Old Town, but Not Cold Town

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December 10, 2018, Alexandria, VA-

In the years in which I was stationed at Fort Myer, VA and  in the several visits I’ve made to the Washington area, since then, I had not been in Old Town Alexandria.  The place was just enough off the beaten path that we always made to the National Mall, that I just never got over here.

The Metro has changed things and Alexandria took its rightful place on my itinerary, all the more so because our family dinner, the night before my mother-in-law’s interment, was held at The Warehouse, a fine dining establishment, in lower Old Town.

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This would be one of the best meals I’ve had, in a long time, and that’s saying  a lot, in a year of fabulous repasts. Yet, let;s get back to the start of this visit.

I took a Blue Line train to Alexandria’s Union Station, just after noon.

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Being a bit hungry, and with dinner nearly five hours away, I stopped in at this simple, but charming, little cafe, across from the train station.  As good as the coffee was, I relished the gyro sandwich, as well.

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Old Town, especially on King Street, has a variety of shops with interesting names:  Hard Times Cafe, Stage Door Deli, and this- a unique place, which was closed-it being Monday.

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Here is an eastward view of King Street. The air was cold, but the vibe in Old Town is uniformly warm.

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Even a broken bench was inviting.

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I spent about ninety minutes enjoying the scenes along the Potomac Riverfront, one of the key ingredients in the Alexandria Story.  This town was one of the first great shipbuilding and sail rigging manufacturing cities in the U.S., and continued in that role, right up through World War I.

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In Waterfront Park, the lone statue is that of a shipwright.

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Oystering is Alexandria’s other claim to fame, and Potomac River oysters are proudly served, both on and off the half-shell.  These pilings are left from an old oystering wharf.

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I could not resist zooming in on the U. S. Capitol, nearly six miles away to the north.

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Animals make do with the weather they’re given.  Here, a duck is grooming its mate, in the bracing Potomac waters.

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Jones Point, named for an indentured servant of the Eighteenth Century, is Alexandria’s largest wilderness park, and the southernmost point of Old Town.  It is the site of numerous archaeological digs, a couple of left-over border markers. From 1801-1847, the City of Alexandria was part of the District of Columbia.  A retrocession was passed by Congress in 1846 and took effect the following year, returning Alexandria to the Commonwealth of Virginia.  During the Civil War, however, the city was occupied by Union forces, thus temporarily reversing the retrocession.

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This house was occupied by the keeper of a lighthouse, at Jones Point, in the nineteenth century.

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On the walk back into Old Town, I noted the area’s awakening Christmas spirit.

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The last forty-five minutes before dinner were mostly spent in Torpedo Factory, which is actually Alexandria’s fascinating three-story arts haven.  More than fifty individual galleries are housed here, as are studios to encourage children’s art.

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The bear reminded me to stop by the small, but heartfelt, Old Town Books, and look for a children’s book-for my ten- month-old grandniece, who was at the dinner. I found a flip book on horses, which she found most interesting, both to sight and to touch, a good early sign!

The superb dinner ended a day, the likes of which “Bunny” always approved.

 

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Notes from The Peaceful Sky

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December 9, 2018, Arlington, VA-

So often, a plane flight is viewed as an unpleasant nuisance-especially with the small seats, misplaced luggage and human drama that are so highly touted in the travel media.

My flight from Phoenix to Atlanta was taken in a middle seat, but it was in between two quiet, pleasant gentlemen, who were busy with their own affairs.  In front of us was a woman whose husband was diagonally behind me.  I was glad to be the relay person, a couple of times during the flight, as she handed him what he needed.  Next to her was another couple, mid-40’s, attractive and probably fairly recently connected-they had the air of  teenagers about them, in a charming way.  I am not a stickler about PDA, within reason; it’s what people do when they are attracted to one another.

Hartsfield- Note to myself:  Don’t go for the pizza, next time.  It’s been a long time since the staple food had a bland taste. I’ve been spoiled, I guess, by the pizza of the East Coast, Chicago and across Arizona.

I kind of like getting smiling eyes and mouths from attractive ladies, even when the chance of anything further is nil.

Whilst waiting to show my boarding pass to the agent, I watched a young girl, about 11-12, tell her mother that they should go right to the agent, with their passes, as their section had already boarded. Mother insisted they go to the back of the line.  A kind gentleman, whose turn was next, intervened and convinced the mother that it was okay to go on to the check stand.  Score one for a child’s dignity.

The flight to Reagan National was again a sardine can, with me between a quiet young man and lady, who also kept to themselves. Five rows in front of us, a couple had given their toddler her own seat, but graciously took her to lapland, when the last unseated passenger appeared.  A flight attendant delighted us all, post beverages, with her heartfelt and well-sung rendition of “The Christmas Song”.  The older girl I mentioned above, happened to be seated diagonally across from us.  The look of joy on her face, at this performance, was priceless.

We got in to Reagan National ten minutes early and my transit,from baggage claim to hotel, was bing, bang, boom.  Reagan’s taxi stand is supremely well-oiled; the captain matching travelers, efficiently, with Virginia, DC and Maryland cabbies.

I found Comfort Inn as expected- a teensy bit worn, but clean and warm, a bargain for the next three days.

Service Is Its Own Reward

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December 8, 2018, Prescott-

Service is its own reward,

It’s not hard to pay it forward.

The quarterly seed exchange

took from me two hours,

and gave dozens of families

a healthy means to power.

A dozen or so volunteers

gathered at a Red Cross party,

taking photos with Santa and his missus,

eating hearty,

and looking back on fulfilling their donors’ wishes.

Today was very well spent,

and in serving others,

I promise to not relent.

NEXT:  A Long and Peaceful Journey

 

Acker Night

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December 7, 2018, Prescott-

Every strong community has its special day of community gathering-whether it be a Founders Day or Day of Incorporation.  Prescott has several days of community celebration, including Frontier Days, in July, and Tsunami on the Square, in September. Acker Night, in honour of local arts patron James Acker, is celebrated on the first Friday night in December, and features a variety of musicians, holding court in over 130 downtown businesses.  The aim is to raise money for arts scholarships, and the donations are usually copious.

I’ve gone down there, for 6 of the seven years I’ve lived here continuously and for both Decembers that Penny, Aram and I lived here, previously.  It’s always a incredibly joyful time, regardless of weather or temperature.  I end up taking in at least three performances, usually more.

Tonight, the American Legion post had its annual Christmas Dinner, which took up most of the time allotted to Acker Night.  I still managed to run into a trio of friends, in the heart of the Square.  A couple of visits to performances in the Shops at Hotel  St.Michael followed.  I ended up at the shop of a friend:  Ms. Natural’s and caught their guest guitarist winding up his act.  Claudia’s apple cinnamon cake and a robust coffee  topped off the evening, and I slipped out quietly, so the ladies could finish their closing activities.

On the way back to my apartment, these scenes caught my eye.

Over two thousand people, many from the Phoenix area,  as well us locals, attended this evening’s festivities.  It’s events like this which help give Prescott the moniker, “Everybody’s Hometown”.

Throwback Thursday and Desert Shrimp

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December 6, 2018, Prescott-

Thirty-eight years ago, today, I met the woman who would change my life, immeasurably, for the better.  Penny and I met in a crowded and very simple house, in Zuni, NM, on the night of a house blessing (known as Shalako). We shared a chair, taking turns sitting down and nodding off, during the all-night ceremony.

We ended up sharing everything else, for close to thirty years, all but one of those years as husband and wife.  As I’ve said before, she’s still looking out for me, in ways large and small, since her passing in March, 2011.

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Above, we are flanked by my parents, on our wedding day, June 6, 1982.

We shared many of the same tastes in food, among other things.  We both appreciated healthy and unadulterated ingredients. So, I think she would have liked Desert Sweet Shrimp. https://arizonashrimp.com/

I purchased a pound of these gems, over a month ago, and made two great meals out of them.  The first order of business, when preparing shrimp for a fine repast, is to shell the Caridea (the correct name of the creatures which are bred in this series of well-derived ponds, in Gila Bend, AZ).  Shelling can be done in a variety of ways- the easiest of which is to soak the shrimp in beer, for 8-10 hours. This leads to the shell falling off, almost automatically. I chose to shell each one individually, sans bier, so as to get a feel for the relationship between the shell and the flesh.  Deveining follows, no matter what method one uses for removing the shell.  Deveining means removing the receptacle holding the shrimp’s fecal matter, so it’s a VERY important step.  The Caridea are then rinsed, at least twice, before being added to a recipe.  It took me an hour to properly prepare the shrimp for cooking. Below is an image (Courtesy of Arizona Shrimp Company-all rights reserved) of the actual shrimp that I purchased.

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I prepared most of the shrimp in sopa de camarones (“shrimp soup”), using green onions, chili powder, turmeric and sea salt.   It’s been a favourite of mine, since I first ate it in Puerto Penasco, Sonora, nearly forty years ago.  I used the rest in a small scampi dish, using a recipe posted on In Diane’s Kitchen, https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/114793426/posts/27651 , on September 13.

Both were exquisite meals, which gave me sustenance for over a week.    I hope to visit the actual facility, during a few days in the West Valley and Gila Bend, right after New Year’s.  I also hope the company will continue a presence at Prescott Farmers’ Market, next spring and summer.

This is the first of a series of posts honouring the festive, and deeper, aspects of the great December holidays.    NEXT:  Prescott’s Acker Night.

 

 

Setting Things Right

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December 5, 2018, Prescott-

Whilst on the exercise bike, this evening, I glimpsed a segment of “Property Brothers”, in which the men were called to rehabilitate a house that was ravaged by carpenter ants, mold and shoddy original construction.  They made the restoration happen, with a tight team effort and more money spent than planned.

Life is that way, for so many of us. We take up the slack for others, and ask for more money in the process.  Some of that money doesn’t get repaid on the lender’s schedule and some  lenders raise the roof.  Some of the shoddy workmanship causes more trouble than it’s worth, and the fixers walk away.

I thought about my own life.  A month from now, small debts will have been repaid.  A couple of  sidetracks will have been calmly brought to an end, with thanks said to the good souls involved.  I will be on track to visit my little family, in Korea.  My schedule in 2019, outside of work, will otherwise be pretty much open, otherwise,.

The prime mission I have is to set things right- with any loved one who has misunderstood my absences, silences or abrupt changes of plans, over the past few years, but especially this year.  Some of that will happen next week, and the rest will  follow.

For the next several days, I will focus on a variety of things, in the nineteen days leading up to, and including, Christmas.  The first of these is desert-grown shrimp.

Illusions that Limit

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December 4, 2018, Prescott-

I read about you today,

the “chamberlain” drinkers,

who contrive beverages of everything

from cough syrup to aerosol propellant.

These are to help you escape,

what you see as an untenable,

unbearable reality.

I read about the stock market,

flailing, and looking for any excuse,

to take other people’s money,

to strike back at the government

or to just take the money and spend it,

willy nilly.

I read about the lawsuits,

going in both directions,

to also strike back

at one’s political opponents

or at people with whom

one disagrees in areas

as widely separated,

as religion and commerce.

These pastimes are those

of the lost,

of those whose faith is

in scarcity.

My faith is in abundance.

I have a duty to my body,

to see that what goes into it,

is at least digestible,

does not poison my vital organs,

or numb my brain.

I have a duty to my elders,

including the departed,

to take what they have

so generously left me,

and nurture it.

I have a duty to my fellow humans,

to not besmirch their dignity,

to not savage them,

for their different viewpoints,

but to encourage their growth,

along with my own.

My faith is in abundance.

The Little Sticker Bur

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December 4, 2018, Prescott-

Life is going pretty much as it should be, right now.

There is still that little sticker bur,

though,

in my head,

or actually,

all through me,

my heart sinking for some reason.

When we were kids,

the sicker burs,

sometimes got onto our clothes,

or in our shoes.

It’s like that today,

and I’m not sure why

the free-floating anxiety

is hitting so hard.

Maybe the feeling,

that I have enraged someone.

I picked up on that,

from the person’s terse message,

yesterday.

I will find out,

soon enough,

next week.

Whatever happens,

I know it’ll be okay,

once the storm passes.

 

The Unbreakable Thread

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December 3, 2018, Prescott-

This evening, I made arrangements to attend next week’s services for my mother-in-law.  It will be my second visit to that gravesite, in Arlington National Cemetery, and all the more important, because I will be representing my son, as well as myself.  I will be honouring the people who have gave me the love of my life and who have given me the seeds of financial security- seeds that I have to plant and start to make grow, a few weeks hence.

Real family is an unbreakable thread, even when someone doesn’t understand, and tries to snip it, out of fear, anger, frustration or whatever negative emotion is in the recesses of their heart.  I have been very fortunate, in that respect. Even those in my extended family, and circle of friends, who roll their eyes at some of the things that come out of my mouth or find their way onto the pages of my sites, have, with  few exceptions, stayed with me. I will, as I have said frequently, stay by them as well.

Feet of Clay

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December 1, 2018, Prescott-

You say that my dear friend,

someone I love very much,

is not measuring up,

not cutting the mustard.

I know differently.

I know just how hard,

how diligently,

how effectively,

my friend has pleaded your case.

I know the high regard in which

you have been held,

in my friend’s estimation.

Frankly,

I have always had my doubts.

No human being,

myself included,

even remotely

approaches the level,

of  Jesus the Christ,

of  Gautama Siddhartha ,

of Baha’u’llah.

You have made

some very high claims.

You have not exactly SAID

you are above it all,

but by your behaviour of late,

you act as if that is the case.

I love my friend,

and will stand by her,

throughout.

You, though,

will have to

be content,

hardening your feet of clay.