Wednesday, January 31, 2007

5 Things That Make Me Unique

The tag for this post comes from GoldenSilence. It was a fun exercise to pick 5 things to tell you about myself that you would probably never have otherwise known. There are probably just a couple of people who would not be surprised by these things.

1. When I first learned to write (with my left hand), I wrote from right to left and all the letters were reversed. You had to use a mirror to decipher what I wrote, which was probably my name over and over and over. This was the first indication that my brain doesn't work the same way everyone else's does.

2. When I was 6 years old, I commandeered the sewing machine, making it my most favorite form of enjoyment for many years. At first it was just doll clothes, but by 4th grade I had started making a lot of my clothes. I loved to design clothes by combining patterns and inventing new ones. I made entire Barbie doll wardrobes for $10.

3. I am one of the most unathletic people you will ever run into. But when I was 12, I won a "junior" golf tournament at my country club. I can't say there was an enormous field of competition but I do remember making one round with a girl whose mother was as good at cheating as she was. I still have my one and only trophy. I still occasionally enjoy playing golf.

4. Along with my reluctance to try new technology was my reluctance to drive a stick-shift car. Only at age 34 when we suddenly had 2 cars that were both standard transmission did I learn how. At first I was petrified of getting stuck on a hill, but today I can drive my stick-shift Honda Accord effortlessly. It's my one triumph over a big fear that I'm really proud of.

5. My father's 5th cousin is Sonja Haraldsen, the Queen of Norway. She added red blood back into a very blue line of royalty. The common people in Norway adore their Queen, who is a big supporter of people with disabilities. So you can curtsy or bow the next time you see me!

Instead of tagging specific people, I'll invite anyone reading to reveal 5 things about yourself that I might not know. What a great way to learn more about why we are the unique individuals that we are!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Moving on From Conflict

I'm sure the adult way to deal with unresolved conflict is to just move on and forget it ever happened. Unfortunately I have never mastered the art of doing this.
I can remember every major fight, slight, or argument I've ever had with my husband. Fortunately there are not a lot to remember and we live in harmony most of the time now.
But I'm having a hard time at work forgetting those problems with the two difficult woman a couple of months ago. They are the ones that refused to sit down with me and work through our differences.
I sit in meetings with them and feel like screaming when they pontificate and try to convince everyone how smart they are. I feel like saying, "Have you noticed that many of the things I was saying have now been shown to be true?"
But instead they send me e-mail messages as though nothing ever happened. I respond and control my urge to say "I told you so."
It's obviously business as usual, but I have difficulty forgetting those awful meetings when we screamed at each other, when the one woman rolled her eyes at me. It would actually be a lot better for everyone concerned if I could just blank all that disagreement out of my mind, but unfortunately it just doesn't work that way for me.
Maybe there needs to be a corporate therapist who helps people deal with conflict. For some of us, it can stay there and fester for a long time. That can't be good.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Cooking Together

You learn a lot about someone when you cook with her. You learn how adventurous she is. You learn how well she can construct a timeline. You learn how she reacts under pressure when things don't go exactly right.

I am always looking for someone who is game to make Indian food because it is a lot of work. Those of us who love those flavors are occasionally up for the large demands of shopping and chopping that are necessary.

I had come to realize that the petite Chinese woman who lives in my friend Deborah's house was a dynamite cook. On many occasions when I was over to play music with Deborah, there were wonderful aromas coming out of the kitchen.

So I invited Jen to come over and cook Indian food with me. She is an expert at Asian food, but had never tried Indian. I loaned her my wonderful book and asked her to plan a menu and make a grocery list.

I bought all the ordinary things at Whole Foods, but invited Jen and her friend Paul to come with me to the Indian grocery story. The one I've always gone to is "Indian Spice and Appliance", now located in Falls Church. This store sells Indian videos, every imaginable Indian food, and yes – appliances. What a place! But a true necessity before cooking.

The first thing we did was to make our own garam masala, using the following recipe:

1 tablespoon whole cardamom
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 bay leaves

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Grind all the ingredients together in a spice mill, blender, or coffee grinder. (I have dedicated an old coffee grinder to this purpose.)
3. Place in an ovenproof skillet and roast for 10 minutes.

This is just the beginning of wonderful smells that come from Indian cooking.

The menu included mulligatawny soup, chicken curry, eggplant stuffed with ground lamb and vegetables, and saffron rice.

We chopped and cooked for about 2 hours and miraculously at 6:00 PM, everything was ready. There were no real mishaps. Jen politely reminded me that the chicken that was supposed to be boneless was not, so I quickly removed the bones. She declined to cut up the jalapenos because she was worried about the intensity of the peppers. We did make an "executive" decision to drop the lentil dish that was originally on the menu when we realized we had plenty of food and not enough time to make it. Otherwise we all managed to stay busy and not run into each other while preparing these wonderful dishes.

The best part was the fact that the other guests were so impressed with the meal that they did all the cleaning up.

I loved my afternoon of cooking with Jen and Paul. I loved eating the resulting meal. And I particularly love the fact that I get to eat leftover mulligatawny soup for lunch today.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thoughts about Waiting Rooms

It would be staggering to know how much time is totally LOST each week as people sit in hospital waiting rooms. I had many chances to observe last week what goes on in these places, or more like what doesn’t.

My appointments at Washington Hospital Center were spread between a lab and the Department of Nuclear Medicine. In both places I observed people just totally shutting down as they waited for whatever would happen next.

The lab area had nondescript Musak playing in the background. After signing in, the patients would sit down and just become comatose, while not actually falling asleep. No one read a book. No one read a magazine. No one brought anything to do. No one talked. They just sat there in silence and waited for their name to be called out.

I was quite the exception. Since I have to wait a while after I take my morning Synthroid pill to eat, I brought my breakfast – cereal and milk and proceeded to eat it while I waited for my call for bloodwork. One older man in a wheelchair asked his wife why he couldn’t have brought his breakfast too, upon which I offered to share and he declined. I also brought the remaining placemats which still needed the final handwork to finish them off. A woman actually broke the silence to ask me about what I was making.

The Nuclear Medicine waiting room is somewhat different. The patients are still silent and unprepared to do anything but wait. But the background sound is Judge Judy or Rachel Ray or whatever talk show is on. I’m convinced there must be one every hour.

For many of the people sitting in waiting rooms, it is much easier to shut down than it is to contemplate what has happened or what is going to happen. Some of them are terminally ill. Some of them are struggling to cope with serious health conditions.

The exchange with the receptionist is not exactly uplifting either. In Nuclear Medicine, their first question is “When were you diagnosed?” meaning “When did you get cancer?” I always want to say, “I HAD thyroid cancer 2 years ago, but I don’t have it any longer.” It’s obviously much easier to tune out than to think about why you are there.

I wish someone would give me the project of designing a better way for people to spend all this time – a way they could be busy and productive and engaged instead of repressed. I’m convinced there are alternatives to what we find everywhere we currently go for medical attention.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A New Favorite Song

After seeing a recent concert by the Klezmatics, I have become hooked on Mermaid Avenue, the words by Woody Guthrie set to music by Frank London of the Klezmatics. I could hear it repeatedly for hours on end and never get tired of singing along. It's a song that makes me feel happy and good about the world. It paints a delightful picture of the layers of humanity in Brooklyn who spent time on Mermaid Avenue in Woody’s era there.

Mermaid Avenue took on a new feeling for me last night when two of our elderly guests for Shabbat dinner reminisced about their life in Brooklyn around that same time and even earlier. Florence, now age 92 and having severe vision problems, recalled working at a summer camp for kids on Mermaid Avenue. What a romantic name for a street in Coney Island!

Apparently there is still an annual parade along Mermaid Avenue.

Here are the words to this masterpiece of Woody Guthrie:

Mermaid's Avenue

In big fur coats and bathing suits
They're in the raggeldy race.

Mermaid Avenue that’s the street
Where the fast and slow folks meet,
Where the cold ones meet the hot ones
Just a block from Coney’s beach.
Mermaid Avenue that’s the place
Where the wolves and haybags chase
In big fur coats and bathing suits
They’re in the raggeldy race


But there’s never been a mermaid here
On Mermaid Avenue
No, I’ve never seen a mermaid here
On Mermaid Avenue
I’ve seen hags and wags and witches;
And I’ve seen a shark or two
My five years that I’ve lived along
Old Mermaid’s Avenue

Mermaid Avenue that’s the street
Where the lox and bagels meet,
Where the hot dog meets the mustard
Where the sour meets the sweet;
Where the beer flows to the ocean
(Where the halvah meets the pickle)
Where the wine runs to the sea;
Why they call it Mermaid Avenue
That’s more than I can see.

Mermaid Avenue that’s the street
Where the saint and sinners meet;
Where the grey hair meets the wave curls
Where the cops don’t ever sleep;
Where they pay some cops to stop you
When you hit that Sea Gate gate;
Where them bulls along that wire fence
Scare the mermaids all away

Mermaid Avenue that’s the street
Where the sun and storm clouds meet;
Where the ocean meets that rock wall
Where the boardwalk meets the beach;
Where the prettiest of the maidulas
Leave their legprints in that sand
Just beneath our lovesoaked boardwalk
With the bravest of our lads.

Mermaid Avenue that’s the street
Where all colors of good folks meet;
Where the smoke fish meets the pretzel
Where the borscht sounds like the seas;
This is where hot Mexican Chili
Meets Chop Suey and meatballs sweet;
Mermaid Avenue she’s a nervous jerk
But, still, she’s hard to beat.

And here’s how they sound with the catchy melody supplied by the Klezmatics.

Friday, January 26, 2007

And You're Guarding What?

As I left my PT session and was walking to my car, I passed the guard who is ALWAYS outside the building and I finally asked him what he was guarding. There’s no bank there. It’s not the headquarters for a branch of the Department of Defense. There always seems to be a guard at this spot, even at 7 AM. For early morning appointments when I didn’t have enough change for the meter, I’ve even given my change to the guard and told him to feed the meter if a cop came by. Anyway, our conversation today went something like this:

Me: What in the world are you guarding?
Guard (looking at me like “Why the fuck are you asking me this?”): This grate. (Standing on a large metal grate.)
Me: What’s under there? The metro?
Guard: Look, if a terrorist dropped something in there, all the people in that building would die.
Me: Well, it’s a good thing you are here then.

Good God, did Quentin know his life was in danger when he rented this office space?

Then I started wondering just exactly what was under that grate? The gas main to the building? I also wondered how a rent-a-cop could possibly stop a would-be terrorist. And perhaps more importantly just what was in that building besides Quentin’s office that anyone might target?

I’m getting a lot out of this physical therapy, but I think I’ll feel more secure when the office moves to their new location near the rink where the Caps practice in Ballston. I’ve gotten used to seeing guards at public places like our synagogue that are obvious targets, but a guard at a nondescript building in Ballston is somewhat unsettling.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Is There a Future for an Electonic I Do?

I remember my surprise 30 years ago when a coworker told me he had proposed to a penpal from Guyana without ever meeting her in person. Their marriage has had its ups and downs but as far as I know they are still together.

I've been thinking about relationships recently and the new possibilities the Internet provides. Some of my best friends are people I only know electronically. We've never met and it may remain that way. I actually know more about many of these people than I know about personal acquaintances of many years.

Electronic friendship has many advantages. For one you can be friends on your own schedule. For some that is the middle of the night. For others it's 5 minutes between meetings. Secondly, friendship is not based on appearances. Anyone can reinvent herself on the Internet. I can depict myself as a buff size 6 without glasses and 20 years younger if I choose. Agoraphobics can suddenly be among people without going out of their houses. Disabled people can shed their disabilities.

So many things about relationships are easier. For people who stress over forming, maintaining, and terminating relationships, it is infinitely easier to do all of these things electronically. There is just not the same level of emotional angst.

Apropos my coworker from long ago, I wonder how long it will be before we see Internet marriages? I envision all parties entering an electronic chatroom, where the person conducting the ceremony asks the appropriate questions and the consenting partners say "I do" in the form of a happy face and electronic kisses. They remunerate the officiating person via Paypal and then all sign off with TTYL. There are couples who maintain long-distance relationships now for career purposes. What is to preclude the wedding itself from being electronic?

There is this little matter of intimacy and procreation. But even that could be handled. Otherwise, it's a great form of birth control.

What do you think? Have I totally lost it?!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Chance Meeting on the Road

I was still thinking about Reya's post on chance as I headed out this morning on my way to Washington Hospital Center for today's fun and games. Just out of my neighborhood I pulled up behind a little dark blue Toyota with a "UMD New Jersey" sticker on the back window. I happen to notice all sorts of words on cars and thought this an odd combination. I seemed glued to this car as I headed towards DC.

As I approached the Pentagon in heavy rush hour traffic, I took my usual detour towards Pentagon City and back onto the carpool lanes, which are open at that point, parting ways with the little blue car. Oddly enough as I got on the carpool lanes, I was once again immediately behind the Toyota. So much for my time-saving detour.

I started to realize the driver of the blue car knew the route well, always choosing the best lane to be in and continuing to take the same path I was following. She even got off the SW Freeway to take the tunnel under the Capitol that eventually leads out to New York Avenue and then North Capitol Street.

We stayed together until just before WHC when she turned left. I found myself moving over a lane to get a glimpse of this person who had taken the same exact 15-mile trip that I had taken this morning. Who was she? Was she a nurse at Children's Hospital perhaps? Did her work day start at 9:30, the same time as my appointment in the lab at WHC?

I wondered if I would ever see her again since she emerged initially so close to my house.

Do you ever wonder about the many drivers you pass each day on the way to work? Do you ever think about why they are traveling with you at the same time of day?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pondering Side Effects

Yesterday just as the nurse was about to plunge the needle of Thyrogen into my shoulder, she said "You may experience fatigue, headache, and nausea in a couple of hours." That was when I was scheduled to deliver a paper to a bunch of division chiefs. So I might now feel like barfing my guts out. GREAT!

I asked her how likely it was that I would feel badly, having been told by Dr. Wexler last week that there would be no symptoms. She said men don't ever complain of the side-effects, only women. Another GREAT!

As the two hours passed and the meeting approached, I kept waiting for the side-effects to kick in. Maybe I was feeling a little tired, or maybe not. But no headache and no nausea.

It made me wonder just how often symptoms are triggered by suggestion. I wonder what the criteria are for requiring that a patient be told about a particular side-effect? One in a hundred? One in ten?

This morning when I woke up my stomach felt a little off, but not really enough to be called queasy. I was tired, but maybe that had to do with not getting enough sleep. All in all, I'd say I was rather symptom free.

I went back for round #2 of the Thyrogen this morning. I verified that the purpose of these two injections is to raise my TSH level so that the radioactive iodine (the pill I get tomorrow) will more clearly identify any cells (hopefully NONE) affected by papillary (thyroid) cancer when I get the full-body scan on Friday morning.

So far this whole thing hasn't been so bad. I have been able to stay on my Synthroid, avoiding the hypo-thyroid condition I experienced last year that nearly wiped me out.

It makes me wonder if it might be better just not to tell patients about possible side-effects. The power of suggestion is often a strong one.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Up the Stairs in the Attic

I witnessed a powerful presentation yesterday at The Dance Place that resonated strongly with me after my recent visit to see 98-year-old Aunt Zelda in Chicago. I went with my friend Elizabeth to see her sister (who is about my age) perform with a group of very talented dancers.

This premier performance of Up the Stairs in the Attic was choreographed by Jane Franklin. The dance focuses on the dismantling of a life as a woman gives up her home to move to an assisted living facility.

The dancers so beautifully go through the process of moving her things out of the attic, one piece at a time. They examine the photos that have no identifying names. They pass down an old cooking pot. There are plastic Christmas tree ornaments. There is a little suitcase. You know all the kinds of things people store in their attics, long to be forgotten amidst so many other things just like them.

There were spoken words added to the fluid dance movements that emphasized the various things encountered, with just a snatch of why the thing ended up in the attic.

I can so identify with this dance, having danced the same movements through my parents’ house of 50 years and not so gracefully filled a dumpster outside. It was agonizing to make those necessary decisions. And there were so very many to make.

Perhaps I identified with the dance even more because these were not thin-as-reeds young girls performing it, but rather woman of my generation, who might be facing such decisions in the next couple of decades.

It was a very powerful performance that left me with unfinished thoughts.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Side by Side in our Family Room

Never did I think when we remodeled our house a few years ago that we would be hearing live music in our family room. But it actually happened last night and it was quite an experience.

At last year’s World Folk Music Association concert we bid on a silent auction item featuring a “home” appearance of Side by Side – the duo of Doris Justis and Sean McGhee, never thinking we would win. We were surprised when Dick Cerri announced David Diskin to be the winner at the end of the marathon concert.

We finally got around to picking a date and inviting people. David’s theory was that only about half the people you invite actually come, so he invited A LOT OF PEOPLE. Well, they almost all said yes, so we had over 40 people for dinner and a house concert last night.

Dinner turned out not to be a big deal. We split up the alphabet and assigned salad, dessert, or beverage, depending on your last name. We made the (very easy) award-winning brisket, adding lots of carrots this time. Let me tell you, 20 pounds of brisket is a lot of brisket! Place settings and cutlery were Costco’s finest plastic. And best of all, we hired Angelina, the woman who cleans our house, to help.

The biggest challenge was how to fit 40+ people seated in our family room and still leave room for the musicians. After dinner, we had a quick makeover of the family room to move out a couch and the coffee table and set up numerous folding chairs.

At around 8:00 Doris and Sean started strumming and singing and the sound was fabulous. The songs ranged from Red Rubber Ball (The Circle 1966) to Runaway (Run-run-run-run-runaway) to Somewhere Over the Rainbow to songs they had written. People were clapping and humming and singing along and mostly just remembering where they had first heard each song.
At the end of the first set we took a break and had dessert and coffee (in styrofoam cups, which I said I would never use but I did). Then someone blinked the lights and we went back for the second set, which proved even better than the first.

In addition to the wonderful music, what made last night so special was the fact that we cared deeply for all the people who showed up – neighbors, work colleagues, Micah members, book club friends, even our PT Quentin and his friend.

My husband wondered this morning if the rest of our guests and the entertainers felt as amorous as we did after that evening of music. This is a house concert that might just become an annual event. Read another review.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My Take on 24

Dear David: Since you publicly wondered this week why I haven’t jumped on board the 24-bandwagon with the in-crowd of America, I have been thinking about my answer. It turns out to be more than just “I don’t do TV”, which for the most part I don’t.

After watching the first hour from Monday night, I have a much better idea of why this show hasn’t yet hooked me. Every show is a fast-paced series of incidents and problems to solve. In many ways, it reminds me of my workday, where often all I do is solve problems and put out fires for 8 or 9 hours. So after a day at work like that and 90 minutes of yoga to diminish all that stress, just about the last thing in the world I am seeking is somebody else’s action-packed life. My feeling after watching just one hour (I think it was 8:00 to 9:00) was identical to how I felt coming out of the recent James Bond movie, where I was sure there was a spy just around every corner and I was ready for all of them. That’s not exactly a recipe for sweet dreams.

The other thing I found appalling in Monday’s show was the stereotyping of terrorists as Middle Eastern men. Granted 24 has broken from tradition in casting a black President, the racial profiling of terrorists simply serves to reenforce the lesson that America started to learn just a few years ago. I am amazed that any of those men would even take the parts, to be depicted in their orange jumpsuits, looking just like those unfortunate foreigners being held in Guantanamo today. I suppose they couldn’t have gotten away with Polynesian women as terrorists, but the slight to those from the Middle East was just too over the top for me.

I may continue to watch from time to time, but I am far from hooked. I will gladly share your bed, be your dinner date, and travel to the end of the earth with you, but TV on Monday night? – no promises, not just yet. Just remind yourself how boring it would be if we liked entirely the same things. And be glad that we are so compatible when it comes to sex, food, and travel.

With love,

Friday, January 19, 2007

Opting to See Clearly

When it gets cold enough to freeze, I have this nasty habit of driving away before the windows have cleared, using a combination of the defroster revved up to HIGH and the windshield wipers, with plenty of squirts of windshield washer fluid in an attempt to be able to see. The problem is that I never leave enough time to do this the proper way, so it’s always a crapshoot as to whether I can really see by the time I make it out of the neighborhood and onto a main road.

Today was just such a day. I had barely enough time to get to my 7:00 PT appointment and there was a light frost on the windows. However, as I pulled onto Columbia Pike and hoped to be able to see well once again, my vision was still quite blurred. A hand to my face made me suddenly realize that I had forgotten to put on my glasses. Holy shit! I can’t remember ever in my life walking out of the house without my glasses and I am really fairly blind without them. I must be more preoccupied about next week’s test than I had thought.

At 6:45 AM sunglasses will hardly do, so my big dilemma was whether to drive blind to my PT appointment or whether to turn around and go home to get my glasses. There was actually no question as to the only thing to do, as I took the first right and headed home. I quickly found the glasses exactly where I had taken them off and headed out once again. I gave Quentin’s office a call to let them know I would be late, sheepishly admitting the reason.

When I arrived only 10 minutes late, someone else was already on the therapy table and another person was waiting for her turn. Could 10 minutes have really made this much difference?

Quentin, who is a master at juggling people while making us all feel like we are the center of attention, conducted a 3-ring circus today, inflicting sufficient pain to make sure we all got our money’s worth. I found myself more focused on the Starbucks latte I intended to buy afterwards as a reward for the helluva beginning to my day.

I really must deal with this defrosting thing, but coming from Florida, frankly I have never had time for the demands of cold weather. In the meantime, I will just concentrate on remembering to leave home with my glasses ON!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Playing It Safe... or not?

I am scheduled for another radioactive procedure next week which makes me less than enthused. I remember the hell week I went through just a year ago when I was banned from society for a week because I was radioactive. It's not like that, or so they say, but I would rather not.

My good friend has asked me why in the world I would subject myself to any form of radiation when there is absolutely no indication of cancer. My doctor, who is fairly conservative and who relies on the appropriate protocol, says I must do this just to know for sure.

Next week's test is a Thyrogen I-131 Scan, which requires me to go into Washington Hospital Center on Monday and Tuesday to receive a Thyrogen injection, on Wednesday to be dosed with radioactive iodine, and on Friday for a full body scan.

I have begged the WHC doctors to come up with a different way of checking that doesn't involve repeated radiation. Of course, if I believe The Revenge of Gaia's author Lovelock, the radiation might reduce my life by only a few hours. But who really knows the long-term side effects of this? The potential side-effects are the ones they read to you just as you are about to swallow the radioactive pill and they are not pretty.

My cancerous thyroid was removed two years ago and there has been no sign of another nodule anywhere. So is it necessary to take on this added risk for something that is probably nonexistent?

I consider my body a sanctuary and as such I try to feed it and take care of it with respect. I am having a difficult time making the decision to ingest this foreign substance next week. I am sure the intention is for this test to be repeated annually. I wonder how many years of clean reports would be necessary to stop it altogether. Or perhaps the radiation itself will cause a recurrence.

The good news is that I will not be glowing as I was last year, so my family, friends, and dogs will not need to worry. The bad news is I seem to be at the mercy of a system that scares me. What a dilemma...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


The result of refusing to get a PDA and instead keeping my schedule mostly in my head is that occasionally I find myself double-booked. It happens about once a year and somehow I usually manage to wiggle out of the problem.

My overscheduling problem for 2007 is coming up next month. On February 6 at 7:00 PM, I am supposed to be presenting my final report on the Temple Micah High Holy Days to the Board of Directors AND I have tickets to a CAPS game with a group of Bloggers – a case of obligation vs. desire.

Theoretically I could ask the Board to simply distribute my detailed report to the members and encourage them to contact me with any questions. I have agreed to be the chair for 2007 and there are not a whole lot of issues or decisions to make. God or at least someone a lot higher up has chosen the dates. We will basically do what we have done for the past umpteen years for the Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah services. But what if someone had a question about security measures or the childcare cost or the sale of tickets to non-members? I suppose I must show up for perhaps 30 minutes just to answer such random questions.

I must admit hockey is not the love of my life, so it will not kill me to miss the first few minutes of the game. But I do relish any opportunity to meet new Bloggers and sitting around drinking beer in the peanut gallery while looking with binoculars at the game going on far below sounds quite appealing.

There is usually a way to time slice that results in an acceptable compromise. I’m not yet ready to turn over my brain to a PDA. I don’t even program my phone to speed-dial, preferring instead to just remember phone numbers. I know this sounds ludicrous, but I have always preferred to keep these things in my head. After all, I always have my head with me and no batteries are needed... at least not yet!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

An Unexpected Surprise

Can you imagine how surprised I was to receive a belated birthday present in the form of a "book" that beautifully interweaves our pictures and my Blog posts from our trip to France? My husband is truly a technical genius. He located software to make a book, which provides for front and back cover, the title page, and everything a regular printed book would have.

Right around the time of my birthday, after he gave me the best present ever in the form of a 2-CD set of workout music, he told me there would be one more present coming in a few days. Frankly I had forgotten all about it until yesterday when the box arrived in the mail. And out of the box came this wonderful reminder of the smells and tastes and good times we experienced in France last fall.

I found myself just touching the book jacket and marveling at the final product and all the work that must have gone into making it.

I sometimes joke about his geeky techy side, but it's times like this when I realize just how nice it is to live with someone who can do all these things and who thinks enough of me to spend those many hours making this wonderful surprise for me.

If you are interested in knowing more about how he did this, you can contact him from his Blog.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Beginning of the End -- Yikes!

I can’t say that I enjoyed this month’s book club selection. The Revenge of Gaia is one of those in-your-face doomsday books that made me question whether I would ever want grandchildren if they were going to grow up in a living hell or not at all.

Gaia theory tells us that the entire earth, including the atmosphere, oceans, biosphere and upper layers of rock, functions as a single superorganism, regulating its internal environment much as an animal regulates its body temperature and chemical balance.

The subject of the book is in the subtitle: earth’s climate crisis and the fate of humanity. He depicts global warming as just the tip of the (melting) iceberg. The problem we now find ourselves in, according to James Lovelock, is a complicated one caused by an excess of carbon dioxide, a world population which is greater than the planet can sustain, and an increase in the heat of the sun.

We are on an accelerating path to meet the accelerating energy demands of the world, but most everything we turn to has serious side-effects that further erode the status of the earth. He goes through the various possibilities and concludes that only nuclear energy holds any possibility for the long haul.

The bleak picture of the future that Lovelock paints is of shrinking land mass, where many of our current biggest (coastal) cities are underwater. The only habitable areas will be the far north and the far south. The survival of the fittest will dictate that many won’t survive this shift.

He predicts we will eat food that is manufactured. Instead of organic the prized food will be GROWN! Can you imagine what a restaurant menu would look like?

There are some fairly outrageous statements in this book that don’t necessarily square with my previous thinking. He claims that only 75 people actually died as a result of the Chernobyl incident. He says that more harm resulted in the developing world from the banning of DDT than in the developed world from using it. He really pans the use of “wind farms” that are becoming so common in Europe as an energy source. He thinks acid rain is a good thing because it creates a haze that blocks sunlight from reaching the earth.

I have resigned myself that I have entered the “end game” of my own life, but I was rather hoping to leave behind a vibrant and thriving world, not one that was also in its own end game.

I found myself asking as I read the book what we could do to reverse this death process, to FIX the problem. He offers a few band-aids, including the installation of heat shields in space that would sit between the sun and the earth to diminish the heat of the sun; the use of nuclear energy; and conscious changes in our life styles. Ironically, he says that one of the best things that ever happened to our affluent society was the introduction of cell phones and video games, low-energy forms of amusement that keep us occupied and keep us from using higher-energy things like cars.

But I’m afraid this is just another situation like that of asking a confirmed smoker to give up cigarettes, when that person would choose an earlier death over the deprivation of the source of nicotine. Most of us love our lifestyle far to much to think seriously about doing anything to protect the world for future generations.

I’m hopeful that Lovelock has depicted a world that is in worse shape than it actually is. Because if he is right, life as we know it will without a doubt exist only in history books.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Let the Circle Be Unbroken

One of the most startling realizations this weekend was that most of these elderly people at the Selfhelp home wear diapers at night. They all seem to have their package of Depends in the closet. There’s no shame or embarrassment for many of them. It’s just like brushing their teeth to pull on diapers before going to bed.

It strikes me once again that getting old in many ways takes us back to a state of infancy. There’s the diapers. There are those that have to be fed. And others that must be wheeled around.

I’m trying to imagine what it must feel like to accept this return to infancy. Is it like the beginning of the end? Is it perhaps somewhat comforting as you remember being cared for as a small child?

I can see that the next few decades are going to bring with them these realizations that life is indeed one big circle and we’re on the leg that comes back to meet the beginning.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Reality of Getting Really Old

As I sat in the living room and then the dining room of Selfhelp, an assisted living facility in Chicago, I found myself projecting ahead and wondering which one of those old people I would be like in 30 years. The thought was sobering because they all have problems.

We were there to visit Zelda, my husband’s 98-year-old aunt, who has lived by herself all these years in the windy city. She is fiercely independent, even now refusing to live in this place permanently, despite the fact that she suffers from macular degeneration and can’t see worth crap. Other than the lost eyesight, she is in remarkably good shape for her age.

There was Henry, who had been a stained glass artist, but was now permanently confined to a wheelchair.

There was Vera, who doesn’t hear or see well, and who seemed to have forgotten 5 minutes after dinner that she had shared our table.

There was Felice, who could hear a pin drop at a table across the room, and proceeded to make comments to people that far away, some of them angry and hurtful.

There was Evelyn, who slowly ate her dinner and didn’t utter one word.

I could go on and on and on.

Some of these disabilities cause misunderstandings as happened at dinner:
Zelda: What differences are there around her on Saturday (Shabbat)?
Vera: What is a “diffunk”?
Felice (from a neighboring table): Can’t you just answer her question?
This went on for several rounds of questions until someone just changed the subject.

During dinner Margot’s phone went off with a loud ring “Grandma, answer your phone. Grandma, answer your phone.” Obviously her grandchildren set up her cell phone.

It was about 85 degrees in Selfhelp and no one seemed willing or able to turn down the heat. I was yawning from the heat and feeling overwhelmed by what we had experienced so we tucked Aunt Zelda in early and headed back to our hotel.

I just have to provide a picture of the elevator buttons, which have been covered up to keep those with idle fingers and feeble minds from playing. You have to be savvy enough to stick a pen-like device into a small hole to call the elevator.

My final thought was whether or not I would be able to beat the elevator system at 90 or whether I would be one of those it protected against.

You can read more about Zelda here or from my husband's post about Zelda.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Where Have All the Pretzels Gone?

The airline industry has reached a new low in flying amenities. They have taken away my pretzels. I calculated that they probably spent under $25 on beverages for the entire planeload of passengers headed to Chicago with us.

I asked about the pretzels and was told I could now purchase a snack, including Pringles at $2 or a snack box at $3 or M&Ms for $2 and who knows what other crap at an inflated cost. I say this really sucks!

Not only are the snacks gone, but so is my seatbelt. I sat down to find the right half missing altogether. I didn’t tell them about it for fear the plane might be entirely sold out and they would kick me off. The attendant never bothered to see that my seatbelt was not fastened or that I had my tray table down when we took off.

Then I went to read my page-turner The Revenge of Gaia, only to find out that my overhead light didn’t work. Oh well… I may just have to sleep instead. What a shame when I was just about to find out how the world will end.

I guess I should be happy that the plane seems to be flying without a problem and there is no turbulence since I don’t have a seatbelt.

More news from Chicago, where we are going to visit my husband’s one-of-a-kind 98-year-old Aunt Zelda. I’m sure she will offer material for multiple posts.

So fair warning if you are traveling: take whatever non-liquid food you plan to eat because there will be no more free lunch on your flight!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

On Olfactory High Alert

As I walked into Deborah’s house yesterday afternoon, I detected a very different smell. My nose seems like it is on high alert for new scents. It wasn’t food. Had there been a problem, an accident, or what? Should I ask?

Just then Jen, the petite Chinese woman who lives with Deborah, walked in with a can of paste floor wax. She and Deborah’s husband had decided to wax the hardwood floors. So that was it. It actually started to smell good once I knew it was legitimate.

This experience and my recent saga with the garlic concentrate made me realize how defining is that first smell that greets you when you open the door. You can often know that there is smoker in the house, that a garlicky dish was on the previous night’s dinner menu, or even that something spilled in the oven.

For a long time we have feared that visitors to our house are greeted by the smell of the occasional pet vomit, pee, or poop that have graced our floors. Perhaps we have just become used to these unpleasant smells.

Of course pet smells have been totally overshadowed by the heavy garlic smell. Every day as I open the side door to come home, I try to convince myself that the odor is fading.

Then there’s the recent attempt to cover up the garlic with room freshener. The other day I was greeted by the heavy perfume of a plug-in that my husband had bought. It was unbelievably gross. So I unplugged it, put it in a plastic bag, and hung it outside on our fence immediately.

Let’s look at this in a positive way. What are the smells we might like to encounter upon entering someone’s house?

– Chocolate chip cookies baking.
– Lemon-scented Pledge furniture polish.
– Pleasantly scented laundry detergent.
– Some wonderful wood burning in the fireplace.
– Nothing at all.

Personally I am all for nothing at all!

For someone whose nose seemed to be off-duty for a long while, my sense of smell now has returned completely. I’ve never been more aware of the role that smell plays as a welcome mat!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Not a Black and White Issue

I always feel a little funny writing anything that talks about a group of people, and I must admit that thought crossed my mind as I wrote yesterday's post. But when someone e-mailed me to say the post was racist, I found myself defending what I had written.

I think of racism as something that results in unfair treatment or derogatory statements about a group of people characterized by their race or Hispanic origin. I am well aware of these categorizations, because this is a big part of the mammoth survey I work on. The people in these various groups take great pride in bearing the title of their group and you would not believe the efforts they go to in order to make sure their group is treated fairly statistically. In many cases, this is a matter of entitlement that can mean a huge swing in revenue from government programs.

I like to consider that I am one of the most broad-minded people on the face of the earth when it comes to treating all people fairly. So being told my statements constituted racism made me wonder if the real intent of my post had been missed altogether.

Yesterday's post was supposed to be about celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., in music. It was about black people and white people coming together on equal ground to do so. It was poking fun at white people whose hearts were in it, but whose bodies just didn't cooperate in the same way. The evidence of this was not anecdotal, but rather it was obvious.

But perhaps the bigger point was the feeling of awe and jubilation and love for our fellow man that this music evokes. It is almost magical in its ability to draw us in and hold us as we sing the same words over and over with the energy and sound constantly rising.

I felt happy to be in the midst of an audience that was so completely mixed and to be hearing all those musicians who were also intermingled. It was actually about 180 degrees from feeling like a racist.

So if you read that post and branded me as a racist, please understand that my intention was otherwise.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

White Men Can't Clap

And neither can white women. At least that’s what I observed at the recent Choral Tribute to MLK at the Kennedy Center, which featured the unlikely combination of the Washington Choral Arts Society and local gospel choirs. I must admit that I came to hear the latter and I wasn’t disappointed.

I had never paid a lot of attention to the MLK celebrations, basically enjoying my day off in honor of his birthday. But this year my husband, in searching for some mutually acceptable "entertainment", found the MLK concert with a ticket price of $15 at the Kennedy Center, and we went with two other couples.

The one big difference between this and other audiences I have observed in the Concert Hall was the diversity of the group. There was for once a healthy balance between black and white, young and old, rich and poor.

The concert started with Norman Scribner conducting the WCAS, a mostly lily white group, in some rather serious music in foreign languages. Much of the choir had their noses buried in their books. Hm.... this wasn’t what I came to hear.

But then the fun began as the WCAS moved off the stage and the gospel choirs came on. They were robed in their colorful "uniforms" and they were ready to sing.

We heard a whole litany of songs labeled "traditional". We started to clap and sing along. These songs included Blessed Assurance, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, Hold On, and The Solid Rock.

After the intermission we were treated to a choreographed performance by the Duke Ellington Gospel Choir. These young voices and their enthusiasm were infectious.

The second half also featured a combination of the WCAS and the gospel choirs, totally intermingled. There were a couple of songs that just took on a life of their own with improvisation and a rising level of energy.

This is where the ability of white people to clap and sway like black people was markedly different. I usually hate the idea of making racial generalizations, but this one was just so obvious. I am definitely in the group with the awkward whites and I would truly love to be able to sing and move in such a fluid and natural way.

I came away wondering where the whole civil rights movement would be today if MLK hadn’t been such a forceful leader in it. He left us with a rich legacy of freedom and ethics that remains deeply connected to the music that was so much a part of it. What an evening!

Monday, January 08, 2007

And the Winner Is

In its 17th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted “plutoed” as the word of the year, in a run-off against "climate canary". To pluto is to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet.

Click here to read more. Some of the contending words are hilarious!

Have you plutoed anyone recently?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

In Search of a Laundromat

It’s been a week since the garlic incident and it’s still not over. I think our laundry room and washing machine in particular still reek of the concentrated garlic insecticide I spilled a week ago.

I decided not to wash my clothes in that garlic-infested machine as long as it still stinks. So when I showed up to play duets with Deborah today, I had a large pillowcase full of clothes to wash while we played. She just laughed and showed me to their washing machine.

When her daughter Sarah came down the stairs with her laundry basket, she was rather surprised to find out she had to wait in line. She was even more incredulous when she found out why.

My husband set out some open containers of vinegar in our laundry room and has resumed washing his clothes in the garlic pit. He periodically asks me to smell his clothes coming out of there and I must admit they smell OK. But I just put my head inside the washing machine and the smell makes me cough.

I’m starting to wonder if I am carrying this to an extreme. The funny thing is I thought I had lost a lot of my sense of smell, but now I seem to be able to detect the slightest remainder of the garlic fiasco.

At least for now I’m searching for any washing machine but my own when I have dirty clothes. It remains to be seen how long this will last.

I’m steering clear of the dryer too as evidenced by the drying rack that now holds my laundered clothes upstairs. My husband commented about how stupid it looks, but I said, “Who really cares?” thinking to myself, “I’m not going to smell like a garlic bud.”

Saturday, January 06, 2007

In a Dilemma

Or is it a "dilemna"? As I opened one birthday present to find the book “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”, we had an interesting discussion about punctuation, spelling, and grammar.

From the back of the book:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes toward the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

So, punctuation really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death.

Then the friend who knows my penchant for punctuation and grammar so well and who gave me the book brought up the word “dilemma”. She (coming from New York) had learned to spell it “dilemna”, as had a person from Chicago and my husband from Detroit. Whereas someone from Ohio had learned the double-m spelling and another person didn’t remember how he had learned it. We didn’t even use the word in northern Florida, where I grew up, preferring instead to just be “in a fix”.

The gift-giving friend is a champion speller and recently found it curious that she couldn’t find a single current resource that agreed with her spelling of the word. She must not be the only one in this dilemma.

Punctuation, spelling, and grammar are enough to drive anyone crazy. It’s hard to find any two people who agree down the line on all of these. We appease ourselves by saying the goal is communication, not perfection. But there are those of us who will continue to notice and pass judgment. I can’t wait to explore this book, which promises to be a great read, poking fun at “correct usage”.

And how do you spell that d___ word?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Another Year Older

Happy birthday to me! I can't even conceive of 58 candles on a cake.

There are many days when I feel my age and then some. But most of the time I am simply happy to be alive and well. Getting older has this funny way of making you appreciate your existence.

I was greeted at the crack of dawn by a thoughtful card and the only present I had requested: a new CD to play while I exercise. I had played my Leonard Cohen CD until it was literally worn out. My husband is a genius at making great mixes.

I grabbed the CD (which turned out to actually be 2 CDs) as I headed out the door to my – groan – 7:00 AM PT appointment with Quentin, who is always game to try new music. He jokingly said he would have to prescribe some new home exercises, now that I had 2 hours worth of music with a beat. It was so much fun to hear the beginning of each song and then figure out why my husband had chosen it. It was sort of like getting a birthday present in small bites. The music was interesting enough to distract me as my ankle and my hamstrings competed for my attention.

I'm looking forward to spending lots of time with people I love this weekend. That's about the best birthday present anyone could receive!

I'm also wishing an especially happy birthday to FL, my childhood friend, who was born the same day I was. She is just as much a Capricorn as I am. We are soulmates!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Please Take It Back

I am probably one of the few people to be issued a Blackberry and then later turn it back in. This is actually consistent with my reluctance to embrace new technology.

About 6 months ago, I decided to bite the bullet and get a Blackberry (at no cost to me). I had watched my young boss deftly answer e-mail messages while in meetings. I told myself that I too could be this connected.

So I got the little BB late last summer. I learned how to do the basics: read my mail, send a message, make a phone call. I could tell there was a whole world of functionality I wasn't touching.

I started taking my BB to meetings, but found it annoying every time it beeped at me. More and more it stayed on my desk where it could continue to beep even if I wasn't there.

I started to feel somewhat guilty when my newest boss suggested I carry my BB with me in off-hours when I was acting for her. This would mean having it in my pocket at Whole Foods or worse yet taking it with me when I was getting a massage!

Then came the missing laptop scandal, when my agency admitted to losing a number of them. BB's were to be included in the new and improved inventory system. I was admonished not to leave my BB on my desk for fear that it might be STOLEN.

That was it! I decided to retreat to my simple unelectronic life and just give it back. I completed an unbelievable amount of paperwork to relinquish control of my BB.

I haven't experienced any longings for the little thing or feelings of inadequacy since it went away.

Ironically, I got a call last week regarding not one but TWO Blackberries assigned to me. YIKES! I said to myself. How could this be? Is it really so hard to give something back?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

We have a symbiotic relationship – they bring me food, I look out for them. Sound like the mafia? It’s my relationship with the Salvadorans who clean my office.

I have grown to love this extended family over the years. I originally started talking to the mom who is now a grandmother so I could practice my Spanish. That was probably 7 years ago. She’s only 39 and in that time I have watched her bring 2 new babies into the world.

For a while we worked on her literacy in English. She said she wanted to learn how to write so she could send notes with her children to school. But it turns out that her barely 3rd grade education in El Salvador left her lacking even in her own language.

She is one of the hardest working people I know. She bought a house in her name, not daring to use her husband’s name because he is still trying to gain legal status in this country. They have carved up the small house into lots of rooms and I couldn’t tell you how many people live there.

I help them when they need to contact a repair person or get a bulky trash pickup arranged or even pay a parking ticket. I go with Morena if she needs to have a conference at one of her children's schools. The whole system is still somewhat foreign to Morena, after being here for probably 15 years. She is reluctant to make phone calls that require English.

They have come to know that I love tamales and really all sorts of Latin American food. Morena invited me over to her house to learn how to make tamales, but I was not nearly as deft as she is at rolling them into those leaves. So they are always sharing with me. Last week I had two different varieties of tamales. Today it was a chicken sandwich that was like no chicken sandwich I had ever eaten. This one had beets and radishes and cucumbers and some green leafy herb that I couldn’t recognize. Yum!

Sandra, the 19-year-old daughter, now works in my office as well. She graduated from high school just as her baby was due. She seems to be content to have joined the cleaning brigade. Her baby was born just one month before her mom’s youngest daughter. I recently brought them a disposable camera with the idea that if they took the pictures, I would pay to have them developed. I handed over the pictures of the two adorable little girls (the aunt who is younger than her niece). And I was greeted with the chicken sandwich and the biggest smile you can imagine.

Sadly, this was the highlight of my day! I had a series of work-related problems to deal with. No yelling today, just problems. But things looked up when my trash can was emptied.

My dream is for those two little girls to escape the life of the cleaning brigade. They will grow up knowing how to make dynamite tamales, but I hope they will find something more fulfilling to do than empty our trash. They certainly have role models to demonstrate the importance of hard work!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Reminder of Provence

So how did I spend my gift of a day? Remember all that blue and yellow fabric I bought in Provence several months ago? I finally had time to start a sewing project.

My idea when I bought the fabric was to make a set of 8 placemats, but I didn’t have a design in mind. Instead I bought several types of fabric in coordinating patterns. Last night I called my friend and traveling companion Kris to find out the dimensions of the placemats she bought. So I started with 12-1/2" by 17".

I knew I wanted the placemats to be reversible. On the rather plain side, I added corner decorations of the cigale (grasshopper) and olive motifs. The other side was already busy enough. A bias binding around the outside then finished it off.

After making a pattern, cutting out pieces, trying out ideas, and constructing, it took about 2 hours to make one placemat. The time-consuming part was the bias binding, which had to be hemmed down by hand on one side. But I figure I need about 8 hours of work to make the other 7 placemats.

This is the perfect kind of project for me – one that doesn’t really take a long time and shows immediate results. I love the idea of making something I actually need and can use.

But the best part was that it brought back memories of buying the fabric at Boutique Vincenette in Arles and then starting to notice how the grasshopper dominated much of the design in Provence.

Later on at lunch with friends as we described our trip to France, which now seems like an eternity away, I was a little nostalgic for the simple life of Lourmarin and the freedom to just get on my bicycle and explore. The placemats will continue to remind me of this gem of a trip.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Longing for a Do-Over or Two

How many times have you wished you could just rewind the present moment – just back maybe 5 minutes? Oh for a do-over!

Yesterday I had two of those moments. You can read about it on David’s Blog. But the long and short of it was in my efforts to do something positive, to clean out and clean up the shelves and closet near our side entrance, I knocked a bottle of concentrated garlic used for controlling mosquitoes outdoors onto the floor, where the top cracked off and it spilled. First of all, I wished for a do-over where it wouldn’t fall on the floor at all. Then I wished I had just quickly picked up the bottle to keep so much from spilling out. But no, instead I was worried about getting the dogs outside so they wouldn’t get in the mess.

My husband, who is a pretty smart guy, suggested that I just throw out the towels I used to sop up the spill, thereby avoiding contaminating the washing machine with the stinking garlic smell. But frugal person that I am, I thought it would just wash down the drain leaving clean, albeit old, towels. As the washing machine gave off an almost overwhelming garlic smell, I wanted another do-over. He had been so right on this one.

Why were my initial positive intentions going so wrong? I went to the store and bought a large bottle of Clorox. After a few cycles, the washing machine was once again approachable. But the smell wasn’t exactly gone.

I got up this morning and made another trip to the store. $41 later I had Pinesol, Lysol, a new mop, latex gloves, Febreze, and scented laundry detergent (we always use unscented) in an effort to camouflage the garlic smell.

I’m hopeful that it will just fade away with time, but I thought long and hard about those do-over requests all day today.

There have been a few other moments in my life that I wish I could have re-played. There was the time I treated the entire yard for dandelions with Weed-Be-Gone, only to almost kill the desirable shrubbery. There was another time when we were on vacation in Norway and I fell and broke a tooth.

Unfortunately life doesn’t usually give us a chance to fix mistakes. Instead we look for solutions or just live with the damage. This is called coping. Does coping build character? Are we better people from having dealt with our mistakes?

I can’t really answer those questions. But I can say I would love to receive 5 do-over tokens on January 1 each year, with the idea that I could cash them in any time during the year and earn a chance to get something right.

Have you experienced a wish for a do-over during the past year?

A Fifty-something's New Year's Eve

We’ve spent New Year’s Eve with the same people for as long as I can remember. Sometimes we do streamers and hats and noisemakers, but tonight it was just about fine food.

We started our night of non-stop eating at around 7:00 at L and M’s house. P and H joined us. All of our children used to be a part of this, but they are now celebrating on their own.

Appetizers consisted of shaved Reggiano parmesan, tapenade, smoked salmon and avocado with homemade dill sauce, and last but not least, 50's canapes. The canapes were the hit of the evening. They were slices of party pumpernickel topped with thinly sliced red onions, mayonnaise, and parmesan and then put under the broiler. All this accompanied by a great Penfold red wine.

Then we went to Bamiyan, a neighborhood Afghan restaurant, for dinner. I was already stuffed, but managed to eat an eggplant and a lamb appetizer. I’m not sure why we bothered going out to eat!

L had planned a little tasting test for us for dessert. She had cut up dark chocolate into small bite-size pieces, numbered 1 through 5. We were asked to consider appearance, aroma, meltability, and any other characteristics of our choice to rank the samples from best to worst. It was a tough assignment, but we all came out with a definite opinion. Here were the 5 samples, not revealed until after everyone had voted:

(1) Scharffenberger 60%
(2) Valrhona 85%
(3) Valrhona 56%
(4) Trader Joe’s 72%
(5) Trader Joe’s 56%

The 3 men all chose #5. L and I chose #1, commenting that it tasted much like cherries. H chose #3.

By this time, it was almost midnight. We gathered in front of the television set to watch the ball drop. We were shocked by Dick Clark, who still had the slurred speech of a stroke victim. This was the most sobering observation of the evening. Hugs around at the stroke of 12.

The finale was more food! This time we enjoyed outrageously good dates brought straight from California by H and P, clementines, Stilton cheese, and a Napa Zinfandel Port that was the perfect accompaniment.

The end of our New Year’s evening found us putting these photos on a DVD for me to take home and post.

So no crowded bars or big parties for us old guys. Just a few friends mostly at home and a lot of good food. We have our priorities straight!

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope 2007 is all you want it to be.

Credits to H and P for photos, L and M for hospitality, and D for being my "date"!