Thursday, July 28, 2016

Life Lately

This summer is passing way too quickly. I'm not a fan of hot weather and insects, but after eighteen years in the south, I've become somewhat acclimated. The increased daylight and absence of school responsibilities more than offset the heat and humidity. I am not a mother who rejoices when school starts again. Here are a few life updates from the Patience Crabstick household.

Seamus has had his permit for over a year but had not progressed very far in his driving skills, mainly because of my own terror of letting a teenager drive a stick shift in a hilly town like Charlottesville. I know tons of parents in Cville who taught their kids to drive on a stick shift, but I seem to be impaired in this respect even though I love driving stick shift myself. So we bought an old Volvo station wagon from one of the local firemen and Seamus loves it and has been driving me on all my errands and his driving skills have improved a lot. He will have his license before long!

Grace also had an old Volvo that has served her well for nearly four years, but it died spectacularly in the middle of Broad Street in Richmond and it was immediately apparent that it would never drive again. She had named it "Gil". Can we have a moment of silence for Gil the Volvo who carried my daughter safely between Richmond and Charlottesville and who, even when his engine was boiling hot and seizing and smoking and drained of oil, managed to carry her to within a block of her apartment. He had 300,000 miles on him. Poor Gil, the faithful Volvo!

There has been some drama secondary to her purchase of a new car for herself. I can't give details because we are considering how to proceed in the face of what appears to be blatant fraud.  The state police are now involved. I'll just say this: if a car you are considering has a passing inspection sticker on the windshield, make sure you also check the inspection form that should be in the car.

What else? I know you will roll your eyes, but I am planning a week of intensive house cleaning and I'm as excited about it as if I were about to embark on a vacation.  Seamus and I have been working on the world's most difficult jigsaw puzzle, and I have been knitting a sweater for Seamus and would like to knit some dishcloths because homemade knitted dishcloths are the best. Some exciting life I lead!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Last Chronicle of Barset

I'm very happy that I have now read the entire Barchester series by Anthony Trollope. It was very rewarding to read these books and I feel certain that most of you would love them too.

The Last Chronicle of Barset was Trollope's own favorite in the series, and it might be mine too, although I'm also partial to Barchester Towers. The Last Chronicle is different from the other books in that there's a mystery to be solved. Josiah Crawley, curate of Hogglestock, is accused of stealing a check for twenty pounds. The check in question had been reported stolen by Mr. Soames, Lord Lufton's man of business. Mr. Crawley is unable to satisfactorily explain how the check came into his possession and so is indicted and will stand trial when the assizes come to Barchester.

Mr. Crawley is a stern, upstanding christian, and hardly a thief, but his difficult life of poverty and privation have caused him to experience periods of depression so profound that they are described as a temporary madness. It was during one of these periods that he cashed the check and has no memory of how he acquired it. Naturally, it is a scandal for a clergyman to be accused of a crime, and Mr. Crawley and his family suffer much distress and humiliation, made even worse by the fact that the odious Mrs. Proudie must personally persecute poor Mr. Crawley.

Mr. Crawley himself is an impossible person: stubborn, sexist, refuses to listen to reason or act in his own best interests. His confrontation with Mrs. Proudie, however, is one of the most satisfying passages to read in all of literature. You should read this book just for that one scene, although you will also enjoy the secondary plot about Mr. Crawley's daughter, Grace, and Henry Grantly, the son of Archdeacon Grantly. Also in the Last Chronicle, Trollope continues the story of Lily Dale and John Eames from The Small House at Allington.

The Last Chronicle is different from the other books in that it doesn't really work as a stand-alone. At a minimum, you must have read Framley Parsonage and The Small House at Allington, and preferably Barchester Towers as well in order to fully appreciate this book. However, the whole series is so delightful that it really isn't a chore to read them all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tourist in my Home Town

I went to Buffalo this weekend for my 30th high school reunion from Sacred Heart Academy. This is the first reunion I've attended and it was a lot of fun. My high school was such a gentle place and all the girls were nice. It was interesting to see the adults we've become and to catch up on everyone's news. Some of them I've known since kindergarten, and others went on to the same college that I did, so we have decades of shared experiences.

Our original uniform made a guest appearance, along with the current SHA uniform.
I'd forgotten we used to write on our hems.

Even with two reunion events and visiting with family,  I had time for some touristing in Buffalo. On Friday, I explored Canalside, a new park on the waterfront downtown, at the site of the original Erie Canal. During the time I lived in Buffalo, the area was more or less a wasteland. Now, there's a large ice rink (used for paddle boats in the summer), art, activities for kids and families, boat tours, and kayak rentals on the Buffalo River. It was wonderful to see the area so alive with people - on a weekday even! I walked down the waterfront trail for a while, as far as the fire station for engine number 20 on Ohio Street. The "engine" is a fireboat, the Edward M. Cotter, the oldest active fireboat in the world. Also along the river: the General Mills Cheerios factory. They were baking the Cheerios as I walked past, it's a delicious smell, though it used to torture me when I was a rower in these waters and always on a starvation diet to make weight.

Edward M Cotter fireboat

This is a public skating rink in the winter

When I was a rower, we mostly rowed in the Black Rock Canal, but sometimes we came down here.
That's the Cheerios factory (and kayakers) in the distance.

Saturday, I indulged myself in breakfast at my favorite cafe, Sweetness 7 on Grant St. I ordered the "proper porridge" with some trepidation because I have been served some truly tragic oatmeal in various cafes, and since my trip to Ireland, my oatmeal standards are high. This, however, really was proper porridge. It was fluffy and clearly had been cooked on the stove and not in a microwave. It achieved almost Irish levels of Oatmeal Excellence. Then I browsed through shops and a flea market in Elmwood Village, the neighborhood we lived in when our kids were young. (Although we didn't call it Elmwood Village then. It was just the "West Side.")

Proper porridge indeed. The book is The Last Chronicle of Barset

Later, I ate lunch in a Burmese restaurant and discovered Burmese milk tea. It is similar to chai and very delicious. I'm going to try to recreate it at home.

I also spent a little time in Larkinville, another newly-restored area on the southeast edge of downtown. It turns out that Larkinville is generally a place one goes to only if there is an event scheduled. They have concerts in the square every Wednesday and there's also a Food Truck Tuesday every week. Still, there were some interesting-looking restaurants with people in them. It's clearly an area ripe with potential and I walked around for a bit. Back in the day, it was absolutely unheard of to be able to safely walk alone on this part of Seneca Street.

In Larkinville. I could smell Cheerios baking way over here, a couple of miles from the GM factory.

So, there wasn't much activity in Larkinville but then I remembered my father telling me about a Frank Lloyd Wright gas station in the vicinity. I found it, after a bit of googling and searching. You can't see it from the street because there's a museum built around it, which I wasn't aware of.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the gas station in 1927. It was intended for Buffalo but was never built. The city of Buffalo hung on to the plans for years and in 2014 built it within the confines of the Pierce Arrow Museum at the foot of Michigan Avenue. It was a bit difficult to capture on camera, but this is the best I could do. It was designed to have an open wood burning fireplace on the lower level, with the gasoline stored in the attic. Maybe it's fortunate that it was never built!

Check the neon.

From the back
Entrance to the ladies' room. There's an identical mens' room on the other side.

Sunday I flew back to Virginia. I'm always bereft when I have to leave, especially in the summer, when Virginia is like the bottom of a damp gym bag that's been left in a hot car.

Good bye beautiful Buffalo

Monday, July 11, 2016

Fear and Hatred

I don't often write about current events here. Not because I'm not aware, or don't care, but because it isn't the focus of this blog. Furthermore, as a privileged person living in a peaceful part of the world, I didn't think my thoughts were relevant. Finally, there is nothing original that I can say. Of course I am outraged and saddened by Dallas, Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Orlando; by Baghdad, Bangladesh, Istanbul, to name the most recent occurrences of violence and hatred, just like millions of others are. But what can I add to the discussion?

However, there is a thought that those who say nothing are complicit in the violence. I certainly don't want to do anything, even passively, to enable violence and hatred in our society. Mostly I feel helpless to effect any sort of change. It seems that the United States is being overrun by bullies. Senseless shootings happen nearly every day, thousands of Americans are calling out for gun control-- and yet nothing changes. The NRA continues to hold our country in a chokehold.  African-Americans are murdered by the police and we cry out about it, but the murders continue. Hatred in our country seems to be spiraling out of control.

I know that hatred often has its roots in fear. As a somewhat fearful person myself, I have seen again and again in my own life that the best way to conquer a fear is to embrace that which frightens you. My hope for the world is that we can learn to accept or even embrace what we fear, rather than hate it and try to destroy it.