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.

 

,

 

 

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 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.

 

 

One Heart’s Fortune

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November 30, 2018, Prescott-

This evening, with a fairly peaceful week of work behind me, and a resolution to the dilemma, that I described in the last post, having been put into motion, I attended the opening night of a play, “Hannah’s Heart”, about a 10-year-old girl in Depression-era Prescott, her family, and two benefactors.

Like many families in the 1930’s, the Meadows’ were a brood led by a swaggering father, who was, ironically, recovering from an injury, and a stoic mother, focused on what she could do to make up for the loss of her husband’s productivity.  The ebb in their fortunes led to older daughter Hannah Grace, stepping up to make tree ornaments, by the sale of which she could provide gifts for her family.

The flow that this effort provided helped reverse the family’s low fortune, at least temporarily.  She was aided in her work by two angelic figures, an elderly woman who lived alone and who was befriended by the Meadows’ and a robust man from Texas, who took on the work, around the family farm, that Mr. Meadows was unable to do.  Both of them mentored Hannah, encouraging her to follow her heart.

I enjoy this sort of down-to-earth, human interest story.  It mirrors the many tales I’ve heard over the years, from both sides of my large extended family, as well as from my departed in-laws.  The format of the play has an elderly Hannah Grace, in the present day, telling her Millennial granddaughter about the events of that long-ago Christmas.  It behooves all present-day youth to learn what they can of that time in history, from those who lived it if possible, so as to be better able to handle similar situations, which could very well arise, in their own lifetimes.

 

Bumps

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November 29, 2018, Prescott-

It was overcast, almost gloomy, this morning. It seemed the community was almost at a standstill.  Lines were a bit longer; traffic, a bit heavier.  Our students were a bit later, getting to school.

My new phone will wait until the weekend, to get set up. Snags appeared, in getting to my mother-in-law’s services.  There was an overall mood of grouchiness, hereabouts.

Noon came and went, with the day being fairly routine, once we got going.  By 2 p.m., the sky had cleared, at least for a time.  By 4, a possible solution to the above mentioned travel snags had presented itself.  I had a good chiropractic session and took a blessed nap.

Bumps in the road are temporary, if we can see past them.  The other thing is to not be attached to a given outcome.  I would be a bit saddened, if it turns out I don’t get to pay my respects to “Bunny” at her gravesite.  I will not be shattered, though.  There is plenty of need for me to be right here.

Tomorrow, November will bid us farewell and yet another festive season will take its place on stage.  I am another 360 around the Sun, and still sense a lot of fine things are in store, especially if we endure their opposite numbers.

Full Speed Ahead?

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November 28, 2018, Prescott-

It was certainly a whirlwind birthday, after I got off work.  The crew gave me a lovely fruit tart, which I cut in fours and shared with them.  There were plenty of balloons with which the kids enjoyed playing, when we were not busy with tasks at hand.  Otherwise, it was a fairly peaceful day, in the room.

Afterwards, I set myself towards getting my new phone set up.  Other than getting the SIM card installed, though, it was a no-go.  T-Mobile has too many hoops through which to jump, for someone like me to go DIY.  I may be able to still set the phone up online, once I locate certain passwords and PINS; otherwise, it’ll wait until Sunday, when I will be in Phoenix for other business.

It was far more rewarding to visit the mother of a local friend, in hospital.  A little pine plant and a Christmas healing card seemed to make her very happy.  I spent about an hour with mother and daughter, before the evening nurse visit signaled it was time for me to head out.

Once back home, after dinner and a brief session on Planet Fitness massage equipment, I spent a while on the phone with Aram.  Looks like the Korea visit, next March, is moving full speed ahead, in terms of my hosts’ plans for the week.  Passport is still in progress, but I think that’ll be resolved by mid-December.

More readily will be the trip to Washington, to pay last respects to my mother-in-law, as her interment will be on December 11.  So, without further ado, I will be making travel arrangements, tomorrow and Friday.

Besides the above, 2019 is looming as a year without a full-on agenda.  I know, from past experience, that this will change.  My small universe abhors a vacuum, as much as does the larger one.  I am just glad to wake each morning, go and take care of tasks at hand and be loving to those who cross my path, whether that love gets reciprocated or not.  I still remain wary of those whose rage seems to eclipse whatever good qualities they have, but we take some people one step at a time.  Most everyone else, though, treat me like royalty and they get the same back.

Now, on to the blessings of the last two days of November and of 2018’s closing month.

The Cusp

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November 27, 2018, Prescott-

As I look back on being 67, living my 68th year, there have been some delirious high points- The wedding gathering of my youngest niece and nephew-in-law, the marriage of my son and daughter-in-law, the deep, loving welcomes I received at some friends’ home in Mishawaka, IN; at Auberge Bishop, in Montreal; at the above-mentioned gathering, in Philadelphia; in my in-laws’ home, in Florida; at a friend’s house in Salisbury, NC;  at a family gathering of some friends, in Crossville, TN; at Convergence at Arcosanti.

These loving environments almost overwhelmed me, but they shouldn’t have.  I have been very well-treated, for many years now, by the vast majority of those closest to me.  I am not sure why the shadows, the relatively few dark episodes of the year now coming to a close, seem to loom so large.  In objective terms, they pale beside all the times I have been greeted by my dear friends, at regular events around our area.

My steadfast friends range from those I see daily, at work, to those I see 2-3 times a week, at faith events, to those who, for whatever reason, I rarely see or with whom I seldom speak.  Then, too, there are the thousand-plus fields of people who regularly read my posts, and who have showered so much love on me, some for nearly a decade.  There are those I have met, who have become friends for the long term and others who are nice enough, but whose inner pain has taken them out of my life, after just a few encounters.  I last saw one of those people, not two days ago.

As with any year, there were farewells:  My mother-in-law and her older sister; one of Penny’s maternal cousins; a dedicated staff member at a Baha’i Institute, northeast of here; a long-time friend in New Zealand and several friends and elders from my childhood, most prominently an upstreet neighbour, who was virtually one of my surrogate fathers.

There were also hellos, some fleeting- like the woman who got me to put Penny’s and my wedding bands on my right ring finger and another woman who got me to attend a Game Night at a local coffee house. Neither were very long in my life. There are also the hoop dancers of Phoenix and the crews at Ms. Natural’s, Cuppers and Rustic Pie, here in town. These friendships are more likely to last.

The year brought me to California, in late winter, and from Nevada -to Quebec -to Florida and back to Arizona.  I camped in both rain and clear sky, spent a night in a private condominium,   stayed in four hostels, a business hotel, seven motels, three comfortable homes and slept one night in my car.

It has been a year of risks and rewards, more so than some years. It has prepared me for more.