Tuesday, December 08, 2015

A Parting Kiss

It’s been nine months today since Cindy passed. And as time goes by I still remember
things about our relationship that I hadn’t thought much about since her death. Over the past week or so I’ve been thinking more about our parting kiss.

Early in our relationship, Cindy and I made sure that whenever we parted, we’d go off
with a kiss, a parting kiss. I’m sure many others do too. It was something that we made an immediate part of our daily life. We tried to never forget it.

It didn’t matter, either, where we were going or how long we’d be gone. Going to the grocery store for a gallon of milk, heading to the gas station to fill up the gas can for the mower, or going off for a week at a training seminar, we made sure we exchanged our parting kisses.

Seeing the things that can happen in the world, you just never know. No regrets, no should have dones, no I wishes - a parting kiss every time.

Truth be told, Cindy remembered it every time, and I, on a rare occasion, would let it slip my mind because I was thinking “BIG THOUGHTS”. Going to the landfill, well come on, that required intense activity of the grey matter.

However, not to fear, (see Cindy…in above paragraph), Cindy would remember for me. As I climbed in my truck and hit the garage door button to bring it on down, I would see a set of feet pass by the gap before the garage door settled firmly on the concrete floor.

Think quickly, Dave. I’d try to bluff my way through and hit the button to raise that garage door and hurry back to give her that parting kiss. I would feign surprise to find her just inside the garage door. She would laugh. She knew better.

Or on a rarer occasion, I’d actually make it part way down the driveway and detect motion in my rear view mirror. Cindy would be standing at the top of the driveway with an expectant, half-way chagrined, look on her face. She wasn’t tapping her foot, but you could see it was floating around in the back of her mind to do just that. No escape from this one, or feigning any kind of surprise. I’d back my way up the driveway and lock lips with my girl.

Whether I reopened the garage door, or reversed that truck up the driveway, it didn’t matter. I loved seeing the glee in her face and the twinkle in her eye as I got closer. I’d share with her, and enjoy, that parting kiss, and then get on with my business.

Now before I leave the house, or after I get home, I’ll talk to Cindy while gazing at a photo of her. I’ll tell her what I have going on, where I’m going, how long I expect to be gone. And I’ll feel a connection to her like we’re chatting rather than me just spouting information. 

But, the parting kiss? It’s difficult to imagine that parting kiss. I miss it a lot.

The wonderful thing about that parting kiss? Sometimes, it wasn’t a parting kiss at all. It would start out as one. But, you know, maybe that business we had wasn’t all that important anyway. Maybe this parting kiss was really where our “business” for the day belonged. 

Cindy and I would walk back into the house, because we could do parting kisses another time. Right then, passionate kisses seemed a whole lot more fun. 

Friday, December 04, 2015


"Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes rise to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait, the grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas". - Henry Ford

I keep a handful of books near my bed for a ready bit of encouragement or humor. One of them is Peace of Mind: Daily Meditations for Easing Stress by Amy E. Dean.

In Peace of Mind there is a daily entry on a variety of topics and today's, December 4th, is about enthusiasm.

Dean wrote: "For the 6' 9 1/2" Boston Celtics superstar Larry Bird, who made millions playing with an amazing enthusiasm that included buzzer-beater shots and incredible lookaway passes, life hadn't always been easy. When he was eighteen, his father committed suicide. When he played college hoops, his coach told him he wasn't going to make it to the pros, and when he sought a career in professional basketball, he was told that he'd never be able to keep up. He faced countless injuries, operations to remove bone spurs from both heels, and major back surgery. Yet despite it all, Bird remained invincible on the court, a feat he attributed to a combination of enthusiastic physical and spiritual energy that made him feel like he was a champion every game."

Dean then goes on to ask what are you going to direct your enthusiasm towards? She suggests that you, "Find what gives you that thrill of being great, and then feel that thrill as much as you can!"

She says your meditative thoughts might be, "I don't have to be a superstar to feel good about something I do. Today, I'll feel the butterflies of excitement when I do something I'm good at."

I have a friend, Mary, who each year puts her enthusiasm into helping a local family shelter. She holds a party, at her expense, and the price of admission is an unwrapped toy to provide to the shelter for kids who otherwise wouldn't have a Christmas. It is difficult not to feed off of Mary's enthusiasm for this wonderful event. I'll enjoy shopping today for my price of admission to make someone's Christmas a little more special.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Von Ryan's Express and Undying Hope

Von Ryan's Express: MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen Von Ryan's Express since it was released in 1965, and you don't want the ending spoiled for you, stop reading right now.

Saturday evening I was watching, AGAIN, Von Ryan's Express starring Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard. I've seen it "a few" times now.

Sinatra is the top ranking Allied officer in a prisoner of war camp in Italy. He is attempting to take the prisoners to freedom over the Italian Alps by rail and runs into a number of troubles along the way.

Towards the end, the Luftwaffe has destroyed a section of track. It's now necessary to delay the German's follow on train while the prisoners repair the track so they can move on.

They take a piece of rail from behind their train. This also makes it impossible for the German's to follow them by rail.

The German troops de-train and attack the prisoners as they put the final touches on the rail repair. Their numbers greatly outnumber the prisoners' firepower.

There's Colonel Frank, leading the delaying action so the train can move forward. All of the surviving prisoners have made it onto the train, except Frank. And as it moves on, Frank is running.

The prisoners reach out to Frank from the rear of the train so he can grab their hands and be pulled to safety. Frank grasps; the prisoners grasp.

But alas, the Germans shoot Frank down dead and he ends up lying prone between the tracks as the prisoners stare dejectedly from the rear of the train. The Germans stare dejectedly at the rear of the receding train.

Every time I watch this, I yell out to Frank, "Run! Run a little faster". I think, "maybe this time he'll make it. Maybe this time he'll defy all logic and outrun those bullets coming at his back".

But nope, it never works. Frank doesn't run faster. Frank gasps in fatigue with arms outstretched as the bullets tear into him from behind. Frank ends up dead on the tracks.

Isn't it a great movie that you can watch over and over again and still enjoy it? Isn't it a great movie that provides such drama, that even though you know how it ends, you hope against hope that maybe this time, it just might end a little differently?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

OneDayU: Back to College for a Day

Last Sunday I went back to college. I attended Columbia University, Amherst College, American University, and Yale University. And I did it all by traveling to the Hyatt Regency in Washington, D.C. How did I do that you ask? I went to a session of OneDayU.

OneDayU is college for life-long learners all neatly packaged into a one-day event. It is held throughout the year in 23 cities across the U.S., with slightly different programs held in each city. There are 191 professors who have taken part in various OneDayU sessions.

Diverse topics range from The Genius of Michaelangelo to a session on The Middle East, Freedom of Speech, and Criminal Justice, to a lecture on Are We Alone: The Search for Other Life in the Universe.

Instruction is by esteemed professors such as Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School, Tina Rivers Ryan of Columbia University, and Jeremi Suri of the University of Texas.

Each lecture lasts an hour and ten minutes, which includes time for questions. Professors are used to teaching to overworked, weary (sometimes hungover) teens, so are extremely motivated and energized by the active-listening audiences attending OneDayU. The lectures are packed full, and provide many keys for students to do follow on research of their own.

And guess what? Unlike your days in college, there are no quizzes, no exams, and no grades. You pass your courses by being an attentive audience member and absorbing a wide range of interesting and useful information.

In Washington, D.C. there were four lectures: The Genius of Michaelangelo by Professor Tina Rivers Ryan of Columbia University, 4 Trials That Changed the World by Professor Austin Sarat of Amherst College, Men, Women, And Politics (A World of Difference) by Professor Jennifer Lawless of American University, and What is Emotional Intelligence? by Professor Marc Brackett of Yale University.

What did I learn? I learned that (to paraphrase Hamlet…and Shakespeare), there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. Or to put it another way, knowledge gained through these lectures is expansive, provocative, and motivating.

In The Genius of Michaelangelo, I learned that Michaelangelo was a jerk who wore dog skin boots that he wore so long, when he did take them off, a layer of skin would sometimes come off with them. Also, he happened to be a great artist. One of his first creations was, arguably one of his most memorable, The Pieta, commissioned by a French Cardinal.

In Men, Women, And Politics (A World of Difference), Professor Lawless reviewed her 15 year study of why so many more men are in political positions, from local races all the way to the U.S. Senate. The primary driver is that women are more conservative in judging the skills that would make them viable candidates, while men usually believe they can do a better job than the bozo already in the role. When women do run, they succeed at every level as often as men.

How does OneDayU work? OneDayU seeks a newspaper partner in the city where it wants to run an event. The paper advertises the event and offers a discount code to use when applying. For this event, the Washington Post was the sponsor, and admission was discounted from $169 down to $129. The hotel offered discounted valet parking and box lunches for purchase for those who didn’t want to run out to one of the local restaurants.

Included in the handouts at this event was an application to enroll for the April 10, 2016 event to be held at the Sheraton Pentagon City in Arlington, VA. People signing up last Sunday received discounted admission from $179 down to $99.

The Topics in April will be The Art of Aging, Rhapsody in Blue: Gershwin’s Remarkable Masterpiece, The Rise and Decline of the American Presidency, and German Resistance in WWII: What We Know Now That We Didn’t Know Then. It promises to be an interesting and fulfilling day.

If you want to see if there’s a OneDayU event coming near you, check out their website at www.OneDayU.com. If you go, I think you’ll find that it was an event worthy of your time.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman

Reed Farrel Coleman wrote Where It Hurts for me. No, you won’t see my name on the Dedication Page, not in the Acknowledgement section either. Nope, nary a footnote exists in Where It Hurts to identify how Coleman wrote this book for me. In fact, I would venture a guess that my name didn’t fire a single synapse in his fertile brain as Coleman was writing Where It Hurts.

Where It Hurts is, to a great extent, about dealing with grief and when Coleman was writing this, I hadn’t experienced the loss that would have such a profound effect on me. But still, it was written for me, and also for many others who have experienced the death of someone so close to them that that passing felt as if a piece of their heart was wrenched from their being. Cue Janis Joplin.

One of Coleman’s literary talents is the ability to put you in the mind, and heart, of his characters with such clarity and intensity that you become one of those characters. In Where It Hurts, that character is John Augustus Murphy, or Gus, as he likes to be called.

Gus is the guy that we want a Coleman protagonist to be. He has the toughness and street smarts learned as a former Suffolk County policeman. He understands human nature. He knows that people can sometimes be brilliant, and that sometimes they can be just plain stupid. And the Family Feud number one answer that Gus has in spades, is heart.

Gus’s heart is broken. His son, John, broke it when he died as a young man with his whole life ahead of him, and for two years Gus has suffered with that while the rest of his family disintegrated. Gus’s wife, Annie, drove a final stake into it by an infidelity with one of Gus’s former coworkers, and Gus’s daughter, Kristen, descended into a life battling drugs and alcohol.

Gus, himself, lives and works at The Paragon Hotel, a second rate hotel near MacArthur Airport on Long Island. It is a paragon of only of what shape Gus’s life is in, a perfect mess.

Told in first person point of view, Coleman gives the reader a ring-side seat for Gus’s dealing with his grief, his ruminations on death and what comes next, and how he’s trying to move past it to a new life, one that will probably never be quite as good as the one he had.

Into this new life walks Tommy Delcamino, a small-time hood that Gus had dealings with when he was a police officer. Tommy is dealing with grief too. His son, TJ, was tortured and murdered months earlier. Now he wants Gus to help him find out why. The police seem disinterested, even when Tommy gave them plenty of leads to go on.

Gus is reluctant.  But when a Suffolk County Police contact warns him to stay away from the case and then Tommy Delcamino is murdered, Gus’s curiosity is piqued, and his heart works on his mind. Gus figures even small time hoods deserve justice, even if they’re dead.

Gus finds himself in a battle with drug runners, organized crime figures, and maybe even corrupt cops. But he doesn’t fight his battle alone. Slava, a coworker at The Paragon Hotel, with a murky Russian past, Father Bill, a former priest of questionable faith, who helps Gus manage his moral compass, and Dr. Rosen, a psychiatrist, who attempts to help Gus solve the answer to the magic show that is self-deceit, all help Gus to navigate through dangerous waters.

What readers of Coleman’s novels have come to expect are rich characterizations, solid plotting, realistic dialog, an occasional thrill, and an emotional core that examines the human side of every story. Where It Hurts succeeds in every facet.

So when Coleman writes his next book for me, or not, I trust Gus will be in good hands. He is a fascinating new character that I hope is around for many adventures to come. If you haven’t read Reed Farrel Coleman before, reading Where It Hurts and meeting Gus Murphy is a good place to start.

Where It Hurts will be available January 12, 2016.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

From Soup to Nuts

This is the time of year, when there's a chill in the air and leaves crunch underfoot, that just seems right for soup. It's hard to beat a steaming hot bowl of your favorite soup to warm the cockles of your soul.

Evidence of the existence of soup goes back to 20,000 B.C. so even then they knew a good thing. The word "soup" comes from the unappetizing image of pouring some poor gruel over a crust of hard bread or "sop". Okay, forget that, soups can be really good and good for you. Chicken soup for a cold, anyone?

Just a couple miles up the road from my house is Christ Church in Stevensville, MD. That's where the Kent Island Farmers Market sets up on Thursday afternoons all year around.

There, about a dozen farmers offer all of the traditional produce items like tomatoes and corn, but also hard to find items like shiitake mushrooms and kohlrabis. They also offer a slew of products derived from their harvest such as pastas, breads, and much more.

One of my favorite features of the market is the soup kitchen. Using fresh products from participating farmers, the Soup Groupies, as they call themselves, prepare four soups each week that are just this side of wonderful. The menu varies each week.

The four soups include a creamy type, a meat-based, a seafood-based, and a vegan, most of which are gluten free. I could go into paroxysms of delight describing the tastes that manifest themselves in these soups, but I'll just show you a recent week's menu and you can imagine the flavors yourself. They are all just as flavorful as they appear.

Week of: Oct 15th       
Soup Menu (SM (8 oz) $3, MD (16 oz) $6, LG (32 oz) $12)
Creamy Vegan:
Creamy Curried Cauliflower
Onions, celery, garlic, cauliflower, white wine, coriander, curry, vegan base, coconut milk, bay leaves

Brats ‘n Beer
Onions, carrots, fennel, cabbage, brats, potatoes, beef and chicken base, Newcastle Nut Brown ale, bay leaves, fennel & dill seeds
Meaty Seafood:
Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo
Onions, celery, carrots, sweet peppers, poblanos, okra, shrimp, andouille sausage, tomatoes, butter, flour, fish & chicken base, herb blend, gumbo file, parsley
Beets, Red Onion & Cherry
Red Onions, garlic, beets, sweet potatoes, white wine, dried cherries, cherry juice, orange juice & zest, vegan base, bay leaves, coriander, dill, pinch cayenne

The Soup Groupies also offer three or four different salads (menu below), which along with a family-run bakery's selection of breads and rolls, will supply you with a complete meal or five, depending on how much you get and how big your family is, 

You can taste before you buy, which is great if you're suspicious of anything with beets or capers in it as I am.

You can also sign up for their email list, pre-order, and they'll have your order all packaged up waiting for you. Of course, even when I've done this, once I get there I almost always taste something and add it to the order.

This past week I bought some of the upper three soups here (the beet thing kept me from making it a clean sweep), and three of the salads, and I ate on them all week. 

Salad Menu (SM (8 oz) $3, MD (16 oz) $6, LG (32 oz) $12)

Chicken Salad
Chicken, green onions, celery, mayo, Dijon mustard, lemon juice & zest, parsley, dill, garlic salt and pepper
Fall Slaw
Red & green cabbage, fennel, grated carrot, green onion, apples, radishes, kohlrabi, Daikon radish, craisins, lemon juice & zest, Dijon mustard, cilantro, maple syrup, garlic salt & pepper
White Bean Salad w/ Olives, Tomatoes & Basil
Cannellini beans, green onion, cherry tomatoes, green & black olives, white wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, basil
Brown & Wild Rice w/ Pecans
Brown & Wild rice, green onions, celery, grated carrot, pomegranate, diced zucchini, toasted pecans, pears, queso fresco, pomegranate juice, olive oil, agave, coriander

In addition to the ready-made meal items at the market, you can buy farm-fresh eggs, sausages, olives, crabs, fresh juices and a dozen different nut butters, including almond and pecan, and also macadamia and pistachio. My favorite is the Old Bay Peanut Butter.

If you don't have a resource like this near you and you're handy in the kitchen, or even if you're not, but you're feeling adventurous, pull out your slow cooker, mix up your favorite soup stuff and "bon appetit". Most soups fare well with freezing, so you can make lots and feed on it all fall and winter.

I probably have you already, but if I mention eating more soups helped me lose a few pounds, would that convince you that soups are a good thing? "Mmm, mmm, good".

Stay warm, my friends.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My Masterpiece

I have not written a word for this blog, or really for almost anything else but my journal, in quite a long time.

I've written a few extended posts on FaceBook about Cindy and my dealing with her passing, but those were more stream of consciousness, emotional outpourings that I needed to do to maintain my sanity. I'm glad I did them though, for me, and for the many family and friends who have thanked me for sharing my feelings with them.

I suddenly feel motivated to write and so I shall. The muse is strong.

The photo below is my Mona Lisa. It is my El Capitan. It is my Christina's World.

This photo gives me more pleasure than any I have taken before or since. It is my masterpiece. I love it.

Cindy is vibrant. She is radiating a joie de vivre, a playfulness, a sexiness, a fire that overwhelmed this photographer and gave him those first thoughts that this was, indeed, the woman for him.

Well, there is a story to that, in fact a story within a story, if this can be considered a story.

Cindy and I went to high school together and then went our separate ways. We then met up again after 23 years. That is a story for another day.

This photo was taken on our first date in November 1995. It was a photo taken at the wedding reception of Cindy's cousin Frank.

Cindy said it was a test. If I could survive her family and the grilling I was going to take from them, I could withstand anything. I did, and I'm happy I did. In fact, we lived nineteen more years of happy.

Pictured on the left with Cindy is her cousin, Donna. The two of them were having a great time catching up on life and partying when I took this picture.

Since I saw the first print of this photo, it has been in a cheap plastic frame on a dresser near my bed. I look at it every morning when I rise, and every night before lying down to sleep. I still get tingles when I look at it.

Donna is so cute. Almost every time I see her, I remind her that I go to bed with her by my side every night. She blushes. I always thought that was sweet. Cindy always thought it was hilarious.

Yesterday, I received a card from Donna just letting me know that she thinks about me often.

I think about her every night. If she sees this, I hope she blushes.