Pic Trip

A few years ago, I learned that if I’m traveling from western NoVA to Annapolis midday, it’s quicker to go through the District on US-50 instead of the Capital Beltway. The day after Virginia’s “off-year” election this week proved true. Traffic was light. I know I’m the “grandma driver,” but I pretty much zoomed across town.

Went past my favorite obelisk
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…and the place where bills pass (sometimes).
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Then I was on to see a 15-year client in ‘Naplis. I always park in the back row behind the high rise because I love the view. The photo doesn’t do it justice.
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Staying in hotel near BWI airport. The carpet kind of reminds me of The Shining.
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The stay is right across from an office where I worked from 1999-2004. It’s on the other side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway from National Security Agency.
Night View: 20191106_221814

Was pretty much starving. Don’t like to eat or drink too much when I’m driving long distances. Got a crazy good Turkish veg platter delivered. (Feeling privileged again.) Ate off it for dinner and then breakfast, still didn’t finish.
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In all my life, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the high and low temperatures exactly match the average temperatures for a locality, but today…
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Awoke to silence and the micro clock confirmed…
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Dawn View of my ex-office:
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Enjoyed riding with the windows cracked and witnessing all the gorgeous foliage. Thanks to all for reading.

7 & 8 are really 9 & 10

End of September. I’m out driving to rehearsal and hear the radio program Thistle and Shamrock on NPR. I think it must have been the turn of the century since I last heard this Celtic music show. I miss it.

Started playing guitar in the band, backing a multi-church choir, performing a childhood favorite play, Godspell. I still have that bright red tattered-cover vinyl soundtrack in a stack under the ancient turntable. Recalling a stirring version of the play in Spring 1981 put on by the Virginia Museum Theatre Players and glad to be a part of this revival.

An elementary school is part of the church where we’re rehearsing. It’s quite warm. Reminds me of my old non-air conditioned school in Missouri. Along with the pianist, I’m on electric guitar and my friend is on acoustic. Big crowd of singers; baritone to soprano. Afternoon sun is streaming in. I brought my little 10-watt Behringer amp and my lunch: roast turkey, Havarti cheese and green leaf lettuce on quinoa bread, spread with hummus. Privilege sandwich.

Sweaty month. Reminds me of 1985, when I was living in Richmond, VA. It was blazing hot all the way until the 1st week of October, then kaboom, temps dropped like a rock. I lived with a couple roommates in a row house downtown. We had a group of yutes hanging on the roof that Friday, temps in the 90s then by Sunday we were in early winter.

Our community pool normally has lifeguards and closes Labor Day. This year it was open through September; no lifeguards and we had magnet fobs to enter and exit. I went 4 or 5 afternoons/evenings a week to pool walk and do my anti-arthritic stretches.

Had several stings this year – two hornet stings on left arm in the pool, which swelled up the size of aspirins, a bee sting in my right foot and a wasp sting on my right ring finger as I was pulling the newspaper out the box, heading out to above-mentioned rehearsal. I’m playing guitar with a broken middle finger, having been mashed in garage door when the opener motor broke. Sigh.

My favorite football team is in first place in its division. My favorite baseball team finished the season in first place in its division.

End of October. Well, the musical production got changed and the guitar parts were omitted. The weather finally dropped and I have been grateful. I joined the local gym and have been going 4 to 5 times per week. One of my fellow musician friends was attacked by a dog that ripped open her face at the corner of her mouth to her chin. So far the first surgery looks brilliant. I hope there is no scarring.

I played a pretty decent reunion show with my band from the 80s. Realized I am no longer 24. Whew. Wiped me out. Surprised that after 31 years, we clicked together with only one full rehearsal a week before the gig. Finger still hurts and doc said I should get an x-ray, which I may this week.

My baseball team got knocked out of the playoffs. My football team is slumping.

I still rant about the electricity going out constantly here on the East Coast. Grew up in the Midwest, where big winds, tornadoes and thunderstorms would sweep through the virtually treeless plains and knock out our power often, but a) it was on within a few hours and b) it was the late 60s to mid 70s. Can only sound snobby about being in this day and time and living in a “nice” neighborhood and complaining about being without electricity.

We are getting major rain now (afternoon) and potentially storms later tonight. Got one bag of white chocolate Reese’s cups in case any trick or treaters arrive. Otherwise, we’ll have the lights off and be in the basement watching an old B&W scary film, snacking on loot from Trader Joe’s. Stay safe all, and thanks for reading.

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Summer Winter

Autumn.  I didn’t miss it this year.  Felt like the last few years I’ve been overlooking my favorite season. Seemed like all the sudden, the reindeer were being hooked up to the sleigh and I’d have to wait another nine months for fall.

I am primarily deskbound all day and usually take a few minutes each hour to get up, stretch and get some fresh air. I made plans this year to spend a bit more time outside getting some Vitamin D. Saturdays, planned long walks, on the trails or on the pedestrian mall downtown.

Can’t complain, but this fall was the least brilliant in memory.  Still glad I got to soak in it.  Significant rain this year, one of the wettest in history.  My walking paths remained verdant much later than ever. The two copper beeches –one about 100 yards to the left and one about 100 feet to the right of my cul-de-sac—changed colors and dropped their slender leaves before Labor Day as usual, but surrounding me for miles were broadleaf trees remaining green well longer than is customary.

There’s a home for sale down in a mini valley on one of our walking routes.  Usually by late August, that yard’s elderly tall poplars are yellowing, but this year, they didn’t change until near the equinox.  I strolled by there a few weeks ago and since the leaves had gone, I could see the meadow beyond, its large, flat open field with no kids playing and thought of the magical brief late autumn afternoon time between school dismissal and dark during junior high, some 40 plus years ago.  My friends and I would chuck the football and as we got bigger, moved from tackle to touch football.

The Canada Geese seemed to arrive more or less on schedule, their joyous honking and splashing in the water behind our house almost on cue the first week of autumn. It’s a steep descent, but whenever I walk the slope down back to the brook, those birdies have always been receptive to pinches of bread.

Our fam has adopted Maine Coon cats for decades.  We have two, one age 2 and one 4, now.  The cooling air of fall seems to invigorate them.  I work with the air seeping through the screen half the season and these two girls chase each other and flop and roll at my feet close to feeding times.

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I don’t like pumpkin spice everything, but I do put some of it in my coffee.  I have a nutmeg pumpkin pie candle I place in a candle warmer throughout the fourth quarter and the breeze hits that wafting and freshens the basement workspace.

We didn’t get that glorious crisp air and advertised foliage so much in 2018, not much in general until well into October. Went to the wedding of a cousin-by-marriage the first week of that month and though not miserable, my suit and tie sweated through an 80ish afternoon on a soaked humid rural riverbank.

Maybe because I paid such close attention, not sure, but seemed like summer jumped straight into winter this year.  One of the earliest measurable snowfalls in this region occurred on December 9.  By then, I was involved in the Nativity celebrations and was ready to sing carols and put on my kitschy Christmas ties.  I’ve accumulated a decent collection of Yuletide music, many CDs purchased for less than $1 at thrift shops and yard sales.  I usually cycle through them starting All Saints’ Day, but waited until the Friday after Thanksgiving this year. Oh well, I’ve shelved the pumpkin candle and am onto the pine incense. Happy winter, all.

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Walking in Virginia

I have a zillion conditions ending in “-itis.”  Leg-joint pain the past couple years, but  these past few months, I’m feeling myself less envious of the joggers literally everywhere around me.  I stretch and still walk;  it helps the aches and creaks, but haven’t run in over a year.  I love walking downtown Charlottesville…always meet interesting folks, flashing back to the springtime and an anniversary dinner out on the mall. 20150506_191031

Then all the sudden, it’s summer…and we’re strolling past the Garage…lunching at Monsoon…watching the artists filling McGuffey.

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On our short little few-day jaunts, we soak in the history of our home state, England’s First Colony in America…Williamsburg, this state’s first capital…wmbg

Yorktown, the meeting of ancient & modern…20150810_095010

stumbling upon a video shoot for a Celtic ensemble…20150810_093249

then it’s autumn; we’re back home for some apple harvest pickin’ on the acres where our 3rd US President once resided…20151010_145111

to an estate sale just west in the county…estate sale

and eventually hauling equipment to play music at the Chocolate Festival.chocolate festival 2015

It’s been a great few months.  Tonight’s Halloween…we’re hiding out in the basement watching scary shows…shhh, don’t tell anyone!  Worked in the yard a few hours both yesterday & today;  just about time to put my feet in the bucket full of hot water and epsom salts.  Have a great evening, all.

Walking in Pennsylvania

That annual September trip to Pennsylvania starts in Virginia with a ride to Maryland then finally a ride to Bedford County.  Seems like I always forget something for my stay in that old bunk bed…a pillow, underwear, phone charger…this year it was walking shoes. lodge
I’ve been going for about ten years, and each Friday there, I climb the mountain behind the cabins.  Because of the joint pain that has set in my knees and feet the past few years, was unable to make the jaunt  last year.  This year, things have improved.  Have modified diet, lost a few lbs, been a bit more active and doing stretching and even a little yoga.  I got in my car early Thursday with the goal of scaling that peak.

Clad in my no-support city slicker leather sneaks, I wound up at a thrift shop in Laurel, scrounging through the used kickers for a good pair of athleticals.  Found a pair of black Nikes almost identical to the ones I left on the back porch back in the Old Dominion.  And a nice score – less than $3 and they were barely worn.  The “a-ha moment” > I went up half a size and it was a noticeable difference in the pain quotient.  I wear arch supports…should have known to adjust up. Der.

waiting

Waiting for my ride, I walked through the woods outside the church a while and reflected on my chronic pain.  It reminds me how much more people must have suffered in the past before we had good shoes, good medicine, better working scenarios….and how much of the world is suffering now.

Long car rides make me achey and that Thursday I had two each of 2 1/2 hours.  A bunch of us met at our place, this restaurant on the Mason-Dixon line (the Welcome to Pennsylvania sign is in the parking lot).

hobosFull of fish and potatoes, I slept pretty well on that institutional vinyl mattress + lugged-along sleeping bag.  Friday noon I was able to find the path I’d cleared a few years ago and climb that mountain…feeling those first cool breezes of September in the clearing at the summit.

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Met a new friend, a new hiking partner.  Some good complaining, some good sharing, some good foresights come out of long, steep aching walks.  “I’ll be better when this baby is born,” he laughed, clutching his midsection. Glad I could share, glad I could listen.

All we men get in a bunch of short strolls during these retreats, too.  Going down the lane to the fish pond, the gravel path to the air-rifle range, across the little bridge to Ghost Mountain or just out in the fields to play catch, to play catch-up.

Some of us have known each other decades, some of us are recent strangers. Regardless of duration, I’ve been pulled aside or walked astride and been told some remarkable things.

Married men tell me they’re considering their former selves as womanizers, watching their daughters become teens and women.

Baltimore policemen shared with us their involvement in this past spring’s riots, confessing their love of the city’s citizens, saying we as men need to be more vulnerable, need to be strong in doing so.

I listened to guys racked with shame, weathering affairs, divorces and struggles with the directions of their sex drives gone astray.  They want to be honest, to be clean, to change themselves, their world.

I’m amazed at these fellows who’ve experienced such loss in so many ways, the loss of family, career, health, yet they’re realizing we’re leaders, all these guys are saying, we have these positions of authority and we have to do better, we have to be more in community.

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Saturday was a mudbog and I retreated solo to that old dark-lit gym and went through the equipment room, shuffling on the new rubber floor…shooting hoops (man does that rim seem high at this age), swatting hockey pucks, punting a kickball,  pummeling a softball…keeping my feet moving in anticipation of two more long cramping rides that weekend.

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It’s been a few weeks…I’m back home and waiting for results of another workup on this connective tissue drag.   I’m on this slow rise of improvement and have to remind myself that not much change happens instantaneously.

Seems like my struggle is against my own body, for my own body, yet what has been building for several years is this feeling that’s going outward not inward.  It’s a feeling of connectedness to the people who don’t take walking for granted, like I have for half a century… those who don’t have a safe place and great companions and food around most corners.

Several pastors have told me that pain is meant for us to do something with it.  The endurance of it, the overcoming of it; those are things we can use to create and share and ally.  I’m writing more again and doing my 2nd annual charity fundraiser CD; I suppose those are at least small steps.

Reflecting back on my most recent rambles in the Quaker State, I’m thinking of a verse the Quakers hold dear, Ephesians 6:12  >  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  

Walking in Maryland

Blessed with two cool days this summer to be walking in my ex-home state Maryland. Temp in the high 70’s with moderate humidity in two summer months…unusual for this time of year.  JULY>>First day of walking > Mrs. in Baltimore and myself in Gaithersburg…we both work in Crabland a few days a month, but this instance was the first time we were able to carpool and be together. She had meetings ‘til 6 and I had to vacate the office in which I was housed at 5, so I was hoofing it.  Looked up a place for us to meet…internet map said 0.99 miles but it ended up being 2.97, so…just a tad heated when I plopped down in café (wearing tie and carrying notebook computer + bag of files).20150723_171307

En route, stopped a bit to listen to a performer… When She & I met, split a salad and a small pizza…just enough, considering we had a 3-hour ride home.20150723_180503

AUGUST. Lucky again, another co-trip; this time to Baltimore. Left Virginia about 5 to arrive at a lovely cool night. Got in the room and it was pretty arctic. 31st floor, quite a view of town.20150827_221902

Up at 630, we walked about 3 miles, looping around the Harbor. 20150828_070914Mrs. left and I did some online business and made calls while She was in meetings. Met for lunch at Pasticcio’s…couple slices of pizza…the white pizza with spinach and mushrooms = some of the best I’ve ever had. She went to another meeting and I walked back to hotel about 1.7 miles then did some more work. Had to check out @ 3, so repeated the a.m. loop, solo. Several strangers along the Harbor asked me for food, not money, saying they were hungry, so I went to the CVS and got bottles of water and cheese cracker packets and handed them out on the return route.

Checked out my friend Bob’s band later that night in Ellicott City. Next day, still in EC, walking those steep hills of old town, 20150829_112958yet another unseasonably cool day (grateful). Checking out antique shops and eating great food at the Trolley, just a walk across the Patapsco into Baltimore 20150829_114535County.

Been having major joint pains the last few years, so I feel like this weekend’s walking was a breakthrough, as I was achey, but wasn’t in THAT kind of pain later.  Back home Saturday night, soaked my feet in epsom salts…played music early Sunday then chilled rest of the day. Today was low 90s and humid…cut the lawn on those sharp slopes back home, feeling pretty doggone tired. Enjoyed a cool soak in the pool afterwards…have to get that while I can as next Monday is the end of pool availability until next May.

Little Bright Stars

Passed the Half-Century mark this year…who was the comedian who said, with age, we go to bed healthy and wake up injured? Bill Engvall? Erma Bombeck? Anyway, I’ve been feeling it. Less this year, with stretching, change in diet, etc., but still some days are surprising. Was fine last night and this morning, left knee was puffed out and aching. Staying off pain meds, so I just iced it and took my daily Glucosamine-Chondroitin and Sam-e’.

Puffer-Fish-1600x1200I took off a year from running. Feet and joints were hurting too much. They started feeling better right before I had surgery for umbilical hernia in July. I was surprised how long it took to recover from that. It’s been over two months and I still ache when I lift anything heavy. The doc implanted mesh down there and I am wondering if it was cut out the screen door of a haunted house.

I’ve always been ok at accepting help.  When people ask if they can help, I am inclined to say yes, even if sometimes for just the camaraderie.  I had help cutting the lawn this summer by a friend from one of my business groups.  His showing up was really a bright light shining through my dark feelings of quasi-helplessness.  Here’s a fella who worked on Wall Street, instrumental in taking major brands public and he’s sweating behind a push mower up and down the ridiculous hills I call my lawn. Heartwarming.

A few weeks after the procedure (15 minutes and $15,000), something stung or bit the back of my right knee. It was the same spot a tick got me a few years ago. I was in the woods and it was dark, so couldn’t figure out what it was. I am guessing a spider. Anyway, the pain increased and my knee swelled up (2 cm” bigger than its mate at the doc’s). I went to urgent care and was referred to the ER.  The staff were concerned about a post-surgery clot. None were found after sonograms. So I got a shot of antibiotics and took 6 giant pills a day for 10 days. The pills smelled a little like sulfur, a little like silage and tasted worse. I was concerned about Lyme disease, since so many friends I know in this region have contracted it but I did not.

Have been poor about visiting a GP pretty much forever. This year, prior to the hernia surgery I anticipated, I did a bunch of immunizations, blood draws, poking, prodding, tests…cholesterol, sugar, BP, etc. all fine, just gained weight past year due to my absence of running for a whole 12 months. * sigh * All that’s left now is the colonoscopy. Yippee.

Have been pretty slack on walking since last summer, so I ran a few miles then walked a few the other day. I used to love running now I hate it, but it seems to be the exercise that does the most for me. Ached a little bit the next few days, but not bad.tired runner

Reducing sodium intake seems to be a help against inflammation and joint pain. The last few years have been doing less processed food. I stopped eating at McDonalds (except their “gourmet” coffee) 7 years ago…stopped drinking sodas (except a few times a year) about 10 years ago.

Interesting to note the inbox spam regarding miracle foods over the past few years has changed – it was acai berries, then kale, then stevia, then white beans endorsed by Oprah (yeah, I really want to know her secret) and now it’s avoiding water. Hmm. I just saw on TV that a vendor at our local fair is offering deep fried sticks of butter. And my email from one of the cooking sites had a recipe for bacon-butterscotch cake. We are a nation that loves both decadence and wholesomeness.

Earlier this year, I downloaded some yoga, stretching and exercise programs and have been muddling through them. Kind of nerdy…started making menu calendars a few months ago and just printed an October exercise spreadsheet. Hope to get out and do stuff and not get stuck in a rut. Need to find an indoor pool.  Put my cheapo Schwinn in this device with a resistance wheel, which in essence, turns it into a stationary bike…which is good, considering the brakes don’t work.

I also had a procedure on my ear but I’m pretty much sick of detailing my medical status at this point.   Lousy as I’ve felt, a brilliant spot in the long night of discomfort is the fundraising project. I’m working on compiling musical works of a Christmas theme. Proceeds from sales of the CD will go directly to Loaves and Fishes. I’m hoping if it’s successful, it can be a perennial project and I can feel justified listening to Christmas music all year long.  I spent the early part of this year searching for obscure Christmas tunes: Anita Kerr, Arthur Prysock, Ray Agee…lot of late 50s to mid 60s gems I would love to hear current musicians re-record.

The sun sets for the last time in this September.  Amid the blue-black heavens, distant dots twinkle to light our paths.  I am feeling that cool air through the screen and listening to Etta James’ holiday collection.  Yeah, I know, it’s funny. ettaLITTLE DRUMMER BOY:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBasvAmOzmY

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory.                                      1 Corinthians 15:41

Details about the fundraiser CD will follow on cvilleloavesandfishes.org and joyfulnoisemachine.com