Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yum or Yuck

Certain foods get a strong reaction of either love or hatred from most people. Among those are things like raw oysters, tuna tartare, and anchovies. I react with extreme LOVE to all of these foods and was privileged to enjoy two of them for lunch today.

My friend Betty, who shares my love of raw oysters, periodically suggests we meet at Black Salt for lunch. You wouldn’t eat raw oysters at just any seafood restaurant because you can get very sick if they are not handled correctly. But Black Salt is one of the premier seafood restaurants in the DC area and I never worry when I eat there.

We always sample all the oyster options -- charming names like Blue Point, James River, New Point (Virginia), and Little Ring (British Columbia). Some might say they all look and taste equally slimy, but there is a definite difference. The oysters come on a bed of crushed ice with lemon wedges, red horseradish sauce, and mignonette, a sauce made with red wine vinegar, shallots, sugar, and sea salt. Today we had 9 oysters each and savored each one.

Our next course was tuna tartare (raw, finely chopped tuna) on a hot rice cake with lots of black sesame seeds and fresh herbs. It was a wonderful dish to follow the oysters.

We enjoyed a glass of chilled white wine with our meal. We opted to skip dessert and instead have a cup of frothy cappucino with a hint of raw sugar.

Knowing Betty she would be equally game to split an anchovy pizza with me. We seem to have similar tastes in food.

We are already talking about our next lunch outing -- maybe Sushi-Ko in Chevy Chase or something in the U Street corridor (note to self: ask Richard for his latest recommendation.) Lunch out is always fun, but even more so with an adventurous eater like Betty.

How do you feel about raw oysters? Tuna tartare? Anchovies?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Outrage -- justified or not?

Our Monday morning discussion group at Temple Micah spent most of the hour talking about Pat Oliphant’s controversial cartoon published last week and quickly labeled by the Anti-Defamation League as "hideously anti-Semitic".

As you can see, the cartoon depicts Israel as a headless, Nazi-like goose-stepping monster preying on tiny Gaza with a shark-like mouth coming out of a Star of David.

The TM group was not unanimous in its level of condemnation. The cartoon caused me to pose additional questions, such as:

-- Would the sentiment be as strong if it portrayed a giant US attacking a tiny Iraq? (Recall the recent New York Post cartoon showing a dead chimp which was interpreted to be President Obama. It was later retracted with an apology.)
-- What if it showed the combined Arab world having a go at a tiny Israel, which in terms of land mass would be quite accurate?

Criticism is nothing new for Oliphant. His cartoons offended the Asians in 2001 and the Arabs in 2005. He is known for his liberal thinking. So was he telling it like he sees it in this latest controversial cartoon? So far he has no comment.

Those offering comments on this site were almost universally behind Oliphant, including some who offered that they were Jewish.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A case of open or closed

I think most people have pet peeves about their partners. I have a new one that smacks of OCD on my part.

There are certain doors -- closet doors, pantry door, door to the basement, laundry room door -- that should be closed, at least in my mind that is. I mentioned this to my husband, who laughed and half-heartedly said he would try to remember. But inevitably he leaves them open -- ALWAYS!

My first thought is whether this is something that has been going on forever and I just started to care. Or whether for some reason he has within the past couple of years started refusing to close those doors.

I find myself going through the house banging the doors shut so perhaps he will notice. But so far I don’t think he has.

You are probably saying right now, “If this is the most serious thing these people disagree on, they are in pretty good shape.” And I would agree with you.

I mentioned this to my good friend who has an answer for everything. She suggested that my obsession with closed doors could be related to the doors I need to open to find the passion I am looking for. I’m thinking hard about this. I really am.

I do wonder if I will still be closing these particular doors when I am 90, or if I will no longer care, the way I no longer care about so many things that used to seem important to me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Just yesterday I commented to a friend that I seem to be searching for something to feel passionate about. For the past 2 months I have been passionate about recovering from my accident and surgery, but I seem to be mostly better now (although there are moments when I wonder if and when I will ever be totally pain-free).

My friend responded, “Ah, searching for what you're passionate about...that's a tricky one! Who knows -- Will it be a single thing? Or a particular balanced synthesis of multiple things? Or will it be an attitudinal shift toward the things you're already doing? Hmmm....?”

It’s not that I am not busy. I have more than enough to occupy my time, most of which I enjoy doing. But unfortunately sometimes I feel like I’m just going through the motions of life.

This week I had dinner at another friend’s house in the company of someone who obviously feels passionately about what he does. He writes poetry, creates framable art with Photoshop, makes furniture, builds sets for operas, and happens to be one of the nicest guys I know. He puts his heart and soul into his creations, often adding images of his wife’s cello in his art. He’s not getting rich, but he is incredibly happy and seemingly fulfilled.

I want to feel like that. I want to find something that causes my heart to come alive and swell. I hope soon to be able to answer my friend’s question.

What do you feel passionate about?

Friday, March 27, 2009

And the first farmer said...

I volunteered to conduct interviews with some of the farmers who supply our CSA. The intention is to put them on the website. Even though I'm no journalist, I had fun with the first one today. Here's the result:

Good Humus Produce is the source of our dried apricots, peaches, and nectarines. It is a 20-acre farm located in Northern California, which produces a variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

I spoke to Jeff Maine, who with his wife Annie started the farm in 1976 after they graduated from UC Davis. Their interest in organic gardening began when they were living in a coop arrangement in college. They studied things like French intensive gardening and used techniques like raised beds and double digging in an effort to learn how to get the most out of a small plot of land. Even back then, they quickly realized the importance of taking care of the soil. But the most important lesson that emerged was the value of planting a healthy seed in healthy soil.

I asked about farm labor. They tend to use the same local people each year, employing a few of them year-round. Economic conditions to a degree set the salaries, which have risen slowly over time. They make no use of migrant workers.

Since Good Humus is a certified organic farm, I asked how they maintain the proper nutrient level in the soil. Compost and cover crops, including things like mustard, broccoli, rye, cowpeas, vetch, and field peas. These plants are “healers”, some providing nitrogen and others, such as broccoli, serving as anti-microbials.

As with all farms, they must be concerned about predators. They have a deer fence, but they must also worry about other animals like the wild turkeys who love leeks. Under organic gardening rules, they are allowed to use sulfur, oil, and copper compounds spring and fall to ward off fungus, something that can be devastating. Jeff is constantly searching for something better within the organic framework.

They sell their products locally to coops, their own CSA, and at farmers’ markets, avoiding the large stores like Whole Foods. Spiritual Food CSA contacted them to arrange to buy their dried fruits.

I asked what the most labor intensive crop was and to my surprise Jeff said, “Flowers.”

He said his biggest challenge as a farmer is mental, maintaining an open mind and a positive attitude. He has to remind himself to stay connected to the soil from time to time. Their dependence on stable weather, with which much of California is blessed, makes slight deviations seem like real problems.

A unique aspect of Good Humus Produce is their efforts to establish an agricultural easement, which will help guarantee the future use of the land for similar farming. He is hoping to finalize it this year, thereby creating a model for sustaining small farms.

At the conclusion of the interview, Jeff’s wife Annie reiterated how happy they are to have an alliance with Spiritual Food CSA, which connects like-minded people across the country.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Recent Discovery

This past week I discovered a little secret in DC: A handicap placard entitles you to some stated amount of free parking in public spaces. It seems to be roughly twice the length as posted for the paying patrons.

This was enormously helpful to me today when I went to get my hair cut at Axis near Dupont Circle. I never park in the one-hour meters just outside the salon door because I can’t count on being done in an hour. But today I got two free hours just for putting a sign in my window.

I’m sort of on the edge of feeling guilty about doing this. I could probably have walked from a 2-hour space (some of which are not metered). I certainly have enough money (still) to pay for parking.

But I have gotten into this routine of pulling out my placard and cashing in on the free parking.

I look at it this way: Throughout my years in this area, I have fed many a meter and paid many a parking ticket in DC. In other words, I rationalize my use of this privilege by the fact that I’ve paid my dues.

In July when my placard expires, I will go back to being just another driver looking for a legal space with time on the meter. But I must admit the free parking is really nice while it lasts.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Economies of CSA Scale

I got a behind-the-scenes view of how the CSA operates this week. On Monday afternoon I volunteered to cut raw milk organic cheddar cheese, one of the offerings in this week’s delivery. This morning I worked for several hours to prepare the food to be moved out to the various pick-up sites. It is an impressive but daunting operation.

It even called upon my math skills. I had to figure out how many ounces of Swiss chard every shareholder got when the farmer gave us 60 pounds of chard, etc. Then I had to determine how many pounds each site would get depending on the number of members.

There was loading, schlepping, bagging, counting, labeling, and numerous other somewhat menial tasks. But I was in the company of like-minded people who appreciate the value of fresh and local. I packed all the cheese and the lentils this week. I knew who packed the other items.

As I spread my week’s delivery out on the counter, I had a renewed appreciation of how it was put together.

The CSA is run out of a yoga ashram. As I left, the coordinator told me I had earned extra karma points this week by volunteering!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Meeting New Challenges

Over the past month, my PT has incrementally created this obstacle course for me. My attitude toward every addition says a lot about how I often approach physical challenges.

She started with a single “step” way back when I was still using a crutch. I had to go up and over with my right leg bearing the weight, over and over and over. Then it got more interesting as I became more mobile and she added steps of different heights and stepping stones and hurdles and a balance board and finally today an incline.

With each addition, my first reaction was “I can’t possibly do that.” She always said, “Let’s work on it together. I’m sure you can.” And I inevitably did. Which makes me question how much my ability to do things is in my head rather than in my body.

I have just one PT session left and I’m already wondering what the last addition to my obstacle course will be. I will probably initially doubt my ability and Christina will help me find a way.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy in life to be coached through the difficulties, turning “No I can’t’s” into “Yes I can’s”? I am going to try to picture my obstacle course the next time I am faced with a challenge.

How do you handle new things thrown into your life?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lapping it up

I have never been much of a swimmer, considering my fear of drowning. But I decided to take the advice of my surgeon and my PT and start swimming on a regular basis.

I didn’t even own a decent kickboard, so I first went out and purchased this one. That way I could break up the monotony of doing the crawl for lap after lap with just kicking and catching my breath.

I decided to go to Chinquapin Rec Center, a place where I had spent many an hour when my children were involved in competitive swimming. It seemed so different walking in the door as a swimmer instead of a swim parent.

I knew the first visit would be the most difficult as I worked out the necessary details, the first of which had to do with getting my right flipper on since I still can’t quite touch my toes on that side. (I wear fins because my kick is otherwise so weak I don’t go anywhere.) When I had asked the surgeon about using them, he responded, “But what if you fell walking across the pool deck in flippers?” Even I am smart enough to know you put them on in the pool! So indeed I did. I sat on the edge of the pool at the end of my lane and commandeered someone to put on my right fin. She was more than happy to help.

The swimming actually felt good. Nothing hurt and I was swimming at a constant depth of 3.5 feet so I didn’t have to worry about drowning.

On my first trip to the pool, I did 20 laps. Just like with the houses, I plan to add on a lap or two every time I go (until I reach 50 or so).

Instead of trying to hoist myself up and out of the pool, I walked up the ramp provided for handicapped people and young children, that is after I managed to remove my own flippers. I was extremely cautious not to slip on the wet deck.

I wouldn’t mind some company if you are ever in Alexandria and want to go swimming!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

An Educational Challenge

A week ago an article in the New York Times featured a local high school in Prince William County and its “solution” to the education of immigrants with minimal English skills. Last night I saw “The Class”, a French film which is almost like a documentary as it depicts the difficulties in a high school class filled with immigrants. Neither story is a happy one.

Hylton High has made a conscious choice to segregate the immigrant students for most of their classes. Theirs is a school within a school -- separate classes, separate field trips, separate clubs. There is little attempt at assimilation. They ultimately take the same standardized tests, but their preparation must include the definition of the terms in the questions in some cases. A much lower percentage of these students go on to college, with many joining the ranks of their parents in doing menial labor. The long-standing debate is whether these students would profit more or less from being thrust into classrooms where they would have little advantage and whether the other students would suffer as the immigrants were pulled along. It’s a hard call, but for some recent immigrants it has closed doors they came here to enter.

The Class (or “Entre les Murs” in French) takes place in the 20th arondissement of Paris, known for a high immigrant population. The teacher, Francois Marin, is actually an educator who wrote the book on which the movie is based. He recruited students at a local high school, gave them some acting lessons, and cast them in the movie. The result couldn’t be a more authentic depiction of the challenges posed by such a class. There is Wey, the quiet Chinese boy who excels at math and video games, and whose mother is deported because she is in France illegally; Carl, the angry transfer student from the Caribbean; Souleymane, the tough guy from Mali; and Esmeralda, the Arab girl who seems to have it in for the teacher but who we learn has read “The Republic,” quite a difficult book. The saddest is the girl who at the end of the year confesses that she has learned nothing and fears she will be sent to vocational school.

The teacher is far from perfect, making some egregious errors by labeling students with terms like “limited” and “skank”. But he seems to survive the year, whereas Souleymane gets expelled and perhaps sent back to Mali by his angry father.

Both the local high school story and the movie made me more conscious of the plight of immigrants, especially those who come here during their formative years when their hormones are raging. In many cases they simply need someone to believe in them, and instead they get a system that seems to cut them off at every critical junction.

So do we simply throw up our hands and hope for better luck for the next generation, or is there a better way to approach this dilemma?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Inch by inch, row by row

Just as Michelle Obama is planting a garden on the South Lawn of the White House, I am becoming a huge advocate of the CSA (community supported agriculture) movement. One of the highlights of my week is picking up the delivery of fresh produce on Wednesday afternoons.

I feel somewhat like an aging hippie as I start to volunteer my help for whatever needs to be done at Spiritual Food CSA. On Monday afternoon I will work with another volunteer to cut cheese for the 180 customers who will also pick up their “crates” on Wednesday. (Our CSA goes beyond fruits and vegetables to offer eggs, yogurt, cheese, oatmeal, dried peas and beans, and other surprises.) On Wednesday morning I will spend a few hours loading up the vans that will take the food for 180 people to their respective pick-up points. It’s quite an operation.

Our eating habits were always good, but we were spending a lot of money on organic produce at Whole Foods that wasn’t always as fresh as it could have been. And we were eating a rotation of a handful of vegetables. Belonging to a CSA has saved my figuring out what to buy and has added color and variety to our previously rather dull diet.

My dinner last night included leftover red cabbage with apples, pinto bean soup that definitely improves with age, and a green salad that tasted like it just came out of the garden. A free-range hard-boiled egg and bits of cheese in the salad eliminated the need for additional protein.

This week I will also contact two farmers who help supply our CSA for an interview that will be posted on the CSA website. The first is from Good Humus Produce, which supplies our dried fruit: apricots, peaches, nectarines. The second is from Kimberton CSA, supplier of biodynamic eggs. What would you ask a farmer who is dedicated to producing quality food?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tea for Three

The English were so smart when they came up with the idea of afternoon tea. It’s a time for stopping the busy-ness of life to get some nourishment and perhaps to connect with friends.

Last Friday we celebrated a neighborhood birthday at a delightful tea room in Occoquan, a sleepy little waterfront town just south of where we live.

For a fraction of the cost of high tea at the Ritz Carlton, we feasted on warm soup, cucumber mini-sandwiches, and hot scones with jam and cream. And of course TEA -- a choice of more varieties than I knew existed. I settled on a smoky Russian black tea that smelled as good as it tasted.

We spent so much time eating, drinking, and catching up that we were unable to explore Occoquan on this trip. That gives us an excuse for another visit to the Pink Bicycle Tea Room.

And how do you like those hats, provided by the management? The birthday girl is hiding behind her brim.

Stay tuned for another road trip of this threesome, perhaps to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Waters near Pittsburgh with a swing through rural Ohio. It turns out I’m not the only one who wants to go somewhere!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Redness of Nature

The day after we pick up our CSA delivery, I often find myself in the kitchen trying to figure out what to do with my latest vegetables. Today I am tackling a magnificent, large head of red cabbage, making it in a German style.

As I cut into things, I was struck by the beauty of the inside of a head of cabbage, by the inside of a red onion.

The redness of the cabbage gets a lot more mixed up after it is shredded.

As the cabbage and apples simmer on the stove, the pot is a lovely mix of redness.

Here’s the recipe:

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples

-- 1 head of red cabbage
-- 2 generous tablespoons of olive oil
-- 1 red onion, quartered and sliced
-- 2 apples, peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced
-- Several tablespoons of chopped fresh dill
-- 1 cup chicken broth
-- 1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar
-- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
-- Salt and pepper

Quarter the cabbage and cut away the core. Shred it. In a large stockpot, saute the onions and apples in the olive oil over moderately high heat. After a few minutes, when they begin to soften, add the dill, bay leaves, cabbage, and broth. Cook until the cabbage begins to wilt. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook until the cabbage is soft, stirring occasionally.

I hope it tastes as good as it looks and smells!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Give one, take one

I’ve always loved those “Give a penny, Take a penny” cups, which allow you to unburden yourself of worthless change and yet be able to come up with exact change for an item costing $10.04. Yesterday I came up with a similar idea for used medical equipment.

I’m just starting to realize how much all those things I found so invaluable during my recovery cost. I was appalled to get a bill for $130 for the porta-potty I brought home from the hospital. The crutches cost $50. The walker, the reacher, the sock putter-onner, the foam thing to hold my legs apart while I slept, etc. They all had a cost. And now that I’m almost recovered, I own a bunch of things I hope never to need again which take up space in my house.

I’m thinking about turning my unused basement sewing room into a storage space for used medical equipment. People who want to find a good home for used things could either bring them to me or call and I would come pick them up. Others who are just coming home from the hospital could come by and select from my current inventory or tell me where to drop off things I might have.

There would be no monetary exchange. But I think it would be a win-win for donors and recipients. And it would be a great way to recycle equipment that is barely used.

If I actually pull this off, I will need to find a way to advertise this service. I’m wondering if hospitals would make this information available to patients or whether they would prefer to keep taking their share of the price of these items. Maybe an ad on Craig’s List would be all I need.

What do you think? Have anything you would like to get rid of?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wriggling Toward Spring

For me the real harbinger of Spring is the earthworm. When they all appear after a good rain, you know Spring is on its way.

This morning they were out in full force, slowly wriggling their way across the driveway. You have to wonder if they are trying to go somewhere, or whether they are just so happy to be out in the open that they just have to wiggle.

Which makes me ask where earthworms spend the rest of the year? It’s this damp pre-Spring time when I most often see them, not thinking about them otherwise. Their rather albino appearance might indicate a life mostly without sun.

Have you seen the earthworms yet this year?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wander Lust

I want to go somewhere. Just about anywhere would be OK with me.

I feel like I got cheated out of my trip to San Francisco in January. That was the mother-daughter bonding trip that was cancelled when I broke my hip.

We missed out on a March trip to Peru with our good friends and neighbors. I just got back from taking my friend KC and her husband to the airport so they can go play in Sante Fe.

Whereas my husband seems totally content to repeat his daily routine every day, I’m getting cabin fever. I find it’s nice to have a trip to look forward to every few months. And right now I have nothing planned for as long as I can see out on the horizon.

Maybe when I get distracted by the beauty of a Washington spring, I will feel more content to stay home. But for now, every jet plane going overhead beckons me to fly away.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Drumroll, please!

I was totally surprised this week when I received this award from Karen. It was my first such award, although I have been seeing various awards on others’ Blogs for years. I must admit it did make me feel good to be part of a “chosen” list. Karen had attempted to be inclusive by giving just about everyone she reads some sort of award. Kudos to her!

My award comes with the following description:

"This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!

Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award."

I was doing fine until I got to the last line. That’s when I realized I couldn’t fulfill the requirement of the award, tantamount to breaking a chain letter. I just couldn’t choose 8 among the Blogs I read who were that much better at Blogger friendship than any others.

So this will probably be my first and last award. I thank Karen once again for being so gracious. And I remind all of you – Bloggers, commenters, and just readers – that I truly value your friendship and the richness you add to my life. We are incredibly close in cyberspace!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Queen for a Day or at least a Night

I had been meaning to write about this year’s Purim spiel at Temple Micah, but got a little distracted by the neighborhood fire and other things this week. However, it was too good not to give a short report.

Before the “spiel”, the staff chanted the story of Esther, reading the whole Megillah, or most of it.

Every year casts Shushan, the home of King Ahaseurus, in a different light. This year it was Motown and the players all dressed accordingly. The Motown songs we all know and love had been slightly altered, resulting in lyrics like “Set me free, why don’t you, King” and “Stop in the name of God.” The star of the show, at least in my mind, was an autistic young adult who played Haman. He is almost impossible to engage in a meaningful conversation, and yet he can sing and dance like a pro. In the end, as always, the King listens to his new Queen Esther (a Jew) who is advised by her cousin Mordechai, the Jews are saved, and the treacherous Haman gets the ax.

Purim is a time for dressing in costume. At least a third of the young girls came as Queen Esther. There were also Karate Kids, Dalmations, super-girls, and many other clever disguises.

After all the theatricals, everyone feasted on hamantaschen, little fruit-filled pastries that look like Haman’s hat and are always served at Purim.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Namaste Once Again

Today I remembered how good it feels to do downward dog, to do plank, even to do lunges. I had my first post-surgery yoga class and it was a wonderful reunion with a practice I had sorely missed over the past 2 months.

It was not easy to find a teacher who was interested in taking on someone with a total hip replacement, but after talking to a chain of people, I found Sally Craig, who is dedicated to teaching “yoga for people with creaky bodies.” Hmmm... that would be me for sure.

I knew from our initial conversation this was the right person for me, especially in my current state of health. She wisely postponed our first class until after my 6-week visit with my surgeon. She asked to speak to someone who could explain the limitations I currently have to guard again hip dislocation.

I was disappointed that my surgeon opted out of briefing my yoga teacher. In truth, his interest in me seemed to end when I left the hospital. However, my dedicated physical therapist Christina was only too happy to talk to Sally and prior to my arrival today they had spoken at length.

The additional prop of a chair allowed me to modify several poses, mostly using the chair for balance. Sally had carefully thought through the traditional yoga poses, modifying even things like a sun salutation so I could do them. I breathed with that wonderful “Darth Vadar” breath for the entire hour as I remembered the powerful effect that moving my body, breathing, and meditating have on my being.

As I lay on my back for final relaxation, Sally put my socks back on and gave me a foot massage, an added treat.

I have scheduled three more one-on-one classes. Then I will plan to join one of her classes or perhaps one a little closer to home, with the thought that by that time I will be quite knowledgeable of what I must do to protect myself.

But for the next three weeks I will luxuriate in doing those many poses in the intimate setting of Sally’s home, where it’s all about me and allowing my body to experience the benefits of a yoga practice once again.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

The A.K.A. Albatross

The thing about nicknames is they are hard to get rid of. I was reminded just this week as Barbie turned 50 and I got a “Dear Barbie” e-mail from my 62-year-old cousin Jim, who was always Jimmy to me.

That doll came out when I was 10. I never even wanted to look like her and certainly never did. But to most everyone in my small town and among all my relatives I would be forever “Barbie” despite the presence of the doll. It’s just hard to unlearn a name you have used for 10 years!

When we were thinking about children’s names, I was determined to pick names that could easily be used in their entirety without a diminutive form. We picked Daniel and Rachel, very Biblical names. In college Daniel decided to become Dan, but that was his choice. Rachel never made any attempt to change her name.

I face this same nickname problem when I correspond with my best friend from childhood, who sometimes comments as FL. She will always be FL to me, not the full version of F she seems to go by these days. Old habits are hard to break!

Did you ever have a nickname? When and how did you leave it behind? Do you find a certain awkwardness in talking to people who knew you “back then”?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Entertainment a la Jake

My dog Jake provided me with entertainment, exercise, and something useful to do this morning as we cleaned up a winter’s worth of dog poop in the back yard.

But first I had to go to Petco and purchase my first pooper scooper since it is not so easy for me to bend over right now. I tried several different models and settled on the blue one with the Petco label. So armed with my new toy and a doubled grocery bag, I made my way to the back yard.

You cannot imagine how much poop a dog can do over a period of several months. It was like a field of land mines. I just couldn’t let the poor Hispanic guys who mow my yard encounter this. So I went to work scooping. I parked my cane on the fence because I really needed both hands for the cleanup operation.

Meanwhile Jake continued to try to distract me with his Kong, ever ready to retrieve.

He especially seemed to like the May pole still standing from our May Day celebration last Spring. Maybe this was his way of including himself in the dance as he left daily reminders.

After the cleanup was complete, he got his turn to fetch.

Here’s Jake checking out the morning’s collection.

It must weigh 15 pounds. I wonder if there is a good way to recycle dog poop, or whether it simply belongs in the trash can?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Aftermath of the Flames

What was left of the house was actually very little. Smoke was still coming from what used to be the left side as the chimney seemed the only thing left standing. It was an eerie scene at the end of a cul-de-sac of homes that would sell for upwards of $600,000. The trees of Holmes Run lay just behind the charred remains.

Fortunately the house was vacant. The retired dentist who used to live there now lives in a Sunrise assisted living facility.

No one as of yet seems to know the cause of the fire. But it was definitely a big one that burned out of control for most of an hour while firemen battled the blaze.

My friend’s house was literally 100 feet away. I thought about the fear that all the neighbors, especially those on either side of the burning house, must have felt as they watched it be consumed and prepared to evacuate their own houses.

There’s already a dumpster out front in which the blackened contents of the house that burned will be put for disposal.

I wonder where they will put the skeleton of a car that sits in front of the mounds of things burned beyond recognition?

Repair crews work just a little ways up the street to repair a water main break caused by a firetruck last night. It’s a mess, but it’s fixable. The house clearly is not.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Up in Flames

Imagine our shock as we pulled into our driveway around 8:45 tonight to see flames shooting high into the night sky not far behind our house.

We called someone who lived in the area of the fire and she confirmed that it was a house just two doors down from them. It was obviously a very serious fire with emergency vehicles from multiple jurisdictions streaming down the street in front of our house.

We will be able to see in the morning what remains of the house, but I’m guessing it was pretty much demolished.

In the 32 years we’ve lived here, I can remember only one serious house fire in our neighborhood.

So many thoughts quickly flood your head at a time like this, like

-- Thank God it’s not my house.
-- I hope it won’t spread to my friend’s house.
-- I feel so sorry for the people who just lost their house and a lifetime of possessions.

Our power was out briefly, but long enough to cause us to miss 24. Jake is on a high state of agitation because of all the sirens and I think he might smell the fire in the air outside. But we can rest assured that the fire is now out and our life was hardly interrupted by a tragedy that left a neighborhood family homeless.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Canine Contribution

In these days of economic crisis, our dog Jake is doing his part to help our family save money, or at least not spend any more than we have to.

The last couple of routine trips to the vet had resulted in charges of over $300. Things like toenail clipping cost $32, anal sac excretion $34, rabies shot $52. It all adds up.

We just realized that many of those same services are available at our local Petco at a fraction of the cost.

In fact we took him in to get his overly long toenails clipped on Friday night and they didn’t even charge us because they had already closed out the cash register.

Today we lined up with the United Nations of Bailey’s Crossroads to get vaccinations done in the mobile van than comes with a vet to the same Petco 2 hours a month. It was well worth the hour waiting in line with many barking and yelping dogs to pay $34 for the same services that would have cost hundreds of dollars at the vet’s. Jake was actually on his best behavior as were most of the big dogs.

Jake’s motto is “Anything for my family!” But meanwhile he is wondering if anyone would like to go out and throw his Kong for him as a reward for his fiscal austerity and good behavior.