Monday, April 30, 2018

Sail on Silver Girl

"Sail on by.  Your time has come to shine all your dreams are on their way.  See how they shine.  Oh, if you need a friend I'm sailing right behind."

Bridge Over Troubled Water was released in January, 1970 and became, perhaps, Simon & Garfunkel's most consequential song.  If imitation is the greatest form of flattery then the song is substantial in that it was later covered by Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley (who both offer a more gospel perspective on the song).  The song is beautifully written, beautifully sung, and beautifully produced, being influenced by and pulling from elements of the Phil Specter Wall of Sound Wrecking Crew.  The soft piano at the entrance and through the first two verses that ultimately bleeds into the dramatic orchestral bridge give peace, joy, or solace to whichever mood the listener is in.  That bridge leads to one of the more apparently introspective third verses in popular music and one of the more pressing questions, "who is Silver Girl?"

Originally Paul Simon intended the song to be two verses.  Simon's producer convinced him he needed a third verse to support that big histrionic sound at the end.  Simon then quickly penned a third verse in the studio somewhat on the fly.  Apparently the Silver Girl reference was a simple mischievous jibe at Simon's then wife, Peggy Harper.  Harper had been recently perplexed by premature grey hairs.  Simon had playfully created the nickname "Silver Girl" for her.  That third verse became his simple hope for her happiness.  And thus a simple, off the cuff, playful reference ends up being the frame to a more meaningful purpose.

That song was a central focus of an award ceremony I recently attended at my daughter's school.  The recipient of the school's annual alumni service award cited that song as a passage that had given their family solace in times of personal crisis.  She was quite eloquent in describing her love of the school and how the school and the familial relationships she had developed with faculty, alumni, students, and other parents had truly been a Bridge of Over Troubled Water many times in her life and thus the song was emblematic of those feelings of connection.

As I listened her wonderful speech I reflected on my life.  As I often do I reflected on choices I have made and what they represent to me.  And of course how I could make meaning of them on this blog.

Recently a freelance writer contacted me and I did a brief interview for a piece she may write on Ashley Madison.  I'm not sure if she will use any of my feedback.  She asked the typical questions:  does your wife know? what would she think if she found out?  why did I first go onto the website?  what attracted me?  what still attracts me?  I'm not sure I gave her good answers but it did give me pause for reflection.

Over the past fourteen years a wonderful historic river has been ubiquitous in the background of my life.  I see it from my office.  I run across it and along it on afternoon runs.  I hike along its banks on the weekend.  I've kayaked along it many times with my wonderful friend Sandee on lazy sunny spring afternoons.  Running along the river is the C&O canal a 180 mile trail from Cumberland, MD to Georgetown in DC.  The C&O is a serene bypass or perhaps a frontage road to the river just slightly to the north and below those highway bridges above the river. There are many historic and beautiful bridges that ford the river for travelers.  While the river is mostly tranquil, rarely troubled, those bridges take travelers past the river and onward to where they are destined.  And for those not so much in a hurry and in need of a detour, the canal is truly a calming third place escape from those troubled waters of life or towards one's "dreams along the way."

Life does have many troubled waters and, as with that eloquent speaker I so enjoyed Saturday night, the communities we make help us ford those waters.  In my life my daughters are my bridge, my work is my bridge, the school community I have come to love and enjoy serving are my bridge.  I take pride in knowing I matter in my community, that people consider what I have to say relevant.  I enjoy working in my yard and seeing balance and beauty along the flower beds rimming our house.  I love that so many birds and sometimes woodland critters find food and shelter in and around our deck and porch.  The fact that our family "matters" is a bridge over troubled water for me.

Ashley Madison has been an aspect of my life for several years now.  For some it may be a bridge over troubled water or simply a bridge away from a troubled life.  For me it was a silly chance encounter and one I did not anticipate.  It was proverbially an off the cuff off ramp from an, at the time, tumultuous life.  It has been a third place, a third verse, a detour, and a canal running along side yet never really crossing the river of my life.  It is not a Bridge Over Troubled Water, much more valuable things are that for me.  But the people I've met on AM and on the blogosphere have been a sunny day along the river, a pleasant detour, a convenient frontage road that has allowed me to drift off the highway for a few moments.

I hope I have been that for others.

"Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind...."

Friday, March 30, 2018

I'm Not Ashamed to Listen to the Fast Falling Rain

I am always bad with letting my mind wander.  As I sit here going over my itemized deductions for taxes I see where I need to fill out an 8283 - Noncash Charitable Contributions form.  Then I remember I never got a final document from Alecia for all that furniture I donated to her program last May.  Dang I said I was going to get that from her and now she's gone.  Oh yeah, I wrote about Alecia in my blog about three years ago; how I had reconnected with her and what was happening in her life.  I wrote two posts using a kind of "karma" theme with Three Dog Night's Shambala as the lyrics.  It was going to be a three part post but I never did part three!  For anyone who is new here Alecia was my first Ashley Madison meet.

Oh well as Three Dog Night wrote in another song "the Show Must Go On," so here is part III.  Alecia has stayed in communication over the past three years.  She called me once frantically worried after her daughter moved onto her college campus.  I talked her through her nerves.  Alecia is a social worker and I helped her on some projects.  I probably had opportunities to connect further but I didn't push.  Last spring I had a lot of furniture to donate and I knew her organization could probably use it so I called her.  It ended up being a very therapeutic endeavor.   She had two clients moving into the same apartment building who needed anything I could offer.  I ended up spending the better part of a weekend working with a moving company to set up these two forlorn little apartments tucked away along a forgotten side street of our city.  The stories behind these little families moved me.  The downstairs apartment was to go to a mom and her two boys.  Mom had a restraining order on the dad who had taken the family south for vacation and then simply left the mom on the side of a Louisiana road and left.  The mom had to hitch hike back with no money but made it and now was trying to mend her life back together.  The upstairs apartment was for a single dad who was taking sole custody of his daughter as the mom suffered through that opioid thing we all here about on the news.  I have to admit I shed tears as I placed furniture in a new place that had long been in place in my memories.  I imagined how that furniture might be sat on, how those toys might be played with, and how that crib (once slept in by my daughters) may be enjoyed by a new family.  I remembered scenes from my past that included those pieces of furniture and imagined that new scenes would occur with those same pieces.  Scenes I would never see but hoped would occur.  Anyway, by the time we got the furniture in each apartment those once forlorn spaces started to feel like a home and I felt as warm inside as the springtime air outside.

Alecia thanked me for the furniture and gave me a warm hug.  I think that was the last time I saw her.  On Facebook I saw where she met a guy and ran off to California and has since formed a new life.  I'm happy for her.  I'm sure I can send her a note on Facebook and she'll get me that documentation.  The guy isn't as good looking as me and doesn't look as cool but hey he isn't married so I can't fault her!  Sorry my mind wanders.

Oh wait, I implied I had made contact with a lady on AM on my last post.  I have to admit that getting a note back from a 40 - something petite Asian women in the semi-conductor business was both exciting and daunting.  Unfortunately we had our annual family vacation and in the this case Ryan's curiosity didn't get him in trouble and I let that prospect slip away.

Upon my return I came across another really smart lady (who spoke three languages) and I sent her a pretty good note if I do say so myself:

"Hmmmm, I only speak English and food, I feel at a loss. But I must say you are right about chocolate, it satisfies for about an hour in the afternoon but dang that hour is really nice and that pick me up is often really needed, particularly if accompanied by a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. So yeah, coffee and Sharffen Berger chocolate (see I talk food) can be a great start.

So I'm all about lazy and fun adventurous days and if they are accompanied by chocolate or coffee or maybe even one of those Pinots they have over in Loudoun Valley all the better!

So let's talk politics and you can curse me out in German if you don't like my opinion and I'll just think you are smiling at the scenery! :)

Take care and enjoy the rest of the snow on this fine second day of spring. "

Unfortunately I was a day late and a credit short as she had just met "her guy" as she responded.  But wasn't it nice for her to thank me for my nice note!

I've not spoken of Sandee for some time.  Ironically she moved to the same Carolina beach I once had an opportunity to work some 20 years ago.  Life might have been very different had I gotten that job, Shannon might have been much happier.  I stay in touch with Sandee as we constantly poke fun at one another for our very different political perspectives.  If I were more daring or more courageous we may have ended up together.  I joke with her that we will end up together in our 80's at some "old folks home."  We will be like the cute little couple who finishes up each other sentences.  I don't think another women has ever "gotten" me the way Sandee has/did.  In another world I do see us as those soul mates that are so sickeningly happy together, adults that still splash each other in the river and laugh at each other's stupid jokes.  But who knows, as my Alecia story has never really ended I suspect my Sandee story or my Ryan story for that matter will never really end.

Unfortunately taxes never end as well so I probably should get back to work.

As my mind continues to wander I'm reminded of one of my favorite artists who (somewhat like me) has made a career of covering other artists.  Here is a song that sort of sums up my mood.  Gordon Lightfoot wrote the words but I think I like Tony Rice's version just as well.

"Words are for explaining the mistakes we might have made
Names are for calling when there's nothing left to say.
I'm not ashamed, no, to say that I've loved you well.
I'm not ashamed, and yet I know I'm just a name, that's all
scratched upon your wall;
You've used it well, but what the hell,
that's what walls are for...."

Monday, February 12, 2018

About Forty-Five Minutes Southeast of Thibodaux, Louisiana

Happy Mardi Gras!

If you have read this blog you know the two things I like talkin' 'bout the mostest is chasing ladies on social media sites and cookin' food.  And if I'm talkin' food I'm usually talkin' 'bout poor folks food like jambalaya or paella or anything else you can scratch up and throw together in a pot and stew on all day.  Of all the topics I've written about (food or chasin') Creole food on Mardi Gras has been perhaps my favorite and my most consistent annual post.

Another thing I love is visiting restaurants where the real food is made and enjoyed by the locals.  Not the tourists, the people who like the real deal.  I've spent some time down south and across those bayous in Louisiana.  One of my all time favorite "diner, drive-in and dives" type places I've come
across is the Jambalaya Shoppe.  The original store is in Gonzales, LA near Baton Rouge.  It's kind of an In and Out Burger meets Boudreaux the Cajun.  The Jambalaya Shoppes have franchised out across Louisiana now totaling about a dozen shops.  But they all serve great food.  One unique item they have that is sort of a new take on classic flava' (Cajun dialect) is Pastalaya.  So since I've done just about every creole recipe I know I present you today with -

The Jambalaya Shoppe's Pastalaya

2 Tbs     Butter
1#          Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breast Cut into 1" cubes
1#          Andouille Sausage cut into 0.5" rounds
2 Cups   Trinity:  equal parts finely diced yellow onion, green pepper, and celery
2 Cups   Fresh Tomatoes chopped
1 Cup     Chicken Broth
2             Garlic Cloves minced
2 Tbs      Creole Seasoning:  paprika, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, white pepper, thyme, celery seed, cayenne, ground black pepper
1#           Linguini, cooked
0.25 Cup Green Onion Chopped

*     In Dutch oven melt butter over medium heat.  Add chicken and sausage and cook until lightly browned.  Remove meat and set aside, leave butter and drippings.
*     Add Trinity to pot an cook until softened, stirring occasionally for about 7 minutes
*     Add back in chicken, sausage along with tomatoes, chicken broth, garlic, and creole seasoning.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cover.  Let simmer for about 15 minutes.
*     Stir in cooked pasta and green onions

Here is some more information on the Jambalaya Shoppes down dere in Louisiana!

And here are my past Mardi Gras food posts, laissez les bon temps roulade!

Here are my other Mardi Gras Food Posts
2011 - Cajun vs Creole
2012 - Muffuleta
2013 - Po Boy
2014 - Shrimp Creole
2015 - Gumbo Rice Fritters
2016 - Gumbo
2017 - King Cake Cupcakes

And here's you dat old Cajun song about dat dere man in da swamp....

As for that other love in life, yeah I did that as well recently.  Here is my latest effort on AM, do you think this note will get a reply?
 Well Ms Bell, Here's to hoping you grade on the bell curve and that I can be just ahead of the median male message on this forum! You've hit on a lot of my hot button topics - namely goofy! I love that, isn't that kind of what this is all about, getting outside the comfort boundaries a bit and pursuing who we want to be in our most free spirited moments. So you sent me to wiki a few times on that profile which is good, I love to learn; now I know what eigenstate means (only took one quarter of physics in college). So I think what you are saying is that the home life is kind of like Newton's First Law, cruising at a constant speed and direction and you have no interest in having an external force applied to that vector. Now comes AM and a desire to find that "alternative third place" or perhaps utilizing Newton's Third Law to achieve a certain balance, an equal (yet not evasive) opposite reaction (or relationship journey) that vectors towards the exciting if not thrilling and to get spiritual achieves a certain feng shui balance with that first law state of being. And of course you seems to be active and like active people so we can even throw in some of Newton's second law and say we can generate great force when our dual masses accelerate expeditiously towards fun! Or a walk along the river, etc. As Einstein said (in his law of happiness): "A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." So let's not move around restlessly knocking electrons off our atoms, let's move with balancing purpose and find that tranquil (and goofy) third place journey. Stay off the ice and have a wonderful evening! R

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I Can't See a Single Storm Cloud in the Sky but I Sure Can Smell the Rain

"Looking back is a bad habit" R. Cogburn
Thanks to my parents I grew up with very eclectic taste in music.  My earliest memories are of Glenn Campbell singing the theme song to "True Grit" and the Beatles "Maxwell Silver's Hammer," I loved it not quite getting the disturbing violent imagery in the lyrics (even then I was clueless).  But something about Classic Country music always gave me a warm soothing safe feeling of home.  Ray Charles said of country music "the words to country songs are very earthy like the blues.  They're not as dressed up and the people are very honest and say, 'look, I miss you darlin,' so I went out and got drunk in this bar..."  I guess he's right, I just like country because it is clean and true and the stories are so great and don't feel like you have to pour your beer into a glass!  I always seem to feel best when listening to Glenn Campbell or Waylon Jennings or Johnny Cash.  All of which get a great deal of playful disdain from the fam who like to chastise me for my taste that is shared by about 0.01% of the population.  But I don't really care, I am after all the arch-typical goofy dad.

Of course in college my musical tastes evolved and I liked all that grunge and raw Seattle rock of the 90's.  After college I even delved into some of that rave techno stuff that all the hot girls liked to dance to in the clubs, funny how that was always my primary motivation in life.  That's kind of where I met Shannon, the eternal new waver - anti old schooler who is the antithesis to good old Ryan.

When Ryan and Shannon moved the deep south in the mid-90's we left all that East Coast techo-electronica and landed on an island where only Classic Rock, Pop, and Country lived.  The good news was that those years were full of (now) Disney Classics on the pop charts (see Lion King release date, etc) and quite a nice new era in Country music.  Those country years featured the continued emergence of Garth and the introduction of Toby Keith, Faith Hill, Clint Black, Collin Raye, Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Sawyer Brown, and many others.  One of my favorite songs from this time is Blackhawk's "I Sure Can Smell the Rain."  "Somehow what she never says means more than all the other words I here."  Wow, ain't that the truth!

Unfortunately down there, we totally missed the Gangsta rap thing (I'm still not quite sure who Tupac is, is that some type of cold medicine?).

Anyway I like Blackhawk and all that early 90's Country that is now Classic Country along with all that Classic Country stuff I listened to when I was really young and it was new country.

I think one of the last times I wrote I mentioned that I had been back on AM!  I even got a response from a lady names Alexa.  Of course her name isn't Alexa, but as always the names here are changed to protect the guilty!  :)

Anyway, want to meet her?  As one of my fond former blog friends used to say?

Alexa is an INTJ and apparently difficult (as stated in her profile).  I also mentioned her here.

Early on Alexa was very inquisitive.  I enjoy the subtle dance during this period, telling a little of oneself but not revealing too much factual data.  In a sense this is more revealing as you tell as much who you want to be as you do who you are.  I tend to be coy and like to play.  Hint, hint, to ladies I like when they play along.  Alexa was being very INTJ and not playing along very well.

When she asked about my profile tagline "ami du jour," I replied:

She liked this when I sent it to her
"The Ami du Jour tag line is a tip of the hat to my food background.  As I navigated through the site it seemed like so many people, and perhaps me, were like waiters announcing the special of the evening.

"I'm a 40 something business professional who loves the outdoors and is fit and trim.... I can be wonderfully paired with a North Coast Pinot and finished with rosemary infused rubbing oils...."   :)

Sorry I like to be humorous but every menu has to have a soup of the day but french always sounds more classy so I used a few words I still remember from high school french.

Oh wow, I've written so much about myself and I was supposed to be listening to you about your day!!!  I do like to listen and (sorry to sound like our President) many, many people say I'm a great listener.

Have a great day Alexa and I'm ready for those questions.
Take Care,

Alexa didn't feign delight at my humor, just asked more questions:

"Ami duj our, very cute then.  Creative.

I'll ask just a few questions for now. I tend to ask more than I'm asked so I'm restraining myself.  The basics for starters:

Married for how long?
Have you had an affair before?"

Yesh - she's making it very hard to be charming!

She did ask why I had not asked her for photos.  She seemed impressed that I had restraint.  That did score points for me though.

"Once  I send this, I'll send a couple of photos your way.  You should know what the woman looks like that you're talking to, me thinks.  I am glad to know that you're interested without the photos, keeping you engaged it appears.

An affair to me is one where there is intimacy involved.  What drew you to my profile considering you're  in ******ville and I'm in  ********** County?  I've had three relationships (none met via AM), the longest was three years and the other  two were about 1 1/2 years so yep, I'm not a short-term  kinda gal, and I don't go poof either. Why have you not  met anyone on the site in five years?  That's a long time relatively speaking.

And  I always need and  want funny things, so thank you for sending that.  Much appreciated 😊"

Well that's starting to recognize my charm, savoir faire, and joie de vivre et al!  I'll be honest with you I kind of pulled a Trump on the "why have you not met anyone of this site..."  Nobody wants to hear your resume and that you are a blogger before that first "meet and greet."

So the messages went back and forth.  A few things in common, we both play racket sports though she is more into tennis (me racquetball).  She works in and around the hospitality business as do I but does not like to cook (as I do) and didn't seem so interested in talking about cuisine (thus I couldn't impress her with my foodiness).  She came across as a bit of a Yankee, thus impervious to my Southern charms.

All things considered things were not flowing seemlessly yet I still couldn't detach from her profile of wanting someone well traveled, well education, sophisticated, confident, yada, yada.  Dangit, I wanted her to recognize and admit how charming and witty I am.  Yes, I know the hubris is showing.

But then again, maybe words did not come to her easily.  Alas, she did always answer me and she was still asking questions.  She did say I had "piqued her interest!"

When she finally did send me her photo she looked pretty cute.  I didn't scare her off with my photo.

But all in all the dialogue was rather - MEH.

"Hey Ryan-

Thanks for sharing all you did, between where you grew up and lived, as well  as your interests in skiing and  cooking, Miami and weekend activities. I decidedly do not have a southern accent.  And my girls, never close to ballet.  Both gravitate to tomboyish, as I do. I've never skiied, and you know how I feel about cooking. I appreciate those who enjoy cooking for sure.

Much work for me, as is usually the case most weeks.  

As to a time to meet,  that'll be up to you.


Well not exactly fawning all over me but she did say meeting was up to me so I delayed no further.

We arranged an afternoon to meet at a common restaurant that I enjoy.  I think she appreciated that I picked out a nice place and sent her the menu.

She arrived a few minutes after I did.  I stood in the entrance hall and saw her as she walked past me on the other side of the window as she approached the front door.  It was still warm and she had on a tight button down white shirt and tight black pants.  Alexa is short and not exactly petite but certainly not large.  She is curvy, well let's face it she has a pretty nice "booty."  I'm I allowed to say that in the #metoo era?

I looked into her eyes and she looked into mine and it was as if I instantly understood how two souls could look into the mirror of the Universe and see their match.

Actually not, I looked into her eyes and saw Mrs. Holden, my best friend's mom from grade school.  Yeah, I guess in retrospect Mrs. Holden was kind of hot but I didn't want to have sex with her then I didn't think I wanted to have sex with her now.

But I was all in for lunch so we walked up to the maitre d.  He didn't say anything, stepped away, came back, thumbed through a reservation book, picked up the phone, and made a phone call.  It was kind of rude I thought to myself.  Alexa said, "well, that's mighty rude of him" just loud enough to be heard by those around us.  Me, in my Southern cordiality, couldn't help being a little embarrassed. He was rude, but I exhibit my reaction by not coming back, not by making a scene.  I mean, that's what Shannon would do and I don't need more of that in my life.

This is how I imagine Cecil & Alexa
We finally were seated.  Lunch was nice.  She did go into detail about one of her affairs with Cecil.  Apparently, Cecil is quite the salesmen; very talkative and engaging.  Didn't sound like he was a looker but I guess he was a charmer and a fast talker which I am not.  Based on her description it sounded like they chirped a lot at each other.

As a special the restaurant had a butternut squash soup.  I was not really that interested but Alexa said how much she liked butternut squash soup.  She talked me into trying it.  I am always OK with trying something.  I liked the butternut squash soup, I didn't love it.  It was just good enough to try a few sips and then I was OK.  But Alexa kept asking me if I didn't like it, as if it would be an insult if I didn't.  I felt like I was facing an inquisition from my mom, and I guess Mrs. Holden.  Btw, Mrs. Holden was always one of those moms that tried to pawn off healthy snacks like peanut butter stuffed in celery.  I liked that a little as well, but not a lot!  :)

Seems like I mentioned my friend's sister (Mrs. Holden's daughter) once.  She faked me out, being nerdy in middle school, going off to a service academy for college, and then showing up several years later really hot and divorced a few years after I was already taken.  Sorry, I know I seem to be grumpy today as I ramble.

During the meal Alexa had to take a call from her boss.  By the third call she finally said she had to leave because she had to meet him in Fairfax in an hour.

I took it to mean that this was her friend who was instructed to call her one hour into the date to give her a plausible exit.  Who knows, I guess I could have been offended but like the maitre d I figured I would express my displeasure by not going back.

I walked outside into the sun and I looked over to her as she got into her car.

I couldn't see a cloud in the sky, but I sure could smell the rain.  I decided it was best to get into my car and drive back home to where there wouldn't be any rain any time soon.