Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The joys of public transit

My legs ache from the uphill walk to Metro this morning and my shoulders are complaining of the hike last night with a banjo. And if I'd just give in, I could walk a couple of blocks from my office and have a car again while I wait for mine to get out of the shop. Instead I'm considering taking Metro on Thursdays anyway, even once the car is repaired, at least while the weather is so nice.

If that consideration were based solely on my wish to help the environment, it would likely be a tough sell to my aching limbs, I confess, but there are other compensations, even aside from the slow toning my legs are getting.

Yesterday, as I went to pick up the card that would allow me to use the Zipcar system (which I'm enjoying. I use a car when I absolutely have to, but otherwise don't have to worry about it - no getting a guest pass for my building, no looking for parking in my neighborhood. Pure genius.), Craig and I met on a train platform. We emerged from the tunnel into warm late afternoon sunlight. A couple blocks down to the Zipcar office, and I notice that the actual street it's on is closed for a farmer's market. Score! After I get my Zipcard, we began wandering around, looking at the goodies on display.

I wound up with a quart of really *good* yogurt - this stuff reminds me of the yogurt my mom made for me as a kid, some tomatoes, some greens, a block of feta from the yogurt guy, half a boule of really crusty bread - nicely yeasty and chewy, 2 perfect Asian pears, just wanting a day or two, 2 portabellas, with an extra stem thrown in ("It's good for soup - just chop it up real good"), and a head of organically grown garlic. Back down into the Metro, plotting my purchases into a tasty dinner (portabella steaks with chopped garlic and a little white wine on toasted crusty bread, a salad with heirloom tomatoes, feta cheese, and a light dressing. For dessert? Yogurt and honey.), I take a few moments as the train emerges from the tunnel into the light to do a little quick birdwatching - you see, the train comes out behind a shopping center, and where the parking lot ends is a bit of a swampy area, where I sometimes see herons. I saw one on Monday, but not last night.

I think breakfast tomorrow may be mushroom soup with crusty bread, since tonight, a friend is holding a birthday gathering and I've been wanting that soup for nearly a day now. I'm thinking next week of looking at the mixed mushroom boxes, seeing if any cooking greens are looking good (one of the few things that improves mushroom soup is adding a few chopped greens), checking out the mixed grain cider bread (in little loaves), picking up the dried mushroom mix and some more of that amazing yogurt. Maybe even a quart of cider by then... And some green zebra tomatoes, because they're just so nifty looking...

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More insurance updating

Because I do drive to get to my banjo lessons, and a friend is having a birthday party tonight, I've got a rental. On the good side, it isn't the SUV they threatened me with at first. On the bad side, I've had inflatable rafts with better handling. I'm sounding pitiful here, I know, but I want my little import back.

Heck, just give me a daily rental allowance and I'll use it towards a Zipcar, a car sharing program that has little cars scattered in parking spaces around town, rentable in segments as short as an hour, or as long as a regular rental, I suppose. I still have a membership, and they have cars that aren't bathtubs with wheels. Since I wouldn't be renting a car just to park it someplace for days on end, I bet I could even save the insurance company some money. I also wouldn't be nearly as grumpy about the rental, feeling I had some more control over the situation.

UPDATE: I turned the rental in. It had some kind of noise going on, the brakes were slushy, I just didn't feel safe in it, so I turned it in, and the insurance company has given me the go-ahead for car sharing, provided the cost doesn't go above a particular level. Fine by me. I've got a car share reserved for my banjo lesson tonight, and we'll go from there. I'm considering reserving a Civic to take Craig to a star party on Saturday...

Cultural understanding, anybody recognize the term?

Once again, the world is being painted in the stark black and white of an old Western, where you can tell the "good guys" and the "bad guys" apart by their choice in headgear. (Though I will confess that my own division in my last post, based on the fuel efficiency of one's mode of transport is only slightly better...)

One aspect that has been driving me absolutely nuts is the number of people pronouncing opinions on the current government of Iran who have no idea how that government came to be, no idea of significant bits of Persian culture, and often no notion of Persian history aside from a vague reference to "the Shah". As I found myself saying to a professor I had taken several classes from when I attended university, I'm appalled at the level of ignorance prevalent among the so-called "experts" paraded before the American public.

Last night, as I waited to be seated in a restaurant in my neighborhood, I happened to look up at the television, tuned to some "news" program, where two men were trading banter back and forth that demonstrated a deep ignorance of American history, never mind world history. Both were serious looking white men with grey hair in grey suits. I sat, stunned, as they proposed dismantling significant American foreign policy initiatives, citing expense. I wanted to yell at them, absolutely scream at their vicious disregard for any lives that weren't as privileged as their own.

Why do I sometimes feel like the only honest fool in DC?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And the next bit...

Well, the insurance is settling out nicely. Tomorrow, a truck comes to carry the car away to be fixed, and I am authorized to get a rental from a major chain that has cars all over the area. Whee. It does mean I will get my banjo lesson after all, this week.

I am, however, feeling more than a wee bit grumpy about SUV drivers, given that first I'm rear-ended by a van on a truck chassis, then as I take public transit, I have the joy of watching an SUV roll through a light, despite there being a couple of pedestrians ready to cross on the Walk signal. Naturally, he was talking on his cell phone.

I'm asking for a small car, but I hope they have one that's brightly colored, since I'm personally convinced that the monster size of these "cars" is convincing the drivers thereof that they don't have to notice little things.

But I don't think it *should* be that way. I think that our cities should be made safer for smaller transportation and for pedestrians. I think that my car (currently on the small side for American transportation) should be one of the larger noncommercial vehicles seen in an urban environment. I think there should be room on our roads for scooters, pedestrians, NEVs, and other smaller, slower solutions. I'm very glad that my car protected me as well as it did, but what protected me even better than my car was the low speed of the impact. Had I been hit at a higher speed, I certainly would have been the worse for it.

Friday, September 21, 2007


And now, I get to dance the Insurance Jig.

I'd rather be dancing the Kentucky Waltz, but there you are. I've talked with my insurance company and the insurance company for the van that hit me. I've learned where (once I have permission to do so) I may take my poor Civic.

And I've been taking public transit to work. On the upside, it's not too hot and not too cold right now, and the trees are pretty, and I get to read on my way to work... But I'm so tired when I do get home that it's a bit of a pain to make dinner. *sigh* I've gotten seriously spoiled, I'm afraid. (Not to mention that my spending on gas is somewhat lower than the cost of a train ticket every day.)

All of which has left me daydreaming about not having to commute. That tiny house with the little office and an internet connection looks more and more attractive every day... Particularly in a town with no rush hour. Where I could have a yard, and access to forestland. It was particularly galling to realize that some condos around here have higher downpayments than the total cost of a cabin on a couple acres (with approved septic) back home. Ouch.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back from Adventuring

I'm back safe, despite a small misadventure along the way.

Last week, I found out that my mom was going to get recognized for the work she has done in promoting rural healthcare, so I arranged to take some time off and drove back home with my husband. During my time there, I also attended the formal welcoming home of my Dad's National Guard unit, and was asked to accompany him as he received his standing down order. (Woot! he's offically home!) While I found some aspects of the ceremony disturbing, this time the ceremony did not include a sermon and was held in a school rather than a church.

Right after coming home from that ceremony, we headed off to another town, for my mom's recognition. Whew! Luckily, the town was one I was well familiar with, having met my husband there when we both attended the same university. We all ate at a favorite haunt - locally sourced organic foods (with really tasty fair trade hot cocoa.) There's just something *about* the beans and rice platter there. Mmmm. And then stayed at the brand new hotel right on the edge of town.

While my parents were busy meeting with some people about rural health care innovations the next morning, my husband and I went to the library and talked with someone I'd once worked with back when I was a student, and offered to help another student who wants to come out East. And then we dropped in on one of my favorite professors, who was totally flabbergasted to see me again - I'd been among her first students, and we caught up a little, then spent some time visiting with some other professors from the department.

And then got to attend the rubber chicken dinner for my mom. (Couldn't we please have a different default for boring awards dinners? It seems like they always serve overdone chicken, usually with some peppers on the plate. *sigh*) Then drove back to my parents' place. (Where we had the local pizza. And, even better, the salad with my favorite dressing. Mmmmm.)

Finally, yesterday, we started to head back here and made it most of the way home before being involved in a fender-bender a couple miles from the apartment. *sigh* Both my husband and I are fine, as is the driver of the van that hit us, but now the trunk on the hybrid won't close. The crumple zones did what they are supposed to do and sacrificed themselves for the greater good, but it was definitely a scary experience. The car is drivable, but we have to wait for insurance to tell us what do do about the back.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My imaginary life: Writer's Island

Earlier this week, I attended a lecture sponsored by a group interested in the future of space science, and they brought in a Nobel Prize winner who had helped to map some of what we think might be the history of the universe. It was fascinating, especially when he talked about how so much of what is in the world today is the leftover bits of exploding stars.

And I couldn't help but think then about what it is to be made of stardust, each of us, the air we breathe, the planet we cling to... we are the same stuff as those perpetual lights that give us hope in the dark night. Do we choose to take our place in the celestial dance?

The lecture went on to talk about a new telescope that is being built with origami folds to bloom like a flower when it is launched far into space, but I was still gliding on intergalactic winds, wishing I could bring the world with me into the star filled night.

My stardust hands
reach to you,
a similar galactic swirl,
child of the cosmos,
leftover debris

Your sad eyes remind me
of drifting cold space,
eternities of darkness,
hoping for starlight
to shine through you
Illuminating a new planet

http://writersisland.wordpress.com/ Thanks to Rae for introducing me to yet another prompt...

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Simplicity: One deep breath

Rainy day book
Cup of herb tea
Simple pleasures

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

5-string goodness

Woot! A couple weeks ago, I managed "Skip to My Lou" as a duet, but figured it would be a while yet on "Polly Wolly Doodle". Last night, I clumsily made it though a duet of "Polly Wolly Doodle" as well as another of "Skip to My Lou". *Happy dance*

And I have a new song to run my finger through the music as I repeat the sounds to myself - I can't remember not being able to read and learning, but I'm beginning to get an inkling of how hard that process sometimes can be (Wait, no, that's a B and this is a G... B, B, G... Oops, no, A... Wait, is this an F sharp here?) I'm still working out what the notes *are*, never mind trying to say this is a half and this is a quarter and this is a dotted eighth. I was proud of myself last night for catching my own mistakes by saying "that doesn't look right for that note" and figuring it out. Not, mind you, proud because I read it well, but because I did it at all.

And now, I have "Oh, Suzannah", or at least the first few bars to work out on the banjo.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

One Deep Breath: Grandparents

Work hard hands
Hold granddaughter on tractor
Corn tassels below

Player piano
Deep bass and chirped child's voice
"How Great Thou Art"
Family gathers around
Evening crickets sing along

Tobacco and earth
Granddaddy takes his rest
Bird dogs nap outside

Dusty overalls
Day's work done, nap
Granny makes dinner.

Silver hair, sharp eyes
"Get away from that road!
Big ole truck'll run you down."
Oh, sweet forbidden berries
Down by red clay dust.

Potato harvest,
Plaid shirts and runaway mules,
Granny tells stories,
Magic words carry me back
Before I was born.

Last breath failing,
He held her hand tight.
Final goodbye
Long years, ten children, a farm
He crossed Jordan first.

Granny writes
Poems from the mountains.
Sometimes, so do I.

From wartime Europe,
Seeking safe harbor, to live,
Oma und Opa came,
Kristallnacht still in nightmares,
Starting all over again.

Faded letters, photos
Family killed, broken, scattered,
But she survives.

"My darling, come here."
Eyes fading, but mind swift, sharp
Joy: grandson's visit.
"Just a little kaffe, kuchen..."
A feast in peace, freedom.

The first poems concern my grandparents and great-grandparents on my dad's side. I used to live for trips back to the farm - rides on Grandpa's tractor, time in the kitchen with Granny, visiting the birddogs with Granddaddy, smelling of his tobacco, and Grandma, who had eyes in the back of her head and just knew when we kids were headed for the blackberry bushes near the road.

The last few concern my husband's currently surviving grandmother who came to America after getting her husband back following a Yom Kippur raid on their synagogue. Only a few members of their family survived.

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