Monday, November 28, 2005

An Open Letter II

Dear Teachers, Older Relatives, Neighbors and Solicitous Businesses:

Posted by Picasa

We have enough pencils, thanks.

I'm a single dad with two kids and three jobs. I've taken this week off to clean the house and get ready for Christmas. So far, I've done the bathroom and the living room. That mittfull of graphite above is my take so far. I've still got the dining room, kitchen and bedrooms to go.

Not to mention the dozen or so that are rattling around in the bottom of each of their book bags.

We're fine with the ol' #2's.

While I'm on the subject--when did pencils become gifts? The kids came home from trick-or-treating with four or five pencils each. They appear in Easter Cards. On top of birthday presents. Teachers give them out as prizes. Enough!

So, if you see a tired pirate and two excited kids bouncing around near you, hide the graphite. I'll just have to pick them up later.



Friday, November 25, 2005

An Open Letter...

If you are a man who has ever:
  • Had Space Food Sticks in your lunch box
  • Sung the theme to F-Troop
  • Had an earnest debate as to whether Samantha from Bewitched or Jeannie from I dream of Jeannie is the hottest supernatural woman on TV
then this letter is for you:

Put your cap on straight.

Why are you wearing a baseball cap, anyway? You're obviously not going to be throwing a ball around. It's 7 pm, and you're wearing baggy jeans, a bomber jacket and a baseball cap turned backwards.


What are you trying to prove? Who do you think you're fooling? Tuck in your shirt, pull up your pants, and for God's sake, if you're going to wear a cap, at least wear it the right way.

Dude, you're in your forties. There's nothing wrong with that, except you didn't ever think it would happen to you, did you? Tell the truth--you didn't. But your twenties turned into your thirties, and you were cool with that, and then damn if your age didn't keep on growing. Ballplayers you remember from their college days are in the hall of fame. That rookie in left field? You saw that kids dad hit a home run back in....

Oh, my God.

Yeah. It happens to all of us. Deal.

Here's the thing, fella: It's OK to have the attitude of a young man. It's OK to act like a young man.

It's not OK to dress like one.

And stop hitting on my daughter-in-law. I know my son's not married, but he's 23, and will be eventually.

Dude--remember the old guy? The one in the disco with the leisure suit and the hat, who learned "The Hustle" from Arthur Murray, and would ask girls to dance while Kool & The Gang played "Get Down on It?"

Dude, that's you now.

Wake up: If you're in a room with pretty young women, and every other guy in the room is wearing his cap backwards as a fashion statement and NOT to hide the bald spot, she's not going to be into you.

Here's the thing: despite what my Aussie daughter Rowena has claimed, there ARE women out there who value maturity in men. Some of them are your age. MOST of them are your age. But there are some who are younger.

They're not impressed with your sartorial selection.

I know I sound harsh, but I'm not just thinking about you. The reason why they're wearing their caps backwards is because it's the wrong way. You're supposed to be mildly put out by it, not accept it as a fashion trend. Those guys are wearing it that way for the same reason you wore bell bottoms. Take that away from them, and what's left?

Yeah. Not pretty.

So, do everyone a favor: You don't have to act your age if you don't want to. But at least dress a little more age-appropriate.

And that means losing the baggy shorts too.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

This will put you off your turkey...

a little hnt for y'all...

And he was sweating bullets, and walking on glass
Somewhere between the evening news and tomorrow's headline
(Buzz awhile..)

Happy Freakin' Thanksgiving

It's 4:55 am.

The kids are at STBEW's* place for Thanksgiving.

I'm miserable.

Even though they're in walking distance from my house, even though it's an amicable settlement and I will stop by in the afternoon, even though I tell myself that it's only one night, I'm miserable.

I putter and futz around the house, picking up, doing a little bit of cleaning, until it's well past midnight, and I'm exhausted. Good. That means I'll sleep.

I crawl into bed and turn out the lights, and I'm asleep.

And then I'm awake. Did I hear something? I think about it. Can't be the kids. One of my cats? No. I put them both in the basement so they won't jump onto the counters. Maybe it's just my imagination.

And I'm asleep.

And I'm awake again.

A clicking, flicking noise. It's an old house. Sometimes there's random noises.

And I'm asleep.

And I'm awake. If it's a burglar, I tell myself, All he'll get is practice.



What the hell is going on?

I look at the door. I can see underneath it, because there's a nightlight in the hall. Nothing going on out there.

And again the clicking, flicking noise.

Not from outside. Inside my bedroom. A flitter of movement.

A bat.


Inside my small, square bedroom, a bat is flying, swooping through the space, looking for a way out. Great. I'm not scared, just annoyed.

Okay, maybe a little scared. Bats are cool to watch in the evenings outside, but not inside a 10 by 12 room. Especially if you're trying to sleep.

And he's flying right over me. So low, I can hear his wings beat.


What do I do? What do I know about bats? They're fairly harmless. They're rats with wings. They don't see well. But they have great hearing.

So--If I open the big window in my room, the bat's sonar will alert it to the change in space, and it will fly out. I crawl slowly out of my bed, open the blinds, open the window, lift up the screen, make a mental note to put the storm window down after the bat leaves, and lay back down in my bed.


Bats don't get tangled up in people's hair. That's an old wive's tale.


Do I really want to test that out? I cover my head with the comforter and peer out at the window. That bat will fly out any minute. Aaaany minute now.

I watch and I wait. The bat flies and flies. But not out the window. Being in recovery, I ask myself why my Higher Power put this bat in my bedroom. What is the lesson to be drawn? Suddenly, I see this episode appearing on a late November page in some future daily reader: "God will provide a way," it will read, "you just have to wait for it to appear. "

I smile to myself under the cover. What a good lesson to learn!

Time passes. The bat flits and hits every spot on every wall except for the one that would get him out of my room.

"You need to break the mindless repetitions of your old patterns. Open yourself up to a new way, and then you will be free."

That's a good one too. It still works.


Even though I'm under a thick comforter, I can hear those bat wings


Bats are stupid.

This was my conclusion after watching that bat fly in every possible arc except for the one that would take him outside. Twice, he even lands on the casing. Just drop down six inches, and you're free!

Once again, I edit the selection in the future reader:

"To truly know freedom, you must first get on your knees…er…do bats have knees? Just get out of my room!"

Not the most inspirational message ever.

Eventually, I grab a towel, and after a few minutes of waving it around, manage to knock the exhausted thing to the floor. I trap it in the towel, take it to the window, and toss it out the window, and watch it fly into the trees.

Not what I wanted to do. But what I had to do.

Just like letting my kids spend Thanksgiving with their mom.

So maybe this will never make it to a daily reader. There's worse thing in the world than that.

But if it did, perhaps this would be the message:

"Inspirational messages are fine. God will work miracles. But sometimes God needs you to do something about it yourself."

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

*STBEW=Soon-To-Be-Ex-Wife. It's a lot easier to type. Especially at 4:55am.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Those Who Can, Do...

...and those who not only can but also explain in a way that illuminates the process, teach.

I realized today how many of the bloggers I call friends are somehow involved in academicia. Colleen, Jessica, Polanco...teachers all. Even the ones who don't teach for a living have some connections to education. Lily home schools. My wonderful friend Phil has lead seminars in screenwriting, as well as his online blog. The mighty Daniel uses his craft to teach as well.

I salute you all.

Because all of you, at one time or another probably had a schmoo like me as a student.

I used to teach as well. Part time, at a local College. I taught computer graphics.

The kids loved me.

Partially because I didn't take attendance.

That's not entirely true. I did take attendance, but it wasn't a big thing with me. I figured if they thought they could do the work without showing up for class, fine by me.*

And, quite honestly, some of them could. Some of them were better than me, and were only taking the course because it was a requirement before they could take a more advanced course. I gave them their assignments and their due dates, and if they got the work done, and didn't want to be there, then don't be there. I also told them I would welcome their presence in the class, and if they wanted to help out in any way, that would be fine as well. Not all of them disappeared, but none offered to help.

Oh, well.

The only ones that I really monitored for attendance were the ones who received special aid for their education (TANF Grants), and the one who was there as a condition of his parole. The aid students quickly fell into two groups: the ones who got it and the ones who didn't. "It," in this context, is the desire to use this chance to make something of themselves. Of those students (five in all), one never showed up, one disappeared after two classes, two stuck it through and did a decent job, and one fought tooth and nail to stay in that class. There was a mix-up with her paperwork, and she spent much of the semester getting it straightened out. Twice I was notified to drop her from the class, and twice I was told to reinstate her.

Good thing those other students weren't there, because she always had a computer, whether she was 'there' or not.

My favorite, though, was the parolee. He was a suburban kid, busted for drunken driving, posession, and a few other crimes many of us were lucky not to get caught for when we were that age.

He was a hustler. A playa. One of the first classes, he told me how he was going to make his first million.

He enrolled in this particular course because he thought it would be easy. I called the class "What Does This Button Do?"**

By the second week of class, I would have to pry him off the computer half an hour after the class ended.

At the end of the semester, his father came up to me and shook my hand. "You're the first teacher he's ever had to get him interested in anything," he told me.

At that moment, I realized why people teach.

Unfortunately, the school decided they didn't need my services any more. Partially because of the 'flippant' way I wrote the syllabus. Partially because I didn't make that big a deal of attendance. But also because I didn't give the students a 'solid academic grounding.'

In other words, they wanted me to have them read books. They wanted me to have them sit there in front of these new G4 macs with 1 gig processors, and read books.

That's what the other instructors were doing. I found this out from another student. She had opened up a chat window on her machine, and was instructing her friend who was in another classroom.

This wasn't what I had meant this post to be about, but I ain't erasing it now.


*An attitude first formulated in my Sophomore year, when I had to take a course called "Drama as Literature." There were 12 plays on the reading list. I had already read 10 of them. The professor would do a Q&A on Mondays and Wednesdays, and there would be a test on Friday. After the second week, I only showed up for the Friday tests. The prof came up to me after the final exam.
"Do you know how many classes you missed?" he asked me.
"About two-thirds," I replied.
"About two-thirds," he said.
"How did I do on the tests?" I asked.
"You got all A's," he said, "but you still should have come to class."
"To participate in the discussion."
"You stopped calling on me after the third class," I told him.
Perhaps I should have shown up. But the class met at 8. I needed my sleep more.
**In my view, that's the only way to teach computer graphics. Most of the first few classes were just getting them used to using computers as something other than a browser and entertainment center, and to not be afraid to explore the toolkit.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Cowboy Parable.

Little Bird was curious.

What was it on the other side of the nest?

He hopped up onto the edge of the nest, lost his balance, and fell down to the cold hard ground of the prairie.

Poor Little Bird. Nothin' left to do but sit and find out how he was gonna die.

Not too much later, a big ol' cow comes amblin' past, sees Little Bird, and feels sorta sorry for him.

Not much a cow can do for a little bird, but she does what she can: Turns around, lifts her tail, and lays a big ol' cow plop right on top of Little Bird.

Well, now Little Bird is warm, and protected, and even has little bits of seed to eat.

Not too much after that, a hungry coyote comes snufflin' around. He can't see Little Bird, but doesn't he smell him. Slowly and carefully, he starts diggin' through that cowpattie, until he gets Little Bird all uncovered again.

And doesn't he just swaller him in one big gulp.

Nothin' left of Little Bird but a lesson.

And the lesson is this:

Those that give you lots of shit ain't necessarily your enemies.

And those that get you out of shit ain't necessarily your friends.


Thursday, November 17, 2005


There are only so many parts of a pirate that are fit for public consumption. This sorta shows how my day's been going anyhow. Except I'm wearing pants. I'll take it down if there are too many complaints.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Sometimes I forget just how old I am.

No--I take that back. Sometimes I'm amazed at how old I am.

Because I don't really feel that old

Or act it.

For the most part.

But every once in a while, something happens that awakens the realization that I am past the median age for American males.

Actuarially speaking, I've had more yesterdays than I have tomorrows.

I am, for the most, part absolutely fine with that. It's just that every once in a while a milestone comes along and slaps me upside the head with a big, meaty thwak.

Born To Run is 30. It's being re-released with special babyboomer packaging.


Born To Run is supposed to be played too loud in my mom's car. Or on crappy little Emerson Stereo System in my bedroom. Or in my friend Gordon's parents rec room. We are supposed to sing the lyrics off key while driving while studying while shooting pool, and only later realize the irony of singing these workingman anthems one of the wealthiest communities in three counties.


It doesn't seem possible. But of course it is. It was really the beginning of my musical life. I thought about the times I listened to it, who I was with, and the various styles of music I have listened to in the intervening years.

For example, in the mid-eighties, I really got into Standards. I started reading about, and buying, all sorts of music I had previously scorned for no damn reason other than I thought it wasn't cool.

One of my favorite albums was Sinatra at the Sands, with Quincy Jones conducting the Count Basie Orchestra. Sinatra at the top of his game. Recorded in 1966. Enjoyed in 1983.

Then the math hit me. Less than 20 years separated the recording and the listening.

Born to Run is 30.

Shit. I'm old.

Just for funsies, I checked to see what was the big selling album thirty years before Born to Run came out:

Der Bingle at his best.

I don't really know where this post is going, but I guess it's just a question in the end. One that I can't answer, because Bruce is just as vibrant and fresh to me today as he was in Gordon's rec room.

Is the difference between Crosby and Springsteen, or even Sinatra and Sprinsteen, greater than the difference between Springsteen and, I don't know...Kanye West?

It doesn't seem that way to me.

But then again, I'm old.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Here in my car I feel safest of all

I was a car kid.

It was hard not to be. I grew up in the prime of the muscle car era. I knew my Mongoose from my Snake. I liked Andretti, my brother liked Foyt. I don't remember Tom Potter's older brother's name, but I do remember he drove a Red 1971 Boss 351 Fastback Mustang. My brother and I thought we had convinced our dad to buy a Road Runner as our family car, but he broke our hearts and got an Impala instead. Man, I wanted to ride in a Superbird. He did make it up to us by getting us the cool blue windbreakers with the patches for Christmas. Which may have been a mistake, since we put up a fight every time we couldn't wear them to school after Christmas vacation--when the temperature was 20 degrees and there was 8 inches of snow on the ground.

Through the teens and early twenties, my fascination with cars grew, but my car-care ability did not. I come from a family of engineers. My dad, my brother, my uncles on both sides--engineers, the lot of them. Even my mother is more mechanically adept than me. So, purchasing that VW Scirocco was, in hindsight, a mistake.

As the years went on, my priorities changed. Now, what I want in a car is simple: good mileage, safe, dependable, comfortable for my kids. I noticed the new cars, but I didn't really pay attention to them, since I'm still about a year away from getting a new car.

Until a few weeks ago.

I was the passenger in someone else's car for a four-hour cross-state trip. Passenger is not a position I'm accustomed to anymore. In fact, since 1985, I have been in a car and NOT driven probably seven times.

Eight, including a few weeks ago.

So, as I sat not driving, I returned to what I did when I was a kid.

No, not constantly asking 'Are we there yet?'

Okay, I did that a bit.

Looking at cars. And as I looked, I noticed something about them. I know that there has been a rebirth, of sorts, of the muscle cars of my youth. But these were different.

Lots of right angles.

Lots of vertical planes

Windows much smaller than they really need to be.

And this is on a station wagon.

Lots of the other vehicles were similarly styled.

High doors, big monster grills, blunt rear ends. Lots and lots of metal showing.

This isn't style.

It's armor.

I went back and looked at the cars that gave me prepubescent boners, and compared them to todays vehicles.

"I will blow you away," said the cars of my youth. "You will be passed like you're standing still, and I won't even be out of third gear. No, don't try to fight it...just eat my dust and be glad for the meal."

Then I looked at today's vehicles.

"Get the fuck out of the way," they said, "or I will run you over."

Aggressive, yes, but defensive too. Big, squared-off bricks of vehicles, carrying out pre-emptive strikes on the nation's roadways.

These aren't muscle cars.

They're bully cars.

Not just cars, either. Actually, the cars are almost secondary. In fact, for the first time that I can remember, cars are styled to look more like trucks and SUV's. That's a Pontiac Vibe. A friendly little car. Yet it still looks up-armored. It's styled like a truck or an SUV. And the trucks and SUV's are designed to intimidate.

This is not an idle conjecture. The first vehicle to capture what has become the current mindset in vehicle styling was the 1994 Dodge Ram, which was designed specifically to be intimidating in the rear-view mirror. Kudos for that design/marketing team. They managed to get ahead of the trend curve by 5 to 10 years.

Because what's driving the market in driving these days, at least stylistically, is:


It started with Y2K, and ramped up to code red with 9/11. Now, we all want to be safe.

And what's safer, o soccer mom in the Hummer, than a bunch of rivets and big metal tubes?

How about this--instead of insulating yourself from your neighbor, getting to know your neighbor? It's hard to blindly fear someone you know.

For me, this is what it all boils down to. We live in a very insular society. From our vehicles, to our houses, to our communication styles, we are getting more and more isolated from our neighbors.

Not me.

I'm going to go out and sit on my porch and greet my neighbors as they walk their dogs. Hell, if it's a nice enough night, maybe the kids and I will walk too. I'm going to smile and say hello. I'm going to ask 'how are you?' and listen to the reply.

How about you?

Say hello to someone you don't know.

And if you don't know what else to say, do what I used to do:

Talk about cars.


Friday, November 11, 2005


Today I will listen, trust, and obey.
Today I will ask for help.
Today I won't make myself sick.
Today I will trust my Higher Power.
Today I will not shame myself by demeaning others.
Today I will let go of insisting upon my will.
Today I will choose a sane life.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Pleasant 50% Unclothed Workday to You

So here it is, 10:41 pm on a Thursday. I've been trying to upload a frikkin' picture all day, but I can't get blogger to do it. I've used Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. I've tried it on a Mac, and on a PC. I've disabled my popup blocker, and emptied my cache. No dice.

Thing is, I used to be able to do it. It started last week, and I still haven't rectified it.

The thing is, I can upload from a different website, and I can send pics using hello!, but not from my computer.

Oh well. Here's half a pirate for ya. Even if it's already Friday when ya see it.

Yeharr Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Flicks, Movies, and Films

There's a difference, ya know.

At least for me. For me, this is a great shorthand for categorizing the various types of cinematic experiences I encounter.

First off, I never knew 'Flick' was Aussie slang. I've been using it for years. It's a great word for a certain type of motion picture.

Sounds a lot better than 'lowbrow.'

Flicks, for me, are the typical summer fare movies, encompassing a wide array of styles and genres. Children's features, Buddy films, Action-adventure, many comedies, and anything that stars a former member of Saturday Night Live all fall under the category of Flicks.

Flicks are visceral, evocative, and work on a very high level of consciousness. For the most part, you know exactly what's going to happen before it does. The bad guys are foiled, the hero gets the girl, and all that you need to do is watch it unfurl.

Movies tend to be a bit more thoughtful. There's a message to be had there. A story to be told. It doesn't have to be a great story--it can even be a simple story, but there's a premium placed on the development of characters. Movies tend to be dramas, but not always.

And films. They're the motion pictures that transcend. The ones that stay in your head. The ones that leave a lasting impression. They are often groundbreaking, and sometimes they lose their impact, but they're the ones that work on so many levels that you always get something from them when you view it.

The thing about films is that their creation is sometimes almost magical. Yes, there are some films that you just know will be in this category--shot with the "Important Film" imprimatur on every frame. But there are others, too, with much lower aspirations that also fall under--or more accurately rise into--this category.

So, without further ado, I present:

Balloon Pirate's Nowhere Near Complete Self-Conscious-But-What-the-Hell-It's-My-Blog list of Fantastic Flicks, Marvellous Movies, and Fine Films

Flicks: Raiders of the Lost Ark; Star Wars Episode IV, Big Trouble; Big Trouble in Little China; Ghostbusters; the Toy Stories; Blazing Saddles; The Matrix; Men in Black

Movies: Gladiator; The Incredibles; Local Hero; Bull Durham; Star Wars Episode VI; The Insider; Down By Law; Barry Lyndon; Animal House

Films: Saving Private Ryan; Schindler's List; High Noon; Diva; A Clockwork Orange; Finding Nemo; She's Gotta Have It; The Bicycle Thief; Star Wars Episode V

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it will give you an idea of how my mind works. I linked a bunch of possibly lesser-known film titles to their webpages. If you're ever stuck at the video store and don't know what to get, you could do worse than any of these.

And as a bonus: here's a quick review:

Antonio Banderas stars as an action hero who hides his true identity from his offspring, but in the end, said offspring comes to his aid and together with his wife, who also has a secret identity, destroy the bad guy.

Hey--that review works for both The Legend of Zorro and Spy Kids!

OK, let's try this again:

In The Mask of Zorro, the primary supporting male actor is Anthony Hopkins. In The Legend of Zorro, it's Adrian Alonso, born in 1994. One of the main subplots in this movie involves his wife divorcing him. His wife. Divorcing him. In 1850's California.

I'll let that sink in.

The kids loved the action sequences, and the horse smokes a pipe.

It's an OK flick. Wait to see it on HBO, though.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Would You Be My, Could You Be My...

As anyone who has ever read Burned Out Paranoid Democrat can attest, I'm a Pirate of Strong Opinions. I was going to share a Strong Opinion about bedroom communities on this blog.

And maybe someday I will. But I've decided to keep the tone of this post positive. So, rather than talk about what's wrong with bedroom communites, I'll write about why I love my neighborhood.

Let's take a walk, shall we?

My Porch Posted by Picasa
This is home, looking due north. The leaves are just peaking with their autumnal color right now. But there's color all summer long, as well. That big bush on the corner of the porch is a lilac bush. Every May, it explodes in fragrant purple blossoms. Except for one branch, which inexplicably has white blossoms on it. There's lots of lilacs around, but I've never seen a bush that does this:

See? Posted by Picasa

That's from this spring. Anyways...Turn the corner, and head southeast for a block, and you get to the playground. This is where we (my kids and I) spend a decent part of nearly every Saturday from April through, well, this weekend so far.

Home away from home Posted by Picasa

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Them's the progeny. Lucky for them they look like their mama.

One block southeast and two blocks northeast (in other words, directly east as the crow flies) there are three wonderful places:

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This is a second-run movie house. They bring in the films that have had their run in the gigaplexes, that have been pulled to make way for the next big release. Double features are $3. Popcorn's a buck. So's the candy and soda. Not everything they show is kid-friendly, but a couple times a month we'll go there for an evening and I get change back from my Jackson (that's $20 for my friends in the Commonwealth) . A five minute walk from my house.

Behind the Cinema:

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This dude's so cool. Twice a year, he hitches a trailer to his SUV and heads down to Mexico, where he buys arts and crafts directly from the Mexican artists. So many vibrant colors, wonderful craftsmanship, and damn cheap. (Are you sensing a theme here? The new pillaging taxes are killing the ol' Pirate). His take on both NAFTA and the Patriot Act are well-reasoned and have real-life experience behind them. But that's a post for a different blog.

And across the street:

This picture is from a website cuz it's better than th one I took. It's an Orleans diner, the last one in existence. It's fully restored to its 1940's glory, and even the waitresses wear authentic '40's styl uniforms. the food is very good diner food, and reasonably priced. It's a feature of the neighborhood. But it's not the best food within walking distance of my house.

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Here's a great spot, about 20 yards from the diner. Great Tandoori. They also have a vegetarian cafe across the street, and an indian grocery store, all together. Their chicken makhani is awesome, but it's still not the best food in da hood.

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Like sushi? Sashimi? Chawan-Mushi? Tonjiru? Gracious hosts and soothing atmosphere? I do too. Two doors down from the India House. Splendid restaurant. Still not the best.

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About a block northeast. Mediterranean food in a modern, airy atmosphere. Awesome. Not the best.

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One block northwest. 30 beers on tap, from all over the world. Several dozen more in bottles. Fine bar food. 6 dart boards, 3 pool tables. 8 TVs playing sports. Sturdy bar food, tasty soups. Right across the street from:

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Great coffee--including coffee-flavored coffee (apparantly, I'm in the minority in that I like my coffee to taste like coffee). Open mike comedy and music nights. Breads, soups, salads. Still not the best in the hood. So where's the best place?

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One block away. Lip-smackin' barbecue. Blackened catfish. Live blues. Awesome. Nope.

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Dozens of delectable dishes. Not here either. Nor is it at the German restaurant down the street, the Ethiopean one half a block over, the Mexican bistro three blocks south, the paisans who make upside down pizza, nor any of the other diners that cram this area.
Give up?

This is the place. Posted by Picasa
The tables are often sticky, the tea is watery, and the owners have almost no grasp of English. And the decor is--well, the outside looks better than the inside.
But omygod.
What they can do to the noodle.
Lo mein, dan mein, gan mein, chow men. Ban fo, ho fun, lai fen, sen lek. Bai fun, sai fun, bun tau, tung boon. In sesame, in soy, in soup. With chicken, with cashews, with pork, with vegetables. Huge portions, steaming hot, fast, and cheap. I don't know how they do it, and from what I can see of their kitchen, I don't WANT to know.

And we walk there, and waddle home.

So all we do is eat?


Posted by PicasaLet's head west. You can't see it from here, but 400 feet away is the hospital where my daughter was born. Another 500 feet from there, and we're at the park.

The park. Posted by Picasa20 acres of natural beauty, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead--the same guy who designed New York's Central park.
There's lots of ways to enter the park, but this is the path we take:

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Right through those trees, and we end up in a natural bowl behind the Conservatory greenhouse, which houses hundreds of botanical specimens from around the world.
In fact, the park has more than 1,200 variations of lilac shrubs, 700 types of rhododendrons azaleas and mountain laurel, 35 varieties of magnolia trees, a score of japanese maples, and a pansy bed with 10,000 plants.

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Every year, the park draws hundreds of thousands of people to admire and enjoy its beauty.

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Usually, that's not what we do.

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What we do is run around like idiots.

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This is the bowl--one of our favorite places. Those two piles of leaves down there are each big enough for five people to play in, and they form there naturally because of the wind.

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And I'm not responsible for raking them.

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Spring, summer and fall, if were not at the playground, we come here.

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This is the amphitheater across the street. They have free concerts here during the summer.

 Posted by PicasaThis is where we sat to watch Barenaked Ladies a few summers ago. They also show 'family' movies here on Thursday nights during the summer. We get our sleeping bags, pack some snacks, and hang out on the lawn as the late summer evening turns to dusk. We lie on our backs, watching the bats pick bugs out of the air, and try to see the first stars of the evening. Then the movie comes on, and we snuggle up and watch as the dew slowly moistens our clothes.

But summer's over, and even though it's mild enough that we played in shorts and shirtsleeves this weekend, winter's just around the corner. Those steep gradients are perfect for sledding. Mostly, we go behind the Conservatory. There's a wide spot where you can get a good 25 second ride without the chance of hitting a tree. But sometimes they convince me to go to the amphitheater.

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Those trees are much closer together, but there are well-worn paths between them for sledding.

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Okay, maybe not that wide. That's tree is the one my daughter did a face-plant on a few years ago. Yes, we ended up at the emergency room. She vowed she would never go sledding again. That lasted about two weeks.

There's lots more to my neighborhood than what I've shown you. But that's enough for now. In the future, perhaps I'll put together a photo essay on the dogs in the hood. Like Annie, the Wonder Dog, The Three Yappy Long Dogs, The Ball-less Boxer, and more.

And I'll take along the camera when it gets time to hit the slopes.

But for now, life is good in the hood. Stop by sometime. We've got stuff to do.