Dec 19

The day-after-Christmas party

My in-laws have this perpetual calendar by their kitchen door. It’s the sort of thing where you swap out the month tiles and move the numbers to get right under the days of the week. It’s the sort of thing that a lot of people have, but let it quickly fall out of sequence within a month or three. But, in all the years I’ve known them this calendar has always been up-to-date. Even when you come downstairs into the kitchen on the first day of the month, it is ready to go. I imagine that appeals to my mother-in-law’s sense of order. It’s a thing she can keep nice and tidy, and keep her organized for the days ahead.

It was a gift, many years ago, from a beloved family friend, and that probably plays into it, too. And they have custom tiles for important events, which is another added feature she surely looks forward to every month. And, look! This year I got my own tile!

The Yankee’s god-brother-in-law’s mother made that one for me. And, the joke this year, is that it only took 14 years for me to earn it. I suppose they think I’m going to stick. Time, as the cliche says, will tell.

Anyway, today we had New Jersey Christmas. Every year we drive down to spend a day with the family folks. The Yankee’s god parents are lifelong friends of my in-laws. It’s a cute story, really. Bob and Nancy met a year after she finished nursing school. Her best friend in school was Marge. And when Bob and Nancy got married, Marge met Clem at their wedding. Bob and Clem have been friends since before they were in school. They’re all lovely and wonderful and it’s really neat to see people who’ve been in each other’s lives for so many decades. They all raised their daughters together, and they vacation together, just this summer taking an amazing trip through Canada. And they let us all invade their house at Christmas time.

We opened presents:

And dinner, which was homemade lasagna (so, if you’re keeping track, that’s ravioli on Christmas Eve, shrimp cocktail and prime rib for Christmas and shrimp cocktail and lasagna at New Jersey Christmas) and we had homemade poppers to go with it. My mother-in-law made these:

They had little prizes and puns inside. Here was mine:

And before the night was over the girls, the ladies, recreated their traditional pyramid picture:

Isn’t that awesome? Aren’t they beautiful? They’ve been doing this all their lives, literally. There are teeny tiny kid pyramid pictures at the beach, and one from every time they get together as adults, including each of the weddings, and one from from the shore this summer. So, of course, they also do them every Christmas. Someday we’ll have to guess how many there actually are.

We’re trying to get all the kids trained to do a super pyramid. It didn’t quite work out today. Maybe next year.

Dec 19

And another travel day

When last we spoke, gentle reader, we were in Alabama. Or we were leaving Alabama. Or had just left Alabama and were back in Indiana or were on the way. Or something. It’s difficult to keep it all straight this time of year, really. Now we are in Connecticut, for example.

It went like this. Shorts and t-shirts on cool Alabama winter days. Then two days of sun and snow in Indiana. Don’t believe me?

Saturday in Indiana:

Sloppy Saturday:

Still so very Saturday:

This was Sunday on the church’s property:

Then a before-the-sunrise flight to New York, where New York things happened. My in-laws picked us up and we had lunch at a Connecticut diner, before going for a run on the beach. This is today on the Long Island Sound, in Connecticut, looking back toward New York:

It seems improbable, really. And an awful lot of people were out to take advantage of the moment. And we had another December run in shorts and a t-shirt, this time in front of the Christmas cottage:

And now, most of the shopping has been done, most of the errands have been run and we look forward to beginning the Christmas festivities once again:

The many fine Connecticut traditions start tomorrow at dinner.

Dec 19

Travel day

I took this picture at the end of my run yesterday. The run was remarkable in its unremarkable-ness, and in its slowness. But for this, it wouldn’t be worth talking about at all:

If you think that sky is a winter rarity rather than the miracle of normalcy, I would encourage you to find a new, and better, frame of reference.

I also forgot to share a picture of BB. So here’s the lovely and wonderful BB, who’s still getting treats from the mail lady, and chasing red dots down the hall and chewing on a sock monkey and generally a lovely time with all of it.

We had to hit the road again, and we managed to almost time dinner in Nashville, so we stopped for some barbecue. It’s the right and delicious thing to do.

And we made it back to the house. Late … but not too late. Tired … but not too tired. Cold … but not too cold it was plenty cold.

Dec 19

May the mamma mia be with you, neighbor

Got it a little present last night at the hardware store. We needed parts, and this was one of the next things I was going to acquire anyway.

It was this or a router. And I think I’ll use a Kreg jig kit more often. Because, having spent more than a few minutes on Pinterest, I have come to realize that the entire DIY industry is entirely a front to prop up sales of Kreg products. But now I can make pocket joinery and there’s a custom drawer build in my future. (When I finish another pre-existing project or two.)

This morning I repaired two panels of my folks’ fence that were felled in Monday’s storm. It seems as if this fence has been there a while. It was, in fact, in the yard when they bought the place. And it seems that if a determined wind blows through the neighborhood one or more of the brackets holding one or more of the panels is going to fail. So they are replacing the thing bit by plastic bit, basically.

These two will, hopefully, be some of the last repairs required on this fence before they replace the whole thing. We’re down to spare part repairs, otherwise. As with anything, you get better at it over time. That first panel, on the left, took a long while. The second one went much faster because I knew what I was doing. Not, necessarily that I knew how to do it right, mind you.

Still, I’m not going to become a fence installer when I grow up.

We went to the movies this evening. While I was out wrapping up the day’s run the women in my life decided we should see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It’s a fine movie, but you should definitely read the article first.

While we’re standing in line at the concessions stand — where you buy tickets now because box offices are for oldz, and movie theaters are full of cost efficiency consultants these days — we saw this. Two of the three kids working working behind the counter were fussing with one, and off to the side I saw the price. Someone said something snarky. Probably it was me. The Yankee, always ready for a joke, gave me the I-have-a-reply look and her line let me say “Of course I’m not going to buy one because I’m a grownup.”

The guy in front of us looked back over his shoulder and smiled: Ha! Good one! And then he bought one.

He also asked them to not fill it with popcorn and his drink.

I bet he could have purchased the same thing at Bed Bath & Beyond for half the price. (It’s in the Beyond section, if you were wondering.)

We visited a downtown Italian restaurant for dinner this evening. We’ve been there before, and it hasn’t let us down yet. You’d think, Italian? In small town Alabama? Yes, my friend, but this is Florence.

An Italian immigrant named Ferdinand Sannoner, of Livorno, surveyed all of this land 200 years ago and he named it after Florence, which is just 50-some miles from his hometown. Part of his payment was in land. He died and is buried in Memphis, where his grave sat unmarked for almost 120 years. Today his old property, here, is home to the public library, and a very short walk away is the restaurant where we had dinner. Maybe he’d like that. Maybe he’d like the food. Who can say what a man born in 18th century Italy who lived in the 19th century American southeast would like today.

He’d probably think this was cool, though:

Well, once you explained who Hemingway was. Elvis? Transcends time. That’s the only way we can keep the artful graffiti honest. The restaurant was established in 1996.

I wonder what was there before that. Someone break out the ouji board. Let’s ask Sannoner.

Dec 19

Happy 10K to me

Don’t worry. This isn’t a running blog, or a blog even turning into a running blog. All appearances to the contrary. I just have a bit of extra time now, my foot feels better (and aren’t we all relieved of that, in the hopes that we’ll stop talking about it) and I am trying to hit an arbitrary goal for the year. So it is a high-volume month, dear reader, and you have my apologies.

Last week I announced that today I was going to run a 10K, my first since mid-March, and so we did. Plus, it had the added benefit of being a good way to welcome in a new magic number.

It was a warm-ish and sunny day. Plenty warm by here, the second mile of the course:

Even in the shade it wasn’t too bad:

Here’s a shot where you fool the processor in your pocket super computer camera. A simple overexposure looks like the end of a day at the end of times. This is the Tennessee River.

And this is the Wilson Dam, which was closed to traffic today for some reason.

Probably for wind or rains or temperature or who knows. They shut it down sometimes. Probably today word got out that we were going to run down here and they turned everyone away for us. Thanks, TVA!

They started building the dam in 1918 and completed in 1924. Two years ago we ran down here and saw a rainbow that, I artfully said, was 100 years in the making. I have four more years to think up a similarly good line to see another one.

There were no spillways open today, but there were no cars on the road either. My mother would tell you she learned to drive on this tiny dam, in the snow. I’m sure it was a blinding storm. But, the story goes, her father’s logic was that if you can drive on this dam in the snow you can do most anything.

It’s a small damn, and the logic, scary as it seems, holds up. I never liked going over the thing as a kid, and back then that was the only way between A and B. The first time I drove over it was, I’m sure, a bright, sunny day — or a perfectly clear night — and there’s little chance of me going over it in anything more treacherous than the rain. Fortunately, there’s another bridge people can take today. That’s helpful for both the nerves and closures, like today.

Look how small those two lanes are!

So really, this was one 5K, because we had to stop to take all these pictures. You don’t often get all of this space to take a shot like this, and so you better take advantage of it when you do:

Back to the run, then. On the way back to the car, on the back half, somewhere close to mile five, the sun dipped down to look in on me through the trees:

And I exceeded the limit on selfies for the week:

That was all just before I started thinking about how little I’ve eaten in the last day or so. And, look, a 10K isn’t that long. This is just 6.2 miles, or, today, a little over 6.3. But when you’re hungry and you have a long straightaway into the wind and your running partner is way up the bridge from you, and you’re thinking about where you can get a chocolate milk right away, it can seem like it takes forever.

Here’s the dam, from the other bridge:

We stopped at a Walgreens, which has a temporal anomaly inside so powerful that renders the shoppers and the clerks equally unable to complete either side of their prescribed interactions. I must have stood there for about half an hour with a giant chocolate milk in my hand that I could not drink because I was not able to purchase it.

After which, we got cleaned up and went out for Japanese with my mom, my grandfather and one of my cousins. My grandfather doesn’t eat Japanese, but he did have an ice cream while the chef prepared our food. Later, I learned you can eat ice cream with chopsticks. And if there are photos of that I’m sure they’ll never see the light of day. The key is attacking it while it is still firm.

And then we visited the giant hardware store. For parts! I have a project tomorrow. Let’s see how that turns out.