Thursday, September 30, 2021

Thursday Ramble: Exhausting at Times

 Almost every day, I make a decision at least once, of how much I disclose, what are the risks, is this a safe place.  I specifically mentioned Jay in an email to a person at work that I interact with a couple of times a month.  He replied that he finally understood that Jay is my husband.  I knew that he had one, I had apparently been ambiguous to the point that he had never understood. 

When talking about the love of my life, do I say my husband, do I say my spouse, do I say something even more ambiguous.  

What pronoun do I use when describing my spouse.  Is it safe to say he is my husband, or is this person going to judge me, or treat me differently because I am who I am, and I love the person I love.  

I was closeted as a teenager, I figured it out in my early teens, I was making progress in self acceptance with help from a skilled counselor at school, then she left and the mother of one of my classmates, one of the biggest bigots and gossips in town, the wife of a school board member was hired. That door slammed shut.  Fear set in about what might be in my file.

I was closeted as a young adult.  I hid in one of the ultimate closets, getting married.  It didn't work.  It didn't change me.  It didn't make either of us happy.  It was a mistake, and I knew it was a mistake when I did it.  I ate and drank heavily for a few years, then went in the opposite direction with an extreme diet and exercise routine. 

Finally in my late 20's, I decided that happiness was more important than acceptance. I told her she wasn't happy, and I wasn't happy and we both deserved happiness, split things close to down the middle.  Ending even an unhappy relationship is not easy, but it was worth it in long run. 

I met Jay a few months later, a few months after that we joined our lives.  20 odd years later we married.  He makes me happy, I hope I make him happy.  As all relationships are, ours is a little weird in it's own way. That is how and why we work. 

And yet, every time I encounter a stranger, I my mind runs through the mental calculus of disclosure.  It is exhausting at times.   

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Gratitude

 Back in 2015, way back, but not way-way back, I had a bad health year.  In May of that year I had some major spinal surgery, and a little over three months later flew to Germany for a couple of weeks.  

A few days before surgery the neurosurgeon spent 45 minutes explaining in detail what he recommended doing and why, and what the possible outcomes were.  He asked me what my "goal of care was" not the first time I had been asked and I had an answer.  I said, "90 days from now I want to go to Germany and fly on a Zeppelin."  An interesting answer.  The next afternoon he stopped by to check on me and said "you weren't kidding, I googled it, you can fly on a Zeppelin!" I knew that, I had booked the seats before I got to the point that I was falling down and couldn't get up.  

A month or so after returning I had a follow up visit, I added a special thank you to him and his staff, printed it out, and asked his staff to post it in the break room.  I am still grateful to all of the people that made this and so much more possible.   

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Stop and Smell The Roses Along The Way

I remember taking this photo. I was in south Florida in March of 2018 for a board meeting, I had a couple of hours to drive back to the airport, I drove north along the beach, I found a spot to park and thought I would take a few shots of the water.  As I was making my way from the parking area to the beach, I passed this most amazing foliage.  It was not what I was there to see, it was not the photo I was thinking of taking, but it was too wonderful to pass by and not capture a few images.  

When we travel it is easy to have an agenda of things to see, things to photograph, meals to eat, things we need to do.  It is important in our planning to allow ourselves to just drift, to stop for the unexpected, to stop and smell the roses along the way.  

Someday I am going to drive across the USA, with no plan, no agenda, no time plan.  Just wandering, taking where the wind carries me, seeing what is to be seen, photographing the wonders great and small along the way.  I better do that while I still have tommorows and not just yesterdays.  

Monday, September 27, 2021

YouTube Monday - Night Court - Vow of Silence

It is dated, and it is corny, but Night Court was brilliant situation comedy.  It probably stayed on the air a little too long after the ideas started to run thin, but then we hated to see it go.  I always remember how Harry Stone became a judge, he was the only person to answer the phone as the time limit for the governor to appoint a judge was running out.  Sometimes it pays to stay home, listen to Mel Tormey and answer the phone.  

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Sunday Five - Cars

On King Street one morning recently. Nice, very Nice. 

A couple of weeks ago, Andrew in Australia, pointed out that most of my early cars were kind of ugly, and he was right.  That got me to thinking about the cars I have owned, and why I bought them, and what I didn't really think about when I bought them, hence this weeks Sunday five. 

1: Have you ever bought a car or truck, just because you liked the way it looked from the outside? 

2: Have you ever gone out specifically to buy a particular model of car or truck? 

3: Have you ever bought a car just because of the color? 

4: Is there a particular feature on a car or truck that you always want to have? 

5: Have you ever bought a car or truck as an impulse buy, you were not really shopping you just saw it and had to have it? 

My answers: 

1: Have you ever bought a car or truck, just because you liked the way it looked from the outside? Not really, I have owned a couple of nice looking cars, but that is not my primary concern. 

2: Have you ever gone out specifically to buy a particular model of car or truck? No, not really. 

3: Have you ever bought a car just because of the color? No.  My Ex did, when the salesman asked what are you looking for the answer was "a blue car." Any car as long as it was blue. 

4: Is there a particular feature on a car or truck that you always want to have? I love my sunroof.  Given a choice I will never own a car again without one.  

5: Have you ever bought a car or truck as an impulse buy, you were not really shopping you just saw it and had to have it? Yes, the second of the three new Honda Accords. 

Please share your answers in the comments.  

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Light at the End of the Tunnel

So I sit here debating with myself, do I want to write about the Pandemic, not really.  We have, we are, we will, live through it. It has changed us, it will never not be a part of our lives. At this point I am ready to move towards the light at the end of that tunnel. 

I continue to enjoy walks.  I have learned to force myself if needed, to get out and move.  I enjoyed the year of walks in the swamp, now I am mixing up where I walk, parks, in THE city, along the water, in the tourist zone across the river, in new areas, in historic areas, in very urban landscapes, and in the country.  The important thing is moving. At my age if you sit still too long they start to measure you for a coffin. I need to keep moving towards the light at the end of the tunnel.  

Travel plans. It has been decades since I have gone this long without being on a airliner going someplace.  The train to New York was fun, and the city was amazing.  We have flight reservations for late October. And the forest fire was turned away so South Lake Tahoe should still be there when we get there.  A bright light at the end of a long dark tunnel.  

A few years ago, I rode a bike though a long railroad tunnel. Originally the tunnel had tracks in both directions, as part of the rails to trails movement, the trains now have one track, with a wide paved pedestrian and bike trail on the other side. The signs warned riders to walk their bikes through the tunnel.  I ignored the warnings and I learned first hand what tunnel vision really means.  In the middle of the tunnel, with very dim lights, I lost all perception of movement.  I could see the dot of daylight, but barely see the ground, or the wall of the tunnel.  It was one of the most amazing and disorienting feelings I have ever experienced. I stayed steady, knowing if I was peddling I was moving forward, steered a course toward the point of light, I could feel that I was staying on the pavement, but I can't tell you if I was moving 5 miles per hour, or 20 miles per hour.  I can see how if someone panicked they would crash.  This is not a time to panic, stay the course, focus on moving forward, focus on the point of light at the end of the tunnel.    


Friday, September 24, 2021

Foodie Friday - Allotments / Community Gardens

 I stumbled across the concept of an allotment watching old British sitcoms.  The city allows private gardens on public land, most often unused, unbuildable strips of land.  Each gardener is allowed a small 10 by 10 or 10 by 20 foot plot to grown what ever they want (as long as it is legal.) Mostly vegetables, flowers, and a few compact soft fruits. The actor who played Mr. Lucas on Are You Being Served died of a heart attack, tending his beloved allotment.  

Here in Northern Virginia there are a few places with allotments or public gardens.  With so much of the population in high density housing, low rise, mid rise and high rise buildings where no one has a dedicated yard, it allows space for a little gardening.  The gardens are generally fenced to keep the deer and veggie thieves out. Some of the gardeners do an amazing amount in a limited amount of space.  

This one is in Old Town Alexandria, along the right of way for the  Woodrow Wilson Bridge, between the proximity to 10 lanes of traffic, and the kind of boggy location, there is little land could be used for, but it makes a wonderful garden.  I understand the wait list to get a square, is several years long.  

Gardening puts people back in touch with where real good food comes from.  Do I want to do it, not really, I don't bend down very well anymore. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Thursday Rambles: What is Rattling Around in my Brain Recently

I received word recently that the contract that funds about half of my job, has been renewed for a new up to five year term.  This likely means that I will remain gainfully employed until my intended retirement date, and someone will have relatively secure funding for a decent amount of time after I leave.  This is good.  

I learned recently that the father of a friend of mine died.  He was in his 80's, had been living with progressive dementia for several years.  He died in his sleep, at home, cared for by family.  The family is rather devastated by the loss.  He was apparently the kind of person you hope will live forever, that you just can't imagine not surviving. (He lived far across the country and I never met him.) It takes time, it takes work to understand, and process the death of a loved one.  I hope my friend makes it through.  He will, but he will be changed by this. 

Pickling season is over, the pickling cucumbers and fresh dill are both absent from the market this week.  I made five or six batches this year, about a kilo each.  I will finish the last of them soon.  (I keep them fresh, unprocessed, not canned, so they need to be eaten within a month or so.) Until next year.  

I have discovered a local artisanal butcher who makes the most amazing bacon and sausages.  The Fermented Pig is at my local farmers market on Saturday mornings.  The bacon is some of the best I have ever had.  

I don't get it.  If I do an online search for bacon, for the next few days I get advertising for pig products online, in social media, on my blog.  Something very specific.  Yet retailers that I have a long term relationship with, continue to send me advertising for things I will never buy.  Macy's sends me a dozen emails a week, most of them featuring womens clothing.  What don't they get? I have bought furniture and mens clothing from Macys, I have a Macys account so they know exactly what I have ever bought from them. NEVER womens clothing.  In this day and age of tracking my every click online, they should know what I am interested in, and what I am not interested in.  Sending me advertising for things I will never buy is a frustrating waste of time and money. Oh well, that is what the delete key is for.  But if Macy's wants to avoid being deleted from the American landscape, they really need to figure out how to target marketing to consumers that result in impulse buys.  Impulse buys are the where the incremental margin is at in retail.  Amazon is better at targeted marketing, based on browsing and buying history. And Uncle Jeff (oh I wish!) has more money than some countries. 

I spent the better part of an hour talking with a guy who is operating colleges inside prisons.  He said it is not just about learning, college changes the person.  Many discover that they are much more capable than they ever thought. They learn how to think, how to understand, how to question and look for answers, what sources are reliable and what are leading them down the wrong path.  His life story is long and complicated, what he has done for others is life changing. He has taken bad circumstances and made a difference in the lives of others. An hour I won't forget.  Never overlook the capacity for good in others.  

At Showtime
30 Minutes Past Show Time 

Lastly, and I know this is a long ramble this week, 

Getting it wrong and Making it Right
We went to opening night for the National Symphony Orchestra, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts last Saturday.  After cancelling most of the 2020 season, the Center announced a few months ago that they would reopen this fall, requiring patrons to be fully vaccinated and to wear face masks at all times inside the building.  We showing up, were asked by an usher if we were Covid Verified, drawing a confused look, he asked if we had been through the line and gotten our purple wristband.  We hadn't.  We were lucky, it only took us about 15 minutes to get to the front of the line, show our vaccination cards, photo ID, and be handed a wrist band, so we could then go stand in line to get into the concert hall.  By the time we made it to the front of the line, the line had tripled in length.  The Center only had about 5 people to check in about 2,000 ticket holders.  At curtain time, only about 20% of the seats were filled.  Without announcement, the start of the show was delayed 30 minutes while the check in line was processed.  I was upset because I was in my seat for 45 minutes before the show started with no announcements.  I am old school, the show always starts on time. The Center had really messed this up with poor direction and far too little staff.  The following day, before we finished composing our letter of disappointment, an email arrived. It wasn't an apology, but an admission that the Center had messed up on their first big night back, and promising vouchers for an extra performance without charge.  It was good to see them take the lead. They messed up, and are doing their best to make it right.  Bravo! 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Understanding Our Parents

This is the first house my parents owned in the suburbs of Detroit.  It was sold 4 or 5 years before I was born.  They had friends a couple of blocks away, but never wanted to drive by and see the house.  My first couple of homes in Orlando, I go back and drive by, even stop to take a quick shot of Taco Bell, and the custom colonial.  The house we owned in Kentucky I have no desire to drive by and see.  I wish the house and the owner well, the property treated us well, it was very comfortable, we made money on it, but there is no urge to see how it is doing.  Maybe I understand - maybe I don't.   

My parents sold the farm and retired to Florida in 1982.  Within a year they both went back to work for a few more years, then retired for good in the mid 60's.  They had a summer escape from the Florida heat and humidity, at first a motor home, and later a park model travel trailer that they spent 3 or 4 months in each summer in a cooler climate.  I remember getting frustrated because they would go weeks, sometimes months with no contact.  Maybe I would get one phone call, and post card or two over an entire summer.  When they were in Florida, we talked on the phone and I visited once a week, sometimes more often.  They were about 30 miles away.  I couldn't understand how we could go from weekly contact 8 or 9 months out of the year, to nearly no contact for 3 or 4 months.  

Now I kinda understand.  I turn my cell phone on three or four times a week.  A friend sent me a couple of text messages and I didn't see them for five days.  Few people have my phone numbers (I have three of them) and that is fine.  I find my time out of touch relaxing, like those long lazy summers my parents enjoyed for several years.  Even after they had a cell phone, they seldom called, and when they did from the trailer the service was so bad that the call would be dropped within five minutes. I think they liked it that way.  I understand how they felt. 

During those long summers if I really needed to reach my parents, I would call my sister. That worked, unless Dad had a wild hair and they were in San Francisco for lunch (my parents drove to SF one summer, had lunch and left.) The only time my father was ever in SF.  That I don't totally understand.  He had an explanation, and I still don't get it.  

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Museums

 Sometime in the middle 1970's a distant cousin of my grandmother's from England was in the USA doing work on a script for a Clint Eastwood film, and he came to the farm in Michigan for a week.  His mother was my great-grandmother's sister - she had visited a few years before - shortly before her death.  Donald was a successful writer for television and film.  He and his brother Derick co-wrote several films.  His brother was somewhat infamous for making X-rated sexual comedies.  

We took Donald to see the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.  I remember three things from that day.  Donald looking at machinery in the museum and remarking, "we are still using this stuff, it is modern by our standards." We were in one of the restored colonial houses in the village, and the docent started making comments about the British and the American Revolution, and Donald opening the door and stepping out saying "before I say something and start another revolution."  I remember buying a loaf of bread hot from the oven in the village bakery, getting home and sitting around the table cutting off chunks to enjoy with butter and cheese and listening to him talk about the places he had been and the things he had done.  

The museum, a collection of whatever Henry fancied, holds a world of wonders and curiosities, and revisiting it brings back a flood of memories.   

Donald died a few years after that visit.  

Monday, September 20, 2021

My Music Monday - Rod Stewart - Maggie May

When this song first came out, I had didn't think it was very good, I appreciate the magic of Rod Stewart's voice.  I got the lyrics.  Fortunately his voice has grown on me over the decades. May he outlive us all.  

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Sunday Five - Scary Places Facing our Fears

This is the opening of a pedestrian tunnel, not far from where I live.  Would you go down those stairs and walk into the yellow light?  Kind of looks like a place monsters lurk.*  

So this week's Sunday five, facing our fears 

1: What is the greatest threat to your safety? 

2: Do you fear the dark? 

3: What is the greatest threat to your health?

4: Would you visit a place where you didn't speak a word of the native language? 

5: When you were a child, where did the monsters lurk? 

My answers: 

1: What is the greatest threat to your safety? Republican nut cases. 

2: Do you fear the dark? No, maybe it should fear me. 

3: What is the greatest threat to your health? Old age - it kills more people than anything else. 

4: Would you visit a place where you didn't speak a word of the native language? Yes, I have a couple of times and I would again. 

5: When you were a child, where did the monsters lurk? In basement of the barn.  

Please share your answers in the comments, feel free to be silly or frivolously.  We need more silly in our lives. 

* This is a redo of a post that was so negative that I didn't publish it, left it in draft for several weeks.  The photo, and the first paragraph are all that remain from the depressing dirge.     


Saturday, September 18, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Hygge

When I was and packing my daily messenger bag for the trip to New York, I ran across a card with the entry code for the Hygge recline lounge from the ferry crossings between Ireland and Wales back in March of 2020.  

The card describes Hygge as "slowing down, enjoying the moment, feeling content."  The concept is such a contrast to our rush-rush try to do everything, hummingbird lives. 

Take a moment, sit still, listen, watch, breath, smell, relax and enjoy just being.  

The Hygge lounge was kind of first class on the ferry.  A secluded comfortable space that people paid a little extra for. The room was filled with wonderfully comfy reclining seats. On one of the boats the lounge had huge front facing windows (into the rising sun) on the other newer boat on the return trip the lounge was inside with large TVs you could plug in a headset to hear, quiet and darker.  Both were a joy.  I also enjoyed walking around the boat.  

Stumbling across the card, and leaving it on my cluttered desk, reminded me of those moments of hygge.  Ahh!  

Create for yourself a hygge moment this weekend.  

I have a couple of new Photo Geek posts at the Adventure Continues 


Friday, September 17, 2021

Foodie Friday - New York adventures

 Okay, I will admit it, I have a history of finding some of the worst restaurants in New York city.  Bad food, miserable service, and yet J lets me lead the way.  On the August trip we also found a couple of real gems.  

This one was the Bryant Park Grill, literally on the back side of the New York Public Library.  We opted for indoor seating, it was hot and humid and air conditioning was desirable.  The restaurant was following current policy in New York city and asking for proof of vaccination for inside seating.   

The cheese tray was amazing, with three very flavorful cheeses,  two soft cheese and a firm spanish cheese.  I wish I knew where they found the tiny grapes, they were sweet as candy.  I had a mushroom tortellini that wonderfully made.  All in all it was a delightful meal, with excellent service.  It almost made up for the so-so kosher french restaurant the night before.  Nothing will ever make up for the world's worst Korean BBQ back in March of 2019.  Those are stories for another day. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Thursday Rambles - Aging - Retirement

A friend posted on Facebook about her grandson starting school for the first time, he will graduate high school in the class of 2034, University in 2038, if he goes to Medical School he will finish his training and specialization when statistically I am dead.  

Sweet fellow blogger Spo posted recently on the topic of sometimes wanting to run away from it all. I posted a comment about a co-worker who very dramatically quit a job one day - pissing all over the conference table on his way out the door - kind of the ultimate running away - or setting fire to a public building.  Not really the exit most of us want, not the way we want to be remembered - though he will never be forgotten by those who were in the office that morning.  Yet we probably all have those moments of frustration when we dream about a dramatic exit. 

I had a couple of those moments this week, with wonky computer issues, and stupid responses from technical support.  I am fairly open about my plans to retire, and my intended timing.  One of the advantages of leaving when I want, the way I want, will be to avoid standing up one day and shouting, "I AM TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT, AND I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!" 

Months of working at home, were good practice for retirement.  Getting out for walks, doing the shopping, taking photos, blogging, reading and writing are all things that will fill my time.  I look forward to being able to travel without time constraints.  The last trip we did to Europe was in March, really off season, hotels were cheap(er,) airline seats easy to get, places were not crowded.  When J was teaching off season travel was only an option when he was on sabbatical or leave every 7 years or so, and we did a couple of those winter trips.  The constraint now is only being away for a couple of weeks at a time. I look forward to planning a trip and not having an end date before I start planning.   

I just need to stay healthy enough and live long enough to enjoy some of this.  Getting old is not easy. 



Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Civilization

 I took these photos in Athens.  The inscription at the top, is 2,500 years old, and describes settling of a dispute.  Sometimes I read the news, and the authors seem to think that this is the first time in the history of civilization that people disagreed with one another.  This is proof that disagreements, compromise, settlement of disputes has been going on as long as there has been civilization.  

An anthropologist was asked what the earliest signs of civilization were?  Her answer was not fire, or shelter, or farming, it was an adult male skeleton with a healed broken leg.  She explained that in the wild as a hunter gatherer a person with a broken leg would be unable to move about to gather food and water and would certainly die before it healed, unless others gathered around to help, with food and water and basic care, to allow time for the leg to heal.  A process that takes weeks, maybe months without what we consider to be medical care.  

Civilization is about banding together, helping one another.  It is not about the rugged individualist, people who live in isolation from other human beings, die from circumstances that people living together in civil societies don't die from.  

At times we fail as a civilized society.  When one of us dies of hunger, dies of exposure to extreme weather, dies for want of the help of their fellow man.  At times we fail when we don't take basic steps to help others, like accepting medical science - getting a vaccine, or wearing a face mask.  

Travel and thinking about the world, and the history of civilization, has helped me understand that civilization is not a new concept, and we have to work together to maintain it. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Travel Tuesday - New Mexico

 I have a new collaborator on a work project who lives in New Mexico. I have been to New Mexico a few times as a child, once as an adult.  I did a some training in Albuquerque a decade ago.  I added a couple of days to that trip and did a little touring.  I started to spend the day in Santa Fe, it was massively crowded, parking was impossible, and it was raining, so I got out of town.  I drove north, looked at the GPS and realized I was near Las Alamos.  Los Alamos was home the Manhattan project, the super secret project to develop nuclear bombs during World War II.  Why not?  

There is a nice small museum there, the photo above are replicas of the two original devices, Little Boy and Fat Man. The gravity of what happened there is overwhelming.  I drove through the National Laboratory grounds,  a weird experience that requires permission from the guard and instructions to not stop unless and until the police pull up behind you.  There is a national park with remains of cliff dwellings on the other side that I went to see. 

I would like to go back to New Mexico, I think I will avoid Las Alamos the next trip.  Too weird in ways that are hard to explain.   

Monday, September 13, 2021

YouTube Monday - Monty Python Airplane Pilots

Blogger is giving me a hard time loading photos this morning, so this image is entirely random.  Plucked out of 60,000+ files with no idea what it was.  It is landscaping outside the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.  A neat museum.  

Pilots have a sense of humor, in their professional work they are restrained, when they are in a less professional setting they can be very funny.  My father was a licensed commercial pilot, who never flew commercially.  Getting that rating required hours and hours of time flying with instructors.  I was sitting in the back seat one Sunday afternoon.  The instructor, said "Opps! - WHAT DO WE DO NOW" and turned around and asked me to hand him the owner's manual that was tucked in behind the seat. Then looked at me, smiled and said "just wanted to see if you were still awake." 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Sunday Five - The New Normal of Travel

With a blog, that mentions travel in the name, I enjoy sharing about travel.  The past 18 months have changed travel.  Hence this week's Sunday Five. 

1: Have you worn a face mask, for a long journey on public transit? 
2: Have you been asked to prove vaccination status, or a negative test for admission to a public place? 
3: Hotels are no longer doing daily housekeeping service, the room is cleaned before you check in, beyond that service is as requested only. How does this impact tipping for housekeepers? 
4: Have restaurants reduced density of tables in your area? 
5: Do you have any pending travel reservations? 

My answers: 

1: Have you worn a face mask, for a long journey on public transit? Yes, and the four hour return train trip took seven hours, a reason I will blog about soon. 
2: Have you been asked to prove vaccination status, or a negative test for admission to a public place? Yes, New York City is requiring it in restaurants, theaters, museums. 
3: Hotels are no longer doing daily housekeeping service, the room in cleaned before you check in, beyond that service is as requested only. How does this impact tipping for housekeepers? I have always been a generous tipper, I am interested in hearing other's input on this.  I left a tip at the end that was the total of what I would have left, if I had left something each day. After all the housekeepers need to earn the same living. 
4: Have restaurants reduced density of tables in your area? Yes, I hope they stay that way. 
5: Do you have any pending travel reservations? Yes, airline tickets for late October, not sure what will happen with that. 

Please share your answers in the comments. 


Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - 20 years

It is the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and another hijacked flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.  20 years is a long time.  It seems like yesterday, or seems like forever ago.  

I was part of a conference on grandparents as parents in Lexington Kentucky, 20 years ago.  I had been on the planning committee, I was introducing a couple of sessions, and presenting a program on elder abuse, when news broke on the World Trade Center attack in New York.  We did the first plenary session, then took an extended break.  We had a couple of speakers from CMS who had flown in from Atlanta, their office called them and asked them to head for the airport and come home.  They called Delta, and were re-scheduled for a 1:00 PM flight, we shuffled the agenda so they could speak before lunch, then they heard that all flights were grounded, they were in Lexington for several days. I spoke that afternoon, it was the strangest workshop session I have ever done.  

At the time, our political decisions in the middle east, were troubling.  Our response of going to war against an enemy we couldn't clearly identify, the enemy was not the government of the countries we waged war against, it was people who had connections to those countries.  At the time I feared what has happened, long tragic wars, that have not necessarily left the world a better place.  

The photo above is part of the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York.  It was the first time I had been there.   


Friday, September 10, 2021

Foodie Friday - Unusual or Forbidden Foods

A posting from Spo the dear a couple of weeks ago mentioned foods he had not eaten, and inspired me to write about some of the unusual, exotic or forbidden foods I have tried.  Some of these were intentional, some just a chance opportunity.  

First the forbiddens: 

Whale. Iceland has a special limited permit to fish for whale as a traditional cultural food. There are a few restaurants that offer it.  When we did a 24 hour stopover in Iceland, I went out of my way to go to one.  It is a dark red meat, kind of like beef.  I am glad I tried it, I wouldn't go out of my way to do it again. 

Seal.  First Nation peoples, (native groups) in Canada are allowed hunting rights for seals.  There are a few restaurants operated by First Nations people, who are allowed to serve these traditional cultural foods.  There is a restaurant in Toronto that serves seal.  It is dark, rich, a little dry.  The food and service were wonderful, and yes I would go back. 

Forbidden Cheddar. When I mentioned I was working on this list, Jay reminded me of the forbidden cheddar.  Trader Joes carried an aged New York Cheddar Cheese that was rather strong, right on the edge of starting to mold.  I loved it, he hated it, at one point I was forbidden from buying it. The compromise was if I bought it, I had to buy something a little milder.  Then TJs stopped carrying it.  Sad that. 

Unusual or forbidden? 

Reindeer. I am not sure which category this one fits into.  There are vendor carts on the streets of Anchorage Alaska in the summer that specialize in Reindeer sausages on a bun like a hotdog.  The vendor was a native Alaskan.  I don't know if hunting is limited to natives or not.  The vendor was wearing a wonderful T-shirt, he should have been selling them, that read, "Vegetarian is an old Eskimo word for Bad Hunter." It was good, slightly spicy, yes I will again when the opportunity presents itself.  

Unusual Foods. 

Elk.  I was in Montana to do training on elder abuse about 15 years ago, we stopped for dinner and elk burgers were on the menu, so I ordered one.  My dining companion was grossed out.  It was good.  The following day I had a bowl of elk chilli for lunch on an Indian Reservation (my traveling companion was sure I would die from it.)  I made the mistake in Texas of ordering an elk steak (farm raised,) it was indelibly tough.  Much better as a stew or ground meat.  And yes I will again. 

Buffalo.  99 out of 100 days we can buy farm raised buffalo in our local grocery store.  I first found it in Kentucky, raised on farms there in the state.  It is good, lean, again it is a better ground or stewed.  As a steak, it needs to rather rare, or it gets very tough. Cook it the same as you would beef. 

Snails.  Snails are a great excuse to devour garlic and butter. They are slightly chewy, kind of like a mussel (in essence they are a land-dwelling shellfish.)  Best with a view of the Eiffel Tower.  I have and I intend to do so again.  

Venison. My father was not a deer hunter, but he had friends who were, so version would show up from time to time. Occasionally you find it on restaurant menus.  It is okay, I don't find it to be special. 

Pheasant. My father and grandfather hunted small birds.  So pheasant was served sometimes in the fall.  I have found it on restaurant menus. They are difficult birds to farm. Tasty, yes if it is available (I can buy it at the local gourmet market but it about $30 a pound.) 

Rabbit.  My grandfather was an enthusiastic hunter, and my father ate so much rabbit as a kid, he really didn't want it again.  The first time for me was at a restaurant called the Garlic Rose in San Francisco, roasted with plenty of garlic, it was heavenly.  The next time was in Florence Italy, stewed in a pasta sauce, served over handmade paperedeli (a wide flat pasta) it was heavenly. One little caveat, traditionally prepared, the entire rabbit is slow cooked, bones and all, until it gives up all of the flavor and goodness.  The smaller bones, often end up in the sauce (I was warned, and it was worth watching out for the bones.) I could buy rabbit locally, I have never cooked it and for some strange reason I am intimidated by it.  

That is kinda the list.  

I have prepared about every variety of vegetable you can imagine.  I am not a big fan of cooked greens. Rutabagas are a running joke in our house, edible, but why bother? Jay fixes them a few times a year. Turnips, parsnips, are easy and tasty.  I stump the cashiers at the grocery store with things like rhubarb. 

What is the most exotic thing you have eaten?   


Thursday, September 09, 2021

Thursday Rambles - Subtle Changes

Believe it or not, the seasons are changing.  The green of the trees and grasses is growing less intense, more olive or yellow is being blended into the green.  I learned more about color from painting than I did photography, to soften a green, add yellow.

We have had a few nights with lows in the 60's, instead of 70's or 80's. The fruits and veggies in the farmers market are changing, from peaches to apples and pears, from tomatoes to cabbages.  Subtle changes, that not everyone notices.  

I lived in Florida for over 20 years, the first few years, the only way I knew it was winter was the rare frosty night.  Then I learned to notice the very subtle change of seasons.  Florida has four distinct seasons, but the signs of change are subtle, not dramatic.  

Kind of like the subtle tonal changes in a black and white photograph.  Ansel Adams would have liked the shot above, it is nearly a perfect example of the zone system, from pure white to total black in the same image, he would have strived for a cleaner white.  I like the contrast, the subtle shadows, the reflections, and the starkness of the black tables.  This was taken in the currently closed cafe in the Guggenheim in New York city.  

I have started doing a couple of photo geek postings a week at The Adventure Continues.    Enjoy and let me know what you think.  

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Honey Packers

 If you ever visit a honey packing house, you never forget the smell.  It is honey, and beeswax, and always a little bit of sour fermentation.  Honey diluted with water rapidly begins to ferment.  Honey from a sealed honeycomb, has too little water in it to allow the natural yeasts to ferment, but add a little water and the smell reminds me of my childhood.  

My father took the photo above, in a packing plant in southeast Pennsylvania in the early 1960's.  The square metal cans are each five gallons, about 60 pounds of honey.  Most producers shipped in cans until the early 1960's then changed over to 55 gallon barrels.  I was never in this plant.  I was in one in the Detroit area, and one in south central Michigan,  they both smelled the same.  Lots of our friends growing up, had small scale packing rooms, they all smelled the same.  

My father was raised in the era where honey was a substitute for granulated table sugar, a time when the lighter the color, the milder the flavor, the more desirable it was considered. I disagreed with that, I thought the more complex the flavor the better, color didn't matter.  I would pack darker or oddly flavored honey and he would fuss that it would NEVER SELL, and no one would be happy with it.  It frequently flew off the shelf with requests for more.  We had a location near a maple syrup sugar house (where sap is boiled down to make maple syrup.) One years the bees gathered enough from the sugar house to produce honey with a unique maple flavor. I diverted that to the bottling tank, even my father liked it.  It sold well.  We were unable to repeat that the following year (the theory was that the bees always produced this, what happened that one year was other honey flows came early in the season and the bees didn't consume all of the maple honey, leaving some there for harvest season.) 

Oh well, this photo triggers those smell memories.    

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Trains, Tragedy, Trauma

Caution, some may find this post disturbing, it talks about trains and death.  If this might bother you, please skip this posting. 

The return train trip from New York experienced tragedy.  The train was ahead of schedule in New York, giving us plenty of time to board, find our seats and settle in (I had booked business class with reserved seating for the return trip.) There was an off duty engineer / train driver across the aisle from me, talking to family about plans for the evening on his phone. The train was moving along on schedule. 

We were about 20 minutes north of Philadelphia, on some of the best track in the northeast, straight, flat, fast.  The train was going top speed, around 100 miles per hour.  The off duty engineer's head snapped up from his call, then we all heard the brakes.  He looked over and said, "that is not good, really not good." The train ground to a stop. He unplugged his phone and headed up through the train.  

It was probably 10 minutes before the first announcement that there had been a "biologic strike." Jay said, "what  does that mean?" I said the "train hit something living." The woman sitting in front of us looked up and said, "I think we hit a person."  She was right. We were sitting in the last car of the train, several train staff came down the aisle and out onto the platform at the read of the car, opening the doors, letting down the boarding stairs. About 20 minutes later was the next announcement that there had been a strike, and we were waiting for police and EMS to arrive on the scene.  

People started to fuss.  Someone a couple of rows back started to argue with the train staff that she "could all but see her house from there, and if they would let her off, she would walk to the corner and call her sister to pick her up." People standing in line at the cafe car were mad, angry, pissed off at being delayed.  

The car attendant, a nervous hyper efficient middle aged man, was clearly shaken.  He said, "it was all going so well, I was just doing my job, and I felt it, I immediately knew what it was." And the people in line at the cafe car pumped him for answers on how long we would be delayed.  He did his best, but clearly the inquisitors were overlooking that he was shaken to his core by what had happened. The train that he was part of the crew of, that we were all riding on, had been involved in a tragedy.  

Probably an hour into the wait, the announcement was that there had been a fatality, and that the train needed to sit were it was until the police and coroner  released it.  The off duty engineer made a phone call and said, "I am good for duty until 6:05, let me know if you need me to relieve the crew and take the train," when the call ended he gathered his bags and headed to the front of the train. I could tell from the look on his face, this was not his first. Standard procedure would be for the engineer / train driver to be taken off duty, to a nearby medical center for drug testing. 

A while later the woman across from me said, "the police, are searching the underside of the train, car by car, the count must be off." Someone queried "the count," she said, "two hands, two feet, one head, . . . they need to assure." People grumbled, well how long will that take? 

The answer was about three hours from the time the train ground to a halt, about a mile past where the emergency brakes were activated, until we were released to move.  All traffic in both direction on all three tracks was stopped for almost two hours, allowing time for the police and coroner to do what they needed to do in safety.  

At Philly the next stop, the existing passengers were being ruthless on the conductor.  Expressing their anger at the delay, and wanting a more detailed description of what happened.  He cracked, "a man stood next to the tracks, when the engineer blew the horn he stepped in front of the train, and laid down - it was gruesum, have you heard enough, or do you need to see the photos!" 

There were two more stops before the conductor and the rest of the crew were went off duty and were replaced with a fresh crew to take the train the rest of the way.  He sat disheveled a couple of rows behind us between stops, somehow gathering himself for the intermediate stops, professionally apologizing for the delay.  

I was appalled by the reaction of many of the passengers.  

It is tragic that a fellow human being decided that it was time to end his life. Likely no one will ever know what he was thinking, or why, that this was the place and time. Maybe he was not thinking about the impact on others, or maybe he was.  Maybe traumatizing the train crew and delaying a train load of people was his last shot at getting even with world.  I hope he found peace in his last act. The least we can do is pause for a couple of hours, when one of us choses a tragic end.   

It was traumatic for the train crew, they take their job of safely operating a 1,000 foot long, multi-million pound machine seriously.  The crew and the train company had no control over what happened. I really feel for the train crew, it has to be the worst part of their jobs.  

We were in an area where the tracks were built up 25 feet above the normal ground level, fenced on all sides. In other words hard to get to.  The police and EMS were slow to respond, but they had to find a way through those fences and up the embankment to the tracks, then they have a necessary but unpleasant job to do.  

So that was it.  We were a little later than expected getting home, but someone will never go home again.  Members of the train crew will likely carry the experience with them, along miles and miles of track each day.  

If I worked for the train company, I think I would write a short script, to be read when the train is released to move forward. Something along the line of, "we are sorry for your delay, please take a moment to reflect on the tragedy of someone's life, be kind to one another for many this is a trauma, stay safe, travel safe, if you need help reach out and talk to someone. Better to get home a little late, than never again."  


Travel Tuesday - Train Stories

I will put up two posts today about trains.  This first one is focussed on the new train hall at New York Penn Station.  A huge improvement over the old one.  

The second post is about trains, tragedy, trauma and people's weird reactions.  Caution, if the second post, one talking about trains and suicide, might upset you, please skip it.  I understand, it may not be easy to read, it was hard to write.  

The building above the old Penn Station in New York.
New Ticketed passenger waiting area

New Home of the Moynahan Train Hall
The New Train Hall Concourse Level 

Sometime during the late 1950's, early 1960's, Penn Station in New York was torn down, Madison Square Gardens was built, and the passenger train station was buried deep in the basements below the arena.  There is no nice way to describe it, dark, dated, dirty, poorly designed, crowded, and it was the station for passenger trains on the Amtrak lines in New York.  There is also a connected subway station.  The destruction of the old station, was a catalyst for preservation, probably the reason that Grand Central Station exists today.  

Across the street from Madison Square Gardens was a massive central post office building. Built in grand Greek Revival temple architecture, many visitors assumed it had been the original train station before the train station was moved underground.  It was the natural solution to replacing the dungeons below the gardens, the tracks extended under the post office building, when it was built most mail traveled on passenger trains.  With fundamental changes in the postal system, moving the post office became desirable.  The building was gutted and rebuilt, and process that is still ongoing, the passenger platforms were extended and renovated, and the new passenger station was created.  

It is grand, it is light, and bright.  It is a massive improvement.  

The food court is still under construction, if you want more than coffee and a pastry you need to leave the building.  The restrooms (toilets) are modern, and clean (in the old station they were and still are dreadful.) The ticketed passenger waiting area is nice, but perhaps too small.  There is no seating in the concourse and no trash bins. Signage is greatly improved with multiple digital displays.  The clearly marked, and well separated up and down escalators, a joy, there are elevators to every platform on the east side of the concourse. 

I was looking forward to the Moynihan station on my recent trip.  When we arrived, the nearest escalator took us into the old Penn Station under Madison Square Gardens.  It has been updated, and cleaned, and now serves some of the regional lines.  It still feels like you are buried under the arena, as of course you are.  If we had walked to the other end of the platform, the escalators or elevators would have brought us up into the new station.  

It is a much more dignified point of arrival for travelers to New York City.  

Monday, September 06, 2021

My Music Monday - Something Weird Lurch the Rock Star

In 1960's American Television there were two offbeat comedies, the Munsters, and the Adams Family.  The Munsters centered around a comedic Frankenstein character, with Ct. Dracula as a father in law, the Adams Family was a rather normal family, with money, and very-very-very weird taste.  Well there was Lurch the Butler, and Cousin It.  Of the two, I think I liked the Adams Family better.  

Sunday, September 05, 2021

The Sunday Five: Who Are We?

 Most of us are descended from immigrants.  Our ancestors may have moved across the face of the globe recently, or centuries ago. Few of us are descended from natives of the place we are a native of. Some of my regular readers are immigrants themselves, continuing the history of humankind. A couple of weeks ago Andrew, the High Riser in Australia wrote about his connect to place and ancestors, inspiring this weeks Sunday five. 

1: When in your family history was the most recent immigrant? 

2: How far back can you trace your family in the country that you live in? 

3: Have you had a DNA profile of ancestry done? If so any surprises? 

4: Is there a place that you have never lived that just "feels like home?" 

5: Do you have any ancestors that you really don't know where they came from? 

My answers: 

1: When in your family history was the most recent immigrant? My father's mother was born near London. 

2: How far back can you trace your family in the country that you live in? A couple of Mayflower connections, so about 1620.  I read recently that there are an estimated 35,000,000 Mayflower descendants.  I got to talking with a guy while walking in the swamp this spring, we share a Mayflower ancestor.  He is a cousin 400 years removed.  

3: Have you had a DNA profile of ancestry done? If so any surprises? Yes, my sister gifted me a DNA test.  French, I have Norman French ancestors.   

4: Is there a place that you have never lived that just "feels like home?" I have to say London.  It just feels right, if I remember to look left when I cross the street. 

5: Do you have any ancestors that you really don't know where they came from? My mother's - mother's family.  I found out a couple of years that her father's family was German - though they never talked about it. A member of the family provided me with a family tree, including an angleicantion of the family name in immigration - it sounds Irish, but it was originally German. My maternal grandmother would answer the question where is the family from with Ohio, and before that Pennsylvania.  According to the DNA profile we are not native American. I only have one contact with my mother's- mother's family I should ask her if she knows anymore.  

Please share your answers in the comments.  

Saturday, September 04, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Visiting Friends - Young and Old - New and Long

 We met up with a couple of friends in New York.  We would have made it three in three days, but the uncertainties of travel in a time of global pandemic changed plans.  Next time. 

Just because the photos loaded in that order, James is a younger and newer friend.  He is the son of one of Jay's close friends from University.  He is a musician and composer.  He moved to New York about 7 years ago.  A couple of years ago one of his works premiered at the Kennedy Center as part of a new American Opera program.  He met us for dinner one evening.  The theaters have been mostly closed for the past 18 months, unless plans change they will start to open back up in the next month or so.  He has stayed busy with teaching, mentoring, writing - he has a couple of projects in the works.  He is young, bright, and engaging.  He gives me hope for the next generation.  

We met up with Kent.  We have known Kent long enough, that we are all older friends. Kent was one of Jay's grad-school professors/advisors.  I first met him in North Carolina when he was still teaching.  Then in Athens, he was on sabbatical, he and his late wife showed us the highlights of Greece.  He is an amazing tour guide and a fearless driver. Then after he retired, Chicago, then San Francisco, and now New York.  Why so many moves in retirement, grandchildren.  He is very involved in the lives of his grandchildren.  I have only briefly met one of the three grandkids, lucky kids raised in a household of incredibly bright and well educated adults.  We visited the Frick Collection, a nice museum of mostly European works, then went down to One World Trade Center, went up to the observation level and had a nice lunch with an incredible view.  

It was fun.  Seeing people we enjoy, and seeing the city through the eyes of locals.  

Next time we will see someone who is a native of THE City.  When the time is right.    

Friday, September 03, 2021

16 Years of The Adventure - Blogaversary

16 years ago today, Travel Penguin posted the first post on this blog.  Over the years I have posted about 3250 posts, and received over 22,000 comments.  I have made some wonderful friends through blogging.  Some are still blogging, some are not.  The statistics show that there are about 15 readers for every person that comments. There have been about 611,000 page views.  

I continue to enjoy blogging.  I love sharing photos.  Writing for the blog has improved my writing, and made me more comfortable writing.  I do this for me, I do hope that you all enjoy it. 

I plan to continue to do this.  I hope you continue to read.  I hope you continue to comment.  

At times it is a struggle.  At times, you read posts put together in haste, wonderfully enough some of those have proved popular.  

As my regular readers have read before, I generally prepare posts ahead of time, and schedule them to post.  I spend 3 or 4 hours each weekend creating content.  As one of my college professors who was living off of a large trust fund put it, "every man needs a hobby!"(his was a barn full of classic luxury cars.)  

Thank you for being here. Please keep coming back.  With luck I can do this for another 16 years.  

Thanks to Stephen for getting me started on this. 

Foodie Friday will be back next week with forbidden and unusual foods.