworth professor Laura Bloxham agreed to let me be her teaching assistant in Introduction to Literature. Reading the play was like reading a long prose poem. Not only was the script rhythmic, musical, metaphorical, and heightened, but so were Tennessee Williams' extended stage directions and production notes, which not only tell how he wants the play to look and develop, but provide a lyrical interpretation of his play.

For the first time, around forty years ago, I realized that a play could be a physical manifestation of a character's consciousness, or, in the case of The Glass Menagerie, a physical dramatization of a character's memory, Tom's memory to be precise. The lighting, music, and progression of the play, its exaggerations, its sympathies, the sounds of the street, the songs playing from the dance hall, even Laura's glass menagerie itself all trigger Tom's memories as he tells his story of his family and I realized I was seeing not just a record of his memories, but I was watching the way memory works.

Back in 1976, I realized for the first time that a play -- or a novel or a movie -- wasn't necessarily about strict verisimilitude or about making a documentary style realistic picture of reality -- as if that were possible. I began to understand the force of a story told from a specific point of view, the power of seeing a story and its characters filtered through the consciousness (or memory) of a single character -- or characters if the point of view shifts.

While this discovery about point of view was, to a degree, an intellectual experience and a great help in my limited academic success, the deep power was emotional, even spiritual. As I was first viewing and reading The Glass Menagerie, I experienced the liberation that results from realizing that I could leave my own experience and perspective upon things and enter into another's. In my day to day life outside of movies and plays and fiction, I wasn't (and still am not) as successful at seeing things through others' perspective as I think I am when I read stories or watch dramas, but, at the very least, I know that how I see and experience things has commonality with others, but significant differences exist, too, because, like Tom Wingfield, our memories and the emotional substance of our experience bends and colors and shapes how we see things.

In the aftermath of my first divorce back in 1982, a divorce initiated by my first wife, it shocked me to learn that my wife was experiencing our marriage so much differently than I was. My longing for permanence and security and my deep desire to see myself as a great husband and to be able to tell friends and family that I was in a good marriage was so strong that I was oblivious to my wife's deep discontent and the many ways I significantly contributed to it.

The dissolution of our marriage, I know now, was accelerating in the summer of 1981, at the same time that I was about to write a four hour exam to demonstrate to those in charge of my graduate education my proficiency in the field of 20th century American drama. My studies of American drama plunged me deep into the heart of these playwrights' persistent exploration of the power of illusion, maybe I should say delusion, in American life, particularly in the American family. I began to realize that these playwrights were equating illusion/delusion with the American love of dreams, the American Dream, in particular, and were exploring the divide between the actuality of these characters' lives and these different characters' dreams, illusions, false self-image, and made-up stories they told themselves and others about their past, their current situations, and what they dreamed for their future.

I can report that as these plays rattled me.  I'd like to report that they called my own inclinations to delude myself into account, that I changed, that I learned so much about the corrosive and erosive power of illusions that I snapped out of mine. But, I didn't. These illusions are powerful. Even when recognized, they are difficult to get rid of and they continued (and continue), against my will, to shape my perceptions of the world around me and define my sense of who I was, am, and what I could and can do in my life.

Combined with my immersion into the plays of William Shakespeare, my twenty-eight year old, freshly divorced mind was jam-packed with ideas and questions regarding the interaction of illusions and actuality when I arrived at Whitworth College to teach in the English Department for two years on consecutive full-time temporary contracts from 1982-84.

The family in America was also preoccupying me, largely because I was frustrated with the simplistic pronouncements inspired by the election of Ronald Reagan about family values and the sanctity of the American family.

I wanted to see if some students and I could dig into the actualities of the American family life. I proposed to the English Department a course called "The Family in American Drama", to be given during the January term when a whole course was concentrated into the month of January. Students only took one course in January and faculty only taught one course.

I wanted "The Family in American Drama" to be intense. It was. Through plays written by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, and Eugene O'Neill and through a wide range of movies exploring particular families in America, we dove into studying these plays and movies and dove deep into our own family lives and experiences.

I showed students a grainy copy of the Hepburn version of The Glass Menagerie. Many were deeply moved by it. In the 1983 Jan term class, George Benson played the Gentleman Caller and Maia Blom played Laura as they acted out a part of the play's final scene for the class -- including the Gentleman Caller's "stumblejohn" kiss of Laura.

To conclude the course, I assigned students to write a letter home. I didn't read these letters. The students turned them into me sealed in an addressed envelope. I put postage stamps on them and mailed them out. Reports about the impact of these letters began to come back to me. One father drove over three hours to Spokane upon reading his daughter's letter to take her out and talk things over. Students told me about phone calls they received from home and letters written back to them. I don't remember a single negative report, but rather I remember stories of productive truth-telling and stories of the beginnings of reconciliation.

When tears ran down my face at the end of seeing The Glass Menagerie, featuring Sally Field, at the Belasco Theater in NYC on April 19th, 2017, I was moved by the production I had just seen but also by all the experiences I'd had with this play and American plays written in the first seventy years of the 20th century.

I marvel when I read play and movie reviews or when I talk with friends about movies and plays that professional critics and friends alike can write or talk about a movie or a play with such clearly defined standards of what makes a movie or play work and that almost never do their comments draw upon the experiences they bring to the work as they watch it and how that shapes their experience with the play or movie.

Anymore, I can't say that I know what makes a movie or a play good. I am almost always unable to give a good answer if someone asks me if I liked a movie or play.

I don't tend to evaluate or rate movies or plays; I experience them and the best I can do when asked about one that I've seen is to say what I experienced.  It's why I would make a lousy movie or theater critic. If I were to write a review of the Belasco Theater's  The Glass Menagerie, I'd have to say that while I watched it I experienced my history watching Sally Field on television and in the movies; I experienced those days in Laura Bloxham's Intro to Lit class when I first read the play and when I first saw the made-for-television version; I experienced the beauty of Tennessee Williams poetry and not only heard the lines spoken by the actors on stage at the Belasco, but I could hear Joanne Woodward, John Malkovich, Michael Moriarty, Katharine Hepburn, Karen Allen, as well as my former students George Benson and Maia Blom in that stuffy classroom on the main floor of Westminster Hall.

Most of all, I experienced my awakenings. Memories rushed back to me of long walks in Eugene and Spokane, trying to sort out the illusions that governed me from what might be actual and felt the pain I experienced when my illusions took over and I experienced any number of failures in relationships, friendships, and my graduate studies.

All of this moved me at the Belasco Theater while I was invited into the Wingfield family apartment and into Tom's memories of family life there. The production absorbed my attention. For those two hours -- unbroken, I'm happy to say, by an intermission --, the Wingfield apartment and what transpired there was the only physical reality I knew.

And, it triggered a lot of memories and thoughts and emotions. This personal experience with the play was every bit as important -- maybe more important -- to what I experienced in the theater as what happened on stage.

I loved this experience, but it doesn't form a very solid basis for a critique or a recommendation.

I had a very personal and autobiographical experience watching The Glass Menagerie on April 19th at the Belasco Theater. I'd like to be able to write insightful and detailed analytical comments about the production values and the acting and the directing. I can say every bit of it worked for me, and I don't doubt that what I experienced watching it was enhanced by the beauty of the show.


Three Beautiful Things 04/28/17: Thinking and Writing, Beers with the Franklins Regulars, Noshing Away

1. I spent a couple of hours thinking and writing about my history with The Glass Menagerie, working to account for the way the production the Deke and I saw on April 19th moved me so strongly. I think this blog post is going to take a while to complete and I don't know if it will ever be coherent, but I'm sure enjoying thinking back on the over forty years the play has been inside me.

2. A bunch of people from College Park, Hyattsville, Greenbelt, Berwyn Heights (I think) and elsewhere around this part of Maryland meet every Friday afternoon at Franklins Restaurant, Brewery, and General Store in Hyattsville. The Deke and I got to talking to three of the Franklins Regulars on Feb. 28th at Old Line and Jo and Jim and Sara invited us to their Friday late afternoon table. After several weeks of hosting visitors and of travel to Yorktown, Kellogg (me), and Nyack/New York City, when we couldn't join in, today the Deke and I had a couple of beers -- I really enjoyed my two half pints of Ridiculous, a sour red ale -- and a ton of lively conversation with the Franklins Regulars.

3.  Back at our apartment home, the Deke and I didn't want a full meal, so we noshed away on ciabatta bread, Shropshire blue cheese, kalamata olives, dry Italian salami, and Carr's table water crackers. It was a perfect cap to fun late afternoon and helped the Deke further relax after a demanding week of work.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/27/17: Phone Calls, Making Plans, Apartment Home Concert

1.  All right. I called the insurance company to find out what to say about insurance authorization when I called the radiology and cardiology offices to make appointments for the tests I need done to stay on the kidney transplant list. I wrote out a script for my phone calls to the offices. I needed a paper version of a teleprompter and I think I succeeded.

2. The Deke had another rough day at school and wanted to go to Old Line for a couple glasses of beer and we had a very good talk about the immediate future, our future living situation, and we are beginning to do what needs to be done to solidify our summer travel plans.

3.  Back home, we tore into the baguette I bought this morning and ate it with aged cheddar and Shropshire blue cheese. I was in the mood to listen to some great songwriting and singing so, with the help of YouTube, I played us a concert of Guy Clark, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, The Highwaymen, Bonnie Raitt and John Prine, Waylon Jennings, Shooter Jennings, and an ensemble of Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Jeff Walker, Steve Earle, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, and Eric Taylor joining Nanci Griffith on the David Letterman show to sing "Desperados Waiting for a Train."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/26/17: Transplant List Business, Dog Delay, Tuna Casserole Dinner

1. I secured the orders/referrals I need for x-ray, ultrasound, and cardiology tests and made an appointment for my TB skin test. Next up: check in with the insurance people and then make radiology and cardiology appointments.

2. As she got out of the car to go to work, the Deke asked me if I would contact Molly and ask her if we could bring dinner over to their place and pick up Maggie and Charly at that time. Molly agreed and it turns out the delay was a superb idea because the dogs might have gone ballistic with all the noise outside the door of our apartment home as workers blasted out the old linoleum in preparation to install new flooring.

3. I decided I wanted a casserole for dinner. I went back to a recipe I first made back in February: tuna casserole without canned soup. Because it's a mild recipe -- both the Deke and Hiram jazzed theirs up with Frank's RedHot --, I thought Olivia, David, and Ana might go for it.

They didn't! Ha!

In the last several months, I've only succeeded once in cooking food they would eat when I took over fried chicken. Oh, well. I didn't have my hopes up at all and any disappointment I might have felt was overshadowed by how much Molly loved the casserole.  By the way, the recipe, found here, calls for a topping of crackers, preferably in the style of Ritz crackers, but I used the overbaked and dry cornbread I fixed Tuesday night for the topping and it worked perfectly.

Making this recipe also gave me a legit reason to go to Target and buy two new Pyrex baking pans.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/25/17: Stocking Up, Back to *Moosewood*, Sondheim and then Van Gogh

1. When I left to join the Deke in New York a week ago, the cupboard was pretty empty; and, with having been gone all day yesterday for my transplant evaluation in Baltimore, this morning I needed to get the kitchen back in order. I started to think about meals and I went to the store to stock up on groceries.

2. This afternoon, I went online and found the Brazilian Black Bean Soup recipe from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook.  I started cooking out of this cookbook just over thirty years ago in the ten years or so before the Deke and I got together. This soup recipe was one I returned to time and time again. I've lost or I gave away my original copy of Moosewood which disappoints me primarily because I had annotated so many recipes, including the Brazilian Black Bean Soup. I made the soup today without my old notes and I overbaked some cornbread to accompany it. It was a comforting and nostalgic meal. The soup recipe is here and a variation of Mollie Katzen's recipe is here.

3. The deep pleasure of having seen Sunday in the Park with George endures and this evening I went to YouTube and found videos of different songs from the original 1984 Broadway production featuring Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, given in 1986 on PBS's American Playhouse. I listened to the song "Sunday" over and over, surrendering myself to the emotional grip it has on me. I listened to the Broadway/PBS version, here, the version performed at the 1984 Tonys award show, here, and a concert version from the 2010 BBC Proms, here.  (If you listen to the version from the 1984 Tonys, it starts out a little glitchy, but hang on -- the glitchiness goes away.)

I enjoy the art history podcast The Lonely Palette a lot, here. I've mentioned it before. I had hoped the show's host Tamar Avishai had done an episode on "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand Jatte", but I think her podcasts are focused on pictures hanging in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Seurat's painting hangs at the Art Institute in Chicago. BUT, it was no small consolation that Tamar Avishhai had produced a recent episode exploring Vincent Van Gogh's painting "Postman Joseph Roulin" and enjoyed listening to it, learning more about late 19th century French painting, and more about Van Gogh. You, too, can listen to this episode, right here.

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.