Monday, February 22, 2010


"Beef Wellington"

When you are a Biology teacher in an alternative ex-urban school for teenagers "recovering" from various substance abuse problems, you can have lungfish for pets. Like my daughter's students, her lungfish are an agressive lot, certainly not mainstream, living in a neither world between land and water, mud and clear streams.



The other day I played racquetball with my thirty-year-old son. For him, it was probably just another recreational game, a chance to spend some time with his father, or sensing my sixty-eight years the opportunity to let the old war horse relive his prior tournament days. For me, it was a chance to feel the rush of competition again, against the odds, against time itself.

I have done similar things in the past, like challenging macho guys in the grocery line, the liberal use of the middle finger on the highway, or trying to race a twenty-three-year-old hunk across a Samoan lagoon. Each time I come close to the precipice, so far have managed not to fall off, knowing you only go over the edge once.

Please don't misread me. I am not a brave person, definitely not a hero, nor seeker of adulation. It is the internal quest to see what makes me tick, and listening to that wonderful sound of my heart pounding out the beats of life.

Today I am sore. Aching muscles and joints show up in the stiffness of my walk, the slowness of my pace. Some may call me foolish or stupid. The only consolation is knowing my son is moving a little slower today too.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Shred the Love" Party


Disappointed, disillusioned, and maybe jilted, these young ladies are ready to put this photo of a past love into the shredder.

Some things you just can't pass by. One is the Second Annual "Shred the Love" party.

Instead of a box of chocolates and a romantic dinner, the event is a party for people looking to let off some steam over an ex-love(s). The lovelorn people are asked to bring old mementos that carry memories of their former loves to be shredded. There are paper shredders, scissors, and a chance to de-stuff teddy bears. Broken heart cookies will also be sold.

The party sponsors are happy with the turnout. Both men and women came with bags of stuff, wedding invitations of weddings which never took place, photo albums, letters, and during a live radio broadcast at the event one scorned woman said on the air the name of her ex whom she caught in bed with someone else.

I said to some of the forlorn I have known that I would be happy to be their surrogate should they be unable to attend the party. One replied, "If only there were a memento to shred -- so many mementos have been shredded, stomped upon, burned, drowned, destroyed -- they are now only faint memories. I think you need more recent exes. However, I do appreciate the offer and am happy to see that you are utilizing all of your many skill sets."

Ah, love. Who really understands it?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Ride Home

1/31-2/2/10 Leaving Glacier National Park and entering the prairies of Montana
Smoke break and time to stretch at Shelby, MT

Outside of trying to buy a stamp for a postcard and pounding on the train door to let me back aboard in Havre, Montana, the return trip was as pleasant as the rest of our experience on Amtrak. We can't say enough about the wonderful, cheerful service we got from Amtrak employees. The food was good, cabins and washrooms clean. Passengers are eager to talk and meet others. The trains were usually ahead of schedule, although other passengers did experience delays. But delays for train travelers seem to be taken in the same laid back way as the train makes it way across the vastness of this country. Yes, the train takes longer, but the journey is savored more.

Portland, OR

One of the nice things about Peace Corps is being able to visit others with whom you have shared a Samoan adventure. Here we are with Renee Moog and Paul Sylvestor at the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Downtown Portland.

Mary at the entrance to the "Scholar's Courtyard". Inscriptions above the circular moongate entrance are to remind us to "Read the Painting" and "Listen to the Fragrance". Heavy stuff indeed.

Eugene, OR


One of the many beautiful mountain streams. This is Sweet Creek.

Mary, my sister Christine, and her dog on the beach at Florence, OR.

Mary's first experience inside a COSTCO store. For residents of Washington and Oregon, shopping at COSTCO seems to make up for lack of sunshine.

Vineyards abound in the Pacific Northwest. They are replacing Starbucks and other coffee kiosks in popularity. Everyone seems to have one, is starting one, or is near one. As part of our research, we compared a $2.99 bottle of Pinot Grigio/Gris to a $3.99 bottle. The more expensive bottle won. We drank both, and many more.

My sister microwaves spaghetti squash without first puncturing holes in it.

Vancouver, BC

Glass High Rise Apartment Buildings dominate the city. Each seemed to be different. This is a walkway which runs along the harbor.

Seaplanes take off from the downtown area.

Some cities have a wonderful feel. Vancouver, BC is one of them. Not because it is Canadian, but because of its relationship to its surroundings and inhabitants. Maybe it is the way the city protrudes into the sea, the numerous high-rise glass apartment and office buildings, the surrounding mountains, the cold rainy weather, the mass transit system, or the desire of people to actually live in the city.

Seattle, WA


Seattle's New Central Library
Upon requesting information about the building at the library, we were told that Seattle has regained the title of "America's Most Literate City" from Minneapolis. The library seems to have everything except books. It even has accommodations for Seattle's homeless.

Experience Music Project
This is a Frank Geahry designed building donated by Microsoft's Paul Allen. The inside is a museum, Hall of Fame, and a place for "Experimental Music".

There are numerous sights to see in Seattle, but visiting some old friends is the best way to enjoy the place. Here is our host Kevin McCarthy holding a sign about the University of Iowa's victory over Georgia Tech in the 2010 Orange Bowl. Hawkeye fans are everywhere.