Monday, July 31, 2017

Drawing In

I was walking Olga on Saturday morning when I crossed paths with an older gent, out with his two overfed black labs. We made small talk and he commented that the days are "drawing in," the sun setting earlier each evening as we edge toward fall. And it's true -- last night it got dark shortly after 9 p.m., an hour earlier than a month ago.

I think that's such a wonderful, cozy term -- "drawing in." That's exactly what autumn feels like.

Having said that, it's still pretty darn summery. I took Olga to the Heath yesterday and, as you can see, the wildflowers are still in the meadows. There are lots of interesting bugs still out and about, too.

This is a new butterfly for me -- a small copper.

And this is an extra-large hoverfly. I believe it's a Volucella zonaria, which is the UK's largest. Definitely bigger than the ones I routinely see in our garden!

Anyway, Olga and I had a good long walk, involving playing in mud puddles and eating grass and chasing the Kong. (Olga did some of those things, too.)

Speaking of the Kong, quite a while ago -- as you may remember, because I'm sure I wrote about it, but I can't find the post now -- one of her Kong toys was stolen from our back garden. We left it out in the grass overnight and in the morning it was gone. Very peculiar! Well a couple of nights ago, the same thing happened again. I could kick myself, because I saw it lying out there before we went to bed, back by the never-used barbecue grill, and I considered bringing it in, but I took the lazy route. We think another animal takes it. Possibly a fox? It no doubt smells like Olga and they may be attracted to it.

It may sound minor but each one of those stupid toys costs £18, so I'll go to great lengths not to lose one.

We had some crazy, schizophrenic weather yesterday. It would be sunny one moment and drizzly the next. The sky would cloud over incredibly fast. I hung some clean towels out in bright sunshine, and had to run and retrieve them not half an hour later. British weather keeps me on my toes!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hackney Wick with Susi

We got quite a bit of rain last night. I woke up around 1:30 a.m. and it sounded like it was pouring out there. Is there anything more wonderful than lying in a warm, dry bed and listening to that sound? I briefly wondered where the foxes and squirrels and other critters go in that kind of weather. And then I fell asleep again.

We've been having kind of a weird summer overall. It started out very pleasant, dry and warm, but some time in June it got chilly and wet again, and it seems like it's been that way ever since. I've had to wear a sweatshirt pretty much every day.

Yesterday I went to Hackney Wick with my photography pal Susi. It's a former industrial neighborhood turned very artsy and bohemian, and now well on its way to gentrification. We wandered the streets for a couple of hours, shooting all the incredible street art. I have so many pictures -- 102 after editing -- that I will doubtless be inflicting them upon you for weeks!

Not everyone likes the neighborhood's Bohemian flair. This guy asked what I was photographing. I told him I take pictures of all the street art. "It's reprehensible," he declared. Which is kind of true in the case of this particular wall, but a lot of it is spectacular:

A case in point.

Anyway, Susi and I had a good long walk and a great lunch at a little canalside cafe and art gallery (where we both had "seasonal eggs," or eggs with tomatoes and salad leaves on toast, and it was fab).

I noticed that Susi blended right in with this wall! It's like she's in pastel camouflage.

We also stumbled onto a gallery show by the London Gay Photographers Network, which was interesting and included everything from naked guys (naturally!) to landscapes and wildlife.

I was exhausted when I got home, especially after wading through and editing all my pictures from the day. Whew!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Hive at Kew

Dave and I got motivated yesterday and went to Kew Gardens, partly to see an exhibit called "The Hive." It's an art installation based on a beehive, with thousands of LED lights that flicker and represent the bees communicating with each other. (The Hive is somehow linked to one of Kew's actual hives, apparently.) It's surrounded by a meadow of bee-friendly flowers (now mostly past their peak) and it's supposed to get us thinking about how to protect pollinators and our own food supply.

You can step inside The Hive on two levels. From the upper level, the top looks like this.

It's a cool construction, and very mathematical with all its geometric metal "cells."

On the way to The Hive we passed this Japanese pagoda tree -- planted in 1760! America was still a British colony, and the French monarchy hadn't yet been guillotined. The folks at Kew call it an "old lion." I like how the trunk has been braced with bricks on the right.

We also visited the palm house and the ridiculously humid waterlily house, where I had to wipe down my lens several times but finally managed to get a decent picture.

I also bought us a membership to Kew, so I hope now we'll go back a bit more frequently.

Before we went to the gardens, Dave and I visited a terrific restaurant in Clapham called The Dairy. We saw it a couple of years ago on one of Mary Berry's cooking shows, where she toured the herb garden on the roof. The food was spectacular. We loved it. And we asked to visit the roof and got a little tour of our own!

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Striped Moth

I am not going to talk about Donald Trump or his foul-mouthed, homophobic minions. I've been reading about them all morning and I just can't stand anymore. But I will celebrate the fact that Senate Republicans can't seem to manage to repeal even part of the Affordable Care Act, and I'm going to focus on good news like the rescue of these poor zoo animals from Aleppo.

There are good things going on in the world. I don't know about you, but I have to occasionally remind myself of that. The path of humanity is not being entirely dictated by a man who makes Richard Nixon look dignified.

Meanwhile, here in our garden, I've seen a couple of these vivid Jersey tiger moths. (Or maybe I've seen the same one a couple of times.)

And our cardoon is blooming and attracting bees like nobody's business.

I barely left the house yesterday. I took some stuff to our local charity shop, and I took a bag of used coat-hangers back to the cleaners. I also tried to get the broken strap on Dave's sandals fixed, but the man at the local shoe repair shop said he couldn't do it because he doesn't have a machine to sew leather. So I have to look farther afield to solve that problem.

I've also been on a neighborhood anti-litter campaign. Someone -- and I think I know who -- is dumping bags of bloody meat wrappers on a street corner near our house. I don't believe it's a local business. It's happened over and over, and animals tear the bags open and distribute the contents all over the street. It happened again yesterday morning and I reported it to the council, and it has allegedly been cleaned up, but I am collecting evidence against the perpetrators and I expect to take it to the council at some point. Whether there's any enforcement will be up to them.

I'm also reading a very entertaining book called "The Last Pink Bits," in which author Harry Ritchie travels to a few tiny remote outposts of the British Empire -- places like the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and St. Helena. He's a funny writer and the book -- even though it's about 20 years old -- is a good antidote to the dreary, frustrating dispatches coming out of the White House these days.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

More Old Photos

Some more old photos, rescued from negative oblivion by my new scanner. Most of these were taken in the '80s with my 35-mm Canon, so the photo quality is better than the Magimatic pictures I posted earlier.

First, a shelf fungus in our old yard in Florida, growing beneath (or possibly on) a silk oak that has long since died.

This isn't a great picture -- it came from the Magimatic -- but it's a memory that has long perplexed me. I took it around the time of the Bicentennial (1976), on a trip to Washington, D.C. It's of some sort of memorial wall erected to George Washington. I never saw this wall again on my many subsequent trips to Washington, and I've often wondered where it was.

Well, I did some research, and it turns out this wall used to be located near the Washington Monument. Soon after I took the photo, it was taken down and later relocated to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Virginia. So it's still out there, but in a different place.

These bright red seeds used to grow on the maple trees at our house in Florida. Like the silk oak, those maples are long dead now.

This is our old dog Hoover. She was fun but she could be a bit ornery, especially when she got older. She liked lying around in the shade! She died in 1992.

I've mentioned the Circle Restaurant, in Sebring, before. Here's a 1988 shot of the front window that I've never been able to have successfully printed. In fact, I had to do a lot of manipulation to get it to look this good. My film was way too underexposed.

My grandmother, like a lot of grandmothers, had a window full of little tchotchkes in her living room. (Two of them, actually.) Here's a look at one. My brother and I used to help her wash all those little objets when we visited each year.

A shot of some dry beach grass in early evening on Sanibel Island, Florida. I took this on a day trip there with my high school friend John.

And finally, the front porch of my grandfather's summer retreat in the mountains of West Virginia. My family still owns this property, but none of us have been there for many years and we're allegedly in the process of selling it. We always ate our lunches on that porch when we drove up for the day from my grandparents' in Washington, but I've never slept in that house -- which, among other issues, has no indoor plumbing!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

False Alarm

Yesterday morning, I followed up on that mysterious letter from the dermatologist. I called his office and explained to his secretary that I was confused about the tentative nature of the diagnosis and I needed more information before agreeing to any further surgery. She promised to have the doctor contact me. And he did.

It turns out his letter referred back to my biopsy in May, not to my surgery at the end of June. In other words, it's very old information. He meant it as notification that I would need surgery -- which I have now already had, nearly a month ago! So all is well and I don't need any more.

Good grief. Why did they just send me this letter now? After I've already had surgery, received follow-up letters and moved on with my life? DON'T SCARE ME LIKE THAT, PEOPLE!!

Around lunchtime, Dave and I went to see the Royal Photographic Society's newest London exhibit, at the Croatian Embassy. It features work from a yearlong project called "Breathing London" -- an effort to photograph the city's parks and open spaces. About 70 photographers participated, including yours truly, and in this shot of the gallery wall you can see one of my photos -- with the yellow flowers and the caterpillar. (You can view it close-up here.) I have two others in the show as well, this one and this one. The exhibit is very well put together and I couldn't be happier.

(Photo: Near Fortune Green, last weekend.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Wonders of Croydon

Yesterday Dave and I went down to Her Majesty's immigration office in Croydon to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, or permission to stay in Britain indefinitely. This was the culmination of our months of paperwork and test-taking, and the good news is, Her Majesty likes us. Our application was approved.

It turned out to be a daylong adventure. We had a "premium" appointment, which sounds very Hyacinth Bouquet -- "I really must have a premium appointment, Richard. In a room bearing the royal warrant." We turned up at 10:30 a.m., shortly before the appointed time, and within an hour and a half we'd made our application, which involved a considerable stack of pay stubs and bank statements and all sorts of other stuff.

The man who took our documents, photographed and fingerprinted us said everything should be ready for pickup in a couple of hours. Meanwhile, he said, we could wait around, or we could go see "the wonders of Croydon." This was sort of an inside joke, because Croydon is not known for any wonders whatsoever. Nonetheless we decided to explore. We left the building and passed through the tired-looking shopping center across the street, which we first visited a couple of years ago when we got our visas renewed, and then went walking down an outdoor pedestrian mall. Ultimately we found a pub with the rather provocative name of The Spreadeagle, where we had an alcohol-free lunch.

We got back to the immigration office around 1 p.m., but apparently things were busier than usual because our documents weren't ready until after 4 p.m.

The good news is, I used the time to finish "Herzog," which was one of the more challenging novels I've read in a while. I enjoyed parts of it, and I can appreciate Saul Bellow's writing and his genius. But parts of it definitely got bogged down in philosophical questions and conundrums, which I understand were meant to show us the state of the protagonist's mind, but at the same time were exhausting to read. So, overall, a mixed bag.

We arrived back home last night relieved to have that task completed. But then waiting for me was a frustrating letter from the National Health Service, in which my dermatologist said the procedure performed on my forehead in July "showed the presence of scaly sun damage called actinic keratosis. Looking at the specimen at the deep margin, there was a suggestion of possible early development of a type of low-risk skin cancer but nothing certain." He went on to suggest another surgery, "removing the scar with some stitches," and said he would put me on the schedule to have it done.

So it sounds to me like they're concerned that more cancer cells, or pre-cancer cells, may remain. But even their original diagnosis was quite tentative. If all we have is an uncertain possibility of low-risk skin cancer, is that really a good reason to cut more tissue out of my face? Can't we just wait and see whether another spot develops? I mean, this spot they removed was tiny. Even the doctors kept talking about how small it was. So I'm going to consult with them and see whether another immediate surgery is really necessary. I may seek a second opinion.

(Photos: The wonders of Croydon! Top, some buildings near the immigration office. Bottom, an artwork depicting Winston Churchill in the words of his "We shall fight on the beaches" speech.)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Garden Engineering

We've had some storms recently, and the winds knocked down our tall teasels. As I've mentioned before, these two plants are huge -- the tallest is about eight feet. So bracing them upright is no easy matter.

When they were shorter we could simply prop them up with a stake. But now, as you can see above, we've resorted to tying them to nearby plants with twine. So far, so good.

It's strange that they need this extra support because the teasels at Wormwood Scrubs grow upright all on their own. Maybe ours have too much nutritious compost or something.

Olga, by the way, was barking at me as I took this photo because she wanted to play with her new Kong Wobble toy, sent by the generous Linda Sue. The toy has a heavy bottom and is meant to be filled with treats, which the dog accesses through a hole in the side. It's a bit like a Weeble -- remember those?

Anyway, Linda Sue sent this thing months ago and I don't know why, but we never got around to giving it to Olga until yesterday. She is indeed enthusiastic about it (as she is about anything involving food or playing) and I'm sure she'll spend many hours trying to figure out how to get those treats out of there. (She hasn't quite figured out that she doesn't need me to help -- she can play with it on her own!)

Also a couple of garden updates. Remember the rescued foxglove, which we were rooting on our windowsill for a while? It's gigantic now. It's evidently not going to bloom this summer -- I guess that comes next year. (I've read that foxgloves bloom in their second year.)

And here's the rescued fig tree, all leafed out and doing well on the side patio. I'm so happy with how well this plant has prospered!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Olga's Summer Day

Olga had a busy day yesterday! We went back to the main part of Hampstead Heath, where we hadn't been since well before I left for Florida. (According to my blog search function, the last time was June 3. Can that be right?!) It's definitely looking more late-summery there, with the long grass turning dry and the rosebay willowherb (aka fireweed, a much better name in my opinion) and ragwort blooming. I love that purple/yellow combo.

Anyway, Olga ran to her heart's content. This was immediately after she went for a visit to the vet. She doesn't mind the vet -- in fact, she gets treats there, and sometimes she tries to pull me in that direction. She pretty much demands to go.

We took her because she acts somewhat stiff after long walks, and Dave wanted to get her joints checked. She also has a skin nodule on one of her legs that I thought should be evaluated. (No doubt because of my own recent experiences!) The verdict is that her joints seem well and the skin nodule is small and not connected to anything, which is a good sign. So we're going to simply monitor both.

She weighed 24.8 kilos, or almost 55 pounds. She's put on a bit of weight -- another reason to get her to the Heath!

The bill for the exam came in at £45, which I suppose isn't too bad, and I'm happy that she doesn't need anything more.

After our Heath romp, she got a bath and a special marrow bone from a restaurant where Dave and I went with our coworker Lisa and her boyfriend on Friday night. This was a hip little place in Hackney with amazing grilled meat. Olga loved her bone, which admittedly probably didn't do her weight any favors!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Magimatic

I've mentioned before that as a kid, I had a Magimatic camera. It was a point-and-shoot device that took 126 cartridge film, and it made terrible pictures. As I recall, it took a lot of force to push the button, particularly as the camera got older, and that inevitably resulted in movement and blur.

Still, I used the Magimatic for nine years, from 1974 to 1983. I documented nearly my entire childhood on that camera.

Having bought my film scanner, I've been exploring my old negatives and retrieving some lost shots. What I've learned is that I don't have a whole heck of a lot worth retrieving! But here are a few I can share with you.

Above, my friend Theresa, pointing her Polaroid (I think?) at me, sometime in the mid-'70s. I guess we were taking a picture of each other taking a picture. How meta!

I remember taking this picture of weeds near our back porch. I was enamored with the bright sunlight on the green, leafy plants, the long strands of grass and the dark shadows. And I distinctly remember being so disappointed with the picture when it came out. It does indeed look like a picture of nothing.

When I went to summer camp in the mid-'70s I painted a toucan in ceramics class. I loved my toucan, even though it had a broken tail, and I took it with me each of the next few years when we went on beach vacations. I made it our beach mascot. Well, the year I took this terrible photo, I accidentally left the toucan behind in the condo we rented. So this is the only record of my toucan.

(A side note -- sometimes the negative scanner gives really funky color results. I wrestle with adjustments and even then I often can't get it exactly right. And look how badly that negative has deteriorated!)

Utah welcomes you! From a 1983 cross-country car trip with my dad, stepmother and brother.

From the same trip, here's the front entrance of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. You can barely see my dad, stepmother and brother on the steps at right. My brother is checking out the fountain, which as I recall featured statues of women with water spurting from their breasts. I don't think I'm making that up.

Finally, this bizarre photo was taken for a high school science project in the early '80s. I was trying to show the effect of various detergents on bean seedlings. As I recall, I fudged my data by simply abandoning the beans when we went on vacation and then declaring that they had died as a result of detergent exposure. I don't remember what grade I got, but I passed.

Anyway, I kind of like the picture -- I think I was photographing the beans (carefully numbered, you will notice) through a piece of glass. (Why?!) The glass picked up a dreamy reflection of our neighborhood.

Friday, July 21, 2017

God's Right-Hand Man

I'm back on the paperwork treadmill, trying to collect and organize all the documents we need for our immigration application. I had to travel to work yesterday -- where the building, during summer break, is under a crazy amount of maintenance and renovation -- to use the copier and get some file folders. I need to go back again today to do a bit more copying. Then we'll be ready for Monday.

I also took a bag of used books to Oxfam, including Bob Spitz's huge biography of The Beatles, which I loved when I read it about 10 years ago. (Let's face it -- I'm not going to read it again.) The guy at Oxfam got all excited when he saw it.

"Oh, I'm about to do a Beatles window!" he said. "Sometimes I think God really does listen."

Am I an instrument of divine intent? Who knows.

Also among life's questions at the moment: I've been getting lots of odd spam e-mails trying to find me a job in Medfield, Mass. It's the strangest thing. Every day I get two or three, and I remember several months ago getting similar e-mails about job searching in Worcester, Mass. Is someone in the Bay State using my e-mail address for their job search? Do I need to be concerned? I'm not sure. It's mostly just peculiar.

I slept pretty well last night, but not quite as well as the night before. The second night after a long trip is always harder, when the initial exhaustion of travel has been remedied. Part of the blame, though, lies with my new toy -- a negative scanner! Yes, I'm playing around with my old pictures again. The scanner arrived yesterday evening from Amazon, and I stayed up late last night scanning and adjusting some forgotten film rolls. I promise to share with you anything worthwhile I find!

(Photo: Rosebay willowherb atop a security wall in West Hampstead, a few weeks ago.)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Blackberry Time

So, among other things, this happened in the garden while I was gone -- the blackberries began to ripen!

I went out yesterday afternoon, when I was trying to find ways to keep myself awake and fight my jet lag, and I picked a bowl of them.

Those aren't all of them, either. But I'm trying to be especially selective, leaving even slightly underripe ones for another few days, because the longer they stay on the vine the sweeter they are. I also want to leave some behind for birds and whatever else might eat them.

I wrote about blackberry time around this same date in 2014, 2015 and last year. It's a big deal to me! Picking berries wraps itself in a perfect cloak of nostalgia for my childhood in Florida, as well as an appreciation for the warm (but ordinarily not super-hot) high summer days in England.

I managed to stay awake all day yesterday, after landing at 9 a.m. I finally collapsed into bed around 9 p.m., and let me tell you, sleep is a wonderful thing. I slept right through until 6 a.m. this morning.

Today I've got to do a few more things for our immigration application before our meeting next week. I'll be glad when that's over!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Back Home Again

I'm back in England, but I can't resist giving you one more Florida picture. I took this at the Jacksonville Arboretum on Monday. It's a snapping turtle in one of the park's ponds. Isn't that an awesome eye?

Here's a close-up:

It's so green! I'm not sure I've looked closely at a turtle eye before.

My flights home were relatively uneventful. They both ran a bit late, and I wound up landing in London at 9:15 a.m. rather than 8 a.m. as planned -- but my bag made it and all in all it wasn't a bad experience. I had a fairly long layover -- about 4 1/2 hours -- at the Charlotte airport. I spent the time having barbecue (with collards!) for lunch, reading "Herzog" by Saul Bellow and getting a much-needed back massage.

I'm reading "Herzog" because I've never read anything by Bellow, and I'm loving his descriptions of New York and environs. He is definitely a writer of city fiction. It gets a bit too philosophical for me at times, musing over the human condition, but I'm working through it.

Olga is curled up on my legs as I write this. When I walked in the door she greeted me as usual, with her Kong in her mouth, ready to play! She seems very happy that I'm home. I suppose Dave is happy too. I am going to get some serious sleep tonight.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sexy Rexy

Yesterday morning, Mom and I went to the Jacksonville Arboretum, a large forested tract with some botanical plantings. I thought our little walk there might be a miserable experience in July, but it actually turned out to be fairly cool and mosquito-free and not at all uncomfortable.

We adjourned afterwards to Red Lobster for lunch, at Mom's request. As we were driving to the restaurant we passed a big orange dinosaur standing in front of a shopping center.

Well, I turned the car right around. How could I not?

"I bet this came from an old mini-golf course," I told Mom as I prepared to photograph it. I looked it up later, as we sat in our booth at Red Lobster, and I found this article. It explains that, sure enough, this dinosaur's home used to be Gooney Golf, and it's stood in this position for about 45 years. When the golf course was torn down, there was a local effort to save "Sexy Rexy" (one of several names proposed for it), and now it is enshrined in front of a strip mall.

It stands on Beach Boulevard at Peach Drive -- yes, the corner of Beach and Peach. I am not making this up.

Those glowing red eyes!

Anyway, as we drove home, we stopped at Target to replace my mom's toilet brush, which I inadvertently broke while cleaning her bathroom. The cheap plastic handle snapped in two! Clearly I don't know my own strength. So I got a super-strong one with a metal handle.

As we pulled out of the shopping center, a man in front of us was putting up the automatic top on his convertible, which looked pretty precarious. We joked that it might fly off and kill us as we drove, leaving us the subjects of a news story: "MOTHER AND SON KILLED BY FLYING CAR ROOF. 'They just bought a very expensive toilet brush,' a witness said."

It can be fun to imagine yourself the subject of news coverage. The day before, having a beer with my brother in his back yard, an afternoon thunderstorm blew up. As we retreated inside we imagined the headline: "BROTHERS IN IDENTICAL 'WAFFLE HOUSE' T-SHIRTS KILLED BY LIGHTNING STRIKE." While drinking cans of beer, no less. That would be a Florida story.

We had dinner with my brother and his family last night (barbecued brisket sandwich!), and now today I'm getting ready to take flight for England. I've got to do a lot of hanging around in airports -- I'll try to avoid another $26 glass of wine, but there are no guarantees. When I come to you tomorrow, I should be back in Blighty with Dave and Olga.

(Bottom photo: A grove of palms at the Arboretum.)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Waffle House and Alpine Groves

You all may remember that I'm a big fan of Waffle House, the chain of roadside diners founded in Atlanta in 1955. There's not really anything like it in Britain. You can get a fry-up at your local cafe -- I guess that's the closest thing -- and it's good, but it's not quite the same.

A few weeks ago, I got so nostalgic for Waffle House that I ordered t-shirts for myself and my brother, JM. Yesterday we donned our shirts and made a pilgrimage (which is an overstatement, because it's only about a mile away) to the local outlet. The employees were so amused when we walked in that they even took a picture of us -- and we, of course, couldn't resist our own selfie.

That's me on the left, in case there's any doubt!

After a breakfast that was so big (in my case, grits, toast, a pecan waffle, two eggs and coffee) it nullified any need to eat again until evening, we took a drive and wound up along the riverfront in Mandarin, walking on a public dock and admiring the river.

That boat beyond the channel markers is called the "Tahiti Rover," from Honolulu! Pretty impressive that it's here.

We kept driving south, and wound up back at Alpine Groves Park, where we went about a week ago. We saw more exotic insect life, including...

...this eastern eyed click beetle, which looks formidable because of its two large eye spots but is actually quite harmless. (Those aren't even its eyes. The real eyes are very tiny and on the sides of its head.)

I know my brother wasn't crazy about going out and walking around in the heat, but I'm not good at sitting around the house. He indulged me and I appreciated seeing the sights!

(Top photo: An old Pepsi cooler outside a house in the community of Switzerland.)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Driveway, and a Cicada

I'm back at my brother's house now. (That's not it above.) I think my poor mom needed a break from playing host!

This super-patriotic driveway is in Atlantic Beach. We saw it on car repair day but I couldn't shoot it because we were unable to stop. But I couldn't get it out of my mind, so when Mom and I went to Castaway Island on Friday I made a little detour and revisited it. I'm so glad I did. It's definitely too flag-wavey for me politically, but it makes a great photo.

Last night we went to dinner at a Mexican place in an old municipal building, where they seemed thoroughly perplexed by my order of a gin martini. I suppose it's not a common drink at a Mexican place. But they cranked one out, even with olives, and it tasted fine.

Then my brother indulged in one of his impromptu driving tours of the city, taking us through downtown and down the west side of the river. I'm always up for sightseeing, and my brother loves to drive. He doesn't hesitate to take the long route anywhere.

This is a cicada. They're buzzing in the trees at this time of year. They're usually pretty hard to see, but this one was caught in a doorway at Mom's apartment building. We walked through the door, and when it closed behind us we heard a loud, unmistakable buzz.

"What is that?!" I said.

"Oh, it's just the door," Mom replied.

But I knew it wasn't just the door. So I opened it again, and the cicada rolled out from under it -- I think it had been trapped between the bottom of the door and the floor. It seemed unharmed, fortunately, and I moved it out to a plant in the surrounding woods. Adult cicadas don't live very long, but hopefully this one at least got to mate and continue its species!