Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Honoring Veterans -- a Family Story

This is the official poster for Veterans Day 2009 created by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You can hear TAPS playing . . . almost.

The VA Web site offers a poster gallery year by year back to 1978.

I wish I had a time machine to go back and tape my Uncle Rollo telling one of his WWII stories. Perfect for MP3. I would love to hear them all again. Uncle Rollo could be on YouTube. Imagine him tapping his pipe on his Annapolis ring (Class of '25) emptying the ashes before he filled it again and lit it with a long, wooden match.

His devoted pug, Friar Tuck, would curl up on his lap as he relived the Normandy invasion and his ship full of soldiers readying themselves for the battle on shore. Uncle Rollo's version wasn't quite as bloody as Tom Hanks's movie. All Uncle Rollo needed to do was captain his ship into position in a certain place at a certain time along with the rest of the fleet.

After the War, Uncle Rollo retired as a Rear Admiral. That rank gave him two stars on the bumper of his Thunderbird. When my sisters and I drove with him to the commissary at Quonset Point to pick up the week's groceries, the sentries would snap to attention as we drove through the gate.

I'm still not sure what to make of a life with that kind of order. At home, we lived in emotional chaos, with my mother spending her time organizing our sock drawer to perfection while the rest of the house looked like a hurricane zone. By the time my parents divorced, nothing was "normal" for us.

When Ted & Jan remarried a decade later, we were still a mess. Is it relationships that make us crazy or the particular people we choose for partners? Straight or gay doesn't matter. The hearts rumble just the same. You'd think kindness would be a given, considering the alternative.

At Christmas, Uncle Rollo would unwrap the tin of Grainger's pipe tobacco we gave him as if it were a treasure. The shape of the tin gave away the surprise, but he always managed to look amazed that he received such a wonderful gift.

And every night as we headed up to bed, we'd swing through the living room and kiss him on the head as he sat in his wing chair reading the New Yorker or the New York Times.

I still get the New Yorker in hard copy. The Times I read online. Some things charm the chaos like the skin off a snake.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Houdini's Birthday . . . It's Halloween

All Hallows Eve is not only the spookiest night of the year, it's also a celebration of one of our most enigmatic magicians -- Harry Houdini.

And it's also the birthday of Susan Orlean, one of my favorite writers and the author of The Orchid Thief.

Even more literary magic is happening tomorrow in Washington Grove, Maryland, where I'm joining a poetry group for the first time.

This is big news because in the past 2 years my journaling is pretty much the only writing in my life. Nothing to sneeze at Sneezy. I mean I'm writing 400 pages every 5 months. Hmm I wonder how much that is by the pound of paper?? Silly.

I think this blog needs more visits from me. As does the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that blue-domed amazement off North Capitol Street in Washington, DC. I hear they have quite a gift store. Actually, my grandma visited there on a bus filled with Polish ladies in flowered babooshkas from Anthony, RI. This was back in the early 60s. I heard they had a blast. My grandma's laugh alone could have propeled that bus to the moon and back.

I miss her. That's what happens when I eat too much chocolate. That's the thing about Halloween. If you're not supposed to eat candy, this is the wrong day for you to celebrate.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A New Season . . .

For someone like me who didn't really do much vacationing this summer, you'd think that the change of season would be a blip on my radar screen.

On the contrary, this is a chance to get in my car and drive up to New England to see the leaves and pour some maple syrup on blueberry pancakes. OK, there's maple syrup in Maryland. As a matter of fact there are changing leaf colors in Maryland . . . But once a New Englander, always a New Englander.

I'm thinking of buying a little cabin to live in, a cabin in a birch forest, a cabin with indoor plumbing, a cabin near a lake with a canoe with my name on it. My people came from Quebec to live in Rhode Island. Something went wrong. Not a potato famine, not persecution for being Catholic, not a plague of locusts. But something creepy and dark. Take my word for it.

At the New York Public Library many years ago, my Uncle Rollo (actually my great uncle Roland) found some history on our French-Canadian ancestors. Apparently, one of the married "une femme sauvage" or a "wild woman."

Her name was Marie. I guess the Catholics got to her before the foxy Frenchman did. Her full name, according to some geneaology by a long-lost cousin, was Marie Metiomiguok. She was Huron Indian. I guess she was lucky to marry and move away. The Hurons living near Trois Rivieres, not far from Lake Champlain, were decimated in the late 17th century by the Iroquois. What was left of the tribe moved across the water and changed their tribal name.

I'm simplifying things a little. Old habits die hard, as Uncle Rollo used to say. He also said that aging was not for the faint-hearted. So far, true!

But I think about Marie Metiomiguok. I think about leaves falling in Quebec. Maybe Marie feels the autumn chill in the air; maybe she sees brilliant leaves floating free from the birches. Maybe she wonders if anyone will remember her name.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Clam Cakes in Summer

There's a good reason for driving 7 hours without stopping from Maryland to Rhode Island.


In the summer there's nothing like them . . . We stand in line at Aunt Carrie's on Ocean Road in Narragansett for more than an hour sometimes on weekends when everybody's blue from being in the waves too long.

The clamcakes in this photo look a little greasy. But you get the idea. My favorite parts are the crunchy little "tails" of dough that get extra fried so the crisp talks to you when you bite down.

My dad met us at Aunt Carrie's one time when we were staying at the Anchor Motel just down the road. He always ordered the New England clam chowder, which is white. New York chowder is red. Every time I pick "red" I can hear that 60s Beach Boys song, "Be True to Your School." And I can see my dad shaking his head and mumbling, "Meredith."

And don't even mention not really liking lobster. What kind of Rhode Islander are you? Um, the kind that left home for college in the mid-60s to go to school in DC because the drinking age was 18? Who would admit to that?

Certainly not me.

If you ask me, I've lived up here all my life. My heart and soul walk that beach every single day without fail, rain or shine, just after sunrise.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Cormorant Dries Her Wings

Published online at PoetryMagazine.com (Current Poets Summer 2007), this poem is deep in their archives now. Time has passed, new poets are posted. Old poems disappear every day from cyberspace unless someone who loves them reposts! So here's my Cormorant poem revived and reposted, exactly 2 years later:

A Cormorant Dries Her Wings

Next time you're driving up Race Point Road
on the way to the beach in Provincetown
don't be afraid of the solitary, black bird
you might find standing in the road,
as if waiting for a ride, rocking back and forth
from one webbed foot to the other,
as you wind your way around that wide curve
of beech trees and dunes. You'll be thinking
of the morning sun on your skin, the quiet
waves, the time alone. But the cormorant
is there of necessity, drying her wings
with great flaps and whooshes. After fishing,
she can't fly until the warm breezes funneling
over the dunes have time to dry her feathers.
Until then, she stops your car, and the cars
behind you. Her wings are huge. Will she
come to the window? Will she peck a tire
as you wait there like so much dirty laundry
piled on the front seat? Hope is a bird, isn't it?
Yes, hope is a bird. So, stay and wait a while
for the ranger to save you as he drives by
patrolling the road. He will shoo her away
and ask point blank through your rolled up
window: What's stopping you from everything
you want to do right now? This cormorant?
Don't answer right away. Give yourself some time
to think about it, think about every single thing,
what you're doing there and why.

Meredith Pond July 17, 2007

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dark Night in Tucson

July 1969. Dupont Circle, Washington, DC. The plan was simple. The four of us -- Alice, Alison, me, and Bill -- would camp cross country and down to Tucson. Bill's friend lived there, and he had a swimming pool.

And as we were soon to find out, a spider monkey. The little creature wore an infant-sized diaper that came up under "his" armpits. Do monkeys have armpits? Yes. Do monkeys like miniature marshmallows? Yes.

Do monkeys like it when their "mom" leaves for a trip to Denver? Absolutely not.

Have you ever heard a monkey cry? Let me just say, you don't want to. The sound is the same little whoop over and over again. Marshmallows are the only remedy. The small one fit like a plug. A silencing plug. With no harm done.

Nobody told us that the heat could almost boil that pool water in the daytime. But as soon as the sun went down, Tucson came to life. Grocery stores, open all night long, sold cold beer and wine and a fresh supply of miniature marshmallows.

One night towards the end of July around midnight on the way back from the store, the sky opened like a bathtub faucet and sent rivers down the sidewalks and arroyos, those dried up river beds that you figure belonged to the sidewinders and horned toads of Lone Ranger fame.

Black sky. Sheets of rain. And then under our tires, the sound of squishing. The road looked like it was lifting off the ground. And it was. The road was now a channel for thousands of frogs.
It's a lucky day in the desert when frogs are happy in the rain . . .

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Woodstock Redux -- See You in August?

Has it really been 40 years? I guess so. I'm not 21 anymore, that's for sure.

I remember 21 . . .

Back then dancing around in the rain on a slippery hillside was a lot of fun. No looking for a towel. No whining that my feet hurt. Just happy happy happy. Rain rain rain.

In 1969, we lived well without cell phones, Starbucks, DVDs, and iPods. We had vinyl records and lots of velvet.

Anyway, I keep thinking that a whole bunch of people my age will show up in Woodstock, NY, somwhere around Yazgur's farm, just for the fun of it.

Just to see who's still around. See you there?? Last time, we (Alice, Bill, Alison, and me) arrived in Alice's VW squareback on Thursday afternoon, August 14. We left a few hours after Hendrix's sunrise anthem on Monday, August 18. I know the dates now. Back then I had no idea what day it was . . . or where we were headed when it was over.

A time machine would be perfect, wouldn't it?? Peace . . .

Friday, June 19, 2009

Takoma Park Poets Make It an Evening

A little local poetry, including a visit from the Poet Laureate of Takoma Park, Anne Becker, is good for the soul. After a long day at work on deadline, there's nothing like an open mike.

It sounds like I go to one every night! I don't, of course, except in my dreams.

The sound of someone's voice reading her (or his) poetry is like relaxing in a field of flowers (with no bees or bugs).

The microphone helps.

It's like when you were a kid and your mother gave you one of those big cardboard rolls for wrapping paper. She planned to throw it away, but you could have it for a while. Remember that? Maybe it was just me. Let me know if you remember.

Yelling into it, I sounded like a circus ringmaster announcing the elephants or the cast of Gone with the Wind who were all poodles. I love yelling. I yell in the shower. I don't have the ego to call it singing. Show tunes mostly.

Blame it on my evenings with my mother at the Warwick Musical Theater, the "Tent," for shows like "Guys and Dolls" where I got Lloyd Bridges's autograph.

Or another musical, "Brigadoon." All live up on Route 3.

Thursday evening at the Community Center, everybody had 5 minutes, which was more than enough time to read three poems. I read "The Cormorant Dries Her Wings," which I'll be posting here next time with the backstory. And I read the last stanza of a poem about my dad.

The audience -- 20 people? -- were still as a lake at sunrise. Except when they were clapping (after every poem), and except for the fellow in the back eating his fourth lemon cookie from a plate set out for after the reading. What a noisy gnosher. And I swear his crumbs, a few of his crumbs, made it to the podium when I was still up there.

Microphones are strange appliances. That screeching when things go wrong is the worst. But this one worked great. All voices sounded full, and the poems, so much the person who was reading. As if what you write down on paper really matters, as if no less than your life depends on it. Every single day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 10 Birthdays . . .

With many humble apologies to the Writer's Almanac and Garrison Kiellor who posts poems and birthdays every day of the week all year long . . . I added a b'day for today. See #2.

1. It's the birthday of Judy Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm in 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where her father operated the only movie theater in town. She starred in The Wizard of Oz (1939), Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), Easter Parade (1948), and many more movies. (from Writer's Almanac, June 10, 2009)

2. It's the birthday of Ted Ciesla, a lifelong resident of Coventry, RI, where he taught science at the local high school and also coached the baseball team for more than 30 years. Born in 1920, Ted was a veteran of WWII.

As a young man and a student at the University of Rhode Island, Ted won many state and regional diving competitions. For many years, he spent his summers with his wife Jan teaching swimming to underprivileged children at Lake Tiogue. Ted had four children, all excellent swimmers, including Meredith Pond, a fan of the Writer’s Alamanac.

Ted loved baseball and especially the Boston Red Sox. On the night before he died, Ted watched the Red Sox trounce the Baltimore Orioles in overtime. He died at home in his son’s arms the following morning. Ted’s favorite song was “Moonlight in Vermont.”

He preferred to make his own clam chowder, but in a pinch you could talk him into going down to Galilee for a piping-hot bowl “New England style” and some clamcakes at Champlain’s near the Block Island Ferry dock.

3. It's the birthday of the children's author and illustrator Maurice Sendak born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1928.

His parents were Polish immigrants, and as Maurice was growing up, many extended family members died in the Holocaust. So his parents were constantly grieving for their family back in Poland, and they were worried about Maurice, who was a very sick child. He almost never went outside — most of what he knew about the world outside his bedroom came from visiting family members, from the view through his window, and from books.

His dad read to him before bed every night, and his mom was constantly hovering around, making sure he was all right.

So when he eventually became an illustrator, he oftentimes painted a moon in the background as a symbol of his watchful mother. He started drawing, got a job in high school drawing the Mutt and Jeff cartoon strip into comic books, and went on to art school.

When he was 19, he illustrated a physics book, Atomics for the Millions (1947). Then he worked for years designing the window displays for FAO Schwartz while he took night classes at art school.

And eventually he started writing and illustrating his own books for children, books about normal kids who end up in surreal settings where strange things happen, books like Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and In the Night Kitchen (1970). Maurice Sendak has illustrated more than 90 books.

He said: "You cannot write for children. They're much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them." (from Writer's Almanac, June 10, 2009)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad

My answering machine holds a collection of messages from past holidays. In my family, this is what we call insurance.

You never know when you'll fall out of favor with one person or another. And, there's no chance of knowing the reason why they are mad at you either.

So when I play the answering machine's messages, I can hear my son wishing me happy Mother's Day, my nephew saying, "Merry Christmas," my friend from college (40 years ago) singing, happy birthday to you, etc., etc.

And then there's my dad's voice loud and clear as if I'm about to dive off the dock into shallow water . . . "Meredith!" He never did say hello on the phone. But there's one message in a softer voice that says, "Meri, this is dad calling." He sounds as if I might not recognize his voice.

This is my collection. Years of good wishes are right at my fingertips. If somebody forgets to call? No problem, I'm covered.

In my dream the other night, my father and I were walking along the beach in Narragansett talking about why I wouldn't want to live so close to the water. The house we were looking at a few dream-moments earlier had little waves breaking right at the white picket fence.

"You're right," I said. "But I like the place. It's near you."

A dream like this on a week night is hard to come by. I'm grateful for it.

So here's my chance to leave a message on the cosmic answering machine: happy birthday, dad. Yup, it's June again. And you would be 89 in earth years. I hope the cake in heaven is as tasty as the one you're eating in this photo . . .

Monday, May 18, 2009

SeaWorld: Great Shamu

Children, moms, dads, grandparents, toddlers are all chanting, "Shamu! Shamu! Shamu!"

This is SeaWorld. And this is amazing. Living in the Nation's Capital, I forget that most towns and cities and amusements parks are not like DC.

Here in Orlando, the crowd roars as this primal ritual gets underway.

A young man in a whale suit is tossed into the air by a huge creature who could just as easily swallow him for lunch.

Where does the desire come from? To perch on the nose of a killer whale . . .

Right now, I'm at my desk typing. My desk could be perched on the back of a great tortoise under a coconut tree or set on a raft pulled by a team of dolphins.

Ah but alas, my feet are on the floor. My desk is still as a rock. But would I have it any other way? When I was small, ferris wheels upset my stomach. That round and round business just wasn't for me.

Actually, I like my quiet desk.

Swimming, with no creatures bigger than a pumpkinseed or a bluegill, was my family's big fun at a lake or on the beach or in a pool. My father and mother helped us paddle around with flippers and lifejackets or just an inner tube until we learned how to swim on our own.

Most lakes in Rhode Island had big rafts. If you could make it out there, you could bask on the warm wood until your lips turned blue before sunset.

We did dive off my dad's hands. He'd flip us up in the air so we could dive over his head. I guess that's about as close as we got to the Shamu experience.

My mother worked as a swimming pool director at Johnson & Wales in Providence.

After school, my friend Cindy and I would walk down to J&W and volunteer to help children paddle around free of their wheelchairs. Kids are kids in the water. Splashing around, making motorboat noises.

If anyone then had asked me if I'd like to learn how to dive off the nose of a killer whale, well, I can't imagine wanting to. Even then. My dad was another story.

Monday, April 20, 2009

At the Movies . . .

I owe a photo credit to someone for the image at right. Thank you. I want to meet everyone in this photo. When was the last time you saw a man in a suit and tie at the movies??

And why does this photo reminds me of my mom? I have no idea. I don't remember seeing any 3-D movies with her.

My most recent experience with 3-D -- "Journey to the Center of the Earth" -- with that George of the Jungle guy, well, it was nowhere near as fun as when we had the paper 3-D "glasses" like the ones you see here.

My movie story goes like this: Mom and I were looking forward to seeing Sophia Loren or maybe Marilyn Monroe in How To Marry a Millionaire. Or at least that's what we thought we bought tickets for. I was in 5th or 6th grade so I was not the one buying.

As it turns out, we watched 3 hours of a "Von Trapp Family" documentary, supposedly the real story behind the "Sound of Music."

But no music, no singing, no Julie Andrews, no children in the meadow. Nada. But mom and I sat through the entire thing sure that the next feature was "Millionaire."

A whole different context to that word these days . . . yikes! Game show or location India. Either one is missing the movie stardust that sprinkles down from the white shoulders of Loren or Monroe.

But did I learned my lesson about the dwindling possibilities of double features? No.

A decade later when I was a freshman at GWU, I rode the bus to Capitol Hill to see a 3-hour Warhol film. Sat there glued to my seat (literally and figuratively). Because I was sure as soon as I got up to pee or buy popcorn all hell would break loose.

This after watching Warhol's actress clip her bangs one bang at a time for 90 minutes! Ah! The idea of "knowing better" is a lost art, at least in my family. I stayed in the theater for almost 4 hours, still sure I would see "Spartacus" the very next second.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Finding the 'Goldilocks Zone' Is No Fairytale

In less than 24 hours, NASA will launch the Kepler science satellite to find planets just like ours in a small patch of universe not so far far away.

Scanning starlight is Kepler’s task as its camera looks for signs of Earth-like planets “like a flea on a headlight,” according to today’s article by CBS News Space Consultant (and resident Trekkie) William Harwood.

With approximately 200 billion stars in our galaxy, this might take a while, right? But no. We’ll have a report in about 3.5 Earth years.

In that time, our tax dollars at work will let us know how many planets are in the “Goldilocks Zone.” That means not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Okay, no one expects to find three bears or any porridge. There’s a limit to how far NASA can stretch a fairytale.

Where We’re Looking
The real estate we earthlings are looking at is a desirable location near "the left wing of Cygnus the Swan, midway between the stars Deneb and Vega."

I know exactly where that is . . . It’s a commuter’s dream -- between 600 and 3,000 light years away. Let’s see, at warp speed, I think that’s less than an hour and much less traffic than my current commute around the Beltway.

To quote from the article:

"The habitable zone is where we think water will be," said William Borucki, Kepler principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center.

"If you can find liquid water on the surface, we think we may very well find life there. So that zone is not too close to the star, because it's too hot and the water boils. Not too far away where the water's condensed and ice-covered, a planet covered with glaciers. It's the goldilocks zone, not too hot, not too cold, just right for life."

Johannes Kepler was a 17th century astronomer. He figured out the laws of planetary motion. NASA's 21st century Kepler “weighs 2,320 pounds and measures 15.3 feet from top to bottom.”

We’ll see what this new Kepler figures out . . . the amazing thing is that results come back in 2012. The end of the Mayan calendar . . . a little spooky, but we can handle it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Searching for Signs of Intelligent Life

Wonder what it takes to pilot a spaceship / telescope to search for a planet just like ours not too, too many light years away?

Well, not exactly like ours. This one would be "inhabitable" and I assume have lots of good water. That's something in short supply on our Mother Earth . . . water.

Reading statistics on agricultural water needs the other day, I was truly stunned. Every acre of farmed land requires millions of gallons of water to produce one string bean and seven artichokes.

I guess -- if I wasn't a raging optimist -- I'd figure we're done for. The end will be a scene from a horror film with millions of us crowding the shoreline drinking sea water and Dr. Pepper until our bodies explode.

And then just in the nick of time, the telescope beams back lovely photos of cascading waterfalls and sunflowers and green trees . . . but here's the rub -- it will take us 65 years to get there. So the plan is what? A ship of kindergartners beam up and travel at warp speed arriving just in time to populate this new planet?

Enough. Read the story in the New York Times today in the science section and let me know the real plan. It's the Kepler spacecraft and it's looking for "worlds like our own."

Peace, Meredith

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rockin' Robins

A rack of robins perched in the neighbor's yard this morning. Maybe a dozen of them in the woody branches of the crape myrtle at the end of the street.

These robins were coming home fluffy and strong from their winter in Texas or Florida. I guess they don't follow the Monarchs to Mexico any more.

You could tell the robins from Texas. They were wearing little red cowboy boots and lassoing the starlings and tieing them to the fenceposts.

Well, from my rearview mirror as I backed up, those Texas robins acted like they owned the place. The Florida robins were pretending to be asleep.

I don't drive backwards on purpose, you know, I live in a cul-de-sac -- the French term for "bottom of the bag." Sometimes it feels like that around here, like we're at land's end -- no not in Cabo Land's End, in an industrial parking lot.

The PODS are here.

You know what PODS are -- white metal "rooms" half in the road, half in the sidewalk -- places where my neighbors store all the stuff that's supposed to be in their house. Yes, it's temporary --maybe a month or 6 months or a year.

The plan is each house is getting some work done -- painting or cleaning or revarnishing the floors. And the best way to do that work is have all the stuff out in a POD, leaving the actual house empty.

There is a thin promise that the POD stuff will get carried back in, and the POD returned to PODville.

Problem is the street is now a village of PODS. All but two families have one. They're the width of a car parking spot on one side; on the other side, they block everything else.

In the 1930s nobody had a POD. Everybody had sheds, and when things got bad they moved into the shed and their rich aunt moved into the main house and made them cinnamon toast on Sundays. Isn't that how it was?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Midwinter Night's Wind

In the middle of the night the wind came up and whistled through the spaces between the window and the wall next to my bed.

You've heard this sound before. A storybook banshee racing down from the tower of a dark castle towards your breezeway. She's wailing at the back door, knocking over your trash can with a force that wakes you with a start.

The clock says 4:15 am. Walt the cat stays close.

The icy keening continues as you search for your fuzzy pink robe and make your way to the window. Walt is looking too.

Nothing is there.

I switch on the lights to break the spell, but the glare is blinding. I light a candle instead. The flame shudders left and right, then disappears in waxy smoke until I light it again in a sheltered corner of the kitchen near a small window that gives me full view of the backyard as the wind jostles the floodlight near the shed.

Again, nothing but branches strewn across the frozen ground.

I'm going back to bed. Pulling the covers up, I make room for the cat and smooth the top of the blankets.

The best thing you can do is try to sleep. With my head covered in blankets, the wailing finally stops.

In the morning, the weatherman talks about the rising West Wind and the need to tie everything down that could possibly blow away in the 50-mile-per-hour gusts predicted for that afternoon.

Keats wrote "Ode to the West Wind" in the daytime, I think, but not an afternoon like this one I'm standing in, holding my hat, zipping closed my windbreaker, and refusing to raise my eyes as I walk along watching my steps one after another on the pavement.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day

Waking up at 6:30 in the morning on Inauguration Day was like waking up at noon on a regular day. All the good stuff was already out of reach.

The DC metro counted close to 200,000 riders by then, and they were all heading to the National Mall for a primo spot to see Barack Obama take the oath of office and become our 44th President.

If I had managed to get to the metro at 6 am, let's say, maybe I would still be standing there frozen in my boots -- but happy that I had a chance to hear the President's address, and take my place as a witness to history in the making.

Instead, I was under the covers, Walt (the cat) was purring beside me, and my room was as dark as a cave (cabo) at midnight.

I did hear Barack's address on television, and that television was about 6 miles from the Capitol Building. That's how far away Takoma Park is, or how close, depending on whether you're feeling cold just thinking about being outside for 5 hours with 2 million other tried-and-true citizens.

The Chief Justice's flub of the oath of office seemed odd for someone who is supposed to be a stickler for detail. You could tell the soon-to-be President knew the oath by heart. Oh well. The oath still counted. And the President just completed his first day on the job.

I feel better already.
P.S. This image comes from the early campaign days last spring.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Eating Healthy

You never know when a mega-crunch carrot stick or a sweet little strawberry might just save your life.

In this weather the critters that live around our deck -- the wild ones, not Scout, Walt, and Maynard G -- seem to manage with whatever drops down in the spaces between the boards.

Don't get me wrong, picnics are not high on my list when it's 20 degrees outside.

But sometimes I walk out on the deck with a cookie or an apple to scan the trees with my binoculars for a couple of minutes before my toes go numb and my hat blows off into the neighbor's yard.

And a crumb or two or an apple core makes its way to the ground. It's organic right? I don't consider it littering . . . actually I'm exercising my place in the natural scheme of things.

I guess things will be changing next week. With the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, us humans will have to act a little smarter than we have the past 8 years.

Staying inside and studying about how we'll recover from an apparent trillion-dollar deficit, might send me running back outside where the wild things are.

They can join me on January 20 as I make my way down to the National Mall to wish the new President good luck in this heroic endeavor. We have faith . . . and binoculars.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year, New Day

Here's to the promise of a new year . . . Resolutions? Hmm . . .

I'd like to spend a week on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, go to Maui for the 2009 Humpback Whale Count, and finish writing that book about Rhode Island in the 50s . . .

Oh, right, and I do have a job to go to. Luckily I enjoy that work and being part of a great team of writers and designers. It's hard to find a job you really enjoy. I'm lucky.

Did I tell you my first newsletter project was in 4th grade? Yes, you remember, The Knotty Oaker -- our school newsletter.

If I remember correctly, I was editor of that newsletter throughout 4th grade -- that was back in 1957.

A grammar school for first grade through 8th grade, the Knotty Oak School was originally constructed as a high school for kids in the Coventry area.

That same year, my dad led the new high school's baseball team to it first division championship in more than a decade. I was the team mascot and bat girl. I had a mad crush on the team's pitcher, Kenny Wilkinson, and all the cheerleaders were jealous that I got to sit on his lap before the game.

Fourth grade was my first year at Knotty Oak. Quidnick School, not far from my grandpa's place on Hazard Street, was my school for grades 1 to 3. Surviving 3rd grade with one of the Barr twins is a whole other story that includes "What Happened to Bradley Leonard Behind Miss Barr's Upright Piano." She'd step out from behind there with her ruler high in the air hissing, "Who's next?"

I guess most of us made it through 3rd grade -- skinned knees, poison ivy, schoolyard battles, losing your best baseball cards (Willie Mays). By the skin of our teeth, I figure.

On a more current subject, everybody I know is psyched for the new president.

Kate Clinton is calling all hands to participate in a "clean up" at the White House on the eve of the Inauguration on January 19, which is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

We're all supposed to bring "cleaning products" down to the Elipse, and then start scrubbing the old guard out and the new administration in.

Should be fun! For more information, visit Kate's Web site at KateClinton.com.