Monday, March 31, 2008

These Hips Don't Lie

This post brought to you by Soccer Mom in Denial - posting every Monday on a different musical memory.


About 6 months ago I took up running - decided that I really needed to get in shape and I clearly wasn't motivated to go to an aerobics class. At least I haven't been since the 1980's when Jane Fonda was all the rage.

My goal was to run a 5k before I turned 40. Literally starting from the couch I got better and better and had managed to run a 5k on the treadmill - with hills! However, winter set in and there weren't exactly any races going on. I kept it up a bit but it was still only me against the treadmill.

Spring came to Washington and I finally got my chance. Hadn't run in a month but I figured I could do it - with my 40th fast-approaching, I HAD to do it this weekend.

It was beautiful this morning down at the Tidal Basin - cherry blossoms all in bloom. And quite chilly. So for the first time ever, I ran in 3 layers of shirts and a hat. Cute thing with a tassel.

It was brutal. Did okay for the first couple of miles and then thought I was going to pass out. I started to walk for a little - about 1/4 mile. And then I hit the 3 mile marker and said f*%k it, I'm going to run across that line if it kills me. I cranked up the iPod and SPRINTED the last 1/4 mile. Finishing in less time than I ever had.

Thanks, Shakira.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Guantanamo Bay

It's that time of the week - injecting a little geographic exploration into an otherwise sedentary life.

In the past five years, the phrase "Guantanamo Bay" has taken on new connotations. I grew up knowing its nickname Gitmo, more recently it has been dubbed Camp X-Ray (one of three detention camps contained in the naval base).

To me it is terra firma - the place of my birth. During the Vietnam War, Dad was given the choice of a tour in Southeast Asia or a stint (with his family) at the naval hospital at Gitmo. Obviously he chose the latter. The better choice, anyone would agree. I am a US citizen by birth, eligible to run for President - as much as John McCain is.

My passport merely reads "Cuba" - no specific location that might explain the circumstances of my birth. Upon returning to the US from travels abroad I am occasionally asked how I obtained my citizenship, or for how long I've held it. Try answering that question intelligibly with jet lag.

The stories from those years were both humorous and scary. A sort of gallows humor I suppose. 98 degrees on Christmas Day, cockroaches nearly as big as your hand. Bored drunken soldiers driving over land crabs in a game called "crunch crunch".

These days the name doesn't conjure up quite the same feelings. While my curiosity about the place has not waned, it has taken on a new dimension. I no longer wear the cool t-shirt emblazoned with "Guantanamo" and a red star that my friend made for my birthday years ago.

I always got strange looks when I told people where I was born. The strange looks are now followed by a solemn, "oh".

Did you know they have a Starbucks? Seems prying detainees with a venti latte is an effective means of interrogation.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Special

This post brought to you by Soccer Mom in Denial - posting every Monday on a different musical memory.


For the better part of 40 years my family and I have attended the same church in the West Village in New York. Even through the years where we lived in Connecticut and had to drive an hour each way to attend, this was the place we always came back to. My brother and sister attended nursery school here, we protested the exclusion of gays in the clergy, we mourned members killed on September 11th .

Our sermons were full of anti-nuclear, care for the poor, anti-Reagan, pro-peace messages. It never occured to me that these were not the sermons everyone else heard on Sunday.

Being in Greenwich Village in the 1980's ours was also a place that saw AIDS early on. The first person interred in the columbarium was Louis who died from AIDS - one of the last times I saw him in the choir he was wearing a rainbow-colored wig to cover his bald head. Despite the death around us, this was a place full of life.

This Easter Sunday, we came back. Nearly all of us. My sister, little brother, Mom and Dad (who are divorced) - we were missing my older brother who lives just a little too far away. It was great. It was home.

And as on every Easter Sunday, the organist ended the service with the Toccata from Symphony 5 by Widor. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Palace of the King of Pobe

It's that time of the week - injecting a little geographic exploration into an otherwise sedentary life.

I was in Benin for work and spent most of my time in the sort of capital, Cotonou, at the US government offices. As with any work trip I always try to fit in a site visit - staring at a computer all day doesn't exactly give you a sense of what you're doing - what is your purpose.

Fortunately a meeting of different partners (the US government term for grantees or contractors - doesn't it sound lovely? though misleading...) was taking place north of Cotonou in one of the provinces.

Several hours later by Range Rover (thank goodness for Beninoise drivers who can navigate potholes that would swallow a Mac truck) we arrived in the village of Pobe (pronounced Poe Bay). We toured around the village and checked out the building in which we were going to host our meeting. We had a concrete building with chairs etc - quite a nice village.

But before we could do anything, we had to visit with the King. It's his town, we had to pay our respects. We were ushered into the palace amongst a crowd of excited screaming children (all his I suspect) and were seated in some plush chairs to greet the King. As is custom, we removed our shoes and waited politely until he made his entrance. As is custom, he was wearing big sunglasses. Funny how even the most remote places have access to Ray-Bans.

Our meeting with the King was very pleasant. He thanked us for coming. We thanked him for hosting us. He hoped we would support his village financially, we chuckled. He was a pretty cool King.

Have you ever met royalty? Of the British or other variety? Perhaps a Kennedy?

(I'm the fourth from the left - in black)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oy Danny Boy

This post brought to you by Soccer Mom in Denial - posting every Monday on a different musical memory.


Mom is a huge James Galway fan. James and his Golden Flute. Sounds fairly pornographic to me.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to attend one of his concerts - my husband was reviewing and he always gets two tickets. I like James Galway enough - and it wasn't one of his Irish concerts, it was a Mozart flute concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra. Don't get me wrong - I like Irish music. I just tend to like it played in a smaller venue with beer and dancing.

The concert was wonderful. The crowd loved him. He came out to do an encore - and what should it be but "Danny Boy". My husband asked me what song it was (ironic since that's his name).

Like a dutiful daughter I stood in line after the concert to get an autographed CD for Mom - written out especially to Marilyn. She opened it up on Christmas Day, clearly excited with a squeal that crossed the ocean.

Thanks Mom for giving me the little bit of Irish that I have.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It's in the 60's, I'm wearing Flip


For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Home of Dum Dum Pops and Etch-A-Sketch

It's that time of the week - injecting a little geographic exploration into an otherwise sedentary life.

I've had the pleasure of driving cross country twice. Once with mom and once with my sister. There's nothing like the thrill of seeing all the quirkiness that America has to offer. Jackalope in South Dakota, Dorothy's house in Kansas. A multitude of java huts scattered around the northern Nevada desert. That last one is just plain weird.

On one trip going west to east with my sister we stopped off in Chicago to meet one of her friends - and to take their car back east as a favor. They would be spending the summer there and since we were going that way - and had spent about 2 weeks sharing the same car, we were happy to oblige.

In Bryan, OH we pulled off the highway for lunch and hopped back on. And off. Seems that the timing chain on my car had died (broken? snapped?). The car basically came to a dead stop and I pulled over onto the shoulder. Having literally just gone through the entrance toll - and Bryan not being a particularly busy entrance, I was fine. Alas, my sister who was ahead of me in the other car got about 1/2 mile down the road before she realized I was no longer in her rearview mirror. She pulled off, came back around and found me. We called the police who came and took me away - I was literally sitting in the back seat of an Ohio State trooper's car - it would have made a great photo - while the tow truck took dear Sacajawea (we named the car that since she had taken my sister and brother - the "white men" - to the Pacific) away.

Since the car would be there overnight we checked into a hotel and went out looking for fun and adventure. You'd think a small town situated on the Ohio Turnpike between South Bend and Toledo would be hurting for activity. You'd be WRONG! Bryan, Ohio is home to both Etch-A-Sketch AND Dum Dum lollipops. Everybody knows Etch-A-Sketch and if you've ever spent anytime in a doctor's waiting room (or have a doctor for a dad) you know Dum Dum's.

We checked out the Etch-A-Sketch factory and asked to take a tour. No dice. No tours. Okay. So we went outside and took photos of us crying in front of the place. We then went over to Dum Dum's hoping for better luck. Alas, you had to be a school group to go on a tour. Bummer. Again, we took photos of ourselves crying outside the factory. Didn't they understand I had eaten every flavor at least 50 times?

So much for Bryan, OH. A sleepy town with such enormous potential for tourism.

Have you ever had your car break down somewhere? What did you do? Any adventure?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dad and the Redhead

This post brought to you by Soccer Mom in Denial - posting every Monday on a different musical memory.


It's my dad's birthday today so this post is a tribute to him. Lucky for me, he likes music.

He's a huge music fan which is great - the thing I love most is his love of jazz. Benny Goodman, Stan Getz, Bucky Pizzarelli, these are the records I remember. A jazz drummer is a sight to behold. A jazz guitarist or bassist is a marvel.

Dad is a clarinetist. It got him into medical school. (well sort of).

He's a pretty bright guy and managed to go to undergraduate on a full scholarship so the odds were in his favor anyway. He went to his medical school interview fully expecting a grilling on his qualifications. Instead what he got was a bizarre query from the interview panel.

Instead of questions about the biology of the cell, plasma membranes or the doppler effect, the panel noted that he played in the university band.

Well, yes he did.

At every home game, when a certain zaftig redhead walked by the band played a sort of belly dancer tune?

Yes, they did.

Why is that? they asked.

Well, seems she had something of a reputation (not that any of the band members had first hand knowledge given their doubly geeky status as both Hopkins students and band members).

Question answered. That was it. He got in.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

30 Days Until I Turn 40, I Feel...


For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My Morning Constitutional

It's beginning to look a lot like spring here - you can just see the buds on the trees just ready to come out. And the daffodil leaves are all up - you just know there's a flower coming soon.

I'm one of those lucky people who can walk to work. If I go by metro it's about 30 minutes in a crowded box, by foot I do it in 40. And I get some exercise. When the weather is nice, walking is clearly the better option.

My route takes me down a street full of restaurants and stores, eventually arriving in the more commercial area - DC's "downtown" as it were.

At the end of this area is the White House. I cut through Lafayette Park which fronts the President's residence and as I pass by I'm sure to give the 4-finger salute. Gets my day going better than a cup of coffee.

I love spring.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wayfaring Wednesday

It's that time of the week - injecting a little geographic exploration into an otherwise sedentary life.

For this week, I'm going to ask the readers out there to tell me the wackiest place they've ever been (And if I can figure out that link thing too I'll start including that).

What is it? Tell me the wackiest place you've ever been. Think broadly - maybe the NYC subway in the 70's, Florida in a snowstorm, France during a rail strike (oh wait, that's normal)...

To get you started here are a few of mine:

1. The Home of Dum Dum Pops and Etch-A-Sketch
2. Guantanamo Bay
3. The Palace of the King of Pobe

More on each of these in later posts.

Inquiring minds want to know...

Monday, March 03, 2008

I Remember It Well

This post brought to you by Soccer Mom in Denial - posting every Monday on a different musical memory.


My husband and I were having dinner with friends this weekend and the subject of our engagement came up. The actual moment when we became engaged. These friends know us well and have known us for sometime and yet had never heard the story. So we decided to tell them.

It had a romantic setting - Paris in June in front of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel - on these things we agree. The other details are sort of in dispute. Well, not exactly in dispute - more like we remember them differently. I'm the first woman to go to Paris with her boyfriend who didn't expect a marriage proposal - so the moment itself was a bit discombobulating for me. In a good way. A very good way. I was definitely caught by surprise.

For me, seconds seemed like hours. My recollection of the events occurred in slow motion. My mind was going in six different directions so I can't say which thought preceded which. My husband recalls the details a bit differently - his mind was a bit more focused at the time. On this we can agree, we became engaged in front of one of the most beautiful views that Paris has to offer.

It reminded me of that song from Gigi - that's us, on our 50th wedding anniversary.

He: We met at nine.
She: We met at eight.
He: I was on time.
She: No, you were late.
He: Ah yes! I remember it well.

He: We dined with friends.
She: We dined alone.
He: A tenor sang.
She: A baritone.
He: Ah yes! I remember it well.

He: That dazzling April moon!
She: There was none that night,
And the month was June.
He: That's right! That's right!
She: It warms my heart to know that
you remember still the way you do.
He: Ah yes! I remember it well.

He: How often I've thought of that Friday,
She: Monday
He: night, when we had our last rendez-vous.
And somehow I've foolishly wondered
if you might by some chance be
thinking of it too?

He: That carriage ride.
She: You walked me home.
He: You lost a glove.
She: I lost a comb.
He: Ah yes! I remember it well.

He: That brilliant sky.
She: We had some rain.
He: Those Russian songs.
She: From sunny Spain.
He: Ah yes! I remember it well.

He: You wore a gown of gold.
She: I was all in blue.
He: Am I getting old? Oh no! Not you!
She: How strong you were,
how young and gay;
A prince of love in every way.
He: Ah yes! I remember it well.

Saturday, March 01, 2008