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

The Smith Zoo and Nature Center

We had three-plus inches of rain last night. Everything stayed dried that needed to, I think. I still try to walk around and check most things after the big rains. This was, I think, our third overenthusiastic participation.

This afternoon I had yet another adventure in the 21st century’s second most annoying innovation: planned obsolescence. The details do not matter. You, too, know how these stories go. This is my third such instance in the last few weeks. It’s tiring and bothersome.

Here’s the fun part, the experience today took me to somewhere I hadn’t been. When I left I had nine percent of my phone battery and I needed to use that for the map. Also, I was running low on gas.

I worried about a scenario where my phone died, and then I had to improvise a fueling strategy. I bet you can’t even buy a paper map anymore. Lewis and Clark explored the continent with more resources than I had today. They’d be proud of how I overcome the adversity. It involved getting to the interstate, choosing the correct direction, avoid the interchanges to other highways, and then guess where my station of choice is located, which is one or two exits down from the house.

I made it to the station with 50-some miles in the tank. I got home with two percent of my phone’s battery.

The Smith Zoo and Nature Center got a member today, this cute little box turtle.

Last month this frog, a big chonky specimen, stopped by for a while.

Before the frog, we heard from a noisy fox for a few nights in a row.

In between the frog and the turtle, the reptile wing was completed by two visits from a 4- or 5-foot rat snake, twice. (Not pictured, for snake reasons.)

The frog I escorted to some woods. The turtle moseyed it’s way off all by itself. I took the snake away the first time, and then two or three days later it came back. I annoyed and startled it off. If it comes back again I’m going to herd it into a bin and drive it to the woods, some miles from the house. Maybe I’ll drive him around in a circle for a while first, to dissssssorient him.

Splashed around in the pool today, and then I did some swimming. It was another day of 1,000 yards. Three of those in the last week. So I’m going to up the distance next time. Because, I thought, when I’d finished, That was easy.

And later in the evening I thought, Maybe it wasn’t.

Of course, the only thing I’ve eaten today was a bowl of granola this morning.

Now I just have to remember how to use the underwater camera again. Not every button’s purpose has been memorized by my thumb and forefinger. I guess I should use it more.

May 24

A double miss!

Completely whiffed on the Wednesday feature yesterday. Whoops. This just a day after I skipped a planned Tuesday feature. It seems that, in my haste to be hasty, I’ve been too hasty. That’s the problem with speeding up, or taking one’s time, or both. Anyway, apologies for missing out on the markers. I’ll return to them next Wednesday. We’ll talk music below. But first … today was a peaceful, relaxing, “What was I supposed to be doing again? Oh, that’s right, nothing.” sort of day.

And then, breaking news via email. Isn’t that something? Wasn’t that something?

Usually, I know about the story before the emails come out. Social media, despite it’s many frustrations, is a swift informer. But I hadn’t been on any of the apps in a bit, and then the New York Times wrote.

My lovely bride was swimming laps at the time. When she was finished I told her the news, and we set about wondering what the comedians and the satirists would say.

I also looked back at what I was doing on this day a year ago. We were in Alabama, and it seems I was looking at the ol’ family tree.

Five years ago, I said one of those bike things that sounds like something profound in a waxy wrapper of nothing. Still seems true, though.

Ten years ago, we were in Alaska.

There’s no way in the world that was a decade ago.

Fifteen years ago, we were in Savannah, and Tybee Island.

Twenty years ago, I stopped by the local civic center, on a whim, which was hosting a model train convention.

Now, I’m no train enthusiast, but there are granddads and dads and children all being kids together, so why not?

I walk in and meet some nice people; one man telling me of some very historic parts of his collection — he’d accidentally been given the paperwork that documents J.P. Morgan’s purchase of an entire railroad; three men talking at length about how best to paint a cliff face and so on. But the best part was stumbling onto a booth with college merchandise.

I found this tapestry that I love. I got it for a song.

Now I just need to figure out how to display it, without it being used for cover.

Funny the things you do, and don’t remember.

We return to the Re-Listening project, which is where I pad the page out with music. I’m doing this because I am currently re-listening to all of my old CDs, in the order of their acquisition, in the car. It’s a wonderful trip down memory lane and I’m dragging you along, because the music is good.

Today we’ll do a double entry, since it is back-to-back of the same act. I picked these up in 2004, but the albums are older than that. If we’re going back to my first listen in 2004, we have to hop in the time machine and go back another decade to when Barenaked Ladies released “Maybe You Should Drive.” It was their second studio album, and went double platinum at home in Canada, where it peaked at number three. It was the band’s first visit to the US charts, sneaking in at 175 on the Billboard 200.

The first of two singles, “Jane” was an instant catalog classic for Steven Page.

There’s a lot of great work from Page on this record. Here’s one more fan-favorite, the second single, which just feels like a deep cut at this point.

I picked up this CD after a handful of the later BNL records, and several shows. So many of the songs I knew. (Three of these tracks are on Rock Spectacle, which was my first BNL purchase.) And so I don’t know when I first heard this song from Ed Robertson, but it’s one of those beautiful works that I’d like to be able to hear again for the first time.

The day I bought “Maybe You Should Drive” I also picked up “Born On A Pirate Ship,” and I wish I remember, now, where I got them. But because I got them together, these CDs have always belonged together. The former came out in 1994, the latter was the followup, released in 1996. It was another hit in Canada, peaking at number 12, and captured more American ears. “The Old Apartment” was a breakthrough single and video, and Pirate Ship went to 111 in the American Billboard chart. It was certified gold four years later. Andy Creegan had left the band, Kevin Hearn came in soon after, but this is a four-piece record.

It is peak 1990s Canada pop.

I still think this is a song about a dog, Catholicism and a bunch of other random things. It’s inscrutable.

People that just knew BNL from airplay — well the Americans anyway — will recall this as their first song.

It used to be that “When I Fall” seemed like it had to be a full, live show performance. But then Robertson played it in one of the Bathroom Sessions, and you heard it in a different way entirely.

Page will occasionally remind you he’s working on a different level. This is one of those times. Seeing it live is the preferable way* to take in this song, so go back with me to a time when it’s amazing we had washed-out-color video and you can’t explain the tracking squiggles to the children of the future. But don’t fixate on that, follow the performance.

That song … Steven Page … it just feels like it should be a misdemeanor to not know anything more than their later pop hits.

*I think karaoke would be another ideal way to hear “Break Your Heart,” but that’s just me.

One of two Jim Creeggan songs on Pirate Ship, this one sneaks up on you every time, which isn’t creepy at all. And for four minutes it just gets better and better and better, and bigger and bigger, even when it lulls, which is a lot of fun.

And here’s Creegan’s other track, which refuses to fit in any pop music mold.

BNL is touring the US this summer, though we won’t be able to see them. We did catch them last year though, which was the third time we’d seen them in two or three years. Everyone wishes Steven Page was still in the band, most everyone has wished that for 15 years, but aside from the 2018 Juno Awards celebration of the Canadian Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction, that may never happen. (Though they haven’t definitively ruled it out, and that’s what hope is aboot.) The band stills put on energetic rock ‘n’ roll shows. They’re very much worth seeing.

May 24

Late, and at night

We went for a bike ride this evening, and I caused us to get a late start. It was one of those things where time just slipped away from you a bit. And then you forget to do things like “put on sunblock,” so you have to go back inside.

By which point my lovely bride was rolling her eyes at me pretty hard.

We just did a fast hour or so, because she wanted to try a new recipe this evening and timing is a thing with new dishes, until timing is no longer a thing.

So, altogether, while trying to be semi-mindful of time, because of time considerations, I made a hash of time.

That’s summertime!

Anyway, when you slow down the start of your ride, you better see to it that you keep the pace up.

And so it was that I pedaled my little heart out. I got to the 20-mile mark with one of the faster times I can recall recording. Also, I caught an open intersection almost every time. Only had to put my foot on the ground once. Meanwhile, the Yankee was behind me, having already mentioned she had no legs.

She still caught me at the very end of the ride.

Late this evening, I stepped outside to water a few plants. We’ve had a pleasant night. It’s humid and, thus, warm. And, thus, it feels quite a bit like home.

So I sat outside and enjoyed the crickets and the birds and the donkey that lives a quarter-mile away and often sounds like someone is running at him with a knife.

No one needs that at midnight, donkey!

The sky was intriguing. Again, this is the middle of the night, and I haven’t adjusted the photo.

And, again, looking straight up.

I could change that one a bit, and make it look dirtier, or more colorful, but it’s fine just as it is. And, even through the clouds, I can see some stars.

Oh! the new recipe was gumbo. It was thick and tasty. And there are leftovers!

May 24

At least the UV score is low

Would you like to know my feelings about today’s weather? They are similar feelings as to many of the days since mid-March or so. Please refer back to most any post I’ve written between now and then. Odds are good I was observing the conditions, or filling this space, or perhaps grumbling, or resignedly accepting the pleasantly mild, gray days for what they foreshadow, or with a mind toward what an uncomfortable alternative might be.

There will come a day when it feels like we share a ZIP code with the sun, and I’ll miss 62 degrees and overcast on that day, after all.

But the visceral isn’t always logical, he says to people that know that.

Also, on Monday afternoon we went and watched part of a softball game. It was warm and sunny. We were on the third base side of the field, and facing east. My face got a little sun.

My skin is so fair that I can turn red when facing away from the sun.

So these clouds? This weather? It’s doing me a favor, really. I should be embracing it. And that’s what I’m going to do. The forecast suggests I’ll have a few more days to practice this new approach before the meteorology suggests that summer will arrive next week.

So a few photos from this evening’s bike ride. First, here’s today’s barn by bike. I was enjoying a nice little stretch, sheltered from a crosswind and averaging about 21 miles per hour through here. But you have to sit up and admire the barns.

A bit later — after a climb that slowly keeps pointing up for about a mile, I realized that it wasn’t the climb that was slow, but it was me — I ran across these chickens, which ran across the road in front of me.

According to the principles of rural bike riding, if the people let their poultry run free, it is a good road to ride on. This fowl observation has never failed me. And now that I’ve realized it, right here, in real time, it is a notion to be respect.

Considering that I’m lousy on hills lately and this is a good road to ride, I should spend a lot of time here in the weeks to come.

Elsewhere, but still out in the country, I found a most curious bit of lawn decoration. I guess the farmer’s work was done, or he knew he right where to pick up when he came back.

This was a 20 mile ride and, for now, a new one to put in the rotation. Have a quick 70 minutes to ride? I now have three different routes for that. This is a good thing.

That sky? Good as it got all day.