Saturday, November 10, 2018

Which One Would You Choose?

     B and I are spending two weeks on the beach outside Charleston, SC, as we have been doing once in the fall and again in February every year for the past few years. We like Charleston; we like the warmer weather; but most of all we like seeing our son and his wife and the grandson.

     But they're working and going to school and taking care of a baby, so while we do hang out at his house, and also host them out at the beach in our rental, we also find some things to do on our own.

     Yesterday we drove into Charleston and made a stop at Kaminsky's, a locally famous dessert place. It's located across the street from the historic city market, a several-block-long, open-air space that offers art, jewelry, clothes, all sorts of tourist trinkets and also the famous handmade sweetgrass baskets.

     At Kaminsky's I ordered the traditional butterscotch sundae.

     B had the brownie sundae.

     Which one would you go for?

     In case you ever find yourself in Charleston, I also heartily recommend 167 Raw, a fish restaurant featuring oysters, shrimp and all kinds of delectables from the sea. You can see it's crowded, even in the middle of the day. We went there last time we were here; we're planning to go again. We found out 167 is part of a restaurant chain . . .  kind of. There's one other one, on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts.

    We took a tour around Charleston harbor to see the city from the water, including Fort Sumter where the Civil War started.

     It's hard to miss the Ravenel bridge, which dominates the Charleston skyline. It opened in 2005 and leads to the suburb of Mount Pleasant and beyond to Myrtle Beach and eventually North Carolina.

     This view, from under the bridge, looks toward downtown Charleston.

     The end of the day found us back at the beach, looking for the sunset. It was a little too cloudy for any spectacular fireworks. But, for us anyway, the sky and the sea never disappoint.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

What a Difference a Day Makes

     I was going to write a heartfelt post, this weekend ahead of election day, about how despite all our differences, both Democratic or Republican, liberal and conservative, we should try to understand one another, and respect each other even though we disagree, and not demonize one another by hurling insults and calling other people names -- and how we should all acknowledge that we need to put country above party, unity above divisiveness, etc., etc.

     And then I thought: Nobody wants to hear that. It's like listening to your mother tell you to eat your vegetables. We all know we should. But either we eat our vegetables or we don't. Having someone hector you about it isn't going to change anything.

     But if you're discouraged about our seemingly irreconcilable differences, perhaps you can take heart in this Oct. 31 piece by Michael Smerconish about how Congress Is Out of Step with the Rest of Us. Perhaps we're not so divided after all.

     Anyway, to the point of this post. Yesterday, this was my view of a tree on our street at home.

     But today -- because I'm retired, and because I can -- this is the view I have outside the back of the house we're renting for the next two weeks. And we got a reasonable price, because we're out of season.

     Sometimes it's good to get away. I sent in my absentee ballot a week ago. I did my civic duty. And now I can enjoy a little peace and quiet, like a retired person should, far away from the maddening crowd.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

While the Wife's Away ...

     B's mother and sister live about an hour and a half west of us. It's just far enough so we really don't like to go for the day, although we've done that a few times. We usually go overnight, or sometimes for two or three nights. Sometimes we stay with her sister; sometimes we pony up for the bed & breakfast located halfway between her sister's house and the assisted-living facility where her mother lives.

     Sometimes B and I go together. But this time she's visiting by herself, and I am home alone.

     I love B dearly. But, you know, in any relationship there are lots of little compromises. So I like being home by myself. I get to do what I want, instead of what we want.

     Since B likes to have all her stuff around her, and I'm the neat one in the family, the first thing I do is go around the house and tidy up. I put all the dishes are in the dishwasher and clean off the kitchen counter. I take her clothes off the bed or the living room chair, fold them up and put them on her dresser. I gather the Sunday paper and the old magazines and catalogs and toss them in the recycling bin. Now I can finally see the top of the coffee table.

     But there is at least one lapse in my tidying up. It's my job to make the bed, partly because B usually gets up before I do (except on golf days). Besides, making the bed is a habit of mine leftover from summers at Boy Scout camp. I never made much of a Boy Scout, but one thing I did learn was how to make a bed. (Yes, the camp counselors did bounce a quarter on the bedspread to make sure it was tight.)

     So pretty much every morning of my life, I make the bed -- except when B is away. Then, who cares? Nobody else is around. You see ... it's a little bit of a vacation.

     When I'm on my own, and only answering to myself, I can do whatever I want. I could drink beer or stay up late if I wanted, although I don't do either of those things. But I still have the opportunity to indulge my bad habits. And the only reason I give myself license to do that is because I know when B gets back, I'll have to stop.

     So, normally, B cooks dinner for us almost every night. She's a good cook and always includes a vegetable or two. This is good for me. I know it, and appreciate it. But when B is away, I sometimes go to Panera's, with free refills of Pepsi -- and dessert only costs an extra dollar. Or I get a couple of slices of pizza, with . . . well, what do you know, free refills of Coke.

     The other night I went to our local grocery store that puts out a spread every day, like a cafeteria. I had peppers and sausage, mashed potatoes, and some macaroni and cheese. Then a berry tart for dessert. While I was there I bought some Halloween candy. And when I got home, I tried it out. Just one piece. Well ... two pieces, but they were very small.

     I should also admit that I spend more time watching TV when B is away. It's easy to plop down in front of the TV when I'm eating breakfast. Or it's 4:30 p.m. and I'm home and it's not time for dinner yet, so I flip on the set and see what's going on. Maybe I catch an old Seinfeld rerun or just mindlessly watch the weather or one of the cable news shows.

     At night I'll watch something on Netflix. I'm currently in the middle of "Moneyheist", a Spanish crime drama recommended to me by a friend. It's okay, but the dubbing is terrible and the plot is slow-moving at times.

     Of course, I do my regular activities while B is away. This week I tutored English on Monday at the library, and on Tuesday I went to the dentist. On Wednesday I ran errands. After B gets back from visiting her family, we're leaving for Charleston, SC, so I'm paying bills, returning books to the library, going to the bank, stopping off at the post office. I even went to the YMCA to do my exercises.

     So I'm not totally playing hooky from life. I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, for the most part. But I will admit, on the way home from the Y, I stopped at our local ice-cream emporium. The butterscotch sundae is one of my many weaknesses.

     B is due back later today. It's a good thing. I'm okay by myself for a couple of days. But after that, my stomach begins to act up, the kitchen counter looks barren and empty, and the coffee table seems bare and abandoned. Besides, I get tired of my own company. It gets pretty lonely around here.

     Speaking of which . . . I better go make that bed.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Dark Side

     My wife B is just the sweetest, nicest, most innocent person you could imagine. She's friendly, with a sunny disposition, and always thinks the best of everyone. But then as October rolls around and the weather turns cooler, and the nights grow longer, she goes and arranges this display in front of our house.

     Just goes to show you. There's a dark side to everyone. But she is not the only one in town who finds herself seduced by the Halloween spirit. Down the street we have a ghost hanging from the front porch.

     And a little farther along the spiders have been at work.

     A lone watch-skeleton stands guard at this house . . .

     While it seems some rather strange entities are having a party in this neighborhood.

     Perhaps it's a wake for this poor person . . .

     But not all is scary this October. B put up a pretty wreath on the fence gate in our side yard.

     And look at this display. No ghouls or goblins at this house. These people live on the sunny side of the street.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Sign of the Times

     Yesterday, B and I attended a public debate between our two candidates for the U. S. House of Representatives. The incumbent, a Republican, is Brian Fitzpatrick, a freshman Congressman running for re-election. His Democratic challenger, Scott Wallace, is from an old political family (his grandfather, Henry A. Wallace, was vice president under FDR from 1941 - 1945), but is himself new to elective politics.

     There's good news and bad news. I'll tell you the bad news first -- or at least it's a bad sign, in my opinion. As we walked into the auditorium at our local university, the ushers handed out flyers to everyone entering the building. These flyers did not offer biographies of the candidates, or summarize their positions.

     Instead, they were a warning to the audience:  "Respect the candidates by refraining from interfering with the program . . . Refrain from standing up, raising signs or creating other distractions. Refrain from applauding or demonstrating support or nonsupport for a candidate . . . If you do not adhere to these rules you will be asked to leave today's event."

     Maybe some people will think this message infringes on our free-speech rights. But I take it as a sign of the times . . . that we the public can't be trusted to behave in a responsible manner, and even as adults we have to be admonished to act civilly and respectfully to other people.

     Even so, during the debate there were several outbursts of applause, for both candidates. The Democrat got a couple of "unauthorized" rounds of applause when he went after Donald Trump. The Republican got one when he made an impassioned call for bipartisanship.

     Several times the moderators -- a man from the Chamber of Commerce and a woman from the League of Women Voters -- had to ask the audience to quiet down. But there were no signs, there was no shouting from the back of the room, and nobody had to be escorted from the building.

     I will admit that my opinion of Congress, in general, is pretty low. How can it not be if you read or watch the news on even an occasional basis? So my expectations were low. But both B and I came away with the impression that these candidates were good, responsible people, both showing good intentions and espousing good government.

     Maybe it's because we live in a swing district, in a swing state, but both candidates went out of their way to decry the ultra-partisanship in Washington. Both pledged to try to work in a bipartisan manner, to reach across the aisle and try to find common solutions for our country's problems.

     There were some differences. But they weren't extreme. The Republican is an ex-FBI agent who made a point of emphasizing that he's a member of a bipartisan caucus in the House, with 24 Republicans and 24 Democrats, who are trying to agree on solutions and offer legislation to solve our problems. It's called the Problem Solver Caucus. He realizes that 48 representatives, out of 435, is not a majority. But he hopes that the caucus will expand over time and develop into a serious power in the legislative process.

     And then the Republican went on to call his opponent a liar. So . . . while I like the idea of bipartisanship, I'm not sure I'm buying it entirely. The Democrat charged that the Republican wants to cut funds for Social Security and Medicare. But Fitzpatrick said that was a lie, that he has no plan and no intention of cutting Social Security.

     Wallace is a wealthy lawyer who apparently inherited a chemical company fortune, and has spent a good part of his career running his family's non-profit foundation. When he rose to criticize the Trump tax bill as a giveaway to the 1 percent, which Fitzpatrick voted for, the Republican countered that his opponent is a part of the 1 percent, and would most likely pay more tax under the new bill than the old tax law. The Republican challenged his opponent to release his tax returns, which apparently the Democrat has refused to do.

     The Republican was unabashedly pro-growth. He insisted that the corporate tax cut only brings the U. S. corporate rates more in line with other countries, and will allow U . S. companies to compete better on the international stage. That, he claims, will lead to a better economy, more jobs, and more federal revenues.

     The Democrat claims that if we raised the corporate tax rate by just 1 percent, from the current 21 percent to 22 percent (the new tax law brought the corporate rate down from 35 percent to 21 percent) we would have the money to solve the entire student debt problem that burdens our youth. He also recommended doing away with the ceiling on the payroll tax for Social Security, to shore up Social Security and Medicare, and so the rich will "pay their fair share."

   Both are in favor of some additional gun regulation. But the Republican skirted the issue of banning assault weapons, while the Democrat proposes installing bio-markers on guns so only the owners could shoot them. (That's the only way, he said, that the Newtown, CT, mass shooting could have been avoided).

     The Republican is in favor of term limits. The Democrat is not. However, the Democrat pledged that he would self-limit to three terms, if elected. Both say climate change is an important problem and both are in favor of green energy, but the Republican wants to shift to wind and solar over time, while the Democrat wants an Apollo-like program to switch to green energy right away.

    Both candidates are in favor of providing more financial support for education, infrastructure and the criminal justice system in order to rehabilitate and educate prisoners.

     Both candidates presented themselves as moderates. Is that I good thing? I think so. But I do remember, back in the 1990s, when members of Congress got along better than they do now, a lot of people criticized them for being too much alike. You could vote for Tweedledum or Tweedledee. It didn't make much difference.

     But that was then. This is now. I'd be happy with either Tweedledum or Tweedledee, as long as they work together to solve some of our problems.

     Sure, there was political gobbledegook during the debate. And they did challenge each other, sometimes pointedly. But they both behaved in a civil and responsible manner -- more civil and responsible than the organizers feared that the audience would be. Which, maybe, is a good sign.