UD’s cousin Karen stars in the softest of …

soft core.

This seems to be the other thing (besides the …

… rampantly happy Black Eyed
Susan Vine
) that I bought at
Brookside Gardens weeks ago.


After some research, I think
it’s a sunflower. A sunflower
that’s about to bloom. And
that’s doing really well in
mixed sun and shade.

I had forgotten what
seeds I bought.

In honor of UD FINALLY…

… getting a smart phone:
Her first picture with it.


This is her recently acquired
Picasso’s Paintbrush.

In 1813, Mr UD’s great-great grandfather got a slightly higher-level…

Légion d’Honneur than these guys.
They got Chevalier; he got Officier.


Click on the image for details.

A new gargoyle …

… for UD‘s garden…


… is a gift from UD‘s sister,
the (increasingly famous)
Morrissey fanatic.

thanks La Kid
for taking the pic.

“Box turtles are slow crawlers, extremely long lived, slow to mature, and have relatively few offspring per year. These characteristics, along with a propensity to get hit by cars and agricultural machinery, make all box turtle species particularly susceptible to anthropogenic, or human-induced, mortality.”

Well, UD did her own small turtle-reclamation bit this morning while walking her dog along Rokeby Avenue. A turtle was simply standing there in the middle of the street. While trying to decide whether to pick it up, UD watched as through pure dumb luck it survived two cars passing over it.

One of her neighbors came by. Let her do it!

“How do you feel about picking up turtles?”

“I’m fine with it.”

UD gestured downward. Her neighbor scooped it. “They say,” she said, “you’re supposed to take them to the direction they were walking in.” She even knew shit like that!


Update: Well, it’s Nature Day for ol’ UD. She just watched a rare bald cardinal thoroughly soaking itself in her Black Eyed Susan Vine Buddha Birdbath. Looked like this.

UD’s Buddha Birdbath Black Eyed Susan Vine…


… is moving right along.


UD thanks her sister
for taking the pic.

Click for a bigger view.

Again ‘thesda.


Flowering Buddha 2

Six days after this picture of my
Buddha birdbath with Black Eyed
Susan vine, the thing has indeed
begun to flower.


Note the yellow flower emerging
from the leaves, stage left.
(Click on the picture to enlarge.)

The shiny black stone on the
right – one of my proudest
Rehoboth Beach discoveries –
is there to help train the
vines to converge onto the
Buddha. It gently holds
them down. The idea is to
create a kind of sunny
corona around the Buddha.


UD thanks La Kid – on her
way to another stay in
Ireland – for taking the

Lifestyles of the Rich and ‘thesdan

Here in Garrett Park (enter its zip code: 20896) we are rated, according to the latest national demographic thingie that people are quoting, “100% Top Tier.” That’s the highest category in everything – money, culture, education, home prices.

‘thesda – the vague area GP’s vaguely adjacent to – has for some time been ranked richest small city in America.

Here’s the language that accompanies Garrett Park’s category:

We’ve achieved our corporate career goals and can now either consult or operate our own businesses. We’re married couples with older children or without children. Every home maintenance chore in our lavish homes is handled by a variety of contracted services. We can indulge ourselves in personal services at upscale salons, spas, and fitness centers, and shop at high-end retailers for anything we desire. We travel frequently, sparing no expense in taking luxury vacations or visiting our second homes in the US and overseas. Evenings and weekends are filled with opera, classical music concerts, charity dinners and shopping…

I showed this paragraph to my across the street neighbor, a just-retired federal employee. We assumed British accents and talked about how we were looking forward to the charity dinner after the opera tomorrow night, at the end of which we planned to return to our lavish homes.

I said that the people putting the scale together seemed to have confused us GP/’thesdans with number two on the richest small cities list — Greenwich Connecticut, home of Brown University trustee Steve Cohen and other titans of post-industry.


Still. It can’t be denied that we beat them out. We beat out Palo Alto. We beat out Brookline.


Of course you can play with numbers in any number of ways and get different results, as Nate Cohn notes. Maybe we ain’t so hot.


I suppose we are bourgeois bohemians.

This is an elite that has been raised to oppose elites. They are affluent but opposed to materialism.

I suppose I was happy a couple of days ago having to walk very slowly, with great difficulty, to the post office (my neighbor Peggy was with me and didn’t notice anything) because, my ancient Nike women’s walking shoes having recently imploded, I had, in desperation, gone into La Kid‘s room and found sneakers that looked like these. They were too large for me and they flapped around like clown shoes and the whole show was so ridiculous that I finally ordered replacement Nikes. I suppose it’s true that I like that sort of thing.

“Fancypants Rich Kids School That Waitlisted Poor Kids For Being Poor Dumps SAT, ACT”

This has been a pretty big story all day, but UD was waiting for just the right headline (see above).

Peter Levine, Mr UD’s Friend, and Co-Organizer of the Tufts Summer Institute of Civic Studies…

… is interviewed in this article about scholars traveling to dodgy parts of the world. He talks about one of this year’s institutes, in Ukraine.

Some U.S. colleges with overseas-study programs won’t touch Ukraine. Tufts University, on the other hand, is drawn to the turmoil in the former Soviet republic, which the U.S. State Department deemed dangerous for travel.

The potential to help activists and scholars, Tufts professor Peter Levine says, outweighs the risks posed by an unstable country. He is leading a conference in Ukraine next month on civics studies, in part because the country exemplifies the struggles of a fledgling democracy.

“American universities, at our best, have people who should be getting on a plane to go to a country that’s in crisis,” Levine said. “Sometimes they do a lot of good.”

Indeed at the end of this week Mr UD and Peter meet in Warsaw (where Mr UD has been reconnecting with many Soltans) and then fly together to Lviv (“also known as: Leopolis, Lwów, Lvov, Lemberg, לעמבערג, Լվով, İlbav, Leopoli, Léopol”) and then rent a car or get driven to (can’t remember which) Chernivtsi (the summer school will take place in the “phantasmagorical university building“.)


Background on the civic studies initiative here.


Ah. And UD has just received this comment from Peter himself:

I am in lovely L’viv with the above-mentioned Mr. UD. It is of course completely safe here. I am actually quite embarrassed by the AP article; I tried to emphasize that we weren’t facing any risks. When I talked about American professors going to danger zones, I didn’t mean to include us. It would be a shame if the article dissuaded Americans from visiting western Ukraine for pleasure – it’s an excellent destination.

It was a beautiful summer Thursday in ‘thesda…

… which is odd enough, since July in these parts usually just sits there boiling. UD was back from the beach and back from her two-day recovery from the beach, and she was alone, Mr UD having left for Warsaw and points east (family reunion; helping direct a summer school in civic studies in Ukraine). Her sister the Morrissey fanatic called to suggest a walk around Lake Needwood.

Boring! said UD. Let’s go into the city.

Are you crazy? Tourists!

Being a ‘thesdan in the summer is like being a Sentinelese. There’s an exclusion zone around your neighborhoods which allows you to go on living your simple preneolithic life without intrusion.

The other side of this is obvious: You don’t go into Washington. UD works in Washington but typically waits until September to venture there.

Yet the bright sun and low humidity made it seem physically doable; and there’s nothing wrong with what Saul Bellow calls an occasional humanity bath.

With some reluctance, UD‘s sister agreed to drive over and pick her up. They had no trouble parking at Grosvenor metro and piling into a car that filled ominously up as they approached Judiciary Square.

of course wanted to head for the Botanic Garden, but her sister wanted the other direction – the Reflecting Pool. UD pointed out that on a (still after all) hot summer day with full sun, trudging around the treeless rim of the pool – in crowds – would be kind of stupid. UD described La Kid’s graduation on the treeless sun-infested Mall, where UD, all-asmolder, listened to the now-disgraced Brian Williams tell the kids fish stories…

They compromised: They’d walk through some other gardens – museum gardens – on their way to the Lincoln Memorial. And this turned out to be a great idea, since UD didn’t know how landscaping mad the federal government had become since her last Mall walk. The gardens around The Castle were insane… I mean of course this was optimal bloom time, which UD usually misses because she’s afraid of the tourists… But still. Wow. Lordy. The Haupt garden was full of massive African and Brazilian shit that blasted right out at you. Any garden can stuff millions of teeny pink flowers into a hanging container and water it every day and make this big insipid thing. This garden had some of that, sure, but mainly it was grotesque monkey trees and canopies with big black bursting pods and walls of creepy succulents. Yum.

Now, as they started further down the Mall, they saw that an enormous construction project blocked the thing almost entirely, so forget the Reflecting Pool. They headed back toward the metro for lunch at Teaism, happy to get out of the sun.

But lookee here. A chaotic crowd milled about ordering bento boxes and chai and no way were we going to be part of that. We were after silence, order, and air conditioning. Teaism only had air conditioning. We glanced inside a Native Foods (Morrissey fanatics eat vegetables) but that, thank God, was equally chaotic…

Which left a fancy sit-down white table cloth sort of place called 701 Restaurant. So we’d pay a fortune. So what.

But we were sweaty and dressed down and we wondered if they’d snub us, a couple of biddies with aching feet.

“Afternoon ladies!” said the bartender as soon as we entered. “The host will seat you in a moment. Enjoy your meal.”

“Sorry, ladies,” said a server a second later. “Host will be here in a sec. Good to see you.”

Up comes the host, all dressed and scrubbed and non-judgmental. “Table by the window? Right this way.”

It was pleasant to survey the still-sweating masses from our quiet chilly lookout.

The server, a burly fortyish man with thinning hair and an ironic attitude, opened with “Did they tell you? Two martini requirement this afternoon.”


UD is notoriously gullible. She will really believe anything if said with a crisp commanding demeanor.

His eyes went wide and we all giggled.

“But it is your birthday,” he continued, looking at UD, “so you will be getting a free dessert. Two free desserts.”

UD was fully on board now.

“You’re right on the button. Thanks. Looking forward to dessert.”

UD had the Skuna Bay salmon with mustard spaetzle, rapini, pomegranate, and pecans (with “your cheapest white wine” – to which our server said “I’ll pop over to 7/11 and get some Yosemite Road.”); her sister, butter poached Maine lobster, brussels sprouts, salsify, papaya, and red curry.

Everything fell into place. The fresh air, the views onto the Navy Memorial with its weeping fountains, delicious food, a young version of Antonin Scalia lecturing someone at the next table.

As he brought out my sweet colorful whatever with a candle aflame upon it, our guy asked where we were from, clearly expecting Terre Haute.

Bethesda? I live there too. Grew up there. What are you doing downtown in the summer?”

“Where did you go to high school?” UD asked.

“Whitman.” Where for decades UD‘s ‘thesdan playmate’s mother taught.

The sisters blew out the candle together, one of them no doubt wishing something having to do with shacking up with Morrissey.

We talked some more about ‘thesda with our server, who knew about Garrett Park and its trees; and as UD signed the bill she sensed an entreaty of some sort from him… Entreaty’s too strong a word, maybe, but something having to do with finding our company good and wanting to hold onto it for a little longer.

Snapshots from Home


How did this thing come about?

One thing of which you can be sure: UD didn’t plan it. She could never have planned it.

First she bought the birdbath. If you click on the picture and enlarge it, you can just make out the drips coming from the bottom of the basin. The birdbath was beautiful but began leaking soon after I bought it. I turned it over and let it be a kind of pedestal for the buddha.

Then there was that black container. It sat empty, some distance from the birdbath on the deck. I hadn’t yet decided what to plant in it.

Then Les UDs went one afternoon to Brookside Gardens, in whose little store UD bought some Black-eyed Susan vine seeds. She did it mindlessly, vaguely, distractedly… the store was about to close… she barely checked to see if it needed full light or anything. She certainly didn’t give any thought to its climbing habit and whether she could accommodate it. She just liked the sketch of the flowers on the packet.

Weeks later UD idly dropped the seeds into the container (turns out you’re supposed to soak them, etc., etc.), and as they began to show themselves climbers, UD had an aha moment: Let’s see if we can fit the container under the structure holding up the birdbath. If we can, we’ve got legs for the vine to climb.

At about the same time, UD figured out a solution to the leaky birdbath. She went to the basement in search of a shallow but not too shallow plate that would fit into the bath and collect water. She found a silver plate that looks something like this, only the Greek design along the edges is open and lets water flow out.

The plate fit perfectly, and its silver went well with the mottled gray and black of the original bowl.

So now UD was able to turn the bowl over and let the buddha sit in the shallow water. Birds began to appear again, drinking from the plate, and excess water drained down through the openwork along the edges of the plate into the vine below. A drip system!

UD loves to watch the vine do its thing; she loves to help train it along the legs and up to the top of the basin, where she hopes to have a flowery buddha soon. When the thing does flower, she’ll take another picture. Or rather she’ll have her sister take another picture.

Funny, the things you remember.

No – the things that never go away. That lodge in your mind. All my life I’ve thought about the last page of Karla Kuskin’s children’s book, Just Like Everyone Else. My parents must have read it to me… I must have read it…

The final line –

Then Jonathan James flew off to school.

– seems to have echoed down the years for me. Who knows why. Flew off to school.


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