Outdoor Laps

I’ve been at meetings at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado over the past few days. It’s a very fine facility, with great amenities and beautiful grounds. It has one particular feature that I’ve enjoyed during my brief visit: an outdoor walkway that runs in a continuous loop around the pond and the swimming pool on the grounds. In short, you can do laps if you want. Every day I’ve joined other guests in doing laps around the grounds.

On the Broadmoor walking loop, you can easily distinguish the casual strollers from the ardent exercisers. The strollers are taking their time, smiling, and enjoying the scenery; the exercisers–some of whom wear headbands, by the way–have a much more serious expression on their faces and are moving at a faster clip, often weaving around other walkers and checking their watches with a dissatisfied huffiness, as if the mere fact that they have to take slight detours around other pedestrians could ruin their workouts. I’d like to think I fall somewhere in between those groups on the lap-walking spectrum.

I’ve become a dedicated treadmiller when I’m at home, but I’ve enjoyed doing some outdoor walking during my visit here. Treadmills offer certain advantages, like keeping you at a steady pace and allowing you to keep track of calories burned and miles covered, but walking outside, taking deep gulps of fresh air and enjoying beautiful scenery, obviously offers its own special advantages.

Finding Roots In Mazara Del Vallo

Mazara del Vallo is a town on the southwest tip of Sicily. It is a vibrant coastal community that is one of the larger cities in Sicily, with pretty areas like the church vista shown above. When we visited yesterday, however, we weren’t in town to sightsee, but to find some touchstones of the family history of the Sicilian CEO (aka Chuck Pisciotta). Like many Americans, the CEO’s roots trace back to Italy and Sicily.

Our Mission to Mazara had four goals: to find the birthplace of the CEO’s father, to find city hall, where the CEO’s grandfather is listed on a roster of the town’s mayors, and to find the burial sites of the CEO’s grandmother and grandfather. We quickly accomplished our first objective. We knew the building where the CEO’s father was born had been sold by the family decades ago and been converted to a restaurant called the Cafe Garibaldi. We found it, and that is the CEO and his lovely wife, the Landscape Artist, in the photo above in front of the former family homestead. Unfortunately, finding city hall was surprisingly elusive, and we spent hours wandering the central area of town, being given conflicting directions by Google Maps and friendly locals and fruitlessly searching for the right building. After repeated failures, we decided to cross City Hall off the list and head to the cemetery.

The Mazara town cemetery is some distance from the town center and in an interesting place in its own right. It’s enormous—not a surprise in a town that has been in existence for hundreds of years—and includes in-ground burial plots, family burial chapels, and vaults set into long walls, like the ones shown above. Many of the vaults include pictures of the deceased whose remains are inside, as shown in the photo above. We were told that the use of photos is common in Sicilian and Italian cemeteries.

Each wall contains hundreds of burial vaults, and there were dozens of rows of walls, as shown in the photos above and below. When we arrived, we had no idea where the vaults for the CEO’s nonno and nonna were located, and trying to find the right vault in the array of thousands of potential locations seemed like a hopeless task.

Fortunately, the CEO and the Capo dei Capi were able to enlist the help of one of the cemetery caretakers and examine ledgers in a storage area, where they found information about the location of Giulio Pisciotta, the CEO’s grandfather. That is the CEO posed next to the vault in the photo below. Regrettably, we could not locate the vault for the CEO’s nonna, because we didn’t have precise information about her date of death. Still, we accomplished two of our four tasks, and any baseball player will tell you that a .500 average is pretty darned good.

But this day of roots celebration was not over. The CEO had mentioned to the driver who picked us up at the airport on our arrival in Sicily that he would be visiting Mazara del Vallo to find these family connections. By fortunate coincidence, the driver’s parents have a house in town, near one of the nice beaches. Amazingly, the driver’s parents, who we had never met, invited our entire party to dinner as their home. When we arrived last night we were treated to a magical and unforgettable evening by the parents and two of their friends. That is the energetic and outgoing friend at the head of the table in the photo below.

The parents and their friends set a long table in the courtyard and plied us with more food, wine, and beer than you can possibly imagine. Although they did not speak much English, their friendliness and warmth spoke louder than words—and the CEO and the Capo dei Capi were there to translate and break the language barrier.

The meal started with pizza, olives, cheese, shrimp, and fabulous fried sardine and rice balls, then moved to couscous—a delicious nod to the Arabic influence on Sicilian culture—with mussels, shrimp, and freshly caught branzino, which the friend proudly displayed in the photo above. You dole out the couscous, which our hosts dished out liberally, ladle on some tasty broth, and then add the fish on top. It was excellent.

And the hits kept coming, and coming. After the couscous, we had some of the famous red shrimp that had been caught that morning in the waters surrounding Mazara del Vallo, which had been grilled and delicately spiced. Then it was on to fresh cherries—to keep the digestive processes going, the friend explained—and finally a huge platter of cannoli, shown in the photo below.

We munched on the cannoli, which were crisp and not too sweet, with cherries at each end. And just when we thought the parade of fantastic food had finally stopped, our hosts brought out a gelato cake made especially for the Sicilian CEO, as shown in the photo below. Our hosts explained that the cool and creamy gelato would further assist our bellies in processing the enormous meal. The gelato cake was, of course, delicious.

Our hosts also brought out a bottle of champagne, which the CEO deftly opened, and we toasted our meal and our new friends. As I drank my glass of champagne I reflected with amazement on the incredible generosity of these fine people, who invited a throng of previously unknown people who could not speak their language to their home, invested the time and money to prepare a magnificent meal with a special personalized gelato cake, and fed us until we were full to bursting. And I emphasize, again, that before last night none of us had ever met our hosts. It was an astonishing, awesome display of open-hearted kindness and magnanimity.

We should have known, however, that our hosts weren’t quite done. They insisted that the CEO board the back of a rickshaw-like bicycle for a ride around the courtyard. As the evening ended we stood in the gloaming, exchanging hugs and kisses and cheek-to-cheek goodbyes with our newfound friends, thanking them for an evening will live all long remember. What an extraordinary night!

Friend Of Old Flowers

We had some friends over last Saturday night for a raucous evening. Kish bought some flower arrangements for the occasion. Last Sunday, I moved the flowers from the dining room table to the kitchen island, just above the sink, so I can enjoy their pretty colors from my seat at the island, which is my home workspace.

As the days have passed, however, some of the flowers have sadly started to droop and lose their petals, as shown in the photo above. Other flowers, however, seem to be hardier and were still hanging in there. So this morning I decided to conduct some triage on the floral arrangements by carefully removing some of the wilted and dead plants, repositioning others, and emptying their vases of the old water and refilling them with fresh, cool water. The result are shown below.

I’m not sure this will work, but I’m hoping to get a few more days of enjoyment from the flowers before they go into the wastebasket. If that happens, the investment of time in helping some old flowers display their colors for just a short while longer will be worth it.

Whither The Family Driving Trip?

We’re just about at the time of year when American families normally would pile into their Family Truckster, hit the open road, and head west, or east, or south, or north for their magical summer family driving vacation. But in Ohio, and elsewhere, gas prices are continuing to climb–raising the question of whether, this year, the Griswold clans throughout the country will be forced to conclude that they just cannot afford those hours in the car.

According to the AAA, the average price for a regular gallon of gas in Ohio is $4.464 (and $5.125 for a gallon of premium). That compares to $3.764 for a gallon of regular a month ago, and $2.887 a year ago. And dire predictions about what lies ahead suggest that in a few months $4.46 for a gallon of unleaded regular may seem like a bargain. CBS News is reporting that commodities analyst Natasha Kaneva, with JPMorgan, predicts we may see a “cruel summer” in which gas prices top $6 a gallon for regular by August. Her research note published earlier this week explains: “With expectations of strong driving demand — traditionally, the U.S. summer driving season starts on Memorial Day, which lands this year on May 30, and lasts until Labor Day in early September — U.S. retail price could surge another 37% by August to a $6.20/gallon national average.”

That’s the kind of news that makes me glad I walk to work. But the fuel price increases also make you wonder whether many families will be able to afford the classic American driving trip this year. The CBS News article reports that the average American family now pays about $4,800 a year for gas, which is a 70 percent increase from a year ago. How many household budgets can accommodate another 37 percent jump in gas prices, at the same time that costs for food and other staples also are climbing?

At some point that driving trip just becomes unaffordable, and a stay-at-home summer is the only realistic option. That means some American families will miss out on the kids poking and prodding each other in the back seat as the long freeway hours roll by, paying visits to roadside hotels, and seeing cheesy “attractions” like the Corn Palace or Wall Drug. That’s too bad, because it means they will be missing out on a classic American experience and a chance to savor the freedom to roam and see different parts of the country at ground level. As the Griswold clan can attest, those traditional family driving trips can be the stuff of which lasting memories are made.

The Pincushion Perspective

When I was a kid, it seemed like every visit to the doctor’s office was an occasion for getting some kind of shot. Mom was a fiend for making sure that her kids had every form of inoculation and immunization known to medical science, and she kept careful track of each one on individualized cards that she took to our appointments.

Smallpox, polio, MMR — all were reason enough for a Webner kid to have to drop drawers and Fruit of the Looms and get stuck in the butt by the needle-wielding family doctor. Often, the shots were accompanied by the kind of brook-no-argument statement that only mothers can plausibly deliver. My favorite bit of motherly injection-rationalizing wisdom came when I got my first tetanus shot: “You don’t want to get bitten by a rabid dog and get lockjaw, do you?” It was phrased as a question, but it clearly wasn’t an honest inquiry that you could answer in the negative. I didn’t know exactly what “lockjaw” was, but it sure sounded bad–and if Mom thought I needed to get the shot to prevent it, that was good enough for me.

Then I reached adulthood, and the frequency of shots abated. I’m sure I received some stabs, but for the most part my 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s seemed to be largely needle-free. But when the calendar told the doctor I had hit 60, the syringe impalements resumed with a childhood-like frequency. Flu shots, multiple COVID shots, and pneumonia shots have all come my way in recent years, and today my doctor–who uses reason rather than the flat assertions of a decisive mother–strongly suggested that I should get another COVID booster, scheduled me for a shingles shot, and told me that when the autumn appointment rolls around it will be time for another tetanus shot, just in case I encounter a rabid coyote or scrape my hand on a rusty nail and need that protection against the dreaded lockjaw.

Somewhere, I am sure that my mother nodded approvingly.

So, I’m back to assuming the pincushion perspective on medical appointments. The only difference, for which I am supremely grateful, is that i have enough muscle tissue in my upper arm to allow the shots to be administered to a less embarrassing location.

This Year’s Down Yard Projects

I got a lot accomplished during my two-day Stonington gardening frenzy this past weekend. Mother Nature was a great help in the effort. It had rained for a few days before I arrived, so the ground was soft and perfect for weed extraction. During my visit, however, it was sunny and cool—ideal conditions for some heavy duty planting and general yard work.

Yard work and gardening have a sequence. The winter storms had knocked down a lot of branches, so the first step in the process was to pick up the debris and deposit it in our compost heap. That gathering effort also allowed me to survey the plants to see how they fared. I’m pleased to report that our major perennial plants all survived. I’m also pleased to report that the lupines and ferns I’ve been cultivating in the weedy, between the rocks areas of the down yard came through the winter in thriving fashion. You can see some of the lupines in the photo above and the photo below. The lupines and the ferns should minimize our weeding obligations and give us some pretty lupine blooms besides.

The next step was weeding. Last fall I had dug out and edged some new beds in the down yard, and the Borgish weeds had invaded in force. After removing them, I planted some orange and yellow marigolds and a nice flower I discovered last year called a verbena. The marigolds grew well here last summer, produce a lot of flowers, and also, according to local lore at least, have a smell that helps to repel deer. The red verbena are hardy, have a bold color, and should spread. I added a white geranium, shown in the photo at the top of this post, and a red geranium, shown in the photo below, for a bit of contrast.

The goal this year is to make the down yard for interesting, visually, and to use flower color to accent more of the rocks. It’s a risk, because the rocky soil is not great for planting. I used lots of potting soil while planting in a bid to compensate. I also repositioned many of the abundant rocks in the yard to better delineate planting areas. I’m pleased with the results so far, but we’ll get a better sense of how the experiment is working when I return later this summer for more weeding, watering, and mulching.

The Borg In Our Yard

Two very full days of gardening — more on that later — have convinced me of one thing: weeds are the Borg of the plant world. They are relentless in their quest to assimilate every tidy garden area and turn it into a snarled, disheveled, grotesque, tumbledown mess. And weeds, like the Borg, don’t care about you. They are oblivious to your aching back, your hamstrings that seem to be on fire, your muddy knees, or the knuckles that have been skinned on rocks. And while you may need sleep, the weeds never rest.

You can’t really get rid of weeds, either. Like the Borg, they will keep coming back. You might spend hours digging them out, carefully removing them from the footprints of the plants you want to keep, and tossing them into the compost area, but you know they will return. Spend hours turning a weedy area, above, into a neat, well-tended bed, below, and you may as well take a picture to remember it by, because when you return the weeds will have encroached again.

When I weed up here, I half expect to see a grim black cube hovering overhead. The weeds are ever on the march

That First Whiff Of Salt Air

We’re up in Stonington this weekend to do so spring clean-up and planting. It is still very cool up here—the high today will be around 50—but it’s sunny and the weather app indicates that the below freezing temperatures are behind us.

This morning I took Betty for a walk and, as we ambled down the aptly named Sea Breeze Street I caught my first whiff of salt air. Its invigorating tang quickened my step, and when we reached the small harbor next to the mail boat dock, the sunlight was dazzling on the water. We completed the walk by trudging up Granite Street, looping back through town, then heading up the Pink Street walkway. When we crested the hill on Highland Avenue, we were rewarded with a bird’s eye view of the lobster boats in the harbor and the islands beyond.

It’s nice to be back on the coast, even if only for a short while.

Just Shy Of The Cuckoo’s Nest Line

Yesterday I went to get my hair cut. In recent years, my haircuts have been an exercise in getting my locks clipped progressively shorter and shorter, because I find that I really don’t like longer hair and the work it involves at this point in my life. So I go to my hair-cutting emporium, say I’d like to have my hair trimmed a bit shorter than the last time, and my stylist responds with numbers that I don’t understand.

“Okay,” she says, with a look of knowledgeable determination. “Today we’ll try a 3.5 on the sides.” I recognize she is referring to some kind of setting on her professional-level electronic clippers, but I have no context for what that means in reality. It would be like the produce manager at your neighborhood grocery store earnestly telling you that the onions in the bin are a 3.5 on the Pyruvate scale. You might nod knowingly at that information, so as not to appear stupid to a guy wearing an apron, but you wouldn’t know what a 3.5 means until you actually taste the onion to see what that amount of Pyruvic acid tastes like.

As a result, it seems safer to approach things incrementally, and inch toward the ideal cut as the stylist gradually ratchets down the settings.

In my mind, I’ve got a pretty clear sense of what I ultimately want to get to: the same on the sides but a little bit longer on top than the haircut Christopher Lloyd sported in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, shown above, so that the hair on top can just barely be combed. I’m reminded of the old Jerry Seinfeld line about how they develop “maximum strength” pain relievers: apparently they determine what amount of pain relief will kill you, and then back it off just a bit. I want to find a haircut just shy of the Cuckoo’s Nest line.

The New Routine

I freely concede that I am a creature of habit. I don’t mind doing new things, but I ultimately like to settle into a routine. When we moved recently, part of the process was establishing a new routine.

In our German Village place, I got up at 5 or so, wrote my blog entry, and then took a walk around Schiller Park. When we moved downtown, the Schiller Park part of the routine had to change. Fortunately, our new place includes a small workout facility, so it was pretty easy to substitute a treadmill walk and some weight work for the stroll around Schiller. The treadmills feature a standard 30-minute walk, with a five-minute “cool down” period, which amounts to about the same time period consumed by my Schiller walk, and the ability to do some exercises with free weights is an added bonus. I miss the German Village scenery and I don’t get as much fresh air as I used to, but I like using the machines, setting goals and getting data about my workouts, counting the calories that the machine says I’ve burned, and seeing my fellow workout room users in the morning.

For those of us who are creatures of habit, creating the new routine is a way of getting acclimated to new surroundings and locations. I’m happy with my new routine.

The World’s Oldest Dog

Happy belated birthday to TobyKeith, a chihuahua who lives in Florida. The pooch turned 21 on January 9 and was recently confirmed to be the oldest dog in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records.

21 is remarkably old for a dog–even small breed dogs, which tend to live longer than the larger breeds. If you are trying to figure out what TobyKeith would be in “human years,” note that the American Veterinary Medical Association urges an analysis that is more precise than the old “7 dog years for every human year” rule of thumb (which would put TobyKeith at a mere 147 in human years). The AVMA now takes the position that a dog’s first year equals 15 human years, a dog’s second year equals nine human years, and every year after that equals five human years. By that calculation, TobyKeith comes in at 119 human years. Either way, TobyKeith has reached a ripe old age.

TobyKeith’s human pal, Gisela Shore, adopted him from a shelter when he was a puppy and has lived with him ever since. She’s a lucky person. Anyone who has shared a home with a dog inevitably wishes their canine friends could have a lived, and enriched the household, for a little bit longer. Having a dog that has survived for the age of 21 is a great gift.

Ms. Shore says TobyKeith’s awesome longevity is attributable to good genetics, a healthy diet, and a loving home. That’s a pretty good recipe for longevity for anyone, dog or human. And, as the photo above reveals, apparently being dressed in embarrassing outfits isn’t a barrier to a long life–although, judging from the expression on TobyKeith’s face, he doesn’t particularly care for it.

Ranking Easter Basket Candy

Happy Easter to those who follow the Christian faith, and Chag Pesach Sameach to my Jewish friends who are celebrating Passover.

For many of us whose families celebrated Easter, there are happy childhood memories associated with finding Easter baskets and getting a chance to dig into a treasure trove of candy, at just about the time that the Halloween and Christmas sugar rush had fully worn off. In our house, the Easter basket routine involved the thrill of the hunt for your basket and then the enjoyment of the candy. But of course, not all candies are created equal. The other day the B.A. Jersey Girl and I discussed Easter candy and our personal favorites as we returned from lunch–which caused me to compile this ranking, in inverse order, of the candy I would find in my Easter basket.

11. Circus peanut chicks and bunnies — One year the Easter bunny put chick- and bunny-shaped candies in our baskets that were made of the same mysterious substance as circus peanuts, and just like circus peanuts, they were disgusting–stiff, chewy, with that weird circus peanut shell and gummy, slightly stale-tasting interior. This revolting development simply demonstrated that the Easter bunny was fallible. Fortunately, the Easter bunny noticed our collective negative reaction to this ill-fated experiment, and the circus peanut candies were never again to find their way into our baskets.

10. Large jelly bean eggs — As this list will demonstrate, I was not a fan of jelly beans in the Easter basket, but the worst jelly bean-related candy was large jelly bean eggs. These had a kind of thick, coarse, granular shell of sugar and then a gluey, stick-to-your-teeth interior. I would try one of these to see if they had improved from the year before–which never happened, incidentally–and then would try to work out a trade of the remaining large jelly bean eggs with one of my younger, credulous sisters.

9. Regular jelly beans — I ranked regular jelly beans ahead of the large jelly bean eggs because at least they were smaller. In our baskets, the jelly beans would get snarled in the fake plastic grass, and it took time to find all of them and put them into the trading pile. The jelly beans were a throw in, designed to entice my younger sisters with visions of quantity over quality. Some years they actually fell for it.

8. Plastic eggs with jelly beans — Our baskets usually featured a few brightly colored plastic eggs. You suspected they were filled with jelly beans, but you were never quite sure, and could hold out hope for some other form of candy until you had wrestled the eggs open and sent the jelly beans inside flying everywhere. Then you knew, of course, but I rate the plastic eggs with jelly beans higher than other jelly bean offerings because of that faint glimmer of hope that existed before the eggs were opened.

7. Fancy decorated chocolate eggs — On some Easters, our baskets would include a fancy hollow chocolate egg that was decorated with little flowers and ribbons. The flowers and ribbons were made of the same impenetrable, tooth-breaking candy that you could buy at the grocery store in number form to put on a birthday cakes. The problem with these eggs is that they were impossible to eat without creating a mess. If you bit into the egg, all structural integrity was lost and the egg broke into pieces, and then you’d have to pick up and eat the pieces, with the hard candy attached, and end up smeared with chocolate and a mouthful of chocolate and that unchewable hard candy. These often were trade fodder, too, in hopes that my younger sisters would be tempted by the gay decorations without thinking through the inevitable ramifications.

6. Foil-wrapped chocolate eggs — Finally, we’re starting to get to the good stuff. These little chocolate eggs provided a nice little wad of chocolate and a pleasant sugar rush, but the foil wrapping was the big problem. Foil wrapping simply is not designed for chubby fingers eager to get to the chocolate inside. Every year, you would bite into one of the little eggs only to realize that a shard of foil remained on the surface, and when the foil made contact with your teeth an extreme jolt of pain shot through your mouth. The foil-wrapped eggs were an effective way of forcing frantic kids to take their time and pay careful attention to detail, lest they suffer the excruciating consequences.

5. Chocolate bunny — No Easter basket would be complete without a chocolate bunny. Some years, our bunnies would be solid, and some years they were hollow. I preferred the hollow version, because it was easier to take off the ears with one large chomp, but either form was eagerly consumed. I didn’t even mind the small hard candy eye.

4. Peeps — Our baskets always included the bright yellow chick peeps, and occasionally would have pink rabbit peeps. Usually, we would get one peep. Peeps were great because you only got them at Easter. Unlike chocolate candies, you didn’t eat peeps at the movie theater or at Halloween or Christmas, so when you found them in your Easter basket you’d kind of forgotten about them and how they tasted. And then when you bit through the stiff outer shell into the softness beneath, you remembered. Few things taste as good as a bright yellow peep on a clear spring morning.

3. Chocolate covered cream or peanut butter egg — These came in an easy to open wrapper, like a regular candy bar, and had a flat appearance with a ridged chocolate covering. The cream version had a runny, sugary interior that looked like an egg yolk, and the peanut butter version had a stiffer, more granular peanut butter than was found in the household Skippy jar. It was a good Easter indeed if you could trade dozens of jelly beans and the jelly bean eggs with one of your sisters in exchange for one of these delicious treats.

2. Chocolate marshmallow egg — We’re now getting to the point pf true favorites, where it’s almost impossible to rank one above another–but difficult decisions must be made. The chocolate marshmallow eggs were like the cream or peanut butter eggs, but what nudged them into second place on the list is the quality of the marshmallow–which wasn’t like the marshmallow cylinder you’d put on a stick to roast in a campfire. No, this marshmallow was creamier, and sweeter, and delectable. When you got one of these chocolate marshmallow eggs, you knew intuitively you were enjoying some very high-end stuff.

And, number 1 is:

Speckled robin-sized malted milk eggs — These were my all-time favorite. The brittle shell outer shell, the thin coating of chocolate just underneath, and the crunchy malted milk interior that would melt in your mouth if you could resist chewing it up–this candy was the stuff of which childhood dreams were made. Back in the day, I probably could have eaten my weight in these little egg-shaped goodies. Much as I liked the marshmallow eggs, it is impossible not to put the malted milk eggs at the top of the Easter candy list.

I haven’t had any of these candies for decades, and it wouldn’t be good for my waistline to have any of them now, but it is fun to think about them and remember the simple pleasures of an Easter basket.

Night Falls On The C&O Canal

I’ve been in Washington, D.C. for a few days for meetings and a law school reunion party. Last night I walked from my hotel in downtown D.C. over to Sequoia, a restaurant along the Potomac, and then after the party walked back up 30th Street to M Street, in the heart of Georgetown, and then back to downtown. Along the way, I passed the old C&O canal, which runs roughly parallel to the river, and took this picture.

As I walked along, looking for Georgetown landmarks I remembered from when Kish and I lived in D.C. in the early ’80s, I realized that the canal is about the only thing that hasn’t changed. The Columbia Hospital for Women, where Richard was born, has long since been torn down and replaced by condos. The Biograph theatre isn’t there, although the building remains. The Georgetown restaurants and bars we used to frequent are gone, too–and the construction that was occurring as I walked along indicated that still more changes are coming. The quaint Georgetown storefronts that remain have probably had multiple tenants since we left the D.C. area in 1986.

I guess all the changes means that 35-plus years is a long time, because Georgetown specifically, and America generally, just doesn’t stand still. Nevertheless, it was pleasant to take a short stroll down memory lane, and remember some of the names and places we used to enjoy and things we used to do way back when.

40

Today Kish and I celebrate our 40th anniversary. On April 3, 1982, amidst a brisk wind and snow flurries on a wintry spring day in Vermilion, Ohio, we were married, and we have enjoyed 40 happy and wonderful years together since then.

40 is an interesting number. It’s one of digits mentioned most frequently in the Bible–more than 100 times, in fact, and often in connection with highly significant events and Biblical figures. Moses lived in the desert for 40 years, and was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. The great flood that floated Noah’s ark occurred because it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. In all of these Biblical references, 40 seems to be a handy number to capture the concept of a long period of time to deal with a trial or test. I’m happy to report that our 40 years together haven’t had that evident Biblical connotation.

40 is noteworthy for other reasons. “Forty” is said to be the only number in the English language whose letters are in alphabetical order. The standard human pregnancy is 40 weeks long, and the standard nap supposedly gives you “40 winks.” There are 40 spaces on a Monopoly board. And U.S. 40, a highway that runs through Columbus, is right up there with Route 66 as a legendary American roadway and is known as “America’s Main Street.”

All in all, you’d have to conclude that 40 is a pretty good number as numbers go, and one well worth celebrating as our journey continues to number 41 and beyond.

Bum Leg

A few days ago I did something to my left leg. My doctor thinks I twisted my knee, but I am not sure when, or how. I’m guessing it probably happened while I was on the treadmill.

Whatever the cause, the leg hurts most of the time. Sometimes it is a throb, sometimes it is a sharper pain, and sometimes it is a dull ache that feels like I could “crack” the leg and stop the ache. Unfortunately, movements that attempt to achieve the desired cracking don’t have any effect, and the ache remains. Standing up is not a problem, but my walking stride is a bit gimpy. It’s also tough to find a sitting position that is comfortable, and it’s difficult to get a good night’s sleep, too.

My doctor prescribed taking ibuprofen and inactivity, and I’ve been following his instructions. I feel like the leg is gradually getting better, but it’s a slow process–much slower than I would like. As I wait for the leg to get back to normal, I reflect on the mental impact of pain, and how you don’t really think about pain when you aren’t experiencing it, but when you are experiencing it, it is hard to think of anything else. And I have two other thoughts. First, I have greatly increased admiration for the recuperative powers of professional athletes. And second, I wish I knew what I did to cause this condition, but I would like to make absolutely sure that I never do it again.