Jun 24

Special Church Thursday

Around noon today we left the house, later than we’d planned. We’re working against a genetically inherited attribute of being late that afflicts millions of Americans every day. I am one of them. The primary concern is one of awareness. As in, we have to be aware how we make other people late. But today, we departed only six minutes later than planned. For me, this is an improvement over the average.

Those six minutes also meant that — after lunch on the road, coping with the designed inability to change directions on this state’s busy surface streets and one quick restroom break — we arrived precisely on time.

We returned to my lovely bride’s hometown, where her mother’s Special Church program was hosting it’s end of the year party.

Let me just revisit this, so that you’ll understand the special woman that my mother-in-law is. She is a retired nurse. She has been running this program for 20-something years now. She runs it because she volunteered prior to that and it all just came to her. This program is not even affiliated with her church, and yet she puts an incredible amount of time and passion and spirit into it, because that’s who she is. And this, somehow, doesn’t get in the way of the volunteering at her own church — where she just recently helped plan and pull off a gargantuan wedding. It does not interfere with her looking after her older friends. Special Church also led to her joining the board of directors of a special needs home in the town next to hers. And that led to her serving a three-year term as the president of that board. People tend to gravitate toward her kind of selfless compassion. Special Church — which has snacks and crafts and a Bible word of the week and music therapy and more — brings in a handful of members every week, and my mother-in-law has built up an equally impressive roster of volunteers that help pull the thing off every week. Also, she has an in with Santa and he shows up every year. Well more than two decades of this, now. And she’s not stopping anytime soon. She’s an amazing person, my mother-in-law.

So we were there to see the end-of-the-year party, because it’s a relatively easy drive. The people involved are all lovely and there are many smiles and the music is good. A talented young man who is a music therapist comes in every week and brings a bunch of silly instruments for everybody to play, bang and smash along with his guitar. The minister sat in on the drum today. And it was hilarious to watch him keeping the twos and fours as everyone sang along to Margaritaville, and he did too. Everyone loves the music, most of it is played by request, or standards the group is accustomed to. It’s chaotic and noisy and perfect. It’s a free spirited, high spirited, animated part of the day for everyone. One of the members of Special Church comes to shine when it’s time for music. She always sings a George Harrison song. A born performer, she brings her own microphone.

Today I handed out ice cream. I sat back and watched the crafts and games. I chatted away with one of the many friendly volunteers. I tried to make myself useful cleaning up at the end of it all.

After Special Church, my in-laws, one of their longtime friends, the music therapist, his wife and toddler, two of the other family friend volunteers and the minister all went for dinner.

My in-laws have been regulars here for years now. We’ve been semi-regulars for almost as long, I guess. We held their surprise anniversary party here 40 years ago. It’s a charming little mom-and-pop establishment. Ten tables inside, four or six more out front. This is the kind of place that closes a few weeks each summer when the owners go on a well deserved vacation. For a long time it was strictly a family affair — husband in the back, wife out front, young-adult children waiting tables and running food. Their kids are, I think, off running their own lives now, but the husband and wife are still at the heart of things.

I usually get a marsala; today I tried the piccata. You wind up trying something off everyone’s plate, so my decision
making will get much more difficult on our next visit.

Tomorrow, I’m sure, we’ll go to another of the favored local haunts, and then it will be back on the road.

Jun 24

Dance, then baseball, now old

On Saturday we went to high school. I can’t remember the last time I was in a school. Probably a dozen years or more. We visited one because my god niece in-law (just go with it) was in a dance recital.

I wasn’t really paying attention to the exterior of the building as we pulled up, but I did notice this near the door. When was the last time you saw a pay phone?

If you look closely enough, you can see there’s no receiver. So maybe it isn’t a phone anymore. Maybe the school just dragged it out there and it is waiting for a garbage pick up.

The school, from what we saw, seemed nice. Very big. Old school. Hallways full of plaques marking their distinguished alumni. Some of the plaques were a little basic, but others were quite remarkable. A lot of professors and authors and civic leaders. There was a music promoter, and a touring manager for U2. There was someone who won the Nobel Prize in economics. The inventor of Lipitor went to school there. The state’s first black attorney, a man born a former slave soon after the Civil War, was a student there. His plaque said he got paid for his work by bushels of food. I’d like to have time to read more of them.

But there was dancing to watch.

Our dancer took part in two numbers, a ballet and en pointe. She looked great, danced with nice confidence and had a lot of fun. Had we all not had favorites, everyone in the auditorium would have chosen the two little girls that opened the recital as the stars. They were two young beginners, wearing shimmering three-tone tutus, mimicking what their coach was doing from the floor. They were adorable and stole the show. But all of the numbers and dancers were delightful in their own way, and they kept things moving.

I’ve been to two dance recitals. The first was a two-day recital, if you can believe that. Every group was organized by age, and they all danced to the same song. We heard that same bad song dozens of time. I was working on the video production, which meant I had to be there. It was a lot of standing, no food, and that same horrible song several dozen times. I am quite certain it scarred me. This weekend’s show was much shorter, had a unique song and style of dance for every group, and it was over in a little under two hours. It was a much better show.

After dinner we all adjourned to the ballerina’s home. That evolved into a big baseball game in the front yard. All of the adults sat in lawn chairs and watched the kids play. And me. We had plate music and everything.

This became a two-hour game. Usually because the kindergartner had to dance to his song, “Texas Hold ‘Em.” And we had no pitch count. A pitch count would have moved things along, but most of the kids were too young for that.

The day’s star dancer hit two huge home runs off of me. That’s what happens when you grove your pitches. There were also a lot of little league home runs. After everyone else went inside for snacks, the 9-year-old boy and I stayed out to play catch. (It was a little bit special.)

I was in a dress shirt and not-the-right-shoes for all of this, and so I was sore the rest of the night and tired most of Sunday.

Yesterday, I was admiring the new growth on the pine trees, (Pinus strobus, I think).

We have three in the backyard. They are growing tall and close to the house. They help block the late afternoon sun. They can’t stay forever, but we enjoy them now.

And the sky was just so casually brilliant …

It was worth noting.

It’s time, once again, for the site’s most popular weekly feature. We must check in on the kitties.

Phoebe was nice enough to pose, ever so briefly, on the landing this afternoon.

I’m a real sucker for when she puts her face on her paw.

Poseidon has recently discovered the lamp I have behind my computer.

He came to quickly realize that the light bulb gives off a fair amount of warmth, and so he’s never leaving.

Now, the only way I can keep Poe from that spot is to not turn on the lamp.

He knows cozy when he sees it.

So the kitties, as you can tell, are doing just fine. They’re ready for another fun week. As am I. And i hope you are, too!

May 24

And how was your aurora?

Not sure what all the fuss was about. This was our view Friday night, and Saturday night. Seems like we never get the good views. Meteorites, eclipses, auroras, there are always clouds in the way. But the chimney looks cool.

I’m not jealous of the incredible photos I’ve seen online. I’m glad everyone got to see the celestial light show. Now, they can tell me all about it, and that’s nice.

Sunday was a first for us. My lovely bride and I were able to see both of our mothers on Mother’s Day for the first time since we’ve been together. They live about 900 miles apart, so there are always logistics and schedules and logistics. But this year, my mom, of course, was visiting with us for the last few days. We took her to the airport on Sunday afternoon, after a nice deli brunch. From there, we drove up to see my in-laws and had a lovely dinner with them. So it was just lovely all the way around.

And for all of you other mothers out there, happy belated Mother’s Day, please enjoy this virtual flower.

The rose bushes look great just now, here on the inner coastal plain — where the heavy land and the green sands meet.

Standing in my in-laws yard last night, there was still no luck. But the stars look nice.

We drove back to our place today, because the cats will want our attention. Which is a nice way to work into the site’s most popular weekly feature, our check-in with the kitties.

I opened a new box of food for them recently and, as ever, the most important thing was the box itself. Phoebe approves of her new hiding place.

And, right now, Poseidon is wondering why I am busy pecking away at the keyboard. That’s probably a cue.

There’s a fun-filled week ahead here. I hope that’s the case for you, as well. Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk flowering things and music and probably one or two other things that come up between now and then.

May 24

One paragraph of weather, 900+ words on everything else

It was a damp and chilly and otherwise gray and rainy day here today. It also sprinkled. And moisture just simply hung in the air, like we were looking out over a moor. And it was also grey and dreary and it drizzled and it was cold. Furthermore, it was dank and slippery and nothing in the distance, such as it was, looked appealing. The clouds, not content to just pass lazily by, ground to a halt, and then lowered themselves upon all of us. It was the sort of day you might best address with hot tea and a horror story. Ridiculous for the second week of May, but ideal for sitting around and taking it easy. And, anyway, the pest control people were due between noon and 4 p.m.

He arrived at 4:35.

So it was good, then, that it was a day for blankets, because if we’d sat around and did nothing on a beautiful day waiting on that guy to show up and wave his high pressure sprayer around … that would have been a real … buzzkill.

Anyway, he got some spiders and ants and wasps. We will see if I should remain skeptical.

But while we visited away the afternoon, my mother had some serious cuddles with the cats. I realized that I inherited the “an animal is sleeping on me, and thus I can’t move a muscle in fear of disturbing the creature” thing from her.

Poe took a lot of naps.

We watched King Richard. It was OK. Two or three great scenes where you wonder if they were real, dramatized or Disneyfied. Probably a movie about Venus and Serena Williams, specifically, would be more engaging, but Will Smith can’t play those parts yet. AI can’t do everything, you.

We also watched the first episode, of three, of the new documentary on the Boston Marathon bombing.

I was driving to campus one fine, sunny Monday when those bombs exploded at the finish line in Boston. And I remember listening to the Boston et al scanners online in my campus office later in the week, and wishing people would stop trying to “report” from what they heard on scanners.

Scanners are endlessly fascinating. I grew up listening to them. For my entire childhood my grandparents had one sitting in the living room and it was either on, or I’d turn it on. But that’s where the sausage is being made in the first responder’s world, and that doesn’t at all make it valuable information for a regular audience, particularly in the most stressful circumstances, like, say, a vicious gunfight after a week-long manhunt.

That, too, was fascinating to hear, in an intense and morbid way, but that doesn’t always merit continually commentary from everyone else.

Anyway, the documentary is in three parts, and they’ve got a substantial handful of the key law enforcement types as prominent interview subjects. They are all speaking pretty candidly, which is delightful. The documentary will have to at least touch on the online sleuthing for suspects, but they surely won’t spend a lot of time there. I bet they won’t talk about the scanners at all. I bet David Ortiz makes it into the documentary.

They did not talk about the best part of the whole horrible experience, the one detail I’ll always shoehorn into a conversation about that particular story, and the part I hope to never forget.

NBC Sports reported people crossed the finish line and kept on running, running to Massachusetts General Hospital, where they donated blood for victims.

That’s just the most beautiful damn thing.

Then, so many others were moved to donate blood that Mass General and the Red Cross temporarily stopped accepting blood donations.

Regular people, working in the interest of helping other regular people. That’s why the bad guys can’t win. We won’t let them.

Out in the backyard, the black cherry (Prunus serotina) is flowering nicely. And, if you would, I’d just like you to stop for one brief moment here and contemplate the focal plane of this photograph.

This is how it worked. Our sellers left us a list of all of the wonderful growing trees here. It’s terrific, really. And on that list, it simply said “Cherry trees.” They were very helpful in many ways, the sellers, but I think a little map would have been fun. It would have eliminated some mystery.

But the discovery is the fun, you say! And you are right! And we are still discovering things!

Late last summer I figured out which of the two trees were the cherry trees. That sounds ridiculous, it’s not like we have 400 acres here or anything, but these particular trees don’t look like how I remember, or envision, cherry trees. These are big. Then one day late last season I had this great idea: look for trees with fruits growing on them.


So there are the two cherry trees out back. Tall as can be. I thought they were chokecherry trees, but then I began reading about that species and these two guys are much bigger than those. So I’ve now decided they must be black cherry trees. To be fair to me, according to what I’ve just read, the two species are related.

See? Still discovering things. (And I love that part.)

I’ll try to eat more of them this year.

Speaking of eating, for dinner tonight we went to a local Indian restaurant. This is a new-to-us place, but well regarded, and widely so. It sits in an old bank light to look like a new age church and people come from far and wide to try the food. Indeed, when someone who’s been around here a long time asks where we moved, and we tell them, they ask us if we’ve been there yet.

And now, having gone, I’m quite disappointed it took us almost a year to go.

This was so good.

I had the lamb biryani.

The menu describes it as “Fragrant basmati rice are layered with a spicy and delicious Lamb curry made of succulent chunks of lamb leg to make this classic flavorful rice entree.” That’s enough for two meals, easily. And so that’s dinner tomorrow, and I’m sure it will be even better in that way that the best spiced dishes often are.

My lovely bride and my mother each tried different chicken dishes, pronounced them both incredible, and we were all quite pleased. Especially since the guy said “We only do reservations on the weekend, but come right this way.”

Every plate that passed by looked intriguing. Most of the things on the menu was calling out to me. We’ll be back there, and probably quite soon.

Have a great weekend! We’re going to do something this weekend we’ve never done before!

May 24

Get the sand between your toes

After a morning at the house we set out for other locales. Because we have company, and because we are close to it, and because the weather was nice, and because it is still uncrowded as we’re still technically in their off-season, and because my mother likes the ocean, we went to the beach.

We walked on the boardwalk in Ocean City. We listened to the waves, felt the breeze, enjoyed the sun and a thoroughly pleasant afternoon.

When you go to the beach, you need an ice cream. This is my lovely bride’s tradition, and some traditions are definitely worth adopting.

We walked out on the rocks of the little jetties.

And we enjoyed the sand, looking for shells and feeling the still quite cold water as it sneaked up to our feet.

It was a delightful and low key afternoon on the beach. We had dinner at a busy local seafood joint, cleverly titled The Crab Trap. Try the tuna steak.