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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trip Summary

Bob and I got back to Augusta this afternoon. We spent last night in Birmingham, Alabama, and the previous one on the Oklahoma/Texas border. Sunday night we were in Williams, Arizona, on Route 66, just 60 or so miles from the Grand Canyon, which we unfortunately didn't get to see, because the car had overheated Sunday morning in the Mojave Desert (the ambient temperature was 107 F, and the engine went well over 100 C, boiling antifreeze onto the pavement when we stopped for gas), and we decided to forego the stress of slow driving miles from civilization and head directly homeward. Of course, the car ran cold (80 C) for the next 1800 miles, after Bob and I spent Sunday evening online pouring over solutions to the overheating issue and he "burped" the radiator Monday morning. Be that as it may, we saw a lot in California before we both began obsessing over the readings on the temperature gauge.

Friday, we drove across the state through Chico, where beer aficionados all know the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is located. I am not a beer aficionado, but Bob is, and the brew-house tour we went on was quite interesting. After acquiring t-shirts and other useful memorabilia in the gift shop, we ate a late lunch/early supper at the adjacent restaurant (brewing leftovers are fed to the cows which end up in steaks and burgers on the brewery tables), and then went on, through the surprisingly small middle-of-a-corn-field town of Sacramento into the mountains near Yosemite. California mountain driving is daunting enough in the daytime, and at night it is terrifying. Quick blind turns, un-guard-railed drops, unbanked curves--it's stomach-churning. But we made it, sweaty-palmed and exhausted.

Saturday we hiked about 5 miles (and 1500 ft ascent) in Yosemite. Awesome views. And again, no bugs. I was glad I'd spent so much time on the Stairmaster at Gold's Gym--there was no way I would have been able to make it up the mountain otherwise. After the hike we drove south to see the park's largest grove of sequoias. Much of the mountainside had burnt recently, and we were covered with grey dust, ourselves and the car, inside and out--we didn't quit coughing until we were almost out of the state. Central California assaults the nostrils--cow manure, skunks, smoke, chemicals, grapes, cheese farts (that's what it smelled like), and dirt--travelers plunge from one olfactory miasma into the next. It's not for the faint of lung.

We had sunshine our whole trip, no insects, and no accidents. It was Providential, really. And Bob and I got along beautifully--though he did start making snide remarks to Mums the minute we got in today, telling her that the most annoying sound in the world was me complaining about "only getting 8 hours of sleep," and how the fastest thing on the planet was me "cobra-striking" the alarm clock. Brothers. I swear.

Sample pictures:


Lieutenant Bob in Seattle


Mink Lake, Olympic National Park, Washington. We saw no minks. But we did see a lot of big blue dragonflies, none of which would pause long enough for me to get a picture.


Pacific seashore, Washington. I was not responsible for the rock piles, but I thought they were rather nicely done.


Tree-hugger, Redwood National Forest, California


Bob, Redwood National Forest, California


Pimp My Ride in the Park: the Mercedes at Yosemite


Yosemite Bob runs uphill.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Redwoods

I *was* going to upload photos of Bob 'n' me 'mongst the redwoods, but I left my camera in the car when we checked in to the Howard Johnson and (as I'm already suppered and showered) I don't feel like going out to retrieve it. Suffice it to say, it was hard to forego cursing the memories of the logging companies who destroyed so many of the magnificent old trees before a citizens group formed in the early 20th century to preserve what was left.

After dodging down, and down, and down twisting road 199 from Grants Pass, OR (where we passed the Fire Mountain warehouse--ooooh!), we came into the Redwood National Forest, and the treetops began disappearing into the sky as we wound through the green cool dimness at their massive bases. We went off the main drag and rolled slowly through the old growth, the moonroof open, staring upward in amazement at the 1000-year-old arboreal splendor. We eventually parked and walked around snapping pictures of our smallness--Bob got one shot of me hugging the grey trunk of a tree as tall as the length of a football field. My arms didn't stretch even a sixth of its circumference.

We're stopping tonight in Eureka, CA. We got Chinese takeout and a gallon of skim milk for supper and sat on our beds watching part of a sound-and-picture unsynchronized broadcast of Hellboy II: The Golden Army while we ate and abused cow juice. Tomorrow we're sipping our way through wine country, and then it's on to the Grand Canyon and thence home.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Below Portland

Bob and I stayed last night in Port Angeles, WA. One of his navy buddies recommended a Thai restaurant downtown (a block or two from the "Dazzled by Twilight" store), so we ate heathily and well before turning in to a tiny bluff-top motel (two wee twin beds and lime tile in the bathroom, but clean) about 9:30. Bob went for a run along the shore, while I showered and hit the hay. I was flat--after 4 hours of waiting at the Augusta airport Monday afternoon, I postponed my ticket to the 5:45 flight the next morning and called my parents to come get me. Tuesday, I drove a junker to the airport at 4:30 (I've never been in such an ugly, smelly automobile--it was the vehicular equivalent of that couch I slept on in Russia this summer), parked it in the lot, left the keys under the front seat and the doors unlocked (so my parents could retrieve it later) and didn't fear that any self-respecting thief would make off with it. Even those who steal have their pride. I got to Seattle at about 11 AM, and Bob picked me up in his "pimp my ride" classic Mercedes. It's got chrome wheels with the trefoil logo on it, and looks like the sort of thing a druglord might drive, the windows rolled down and gangsta rap shaking the block. Leather seats (heated, if your bum gets too cool), moon roof, tilt-adjust headlights, and so forth. It's sweet. We went into downtown Seattle and met my friend IEC for lunch at Pike's Chowder. I had the salmon chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Yum. Weather was perfect, and the Space Needle was short--it hovers about half-way up the skyscrapers. Bob and I drove through Tacoma to Bremerton to finish packing his apartment, and headed north about 5:30, reaching Port Angeles at sunset. Depressing little town, but more picturesque than most on the Olympic Peninsula, which is rich in natural beauty (where it hasn't been logged, which leaves swaths of bleached tree-bones rotting like Ezekiel's valley vision until the new plantings take over) but poor in all human material conditions.

The peninsula dwellers are trying to leverage the vampire angle to bring (if you'll pardon the expression) a little fresh blood into their down-at-heel communities. There was another branch of the retailer "Dazzled by Twilight" in Forks, a one-stoplight little community where the hotel's billboard said "Edward Cullen Didn't Sleep Here," and there was a "Twilight Lounge" in addition to a sad little hand-scribbled board outside a clothing shop: "Bella shops here." Stephenie Meyer has probably single-handedly galvanized the tourist industry on that corner of Washington State. I was rather surprised to note that there really is a Quileute Reservation outside of Forks--one wonders if the tribal council is being harassed by over-eager fans about any extant werewolf legends! Bob and I didn't stop in Forks--we'd gone hiking in the Olympic National Forest, and were happy with the natural reality, and he was anxious to get as far south as possible, away from Washington's dreariness and into warmer climes.

We've stopped below Portland, Oregon, for tonight. It's after 11, and Bob's already asleep, so I'd best sign off. Tomorrow, we're looking forward to more hiking among ever more incredibly huge ancient trees--the California Redwoods. Maybe the Pacific won't look so grey down there as it did in Washington today.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Crappy Weather

I'm stuck in Augusta. Thunderstorms in Atlanta have cut that airport's arrival and departure capabilities to a third of the usual, and (given that Hartsfield is one of the world's busiest airports and the main Delta hub) this means that everything all over the Southeast is delayed for hours. My plane was supposed to leave at 2, now the stressed-out young men at the Delta desk say they'll have an update--an update, mind, not a departure time--for us on the weather situation at 4. People who were scheduled to leave at 12:50 are still sitting next to me, so this does not bode well. Will I make it to Seattle today? If at all, probably not at a reasonable dinnertime. I'm starving, and don't feel like paying $6 for a hotdog at the single airport concession stand.

Augusta Regional Airport

...is no longer the embarassing little hole that it was. It's still minature (two gates!), but the whole has been rebuilt, down to the granite countertops in the post women's restrooms and free wireless facility-wide, large picture windows overlooking the tarmac. Quite nice. Service still questionable, as it seems a previous Delta flight was cancelled, and the businessmen in the waiting area are complaining.

Bob and I are supposed to meet a friend of mine for dinner in Seattle at 8. I told her to pick the place--the sun will have already set, so the dining view is less important than the content of the meal itself. Dress code is not a worry, as this is the West Coast, and informality is the norm.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Seattle, Here I Come!

Barring incident or accident, I should be arriving in Seattle later today (Monday) about 7:30 PM. I've never been all the way out to the West Coast [the closest I've gotten was a western tour 23 (gulp!) years ago, when my parents took the four of us kids out to Salt Lake City, rented a car, and drove through Montana, the corners of Montana and Idaho, down through Utah, into Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and back to SLC, having traveled 2400 miles on the road in just two weeks, hiked all over (Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, the Petrified Forest), looked out on the Grand Canyon and ridden a train from Durango to Silverton Colorado and back]. It's beautiful out there, and I've always wanted to go back to these briefly-visited spots and on all the way to the ocean.

So, when Bob offered to fly me out to meet him in Washington state so I could road-trip back across country with him in his newly-purchased 1984 Mercedes (I hope it has air conditioning), I jumped at the chance. To get to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time, walk along the rocky shoreline, glimpse a bit of Canada...and then drive down the coast and visit various national parks and tour some California vineyards (if we're lucky) before crossing Death Valley, cruising through Vegas (we don't plan to stop, we just want to see "the Strip") on our way to the Grand Canyon (Bob was 2 on our last visit, so he doesn't remember much) and maybe roll up to Denver (where we have cousins--there's a Chinese restaurant there my parents ate at 30 years ago when they went for a medical meeting, and I want to see if it's still in business--Mums said the food and ambiance were great), then through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and home...well, let's just say it should be an adventure.

I'm taking my laptop, so if there's free wireless anywhereabouts, I'll try to update you all on our progress.

Friday, September 18, 2009

George W. Bush Was a Fool?

Readers can observe for themselves that I have not written much about political issues, especially in the past year. I have in fact tried to think as apolitically as possible given my presence in the history department of a major private university, which means that I have been bombarded, willy-nilly, from all sides by soliloquies on the narrow-mindedness, insensitivity, lack of intellect and so forth that are assumed to be inseparable from the character of political so-called conservatism. Without at all compromising the integrity of the secret ballot, I can solemnly assure you that I was the only person, graduate student, staff or faculty member, in the entire Georgetown history department who voted for McCain. And the fact that I went to the inauguration and genuinely rejoiced in the spectacle of the peaceful transfer of democratic power was in no way contrary to my convictions. Barack Hussein Obama is my president, too, of course. I had hoped for the best.

Prior to the election, Silverman delighted in a few occasions when he had been able to “out” me to others in the department, particularly over the topic of abortion, on which side he knows where I stand. Nadya is a fellow Russianist in my department, a Russian citizen who I don’t believe has the right to vote in this country, but who still was an ardent Obama supporter, and one day, while the three of us were standing next to the front desk, he told her that I wouldn’t be voting for the man because he was pro-abortion. Not wanting to get into a complex discussion with Silverman over the reality that I am not a single-issue voter, I merely nodded, and Nadya told me that she supported the Chicago-based senator because she believed that he would be a better foreign policy maker.

Well, indeed he is, for the Russians. I’m really disturbed and disgusted over the White House announcement yesterday about not continuing the missile-defense initiative in Poland and other Eastern European countries. Poland, in particular, has been a staunch US ally since the end of the Cold War, and provided a useful counterbalance to less US-friendly states in the burgeoning European Union. Timing the announcement on the very anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland (Americans may have forgotten that, courtesy of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, after Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, “beginning” World War II, the Soviets quietly rolled into the country just three weeks later, taking over the remainder and bringing the Terror to bear, but Poles certainly have not!) was extremely poor judgment. What, pray, do we hope to gain by this move?

“Pooty,” as a World War II veteran in my Sunday School class refers to the Russian Prime Minister, is no friend of the United States, and though liberal-minded political scientists and cable-network news-puppets may decry the “hawkishness” of “unrepentant Cold Warriors” there is none so hawkish nor unrepentant as the soulless Mr. Vladimir P. His iron fist may be in a velvet glove, but he’s brilliant and he’s ruthless, and he wouldn’t enjoy his current position without these New (old) Russian characteristics.

I love Russia, but my affection rests among ordinary people and does not extend to those in the central government. I love Poland, too. I was there in 1992 as a Sister Cities student ambassador and then again as a language and culture student for the summer of 1996. Both the Poles and the Russians have been poorly treated throughout history, but in the imperial and Soviet Russian case, it has been mostly self-inflicted misery, whereas in the Polish case it has been as a result of external enemies, Russia foremost among them. And now we’re setting the stage for more bullying of gallant Poland by the eastern bear. Why?

It can’t be for financial reasons, because heaven knows Obama’s no fiscal puritan on the domestic front. It seems the man is hellbent on ruining our relationships with our most loyal plucky little friends abroad (Israel, Poland, etc.—I’m waiting to see what he does to tick off the British) and kowtowing to the “international community” (dominated by China, Russia and other folks with no governmental love for the United States), in the na├»ve hope that—what? That we’ll be liked? He’s already caved on the North Korea six-party talks (which probably weren’t going to do anything anyway, but at least they kept some pressure on the nuclear nut in Pyongyang, and made China have to interact with five other countries rather than coordinating Koreaward diplomacy only to suit itself), and would the Israelis even trust him to back them up rhetorically if they (the only people with the chutzpah for the job) decided to do a bit of bomb-dropping on Tehran’s uranium-processing facilities?

I am not suggesting that our president has any venal notion of "selling out" his country--you don't run for the highest office in the land hoping that your position will be disgraced during your occupation of it. But his international relations expertise leaves much to be desired, and his decisions more questions than answers. I can't help but think that, on a governmental level, our long-time allies must be wondering whether its worth the candle to be a "friend of America" these days--it just might be an invitation to immolation.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Weakness

Mums fainted this morning about 8 AM. She felt odd and yelped—panic in her voice—for me before she collapsed into a chair at the kitchen table. I rocketed out of bed and rushed downstairs to find her leaned over with her cheek on the wood, all dewy with perspiration. I patted her gently on the back and she came to. She weighs less than 100 pounds now, and if a strong puff of air wouldn’t exactly carry her off, it would go a long way toward knocking her over.

She was able to sleep more than 2 hours last night, but barely. This is more rest than she’s enjoyed in months, and the wear of wakefulness shows on her drawn face and in the pronounced vibration of her hands, which shake as she brings half-cups of apple juice to her lips, trying to get some calories into her tiny body. She weighed around 120 a month ago, all muscular and vigorous then (though she was quite sick) and the change is shocking. I am looking forward to the weight loss stopping (right now, 2-3 pounds are falling away daily—surely this can’t go on for long), and hope that the good meals that my father’s been cooking up will start to put some meat back on her small bones soon.

Daddy’s given us each a walkie-talkie, so even if I am upstairs (as now) and she is down, we can communicate. I need to go check on her—there’s no noise from the kitchen (not that she would be banging around with pots and pans in her present condition), and given this morning’s faint, I don’t want to be away long from visual contact, in case she wilts without warning, before she can press the “talk” button.

Prayers appreciated, and I have greatly appreciated the calls (passing the well-wishes on to Mums), though subsequent ones to my cell phone I’ll not hear, since the battery’s dead and in my rush to get down here I seem to have forgotten my charge cord. Any telephone calls intended for me should be directed to my parents’ house number. I won’t be able to chat long—being pretty tired myself—but it’s nice to know we’re remembered and prayed for.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Really Home

Mums came home from the hospital yesterday afternoon, which was a vast relief to all concerned. She was starting to feel the prison aura of the place, where the only excitement was looking forward to the potato or mushroom swill that arrived three times a day, the only exercise solitary turns down the corridors. The IV pole had turned into a shackle, the uniformed nurses, no matter how kind, became little more than wardens, warning her of her limitations and dire consequences if she presumed to overstep them.

For dinner last night, Daddy cooked us steak (so tender it could almost be cut with a spoon), and we had baked french fries and butter-soft asparagus. Steak, potatoes (well cooked and without the skin) and the equivalent of English "mushy peas" are low residue foods and allowed to Mums. And they beat the heck out of gruel, taste-wise.

She continues to have unwelcome reactions to her pain medications--last night, when sleep was so fondly sought, being finally in her own, noiseless bed (instead of in the motorized monster that hummed and groaned in her hospital cell), the stuff kept her awake and nervous. Daddy came home from call around 9 AM today, and the three of us decided that mid-morning naps were in order. I slept for almost 4 hours (crazy dreams). Mums still couldn't rest, but tonight Daddy's going to give her an alternate prescription, so hopefully that will turn the trick. She's getting upstairs and down easily, and this afternoon sat outside on my folding chair while I clipped the climbing roses, which were full of yellow-orange hips, healthy green weeds, and dead thorny branches. We both needed the fresh air and sunshine.

She's been strickly forbidden (doctor's orders--the first time I've ever heard a doctor say such a thing) to "do anything even resembling exercise." "I know you're gung-ho," her surgeon told her, "And I don't want you to lift anything for the next three months." She's not even allowed to walk quickly. I think this'll chafe in short order, but it's only three months until her next surgery, and then hopefully she'll be allowed to return to full physical activity, kickboxing included.

In other good news, my brother's wrecked truck got totalled out, or so is the initial word from his insurance company. The truck was ten years old, and to fix it was going to cost more than it was worth (and take up to a month, which was his sole concern, being anxious to get out of Seattle ASAP). He's waiting on final confirmation of the company's decision, but it looks like he'll be renting a car to drive cross-country. Lots of pretty scenery 'twixt there and here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Home

My mother insisted that I go to the hospital reception desk and request that a security guard walk me the 200 yards to my car parked in the visitor lot, and to tell the truth I wasn't sorry I acquiesced. It'd be downright embarrassing to survive all sorts of adventures abroad, not to mention six years in DC, only to be mugged in what is essentially my hometown.

I was up at about 5:30 this morning in Arlington, finished loading my car, and was on the road by 6:50. I parked in the hospital garage at 4:15. Mums looked pretty good, despite being squeezed into a dim, furniture-crowded sixth-floor room. Thin, sleepy (thanks to a double dose of painkillers administered this morning), but comfortable. She's been upgraded from a liquid diet to gruel (semi-solids), and is actually starting to get a bit hungry for real solids, though her diet henceforth will be severely curtailed (no fiber). She's still hoping to be released Monday, but it may be delayed until Tuesday. We went on several strolls around the corridors, her pushing her quint-wheeled IV stand and walking carefully. I read her my children's stories (she wonders if there is a market for such so traditional) and promised to bring Scrabble for tomorrow. I shan't set my alarm tonight.

I chickened out on playing soccer and teaching Sunday school. I'm just too stressed out to add anything to my schedule, and once deciding yesterday AM that I was needed in Augusta and would be leaving forthwith, I had an incredible amount to do, and little time in which to do it. Soccer was immediately out. For one thing, I had to give Anita our jewelry and tables and displays and so forth, all of which was in my car (she lives half an hour away from me), I had library business (downloads, a checkout, informing the LOC of my absence so they wouldn't send my Pirogov stuff back to the stacks), taxes and bank deposits and packing and two commissioned pieces that I'd said would be ready on Saturday and which I'd counted on having Friday to finish... Just nuts. I'd already been in tears much of Wednesday evening (the two hour Sunday school training meeting barely scratched the surface of all the safety procedures for and learning abilities of the kindergarten set--I'd not been too gung-ho about the prospect at first, and the challenges mounted up until I was literally itching with panic), and then Thursday AM, right after I'd talked to my mom, my brother Bob called to say that some idiot had made a left turn right in front of him, precipitating a collision and the near-totalling of Bob's truck, in which he'd been planning to drive cross-country starting in just less than 2 weeks. Of course the fellow (who was issued a sheaf of citations by the responding law officer) didn't have insurance on his borrowed car, which he was driving with an expired license. Lovely.

I don't handle stress well. Even though these things haven't involved me directly, they've affected those I love, and I'm frustrated at my own impotence to set things aright. Now, maybe if I were being more steady with my Bible reading and study I'd be better equipped to pray and chill, but as it is I'm tied up into a futile snarl of emotional knots. I feel useless and overcommitted all at once, desperate for income but thwarted in my weakening efforts to secure it.

Susan's suitor left her a dozen fuchsia-red roses leaning up against our doorframe last night. When I took a load of stuff to my car at 10, they weren't there, and when I went out again at 10:30, there they were, all florist-fresh and delicate. There wasn't a note, so I figured (correctly) that they were for her, and put them in water until such time as she would wake up and arrange them properly. But for one brief, light moment, as I was hauling supplies and laundry out, I did hope that they were intended for me, the sweet, fragile thought of some kindly unknown.

Thanks to all who are praying for me and mine--we need it.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Radical Remodeling

Mebane, NC. I'm sitting here in Paxifist's office space waiting for paint to dry. Grey magnetic paint--the rest of the dining room is a refreshing shade of pink (Paxifist insists it is purple, and it is indeed more purple than PeptoBismol, but not quite what I'd term lavender...). We plan to over-paint the grey section, so that it'll be indistinguishable from the rest of the wall save for the alphabet magnets clinging to it.

Yesterday, we tore out the smells-like-sweating-horses carpet (installed by a previous owner in a high-traffic eating area--bad enough without the superimposition of three little boys under age 5!) and peeled off the floral wallpaper border next to the crown molding. This latter proved somewhat hazardous to yours truly, as I stabbed myself in the left palm with a spackling knife before I figured out that soaking the border with a water pistol (fun!) at a distance and letting it sit for a bit was a far easier method for removal than scraping. Aside from my attempted self-stigmata (it's off-center), there were no other injuries, though we were using assorted sharps and heavy flats to slice the carpet and the underpadding and then pry out the staples (somebody was staple-happy thirty years back) and the carpet tacks. Ugly linoleum tiles under it all, but this will do until a more attractive floor is installed--at least it can be cleaned. Anything is better than carpet in a dining room.

We got to bed about 2 AM last night. At 8 this morning, Paxifist and I were up, and her husband and three boys packed off to the zoo while we girls went to work patching holes, taping windows and doors and otherwise prepping for painting. Since, it's been about a 16-hour day full of puttying and painting. Paxifist posted pictures of the process on her blog (see link above). Nice shot of a dishevelled but cheerful female wielding the water pistol.

All of this frantic remodeling kept my mind off the fact that my mother was being carved up on an operating table down in GA. The surgery this afternoon took about 5.5 hours. She's OK, doped up on painkillers, and should be in hospital for about a week. I'm supposed to drive down to GA Sunday to take her home Monday and help her get around the house those first two weeks (my Dad is booked solid with call days and can't get off). I know she's glad to kiss chemotherapy goodbye, and we are all praying for her rapid recovery.

Tomorrow, I'm scheduled to drive back to DC. I've got to go to Sunday School teacher training Wednesday night, then Thursday I'm playing in my first intradepartmental coed soccer game after a full day scanning at the Library of Congress, then Friday there's another social event after another LOC day, Saturday is the Arlington Market (hopefully madly profitable after a slow Labor Day weekend) and then Sunday my first day as a teacher for the four-year-olds and then home to GA for convalescent care.

Both Paxifist and Leah have approved of my children's stories (patiently listening to my readings), so the next step (one of several things I'm planning to accomplish in Augusta besides translation of several Pirogov biographies, making jewelry for two major shows we have coming up in October, and applying for jobs) is to illustrate them and see about getting them into print. Let's just say I'm keeping myself and I-95 busy.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Schooled

Susan spent almost 12 hours at work today, getting ready for the next week's advent of her new students, all 110 of them. I spent hours at Georgetown, where the registrar's/bursar's/dean's offices have yet to get it through the computer system's overloaded brain that I am taking off this semester and needn't be charged for classes.

I also stopped by the History department, where I talked with a number of fellow Russianists, including Kevin, the beautiful, superbly muscled no-personality one. I've tried for the last year to find a spark of something interesting in him besides his obvious external attractions, but he's dull as dishwater to talk to. Doesn't have much of a sense of humor that I can tell (or perhaps just not one that's remotely similar to mine). Today I saw that post-summer camping in Siberia, he's more lovely than ever, all perfect nose and blue eyes and moderate stature and Southern accent and big biceps (and a new, close-clipped, grey-strewn beard), but he doesn't seem to have any more pepper in him than he did in May. It's a pity, really. He's bright, but somehow too earnest. And I'm indisputably un-serious and scatterbrained and yet not the belle type. Sigh.

Speaking of nice-looking male specimens, I found to my horror Sunday afternoon that my Russian acquaintance (she whom I met on the plane from Moscow who is engaged to marry the divorced man twice her age) was not interested in discussing her own dubious romantic position (as she had intimated we would be doing), but in setting ME up with another forty-something Russian! He was there with us as the friend of her fiance. He seemed nice, and he was in fact pretty cute. Pleasant to talk to, with a good sense of humor. And smart--he's an engineer at the biohazards lab in MD which was the first in the world to ID the swine flu that everyone's currently freaking out about. But he's divorced, the father of a little boy, and Jewish (not Messianic) and as I told her in the ladies room (the sole 2 minutes of the whole afternoon we were alone to talk--her fiance and his friend toured the National Gallery of Art with us, rather than heading off on their own, as I had expected), "I feel sorry for him, too" (after she told me that she felt sorry for him, that he simply "hasn't found the right woman" and that for this reason they were trying to set the two of us up), "but I'm not going to marry him because I feel sorry for him." Good grief. You shouldn't even date anyone out of pity. It's a bummer, though, that he's not a Christian, which puts him permanently on the ineligible list. We talked guns a bit--he likes to go to the shooting range, and I think he might invite me--and had the same opinion of the dreadful avant garde film that we sat in on for about 5 minutes in the gallery theater. He's been in the US since he was a teenager, so I can't even hold the usual prejudice of Russian male chauvinism against him. It's so much easier to avoid "if only" thinking if the person in question has some other repulsive characteristic, from physical mushiness to foul-mouthedness, but he seemed without any obvious defect. Argh.

I'm working on conquering my own physical mushiness. Spent an hour on the stairclimber Saturday evening and today, worked out my arms on the machines in the "Lady Gold's" room, and sweated buckets. I discovered I can read large print books while hiking on the stairclimber, and that this passes the time far better than anything else (than, say, staring around the room at the other gymrats, or attempting to read the closed-captioning on the sports and news channel TV screens), and keeps my mind off the fatigue.