The Promise of a Newfangled…

They have promised to bring a new dishwasher and microwave today. This is beyond exciting news.

The old ones were older than my college-aged children, and the dishwasher wasn’t a particularly good one. Always noisy with a groaning noise that went on for a long time – we had to learn to set it when we were planning to go to bed, or we wouldn’t be able to hear each other talk. The dishes also never really came clean, and we had to scrub them in advance. Years of arguing at length, what was the point of a dishwasher, why don’t we just hand-wash everything?

20161012-dishwasher

The microwave has been more reliable, except in that last eighteen months. Sometimes when the fan starts up, the whir would make a strange scientific sound as though it were thinking about whether it wanted to start or not. For about a month, we wondered whether it would start at all. Joe, the installer who came to measure, told me that microwaves actually can last for decades. He had one that he gave to his mother, and when she died, his brother got it, then ended up given it to a cousin, until it eventually came back to Joe, who still uses it in his garage to heat up coffee. Continue reading “The Promise of a Newfangled…”

Carolina on My Mind

In my mind I’m gone to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind?
Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind.

James Taylor forgot to mention the trees. North Carolina is a state full of trees.

I’m used to the hills of my Bay Area home, but those are spread with golden grasses that turn gray in the dry of the late summer, where these are waves of rounded green mounds that undulate out to the horizon. We were bombing down the Blue Ridge Parkway all last week, traveling between Raleigh, Charlotte, Boone and Asheville, a trip full of conversation and scenery, heavy on the friendship and light on the tourism.

Isoprene-happy oak trees
The blue of the Western Appalachians is a little unique, according to www.ourstate.com, and can be traced to the isoprene-happy oak trees that make up most of the forests. The hydrocarbon isoprene is produced by these trees in part to protect themselves from excess heat. The hydrocarbon mixes with other molecules and acts like a kind of smog to create the haze of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Continue reading “Carolina on My Mind”

Road Trips: America in Miniature

“Kathy”, I said,
As we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
Michigan seems like a dream to me now.
It took me four days
To hitch-hike from Saginaw.
“I’ve come to look for America.”
–Simon & Garfunkel, America

Everybody journeys. Everyone takes trips on roads, travels to see new worlds, journeys of self-discovery and trips to the store, commutes to work and visits to see family. But there is a particularly American invention – the Road Trip.

20160824 I80 responsecraftingcom
via responsecrafting.com

The United States is a large country with substantial variation in climate and terrain, crisscrossed with interstates that allow travel through and to nearly all of it, though it takes hour or sometimes days.  In early civilized history up until the 20th century, towns were near waterways whether in Europe, Africa, or North America.  Now they are all aligned along interstate hubs or around airports and the arterial traffic system is perfectly designed for long car journeys.

Continue reading “Road Trips: America in Miniature”

Journey through History, Filtered

Outside the car windows it’s dark, but hundreds of red lights glow on the road ahead. The smell of exhaust from idling cars seeps in over the chemical tang of the air conditioner. I can’t hear the engine because my mom has turned up the radio so high. The droning voices are interrupted periodically with cheering, but, from the back seat, I can’t quite hear them. When I can, I have no idea what they’re talking about. Suddenly my mother shouts, waking my brother snoozing next to me, “Agnew! Who the hell is Spiro Agnew?”

It was August 8, 1968. I was seven years old and we were stuck in traffic, late on a Thursday night driving from our summer cabin back to Detroit, my mother listening to the Republican convention. Continue reading “Journey through History, Filtered”

Empty Locker

Six months have passed since I retired, and I am slowly redrawing my habits. I was happy to leave the back-to-back conference calls and the constant grinding stress from my corporate masters. I was not happy to leave my work comrades. I had processed – therapeutically – the feelings about leaving them and still think of them fondly every day.  I had not, however, considered the feelings I would have about the non-work part. I miss the trappings. I miss my gym.

20160622EndofAnEra.jpg
End of an Era

February came and went before I was able to send my corporate polo shirt out of the house, the uniform that I wore weekly for years. I felt silly, but I took a photo.  I still long for the fresh turkey sandwich on a French roll that I would literally run next door to get in the five minute break between calls. I miss reading the newspaper on BART going into the city. I challenged myself daily to complete the cryptogram and the two crossword puzzles between Lake Merritt station and my office, which meant finishing them while I walked the five blocks to work. I couldn’t do it if it was raining.  This month, I finally decided to find a new gym.

Continue reading “Empty Locker”