My sense of time has been all messed up this week. All day Thursday I thought it was Wednesday. And my weekend plans were looking like a distant future. Yet, here we are. The day after Friday. Dark and snowing. I’m looking forward to December 21, when it starts getting light again.
The Winter Solstice. I am reminded of my trip to Ireland a few years back. We visited New Grange, a Neolithic period World Heritage Site. At New Grange there is one large mound built built 5,000 years ago, before the Pyramids of Egypt or Stonehenge in England. It is an incredible display of engineering, not to mention beautiful and kind of eerie. Everybody who visits is required to join a tour. We were led into the mound for a demonstration of how the Winter Solstice lights up the cave-like structure. It is something I would like to see for real sometime. It was very cool. I am not a fan of small tight spaces and almost didn’t go in but luckily we weren’t in there very long so I didn’t have time to panic.
I decided I was not going to watch Harry and Meghan on Netflix. But I gave in and watched it. I can’t resist some good gossip. Only the first three episodes are available. The rest come out next week. Such a tease. It hasn’t changed my opinion of them but it was well done. They spend a lot of time going into English history and the Commonwealth and the slave trade and diversity and unconscious bias and mixed race. And of course the relationship the Royal family have with the press. Rather dysfunctional. Bottom line really is “who cares” but interesting none the less. Rich people’s problems….
Years ago I read the Nero Wolfe mystery series by Rex Stout. Nero Wolfe is a private detective who lives in a brownstone in Manhattan. He has a greenhouse on the roof where he grows orchids. He drinks beer and has a private gourmet chef. He is very fat. His assistant Archie Goodwin does all the legwork for him. Nero mostly drinks beer and thinks. The meals Fritz, the chef, prepares are described in detail and in 1973, the Nero Wolfe Cookbook was published. Rex Stout wrote 33 Nero Wolfe novels. After his death in 1975, Robert Goldsborough continued the series and published as recently as 2021. Apparently Rene Magritte was a fan of Nero Wolfe and titled several of his paintings after the books. When the League of Frightened Men was published in French it became Les Compagnons de al Peur (the companions of fear). Magritte painted the Companions of Fear in response to the Nazi occupation of Brussels (1940). It is a very different painting than what I normally think of when I am thinking about Magritte.
Les Compagnons de la Peur, Renee Magritte, 1942
So the whole point of this long explanation is, I just started reading the first novel in the series again, The League of Frightened Men. It holds up surprisingly well.
The Promenades of Euclid, Renee Magritte, 1955 (one of my favorites)
In an Opinion piece in the New York Times this week the phrase “it is what it is” is described as: “It relieves you of coming to a conclusion, forming an opinion, developing an action plan — and even worse, tries to be cute about it.” “It marks an intellectual and moral surrender”. The writer loathes the expression even as he continues to use it. I, on the other hand, like the expression. For me it feels like something a good buddhist would say. Let it be. You can’t do anything about it. It is what it is. Let it go. Why do you need to form an opinion or develop an action plan about everything? Calm the f*** down!
Have a great week!
It’s another Friday. Down to my last month at work. Snow on the ground. Cold and windy.
Nothing earth shattering in the news. Death, hate, war, celebrities, rich people, poor people, homeless people, bad politics, lawsuits, repeat. My crisis of the week? Didn’t have one. Actually I haven’t been out of the house all week. I’m reading a book called Up Like Thunder by Colin T. Nelson. A VIP’s daughter goes missing in Burma (Myanmar) and this Private Investigator goes looking for her. It is kind of slow moving but interesting. Lots of color on Burma. I’m about half way through, will finish it this week.
St Paul is full of skyways connecting the buildings downtown. I use them all the time to get around out of the cold. They are all on the second floor of the buildings. From my window I can see one lone skyway way above the street that connects two buildings. It is thought to be the world’s first modern skyway, built in 1931. Merchants Bank and First National Bank merged and the buildings were next to each other. The floor heights were different so the skyway connects one building’s 16th floor with the other building’s 17th floor. It is a private skyway so, unless you work at the bank, you won’t be able to use it. It is the tallest skyway in the Twin Cities. And it is green.
I leave you with Poem VIII from Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions:
What is it that upsets the volcanoes
that spit fire, cold and rage?
Why wasn’t Christopher Columbus
able to discover Spain?
How many questions does a cat have?
Do tears not yet spilled
wait in small lakes?
Or are they invisible rivers
that run toward sadness?
We arrived in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday afternoon. Our first goal was to get some snacks to tide us over until dinner. We decided to walk and I managed to get us lost going the wrong direction and we walked several miles out of the way. From then on we took Ubers.
Three of us from high school met up for a long weekend. We are part of a group who meet up fairly regularly and have a great time together. Because of Covid, we hadn’t seen each other for several years and our rendezvous was way overdue. I flew in from Minnesota, Jen came down on the train from NYC, and Daisy flew up from Florida. Our first night we met up with some local friends at Mia’s Italian Kitchen. I’m sorry to say my food was not the best, but others at the table raved about their choices. So maybe it was just my choice. Anyway the best part was the ceiling.
We stayed up until 2 in the morning catching up at our AirB&B. I don’t know what we talk about or how we can have so much to say but we just never want to stop once we get started. My friends from boarding school are like my family.
The next morning my roommate from the 11th grade was retiring from USAID and she had invited me to her retirement ceremony. I attended virtually and was a little late arriving but it was awesome to see how many people thought she was awesome. Although she spent her whole career at USAID she had a varied and rewarding time, living all over the world.
That night we met up with her and a bunch of other people at our All Class Reunion at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. It was the first time we had attended one of these parties since Covid and they mentioned this was was the largest group they have had in several years.
You never know who you will meet at those parties. We ended up down in the lobby with two women named Pam who were several years older. One was from Venezuela, my friend is from Venezuela, and a group of recently graduated kids who were going to Georgetown also were from Venezuela. It never matters if we knew each other at school or what ages we are, we always seem to have a connection and sense of camaraderie.
We managed to pry ourselves away and ended up at a Whiskey Bar in Chinatown. It was chock full of very young people. From there we went back to the AirB&B and only stayed up until 1:30 am. We had a reservation for lunch at 2 pm the next day.
Old Town Alexandria has a Trolley that runs up and down King Street all day long. And it is Free. It was perfect for our needs. We jumped on the trolley and took it all the way down to the waterfront. A few blocks away is Ada’s on the River, a very nice restaurant right on the Potomac River. We managed to get a booth by the window and a view. Lunch was good but don’t remember what I had. I was eyeing the crab cake but at over $40 dollars decided to pass.
I lived in the area for about 14 years so I have seen all the sights a million times but my friends were eager to head to the Mall and take it all in. We took an Uber to the Lincoln Memorial. After watching several wedding photo shoots and saying hello to Mr Lincoln, we headed down the Mall to the Washington Memorial, stopping at the Vietnam Memorial and the WWII Memorial along the way. We can report there are restrooms at the Washington Memorial. We walked by the new African American museum but it was closed. The sun was pretty much gone by this time. Walking up 14th street, we spotted a rooftop bar at the Hotel Washington and decided to go for it.
It was pretty crowded but we pushed through all the way to the far side of the bar and found stools at the window facing the White House. We each had a drink and Daisy said she would pay for it. Haha. I then remembered why I had only been there once before. It cost over $60 for three drinks. And they weren’t fancy drinks. But the view was fabulous.
We had to be out of the AirB&B by 10 am the next morning so we had a fairly early night. Our brunch reservation was for 10:15 am at the Union Street Public House in Old Town. The restaurant was completely empty when we arrived but the bar was full of people watching the first day of FIFA.
From there it was back to the airport and home to reality.
Some shots around Alexandria:
My recent visit to Washington, DC
Not really fun but possibly. Looking at the world through a screen door. That could be fun. Looking at the world full of snow through a screen door. Getting more fun. Funner. Wonderlandy. It is pretty driving around town seeing the trees covered with white.
A light snow fell for most of this week. Reminded me of Moscow where it snowed constantly all winter. A weird thing was that the snow in Moscow never seemed to accumulate. It took me the longest time to figure it out. Big trucks came out at night that looked like giant crabs. They had two arms in the front that scooped all the snow into a feeder and onto a conveyor belt that took it up and dumped it into another truck behind. These trucks took the snow outside the city and dumped it into the countryside so there was never snow on the streets or sidewalks. What you ended up with was mainly ice. Black ice. I fell down a lot.
These are the trucks that push the snow into big piles so the ‘crab’ trucks can gobble it up.
So I signed up for Social Security. I guess I am ignorant but I discovered something. Once you hit your full retirement age, you can collect Social Security and work as much as you like. I always thought there was a limit to what you could earn until you were 70. But not the case. Not that I want to work but good to know.
The orange one is back. At least the press isn’t falling all over him like they used to. I hope it stays that way. I was reading today that Biden has a whole team at the White House working on ‘managing’ all the attacks that are sure to come. Sad.
Have a great weekend! Don’t think too much…
I voted in this church last week. It is across the street from my apartment. I had never been in it before but I see it every time I go out to my car.
Yesterday was very cold – in the 20’s. It takes some getting used to. So no walks in the woods yet… But I got this nice shot of the St Paul Cathedral.
Happy Veterans Day. Or Armistice Day. Or Remembrance Day. Or Poppy Day.
I went to a British grade school in Mexico City. We wore a uniform. I was 7 years old. In November of my first year, kids started showing up with red paper poppies pinned to the lapel of their blazers. I had never heard of Poppy Day but I loved the color added to the otherwise mundane clothing. I bought one and wore it even though I didn’t understand why. I looked forward to it every year. That splash of red.
It was the 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour when hostilities ended. It was the end of the First World War, the war to end all wars. Poppies bloomed all across the fields where the battles were fought and lives were lost. A sea of red.
My first trip to Paris was over Armistice Day weekend. I was 16, and wandering around on my own. The city was empty. I was the only person at Napoleon’s tomb. I remember it was snowing that day.
In Washington, DC, Veteran’s day always meant Rolling Thunder. Motorcycles from all over the country converged on the Vietnam Memorial. They used to parade down to the Mall from Virginia and Maryland. You could hear them all morning. I was there for the 25th anniversary when they expected 500,000 motorcycles. It was impressive.
Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.
I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.
by Siegfried Sassoon, Selected Poems (1968)
I voted on Tuesday. I was relieved the red wave turned into a pink drizzle.
It also got dark this week. Short Dark Days until the end of the year.
We made this yummy cake earlier this week. It is gluten free in case anybody cares.
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2.25 cups finely ground almonds (I use almond flour)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Separate eggs into 2 large bowls.
Beat yolks, gradually incorporating 3/4 cup sugar
Fold in the almond flour
Whisk the egg whites until foamy.
Gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar
Continue to beat until stiff
Stir 1/3 egg whites in to almond mixture, then carefully fold in remaining egg whites in 2 batches.
Pour batter into buttered 9-inch cake pan and bake about 30 minutes.
Allow to cool.
Dust with powdered sugar.
Lake Rebecca Park Reserve, Rockford, Minnesota