Hopscotch

Bright orange sneakers.

It wasn’t actually a lunge. Lunging connotes quick, sudden and direct. Hers was more like a floating surprise into someone else’s space. It was an interruption, but certainly without direction.

The woman who was interrupted expected that she would be asked for money. But she wasn’t. There was no ask. There was no recognition from the glassy eyes bobbing in front of her.

The other woman, the one who floated in a surprising way, was dressed in a bright orange track suit. It may have been velour. It had a fuzzy look to it. It may have been terry cloth. The jacket was zipped up high, up to her neck. The fit of the pant and the jacket made sense on her long body.

She had one of those jumbo wheeled folding shopping carts next to her. It was filled with bags and maybe a blanket. There was a cigarette lighter and a half pack of Newports in the drugstore bag on the top. There was also two orange bottles without the child proof tops. It was her prescription medicine. But it wasn’t the scripts that glazed over her face.

Her eyes were almost hazel. So they were hazel since they had a bit more color than brown. They bulged out a little bit and the whites had thin variegations of red.

The orange sleeves of her jacket, while filled with her arms, seemed to not belong to her torso. They moved independently of her body. Not in a convulsive way, but fitfully aggressing through the nearby air. She levitated back and forth from the curb to the middle of the sidewalk, like a tethered helium balloon that was starting to loose it’s bounce. Her movements were without rhythm, without rhyme, yet fluid.

Gliding in and out of the lunchtime foot traffic, she silently forced the people seeking sandwiches and grain bowls to move out of the way. Most were glad to avoid her, but a few looked for the cup to toss in some coins. When they searched to end of her orange cuff they only saw a burning  menthol that she never drew to her mouth. And then she receded back until her next teeter into the next wave of pedestrians.

Strange Brew

A cup of coffee in a white cup on a white saucer. I bet it's not decaf.

Nice event this evening. People were dressed very fancy. Sparkles and beads, bow ties and cufflinks. Little bitty bags with long metal chains and shiny shoes, too.

The room was filled with dozens of nicely sized rounds. Not so big that you couldn’t introduce yourself to the person sitting on the other side of your diameter but too big to have a conversation across the centerpiece. The chairs were that light metal that was welded–or maybe strongly glued–together to look like bamboo. Bamboo that was sprayed a golden color. The biggest surprise was the tablecloth. It was a fancy print–a creamy, almost yellow, background with a somewhat Asian design of small red flowers, maybe poppies, with thin green vines dispersed almost in balance to the ecru. The fabric felt more like upholstery or a heavy drape than a tablecloth and, when you put your wine glass down, the embroidery or a seam or some unevenness would make you steady the stem to find a flatter spot.

There was a big water glass and a medium sized wine glass, but if your brought your pinot noir from the reception, you would notice that the cocktail wines were much smaller. That seems like a good decision by central catering.

The seats were fairly deeply padded, but after a few sets of remarks and videos and jokes and applause you wanted to stand and stretch. The planners were smart, too. They broke the program up around the courses to allow for standing and milling and visiting. Greetings from the dais, a catalogue of grateful thank you’s that may have been commercials, then a few segments accompanied by a salad. Main course and then more videos, emcee schtick and more segments. Dessert and coffee followed by the final two segments.

But, let me get back to that dessert thing. Really, to the coffee. There was only decaffeinated coffee served. Only decaf. What is up with that? It’s like seeing a soda machine that only has diet soda or walking up to a bar to find they only have 3.2 beer on tap or looking into your Halloween bag to see only apples, boxes of raisins and pennies lined up on a piece of tape.

It’s flipping the idea of coffee on its head. Coffee is coffee and decaf is a disarmed cup of coffee. Someone decided that all coffee served after dinner would be incapacitated. What? Caffeine been bothering you? Makes me wonder what the world is coming to. What kind of monsters serve strictly decaf? Where is my choice?

So I drank my impotent brew and then took to the huge chocolate thing on my plate. And I know that there was caffeine in that chocolate thing–along with maybe nutella. It was creamy and almost gloopy. And I ate too much of it. Now I’m too full of rich food to sleep.

Seriously, if those people were looking to take care of me, they would have served much smaller dessert portions. And some real coffee. I think I’m going to have to find some fizzy water. Damn nanny state.

 

Falling Behind

This was a stunning September morning. The Beast led the way.

At the beginning of a conference call, one of the participants gave us the MidWest weather report. According to her, the weather was nice, and that was weird, but that will soon change. That is that both the nice and the weird will change, and the weather will be back to the regularly scheduled bad. It was apropos of nothing. An odd non sequitur. And not very interesting, bless her heart.

How many times have I written about the weather this year. Six times? Maybe ten? How many ways can I describe the change in weather? The heat? The cool? The sun filtering through the trees, making shadows on the sidewalk, sending up an artist’s palette of colors?

How many times have I posted my morning stroll? It is always about the air–crisp, heavy, frigid, humid. It’s about the light–dark, bright, layered, orange or purple. Storms–rain, snow or just wind–have provided fodder for my daily writing struggle.

Is it enough that I’m using the weather as a tool to write descriptively? Is it better that I sometimes use the weather as a metaphor? Is it of value that I use the weather to transmit a small tale?

Have I committed the worst sin of writing, by boring you, My Loyal Reader?

I took on the challenge to write every day. I know that the quality is uneven. I know that there has been more than a score, maybe even four score, of less than stellar results. But dull?

Maybe I’ll reconsider my framing. I’m not delivering a weather report. I am describing the environment–how it looks and how it smells and how it feels and how it sounds. I am practicing using words to share details so you can imagine what I am thinking, so you have some context, and to bring us closer together.

This morning the shadows were longer and the air was cooler. I stepped onto the porch but kept my hand on the door handle to push it back open. I needed a little something.

I went to the hall closet and found my black Hope and Change hoodie. It’s eight years old now. It’s stretched out at the cuffs, the zipper catches on loose threads at the bottom and there are little holes in the left pocket, the one that holds the treats. I blame the Beast.

I pulled on the worn fleece, but didn’t zip it.

The leaves on the trees were still green, but some had given up. The sidewalk was spotted with dry leaves. They skittered along the concrete until they crunched under paw or sneaker. Definitely a sign.

We’re on the cusp of the next season. But we’re not there, yet. Summer still has some breath left. She will be elbowing back and forth with Fall for the next few weeks. Until Fall wins the match. I never did pack my sweaters away. Now it’s definitely too late.

As always, Loyal Reader, thank you for your time and for imbibing with me and my thinkings through another season. Almost time to pack away the summer.

End of the Line

The floor and door of the Metro. It's gross. You should be glad I took out the color.

Dang. This train is filthy. It’s past rush hour and I’m on the last car.

Who the hell thought it’d be a good idea to carpet the floor on a public train? There are stains from spilled cokes™, from ground-in egg mcmuffins®, from a dropped perfume bottle and a misplaced brush from a very shiny nail polish. There are tarry spots from gum, or another sticky substance, that became black from the bottoms of shoes and flip flops, sandals and boots, sneakers and those Dansko clogs that the ER, OR and radiology teams wear at hospitals.

Some of the boots that grind in the grime had spiky high heels or wedges. Some were tanned and open-laced Timberlands spewing street from their lugs. Some were black, steel-toed work boots with the slippery grease from a restaurant kitchen accelerating and accreting the grunge buildup on the floor.

The doors, the ones that open magically and slide into the sides of the train, are streaked with gunk. The lighter streaks are simply slightly less gunky. The windows at the top of the doors are also streaked, but with residue from palms and elbows and some cheeks and chins. There may be marks from fingers desperately trying to force the doors open as they slipped closed.

The doors open onto the platform of octagonal bricks hugged closely together by mortar. It’s odd that the mortar doesn’t show filth. I guess cement doesn’t stain like rayon. It’s funny how the outdoor platform seems to be so much less gross than the inside of the train.

There is no fresh breeze in the train cars. There are no rains to clear away the grunge. There are no melting snows. The inside of the train is inside and gets no relief from the humanity that desecrates it daily.

But I’ve been on the new cars. With the stainless steel exteriors with a hammered finish. With floors of flecked linoleum or some other surface that doesn’t spotlight blotches. With metal grips that don’t show thousands of fingers pressed in to balance against the lurching car. With wider aisles and molded rather than padded seats.

Why didn’t someone think about that before?

Hurricane at the Farmers’ Market

pie and a flat white coffee. the pie is on a cute white plate with big black polka dots around the rim. The table is hammered metal. It was windy. Oh, and there's also a fork.

It was a morning with a warning. Like a movie foreshadowing a foreboding.

Like the hint of wind in the black and white frontspace of The Wizard of Oz. Or the first drips of water in The Last Wave. Or, actually, any time the wind appears in a Peter Weir film. See also, David Lean.

It’s the scene where the wind whips the shore, bends a field of wheat, or makes the hero chase after an important scrap of paper. The paper chased could be a photo of a child, the digits of a to-be relationship or the receipt from an encounter with a spouse that they wished they could take back. And this sub-story drives a key sub-plot. The one that preys on our wish for happy relationships.

This morning, at the farmers’ market, no vendor had a tent. Normally all normally do to protect from the midday sun or to provide respite from a shower. But not this morning. This morning the gusts of wind were like a Sherman tank mowing down anything, and everything, in its path. The covers were no cover against the nature force. The tents were folded next to the tables.

Tables, where the merchants were hovering over their wares with their entire bodies until the winds subsided. Tables where goods that were not sold by the heavy pound were placed on the ground to keep them from becoming projectiles. Tables where dollar bills fought to leave the fingers of either buyer or seller but not from the buyer to the seller. No. These monies were looking to ride the next gust to the next world. Wherever that would be.

The musicians playing in the plaza for tips were sad that their open instrument cases were venues for dollar bills to launch from versus the coffer for their patrons’ contributions. Little kids swaying to the music was nice, but it took someone willing to pay to show their value. They scrambled to find a container that wasn’t missile plastic, but were mostly were resigned to a sadly camouflaged urn that most people would not see as an invitation to financially thank the performers. But if anyone appreciated them enough to seek out the tip jar, the urn would keep and cash in line.

The winds were not consistent. They were sneaky. They would sometimes swirl around–causing strollers to roll and hair to obliterate the view. They would sometimes whisper, tickling edges of paper and lulling people at then end of  a hot summer to believe that there is a balance in the weather. And then it would hit the accelerator and lean on the horn to let everyone know that this is no mere breeze.

Because it’s not. It’s the front end, and will be the back end, of the remnants of a hurricane.

It’s the winds of change. The winds of winter. The winds of war. The warm winds of El Niño, and the butterfly wings that precursor a Camille, an Andrew, a Galveston and a Katrina.

And in the eye of that storm, people picked up tomatoes, drank coffee and ate pie. None of them knowing what would happen next.

Curtain Down

Red mug and little bowl with chocolate.

The tea was black and flavored with milk and sugar. It was so dark that, even with the milk, it could visually pass for coffee. But it didn’t smell like coffee. More of the orange pekoe type.

The little bowl would be more honestly named bowle. It was just that cute. In that twee bowl were some little rectangle bites of chocolates. These bits were not filled with the richness of a creamy filling, nor were they solid chocolate.

Instead, each bite was a crunchy, flaky cookie bathed by milk chocolate. They could be popped into one’s mouth whole or dispatched in two bites.

You could do both.

And it was good.

Hobby on the Edge

A super yummy sushi dinner.

The Spouse has a new hobby. It’s not as much a hobby as a skill building process. You could even say he’s honing a new expertise.

He approaches his lessons with surgical precision. He’s carved out time to sharpen his approach. He steels himself against what seems like a stone wall. He’s not quite shaving time from his efforts, but that’s not the point. Getting better means getting sharper, not quicker.

He whets his implements across the strop. He uses water to give himself that extra edge. He polishes and finishes to bring out the best of his tools.

Okay, let me cut to the chase. He’s assembling a collection of the gadget and gizmos utensils and devices to bring the fineness to the blades of knives. He has spent hours sliding the steels agains the stones and then finishing with a leather barber’s strap.

It’s an odd accoutrement, but the craft means that our knives are sharp. Then he shows off by skillfully chopping and slicing food. Like the beautiful tuna, and the paper thin cucumbers. And he provided me with an extended bad pun for today.

Sorry.

A Dish of Tomatoes

Yellow and red+green heirloom tomatoes.

They were special tomatoes. Heirloom, as if they were passed down in the family. But it is actually an excellent ploy to extract more dollars per pound for tomatoes that look much less than perfect–in color, shape and demeanor. They are supposed to taste extra good, but in that way they are just like other tomatoes. Sometimes they taste good. Sometimes, not so much.

These were nicely ripe. They were heavy and felt fluid-filled. The tomato would give to pressure from a finger, but return to shape almost immediately. Holding it, it was heavy. Bringing it to the nose, it smelled of itself.

It put up some resistance when I put my knife to it’s skin. It swelled slightly under my hand and then ceded with almost a sigh. Gently sawing the surface, it soon gave way beneath the flesh to a wet, almost gelatin middle, flecked with seeds. After cutting in half, I removed the top of the core then went to work, sliding the knife again and again, making irregular cuts for the salad. The cutting board was filling with juice that I tried to capture by scooping the pieces onto the knife and dropping into the bowl.

There was a big yellow tomato and a red tomato with green. I topped them with swirls of extra virgin olive oil, a scant tablespoon of sherry vinegar, a few turns from the pepper mill and coarse salt. I stirred and let it sit on the table to let the juices ooze out. The better to dip the crusty bread in and get every last drop.

Composition

Did you know that this was a picture of trees with the sun breaking through before it was stylized into a b+w picture of trees with a source of light?

I’m taking a little break tonite. Not from thinking, but from composing the thinking.

My day was full of thoughts. Some were validating, but, and more interesting, some were apple cart tossing.

The challenging thoughts were mostly in my favor. That is, when I proved myself wrong, I was questioning myself when I was on my own side of the argument. Not that this did me well. Thinking, again, I guess it did. The tough thinking was aligned more with my values versus the logically correct bare logic. In my mind, pure logic needs to be evaluated against results. No matter what they are.

Like, earlier today The Spouse and I went back and forth about a judicial nominee. The nominee was exactly right in his logical application of the law that the tabloid was calling Mr. Potential Judge out on. And the Mr. Potential Judge was exactly wrong on the human impact. Logically, and intellectually, sound–but wrong.

Sometimes equal is not fair. And that was the issue with the judicial analysis.

I want to write about the dozen, or maybe only half-dozen, dilemmas I had today. But instead I will write about the unabashed joy of deliberation, of contemplation and of equivocation. Because sometimes we need to think more.

After all, I’m the Doctor of Thinkology.

Room Temperatures

A very hot dog takes advantage of the box fan.

The house is unnaturally cool. Blankets get pulled up around chins. The hot coffee feels good going down. There is always a hoodie nearby for the overzealous chill. You could even imagine baking–if that was what you did. If it was a blueberry pie, that would be good.

Opening the door on a 97°F day isn’t a shock. Walking through the threshold, the wet heavy air forms a drape, a drape that is transparent to the eye but has the heft of thick velvet curtains. You need to almost push the air away, except it doesn’t resist.

The humidity is supra-tropical and the air is moving around. For skin cooled by the AC, it really isn’t as bad as expected. Stepping off of the shady porch and into the sunlight is a bigger contrast. The sun squinches eyes, even those behind sunglasses. It doesn’t caress the cool skin as much as press on it. But it doesn’t press hard.

The heat is forgotten for the first five blocks, until the the last of the chill, that last chill left on your forearms, gets dispersed into the air. The cool becomes hot, too.

The heat begins to press harder on skin. It closes up your nostrils, making it harder to breathe. It squeezes out beads of water along the hairline, at the waistband. Water begins to drip from under arms and beneath chins from throat to chest.

The heat seems to make gravity more grave. It pushes down on thighs as they work to bring the feet up to propel to the next block. It would be easy to slow down, but that would mean staying in the heat. No slowing down, but no speeding up, either. Additional exertion would be too punishing.

The last turn to the final block is a mental relief but a physical trial. Cheeks are flushed and radiate fire. The dull throbbing from your head that started two blocks earlier becomes all consuming.

The key turns in the lock. The door opens and the arctic blast starts your revival. The moisture on all skin surfaces begins to evaporate in the dark, cool house. The pounding in your head gets worse as you slump onto the couch. You stand up to switch the fan to “high” and flop back on the couch, facing the fan with your eyes closed, wiping your face with your shirt.

Your head hurts, but as you watch the swelling of your feet subside and feel the ring twirl around freely where it had been stuck on your sausage finger a few minutes ago, you lay your still pulsing head on the pillow, and reach for that hoodie.