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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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”.

Gratitude Week, Day 7: The Finest Fruits

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November 24, 2018, Prescott-

I have decided to end this week of gratitude, by looking back at the ten best choices I ever made.  I am grateful to the Universe for having placed these in front of me and I have a measure of self-gratitude for having made them.

10,  Serving in the Army– At 18, I had little to show for my life. There was no discipline, of which to speak and my world consisted of drooling over girls and imbibing too much alcohol, too fast.  Other-imposed discipline gave me a regimen, which I could add to the work ethic that my parents instilled in each of us and it set me on  a course of self-reliance, which I still need and use.

9.  Studying Psychology- It didn’t make me wealthy and barely got me a job, but knowing something of what makes the human mind tick has given me insight into myself and has made me more understanding of others.

8. Living on the Navajo Nation- I have a strong genetic memory of the Indigenous. I am not much, in terms of blood quantum, but my nature fairly burns with the feeling that I belong in the woodlands; that I am a gatherer and a sharer; that I am one with the Universe. Being on the same page, day to day, with Dineh (Navajo) and Hopi people reinforced that unity.

7. Blogging-   Writing is a skill that three of my four high school English teachers saw as a talent that I needed to sharpen.  They gave me the tools to keep on sharpening that talent.  College brought it up another notch.  As a caretaker, and then as a widower, far from extended family, blogging gave me an outlet, one step up from journaling  (which I also still do) and a wider appreciative audience.

6, Returning to work, full time- In 2016, having been a substitute teacher, with a couple of other jobs, whilst being Penny’s caretaker, I found a niche at Prescott High School.  My place there was, more or less, secure and I was urged to return full-time, for the years leading up to my retirement from education.  That work has been fulfilling, and will remain so until I reach 70, two years from now.

5.  Working as a counselor- As a school counselor, I was able to impact thousands of lives, over the span of eleven years, between Tuba City and Keams Canyon/Jeddito, and some of those lives were saved.  I am haunted by  a few lives that weren’t and by those I couldn’t reach.  The majority, though, learned life skills and resilience, and knew that someone had their backs.

4. Settling in Prescott- The job aside, moving here after Penny’s passing was a lifesaver.  I had the anchor of a house, for the time I needed it, and of a Faith Community with whom I was already familiar and who were not intimate with Penny’s suffering.  That last was important.  I could not have the constant reminders of all that we had endured together.  Since then, I have made many new friends and branched out in several directions-all healthy.

3. Widespread travel-Besides going back and forth from Arizona to the East Coast, for family visits, my wanderlust has taken me to western Europe, Hawai’i, the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska.  I took in a small swath of eastern Canada, last summer and am likely to cross our northern neighbour again, in the summer of 2020.  California, Nevada and Colorado have also seen a lot of me, these past seven years, as have the South and Midwest.  This is an essential part of who I am.

2.  Getting married- I have always been crazy about girls and women.  There isn’t much about the opposite gender that I don’t like, though I am proud to be male.    Self-dislike got in the way, though, when I found myself drawn to one young lady after another.  Penny didn’t fall for any of that, and we built a solid foundation, by which both of us were able to tame most of our demons and raise a fine young man, who has taken his full place in the world.

1. Recognizing Baha’u’llah- I received a solid spiritual foundation, having been raised in the Roman Catholic faith. As I matured, though, the rituals and practices began to feel automatic to me, and I have always known that there is a continuity to Divine Revelation, superseding any one of the faiths or denominations that are commonplace.  In 1972, I heard of Baha’u’llah, and the Baha’i Faith, for the first time.  Nine years later, I embraced Baha’i as my own.  I have found its precepts teach everything in which I already believe, and the teachings regarding health are exactly what I needed, to tame the demon of alcohol dependence.  Far beyond those, however, are the vision of planetary and human unity-dispelling the darknesses of racism, nationalism and excessive materialism.

I am sure I will have other choices to make, in the coming days, months, and years.  Perhaps a life-changer will be among them, as well.

Gratitude Week, Day 5: Family

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November 22, 2018, Prescott-

There is no more important institution in this world than family.  I  have spent time, this year, with people who cherish their families and those who despise their families.  Counting myself among the former, I enjoyed communication with one of my siblings, and left messages for my mother and two other siblings. Son and daughter-in-law are on for tomorrow, by Messenger phone.

My family also includes those close to me here. In late morning, I went with one of my better friends to an early holiday meal. A young couple included me in their noon Thanksgiving gathering, so five of us enjoyed a perfect, complete traditional dinner, in the couple’s comfortable home in Dewey, a twenty-minute drive from Prescott. The meal had a British, rather Celtic, touch to it, having been largely prepared by a delightful young lady form England, who is a co-worker of the husband.  I ate with relish, but in moderation, knowing there was another gathering in store for me, later on. After a wide-ranging, two-hour conversation, following the meal, I headed home for a brief rest.

Towards evening, I headed out again, for yet another perfect gathering, at the forest home of another of my best friends.  The family, whom I have known for five years, was joined this year by my friend’s older daughter and her bright, engaging 2-year-old grandson. It’s always a sublime pleasure to watch a child experiencing things which we may regard as commonplace, for the first time, and with great enthusiasm.  He had great joy showing me each of his toy vehicles and telling what they were.  His other pleasure was in helping decorate his grandmother’s Christmas tree.  My friend pulls out all the stops in her holiday meal, with plenty of help from her two daughters and a sister.  After the meal, we all watched “The Greatest Showman”, which reminded me of the very basic commitment that is family and how easy it is to lose track of what matters.

I have had my variation on the dilemma faced by P.T. Barnum- Does career matter so much that family becomes trivial?  My choice was similar to his; when career threatened my marriage, I pulled back from work.  When Penny’s health declined, work became nearly irrelevant, much to the consternation of my superiors and their politician-benefactors.  Like Barnum, I bounced back and survived.

In the long term, my son is doing well, as are my siblings.  Mother is holding her own.  I am in a good place, in terms of work and in terms of friends.  The bedrock, though, is in how I was raised and in the importance I have given to those closest to me.  That will only get stronger, as time goes on.

Gratitude Week, Day 3: Health

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November 20, 2018, Prescott-

The last day of work before Thanksgiving came and went, with barely a hitch.  The students are surrounded by people who want to be working with them.  That has not always been the case, and the kids know when it isn’t.

Health, both physical and mental, depends not only on one’s genes and personal habits, but on how connected one is to those around us. I have been in good health for over ten years now, even counting the infections contracted whilst I was Penny’s caretaker and the recent knee strain.  It has been being surrounded by a largely independent, but genuinely loving, network of friends, to whom I paid homage two days ago, and to extended family, to whom I will pay similar tribute on Thanksgiving Day, which has brought me home, in terms of radiance and stamina.

A good daily balance of work and play, rest and activity, socialization and solitude has kept me in recovery from whatever ailments are brought on by aging and occasional stress.  I am grateful to do Terra essential oils, Planet Fitness and our systems of forests and parks, at all levels of government and of private landowners (Nature Conservancy, various local trusts) who allow access to their treasured sites.  I am indebted to those who provide healthful food and beverages, often but not always, free of Genetically-Modified Organisms and sometimes meatless.

I have much towards which to work, both gainfully and as a volunteer, over the next several years.  My health community is a key component of the process.

Tomorrow, I will offer a shout-out to those who have kept our communities, states and country safe and to those who work towards a safer world.

Gratitude Week, Day 2: Each New Beginning

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November 19, 2018, Prescott-

Mondays begin my work week. Contrary to many, I find Mondays invigorating and encouraging.  Each new beginning in my life is cause for celebration, whether a sunrise, a new week, month or year.  Each birthday allows me to celebrate what has happened in the year gone by, and to anticipate what lies in the year ahead.

Every new food is a joy.  That is, after all, I fell in love with full-bellied fried clams, green vegetables, omelets and green smoothies, at various points in my life.

Being in a new place is most often a joy. There is always something that connects me to the familiar and something that broadens my life.  Having now set foot on five continents, (Africa and Antarctica are in my intermediate future), I am glad to say there is nowhere that I felt unsafe.

Here’s to many more phoenixes!

 

Gratitude Week, Day 1: Eight Valuable Groups of Friends

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November 18, 2018, Prescott-

I am devoting Thanksgiving week to specific reasons for gratitude. Each day will address a theme that is cause for praise and happiness. Today, I want to look at what I’ve gained, from friendships with people in ten different groups.

Senior citizens:  Those over 75 years of age (my arbitrary definition of senior citizen) have accrued the life skills and practice to address even the most anomalous of occurrences.  Those who have all their faculties intact have consistently pointed me in the right direction.

Teenagers: Having worked largely with teens, over the past forty-two years, I find their honesty and energy have been life-affirming and have kept me very much in a place of integrity. A teen’s “BS Meter” is equal to that of a senior citizen.  The current generation of youth, at least those with whom I work, seem to know that much will be expected of them, in the very near future.

Children under twelve:  Like those immediately older than they, the current generation of children has a sense of most likely needing to clean up messes made by others. They tend to have a strong sense of destiny and are the least likely to “be seen and not heard”.  I find their honesty also very refreshing, even when it is seemingly adversarial.

Happily married (both genders):  I have many friends, both male and female, who are at a good place in their marriages.  The perspective brought by a married person, with no ax to grind, actually is a blend of both their opinion and that of their spouse-thus being more grounded.  I am more likely to become friends as well, with the spouse of  a friend who is happy in wedlock.

The firm in faith:   A person who is well-grounded, but not dogmatic, in their faith is most likely to be open to the commonality of spiritual truth.  As this commonality is the basic teaching of the Baha’i Faith, to which I adhere, I find this firmness a compelling basis for my friendships with many who adhere to other faith traditions.

The happily engaged:  Whether in gainful employment or in acts of voluntarism, a person who is happy in what s(he) is doing with time, is an affirmation of my own concept of acts of service.  Happily engaged people tend to be more trustworthy and connected with others.

Lifelong learners:  Students of life, of every age group, present fresh perspectives to any given situation.  They also challenge me to keep on looking into new issues, or to look at old matters, with fresh eyes.

Special Needs people:  Whether simple in nature or full of complexity, my friends of  special need are always up front about what addresses those needs.  It takes intuition, to understand the feelings and wants of a special needs person.  Anything that hones intuition is a good experience.

Having friends in each, and sometimes several, of these categories is largely what has contributed to the richness of my life.

 

 

 

 

Veterans, Donuts and Honouring Commitments

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November 12, 2018, Prescott-

Today is an extension of Veterans Day, being the Monday after a Sunday holiday.  It is also the birthday of a friend, so there will be a small luncheon in her honour, just before Noon.  Before that, though, there is a donuts for vets event, at our local Veterans Center.

These two events will find me showing up, yet there is also the matter of tying up loose ends, by delivering the remaining items I had stored for the individual I mentioned yesterday.  That will begin the afternoon.  Then, I have several hours of “me-time”, and can enjoy the coolness of a crisp Fall day.  For the first time in a while, I will take my camera with me, and just walk-somewhere.

Commitments are huge, and one of the things I have had to work on-under my own terms, is presence.  I am making progress, despite occasional setbacks, and no amount of screaming and yelling on anyone’s part is going to deter me from meeting that goal.  My honour is intact.

I have found, once again, that the vast majority of people in the world are fine folks.  I am in a good place, in this community, and have been treated well on the road, also.  There was a brief period, last month, when I did not feel safe.  That came from giving too much power and importance to someone else-and that is behind me.  One must never hand control over to another, no matter how loud and manipulative that other person is.

Things are returning to good, once again.  Happy Veteran’s Day, Part II, to all who have served our nation.

 

Cocoon

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November 5, 2018, Prescott-

Yesterday was another one of those days which found me out and about, helping others in their noble efforts.  Not long ago, someone challenged me, with regard to my involvement in the community. The point that this person made was that all these activities constituted a sort of cocoon, guarding me against connecting with my inner conflicts. I was then advised to drop all activities and sequester myself, as soon as possible.

Little does that individual know, but my real cocoon, if you will, is indeed being here, in this small apartment, away from anyone.  The reality is, and has been, that part of me is terrified of being around people who don’t really want me there.  I spent yesterday afternoon seated with strangers, two of whom were openly hostile to my presence at their table.  They were quiet about it, as the effusive person seated next to me was gracious and made sure I felt welcome.   I am quite intuitive, though, and pick up on both positive and negative feelings.

Being involved with community groups is hardly a cocoon, though it can feel quite dark at times.  I do these activities because in the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, it is written: “Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.”  We Baha’is are to be good in groups, not cloistered in virtue or hiding “our light under a bushel”, as it were.  I have always been one who has had to struggle, mightily, to be among people. Penny helped pull me out of the shell, to the extent that, to outward seeming, I am something of a social butterfly, with lots of friends.  I do feel the warmth of many, both online and in real time, especially among my Baha’i friends.  I also feel the grudging tolerance of several people, and take that for what is worth.

My point here is that being involved with the good of the community is not a  source of comfort, nor is it a protection against any inner turmoil.  That protection comes when I commune with the Creator, in the early hour before dawn, at midday and in the evening.  Then, alone, do I summon the energy to face the world, and the ravages that go along with the joys.

Face The Lion

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October 28, 2018, Prescott-

One month remains of my being 67.  October, thus far, has been another instance of what the forest rangers call “facing the lion”, the feline in this case being a mountain lion (aka cougar or puma).  The broader meaning of this, of course, is facing one’s trials, without flinching.

I stood for what I believe, earlier this month, was castigated for it by a troubled soul and am not sorry for standing my ground.  I have promised to not harp on this, so I won’t. The most important thing is that, if I am all but ordered to compromise who I am, under pain of disapproval- I will take the scratches and bite marks of disapproval.

Physically, I have recovered from a mild injury to my left knee and am maintaining a rehabilitative exercise regimen.  It was gratifying to have returned to our local Planet Fitness, this evening, and to have been able to complete my usual exercise regimen, with a few modifications.

Yesterday, I chose to stay close to home during the day, rather than go down to Phoenix for what would have been a mere hour, before returning to this area for a Halloween party.  The day was greatly satisfying, though, as I attended a Fall Festival, at the site of the chiropractic office which I use.  There were many raffles, and I won a plastic sled.  The sled ended up going to a five-year-old boy.  I believe every child ought to have the enjoyment of sledding on snow- and in his grandparents’ yard, to boot!

The Halloween party, at my lead teacher’s home, was a masterful blend of food and imaginative visual effects.   There were “talking” creepy ghouls and monsters and a fine variety of hot and cold buffet items.  The best part, though, were their three German shepherds, including a very vocal albino G.S., named Lloyd.  He and I got along just fine, as I would talk back to him, saying it’s all okay.

I got mesmerized by yet another replay of Bette Midler’s classic “Hocus Pocus”, which we used to play every Halloween, when Aram was a child.  It’s been a while, so looking back on how different child characters stood up to Bette’s character and her sisters was a treat.

Yes, some lions are more comical than others. Some are more problematic. All must be faced with confidence and courage.