Wolf Whistle

The current state kitchen from big stainless steel fridge to teeny counter to old sink to more teeny to stove. Also some raggedy cabinets. And no backsplash.

There was that day, much earlier in this adventure, when we went appliance shopping. We needed to pick stuff out so it could be designed in. Like what if we wanted warming drawers or wine chillers or a pizza oven? For the record, none of those items were on my list.

Our contracting team sent us on the adventure to the fancy appliance showroom.  This was not Kenmore-land. Not big box Best Buy. It was quite fancy and a bit intimidating. But, first, we had to get there.

We made an early Saturday morning appointment, which bordered on stupid since we don’t normally travel together in the morning.  Except for those early mornings that marked the beginning of two weeks at the beach–also known as the pre vacation screamfest that takes fifteen miles to overcome. I know this because for as long as I’ve been with The Spouse–inclusive of those pre-nuptials years–whenever we drove up the I-95 corridor, like going to see the Orioles in Baltimore, visiting his family in Manhattan or trekking the rest of the way up to the Cape for those beach days on the island, whenever we’d near Exit 35 to Laurel/Scaggsville I would always say,

“Hmmmmm. Scaggsville. That’s where you’re from.”

And The Spouse would always reply, “That’s where I met you.” It’s part of our shtick.

And on those early mornings, after frantically shoving bags and boys and bikes and dog into the car. And after the inevitable disagreement at volume. And after me glaring out the window through hot tears and in cold silence, we’d approach the exit. And I’d wrestle with my righteous anger and vow not to talk. And then I would get this worry that if I didn’t say it this time, that it would break everything. And so I’d say, “Scaggsville, that’s where you’re from.” And he’d answer, as always.

But on this morning, the one I started writing about, we were driving up I-270, the other way north out of D.C.  We weren’t heading on a trip, but were still in the car in the morning, together. This time, there was no yelling. Well, maybe a little peckish huffing followed by some sighful puffing. Nevertheless, we made it to our appointment on time. Our appointment to check out major appliances.

Our architect had emailed a list of items to the sales consultant a few days before. She was well prepared for us.

We were early, the first clients in the showroom. We started with an offer of coffee. There was a fridge that had a built-in keurig coffee maker right in the door, near the water dispenser. It took a long time to brew.  It was silly and gimmicky. I asked who would buy it. In fact, they don’t sell very many of that feature. Us? We’re keeping our current bottom-freezer-without-French-door icebox. It’s fine and just a few years old.

Our guide steered us to our first event, the cooking surface. This was the only appliance that I wanted to invest in. I wanted high heat burners and low heat simmer. I was thinking five burners. It was going to be the jewel in my kitchen. It would make me a cooking star.

First, we learned the difference between cooktops (burner controls on the top) and rangetops (the top of a standard oven with controls in front). We went through the paces on a pair of GE’s to see the difference between the cooktop and range–especially in moving pots and pans across the surfaces. I was leaning rangetop. She then had us walk across the showroom to the far side. The Spouse ran ahead.

“Oh! It’s the Wolf! It’s the Wolf!” He was nearly jumping up and down.

I looked at the salesperson a little sideways. She was caught a little off guard, too.

“You know this appliance?” If I could have raised one eyebrow independent of the other, be assured I would be doing so. I think he saw the unnatural furrow above my right brow. He took his hands off of the red knobs, caught in his excitement like Dan Ackroyd gleefully sliding down that fire pole in Ghostbusters.

“I’ve used this at the condo in Telluride and at Sundance, too.” [Yes, Loyal Reader, The Spouse is way cooler than me.] He described the low and high burners. The model we were looking at had low and high on all six burners–yes six.

After we wiped the drool from our chins, we looked at the Viking. He knew that one, too. Was not as favored. Turns out he was right. They are in a quality spiral, and not in a good way. The Thermador? He knew that one, too.  But it was the Wolf that compared to all others. It was our new standard.

It was the all super hot and super low burners. It was the relighting feature. It was the clarity of the controls and the more obvious signs of being “on,” especially important for super low simmering. It was the promise of an amazing chocolate roux for shrimp étouffée, like The Spouse prepared for his colleagues in Park City.

“Do they all have red knobs?” The salesperson started to answer, but The Spouse interrupted.

“That’s their thing.” Turns out, though, that you could get stainless steel knobs if you wanted.

Today I old-school mailed a check for our new appliances. And in addition to buying the first dishwasher that I have ever owned (I know, right?!?), we bought the Wolf. That mighty fine Wolf. With the red knobs. Added to our repertoire, next to the exit.

Markers In Time

Entrance to Glenwood Cemetery in D.C.

Lincoln Road heading away from the Shrine curves around like an S up the hill and then curves to the next S–a reversed S that hugs the other side of the hill between the two cemeteries.  It’s a beautiful park on this sunny spring day.

A crabapple tree extends its branches over the iron fence and shades the road. The tree is starting to switch from flowers to leaves. The flowers are like pink painted orbs against the green that is barging in. Just before the first S there is a Japanese-styled garden with a bridge arching over most likely a rock river. This tribute is new. I remember them moving the earth around and creating some moguls before they constructed a pagoda and then the bridge. Mylar balloons tied to one side of the bridge are lurching toward the sky. It seems strange, attaching balloons to the bridge. There isn’t an obvious marker. I don’t think they were from a birthday party–unless it was marking the birthday of someone dead?

Lifesized cement angels herald visitors at the entrance at deepest part of the curve. Well, person-lifesized. I don’t know what the size of an actual angel would be. Anyway, if you were trying to enter the grounds from the north, you’d have to turn your car 270°. Funeral processions always enter from the south for ease and are guided around a large circle with more angels, some blaring trumpets others in thoughtful prayer poses.

This is an old cemetery. The sign says it was founded in 1854. The stones are all different shapes and sizes. There’s some tall ones that look like the Washington Monument. These obelisks are different heights. Is there some status here? There are some twin stones, maybe marking a couple. Some markers are big crosses. There are square crypts that hold families full of remains. There is an old azaela that sits in front of a gravestone and has just about overtaken it. There are tall trees throughout the winding roads of the cemetery. There are lots of low flowering plants.

Modern cemeteries are designed for efficiency. There are no trees and no above ground stones so the groundskeepers can easily cut the grass. The graves are lined up in rows and are navigated to using simple coordinates. Some modern cemeteries limit the types of homage family and friends can leave behind. There is a sameness.

Not at this old cemetery. The grave markings are as different as the people buried here. There are old trees and young ones, too. Somebody is taking care to ensure that there will always be some shade. The grass is mowed, at least from where you can see from the road. Maybe people have to pay a fee to maintain the plots, but none are overgrown.

The leaves on the trees sway slightly and the sun warms the garden. There isn’t a funeral today, but there are a few people coming to visit those who have left them. They have picked a good day to pay their respects and to walk through the garden.


Clifden, County Galway

Clifden, County Galway.

“You’ve never been out drinking before with the Doc.” Spake the Big Guy to Baby Bear.

We had driven our longest stretch, from Belfast to County Galway. We bid our proprietor, Joe, goodbye. We had no idea what he said in return. Didn’t have a clue what anyone said in Belfast.

Except when Joe kept asking the other B&B guests if they “carikikeee reedeey.” We pieced together that he was asking about the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge that was closed due to wind the day we were there. The young woman getting her tea did not understand and batted the old man away.

Joe the Proprietor asked us if we wanted him to take our picture. At least that’s what we think he said, since he motioned to the camera. He took a great one. I wish we got a photo with him.

He waved us away early that morning, after a full Irish, for some.  Not for me. Too much food. Seriously, who can eat that much?

We had a day’s goal to cross the country and make it to Kylemore Abbey for an afternoon view. Legs were folded and bodies curled in the back of the bitty car. The soundtrack was the white noise of light snores.

We drove across green rolling fields spotted with bright yellow bushes that over the miles was recast into the brown mountains of the West. The road was a taupe ribbon on the flats that looped around the feet of the brown peaks. Some turns unveiled blue and green flecked water pocked with a flurry of little white waves.

We had a map and a better than decent idea of where we we were headed. GPS was spotty, but based on our Belfast wifi’d  maps, we made it to the Abbey for an explore. The castle and formal garden were charming, but, oh, the wild grounds. The Victorian era lord planted a zillion trees and brought in pheasants and foxes and stag and a gamekeeper so he could host hunting parties. I’m thinking The Rules of the Game.

Long day. We followed the coast on mission for dinner and a bed. Leenane was behind us. We followed the coast through delightful Letterfrack and pressed on a few miles to Clifden.

Still hugging the coast, we pass some green covered ruins and roll into the nominal capital of Connemara. The main street is a ring, but we didn’t follow it to infinity. As we were making the first lean around the loop I saw the name of a B&B that The Spouse found in his Kindle Fodor’s.

“Go straight!”

The overtaxed, driving-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road operator rolled down the hill to the sought respite. We were welcomed by the glance of a fluff of a mostly sleeping dog  next to a stoked fireplace. Fire. Pup. Good signs.

The host came out and gave us two rooms. We gratefully walked the steps and put our bags down. The Spouse asked me about the price. I hadn’t asked. I just made the deal. Two rooms with breakfast. Host gave us the keys. It wasn’t like a real transaction. Nobody asked for a credit card. It was friendly. We would pay.

We made friends with the host who spent a decade a decade ago in D.C. environs. Small world. He returned to Ireland, developed the guesthouse and was raising his family with the white fluff dog, Roxy. He pointed us to dinner options 93 steps away. We stepped.

The season was just beginning and all the pubs and restaurants were open. We walked up and down the main drag and settled on a dining room that was beautiful and beautifully delicious. I still don’t understand how such a small town could support quality fine dining. But fine it definitely was.

The non-drivers wanted to spend time listening to music with a pint. The driver had had enough good craic and walked the 93 steps back to the guesthouse to settle for the night.

And that’s how Baby Bear had his first time out drinking with the Doc.

We sat at the bar at the pub with the chalkboard promising live music. We ordered a pint. The joint was shyte. We finished and moved on.

Two storefronts down we found a young man singing and playing his guitar in a window bay, opposite a bulky bar and next to a fireplace hearth. We sat in front of the hearth and ordered more pints. We had the type of talk you have when you’ve eaten a great meal, consumed a few pints, are surrounded by good music and have no place to be.

As we walked the 93 steps back to that night’s headquarters, we crossed a street to see a beautiful moon hanging over the street lamps, watching us from a comforter of clouds.

It had been building all afternoon and evening, but at that moment, when I saw that moon, I fell utterly and completely in love with Clifden, County Galway.



Tour de DC

Man and Horse sculpture at FTC

Met a friend and her delightfully punky son at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery last weekend. There was beer. There was space for a crazed toddler with a full nappy to terrorize tourists. There was amazing art. Not all at the same time, though, but parts were concurrent.

After our parley, I gave her a hug and the sweet imp a kiss and exited the museum. I strolled past the Spy Museum even though it was drizzling. My hair didn’t care and it wasn’t too cold. I walked past the Shake Shack to my jalopy, which was expertly parked across the street from that cement monstrosity also known as F.B.I. headquarters.

I foolishly did a u-turn  (“Srsly, Doc! Have you no shame?” you ask. “Right in front of the heat?”) so I could circle the block to Pennsylvania Avenue. I drove away from the White House–that’s about six blocks in the other direction.

Instead I went left and passed the Department of Justice and the Archives. My whip  wheeled past originals of our nation’s founding documents like the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. They are just there.

Next on the right is the Federal Trade Commission. I have no idea what they do, but they have an amazing stone statue of a beefy guy trying to tame an even beefier horse. I love this sculpture.

I drive by the Canadian embassy guarded by Mounties on the left and on my right is the National Gallery of Art. The West wing has those beautiful Monets as well as the bronze cast and canvas ballerinas of Degas. Crossing 4th St, I pass the East Wing  of the Gallery where they hang the red and black triangles balanced on the Calder mobile.

Where Pennsylvania Ave merges with Constitution, I see the sometimes infamous U.S. District Court. It’s infamous when there are are dozens of reporters with their satellite sticks jutting in the air like a field of unwelcome windmills in Nantucket Sound.

If I look straight ahead, which really is the right thing to do since I’m driving, I see The Capitol. I’m grateful that it sits at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue because I get to drive and walk by it all the time–even now as it’s covered in scaffolding. It makes me feel so patriotic, so American. Like somehow I’m a founding father. It’s one of the best sites in our beautiful city.

On this trip as I jogged left onto Louisiana Avenue, I see three round blue orbs. The helmets on top of Capitol Police motorcycle cops. All three bikes have sidecars, too. I never see passengers in the police sidecars. Never. There are, however, covers on them. I imagine that they have an arsenal, like Detective Billy Rosewood from Beverly Hills Cop, underneath those hoods. The three follow Louisana Ave to North Cap Street, then they peel off towards the trains at Union Station.

I went up a a few streets then made a right on H Street, behind the station. I took the arched bridge across the tracks. At the end of the bridge is this crazy set of accidents waiting to happen where the new trolley will cross into traffic. The street cars aren’t starting up until next week. No street cars; no accidents; so no traffic jam. Not today.

I made a left at Sixth Street, NE. This is the corner for the new Whole Foods.

I’m on my way to Union Market to stop at the bread guy for tonite’s dinner and at DC Fishwife for tomorrow’s.

As I head up Brentwood Road to home, I can see the blue dome and spire of the Shrine. The same Basilica that Justice Scalia was laid to rest the day before and that we walked to for Easter Mass that time Baby Bear was two and his pants fell down around his ankles as he was walking to the pew. He was likely singing, too.

Welcome to my town. This Sunday drive was all of twenty minutes (including the 5 minutes in the market). Yup. This is where I live.

Spitzer is Gross

We were driving back from rugby practice.

The 16-year-old: I have alot of issues with Spitzer, but the hypocrisy really sticks out.
Me: Yeah. But I keep thinking of his family. Three teenage daughters.
Him: 3?
Me: Yeah.
Him: Oh, man. Like teenage in high-school?
Me: Probably like 18, 16, 14.
Him: No! Well, I know that my dad would NEVER do anything like that so it’s not like I would ever be faced with this, but if he did, I would hate him.
Me: No. You wouldn’t. You always see everyone’s point of view. You would hate what he did, but you wouldn’t judge him and blow him off. That’s just not what you do.
Him: Yeah, well, it sucks to be me sometimes.

Actually, it might suck to be him, but not to be loved by him.

By Any Means Necessary

Four of us were in a car headed for lunch: 0ne very conservative Republican, one Dem-leaning independent, and two pretty consistent Democrats–an Obama supporter and an undecided.

“I don’t want them back!”
“I’ll vote Republican before voting for HER.”
“How can I be friends with you if we fundamentally disagree on stuff like immigration.”
“Continually, and LOUDLY, distorting facts –even after the distortion is exposed– is swiftboating.”
“Who has executive experience?”
“Why is that important?”
“I’m voting in the Republican primary. I don’t want to make a decision on the Dems.”
“I don’t want them back!!!!”

I don’t get why some folks are so nostalgic for the “good ole days” of the Clinton administration. While in my opinion those eight years were better than Bush I or Bush II, I also think that having both legs amputated is better than dying. This doesn’t mean that I am excited by the “losing my legs” option.

Diana Ross sings on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during Call for Reunion Concert for the first Clinton InaguralI remember my exhilaration sitting on a blanket on the Mall; handing the then 16-month-old Cheerios on a pleasant January day; and oohing and ahhing when the F-16s flew over the Lincoln Memorial and Aretha and Diana sang on the steps for the First Clinton Inaugural Reunion. It was the first time I ever voted for a president who won. It was the first time since I had been in Washington that my side was in charge. It was a day of great hope. (oops, did I say “hope?”)

Monica and Bill in a grainy black and white photo taken in a White House office.I remember my disgust and discomfort when I had to tell the then 7-year-old that his President was in trouble for telling a big lie. I remember my anger with President Bill for dragging the country through his linguistic histrionics about “that woman” and his definition of the word “is.” And I felt, at that time, that no matter how much the opposition wrongly chased the Clintons, no matter how disgusting and irrelevant the never-ending Ken Starr investigation was, he and his wife made a fatal misstep with me by not taking any responsibility for their own actions. It was always someone else’s fault. They did what was right. It was a vast right-wing conspiracy causing the President to lie under oath. Or to quote Jake Blues, trying to talk his way out of being executed by a jilted lover, maybe it was “… an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD.”

Based on the past weeks of an increasingly uncontrollable attack-dog Bill, I am getting a bit spun up about who would be in charge and who would be leading the charge in (yet) another Clinton White House. And, I am saddened by the take no prisoners, by any means necessary approach of the Clinton campaign.

So Hillary, go ahead and get after your opponents on the issues–and experience is a legitimate issue. Make it clear how you stand for change and provide a contrast with the other candidates. Show that you care about what is important to “people like me”‘s all over the country.

But remember, when you take on the bad-guy tactics of swiftboating, when you distort facts, when you try and shift blame to the media or others, when your old man is out of control acting like an over-indulged child who feels entitled to his own Oompa Loompa, you may end up having softer support in the general election than you need– potentially grabbing a Democratic defeat from the Bush-43 engineered jaws of victory.

You’re likable enough, Hillary. But I am looking for a noble warrior. Fight fair and let the best candidate win.

Pickup or Delivery

We were driving back from practice and were going to pick up a pizza on the way home.

The 16-year-old: This coupon is for a specialty pizza.
Me: Well my problem is that I just don’t like the specialty pizzas.
The 16-year-old: What?
Me: The meat pizza features “meat products” and that makes me queasy.
The 16-year-old: I like it.
Me: And my big thing is with that supreme pizza. I like everything on it except the green peppers.
The 16-year-old: You can pick them out.
Me: Well, it’s really hard to pick out the green peppers. They get mixed in with the cheese and onions and you always miss some.
The 16-year-old: Well, why don’t you just order it without green peppers?

Me: [pause]
Me: [laughing and gagging] I am pretty embarrassed. To be honest, I have never thought of ordering it without green peppers.
The 16-year-old: Crap. The way you were laughing I thought you were being harsh on me for asking a dumb question.
Me: [still laughing] No, you can laugh at me.



This week is Homecoming Week for the 16-year old. Today he got to dress like a Bama. So he wore the oddest conglomeration of clothing, primarily consisting of layers of mismatched crap. (Although I do admit surprise to see the T-mac* jersey as the top layer, but this is a digression.)

Also this week, I drove past my old high school, a bunch of times. And for the first time since I graduated, I almost stopped to see what it looked like. It didn’t have a football field when I was there. We had to rent from the other school. But we did have fun at those Friday night games! When I was there, kids and teachers would huddle around the exit doors–smoking cigarettes. I bet that there aren’t ANY teachers bumming a Newport off of a student these days.

When I was there, me and M.P. used to skip first hour and hang out at the Bicentennial Family Restaurant. Drinking coffee and avoiding a VERY dull class. When I was there, we didn’t have AP classes. I was invited by my “college prep” English teacher to sit for a test that could get me college credit. But it cost a bunch of money, and there were no guarantees. I did learn, a few months later, that my college classmates had earned tons of college credit from these AP tests. Shoot, the SAT was a big enough deal, even for me.

When I was there, I had a fight with my social studies teacher who threw me out of class for insisting on fairness in his grading of a test. I only agreed to go out on “independent study” if I could bring 3 of my cronies with me. We obsequiously studied the history of film and were only thwarted by our teacher’s inability to pick up the AV on his way in.

As I drove by the school, I thought about stopping in. But then I just kept driving.

*if you do click here, let the song load.

Shut Up and Drive

And yet another great thing about our beach locale is the proliferation of low trafficked roads. Just what the 15-year-old wanted.

Him: Can I drive?
Me: Okay!
Him: Alien, return my parental unit.

We drive standard transmissions, so part one of the lesson is getting the clutch, brake, gas thing together. Oh, and the shift part. He caught on fast.

Next was getting out of the driveway and around the circle in the culde-sac. Not bad.

So we went to the next phase–driving on the road, turning and down-shifting. That went well, too. Even that time when there was opposing traffic–a pick-up lumbering in our direction–no freak out. Smooth sailing.

Next was going more deeply throughout the neighborhood, all the way to the main road where we played a version of the Chinese fire drill to swap drivers. Very well done.

On the way back from town, we swapped just as we got off the main road and he drove back. We were coming up to an intersection.

Me: Hey, that was a stop sign.
Him: Hunh? (hitting the brakes a bit late.)
Me: Back up a bit and let’s try that again. What do you do at a stop sign?
Him: You mean that was for me? I saw it, but I didn’t know that it was for me.

Turns out that he was used to seeing them and ignoring them from the passenger seat.

Next lesson, basic traffic rules.

Seeping Weeping

It’s Sunday morning, with the sun reflecting off the roofs and trees making every thing look golden Especially framed by the blue sky. Another sonatina of church bells went through it’s drill. I was wondering what was significant about 8:50 a.m. at that church.

The 15-year-old had meekly woke me up. He was pretty grumpy last night but had overslept and needed me for a ride to work. I made him some sandwiches to bring to the pool, and we jumped into the car.

I am having a hard time driving. It’s really important to be focused when you drive. I find my mind wandering and my brain admonishing me, “Pay attention. That was a stop sign. You need to look both ways. Yes, the light was RED.” Normally, I drive and it works just fine–the past few days I need reminders.

When I woke up on Friday, I didn’t know where I was. Really. I was agitated, searching the room to to find a clue to my whereabouts. I was able to verify that I was in my own bed. I don’t think that I have ever been so bewildered in the morning. Even after alot of travel, I always knew where I was. Not Friday, though.

I can do tasks. I can even do them in order. But I feel a bit disconnected. That’s the word that describes me, disconnected. I looked it up. There are two parts, one is detached and the other is incoherent. I am feeling a bit of both.

My dad was 86 when he passed on June 15th. It seems like it makes sense that old people move on. I was feeling like I had a handle on it. My sibling admonished me for my bare statement to the caterer, “My dad is dead.”

Sib: Don’t you think that’s a little too direct?
Me: That’s what he is.

I have been looking at my feelings in third person. Always analytical, I was looking at myself from the outside to see how I thought that I was feeling.

But feelings are not thoughts. I told the 12-year-old that they just are, and that you just have to accept them. You can’t judge your feelings.

I guess I am learning that I need to make way for my feelings and to experience them. They are not satisfied to be viewed clinically. Mine are organic, and like some certain force are elbowing my rational self for some room at the surface.

I guess I am more vulnerable when I drive. I better be careful.