Saturday, January 30, 2010

House Hunting

I looked at a house yesterday. I'd like to find a place of my own by mid summer, but I'm beginning to wonder if I can afford a place in Damariscotta. Most of the houses for sale more than I can afford and most are not "in town." The house I looked at was very small and had been badly remodeled in the past. The good thing is its location. Since it's only a block from where I'm renting, it means I could continue to walk to the downtown. The stairs to the second floor, where there are two small bedrooms, are impossibly narrow. They in no way meet building code. I would guess they were originally attic stairs. The bathroom is miniscule (on the ground floor) and the living room has space for a small sofa and maybe one chair. The kitchen space is more than adequate and the bedroom space is ok. I wonder if the amount of money it would take to redo the house so I would be comfortable there would be worth it. At my age I don't really want to take on a major re-modeling project. I'm still thinking about it though, since the price was pretty good.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Girl's Best Friend

In my year at MIT (1957-58) the coeds, as part of the spring follies, did their version of Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend, but in those long-ago days it was "slide rules are a girl's best friend."  My slide rule (given to me by my uncle) and Burrington's was all we were allowed to use in exams. (The picture is from Wikipedia) Now we use our lap tops and desk tops, which seem to have replaced the hand-held calculators that came so soon afterward.  Bob Whalley found this gem on YouTube, but here it is "the prayerbook is a girl's best friend."  I wonder how many other parodies of this song are out there.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Prayers and Part III of the Isabelle and Amelia Grand Adventure

So many bloggers have asked for prayers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and I need to do the same.  I had been trying to get ahold of a dear friend both before and during my trip, via phone, Facebook and e-mail.  When she finally answered she told me she has been diagnosed with an early stage of the disease.  So Izzie and I made the trip to Dunedin to see her.  Now she's been in a wheel chair for years because of an MS-like disease, so this is a double whammy.  Connie is a dear.  When we both lived in the Bay Area we were prayer partners and most Sundays had lunch together after church and frequently saw each other during the week.  When I moved to Michigan for my first interim, she moved to Florida to be closer to her daughter who has four young boys.  Now she is planning on moving to Albuquerque to live with her son.  He has bought a house with an in-law apartment for her to live in, so that should work for the near term.

I could see some changes: repeated questions like forgetting that she had asked me to check her mail and asking me a number of times and much confusion about past events.  It was still wonderful to see her and much of our conversation was quite normal.  I had hoped to take her out for dinner, but the elevator in her condo wasn't working so she couldn't get out. Izzie and I used the stairs. We ordered pizza instead. She is so much more frail than she used to be and that is sad as well.  Please pray for Connie and her family.

We spent two nights there.  When we arrived Izzie took off after Squanto and he disappeared under the bed.   The second night we thought he was in the living room when we went to sleep, but it turned out he was under the bed we were sleeping in and in the middle of the night I heard a scratching at the door. Then there was this lovely cat face staring at me from the bedside table.  I got up quietly so as not to disturb the queen (Izzie) and let Squanto out.  I think by the time we left, they were beginning to get along.  Connie got Squanto in Berkeley and he's always been an indoor cat and NOT used to dogs (or even other cats for that matter).

After leaving Dunedin, we drove northwest across Florida, past Orlando toward I-95.  That interstate is pretty boring, although it does lead to places I've never stopped at like Cape Canaveral.  A cousin of mine used to live near there in the late 60s and 70s and his mother and father, my Uncle Don and Aunt Claire became snow birds for a while, spending the winter months close to their son and playing contract bridge.  I was living in California at the time, so unlike my younger brothers and sisters, I never visited.  Izzie and I spent the night in South Carolina and then went on to Charlottesville, Virginia.

Charlottesville is where Anne, a deacon from Maine spends November through April.  She is a hospice chaplain, a retired physician, a lover of opera ( really all kinds of music), an oboe player, and an avid golfer.  Anne is great fun to be around. After my GPS sent me off to Ruckersville, I called and got directions.  Izzie decided that Desi and Luci, two standard poodles, were just too much and decided to pee on the floor at least three times.  It could also be that she was worried I was going to leave her there.  Anne and I went to her gym for an exercise class, had a great late lunch in downtown Charlottesville and then drove out to Monticello.  We were too late to take a tour, but we explored the gallery and gift shop. Izzie stayed in the car.  I really need to get back there as well as the long list of other places I've mentioned in earlier posts.

The last day I had planned on stopping somewhere in Massachusetts, but decided to continue on.  The  weather was good and I felt fine.  It was only when I pulled in at the house and got out of the car, that I realized my legs were really weak.  I got my two walking sticks and used them until I got my balance back.  It was nearly ten pm, so I took the necessities out of the car and decided the rest could wait until the next day.  I didn't go to church Sunday because I was way too tired.  Since then we've had snow and more snow.  In fact it's still snowing.

The warm Los Angeles weather seems so far in the past, although I'm not sure I'd like to be there right now with all the driving rain.

Thus ends the tale.

Monday, January 18, 2010

St. Andrew's, Newcastle and Haitian Art

There has been a long-standing relationship between people at St. Andrew's Newcastle (Newcastle is the twin city to Damariscotta and is across the river) and Haiti. One of the ways they raise money for the schools they support is by selling Haitian art. The local NBC station interviewed some of the people involved with Haiti and aired the story last Friday. You can get a glimpse of some of the art in the interview.

As you can well imagine. People here, like they are everywhere are saddened and want to do something. We were encouraged to bring checks made out to Episcopal Relief and Development to put in the collection plate on Sunday so that it would be a community offering.

The Trip Home—Part II

I took the photo at Saguaro National Park. After we left Tucson, we headed east on I-10. I was surprised that El Paso was in the mountains. I loved the views from the road both south toward Mexico and north toward New Mexico. It was a wonderfully clear and sunny day. Izzie and I stopped for another check by the border patrol (the first was near Yuma). I guess Maine plates, a very anglo face and no trace of a foreign accent (if you don't count the fact that I sound like a Candadian) was enough. All I was asked if I was a U. S. citizen, and that's much like the old days crossing the border from either Canada or Mexico, except the check points were on the interstate. Izzie found the stops interesting and she made sweet faces at the border patrol guys.

We stopped for the night at Van Horn, Texas.  The motel staff were complaining about the cold.  When they saw I was from Maine, they assumed (correctly) that I didn't think it was too bad.  I didn't need to put on gloves (my criteria for how cold it is).  I wondered what there might be to do if you stayed in Van Horn.  Turns out trips to Carlsbad Caverns (go north back into New Mexico) and the McDonald Observatory are easy day trips.  When we left the next morning, Izzie started barking and I pulled off at the McDonald Observatory exit and let her walk a bit.  Just off the road was an old abandoned stone schoolhouse with only the walls left.  It's quite a drive to the observatory from the interstate, so I decided not to do it.  Hope I get back to that area again.  I love the guy on Star Date on PBS who tells us what to see in the night sky.

We then drove and drove to the east side of San Antonio where we spent another night.  The desk clerk asked if I was going into town that evening, but all I wanted to do was see the bed.  One of mother's cousins, Pauline, married someone from Texas and they lived in San Antonio.  They came to New Hampshire once when I must have been about 12 or 13.  I think they were selling Pauline's family home and business.  We spent one day visiting the old family homestead.  They had an apple orchard and juice and cider processing mill.  There was a stream near the house with a dam that made a great swimming hole.  Those were the days when swimming in near freezing water was a normal occurrence for me.  If the air was warm and sunny, I didn't care how cold the water was.  That evening, Pauline's husband tried to teach me how to do some western dance steps.  So memories from a place I had never seen, and again, a place to visit in the future.

The drive the next day took us through Houston, a place I had visited once for a professional meeting where I went to the one and only rodeo I've ever seen.  A roommate from college days, Lynne, I assume still lives there. She married Gordon Mutchler who taught physics at Rice and who died a few years ago.  Gordon and I were engaged to be married once, but it didn't work out.  I really think Lynne was the right choice for him.  I wish I knew how to get in touch with her, she doesn't seem to be on Facebook.

So through Houston and on to Louisiana.  I had heard of bayous, but really never had seen any.  That part of the country has water everywhere: lakes, bays, canals and bayous. Fascinating drive. Izzie and I arrived in Thibodaux and Grandmère's around supper time.  It's a lovely place where they raised their children. I was given a glass of wine, a plate of shrimp creole and rice while Izzie explored the house.  Grandmère, Izzie and I have all blogged about our visit there, so I won't repeat things.  I really enjoyed our conversations which ranged all kinds of subjects including theology and the state of the church.  I can't remember much of the first night's conversation since I was quite tired after driving a bit over 500 miles and two glasses of wine did me in. Conversation continued the next day and evening interspersed with church, lunch (yummy oyster spaghetti) in Houma, and a nap.  Grandpère is a great guy and a really good cook.  Izzie especially appreciated getting bacon fat on her kibble.

We left pretty early the next morning.  The drive took us past, but not through New Orleans.  The only time I've been there was when I was seven.  My mother, sister (nine), two brothers (one of them 6-months old and the other 18 months) and I took a train from Boston to New Orleans to board a ship for Panama. My uncle drove us to Boston.  We had a meal at the Union Oyster House and I had a fruit cocktail as a appetizer.  I thought it great that I got desert first. I also remember Grand Central Station, where we changed trains and was greatly impressed by the size.  We had gotten all kinds of immunizations in New Hampshire, except for Yellow Fever shots, so my memory of New Orleans is great huge concrete buildings near the wharfs.  In one of them we got our shots, then boarded the ship.  Poor mother suffered from motion sickness and the train ride was a nightmare for her as was the sea voyage.  In addition my youngest brother was suffering from the aftermath of the shots, probably the typhoid one. He probably also had a cold, since I remember he had a runny nose. I know those shots always made me cranky too, every time I got one. The train porter from New York took pity on her and since it was a military transport ship, other people helped out with us kids.  I don't remember much about the trip myself.  I think we spent a lot of time in the cabin.  Mother had numerous operations on her ear as a young woman, but nothing helped.  I think I need to get to New Orleans to really see the city.  Driving by on the interstate just doesn't do it for me.

I thought we might stop in the Florida Panhandle, but I ended up driving the whole way to Dunedin.  What I did accomplish that day was to go through Mississippi and Alabama.  They are the only two states (in the lower 48) I had never been in before.  Ken refused a transfer to Pascagoula, Mississippi in the early 70s, deciding to go back to work for Aerospace Corp (he spent a year or so with Litton Ship Systems in California).  I did enjoy the views of the Gulf from the road.  Again it was a sunny, but chilly day.

To be continued.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Trip Home—Part I

My drive back from California was full of memories. The whole trip was about 4300 miles. The remembering started while I was driving east on the San Bernadino Freeway (I-10).  That was the freeway we used when I lived in Hermosa Beach in the mid to late 60s and early 70s to go to the desert for hiking, rock climbing at Joshua Tree (I hated it) and winter mountaineering (going down a snow field on my back trying to get the ice axe to dig in is also in the I hated it category).

Passing exits signs for Banning and Cherry Valley brought memories of my Aunt Gaby, my mother's sister,and her husband Uncle John who lived in Cherry Valley and Uncle Amedee, her brother, and his wife Aunt Augustine who lived in Beaumont.  We didn't see them often during my years there as our lives revolved around our children and Ken's mother in San Diego.  Our lives had a regular schedule of one weekend in San Diego, one weekend camping, hiking or sightseeing, and two weekends doing household things.

Wiki photo of white pelican
I had decided that I wanted to see the Salton Sea.  I had never gone further south inland than Indio and I was curious as to why people liked the Salton Sea so much.  There were lots of birds there, and although I wanted to stop, the areas to turn out were closed.  This was really off-season, so maybe there weren't enough people to warrant keeping them open, on the other hand it could have something to do with ecologic concerns. The sea is below sea level, quite saline and the home of white pelicans in addition to being on the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds.  Lots of environmental issues around contamination due to agricultural use and water usage.

Izzie and I spent the night in Yuma, Arizona.  I had never seen Yuma, nor driven east on I-8, so that was a new experience.  I guess we could have gone on to Tucson that day, but I didn't want to be tempted to just drive through and not see the Saguaro.  I was unaware that Yuma is such a big railroad town.  The motel we stayed in was very dog friendly, the Oak Tree Inn.  Many of the rooms are reserved for railroad people.  I've stayed at Oak Tree in Elko, Nevada and Green River, Wyoming.  Breakfast was at Penny's Diner next door.  They give you a voucher and it buys a good meal.  I sat at the counter and chatted with someone who works for the railroad.  He had just come off an overnight run and was going to sleep after his breakfast.  He asked where I was from and when I told him Maine, he said "that must be your van outside."  People seem to find it odd that it's just me and Izzie.

After breakfast we started for Tucson.  Right after Gila Bend I began to see saguaro cacti.  They are really limited in their range living only in the Sonoran desert of Arizona, Mexico (and a little of California).  To see whole hillsides of these magnificent beauties was quite spectacular. (Wiki photo)  I was warned not to let Izzie out since she could easily pick up a nasty prickly on her paw. She actually did pick up something sharp on one of our walks outside the motel.  Fortunately I caught it right away and removed it.  I never did get to the Desert Museum.  Time was running out, but I saw enough to know I'd love to go back.  I bought some cactus candy, something I hadn't had in years.  Love it.

While near Tucson, I saw a roadside sign, you know the kind that tells you who is paying for keeping the trash picked up along the roadside, that said Lazy K Bar Ranch.  In high school one of my girlfriends would go to Arizona for spring break. Her father eventually ran that particular dude ranch and they moved to Tucson I think in our junior year.  In Nashua they ran the Howard Johnson's so obviously they knew what they were about.  My friend competed in barrel riding and I think became a nurse, but I lost track of her so I have no idea where she is now, but it's odd how a little sign can trigger memories.  From Junior High on four of us would walk to and from school together.  We'd all meet at one house and go on from there.  In really bad weather someone's parent would drive us (not mine since we didn't have a car).

Science Humor

I cannot resist posting this.  A friend put it on his blog.  After all the heartache of Haiti and all the nastiness from some on the religious right on how those poor people brought the disaster on themselves, this should bring a smile to the faces of those of you who are a bit geeky like me.  God has many surprises for us as we explore this marvelous universe, and I don't mean natural disasters.

CERN is the European Centre for Nuclear Research. They're the ones some people thought might create a black hole and end the world as we know it. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

We're Home

Arrived in Damariscotta a little before ten pm.  Partly unpacked the car.  Izzie has been running around the house like a crazy dog.  I think she's glad to be home.  More tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Izzie's Got Her Zip Back

We left our dear friend Connie this morning and hit the road again, although only after gassing up and getting the car washed.   We have stopped in Georgia for the night and Izzie has been racing down the halls of the motel as though she were a puppy again.  Since she's on a leash, I have to run as well. She's going to keep me young. I'm so grateful that the surgery has worked so well.  Tomorrow night will have us near Charlottesville, Virginia and spending a little time with Anne, a deacon from Maine who winters in Virginia and Izzie spending some time terrorizing Anne's two standard poodles, Desi and Luci.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Visit With Grandmere Mimi

It was so much fun to meet the esteemed doyenne of bloggers, Grandmere Mimi and her very dear husband Grandpere.  They are a lot of fun to be around.  It was so nice to be invited to their home and arriving in the early evening, was treated to some  shrimp creole and rice.  It was GOOD.  Izzie spent the first bit of time exploring the house and making herself at home.  Both Grandmere and Grandpere were very nice to her even keeping their own dog Diana outside, except at night when she sleeps in the laundry room.  Izzie was royally pampered.

Grandmere's church, St. John's is quite lovely.  I like the white walls and the clear windows.  It's a very old church and in some ways reminds me of a small version of St. Paul's in Boston.  The pews seem to give a nod to those from the colonial era which were more like family boxes.  The organ was acting up because of the cold, but the organist shifted to the piano and all was well.  I would have loved to have heard the pipe organ, but only if it were in tune and all the stops worked, which was not the case.  I also enjoyed talking to members of the congregation afterwards.  They are a hospitable bunch.  Izzie would have loved coffee hour.  There was cheese.

Mimi describes the wonderful meal we had after church on her blog.  I promised them a good lobster dinner to encourage them to come up to Maine, but I don't think we would eat any better.  The hors d'oeuvre of spinach and artichokes on cheese toasts was yummy and the oyster spaghetti was to die for.

I feel so honored to have met this wonderful woman.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Another Einstein Quote of the Day

I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details.

I'm too tired to write a post after all the driving.  I have been doing a lot of thinking about God, however, not about God's thoughts, but about to what extent can we say that God has a plan.  I believe that there is a grand plan for the universe, but not a detailed plan for my life or yours.  I've got to find the time to put my thoughts onto paper.

For those who might be interested, I'm on my way east.  Today is the first day I've experienced really cold weather since I left Maine.  It's below freezing and there's a strong wind blowing.  Tonight I'm in Van Horn, Texas (you can drive to Carlsbad Caverns and the Mac Donald Observatory from here).  Tomorrow I should be near Houston.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Museums and Food

The Getty on Sunday was wonderful. The weather was perfect:  sunshine and clear skies so we could see out to the Pacific and Catalina and east to the mountains near Palm Springs with snow on their peaks.  We had a lovely brunch before we saw the Rembrandt and his pupils exhibit.  The drawings were fascinating.  Of course each of the artists were studying under Rembrandt at the time the drawings were made, but Rembrandt is obviously the master.  His drawings have such an energy about them that seemed to be missing from those of the students.  What that man could do with a few simple lines and some washes is amazing.  They had magnifying glasses available so you could look at the details.

After we walked through the garden, we saw another exhibit—Irving Penn's photographs called Small Trades.  If you go to the link some of the photographs are on display.  I found them fascinating.
Working in Paris, London, and New York in the early 1950s, photographer Irving Penn (American, 1917–2009) created masterful representations of skilled tradespeople dressed in work clothes and carrying the tools of their occupations. A neutral backdrop and natural light provided the stage on which his subjects could present themselves with dignity and pride. Penn revisited his Small Tradesseries over many decades, producing evermore-exacting prints, including platinum/palladium enlargements. In 2008 the J. Paul Getty Museum acquired the most comprehensive group of these images, carefully selected by the photographer—155 gelatin silver prints and 97 platinum/palladium prints—that are being exhibited in their entirety for the first time.
Then last night we went to Atch-Kotch in Hollywood, our favorite Japanese restaurant.  Yosh and Yuri, as usual served a wonderful meal of small dishes for us to enjoy.  You don't have to order off the menu, they'll just feed you. My daughter is a vegetarian and there was plenty for her to eat as well.  One of my favorites is spicy tuna sashimi.  There was also his tofu triangles, which we can't seem to replicate at home, even though he's given us the recipe.  The problem is that you need a very high heat source and our home stoves just don't do it.  The other tofu dish has scrambled eggs in it.  My daughter takes the left overs home for breakfast the next day. (We know that and wouldn't dare take more than a taste ourselves) For veggies there were separate dishes of eggplant, okra, and mushrooms, each with their own flavors.  The okra was lightly steamed and still a bit crunchy.  i loved it.  I also liked the shrimp and chicken dishes.  We ended the meal by tasting five different sakes.  At least my daughter and I did.  Son-in-law was driving.    A great way to end our trip to LA

Monday, January 4, 2010

Einstein Quote of the Day

I love to travel, but hate to arrive.

That seems apt.  Although I think I really will enjoy arriving home.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas Day

From left to right, me, my daughter, my son, and my grandson.  Izzie's legs may be seen between me and my daughter.  There are pictures of her at my daughter's on her blog. This was Christmas morning in my son's little house in Sierra Madre.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Another Einstein Quote of the Day

I don't pretend to understand the universe - it's much bigger than I am.

Yea for New Hampshire!

I posted a link to this story in the Nashua Telegraph on Facebook, but didn't even think to put it on my blog until I read Leonardo Ricardo's latest post.  For some reason I couldn't comment on his post, but I decided that I would try never to be silent on the issue of equal rights for all.  I don't want to be insulated from reality.  Had enough of that in the years my children were tiny.

I grew up reading the Telegraph and I follow it on-line, mostly to see if any old classmates have passed on.  New Hampshire now allows gay marriage and this lesbian couple tied the knot the very first minute they could.  Maine may have dropped the ball for now, but they are bordered by a state that hasn't.

NASHUA – In a candlelit church brimming with family and friends, Jennifer Morton and Michelle Morrison heard an announcement they’ve waited 13 years for: they were, at long last, married.
At the stroke of midnight, the couple joined in a rousing chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” at their church, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua, and then rang in the New Year by observing the moments-old law allowing gay couples to marry in New Hampshire.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My First Rose Parade

Never mind that I lived in the LA area for 11 years in the 60s and 70s and that I would sometimes visit the LA area in the years after that.  I always watched the Rose Parade on TV.  My ex didn't want to travel from Hermosa Beach to Pasadena to stake out a place and he would never dream of paying for a bleacher seat.  So today, my son and grandson and I went to the end of the route and watched the bands and floats with the crowd that was there.  It was lots of fun, not one that I would do every year, but I think that at age 70 it was time.  Grandson was a bit of a pain to watch a parade with though.  He is classified as a high-functioning autistic and any little thing can cause him to scream.  We had hot dogs from a street vendor (there were a lot of them) and that helped get us through the two hours and the walk back to the car.

Now I'm back at my daughter's house.  Izzie had to stay there while we went to the parade, because I didn't think she could do all the walking.  There were lots of dogs about, though. Probably none a month out of back surgery.  All very well behaved.  After the parade I had Thai food that my son-in-law ordered for take out.  Izzie and I are stretched out on the couch.

The next thing I'm going to do is to go the the Getty on Sunday.  We have brunch reservations at the restaurant and I'm looking forward to seeing the Rembrandt and His Pupils exhibit.  According to the Getty website:
"Telling the difference between drawings by Rembrandt and his pupils is a centuries-old problem. A popular teacher with more than 50 documented students, Rembrandt taught all of them to draw in his style. Together, they produced thousands of drawings, and even immediately after Rembrandt's death, there was confusion about who made them. In the last 30 years scholars have made major strides in their ability to recognize Rembrandt's drawings from those of his students."
The last time I was at the Getty was for their Mt. Sinai icons exhibit, which was fabulous.  It's become a tradition for my daughter and me to enjoy a meal at the restaurant there.  This year her husband is joining us, I think because they have crab cakes on the menu.