May 2nd, 2004


Tripping - part four

Sunday night we met Andrew the older. A really nice, really sharp guy. A real find, I'd say, the kind of guy many of us would like for our own.

The girls were sleeping - one on the couch, one in her bed upstairs. A bunkbed that looked identical to the one Mary and Elaine had as young'uns. Young Andrew was asleep in his room. Liisa offered us her room or the bunks and we finally went for hers, although with some reluctance. We didn't want to take Liisa and Andrew's room. But I know how I have gladly and happily taken the couch so that friends or family could have a real bed. I know I am more comfortable letting others have the good bed, so I feel I understood Liisa and Andrew's willingness to take the couches.

Before we turned in, though, we talked! Talked a lot. Until late. It didn't matter how tired we were, and I only passingly thought about Andrew having to get up early the next morning, greedy as I was for his company, his thoughts.

When I awoke Monday morning, I heard noises downstairs. People up and having breakfast and finding shoes and getting going with the day. I can't stay in bed once I am truly awake, and I knew I'd be dead tired but still I got up. My legs were stiff still, that arthritic stiffness that I can't adequately explain to someone who hasn't had it (even someone with arthritis, as it is the "flareup" syndrome). We had plans for the day. We had reservations for a bike tour in the afternoon and thought we'd take in a museum tour in the morning. The tour started at 10:30.

I found my way downstairs, down the steep staircase that caused me to wonder if building code standards are that much different in Maryland (given the Uniform Building Code most cities adopt). It's almost like a ladder, and without a railing. Carpeted, though! So a fall would be cushioned.

Liisa was up making pancakes! How totally housewife of her! And yet not, not of this age. Almost back to the 50s, except I believe Liisa has a better understanding of nutrition and child raising than many parents of the fifties did. I sat with Molly and Clara, and briefly with Andrew, and ate pancakes and eggs and strawberries. Clara truly loves strawberries. Her excitement was infectious, her love of this fruit.

The girls are warm and physical, sat on my lap, talked to me. ASked about Elaine, who was still sleeping upstairs. Liisa had explained the time change to them but these girls are five. I don't think the concept was all that clear. Clara said, rather disapprovingly, "People don't sleep in in Frederick".

Finally they welcomed the slept-in Elaine, "Cousin Elaine" they called her. Took to her, sat on her lap, asked about her hair, told her she was "beautiful". The girls notice what others wear, comment on it, say something nice about it even when it takes some stretching.

back with the Bullet

I got home last night, about 11. Both cats welcomed me but Bullet clearly wanted and wants more of me. He stayed with me all night and right now he is finding his place in my lap and purring and kneading. I think he really did miss me.

Tripping part five

Monday, April 26, was as full as the march day. It was perhaps my most crippled day as well. Throughout I felt badly about not being able to feel as spry and pain-free, as able as I have been in the past. Elaine remarked somewhat sarcastically that we should have arranged for a wheelchair. I don't have an answer to the question, how do we enjoy doing things together so that we are both satisfied when I do have limitations? Physical things. My mind wanted to be there, to be ready to go and able, but my legs did not. I hope that I am able to bring myself back to some level better than where I am now. I realize that arthritis is progressive but I suspect that if I keep up with the weight lifting and regular aerobic exercise I will get at least to a slightly better place.

What with getting children ready and getting dressed and so on, Liisa got Elaine and me to the Shady Grove station at about ten in the morning. Too late for us to make the 10:30 tour in Washington, but I don't think we missed that much. We got off at the Smithsonian station and went to the Hirshhorn museum, got there at about 10:45 or so. Lots of children in the area! Schools apparently send classes to these museums regularly. The museum has a sculpture garden, which we enjoyed, particularly, I think, a piece called "Last Conversation Piece" - I should look it up, get the right name and the artist's name. It looks like bean ball men cavorting together. Sort of a precursor to Blue Man Group, I said to Elaine, thinking mainly of the sameness of the creatures.

All of these pictures are online at a place called, and I will post that if I think of it, and if I haven't already (I don't remember), but I want to regroup the pix and create a regular photo album or two on my web site instead, eventually.

The museum had an exhibit that we both were sucked into. I don't remember the artist's name! again! He used a lot of photography, both still and moving, to create multiple images, stacked images, different ways of seeing things. There was one that was a large-screen film of a woman driving a car. One sees straight into the car, the woman's head above the steering wheel, her hands on the wheel, the images in the rear window. The film jerks through the changes in the rear window scene as the wheel is turned. This piece reminded me of visions I have often had. Where I see the minute changes that take place in one place, a relativity vision. I could identify with this one, could see, I thought, what the artist had in mind. Other pieces took more puzzling. Elaine felt that, because the first piece had to do with death that all of it essentially was about death, and maybe she is right. It would be interesting to go see it again and think about it and hear what others think about it.

There is a nice Calder room there. I have always liked those sculptures that move. I think about these pieces, though, not as pieces in a museum but as expressions that one might see in a home, for example. I think about having a mobile in my home, how I would act with it, how it would affect me. I would want to have a painting in a room if it said things to me, different things at different times. Or if it always said "I am happy!" or "Watch out!" or something clear like that.

This makes me think, briefly, about a public radio show I was listening to yesterday afternoon as I wound through Las Vegas trying to get out. Las Vegas wanted to keep me, I know, because it took an hour for me to find the right way out. During part of that time I was listening to a show about food. The host was interviewing the writer of a book on wine, a book meant to demystify wine. He said that when he went to wine events in the past he felt intimidated, afraid he would say the wrong thing. Similarly, I may say "the wrong thing" about this museum, this art, and I do understand that one gets more if one knows more, pays more attention. Yet at the same time I am who I am, I bring my own self to what I see. I don't apologize, thus, for what I see.

We made it through most of the museum when I realized we were pressing on time to get to the bike tour, which was to start at one.

It was raining. We didn't know if the bike tour would be on, and I had neglected to bring the information sheet with me, so I did not know where we were supposed to meet. we decided to find food, sit down and call the bike place.

We wound up in the Smithsonian "castle", the main building, having a sandwich. I called the bike place and talked to Steve. He said that because it was raining we could change the day, go ahead with the tour, or get a refund.

I was so exhausted, or more, really, so stiff, that I toyed with the idea of putting the tour off to the following morning. He was willing to accommodate us on a monument tour in the morning (usually they do museums in the morning) if that was what we wanted. But Elaine reminded us of how long it had taken us to get into town that day and figured we would not get there in time. So we said we'd go for it then, that afternoon. We got the directions on how to get to the bikes and we headed out the door.

Honestly, every step I took was painful. I hated that I was that way and at times I could float above it, let my legs walk and let the rest of me detach. I did wonder how I would do on the bike, but I knew I would be using different muscles and that bike riding tends to be less painful for me than walking.


I went for a little bike ride today. No wind, and lots of heat. I felt a lack of real energy, but that could be from a lot of things. I know if I keep going out there I will feel more and more energetic over time. I was thinking about the 13 mile loop at Red Rock Canyon and I know I am not yet ready even for that. But it shouldn't take all that much to get there.

Now for a trip to a grocery store for FOOD. Sounds really good to me.

Tripping - part 6: The Bikes

Monday afternoon. I had been looking forward to this tour almost more than anything else. The idea of riding a bike around the monuments in Washington seemed perfect. When else had I done something like this? Oh, yes, New York City. Every Saturday all summer long, I rode my bike around Manhattan, even got into the Bronx and Queens, and finally, the last day of my stay there I joined the NYC Ride -a century ride for those up for it, lesser lengths for those of us who were not. My choice was the 40-miler. Although the trek exhausted me and led to my hurriedly throwing together my goods, alone in the house on Long Island, late that night, and heading then for the airport after a fitful and short sleep (the car came to pick me up at something like three in the morning), I loved the feeling of being on that ride.

More, I had loved every minute I spent riding around New York City on Saturdays. The feeling never went away. It was exhilarating and exciting and wonderful. So of course I looked forward to this mini-version, five miles around Washington.

Three of us met at the Bike the Sites place in the Old Post Office plaza, not far from the mall (elaine and I and a guy named Randy). The bike people have a little shop there with a bunch of bikes, all identical as far as I could tell. All mountain-type bikes, in good condition, with cardboard circles stuck inside the wheels - that advertised the tours. They fit us to our bikes, gave us water bottles and fine orange rain parkas (thin things that we had to tie to make fit so they wouldn't interfere with how we rode), told us where the gears were, and explained the rules of the road. The "road" there turned out to be mostly sidewalks. In D.C. the walks are wonderfully wide and it was raining so there were not many people we had to shoo out of the way. When there were resistant folks, our leader Steve rang his little bike bell and they usually moved. Otherwise he asked them to move and they always did. I didn't relish the idea of having to wend my way through crowds, any of whom might do anything at any time that would set me off balance.

I don't have the greatest balance. It may seem odd that I love bicycling so much.

Stopping and starting up again was the hardest thing for me on this tour, and it wasn't that hard. It was just that my knees were stiff and my legs frozen, so getting on and off was a little more trouble than it usually is. It didn't slow the group down because we had a full two hours for the five miles.

We rode down sidewalks, across the occasional street, right up to the monuments and around and over bridges and into natural park areas. We stopped to get closer to the monuments, to walk up the steps of the Lincoln and Jefferson monuments, to read names if we liked at the Vietnam Memorial. Finally I understood the full idea of the Vietnam memorial, and found it as wondrous as I had heard. It was not supposed to "make a political statement" but how can it not?

Right behind this memorial is the Korean War memorial, a series of sixteen figures representing all branches of the service, all sixteen of which are reflected in the glossy surface of the Vietnam stone - to make thirty-two. Thirty-two representing a number of parallels, including the location of that conflict. Steve said the men really come alive after dark, when they are subtly lit. I could well imagine it.

The World War II memorial is in process now, down the block from there. We did not see it but Steve described some of it. I couldn't get a clear picture of it in my head. Cathy had seen it two days before and said flatly that she didn't like it.

I had something of a similar sense of the FDR monument. Although certainly a tribute to this great man, it was, to me, too obvious and overdone and certainly too large. FDR himself had asked that there not be such a thing but if one must be built at least make it very small. I can't remember the comparison, something like the size of a pizza box, but I know that wasn't it. Somehow I don't see him eating pizza.

Many of his words were inscribed in the walls of this "Four Rooms" thing, and I did like reading them and thinking about George W.

We wended our way back to the plaza, gave up our bikes and parkas, kept our water bottles (the labels were printed with "bike the sites" - causing me to think this is no transitory business), and walked away, seeking a metro.