Wednesday, July 31, 2013

To Catch a Thief

I’m deep into my photo scanning project now, since it is neither required nor remunerative and therefore a nice break from reality.

You need projects like that.

Other men need power tools for their projects.  They go to hardware stores or auto dealerships.  They buy things that promise to remove grease from clothes and add it to bits of rotating metal.  Somehow that gene never came down to me.  My projects end up involving documents, stories, and images.

I rather like them that way.

The problem with projects like this, however, is that they often reach back fairly far in time.  Far enough, in fact, that the people who were there are no longer here and are not therefore in a position to explain what was happening in certain situations.

Such as this one:

That’s my great-grandmother there, standing in the field.  And that’s her son-in-law, my grandfather, sneaking up behind her and – from all appearances – about to snatch her purse.

There were a half dozen photos taken that day, out in the grass.  My grandparents, my great-grandmother, my grandmother’s sister Sarah and her family, and one man I cannot identify (possibly a brother of my grandmother – I’ll have to ask my mother) were out at some kind of picnic. 

I think it’s 1939 in this picture.  My grandmother is not notably pregnant in the ones she’s in, which she would have been in 1940, and she has no children with her as she would have afterward.

My grandfather had a pretty good sense of humor, one that he needed very much in order to deal with my grandmother’s side of the family – good people, but often exhausting.  It’s fun to see it here, in these old pictures.

I wonder if he got away with the purse.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Song of Protest

So it’s now apparently illegal to watch people sing in Wisconsin.

Who knew?

I haven’t been paying much attention to Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) or his cronies, minions, and lackeys for a while, for many of the same reasons that I don’t pay much attention to the nation’s fiscal collapse on a daily basis – they’re both man-made catastrophes, wildly popular with a certain segment of the population that I would just as soon not hear from, and nothing I say will have any real impact on their continued destruction of the republic.  But every now and then something comes up that makes you wonder if the entire world has lost its damned mind.

For months now, a dedicated group of protesters has gone up to the Wisconsin State Capitol – a building constructed for the use of Wisconsin citizens and to which the Wisconsin Constitution explicitly forbids the legislature from barring public access – and has spent the noon hour singing protest songs in the Rotunda.  And then they go home.

As peaceful protests go, it’s pretty much what they were designed to look like.  And to be absolutely blunt, it is exactly the kind of political speech that the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution was designed to protect.

But the Teabaggers don’t really care about the Constitution.  Any Constitution.  Oh, they natter on about Constitutions like they’re some kind of sacred relics, but when you listen to what they say – or, worse, when you watch what they do – it’s painfully clear that their only sacred idol is power in its most abusive form.  It’s funny watching them bloviate about “freedom” while instituting government controls that would have made Mussolini jealous.

Or it would be funny if it weren’t so grotesque.

This week apparently the powers that be here in FitzWalkerstan decided that they were going to get rid of the scourge of music in the Capitol once and for all.  So they arrested all the singers.

And then they arrested some of the people watching the singers, on the grounds that – well, I don’t know on what grounds.  Perhaps because they have working larynxes and therefore might conceivably start singing too?  Or just to remove witnesses to this bizarre and petty display of arrogant power?  Who knows.

Of course removing witnesses to public events in the digital age is pretty pointless, as most minor tyrants eventually figure out.  It’s all over YouTube now, and the stories are pinging about the web.

And they don’t care.

That’s the amazing thing about Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) and his cronies, minions, and lackeys – they sincerely do not care if people know what they are doing.  They have the power, therefore they don’t need to care.

And the republic slides further away.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Observations on the County Fair

1. These things are just so much nicer when the weather cooperates.  It’s about thirty degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it was last year, and this makes all the walking around, waiting in lines, and generally hanging about much more pleasant.

2. We’ve had a successful award season this year!  In addition to Lauren’s Top Blue for photography, Tabitha scored a Top Blue in the Drawing and Painting category with her Popcorn multimedia entry.

3. And Lauren got a Blue for her rabbit, Milkshake.  It’s been a good year.

4. Every year I forget just how loud these things are.  I suppose it is a sign of just how old I am getting.

5. One thing I do not forget is the need to have closed-toe shoes.  I’m constantly amazed at how many people there are cruising through the dairy barns and the hog barn with sandals on their feet.  Whatever floats your boat, I suppose, but still.

6. This year’s fair is less political than in previous years.  The Constitution Party seems to have given up trying to inject its hallucinatory view of American history into the local dialogue.  The local Democrats are pretty much quiet though not out.  And the Republicans are too smug about their absolute unchecked power to wreak havoc upon the state to get too much in people’s faces about it.  Honestly, it’s not even worth having a debate anymore.

7. There are very few things in this world as creepy as an abandoned midway, even in broad daylight.  Though as a friend of mine put it, what would be even creepier would be the same scene with a single clown in it.

8. The lemonade makes it all worth it.

9. For the last time, people, soft pretzels are not meant to be eaten with cheese.  They were created specifically to serve as a conduit for mustard.  Pay no mind to any other suggestion.

10. You know it’s been a good day at the fair when you have to pour your children into bed like day-old coffee and they thank you for it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Showing the Rabbit

It’s 4H Fair season, and Lauren will be showing her rabbit, Milkshake.  She has been practicing her showmanship routine for weeks now. 

These routines follow a fairly standard format – you talk about the breed, the identifying marks, and a long list of body features that ought to conform to breed standards, and the judges evaluate you on how well you know what you’re doing, how well the rabbit behaves, and how close to the standards the rabbit actually is.

And after you’ve gone through it enough times, it starts to get funny.  Eventually you start altering things slightly.  And then not so slightly.  After a while it doesn't sound much like the original at all.

This sounds best if you read it in the voice of Larry, Daryl and Daryl from the old Newhart show.

ARBA is the American Rabbit Breeder's Association.  They are the people who can tell you about rabbit breeds.  Because someone has to.



Hi.  My name is Ed.  And this is my rabbit, Earl.

Earl is a Mississippi Mud-Crawlin’ Rabbit.  The Mississippi Mud-Crawlin’ Rabbit is a rare breed, though it would not be so rare if they would just stop doing things that have to be introduced with, “Hey, y’all, watch this.”  The Mississippi Mud-Crawlin’ Rabbit is not a fancy breed.  Earl is just a down home rabbit and does not put on airs or try to make the rest of us feel small like some other rabbits do. 

Earl is a senior buck, which means that he is an old boy rabbit, not a ripped up piece of paper that I got in change down at the minimart.

Just tryin’ to keep things light here, is all.  No need to get snippy at me.

Now I will pose the rabbit.  Work it, Earl!  Yeah! 

Now I will examine the rabbit.

In his left ear he has a tattoo that says “MOTHER.”  He says he is saving up to get another tattoo, but he will not tell me what it will be.  I hope I will not have to get it removed like the last one.

In his right ear you should see a tattoo that indicates he is registered with ARBA, except that Earl is in the Federal Witness Protection Program now and they had to take him off the list.  No, really, they did.  If you should see several large men in dark suits and they start asking for him, we would very much appreciate if you could forget that you have ever seen him.  Earl is trying to turn his life around, and we want to give him all the support we can.

We will now check his ears for bugs, which are listening devices.  It is kind of funny that these devices would be planted in his ears, now that I think about it, but I do not think that he has any such things in his ears as he has retired from that line of work.

Now we will look at his nose.  If we see any discharge, that means that the large men in dark suits have caught up to him recently and we should give him an ice pack and some ibuprofen.

There is no discharge.  He is still not found.

Now we will look at the rabbit’s eyes.  His eyes are nice and clear and not red.  If they were red, this would mean that he had fallen off the wagon and we would need to report him to his parole officer.  There is no discharge coming from his eyes, as he has not been watching sad movies recently.

Now we will look at the rabbit’s mouth.  In his mouth we should see some teeth.  Unfortunately Earl does not like dentists and he does like chewing tobacco.  Let this be a caution to us all.

Now we will look at the rabbit’s paws.  There should be five claws on his front paws and four on his back paws, and if Earl had been a little more careful this past Fourth of July that is what you would have seen.  The doctors say that the casts will be removed soon.

We cannot tell if he has sore hocks, but he probably does.  The casts do a bit of chafin’ when you get right down to it, but soon he will be right back to his old self again.

Now we will check his chest for any abscesses or cysts.  It is clear from this examination that Earl has been hitting the gym recently and is just as chiseled as all git-out.  Hubba, hubba, ladies.

And now we will sex the rabbit.

HOOOO-WEEEE!  That there’s a BOY!  Good show, there, Earl!

Now we will see if he has a screw tail, which would be very helpful when it comes to opening bottles.  Unfortunately he does not have a screw tail and will have to rely on his friends for such services.

Now we will examine his shoulders, ribs and hips.  These should be nice and wide, and it is a good thing that Earl spends much of his time on the couch watching reality television shows, so wide is pretty much what we got.

Earl’s fur is the proper mud brown of the Mississippi Mud-Crawlin’ breed, mostly.  Pay no attention to the orange parts, please.  Cheez powder is just the devil to get out of rabbit fur.  He used to have “fly-away” fur except that it has mostly flown away now, so we are treating him with the Rogaine.  Do not bother him about it, as he is kind of sensitive on this point.

Now I will tell you two strengths about the rabbit and two weaknesses of the rabbit.

Earl’s two main strengths are punctuality and typing speed.  His two weaknesses are blondes and chocolate.

I have now examined the rabbit.  I thank you for your support.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Small Child of the Last Century

I should have spent this week getting my classes ready for the fall, but I just couldn’t do it.  So I spent most of it digging into the family photo bins that have been sitting in my house for the last few years, trying to finish up the scanning project. 

It’s been fun.

I’m about a third of the way through the last bin now, though this one will take a while since all that are left are five or six old photo albums and scrapbooks where the pictures have been glued down.  I’m not sure how I’m going to handle those, but procrastination always provides motivation to solve unrelated problems and since this project has nothing to do with next fall’s classes I’m sure I will be able to devote my full attention to it.

So far, this is the oldest photo I’ve found, and it is one of the few that someone actually thought to date.  Summer, 1907.

The child in the foreground looks like she’s about two, which would be how old my grandmother was that summer so I figure that was her.

She grew up in Philadelphia at a time when there were still dirt roads and farms within the city limits.  It’s entirely possible that this picture was taken at her home, though I don’t know the family history that well.  Nobody really does on my dad’s side of the family – there never were that many people I knew on that side, and only my dad is left now.

If that’s my grandmother, then the woman seated on the left in the background may well be her mother.  She did have a sister, though I have no idea if the girl in the background is her.  The animal to the left is either a small dog or a large chicken – either is possible, since the bell on the left side of the house and the open fields behind it suggest that this is a fairly rural space.

I never knew my grandmother as anything other than an old woman – she was sixty when I was born, and nearly seventy when she came to live with us.  Her hair turned white when she was young, so she always looked older than she was.

But here she is, a small child playing in the dirt, the way small children do.

I rather like the thought that this is her, and so I shall stick with that story.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Waiting To Be Judged

There are retired Soviet apparatchiks who think that the judging process used by our County Fair is inefficient.

On the one hand, it’s all done by volunteers – many of them old enough to have known Vladimir Lenin personally – and it was well into the 90s today.  The fairgrounds are not air conditioned.  Even the curling sheets are melted away and used as floor space – trust me, we were standing on it for several hours.  It’s hot, unpaid work for them.  So you have to cut them a little bit of slack. 

On the other hand, well, this fair has been going on for decades now and you’d think that they would have figured out a system by now that didn’t feel like a Depression-era breadline.

We showed up at 10am, right when the judging got going, and made a bee-line for the photography area.  This is because we remembered last year, when showing up in the middle of the afternoon had meant a wait measured in decades before finally getting to see a judge.  And sure enough, this year it went better.  We walked in, got a number, and ended up waiting about 45 minutes.  Given the judge-to-judged ratio, this wasn’t bad.

Then we went to the visual arts area.

I thought we were done when we got to the front of the first line, a process that required a fair bit of guesswork to determine which line to stand in and took a little under an hour.  But all that happened at that point was that the volunteer checked off the little boxes that said Lauren had indeed completed all three of her projects in this area – something we could have done by phone, really – and then sent us off to the visual arts building to wait in the next line.

Or, rather, lines.

There were five judging tables, each one calling numbers by color – we had scored “White 26” but there were also blue, green, yellow and red numbers.  They’d finish with one person in their series of colored tags and then call for the next.  This sounds fairly straightforward.

Consider, however:

We were in a metal building with approximately three hundred other people – all of them talking – and no air conditioning.  We were surrounded with Fire-Department-quality fans, each of which would be fully capable of powering a light aircraft if needs arose.  Against this, none of the judges had any form of microphone or amplification by which to make themselves heard.  And there really didn’t seem to be anyone in charge who could organize any of it. 

So, pack a lunch.

It was a long, hot process, but eventually we got through it.  Or, more accurately, Lauren got through it, since today was her day for projects to be judged.

She scored a blue ribbon and two red ribbons for her visual arts projects, which was pretty good considering that she started working on them on Tuesday and I was standing at the drug store buying super glue at 9:00 this morning so she could complete one of them.

We don’t know how she did on her “Five Photographs of One Inanimate Object” project – an assortment of pictures taken last month at the Liberty Bell that will be judged sometime this weekend without Lauren needing to be there for it – but she got a Top Blue for her “My Favorite Photograph” entry, which is quite good.

They give ribbons in categories at our County Fair – a blue ribbon is not The Blue Ribbon but is instead simply a marker that your entry is top notch in general.  But a Top Blue is something special.  That means you are in the running for a Merit Ribbon, or possibly being promoted to go to the State Fair next month.  Top Blues are quite nice to receive, in other words.

This is the photo that Lauren entered in that category.

It was taken at a YWCA fundraiser dinner last September.  They had put those glass crystals in vases on the tables as centerpieces, and she thought they would look interesting in a book.  She has a good eye for an image.

On Monday we get to do it again, this time for projects for both Tabitha and Lauren – drawing, painting, woodworking.  It’s County Fair week here in Our Little Town, and the joint is jumping.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Unplanned Obsolescence

Every time I want to feel old I get out my wallet and try to buy something computer related.  Works every time.

Generally I don’t feel all that old, not in a day-to-day sort of way.  I need a reminder for that.

Oh, I know how old I am, or at least I can figure it out – it’s simple math, once I manage to find out what the date is today (a chronic problem, not a recent development – one of the secrets of historians is that we’re really not all that good about dates).  I subtract the first number from the second number and I get a third number and that’s how old I am.

Simple.  And utterly meaningless.

I don’t change all that much from day to day.  Other than getting slower, slightly rounder, progressively balder, and progressively more outraged at the sorry state of the world, I really don’t change all that much from year to year either.  So if all I have to go by is internal cues, I would seem more or less ageless to me.

Then I walk into the local Office Supply MegaMart and that illusion gets blown right down the hopper.

I have taken a great many photos of family events in the past couple of months, and people want me to send them copies.  The joy of digital photography is that doing this is quick and inexpensive – you copy all the files onto a suitably capacious medium, drop it in the mail and there you go.

Did I mention that there were a lot of these pictures?  Well, there are.  More than can fit on a CD.  More than can fit on two CDs, actually.  It’s taken me nearly a year to get my picture-taking mojo back after snapping my way through Europe last summer, but Nuisance Man has indeed returned.  Smile!

So.  Pictures.  Send them off.

No problem, I thought.  I’ll just hie me over to the local Office Supply MegaMart and pick up one of those little packs of jump drives that they sell for back to school shopping – you know, the convenient thirty-pack of 2GB storage units in a variety of pleasing colors.  They ought to have a lot of those.  Last year you couldn’t move through the store without getting several caught under the wheels of your cart, and they make them small enough now that you had to wear a bandanna over your face to avoid breathing them in like dust.  I don’t think they even had anti-theft gizmos on them – the more you took, the happier the stores were.  It’s only been twelve months since then – should pretty much be the same, right?

Uh, no.  As with bacteria, there are a lot of generations between zero and twelve months when it comes to anything computer related.

Computer technology runs on a vastly generalized version of Moore’s Law.  The original law was all to do with how much information you could put on a chip, but the new edition essentially boils down to “Remember that bit of technology you thought was marvelous and still comprehensible last year?  That was obsolete when you saw it a year’s worth of generations ago, and the clerks today don’t even remember it existed so they will think you are some kind of ancient time traveler even for asking.  Try the Latest Version!  In a year this process will repeat.  Share and enjoy.”

Apparently the smallest jump drive on the market these days is 4GB, and they only come in black.  They do come in the handy multi-packs for back to school, though, so that’s something.  You just have to look underneath all the more visibly displayed 64GB and 128GB jump drives, which are the ones they’re trying to sell.

Other than backing up your hard drive, what could you possibly do with a 128GB jump drive?

No, don’t answer that.  I’m sure there are many reasons why the computer-savvy person of 2013 wants something like that.  It’s the perfect size for downloading the entire architecture of the NSA surveillance program, I’m sure.

But really, all I want to do is move some photographs.

Yes, I am aware of services that will store photos and related whatnot in “the cloud,” wherever that is.  If I want clouds I’ll move to Pittsburgh.  Now get off my lawn.

I still have the first jump drive I ever owned.  It had 128MB of storage space, or roughly 30 photos these days.  I can remember the first time I saw a 1GB jump drive – it was exciting, in a nerdly sort of way.

And now it is still exciting, except in an antiquey sort of way.

I bought the multi-pack of 4GB jump drives, because they will do the job and were cheap.  Next year I will hire a teenager to beam the photos directly into the minds of their recipients, unless that too becomes obsolete by then.

I certainly will be.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Scenes From Our Summer: Margate

It has been quite the summer here, and I have pretty much given up trying to figure out how to write about my world in any kind of rational order.  So I’m just going to write about the bits that come to me, when they come to me, however it seems best to write about them.

This is called “Author’s Prerogative.”

I realize that exercising Author’s Prerogative does not necessarily mean that anyone will actually read what I write, and that’s fine.  It has always been my belief that authors have to justify taking readers’ time rather than readers having to prove themselves to authors, a belief that got me into a lot of trouble in graduate school.  But the joy of a blog is that sometimes you get to be self-indulgent.

And if I can be self-indulgent in a way that is passably entertaining, well, then perhaps everyone wins.


We weren’t going to go down to the shore this year.

With two trips to the east already planned for other events and with much of New Jersey still recovering from last year’s freakish weather and rental housing therefore in short supply, we figured that this would be a salt-water-free year.  We filled our calendar with other things – equally fun things, to be clear – and moved on.

There was much sadness about this, however, particularly from the girls.  For midwesterners, they have developed quite a love of the ocean. 

Fortunately for us, there is family.

My brother’s in-laws, Rolane and Steve, have a house in Margate, right near Atlantic City.  And while we were in Philadelphia getting ready for my parents’ anniversary party, they invited us down.

On the one hand, this was incredibly nice of them, especially since – for long and complicated reasons – only Steve could actually be there.

On the other hand, well, we hadn’t really prepared for such a thing when we were packing, which meant that none of us had swimsuits.  And Margate is just not that sort of beach.

I’ll pause here and let those mental images swim safely by, as it were.

But this is ‘MERCA!  Land of the free and the home of the reasonably priced!  You’d be surprised at how many problems actually can be solved by throwing money at them, and how many others can be solved by kind people willing to lend you things.

Suited up, we headed toward the ocean.

Margate’s main claim to fame is Lucy, a two-story-high elephant who has clearly had just a bit more caffeine than is good for a pachyderm.  You can actually go inside and climb around if you want, though we were largely content to walk by and stare in awe.

We spent a thoroughly happy day down by the ocean.  The girls splashed in the water and made sand castles.  We went for walks and found all sorts of shells.  You don’t realize just how much you miss the salt air until it hits you again, though admittedly when it starts hitting you at a steady twenty knots it becomes clear that it is time to go home.

Thanks, Steve!

Monday, July 15, 2013


Suddenly the house is quiet.

Not too quiet. 

When it’s too quiet then you have to worry about going up to the attic (not that we have an attic) or down to the basement (which we do have, though mostly what I worry about down there is getting lost in the clutter that I should have taken over to Goodwill months ago).  You have to worry about monsters.

We don’t have monsters.  If we had monsters they would be paying me rent.  I do not accept freeloader monsters in my house.  I am receiving no rent.  Therefore there are no monsters.

This theory worked wonders when the girls were little.

We’ve spent most of the last week or so with our Swedish friends, who are in the midst of an American tour.  We went up to northern Wisconsin last weekend to see them and the other friends they were staying with, and then we all came down here to Our Little Town for a while. 

It has been a busy and fun time.  There are five of them and four of us, and we managed to find places for everyone to sleep and things for everyone to do.  Eventually I will post pictures and stories.

But now they are on their way to the next leg of their journey.  Kim is off at a conference.  It’s just me and the girls.


But not too quiet.

No, not at all.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Today would have been my grandfather’s 101st birthday.

He spent most of his career as a civilian employee of the US Navy, starting as an apprentice machinist during the early years of the Depression and retiring as a spec writer forty years later.  He once told me that this last position was basically an exercise in creative writing where part of his job was to ensure that the contractor they wanted to provide the material was the only one who could fit the guidelines.  This probably explains a lot about the Defense Department.

This photo was taken on the USS Randolph (CV-15), probably somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic.  The Randolph was an old WWII carrier, mothballed after the war and then refitted in 1955 to have an angled flight deck (among other things).  She went on a shakedown cruise off the US east coast in early 1956 and continued on active service until 1969.  Most of the warplanes in the other pictures are straight-wing or swept-wing jets, though some are propeller-driven and there is at least one photo of what might be a delta-wing aircraft.  In another picture you can see that the Randolph is being escorted by the USS Lewis Hancock (DD-675) which was decommissioned in 1957, so I'm guessing that this photo dates to early 1956, during the shakedown cruise.  That makes him younger in this photo than I am today.

My grandfather was there because they had just redone the catapults and he was the resident expert on the manufacturing and materials used in that process.  He'd written the specs, after all.  If you’re confused about which one is him just remember that spec writers rarely wear flight jackets.

He treasured this trip.  I heard about it more than once as I was growing up.

There are always stories left behind, when the people who lived them are no longer here.  That’s how you remember.  I'd never seen this photo until a week ago, but I remember the stories, and I remember my grandfather.

Happy Birthday, Pop.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Politics? What Politics?

I haven’t been writing much about politics lately.  I know that a lot of people found this site after one of my political posts and if you’re one of them you’re probably wondering where those posts went. 

I’ve been off politics for a number of reasons. 

First, I’ve been busy.  Yes!  I know!  I have a life outside of my fevered ramblings about the sorry state of American governance!  Hard to believe, but it’s true.  It takes me a long time to write those political posts – usually a few days, sometimes up to a month – and between revamping classes, grading exams, visiting family and friends in far-flung places, and generally getting through the days with what sanity I have still intact, there just hasn’t been that much time.

Most people I know are in that same boat, actually.  Likely you are too.  Remember having free time?  Wasn’t that nice? 

Also, I’ve kind of burned out on the subject to be honest.  I’ve had a front-row seat to the subversion of an American state for the last two and half years – watching the rule of law and Constitutional governance succumb to the exercise of brute power by a lawless right wing tin-horn dictatorship without conscience or morality while at the same time watching that same breed of right wing extremists work their magic at the national level over most of the last decade.  After a while you get tired of pointing it out. 

How many times can you describe the new and ever-more-brazen ways that the right-wing extremists who now run one of the only two major political parties we have constitute an existential threat to the survival of the republic before you start to bore even yourself?

Not that the Founders would have been surprised by this state of affairs.  The only thing that would have surprised them was that the republic lasted as long as it did.  A republic requires an educated and informed citizenry, leaders willing to sacrifice their own petty private interests for the public good, and a strong sense of history to help leaders and citizens avoid the traps that have destroyed republics in the past. 

Unfortunately the radical right wing – given their eagerness to destroy institutions that have stood the test of time you can hardly call them “conservative,” after all – is deliberately dismantling our public education system and substituting in its place theological indoctrination.  They fetishize private interest to a degree that even Cornelius Vanderbilt would have found unseemly.  And their view of history is distorted into a mythology that would be comical if it weren’t so grotesque.  As a professional historian all I can say is that the bizarre falsehoods that permeate the right-wing worldview provide a target-rich environment for correction, or they would if that worldview acknowledged the possibility of correction.

It’s difficult to write about such things and still face the day.

I suppose I will get back to politics eventually.  It’s hard to stay away from such a train wreck, human nature being what it is.  We’re primates after all, the only animals on the planet who instinctively run toward trouble rather than away.


Maybe soon.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebrating Fifty Years

So what did you do last Sunday?  We had a party.

My parents’ fiftieth anniversary was actually back in May, but there was a family wedding in upstate New York right around then and you can only have one big family event per month.  I think that’s a law somewhere.  Plus, moving the anniversary party back a month gave us more time to get things planned and let the school year come to a graceful end before we headed off. 

And as I’ve said before, we have a Moveable Feast Tradition in my family – holidays happen when you have time for them to happen.  The bottom line is that people matter more than calendars, so you schedule accordingly.

We don’t do surprise parties in my family, a fact that has made me incredibly grateful for decades now.  This made the planning much easier, since a) neither Keith nor I have lived in the Philadelphia area for decades, so my parents could choose the restaurant they wanted, and b) we could run things by each other without fear of giving anything away.  It’s a celebration.  It’s supposed to be fun.

And it was a celebration.  My parents are the sorts of people you want to know and hang out with.  They’ve been together since 1957.  They are worth celebrating.

So we celebrated.

Our venue of choice was the Lamb Tavern, a lovely little restaurant that started its life as an inn sometime in the 1720s.  It had all of the thick stone walls and rabbit-warren rooms that you would expect in such a place, but the upstairs had two good-sized rooms and its own bathroom (presumably added later) so once we got where we were going we could just stay there.

The party was a group effort in the best sense of that phrase.  My parents chose the restaurant.  Keith and I did most of the nuts and bolts planning (well, Keith did rather more of it since he was closer to the action and better at that sort of thing anyway), including the menu, the keyboardist, and a slide show of photographs that stretched from the early 1950s to last year.  We got the slide show made into a book with a few extra pages at the back so it could be the guest book too.  Susan, a family friend and professional musician, volunteered to sing.  Keith’s in-laws, Rolane and Steve, took care of the cake (which was astonishingly lovely).   And Kim basically took over the decorating of the room itself, largely by putting the grandchildren to work for most of the few days preceding the party.

Let me tell you, the grandchildren decorated up a storm.  They took giant glass beads and hand painted daisies on one side and “K+D” on the other.  They punched paper daisies out of construction paper with a surprisingly sturdy paper punch, and strew them about the tables.  Lauren made paper cutout hearts and another K+D to tape to the wall.  Plus we put up framed photos and vases of daisies as well – my parents’ wedding china has daisies circling the edge, so that became a theme.  We also got the restaurant to serve my parents’ meals on that china, which they loved.  Even the manager thought that was a nice touch.

And then it was time to enjoy it all.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Fifty years and forever more.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Return From a Hot Climate

So apparently Philadelphia has become a tropical city.

We just got back from a week visiting my parents – about which there will be several new blog posts in the near future, rest assured (with pictures!  Because there were a lot of those.  Pictures, I mean) – and it was a grand time.  Family, food, company – what’s not to like?

But when did my home town trade climates with Rangoon?  It was hot and muggy, you could break a sweat simply by opening the front door, and every day for about half an hour the skies would open up like an upturned bucket and suddenly you couldn’t see across the street.

And let me tell you, when it occurs to you about five minutes into the first one of those that you still had this odd notion that Philadelphia sat on a more temperate latitude and therefore you could leave your car windows down, that is a tremendously sinking – and ultimately rather soggy – feeling.  Honestly, once I got the windows up I just sat there in the car for a while rather than brave the deluge to get the thirty feet back to the house.  It was relatively dry there.  Or at least there was no new liquid getting in.

I am not made for the tropics.

I am made for places that have autumns and winters, where jackets are normal pieces of clothing and you can drink hot cider and strong black tea all year long. 

But if the tropics have come to my family, then I shall go to the tropics.

Set the A/C to “preserve” and off we go!