?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.


It’s a quirky name and an even quirkier 2002 Tony Award winning musical. Dark and unrelenting, “Urinetown” tells the tale of a world where people have to line up at public toilets to do their business, since private ones no longer exist because there is no water to flush them.

The public toilets, called “amenities,” oppress the poorer of the community more than the rich who can afford the “pee” fee. And when the corporate CEO of Urine Good Company raises the fees to use the urinal a revolution breaks out.

This play won the Tony Award for a reason, and I clearly see that. It is not only a send-up of corporate greed, mega-legislation, and the plight of the poor, it is also a send-up of the musical comedy form in general. It is not happy; the songs are not particularly memorable; there is no catharsis in the end.

It is the perfect revival for our current political situation.

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Special Day

For Earl, today is notable for being four months until Christmas Eve. For me, not so much. For Earl, Christmas is a fantastic holiday. For me, yeah, not so much.

Still, I love August 24 for other reasons. It is my second son’s birthday. He turns forty-seven. It is the birthday of one of my best friend’s grandchildren. She’s probably half my son’s age. And tonight we attended a birthday party for a friend who celebrated ninety years on the planet. What’s not to like?

On the world scene, today is the day in 79 A.D. that Mount Vesuvius erupted in southern Italy, covered the city of Pompei with molten ash, and killed thousands of citizens.  In 1572, the King of France ordered the assassination of Huguenot Protestant leaders across his country. Also not a very pleasant thing. In 1821, Spain accepted Mexico’s independence. And in 1981 musician John Lennon’s killer was sentenced to twenty years to life in prison. He’s still there.

Reading the world’s view of this date and then reading mine, I’ll stick with Earl’s predictions and the birthdays involved. They may not make national headlines, but they are at least happier events.

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Kiss Keurig Goodbye

It’s our second or third Keurig in as many years, and it’s about to bite the dust. So I decided we would de-Keurig our lives when this current machine dies.

After all, Earl does not use K-cups; rather he has a reusable plastic cup that he puts his Maxwell House decaf blend into and then inserts that in the Keurig machine where the K-cups go. Which is great for not stocking landfills with those little plastic containers that probably aren’t biodegradable.

So then why do we need a fancy Keurig? I’m not sure we do, although some of our friends like the variety of flavors it offers.

Still, this isn’t enough of a reason to keep buying a product with planned obsolescence written right into it. Which is why I purchased a Black & Decker one cup-at-a-time coffee maker that uses regular coffee (or decaf) ground in its own reusable basket for when the current Keurig is no longer with us. It came with its own fill-and-go mug too.

As a Realtor®, Earl is all about uncluttered kitchen countertops when he’s representing a seller or buyer. He says they make the work area look bigger. So the final selling point of this new “toy” is that it’s markedly smaller and sleeker than our current machine. It makes our countertop look practically gigantic.

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Sloughing Off

This has been one of those summers where I haven’t taken piano lessons. It wasn’t originally intended to be a piano vacation, but various health issues for both Earl and me required attention. And I find I can’t focus on piano when I’m overly stressed in some other area of my life.

So I took the summer off with the intention of playing every day, even if it were only one song. I didn’t keep track of what days I practiced and what days I didn’t; but I’m willing to bet I’ve played regularly.

What have I played? A piece that dramatizes the importance of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and another that was composed by Bela Bartok. Also a rendition of “At Last,” made famous as Etta James’ signature song in 1961. And finally, the entire First Fake Book where the left hand plays only chords and the right hand fingers the melody.

The odd thing is that I have labored over the two pieces that were assigned in the first place. During lessons the emphasis is on working them through and moving on, not necessarily making them perfect. But after two months’ practice, I feel as if I really “know” these two works.

Maybe I need to take more time on a piece, even if I’ve mastered it on a basic level. It’s something to consider when I return to the piano studio and regular lessons this coming week.

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Six Got Me Three

Today I traveled six hours to spend three hours with a woman who was my academic adviser in the last century when I was working on my Master’s degree. We are kindred spirits. Were back then and still are.

So when I finished my degree, after great counsel from her, and graduated in 1997, we continued to keep in touch. Not consistently, but irregularly. Which meant we got together every couple years or so to reminisce. Today was our most recent reunion; it was three years in the making.

Logistics were an essential ingredient. C lives in Lake Forest, a northern suburb of Chicago, which I live two states east. Each of us had to take a train to Chicago’s Loop, and coordinating the schedules of the two lines was a challenge so that neither of us was waiting for the other an inordinate amount of time.

Then there was the question of where to lunch. In the past, we’ve met at Pegasus, a charming restaurant in Greektown. But unfortunately Pegasus closed in December 2017. Neither of us knew this until a couple days ago, which goes to show that we need to keep in closer contact not only with each other but also the Chicago restaurant scene.

In the end, we ate at Ovie. I suspect the name is some sort of derivative for the Olgivie Transportation Center where C’s train comes in. The station – er . . . Center – has gone upscale with white tablecloth restaurants alongside the smoothie vendors and McDonald’s. The idea was that we wouldn’t spend precious time walking to another destination. Ovie was adequate but definitely not Greek inspired.

We chatted nonstop from 11 AM to 2 PM and then reversed our trips back to our respective homes. As the train wheels clattered along toward Michigan, I was positive that six hours of travel for a three hour lunch was a spectacular return on investment.

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Lobster Rolls

The best lobster roll I ever ate was in Boston. This culinary experience was last April when my son and I were at the Boston Marathon. The memory of this thirty dollar sandwich is still vivid.

Since then I’ve seen lobster rolls on the menu closer to home. Obviously, Red Lobster touts one, and I had it a while back. My recommendation is that you dine at Red Lobster for the warm cheddar biscuits.  The LakeHouse in St. Joseph offers one, but I’ve not sampled it yet. And today I had the lobster roll at Taste in South Haven.

It’s not that I’m an aficionado of the sandwich, but I do have criteria. The lobster must be fresh and plentiful. Celery is a nice touch for crunch, and the dressing needs to be subdued, not overpowering, so as not to compete with the rich lobster meat. I prefer mayo. The filling is served in a hot dog bun with the opening on the top whose sides are lightly toasted. Salt and black pepper are nice too.

The lobster roll at Taste met most of these criteria; in addition it was served in one of those contraptions for serving tacos. That was a nice touch, since the sandwich stood upright and kept the precious lobster from falling all over. There was a lot of lobster too. But the sauce, which definitely had something added to the mayo, was overpowering.  All in all, better than Red Lobster but nothing like Legal Seafood in Boston.

Still, I’m now on a quest to find a good lobster roll here in the Midwest. Recommendations are welcomed.

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God’s House

I’ve taken to swimming on Sunday mornings while Earl goes to his Evangelical church. We’re both at the 10:30 AM services. And I believe we’re both doing what we need to do.

Earl loves the morning’s routine: religious songs, a homily from the minister, a request that anyone in the audience who wants to claim the faith meet the minister after the service.

Me? I plunge into the pool’s cool waters — although I acknowledge they’re not as special as the Jordan’s — and leave earthly issues behind. It’s God and me. Talking together, without cellphone interruptions or other distractions. Feeling my muscles pull against waters that were similar to those that fueled Noah. Similar to those that could fuel the next debacle.

As a graduate of sixteen years of Catholic education ending with a diploma from a Jesuit university, I believe God is found in many different places. One of my published short stories finds God in a tanning booth. Today I find God in a swimming pool. Up the lane and back; up again; back again. It may sound odd, but it’s the perfect place to connect with one’s Supreme Being.

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The Berrien County Youth Fair comes to the local fairgrounds every August, and it’s unlike any other county fair we’ve ever attended.

What makes it unusual is that all the entrants must be 21 or younger, regardless of whether they’re showing animals or decorating cakes or creating handcrafted items. Which means these young people are not competing with Aunt Mary’s famous apple pie recipe that was perfected twenty years ago or with some local dairyman with a hundred-head herd.

The food is something to appreciate as well. Today’s visit saw us snarf down steak tips over a mound of mashed potatoes and smothered with grilled onions and mushrooms. We followed that with a humongous taco filled with healthy lettuce and tomato along with the other less pristine ingredients.

We passed on the cotton candy and ice cream, but Earl has an affinity for the local church ladies who bake pies for sale. Today we supported the United Methodist Church by eating cherry pie with a crumble crust. It was just as good an any dessert from the famous French Laundry in California.

The weather was sufficient, and parents strolled the fair with wagons and buggies in tow. Some men hoisted offspring onto their shoulders for a better view. Children delighted in live animals and ice cream. Older couples shared tubs of French fries and cardboard plates of elephant ears. Teenagers held hands.

But the most interesting thing of all was that we didn’t see a single person on a cellphone.

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Moving On

Today I feel almost like my old self. I don’t know if the kidney stone is still around or not. I do know I don’t hurt and I have energy. Additionally, my primary care doctor contacted me about an appointment next week to follow up.

I give him high marks, especially since the urologist I was to see has never returned my calls. I don’t expect him to return them personally – that’s what his office staff is for – but you’d think that six days would be long enough for me to move to the top of the call-back list, particularly since I was referred by the local emergency department.

Besides the differences in doctors’ responses, this past week has also taught me the value of drinking a lot of water. I’ve heard about the benefits of doing so for years. From trainers, yoga instructors, doctors, dietitians. It flushes the kidneys; makes the skin shine; decreases the appetite. But I couldn’t bring myself to consume a gallon or more each day.

Still, I decided to keep a fresh glass of water by my side all the time, because the ER doctor said it would help. Just making this small adjustment boosted my consumption considerably. It’s a habit I hope to continue going forward, whether I reach the liquid goal or not.

Glug, glug!

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It’s Monday and I’m at home, intermittently sleeping and running to the bathroom while waiting for a kidney stone to bid farewell. It’s a new experience, one that will never make my favorite top ten list.

To pass the time, I’m trying to catch up on some bookkeeping, some filing, anything that is sedentary and doesn’t demand much in the way of brain power.

I don’t want to continue writing about the annoyance of kidney stones; everyone already knows about them either firsthand or from others who’ve had the “pleasure.” So I’m taking a break from blogging until there are other more interesting topics and I can focus on them. You’ll just know if I’m not showing up here, then the kidney stone and I are still duking it out.

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