Category Archives: Harry’s Diary

Off to the races

I’m off in ten minutes to the DFL District Convention. I’ve got an early meeting of the Rules Committee to attend.

Listening to Weekend Edition on NPR was a treat. A very interesting commentary by Joe Klein on how consultants have ruined politics…Amen. He made an surprising comment about Dubya. I think I agree….its too damn late though.

And a bio of the composer of “Brother can you spare a dime”

And an interesting tidbit on the iconic 60’s lefty and victim of the HUAC, Lillian Hellman, who did her best to keep Martin Luther King and later the NAACP from being given the bequest from Dorothy Parker’s will. Today’s leftists ought to look to her example for a little taste of humility before getting too puffed up about the self righteousness about religious conservatives.

A Good Reading

The Sedaris reading was great fun. Its the first reading I’ve been to since college when I heard Dick Gregory. Guess I’m just not the literary type.

He began with an animal story he’d just written about a mother crow and a mother lamb. Well written and with enough of an “ick” factor to make it memorable. He got a rise out of the largely urban audience when his crow asked the sheep mother whether she had eaten the placenta. Then the crow made the contemporary scornful comment about straying vegetarians who dismiss their straying. After that reading he mentioned that a young woman who was the daughter of a hippy had told him at a recent book signing that her father had cooked and eaten her placenta.

I couldn’t help but remember my Mother telling me about the Doctor in War torn Europe bringing a surprisingly regular supply of meat home for the families dinner. He was an obstetrician and it kept his family alive.

 

David Sedaris

I’m going to hear a reading by David Sedaris at the DECC tonight. Never heard of him? He’s a hoot. Sometimes an x-rated hoot.

This one isn’t x-rated and its a Christmas classic. Santaland Diaries was recorded on This American Life in 1996 at the beginning of his story telling career. Be patient. It starts after a four minute introduction. Its worth the wait.

Pre nup

An hour ago I was sitting in the sauna at the fitness center after my mile swim. A couple of guys were complaining about their girlfriends/mothers-of-their-children. The girlfriends had let themselves go. One was still wearing maternity cloths two months after giving birth. The other had been told that if only she lost weight her fare to Hawaii would be paid for. (Overweight people just look out of place on Waikiki) She didn’t manage to qualify for the trip.

After listening for a while I commented that something should have been written into the pre nup.

Salva me!

I carry lots of quarters in my car to avoid parking tickets but last night I got stung at UMD. I drove over to practice the Verdi Requiem with the Symphony Chorus. I usually drive in from the College street side and park at a meter but a hurried dinner at Bulldog’s Pizza (best burgers in town) put me on the opposite side of the campus. Construction prevented me from driving across it and when I saw another chorus member hop out of her car in the nearly empty lot by one of the residence halls I figured she knew what she was doing. Maybe she had a sticker but I got the shock. $31.00! It will be a long time before I get another one of those.

The chorus still has two weeks to practice before the performance. I’m listening to a digitized 1957 mono recording of the Requiem now. Its a grand piece that one might expect to be written for a Napoleon or some Emperor with the sobriquet “Great.” Verdi, however, wrote it as a memorial for a friend who was a fellow composer. Because the friend is relatively obscure today the requiem stands as a testament to depth of feeling anyone might experience at such a  loss.

That’s enough music criticism for me. I can’t afford the tickets.

Bookin it 1

I took two books with me to San Antone. The first was Pox Americana by Elizabeth A Fenn. Its a very interesting investigation of a smallpox epidemic that circulated all over North America during the Revolutionary War. I skipped over some of the middle chapters. They were a little too thorough in describing the various routes by which different groups of infected soldiers took the disease to uninfected regions. Consequently, I won’t add the book to my list of completely read books. I did finish most of the later chapters however.

I was particularly interested in the ebb and flow of the plains Indian tribes and the impact Smallpox had on them. I was also interested to learn about the brutality of the Russian fur traders. The native Americans along the coast suffered tremendously from the pox.

I also began Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman on the flight back. The first two chapters were well written. I had recently read a fairly dismissive critique of Ehrman.  The critique found little fault with the first four chapters of his book but battered him on the rest of the book. I’ll reserve my judgement.

Remembering the Alamo

Pinch me. I have to remember that we took this trip as a vacation. Usually my better half lets me tag along when she travels for work. This time our schedule, when its not being delayed by aircraft maintenence problems, is our own.

Making a couple more stops after the Ranch to sample and purchase Texas wine we finally made our way back to San Antone by a little before eight. It had been a long day, although a rewarding one. We ordered a room service dinner which we downed with some Texas cabernet.

We slept in late then walked over to the River Center next door for a Starbucks and muffin. From there we walked a block away to the Alamo. We got into the courtyard as a guide gave a good little talk on the subject. Notwithstanding my comment from a couple days ago I’d say it was an event very much worth remembering. I’d just amend that by saying it ought to be remembered well.

After a little walk round we headed to the the block long stretch of La Villita that has art and craft shops. We picked up another pair of pottery mugs from one shop (we’re slowly replacing a bunch of miscellaneous old mugs two by two on our travels) and a fun little teapot which we are shipping home. (Several bottles of wine we’re carring back on the plane will be more than enough to lug)

We we’re content to sit on our balcony overlooking the Riverwalk with its busy little tourist boats for lunch. We took in the sounds of distant traffic while we supped on sandwhich’s accompanied by a nice Becker Vineyard Claret.

A pan piper playing the theme from the Good the Bad and the Ugly wafted up to us. It was from the South American musical troupe that was playing a block away in the River Center.

When we had our vente coffees at the same place this morning a tall white egret swooped over by our table while I fumbled fruitlessly to take its picture. As I commented to Claudia from our balcony this afternoon, San Antonio has one of the loveliest downtowns I’ve ever visited in a major American City.

 

Ladybird II

We pulled into the LBJ Ranch joint National Park/State Park Visitor’s Center with five minutes to spare for the tour. The area was suffering from an infestation of caterpillars which dangled in the hundreds from the live oaks overhead.

We stopped at the reconstructed home that LBJ was born in. It was rebuilt by Johnson after his retirement from the Presidency. It was furnished with fancier furnisings than the more modest stuff the Johnson’s owned at the time of LBJ’s birth in 1907. Johnson probably wanted to commemorate both the poverty of his own Lincolnesque “log cabin” beginnings as well as the well-to-do life that his parents achieved. 

We stopped at his family grave. His was the tallest stone in the plot but it was modest by the standards found in almost any big cemetary in the US. The 300 year-old live oaks inside the stone fence surrounding the cemetary made it a lovely setting.

At the Ranch the  bus stopped so that we could wave to Ladybird who happened to be sitting on her porch with a friend in a rocking chair. We waved and she waved back. When she was younger (Ladybird is 93) she would often board busses to say howdy to the tourists.

I was reluctant to take a picture but in the last instant decided that she wouldn’t mind. It’s not the most flattering. I caught her just as she was nibbling at an envelope in her hand.

Our guide ended the tour by playing the soapy Peter Paul and Mary rendition of Dylan’s Blowin in the Wind. Johnson never got to send me to Vietnam. Apparently he used to weep over the casualty lists. Damn him.

We drove past the drive-by showroom he built for his old cars, a couple lincoln continentals a hunting car with a bar and a sky blue german vehicle with the prow. We heard a recording of some advisor telling about his visit to the Ranch and being driven around the Ranch in the car by LBJ. As Johnson drove towards a pond on the ranch he began yelling that the brakes had failed.

The visitor tried jumping out as the car splashed into the water. Johnson roared with laughter and accused his guest of being too eager to abandon the President in his moment of crises.

Ladybird

Woke up at 6AM. Left at 8 and got to the Ladybird wildflower center in Austin shortly after it opened. We spent a couple hours looking at the natural landscape and trying to commit wild flower names to memory.

Ladybird took on the role of highway beautifier while she was the first lady. She tried to get rid of highway billboards and the wildflower center is one of her pet projects. 

Five years of draught have made the bluebonnets and other wild flowers much less numerous but where they were well watered in the more formal plots in the center they were colorful.

We bought some gifts for friends and some fun garden stuff including our own garden armadillo to join Lebeaux in our patio garden. We also bought a “Texas traveling music” CD’s which we intend to listen to while traveling through the Hill Country today. This one is a Willie Nelson CD dedicated to the wildflower center singing Tejas classics like the Yellow Rose of Texas.

Stops for wine tasting lay ahead. Texas Hills was the first winery after which we stopped at Johnson City to visit the Lyndon Johnson boyhood home.

I bought the third Caro book Master of the Senate at the visitor center and one of the Park Service Rangers told me about meeting the author a few years ago when he was doing research. Caro had broken his arm body surfing and the Ranger had heard this somehow. He had told Caro not to do any more surfing until he’d finished his tetrology on Johnson.  

We slipped past the Ranch so I could make a stop at the Becker vineyard for a quick tasting before slipping back to the LBJ Ranch for the last bus tour of the day.

Mariachi Music Makes the world go round

Walked a small portion of the river walk. Its beautiful. Ate at Casa del Rio. I think. (It was last night) Wonderful meal and cheaper than Taco Johns except for the Margaritas and Sangria. Made up the difference by paying to have a wonderful mariachi band give us two serenades. Even the braying grackles shut up for this performance.

Remember the Alamo

I’m getting up at 4AM tomorrow to fly out to San Antonio. The cat will be left in the tender mercies of my son. Don’t feel sorry for the cat!

I’ve tidied up my preparations for the Endowment meeting. Emails have been sent to all the potential recruiters and I put a message on the answering machine letting potential registrants know that I’ll get back Monday to add their names to the list. I even concluded my message with “Adios.” I do that all the time. It has nothing to do with the marches on Immigration or becaue I’m going to the Alamo. I wonder if we’ll see any remnants of the Immigration brouhaha this weekend?

I’m also hauling Claudia up to the Hill Country to see that other war president’s home – the LBJ Ranch. Its nestled in Texas’s best wine region so I’ll do a little sampling while there. I’ll ship a case of the Hill Country’s finest back home. Imagine, Texas with its own wine and cheese set! That should bring tears to the eyes of all the people in the blue states.

OMG

Incredible! I just discovered that I don’t have to e-mail my posts. I can do it from our new laptop. I’m such an old fogy! All the under 20 WordPress users are just rolling their eyes. You’ll get yours you little techies! Your children will be able to do something even more remarkable in a couple decades. Maybe download babies instead of bothering with caesarians. 

and on a Musical note

My daughter Keely drove up yesterday. She had agreed to sing at our church this morning. Shortly after 9/11 I featured her high school choir on my main webpage for several months. Her choir had visited New York two years earlier. You can see why I put this particular photo on my main page. It also included an mpg of the choir singing Lost in the Night with Keely singing a solo.

She has a terrific soprano voice and as we were doing dishes yesterday evening we sang songs together that I used to sing to her and her brother when I put them to bed. Streets of Laredo, Big Rock Candy Mountain, and my favorite, Waltzing Matilda were just a few.

After we warbled she got very enthused about my taking voice lessons and While I, amused, sat back and watched she search the Internet for voice coaches for me. She’d like to sing a duet with me. That would be neat.

She sang for ten minutes before church started. The congregation was attentive and still. (We are Presbyterians) The choir seemed mesmerized. Everyone joked afterward that I must be bursting my buttons. I just replied that the next time Keely sang I’d be sure to bring a needle and thread.

Mark Twain on doing right

“Always do right. This will gratify most people and astonish the rest.”

I’m sorry to say that I had misremembered the above quote. I thought it began: “Always tell the truth.” Even so, I’d like to think that the “truth” and the “right” are synonyms.

Here’s a page of Twain quotes twelve of which are about the truth. Some of them (the sly and cynical ones) contradict the one above.”

Harry’s Diary

I still have 55 minutes to put an entry into the ole blog today. Daylight savings will trim an hour off of tonight’s sleep which means I’ll have to get out of bed early to read my Sunday School Lesson.

There were no earlier blog entries because I was out of town and I haven’t yet figured out how to blog by email. We left for the Twin Cities yestereday so that I could pick up several cases of wine from Haskell’s “Nickle Sale.” This is the result of the new hobby which I picked up after my children left the nest and I no longer had to set a good example.

I had just finished insulating the last wall of my “wine cellar” so that the summer temperatures wouldn’t jump up and down so wildly this year. That’s bad for wine. I had researched some recent wine competitions to see what wines had gotten good ratings and compared them with Haskell’s prices. When a gold rating coincided with a really inexpensive bottle of wine I put it on my list. My aim is to become become a cheap wine, wine snob. It was nice to come back home tonight and fill the holes that had accumulated over the winter in my wine racks.

We had dinner last night with my daughter and son-in-law at W. A. Frost. Located on Selby Street in the shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral Frost is pricey but worth every penny.

Today before we stopped at Haskels we made a quick stop at the Walker Art Center. It occurred to me, as I looked at a series of very well crafted sculptures of humans emerging from the birth canals of various animals that museums are much better places to exhibit some contemporary art than a person’s home.

We also made a stop at Como’s Zoo’s conservatory and inhaled the heady bouquet of clorophyll. The flowers in the sunken garden were bright colorful and made one yearn for Spring.

That’s it. No politics today. We got home and I picked up a Reader to see my column in print. I couldn’t bring myself to read much of the April Fool’s content however because some writers don’t really understand the difference between parody and cruelty. Hey, I’ll happily eviscerate anyone who really deserves it but suggesting that a youthful looking politician is being recruited by a castrati choir . . . that’s just mean!