She Made It! ($1.00)

Walking down the street, two half-blocks from the bus stop, perhaps because she heard something, perhaps just by instinct, she looked over her shoulder and saw a bus coming towards her.  Her calm walk shifted to a jog, clearly somewhat uncomfortable in her three inch heels, but she was determined to beat the bus.  Crossing a street, she heard another sound, this time a click.  It was her cell phone, which fell to the ground.  An abrupt stop and pivot.  She returns, swoops up the phone, saying to the world “Dropped my phone”, turns again and regains her pre-drop form.  She knows time is against her, but she perserveres.  She reaches the bus stop just as the bus, emblazoned with the words “Not in Service”, drives on by.

The moral of the story?

The Joys of Travel (# ?)

I had a one day trip to New York yesterday.  Even with a senior discount, Amtrak’s fare was $83 each way.  But I could take a bus much more economically.  So, I decided to opt for Vamoose, at $25 each way, from Bethesda to Penn Station.

Of course, I had to balance that against convenience and time.  The standard Amtrak takes about 3.25 hours to get from Union Station to Penn Station.  The bus was scheduled to take about 4.

I had to be at a meeting at 2 p.m.  I figured that the 8 a.m. bus would get me in about noon, giving me plenty of time to stretch a bit, have lunch and arrive on time to my meeting.

Vamoose’s website said to be at the bus stop fifteen minutes early.  I was, but the line was already quite long.  Because the bus starts in Arlington, it was already about 1/4 full when it arrived in Bethesda.  When it left Bethesda, it was almost 100% full; perhaps there were three or four empty seats.  And the bus did not leave at 8; it was almost 8:30.

The bus arrived in New York at about 12:45.  This meant that I was on the bus for close to five hours, not four.  I was sitting next to a young man (maybe 20 years old), who was not heavy, but was a sprawler, asleep for most of the five hours, sprawling in all directions.  I was sitting behind a young man, who converted his chair into a recliner, so that his head was almost in my lap.  It was probably the most crowded public vehicle I had ever driven in (other than the sharrett we took from Ben-Gurion airport to Haifa in 1999).  And it did not help that my seat was broken, so that I could not move it to a more comfortable position.

I decided to take a train back to D.C., even at the additional $61 cost.  When I got to NYC, I booked a seat on the 6:45 p.m, which I figured would give me enough time to get a little to eat, and would get me back to Union Station about 10.

It was not to be.  From 6:30 until about 7:45, I joined a large group of people waiting at Penn Station for our train (which had been delayed by a ‘service incident’ in Rhode Island).  The train was more crowded than the bus.  It was more like Metro at rush hour with passengers (“But I have a reservation!!”) standing as far as Philadelphia.  I was lucky to get one of the last seats, at a table in the snack car.

We arrived at Union Station not at 10, but at about 11:20.

So, did I make the right move, taking the train back?  Should I have kept on the bus?  Should I never have gone to New York in the first place?

Cups Make the Coffee (Sometimes)

I am sitting here, after having a small lunch, drinking my second cup of coffee of the day. I am drinking it out of a plain white cup (a little more vertical than a normal cup in shape) with no markings, that is part of a cheap set of white dishes, whose provenance I do not recall. Sometimes, after lunch or dinner, this is the cup I prefer. Otherwise, I use a cup from our regular daily dishes set.

But in the morning, I don’t use a cup; I use a mug. But not just any mug. Some, I like, some I don’t. In particular, I don’t like mugs that are too big, and I don’t like mugs with too large a circumference. My favorite mugs are blue and white mugs (actually pretty much a cross between cups and mugs) with the name Wendy Klein on the bottom. They are part of a set of dishes I bought years ago at Woodward & Lothrop. We only have two of these mugs left. I always thought I would get along nicely with Wendy Klein, if I ever met her. She designed such nice mugs. I also can use the mugs we bought at Beach Pottery in South Dakota about six years ago. We bought four deep blue mugs, of a very nice shape (in fact, as they were thrown individually, the shapes are not identical), but one disappeared about a year ago. I believe (without having much evidence) that a house-sitter that we had engaged (a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, as I recall) either took one as a souvenir or broke one (which is not easy to do; this is sturdy pottery) and did not tell us. That’s what I think. At any rate, we only now have three.

Then there is a single mug that I like, which we bought as a souvenir in Basingstoke in England. Basingstoke was the home of a mental asylum mentioned in Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Ruddigore”, which Hannah had performed in as a youngster, and we wanted to see the place. To our surprise, it is now very modern and the home of IBM in the U.K. But at least we got the mug.

There are other mugs around, which I don’t like at all. And I won’t use them. There is a too-big Valentine’s mug (attractive but not coffee-friendly), there’s a mug that commemorates the Dead Sea Scrolls (how ridiculous can you get, right?), and a Starbucks mug, for example. I would rather go thirsty.

In restaurants, too, I find the container important.  I have been known, for example, when served coffee in a big mug after a lunch or dinner, to send it back, asking for half as much in a smaller cup.

For some people, the cup or the mug does not seem to make a difference.  For me, it appears it is very important.

Ice is Nice But Liquor is Quickor

Did Ogden Nash really write that? Or was it Dorothy Parker? I am not sure, but let’s talk about both.

First, we had a mini-ice storm yesterday and last night. The roads were a bit treacherous although the city came through it quite nicely, thank you. When I opened the window this morning, I saw a little ice on the tree limbs, and when I opened the door, although the rain that fell through the night took care of most of the ice, there were pockets of danger lurking when least expected.

It was because of these pockets, I assume, that Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense fell and broke his arm. (And remember diet Dr. Robert Atkins who some years ago fell on the ice in Manhattan and did much worse; he died.) Gates’ broken arm reminded me, as such things always do, of the time Lana Turner slipped in the bathtub and broke something else. I would guess this was 1950 or so. My grandmother’s reaction was classic. “Can you imagine,” she said, “with all that money.”

Well, the Secretary of Defense is paid to provide for the common defense, as they say, and how can he do that if he is willing to be tripped up by a little ice?

When I felt that global warming had taken sufficient effect to make movement safe, I ventured out to my car. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my scraper in the car (of course, I didn’t look in the trunk where I assume it was (is). So, I took out my plastic ball point pen to spear the ice on the windshields, while the front and back defrosters were going full blast. I sat in the car at first, and opened the back windows, hoping that the closing window would automatically knock of the ice. But it didn’t. In fact, with the window down, the then sheets of ice remained vertical, supported by nothing extrinsic. It was quite beautiful, but they soon notice their predicament and came crashing down. Rather than falling outward, they fell inward, into the back seat of the car. It is still wet.

Ice was on television tonight as well, in an arena in Atlanta where the Caps were playing the Thrashers. We watched on television, while I was doing some home administrative chores and answering questions that Hannah had as she was filling out her financial aid application for graduate school (like “I don’t think we will give you any money” and “if they only knew that you had your great grandmother to support”; things like that). The Caps outplayed Atlanta in everyway but goal scoring. They lost in overtime/shootout 3-2. There is now a 3-way league leading tie, three teams with 60 points each.

So, let’s move to liquor. I have finally found a Spanish red wine that was undrinkable. Very hard to do, but there were clues. First, the wine was about $8 a bottle. More importantly, the wine is called Wrongo Dongo. The real question is: why did I buy it?

The Value of Prayer

Once again, the National Prayer Breakfast, starring President Bush and featuring politicians of all stripes and colors, succeeding in tying up all traffic heading towards the Farragut Square area in downtown Washington. My twenty minute ride to work for example, took about fifty minutes (and that only because I knew the territory sufficiently to duck and dodge).

The Prayer Breakfast should be abolished. And not because it inconveniences me. It should be abolished because of a scientific survey taken, the results of which show that the gains achieved through the prayers offered at the National Prayer Breakfast are more than offset by the curses offered by commuters and commercial vehicles trying to head down 16th Street, Massachusetts Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, or coming in from Virginia.

A satanic operation, that National Prayer Breakfast.

Owls and Q-Tips

Several years ago, I was flying from Washington DC to Ft. Myers, FL. I was sitting next to a very personable young lady who, in the course of our conversation, asked me if I was going to be renting a car when I got to Florida. I told her I was, and she told me to have a good time, but to watch out for the Owls and the Q-Tips. After she repeated this advice (at my request), I asked her what she was talking about.

Her explanation was that Florida was the home of many old retirees and that, while they fell into many categories, there seemed to be two categories who had trouble behind the wheel. There were the short elderly, who generally had a hard time seeing over the dashboard, so that they had to lean far forward, looking very intent, with their eyes wide-open. They were the Owls. Then there were the tall elderly, who sat back and ramrod straight, and whose clean, thin heads were topped by a ball of white hair. They were the Q-Tips.

Very clever, I thought and chuckled until, 24 hours later or so, I saw my first Owls and Q-Tips.

But that was long ago and now, having driven almost 400 miles over 5 days in Florida, being careful, always seeming to be looking for something or some place, a shudder went down my spine. I had become an Owl.

Shoe Laces and Peanuts

A beautiful day today, and I decided to take a walk. But where to go. I needed a goal. Then I remembered. I needed shoe laces, and I walked to the drug store about one half mile away.

Far to walk for a pair of shoe laces?

It reminded me of that warm St. Louis summer day in 1957, when a bunch of us were hanging around the pool at Bruce’s house. As the day droned on, we decided that we were hungry. We wanted peanuts.

My friend Fred (age 16), my friend Mike (age 16) and I (age 15) got into Mike’s sister’s car, a relatively new white Buick. And we decided that we would go to a grocery store in Kirkwood (about ten miles south of us off Lindbergh). The trip seemed a bit exotic. None of us knew anyone in Kirkwood, and our mothers never would have considered going to Kirkwood for groceries.

We were driving down Lindbergh when we began to hear a droning in our ears, sort of a “pull over to the curb”, which we did. A policeman came to our window. He asked where we were coming from. A house in Frontenac, we told him. And where are you going? Kirkwood. And why? To get some peanuts.

My guess was that the arresting officer had never heard of Frontenac, much less considered whether anyone would ever have left Frontenac for Kirkwood for peanuts.

He asked for our driver’s licenses. Mike gave him his. Fred gave him his, and the policeman said “thanks, Charlie”. I said, from my back seat “Charlie?), forgetting the Fred was Charles Frederick T_____’s middle name. That did it. The officer looked at me and asked for my license which didn’t exist.

What do you think happened next?

I’m not going to tell you. You better ask Mike or Fred (a/k/a Charlie).