Savor Every Precious Moment

Bobby Jones Grave in AtlantaI’m going to interrupt my string of posts about our wonderful Scandinavian adventure to insert this short grab bag of recent experiences that have made me laugh, think, or cry (or more accurately in most of these cases: chuckle, pause, or tear up).  Because, in the words of that great philosopher Jimmy Valvano:

If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

So let’s gets started.

Since it is Masters week in Augusta, where better to begin than the grave of Bobby Jones in Atlanta’s beautiful and historic Oakland Cemetery.  I was in Atlanta last weekend for work, and we toured the cemetery…along with many other historic sites in the city. I’m sure the number of golf balls at the foot of Jones’ grave are much higher this week, as some Masters fans make the pilgrimage to Oakland every year.  But that interesting funerary art isn’t want caught my eye.  No, I soon realized that no matter where I was, Bobby Jones was always described as “The greatest amateur golfer ever.”  Exact same words every time. No quibbles from this group. Similarly, whenever the death of Margaret Mitchell (of Gone With the Wind fame) was mentioned, she was always run over by an “Off-duty taxi driver.”  Never just a taxi driver, but an “off-duty” hack.  I laughed after hearing the pattern for the fourth or fifth time, but I got to wondering how certain phrases become ingrained in our lexicon. Oh well…just a quirk of the Georgia Piedmont, I suspected.

And while we’re thinking about quirks and Georgia…take a look at this (because of what I’m about to write, I’m sparing the poor couple’s faces):

Georgia Tech Wedding

As we pulled up outside our hotel late last Saturday afternoon, this Georgia Tech wedding party was disembarking from the “Ramblin’ Wreck.” It does beg the question: How does the lovely bride step down gracefully from the rumple seat of a Model A Sport Coupe?  The answer:  Not easily. But that’s not what I want to write about.

No, I thought it would be fun to remind my bride of our own wedding some 32 years ago.  When Candice and I were married, I was in graduate school at Georgia Tech.  So I quickly took this shot and emailed it to Candice – with copies to Andrew and Claire – and asked “Why didn’t we think of this?”

Claire was speaking for her mother and brother, I believe, when she shot back her succinct take on the proceedings:  “So tacky.”  Gee, and I thought it looked like fun.  Oh well, I now have the perfect rejoinder in the future when Claire calls to tell me that she has decided to get married at the Pomona Country Club College campus.  I’ll just blissfully reply, “So tacky.”

Topic #3 has a similar Yellow Jacket theme (and I’ve added this since the original post, after remembering that I wanted to include this encounter as well):

While we were in Georgia, our group of friends and supporters went to Athens on Sunday for a terrific day of tours of some of the restored homes in the city’s historic district. The final event was at the home of the president of the University of Georgia – a beautifully restored antebellum mansion – and I was asked by our staff to make the final remarks.  So when I stood on the beautiful main stairway, I began with something like this:

It is great to be in Athens today at this beautiful home, to thank our hosts and our guests.  Our staff doesn’t quite understand the nuances of Georgia politics, so they thought it would be fine for a Georgia Tech graduate to have the final word at the home of the president of the University of Georgia…

That elicited a lot of laughter, and the comment from the crowd, “Well, now you’ve really lowered our expectations!”  But I continued bravely on, and in the middle of my remarks, I thanked legendary Georgia football coach Vince Dooley – who is a lover of history and a traveler on our National Trust Tours.

I want to thank Coach Dooley for joining us here this evening.  I understand he’s joined at least one of our members on a National Trust Tour recently, and I, for one, am glad that he’s moved from football to history.  My memories of Coach Dooley go back to the “Run Herschel Run” days…and they aren’t very pleasant.

More laughter.

But I have to say, Vince Dooley was so gracious and warm afterwards.  It was a real treat to meet such an accomplished gentleman.

On to topic #4.

Yesterday, I was reminded on a Daily Kos blog post that Kurt Vonnegut died seven years ago yesterday.  And the writer wanted to remind us why he was…well…Kurt Vonnegut.

True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.

Plato says that the unexamined life is not worth living. But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?


Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’

Topic #5.

Thursday I skipped out of work early to catch the Nats and Marlins playing in a rare 4:05 start.  As I was leaving, I told my boss that I had an appointment with an ENT the next day, in part because, “My wife says I don’t hear too well anymore.”  She replied, “Well I think you hear just fine.  You know, selective hearing is a documented phenomenon.”  We both laughed, and I forgot about it, until I was in the chair at the ENT’s office yesterday afternoon.  After pleasantries (and catching up on Candice’s recovery from her concussion some two years ago), Dr. Picken asked why I was there.  I told her, in part because “My wife says I don’t hear too well anymore.”  She just smiled and asked me, “Does anyone else think your hearing has deteriorated?”  So I remembered my boss’ comment, and relayed that.  She said, “Your boss is right.  Selective hearing is a documented phenomenon, and it almost always happens in conjunction with our families.” Whoops. I had to laugh…and I’m soooo glad Candice laughed when I relayed the story to her.

I promise to work on that paying attention thing, dear.

Final topic.

I was in the line at the pharmacy this morning, waiting to drop off a prescription.  A mom with a set of boy-girl twins was in front of me, with the children in their two-seater stroller.  (The heavy equipment phase of child-rearing, as we used to describe it.)  The kids were beautiful, and they were having the most wonderful conversation about shoes.  The mom was so patient and kind.  It was a joy to simply stand there and watch the love.

After passing along their prescription, the mom gathered her things to leave.  I asked about the twins age.  She replied that they were two-and-a-half.  I smiled, and said I had 21-year old boy-girl twins, and this brought back lots of memories.  The mom asked if I had any advice.  I replied simply, “Savor every moment.”

More to come…


If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.
If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

Planes, Trains…but no Automobiles

Copenhagen Bike CounterUnlike their American counterparts, European cities are known for their many transportation options. Copenhagen and Stockholm fit this pattern, and we tested it all during our recent trip to Scandinavian.

With our family’s interest in preservation and urban planning, we headed into these cities with exploration in mind.  Andrew, after just six weeks in the country, knew Copenhagen like the back of his hand. So we had an expert guide for our first week.

What did we find?

First, Copenhagen knows how to make bicycles part of a real transportation network.  One-third of the city bikes to work, and with dedicated signals and lanes with curbs, they make it very easy for everyone.  The picture at the top of the post is a cycle counter that clocks thousands of daily bike trips across a busy bridge in the center of the city. Copenhagen residents also “dress for the destination, not for the trip” – meaning that they wear regular clothes instead of spandex when jumping on their bikes.  One of the great websites we found while in the city is, which posts pictures of stylish city residents on their bicycles. Andrew and Candice took a tour on bikes one afternoon and had a ball seeing the city at the pace of a two-wheeler.

Second, we tried every type of train imaginable over the course of our ten days overseas and enjoyed them all.  The U.S. is really missing out. High speed to Stockholm. Regular rail to Roskilde. Subways in both cities.  Light rail to get to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. And the great thing about our experience? All the trains, buses, and other public modes of transportation are easily connected and accessible by the same ticket.

Third, Stockholm has the coolest subway stations I’ve ever seen.  Cut out of the bedrock, these tunnels are painted to turn them into wonderful pieces of art. Take a look below to see for yourself.

Stockholm Subway

Stockholm Subway Art

Stockholm Subway Train Station

One final thing we found out on this trip…once we stepped out of our taxi at Dulles airport, we didn’t have to step into another automobile until we arrived home.  Now that’s the sustainable way to travel!

More to come…


Roskilde Cathedral: Visiting a World Heritage Site

Roskilde Cathedral One of our more delightful days in Denmark was spent traveling by train to the city of Roskilde. We had told Andrew we wanted to see a bit of the countryside outside of Copenhagen during our visit, and he suggested we take a short 30-minute train ride and see this World Heritage Site.  It was a great suggestion.

We exited the train station and were immediately drawn into the historic core of this Viking-era city, which features a wonderful plaza and historic cemetery just steps away from the commuter train. We headed down the commercial center of the city towards the cathedral.  In the U.S., this would be considered a classic Main Street community – one in which the Main Street was doing very well.  Andrew and Claire headed off to explore stores, as Candice and I took a more leisurely stroll.

After a walk of several blocks, we came to the Cathedral square.  (Blog interruption:  I’m proud to say that once we exited the taxi at Dulles Airport to begin our trip, we never set foot in another car until we came home.  We traveled by subway, trains, bicycle, and foot throughout the 10 days.  More on this in a later post.)  Roskilde Cathedral was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List because it was Scandinavia’s first Gothic cathedral built of brick.  The cathedral, and the surrounding square, are a wonderful collection of architecture from the medieval period through the 1800s.

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, this was Scandinavia’s first Gothic cathedral to be built of brick and it encouraged the spread of this style throughout northern Europe. It has been the mausoleum of the Danish royal family since the 15th century. Porches and side chapels were added up to the end of the 19th century. Thus it provides a clear overview of the development of European religious architecture.

Roskilde Cathedral Main Door

Roskilde Cathedral Nave

The brick construction makes Roskilde such a different experience from the typical stone Gothic cathedral.  In the course of our tour, we ran into a very knowledgeable guide who pointed out the areas where the brick was painted and frescoes added (some were being restored).  The cathedral has also served as the burial-place for Danish royalty. These various chapels – added on to the cathedral over time – were very much of their periods and gave the building a layered texture.

Roskilde Cathedral, Burial place of Denmark royalty

Roskilde Cathedral

There were so many wonderful architectural details, that a few pictures cannot do justice to all that we saw.  Ironwork, plaster work, painting, brickwork, woodwork, and so many other features captured our eyes throughout our visit.

Roskilde Cathedral Ironwork

Roskilde Cathedral Detail

Christian IV's box, Roskilde Cathedral

Roskilde Cathedral Clock

Roskilde Cathedral Interior Door

Historic places that date from the 1100s give one such a sense of the continuum in which we exist. Roskilde is such a wonderful example of a place that is of its time(s), yet transcends time. It was such a privilege to spend a couple of hours in this holy and timeless place.

More to come…





Our Scandinavian Adventure (Part 1): Copenhagen

Nyhaus Street in CopenhagenAhhh…the semester abroad.  While Candice and I didn’t have that opportunity when we were students (back in the day), we had heard wonderful stories through the years from friends who visited their college-age children as they were studying abroad.  When Andrew was accepted into the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) for this semester, we immediately began planning a trip to Copenhagen. Scandinavia had been on our bucket list for years. When Claire was able to join us during her spring break for the first week, the 10 days in Scandinavia promised to be a wonderful family adventure.

Now that we’re back home and I’ve downloaded my 350+ photographs, I’ll put together several posts over the coming days to capture our time in Copenhagen and Stockholm.

For the first week, we stayed at a wonderful apartment on Nyhavn street in Copenhagen (shown at the top of the post). With Andrew continuing his urban studies concentration while abroad, we couldn’t have had a better city guide.

The first couple of days we focused on getting acclimated.  Wonderful markets, the active pedestrian street through the heart of the city, beautiful architecture, visits to the Marble Church, and the great view from the top of the historic Round Tower helped us get our bearings.

Pedestrian Street in Copenhage

Copenhagen Square by  Claire

Copenhagen guards

The Marble Church Copenhagen

Copenhagen from the Round Tower

It was great to share time together as a family and explore this beautiful city.

Andrew and Candice explore Copenhagen

Claire and Andrew do the Danish look

Candice and Claire with the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen

St. Albans in Copenhagen

Over the course of the seven days we went to several terrific museums.  The Danish Design Museum was a real treat, given our family’s interest in design, planning, and preservation.  But I laughed out loud when I read the following in Patrick Kingsley’s interesting book How to Be Danish:

The fixation with chairs reaches almost comical levels here. As if in a furniture mausoleum, visitors to the museum process past a serpentine line of chairs that never seems to end. Chair after chair after chair; it is like an eery, empty, hyper-extended doctor’s waiting room.

Here’s an example of what Kingsley is talking about.

Copenhagen Design Museum Chairs

Andrew Studies the exhibits at the  Copenhagen Design Museum

All of us made time, while we were in Copenhagen, to visit Rosenborg Castle, home to the royal family. (We caught a glimpse of the Queen while out for dinner one evening.)

Rosenborg Castle

Rosenborg Castle

Rosenborg Castle by Claire

Rosenborg Castle Great Hall

Finally, our last evening in Copenhagen coincided with our 32nd wedding anniversary.  Claire had left for London, but Andrew joined us for a celebratory meal at Amadeus.  As you would expect of the Browns, we ate very well in Copenhagen.  No, we didn’t make it to the world’s best restaurant (Noma), but we did get to a great Michelin-rated eatery for lunch (Orangeriet) among several other excellent spots.

Candice and David 32nd Anniversary in Copenhagen

Over the next week, I hope to add new posts about the World Heritage Site at the Roskilde Cathedral, thoughts on urban design in both Copenhagen and Stockholm, organs of Scandinavia, views of Stockholm, and whatever else strikes my fancy.  So keep looking.

More to come…



Bare to the Bone

Carrie NewcomerFolksinger Carrie Newcomer played to a packed house at a “rare Monday night Institute of Musical Traditions concert on Saturday night” last evening in Rockville.  As emcee David Eisner pointed out, it wasn’t your usual IMT crowd, but those in attendance kept up the high bar for IMT audiences as they were both knowledgeable and appreciative.

This was my first time to see Newcomer live, and I encouraged Candice to join me, given the singer’s bent for writing from a Quaker and progressive spiritual perspective.  As Newcomer says on her website,

Every day we are living moments of grace and wonder, shadow and light. These are the moments I write about.

Saturday evening didn’t disappoint.  Playing her beautiful Taylor guitar (with an inventive use of capos); singing with that expressive, lyrical, and deep voice;  and accompanied only by keyboardist Gary Walters, Newcomer didn’t hit a false note the entire evening.  Beginning with I Believe, she sang songs from her soon-to-be-released CD A Permeable Life (such as A Light in the Window) as well as old favorites, including the moving Bare to the Bone.

Here I am without a message

Here I stand with empty hands

Just a spirit tired of wandering like a stranger in this land

Walking wide eyed through this world is the only way I’ve known

Wrapped in hope and good intentions and

Bare to the Bone.

When Newcomer ended her encore with the thoughtful Thank You, Good Night from A Permeable Life, we knew we wanted to say the same in return.

Like a long exhale

Like a vapor trail

A wisp of a thing

That changes everything.

Enjoy the beautiful video Everything is Everywhere from Carrie’s 2011 collaboration with Indian sarod masters, Amjad Alk Khan, Amaan Ali Khan, and Ayaan Ali Khan.

More to come…


Fat Tuesday Birthdays…

Birthday Breakfast Fruit

…are MUCH better that Ash Wednesday birthdays.  Trust me, I’ve had both in my life.  So when this year’s special day fell on Fat Tuesday, I decided to celebrate by…eating! (What else?)

Three meals out, and three delicious and artful Happy Birthday treats.  The first one, shown above, was courtesy of my boss, who felt bad that I had to attend a business breakfast on my birthday.  Thank you Stephanie!

Birthday Cheese 03 04 14

The second one – a delightful cheese tray – came courtesy of the fabulous Iron Gate Inn.  I’ve had two meals there in the past three weeks, and it is quickly becoming a favorite.  If you don’t believe me, read Tom Sietsema’s review in the Washington Post.

And the last one…

Birthday Mousse 03 04 14

…was this fantastic chocolate bourbon mousse, topped with fresh whipped cream, shaved chocolate, and raspberries.  This flavorful concoction was Candice’s creation. Thank you, my love!

And with that, it is very appropriate that Lent begins tomorrow.

More to come (but not too much more for the next couple of days!)…


Quest for the Best (Picture) Final Edition

Film ReelIn this final installment of thoughts from our unqualified but enthusiastic movie reviewer about the 2014 Best Picture nominees, I’ll provide thoughts about why each of the six pictures I saw could, should, or won’t win the Best Picture award.

In alphabetical order…

American Hustle – Great ensemble acting.  Any of the four principals would deserve an award.  And yes, I love anything that Jennifer Lawrence is in. Amy Adams is pretty amazing as well. But the story line doesn’t hang together for me. (When I read this NY Times article on David O. Howard’s filmmaking style, I realized why.) While American Hustle is one of the favorites, I think there are several better movies in the running this year.

Gravity - After seeing this movie on the plane earlier this week, the Tina Fey line at the Golden Globes about the lengths George Clooney will go in order not to date any female his own age finally made sense!  Seriously, this is a terrific movie.  Clooney is Clooney. (These days, he appears to just be playing himself in most movies, like a latter-day Jimmy Stewart. And that’s okay. He’s very good.)  Sandra Bullock is wonderful. The visuals were stunning on a small screen…I can only imagine what this looked like in the movie house.  Gravity is another pre-awards-show favorite, but to me it doesn’t hold up as well against the three that I felt were terrific movies.

Her - A very well-crafted, but somewhat spooky, movie (especially if you spend as much time in front of your computer as I do). Joaquin Phoenix was terrific, and we were lucky this year to get another dose of Amy Adams (and those eyes!).  I don’t see this winning, but I want that little earplug and the hand-held smart phone/computer now.

Nebraska - The more I think about this movie, the more I like it.  The black and white photography is stunning.  The acoustic roots chamber music is haunting.  And Bruce Dern is pitch perfect.  I’d be very happy if this film won, in a shocker.

Philomena - This Judi Dench tour de force is also one of the sleepers of the year. The story – which is true – is a real plot twister that ends up where it began. Another one of my personal favorites for Best Picture. Again, it probably won’t win because – like Nebraska – it is a movie for adults and doesn’t have the amazing technical achievement of Gravity and doesn’t boast of a fabulous ensemble cast of actors like American Hustle.

Twelve Years a SlaveI felt this movie should win the moment I walked out of the theatre, and I still have a strong bias in its favor.  But it may get the Lincoln treatment from last year – great movie, epic story, well told, but…perhaps just a bit too serious for Hollywood.  That would be too bad to see that happen two years in a row.

So, while I didn’t get to see Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, and The Wolf of Wall Street, I feel as though I’ve seen the winner.  That sentiment was supported by the Times‘ “Carpetbagger” column. But only Sunday night will tell…so let’s do this already.

Thanks for reading, and more to come…



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