Happy Birthday

Today is my dad’s birthday–2 days ago it was our friend Gloria’s birthday. So yesterday–the day in between–I went to Sonoita, where they both live, and brought  a chocolate cake I’d made, with both of their names on top. My folks invited some of their friends over to share:

The cake was very yummy. It’s the same chocolate cake I make every time, from a recipe from the Vancouver Sun from February 1986.

Here’s a picture of me and my dad; I picked a sunny spot indoors for the photo, with the net result being glare on my glasses:

On my dad’s birthday I also remember Uncle Bill, my dad’s identical twin, who shares the same birthday of course but who died several years ago.

Here’s to another yummy cake next year.

Yummy Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday today to my mom and my sister, both of whom share the same birthday! They got to spend a lovely day together. Roberta and her husband and son came from Portland, OR to spend some birthday time with mom.

The only decent restaurant (now that the Grasslands is closed) near Sonoita is a pizza place in nearby Patagonia; but they are closed Monday, today, so we had dinner there yesterday. Here we are at the Velvet Elvis Pizza restaurant in Patagonia, AZ:

And afterwards at home we ate the cake I made, my favorite chocolate cake recipe which I got from the Vancouver Sun in 1986:

It’s simply called Fudgy Layer Cake. Next time I make it I’ll post the recipe. There simply is no better chocolate cake!

St. David, Arizona Tomato Terrace

St. David, Arizona is a little over an hour from Tucson; it’s a Mormon community with lots of water due to the San Pedro River. On the edge of town is a Catholic outpost, the Holy Trinity Monastery; the lovely small church (which you’ll see if you click the link) there was built by my grandfather, who’s buried there, and my 2 uncles, who still live in St. David.

One of those uncles, Christopher, lives across the street from the monastery in a rammed earth home he built, with a large solar array outside; next to his home is an irrigation ditch–these ditches are the  source of the southwestern myth of La Llorona–which he’s cultivated with fruit trees and a jungle of indeterminate tomato vines.

I paid a quick visit today, hoping for some tomatoes. Here’s just a small part of the elaborate vegetable terraces:

Above, a close-up of tomatillos, and below, lots of tomato vines, recently picked clean so I’d have a big bucket of tomatoes to take home!

I know this may not seem very significant to those of you who live in a milder climate, where you can garden, but in Arizona, this is a spectacular vegetable garden. Check out the watermelon and cantaloupe:

A fallen cottonwood trunk is a pedestrian bridge over the ditch:

Can’t wait for dinner tomorrow….which will be a giant Caprese salad!

Just a Few Madison Photos

Here I am with my nephew Sebastian as I play along with him during his oboe practice last week when I was in Madison, WI; you can tell there’s a smirk-gene we both share:

One rather sad part of my recent trip to Madison was the funeral, seen below, for Sponge the Rat; Sponge got out one night, wasn’t found till the morning, sustained a small injury to his front paw and died 2 days later, likely sepsis:

The surviving rat, Pat, seemed affected by the death of Sponge; so a new rat was purchased, Larry. Here is Larry’s little cage (he’s younger) next to Pat’s big cage; the 2 need to live in their parallel worlds for a few days at least to smell each other, then maybe they can meet for the first time in a safe, open space:

We went to a dog wash benefit for the Jefferson County Humane Society at the Tyranena Brewery in Lake Mills, WI; we brought a friend’s dog. Check out the tall hop vines in the background:

Here’s some hops up close and personal:

One morning Sebastian made exceptionally yummy buttermilk pancakes, all of which were eaten in no time flat:

Later that same day I convinced the kids to pose for a photo during commercial breaks of the Transformers movie; Sebastian is actually smiling, and Damien looks like smiling is clearly an unsafe thing to do:

Here’s Damien with his mom sporting a much better smile:

A blurry photo of the state capitol from the lake after a long, humid day:

Off to Madison

Just a few posts ago I was so optimistic about completing another photo collage to transfer onto silk. How silly of me. Unfortunately I had some back pain getting in the way of finishing that project.

Tomorrow I’m off to Madison WI for a week of fried cheese curds and tail-gates at the boat launch. Just kidding. I generally observe my vacations sans cell phones, blog posts; my online presence is almost nil: so I’ll have another post with photos of my trip on July 24th….but not sooner. See you then!


Boston Photos: I Miss Being Back There

As I mentioned previously, I had a lot of fun at Fenway Park last week; the big fat girder was a bit of a problem, but not really when you consider I paid for bleacher seats to get in!

John and I got our photo taken by a very nice fellow at the ball park.

I’d met John right before the game at the Park St. T-stop; I don’t know the T that well, but I do know it’s the subway stop I try to avoid because it’s ancient, cramped and always in a state of repair. But outside is the placid Boston Common, where I waited for John. I’ve long wondered who gets to live at the very top of these cool old buildings with trees and gardens on the rooftops:

While thinking about this, I observed a lost-looking fellow in 18th century costume:

The next night we attended a fund-raiser in Dorchester for our 2nd cousin, Pat Tranford, who has melanoma. Pat has great stories about growing up across the street from CCN news anchor John King–you’d never know from his bland voice he’s from Dorchester. Unfortunately, if I repeated any of these stories I think I’d have CNN attorneys forcing me to shut down my blog, and after that suing me for everything I own. Pat is such a sweet guy. It was a crowded hall, I just stayed at my table buy my aunt Mary was up and about getting in everyone’s photos and meeting friends and distant kin; here she is with Nancy O’Neil, and unknown O’Neil or Tranford, Katy Miles nee Tranford, and Mary’s daughter Megan, with whom I stayed.

The next night Megan had some family over for dinner. Here’s John with Aunt Mary, trying to remember the words to I’ve Got You Under My Skin.

Lots of fun. Looking back to my next trip back!

An Afternoon at Fenway Park

My brother John took this nice photo of me last Thursday at the Red Sox game. The last time I was at Fenway I was 10 and my dad took me and my younger brother; and we left in the 8th inning when Boston was down 5 runs to Baltimore. I really loved watching baseball on TV as a kid. I think the basic idea of the contest was really clear to me, then; but my team–Boston–always lost. It was impossible to feel good, really, about being a fan; but I feel better now, as I still have all my baseball cards and they’re worth something!

Last Thursday’s game reminded me of those days; Boston was shut out 11-0, what a spanking to remind me of how it used to be. It was fun to be there, though. There really isn’t anything like it.


I got this email from my Aunt Mary in Hingham, MA today; it’s a list of 25 really bad puns and it was the best laugh of the day:

Puns for Educated Minds


The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference.

He acquired his size from too much pi.


I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian .


She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.


A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.


No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.


A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.


A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.


Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.


A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.


Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.


Atheism is a non-prophet organization.


Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: ‘You stay here; I’ll go on a head.’


I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.


A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab centre said: ‘Keep off the Grass.’


The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.


The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.


A backward poet writes inverse.


In a democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count

that votes.


When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.


If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you’d be in Seine .


A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.’


Two fish swim into a concrete wall.  One turns to the other and says ‘Dam!’


Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.


Two hydrogen atoms meet.  One says, ‘I’ve lost my electron.’ The other says ‘Are you sure?’ The first replies, ‘Yes, I’m positive.’


Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root  canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

Brief Trip to Madison Wisconsin

I was in Madison the past few days to spend some time with my 2 nephews. I traveled the day after the big wind event that shut down the airports. On the well-known Picnic Point path (above) at the university, it looked like the stereotypical fall we imagine in Tucson, where there’s no such thing.

Here are Sebastian and Damian, my nephews:

I brought a few balsa wood planes to toss around; Damian just loved them:

After three days of throwing the planes around the yard, they looked in sorry shape were held together with scotch tape; they flew with a few parts missing. Damian has a great photo-smile, but the moment I raised a serious issue he didn’t like, he looked like this:

Basically, he looked like I was threatening to make him eat the plane for lunch.

I took Sebastian to Michael Feldman’s Whad’ya Know radio show:

Some broadcasts are better than others, and this one was a bit sluggish; Sebastian was bored, and I was too, so we left at intermission. We’d conveniently seated ourselves by the closest exit.

Looking forward to my next trip; if I’m really brave I’ll show up mid-winter to ice-skate.

Washington D.C. Weekend

I went to Washington D.C. last Wednesday and came home yesterday (Sunday); it was a very quick trip, but when you work in the private sector (like I do) and get little time off (like I do), short vacations are the only vacations, which in the end they are better than no vacations.

I’m surprised, though, what you can get done in a short period of time.

My first stop was a visit to the retirement community where my very lovely and gracious Aunt Helen lives; she’s one of my dad’s older sisters, and here she is on a cruise we took up the Potomac:

Helen, hard to believe you’re 85! You look fantastic!

Helen drove us both to Alexandria, where the cruise started; and I might add that Helen is a very steady driver who also knows that a yellow light means….hurry up!!  From Alexandria we traveled north by boat and had a great view of so many of the famous Washington D.C. sights. Plus we had a nice meal, too.

The next day we met my paternal first cousin, Therese, at Mount Vernon and had lunch at the restaurant there; for a touristy spot with servers in period costume, I was expecting the food to be mediocre and expensive, and instead it was excellent and reasonably priced. Therese is slightly older than me (though of course she doesn’t look it); we met for the first time last year, in Boston, though it seems we’ve known each other longer than that. Yum! Here we all are, messy plates and all:

After lunch, we went to Arlington National Cemetary, where Helen’s husband Ed is buried; Helen has a cemetary pass, which made entrance a breeze: to say there are thousands of tourists there is an understatement.

Regardless of whether you’re a hawk or a dove, Republican warmonger or Berrigan Brothers Fan Club member, Arlington functions on a lot of different, complex and nuanced levels when it comes to addressing war and loss, both personal and collective.

I’m very lucky in that Therese and her husband, Mike, are practically D.C natives and know all the ins-and-outs and how to get around. We spent the next (hot and humid) day walking around the National Mall; we passed through all of the many national monuments, such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial, places that have prominent roles in the national imagination and in popular culture, but places I’ve never experienced first-hand.

Mike took some great photos of us; here’s me and Therese at the Lincoln Memorial.

Mike took another super shot of us with a view of the Capitol:

But my favorite photo Mike took is of me in front of the U.S.S. Enterprise at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum:

Mike said he’s been going to the National Air and Space Museum since 1976 and I believe it:  he knows the location and design specifications of every exhibit. Next time there’s a national search to fill some executive position at that place they should pick him.  I can’t wait to go back and have Mike show me around some more. It was just a brief stop at the museum; but like I said at the beginning, with the right people and the right planning, it’s amazing what great experiences you can have in a very finite span of time.

Looking forward to my next visit….if I can save up the vacation time!