Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Can there be a clearer indication of permanence than a mailbox? We added ours to the row of its fellows at the entrance to Big Oak Lane over the weekend. If Steve needs to travel to company HQ in Sacramento over the next few months, and if we happen to be in Delaware at the time, we much prefer the convenience of using the local airport instead of DC. Those itineraries are a lot more expensive and won't be paid for unless Steve can demonstrate that he lives near that airport. Thus his new "home of record" as far as the company is concerned. One more big step.....
If you have some trepidation about reading anything more here, afraid I've really gone off the deep end worrying about The Move, I understand, but I hope you'll give me another chance. I don't know where I learned to be paranoid about uncertainty but unreasoning fear does visit occasionally. I worry, the worry causes a lack of sleep, which in turn feeds the mental frenzy and causes more worry.
But now I'm once again enjoying the ride. We'll get whatever we get for the house, deal with it, and things will work out. The new place is so beautiful, the planning and designing processes are so much fun and so exciting it's impossible not to jump on and just go with it.
Onward and upward!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
- the show is beautiful to look at, extremely glossed and stylish
- they smoke too much. Speaking as someone who was in his teens during the time depicted, I can tell you that even in those "smoking is good for you!" days people weren't lighting up as ubiquitously and constantly as these characters do. (Or maybe they were, but you weren't watching them through a 21st-century camera that made a point of showing all the lighting up and luxuriant exhaling. People did smoke more than they do now, it was a natural, unremarked part of passing through a day.)
- The first episode is supposed to take place in 1960. The first song you hear in that first epidsode, "Band of Gold," was a hit by Don Cherry (no relation) in 1955. It was considered very old hat by 1960. I thought there was something jarring about that song. Checking the dates told me why.
There are probably more nits I could pick. I'm not disliking the show and we'll stick with it, but one can't help seeing the historical inaccuracies in an imitation of an era put together by people who were either infants or not yet even born during the era depicted. The show's brain trust is Matthew Weiner, its creator, producer, and main writer. He was born in 1965. In a "Fresh Air" interview I heard with him a few days ago, he spoke with great authority of the early 1960s as a time of conformity but also of great intellectual foment. When I heard that, my reflexive response was, "Whaaa...?"
Conformity? In spades, baby. Intellectualism? Maybe in such rarified pockets as Greenwich Village, City Lights Bookstore, and the privileged and educated LA home Weiner grew up in. But I remember it differently. Most of the grownups I knew had come through the Depression, were mere high school graduates (my parents weren't even that), and had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. They were anything but intellectuals, fomenting or not. "The Andy Griffith Show" was the main cultural currency. PBS was in its infancy; NPR didn't even exist. We were only four years beyond Elvis's scandalization of the public with his hip swivels on the Ed Sullivan Show, and it would be another four years before The Beatles and their hair created real, true foment. Yes, the urban folk movement had germinated in 50s New York, and Joan Baez did come along in 1960 and revolutionize the music catalogue and performance. But she and the ones who followed her were singing to us kids--and maybe to Matthew Weiner's parents and their educated friends (thus giving him his false impression of the world in general)--but certainly not to my parents nor any of the ones I knew. If the guys in "Mad Men" were aware of Baez at all there's no doubt they were aghast and appalled at her lack of makeup, her long unstyled hair, and her complete lack of sex appeal in general. She made it her business to be the antithesis of what passed at the time for feminine beauty and would have had no place in the world-view of the show's protagonsists, nor did she seek one. Sorry, Matthew, but intellectual foment and rebellion were just not on the mass radar screen at the time. Repression was the order of the day. To your credit, the screwed up women in the show do bear witness to that.
I admit I'm only a few episodes into season one. I do like the show and look forward to the development of the characters. But a word to you late and post-Boomers who are in its thrall: it ain't real. It's too self-conscious to be believable.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
We've hesitated to take this step with this particular guy because in addition to being a personal friend he has also been courting our business steadily, obviously with an eye on getting our listing when the time comes. We've made no promises to him, but know nowhere else to turn and are starting to feel desperate. If we do go ahead with the sale and we don't use his services, we may lose a friend. But we'll keep our sanity, and in the end try to make it up to him.
Maybe next time I visit this subject we'll have come to some resolution.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
A followup to yesterday: I can't believe I was dense enough to forget that those chives of course would go to seed and I couldn't let the cheery blossoms just do their thing. I'd have been responsible for an upsurge of garlic chives in all of Northern Virginia at the rate they were going. Upon receiving Rita's diplomatic reminder, I got my father's ancient, rust-encrusted scythe out of the garden shed and made quick work of them. (The blade is so dull on that old tool it more broke the stems than cut them, but it worked.) The blooms are now decorating the mulch pile.
And I've decided I'll forgo future catharsis by not reporting on all the minute twists and turns of the house situation. Right after I published yesterday, Steve emailed that his company has proposed a new termination date: June 12. If that remains, it will give more than enough time for vestment and a little more wiggle room for everything that has to happen. It appears, though, that the company and TSA are in bargaining mode over this particular issue, so there's every chance that TSA will respond with something else, or stick with their original March date. Instead of either making you nauseous with all the back and forth or causing you to pull out tiny violins to play "Hearts and Flowers," I'll just let you know when something actually happens. The train is in the station, that much is sure.
This insistent need in me for resolution must be genetic. It's as basic and reflexive as breathing to me. For what it's worth, in Myers-Briggs terms I am an off-the-charts "J." Every major decision in my life has been driven by what feels somehow mandatory rather than simply preferable. I don't do well with too much choice--I enjoy randomness and chaos as long as there's no requirement that I exercise some kind of choice from within them. I don't shop; I march in and get what I want, having already researched the choices. (But I do love browsing in junk stores. In that situation, I'm merely a tourist, without responsibility.) I'll work like hell to get a job done for the very sake of having it done and not having to do it anymore. I make to-do lists and follow them. I am immediate in my responses to requests for assistance, can't leave anything hanging and unresolved. If you want to make me crazy, tell me about your utterly disorganized life. If you're in close enough proximity, I'll probably organize it for you, just to save my sanity. It's all about control, I know.
All that to illustrate my reaction to the current uncertainty. Those who can relinquish control are truly blessed. It's something I must work at and remind myself of every day.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, the play is lovely!
Monday, September 22, 2008
I have a stand of garlic chives that is taking over the county. I'm usually very faithful about cutting all the flowers off, on the theory that if the flowers are allowed to go to seed, the plant will have fulfilled it's basic purpose in life and die. But I've noticed that nobody else bothers with the practice, and the plant is so big now it actually would be OK with a little dieback. So I'm letting the flowers stay. It's quite a beautiful display and the bumblebees love them. I use the chives as a secret ingredient in potato salad. I'll definitely be taking a plug with when we move.
Yes, The Move, the purpose of this blog. Today I'm obsessed with it. I was just now trying to tell you why, but the details are mind-numbing--even I was bored, and I'm the one obsessing! Suffice to say that over the weekend, Steve got a new drop dead date for the project: April 24. That means he'd be on the street six days before the magic five-year mark and his ensuing vestment, retirement, and pension. His colleagues on the project are pushing the company to keep him on the books past that date by proposing a final close-out trip in May. They all care, and that's nice. But we'll see what the big bad company has to say.
Meanwhile, our hand is feeling forced. We must apply for loans now while we have real income. We must make obligations and act on them now, before we know how the real estate market will treat us in the spring. The train seems to be leaving the station, passengers ready or not. We're in for an adventure, that's for sure, but what kind? (Falling off a cliff could be classified as an adventure.) How long will it take to sell the house? What can we get for it? These are the unanswerables. But we proceed without answers because we have no choice, hoping and praying for a bridge at cliff's edge....
Friday, September 19, 2008
Here's another re-do from the Washington Post food section, which these days seldom seems to print a recipe that doesn't need major work. A little creativity paid off big time on this one. It's a simple and quick recipe that profits from being made ahead, the extra time allowing the pasta to cool to salad temperature and for the flavors to mingle properly. It makes a huge amount, good for a crowd or for plenty of leftovers. Since it calls for both a meat and chickpeas, vegetarians can leave the meat out still get a complete protein is via the peas and the pasta. However you make it, you'll have a flavorful, filling and hearty dish that the pickiest eaters should enjoy. If you have any favorite veggies to chop and add, feel free.
About 10 oz. pasta of your choice (I used whole wheat elbows and some orzo I had moldering in the pantry)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil and cook pasta according to package directions.
Combine all ingredients but the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Drain cooked pasta and add to ingredients in bowl, then immediately add oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and toss to mix thoroughly. Refrigerate at least an hour, turning occasionally to dissipate heat.
Told you it was simple! Bet you can't eat just one helping!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I'm not so much a partaker in that other communications revolution, cell phone technology. I use my cell phone for emergencies and when there is absolutely no other way to connect with someone. For Steve's part, he spends so much time on the phone at work that he rarely even answers it here at home. As for myself, though I can talk a blue streak if you hit the right buttons, writing is my preferred means of communication, so for better or worse I've taken to the internet as a natural extension of my brain and fingers. Email enables my immediate and previously unimagined connection to friends old and new. (Google, literally a creation of this technology, helps me find those old friends in the first place.) This blog has brought me an entire community of like-minded souls spread around the world who have opened doors to me that I didn't even know existed.
Music has been an enormous part of this revelation. I've been exposed to more new and exciting music in the past nine months than I had been in the previous 40 years, during which time I despaired that creativity had withered to oblivion. And this process of discovery has extended past new music to re-kindled acquaintance with artists who have been working their magic for years but who for one reason or another I previously paid no attention to. All this musical exploration has made my 80-gig ipod, yet another tool made possible by the internet, a godsend. It's about half full now with music practically endless in its variety. I can carry it with me wherever I go, set it on "shuffle," plug it into speakers, and share my musical wealth with anyone. We'll never hear the same song twice unless we want to.
Of course, all blessings have their potential for abuse. We've all heard of people who spend entire days in front of the computer, and I know a couple of people like that personally. They may be hooked on a game, or maybe they're doing the same sort of follow-where-it-leads exploration of knowledge that I enjoy, but they do it to the exclusion of what I've come to call the flesh-and-blood world. I find I can't sit in front of a television for more than two hours, and if my computer were not next to a window on the f&b world I would probably spend less time here, as well. As much as I enjoy everything about this morning ritual, choosing my music and forming my sentences takes just about all the time at the computer I'm willing to spend in one session.
Thanks to various beeps and chimes I know when one of you has sent me a message or has updated your blog. All I need to do is turn up the volume on my computer and head out to other things. But whatever those other things may be, they're done in the knowledge that my little outreach via cables and modems is keeping you near and able to tell me what's on your mind at a moment's notice. I'm tethered to my world and yours in a way previous generations of humankind never even thought of.
Who'd have ever dreamed....?
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
If you get the joke, you're allowed to laugh.
House progress: We have jumped off a cliff and applied for a construction loan. This will commit us to starting work on the Delaware property no later than December; the work will be in the form of trailer demolition, lot clearance and installation of the septic system. Yes, this is before we know how Steve's job situation will evolve, and before we sell this house and know how much we will be able to contribute to the final real estate fund. But our finance person gave us a call while we were in North Carolina alerting us to interest rate moves and telling us we should strike while the iron is hot, and we decided to do it. A construction loan is an interest-only line of credit; you pay only on the amount you've drawn. If worse comes to worst and the entire scheme falls down, we will only be out the cost of the land clearance. If we see we can't get enough for the house and decide to wait a year to build, it means we will not have the trailer to stay in next summer--it'll be in a landfill someplace. But right now it's feeling like that won't happen. I think we've set ourselves on a path now and it will take a huge catastrophe to get us off it, and a catastrophe seems less likely now, because:
Steve's company finally submitted its plan to the Transporation Security Administration for the transition to the new contractor. The plan envisions the company needing until July 2009 to complete the transition properly. This is more than enough time for Steve to get his vestment in the company, it gives us plenty of wiggle room for the economy to do whatever it's going to do (improve, we hope, over that long a time); we are even pretty sure that if we go ahead with the house plans and move to Delaware, the company would allow Steve to telecommute, as it does everyone else on the project.
Bureaucratic inefficiency! How could we live without it?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Because it's there! So ends another Week Of Eating Dangerously at Nags Head. Among so many other things, the week at Nags Head means food, unlimited, delicious food, from the dinners (along with desserts mostly including ice cream) served by cooks nothing short of expert, to the ham and cheese biscuits thrown in as a lagniappe by somebody one morning for breakfast, to the Dagwood-style sandwiches we all indulge in every lunchtime (if not some pasta thing leftover from dinner the night before) to another lagniappe, huge oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies tossed out of the oven by somebody else, to cheese dips, humus, flatbreads, and chips of every description, and boiled Virginia peanuts, all just sitting there, meant only to be consumed. I stopped by a farm stand on the trip down and bought at least 10 pounds of beautiful tomatoes, totally oblivious to the fact that Tom and Rick always fly in from Toldeo with offerings from their own yearly bumper crop. We ended up with at least 30 pounds of tomatoes--and we went through them! Folks got creative and every dinner featured tomatoes in some form, and lunch sandwiches weren't considered complete without at least a slice. By the time Thursday rolled around I made some comment to the effect that it will be interesting to feel hungry again, if I ever do, and everyone else chuckled in understanding. This group gives the song "Food, Glorious Food!" a whole new meaning.
Otherwise, we were blessed with the same matchless September weather that we always have, despite the fact that we are at hurricane central and always fearing the worst. Hanna started raining on the Outer Banks literally the moment our tires hit the beach road on Friday at about 1 pm, and we had high winds but only light rain the rest of Friday and about half of Saturday. By 5 pm Saturday we were sitting on the beach as if there had never been any disturbance. Also by that time, we knew that the next hurricane, Ike, had decided to head west, not north. Right from the start, we knew we were home free. (Sorry, Galveston!)
This is the traditional start of the new year for us. The Nags Head trip serves as the cap to summer; the cooling weather turns our attention to concerns and activities of the new season and we start planning for them. For me it means more outdoor work, in the form of staying ahead of the everloving maple leaves out back (the silver maple--the gift that keeps on giving), cutting back the foliage on perennials now that they have nourished their bulbs for as long as the weather will allow and, eventually, bringing in all the plants from the deck. Soon the Thanksgiving cactuses will be setting buds for their yearly spectacle, which I will share with you.
Thanks to you die-hards who checked in faithfully even when there was nothing new to look at. I've got a project ahead of me, trying to retrieve those lost posts from the google archive. With the clarity of hindsight I discovered that the loss was my fault, not blogger's. Life goes on.
If you're curious, here are a few more Nags Head pictures.
Friday, September 5, 2008
This is an all-time favorite of ours that I've been making at least twice a month for years. It's a variation on a recipe I originally found on Epicurious.com, even before the bags of pre-torn lettuce had become so ubiquitous and handy on grocery shelves.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
I set about that task yesterday. Comcast was having one of the worst days I'd ever seen, up for sporadic seconds and then down for minutes, all day long. I slogged through it, finding the eleven posts (including good recipes) I deemed worthy of re-runs. Between bouts of sitting before a dead computer screen for interminable periods, I made a few changes in each entry and posted them with consecutive future dates, using blogger's delayed publishing feature. The whole production took a couple of hours. When I was done, I pressed "view blog"--and discovered all those posts had published yesterday. Blogger had ignored the consecutive future dates. Thinking I had made a mistake, I deleted all the incorrect posts to start all over again.
It was only at that point that I discovered that blogger didn't regard those re-worked posts as copies, but as new, stand-alone posts. I hadn't just deleted the incorrectly dated posts, but the originals, too! Australia, gone! New Zealand, gone! Cowan's Gap, Nags Head, gone, gone!!
OK, I think I've used enough exclamation points to describe my feelings yesterday. Between the damn ISP itself and blogger, I was not at my best. Finally, my friend Nan suggested I look into the Google cache, and some exploration there points to a way of salvaging the writings. I won't be able to restore them to the blog, but at least I can save them to my own drive and have them, which is something I've been meaning to do with all my posts, anyway.
So a word to my wise fellow bloggers: don't get too comfortable with this powerful tool we all use. When it wants to screw you, it can, and there's not a single human voice you can turn to. Be careful!
It'll be over and out after tomorrow--we'll be driving south, probably into Hurricane Hannah (sounds like a song) on Saturday, and I will be back at this computer on Tuesday September 16. I'll be checking in sporadically and leaving my ubiquitous comments you-know-where, so don't think you've heard the last of me! I'll be watching when I can, and I'll be full of stories and pictures when I get back.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Anyway, both cats are wearing smelly flea collars now and the problem should abate in a few days, but it's hard to see Ivy awakend from a slumber to scratch, lick, or bite some spot that a flea has drawn his attention to. Of course, I have no inkling how a cat manages to deal with any of this. I'm like most normal humans in that feeling tiny things crawling over me would drive me over the edge. But cats, and for that matter many other creatures, just seem to be able to put up with it, or maybe not even be aware of it until a major bite occurs. Even some humans, forced by extraordinary circumstances to life in extremis outdoors, seem to be blessed with this de-sensitization. I guess sentient organisms can become too sentient and defensively get used to anything when they have to.
Malaria is endemic in Ghana, as it is in most of the tropical countries where the Peace Corps works. We Peace Corps folk, volunteers and staff alike, were required to take a drug called Aralen to suppress any parasites we may have been exposed to by random mosquito bites. (More modern drugs are used now.) The thing about this weekly Aralen dose was that there is still something called a "malaria breakthrough," which could happen if you were exposed to more mosquitoes than normal and the malaria parasites become numerous enough to overcome the prophylactic effect of the drug. If that were to happen and we should find ourselves felled by a sudden, raging fever, a specific parasite-destroying regimen was printed right on the Aralen bottles we all carried with us.
I was as idiotically assured of my own immortality as any other kid of 24, and couldn't see any sense in "poisoning" myself with a drug a) whose prophylactic effect could be overcome by sufficient exposure to the malaria parasite and b) could beat back even an OD of parasites with a specific regimen anyway. So I didn't take my weekly Aralen (the only Peace Corps rule I ever broke), and I did get a fever.
It happened on a late Saturday morning as a group of us were gathering for the curry lunch at Kumasi's City Hotel--an occasional treat we'd indulge in if enough folks were in town to form a party. My temperature rose dramatically within minutes; I could do nothing more than sit on the curb, and I was hard-pressed to find the strength to remain upright even to that degree. My friends rushed me with them to Michele's house, where I was bundled into a bed to trip out on fever dreams. Somebody had my unused Aralen bottle and dosed me with the prescribed amounts at the prescribed intervals. I do remember realizing that I had provided an excuse for an early start to the party that would have taken place at Michele's place after lunch anyway. Some part of me wanted to be there, but I couldn't move.
The drug did its work. After just a few hours, the fever broke as suddenly as it had begun, and I was able to join my friends in the next room, decidedly worse for the wear, but grateful to be among the welcoming, smiling faces . At the end of the day I went home and crashed. It was about a week before I felt completely normal again.
When my Peace Corps service was over and I was back in the States, I related this episode to my doctor and asked for a blood test to see if I had indeed had malaria and if there were any parasites left--could I expect a relapse? I tested negative for the parasite. Either my body had sloughed it off, or I had simply succumbed to some random tropical fever that happened to respond to Aralen. To this day the story has no horror in it for me. Malaria was simply one of the myriad risks I had accepted as part of doing business in the Peace Corps. Whatever that fever was, I survived it; the Aralen and my body danced together as intended, and here I am telling the tale. In my much wiser dotage now, of course, simply crossing a street can engender shaky, white-knuckle fright. I'm honestly not sure which is better: the caution of age or the blissful ignorance of the young. Then again, maybe you become cautious in direct proportion to how dumb you were before. Given my risk-averse life now, I must have been really good and stupid. I'm so glad!
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
We had a very pleasant yet productive weekend. The holiday traffic horrors caused by emergency repairs on the Bay Bridge were so well predicted that potential travelers were frightened away; the backups never materialized. Friend Chris made the trip in record time early Saturday morning, at less than 2 1/2 hours. As for the building project, we did accomplish what we hoped we would: applied for the variance to accommodate a deck (our personal appearance before the zoning board will take place within the next two months), and signed a contract with a builder to take us as far as final design preferences and permits. Once we have plans and permits in hand, we will be able to shop them around to other builders to see if we can get a better price. When we're through that process and decide on a builder, we'll slow down on construction plans until the spring, when we have a better idea of what we can get for this house. But we'll still be looking at storage costs, movers, final "staging" of the house, and of course....painting! I'll no doubt have plenty to entertain you with in the coming months.
I have much to do here in Arlington before we take off Thursday for about two weeks to Nags Head, with stops at the Delaware place bracketing the start and finish of the trip. The Outer Banks are beautiful during this "shoulder" season. The air is still summer-warm, but the days have shortened a bit, making the nights comfortably cool, and the crowds have finished their vacations, leaving the beach and the local roads relatively serene for us to enjoy. But there is one obvious drawback to September: hurricanes. We're watching Hannah, Ike, and Josephine as they develop and follow the wind currents west, hoping they will turn away from where we will be. I have to say we've had extremely good luck in the thirty years we've been making this trip. We've had some heavy rain, but never for a full week, and we've only been required to evacuate two times. As long as all the friends we go with want to stick with September, we'll keep going at this time.
Outdoor work beckons this truncated week. Happy New Work Year!