Wednesday, July 25, 2018


My vacation this year was a trip to go see Beloved Ex. Back in our day, BEx was in a band, and a few months back he mentioned to me they were planning a 30th reunion show, with the original lineup. Intriguing! I thought it'd be funny if I showed up, and ... ended up, somehow, deciding to actually show up.

I haven't seen that town or those guys in 24 years and a month. BEx and I split one week before our first anniversary, and though that wasn't quite the end of our marriage, it was the end of my time in Ohio. I never even saw my in-laws again, and only one of my friends from that time.

Driving into that city for the first time in all those years was cognitive dissonance extraordinaire. The old classic rock station was playing the same music they played back then (not "classic" at the time, I suppose ...). I knew how to get around, but the look of the place was alien to me. It was something like the reverse of a phantom limb - I could touch, I could see, but the sense was gone somehow. The texture, the earth from which the town rose and was built, was impossibly strange.

Being of a Certain Age, too, hormones got the best of me and I cried coming into town. Pearl Jam's "Black" didn't help, though the reasons for that are a bit personal to get into.

Before hitting my hotel, I spun briefly around my college campus - BEx was my "townie" back then - and was struck by how easily I found the places I lived and knew, and how strange they looked to me. And how TINY that campus is.

BEx and I had a date that night, and of course I wanted to look good. I got a bit of rest, cleaned up from the road, curled the oddly-colored hair, put on a dress. When he called to say he was on the way, I was ready. I saw him out the hotel window, and watched his car arrive, watched him get out and look about a bit, head inside. He looked good, but I knew that. How I look these days was a concern, but there's nothing you can do about that once it's time to answer the door.

I got a hug to "squeeze all the mean juice out of me" (he learned that one from my dad - aww), and we went to one of those places that was out of our price range in the 80s, has probably been there since the early 60s, and seems to have the same wait staff and decor it always had. The pizza was good, the service ... personal. Heh. Then we went for a walk on campus, through a night impossibly blessed with a lovely breeze and beautiful sky. He drove me around town until fatigue took over, and we called it an evening. I hadn't recognized much, beyond the walking-distance environs of my college years. Our stomping grounds after marriage, we didn't even get to.

Day two, something changed, and I operated more as if I were in a place I once called home. Whatever was different, my brain adjusted to, and it wasn't so strange.

I picked him up this time, and we spent a while with his mom. Let it be said here, if my Ex is "Beloved", so too were his folks. Though it made no sense on paper, his dad and I always liked each other, and his mom is a lovely lady it was always nice to have women's time with. They were generous, my F-I-L was really funny, and she was as sweet as BEx. Catching up on a drizzly morning was nice, and she seems to be well.

We wandered about for the day, among other things finding a GREAT bookstore, and came back in the evening to meet both his folks for chicken, which we brought along. Dinner was convivial, his dad more laid back than years back, and it felt like family. Maybe in some way it was family (hey, apparently I'm godmother to one of their grandkids; and we never did hate each other, so it works out). Even if not, it was just a nice, easygoing meal with people I enjoy.

The Really Big Show was Saturday, and the guys in the band had let BEx invite me to come see them and get the chance to actually hang out a little outside of the show. The drummer gave me the biggest, warmest greeting I got from anyone through the whole visit. Sweaty from loading out and some rehearsal, he grabbed me in a bear hug and rubbed his sweaty face on my face. Heh. He seemed genuinely happy to see me, and I've always loved the guy, so that was pretty great. Hey, and - sweaty drummers - what're you going to do, hate 'em? Nope.

All the guys were good to see, generous and still the great guys I remember with a lot of fondness. Sound check was impressive, and I sat through a couple songs before wandering off to let them do their jobs.

Campus is just up the hill from the venue, so taking some time to go up there, I was serenaded by the band in the distance - walking the student union, heading up the hill to the chapel.

The chapel on this campus is absolutely filled with mid-century design and really amazing art, and as the rain stepped up, I stayed in there for a good while, taking lots of pictures. The stained glass windows, the floor, the meditation chapel, the whole sanctuary. Even the lights. I even tried to go up the steeple tower, but it was locked at the top. No harm/no foul, I was very glad the chapel was open.

Back down to my car in the rain, the whole campus was empty. Not silent, of course, though the reverb from down the hill was low. Here, the familiarity was at its height, and when I saw the statue of the undergrad I had forgotten existed, I was genuinely happy to see it again.

In the brick walk were a few memorial items ... my creative writing professor and his wife ... a girl whose unique surname and year of attendance might have made her the daughter of the one single "boyfriend" I had from the school itself. Huh. He was a nice guy too. Physics major, actually.

The show was perfect, and two of my best friends from those years, the other "girl with the band" and a singer from our crowd I always remembered with a smile, were there. "Come to my bosom!" the first said, which was hilarious and so absolutely her a thing to say.

The whole visit kind of felt like coming to a welcoming bosom, really.

I've shed my prejudices about that town - my snobbery towards it was bitter for long, stupid years - and never did resent the people in it. Seeing the place again, and those old friends, was a balm.

One of the things several people said to me, unbidden, was how much I needed to get away. Some knew I'd lost my stepfather, but that they could see how much that and everything since has been "on me" was a bit of a surprise. I don't know that BEx troubled to say anything other than to family - I would be surprised - so apparently, my sense of relief to be out on my own was pretty palpable.

And it was a blessing and a blast.

He and I wandered around again on Sunday, one more great bookstore (this one with a cat; I do love cat-owned bookstores) and an indulgent dessert at the local dairy. And that was it.

I'm grateful to have been able to see my friends, even my old school (of which I am less forgiving than this city I used to hate, though the grounds are not responsible for that), and my old home. I was there for most of almost nine years, which astonishes me to count out on my stubby fingers.

Geez, all those YEARS I knew that place. It was my home, even when I wanted to deny that.

And it welcomed me back and said, "Come to my bosom!"

Good trip. Good vacation.

And now ... back to work.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Monday, July 16, 2018


Yesterday, my mom and I got together for lunch, sat and waited a little while I got my car cleaned up a bit, and shopped. The first retail excursion was to the crafts store, where she had recently left a couple things to be framed.

One of these is the circa-1960 map of her home county. It includes a legend of several local businesses, and in the top right corner are two images of bank branches; one, the new and super modern DRIVE THROUGH branch. The other, the older building: where mom worked when she was a single lady. She pointed to the second floor corner window.

"That is the window where I looked out and saw your dad when he came for our first date."

They were set up on a blind date, so this was where she saw dad for the very first time.

The other thing she had framed was dad's system. He designed a certain system for CEBAF, now known as Jefferson Laboratory, the national accelerator facility. After sketching it out, he had a student put it in a proper rendering, and this, now, is in a really nice frame.

Dad worked with Jeffy Lab when they first started calling it that, and you can see by the nickname how Virginians are about change. Heh. Plus, it's fun to say - Jeffy Lab.

The framing guy did a splendid job with both pieces. The map was pretty fragile, even had small holes in it, but ironed out and mounted with UV glass, it is a gorgeous faded color, but the blue ink is really pretty. The frame is wood, with a nice interesting grain. It's warm.

The schematic is less amber, though the paper was decades old - and you can discern, if you care to, where it was folded. There is one whiter spot, where it was stored for years next to some smaller piece of paper that left a paler, un-faded square where it had lain. It is in a black frame, white-matted, but with the thinnest under-mat of black, to create a little outline around the document.

For someone into industrial design, this would be a pretty cool design piece. For me, it is an image literally mined out of the mind of my dad; who, not that I've ever mentioned this before on my blog (hah), happened to be a stupefyingly brilliant teacher and scientist.

The system's exactingly thin lines and detailed intricacy are beautiful; not entirely unlike a flow chart, balanced, and filled with information I don't understand. It all comes to a result that ... is an ongoing piece of the scientific community of the world.

My dad did that. He is *still* a part of the mechanism of study and discovery. Gone fifteen years and more, he still lives - in this little avatar of his work, which is an artifact we can enjoy - and in his WORK, which is still a part of the engine of science and study.

It's easy to remember, as his kid, that my brother and I, his grandkids - and mom, who lived with him for over forty years, and started this branch of family - are the products of his life. But it's heart-swelling to think: dad contributed to so much more than just "me" in this world (as good fathers do, right?). That his being a teacher frustrated and challenged and maybe inspired hundreds of others. Maybe thousands.

My dad touched so many things, as curious intellects do. He *made* much more than I probably ever will. Which so few of us will ever be able to say.

And it's out that second-floor window ... where that all began, just before the blind date did.

Thursday, July 5, 2018


When an article features Terry Crews and mentions Rosey Grier, I'm going to be all the way in for clicking THAT. When that article fully displays the principle and ever-perfecting manhood, well pre-dating Crews' current testimony before the Senate, and how sumptuously he expresses not only his humanity but his convictions, I all but weep. He's proving what we know - and most need to know. Additionally, he's funny as hell.

A joke I heard on Twitter once: "White people upset about BET asking, 'Why don't we have White Entertainment Television?' ... We do, it's HGTV." Worth the click because sometimes online discourse is fertile.

In other TV musing, something struck me about Pose recently. Having watched other Ryan Murphy works, I knew early on that the discussion I'd seen regarding how unrealistic Pose is was almost funny: Murphy's not interested in realism, he presents setpieces, and he does that nicely if you choose to take it on his/those terms. (Feud felt intentionally setbound; even outdoors scenes are claustrophobic and closed-in. That plays to the emotional worlds of the Crawford and Davis characters in play.) For Pose, the archness is not as visually obvious, so I've seen complaints about, say, just how glamorous the scene is made to look, or the opening sequence for the series itself, where "real" historical costumes are stolen from a museum for a gay ball. Preposterous! And duh. Here is the thing: Pose is 80s TV. Figuratively (it's set in the late 80s) and literally (its emotional beats are ALL Very Special Episode-worthy). The depth of plotting is *veeeerryyy* much like 80s TV - sitcom or drama. The pacing is extremely 80s; when TV took time to lay things out. For many, this seems slow or dry or even insulting (making the implicit explicit). But this is so, so true to its time. It takes the 80s seriously, AND it tells stories no network (remember, we really had three back then) would have told in the time itself. I kind of think that's genius, and it's not Murphy's first time reining pace enough to slow things down like this. Given his current influence, you wonder how this might bear out in others' work. Imagine a vogue for *less* cinematic TV; imagine the VSE's regaining ascendance. I've seen surprising amounts of ink on VSEs over the past couple of years. My guess is nostalgia is bringing it back, in service of subjects even the original concept never served.

Leaping from television to literature, who has read Connie Willis's Doomsday Book? I actually re-read it a year or two ago, and - forget Jurassic Park - this book will scare the willies out of you, in both its plague-ridden timelines. So reading about the extraction of leprosy from centuries-old skeletal remains ISN'T HORRIFYING AT ALL. Just as long as you haven't read the wrong books. Yeep.

Finally ... hmm, and more hmm. Yes, fella babies, it's Adventures in Science Reporting again!

I have written in the past about Penelope's ancestry, and as little obsessed as I am with pedigree, it's not beyond me to admit fascinated with the idea my beloved Pariah descending from millennia of fascinating forerunners. Oddly enough, it seems like cancer is about all we really have left of pre-contact canine breeds. Still - being a critical thinker - it is hard not to wonder about previous DNA studies, pointing to modern Amercan dogs' long history here. Hmmmm. Keep us posted, Dr. Ostrander.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day

I'm an American.

American dreams are built on words we dare not say.

Are you at liberty today? Remember those who are not; maybe help them out.

If you are American, are you one of the (shamefully few) who vote? This right is under attack. We can fight that.

Are you enjoying Teh Intarwebs? Do you believe all media should be controlled by one party? Is a free press worthy of protection? Defend it.

Be well today - and every day. Be safe. And let's hope we get through this holiday without that uniquely American institution, the mass shooting.

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.