For UD’s Three-Minute Walk from her Office to the Foggy Bottom Metro….

… a new challenge.

Add to speeding ambulances, long shrieking political motorcades, CIA test-drones, constant jet traffic, presidential helicopters, political demonstrations, and rats… hospital transport helicopters:

George Washington University Hospital’s effort to repeal the District’s ban on helicopter landing pads in residential areas ignores the real risk to public safety of helicopter accidents and blindly accepts the claimed benefits. Unfortunately, helicopters — including hospital transport helicopters — can crash, and hospital helicopters have crashed on hospital helipads. A crash in the densely populated Foggy Bottom/West End area — which includes a busy Metro station — could be catastrophic.

From UD’s Backyard Wonderland of Dead Limbs…

… a mushroom.

You guessed it – first week of class.

UD will resume blogging tomorrow – right now she’s recovering from a very long day on campus.

Ne quittez pas.

Pit Bull and Bottlebrush Sedge.

Noticed the sedge
growing in our woods.

Mr UD cut some
for me.

Best was when the thin scudding clouds turned the eclipse into a little crescent sail…

… drifting across the sky.

The tea’s the thing…

… I’ll be bringing to the Soltan
place in upstate NY tomorrow.

UD‘s ‘thesda house is crammed with very carefully chosen teas – mainly black fruit brews from all over – and she had to give some thought to what she’d select from all that to take to Budy.

Budy‘s the official Polish name of our one little house, one littler semi-collapsed house, one pond, twenty acres, spectacular views, spread. The word means “Shacks.”

Say BOO dee.


This particular tea was a gift from two students of UD’s. They came back to DC from NY to attend one of UD‘s poetry lectures at the Georgetown Library, and with them they brought this tea. UD chose it not only because it’s excellent, but because it’s in sachet form, and Budy is not well-provisioned for brewing good loose tea.


So the tea’s the central thing, but this picture discloses so much more about UD. Her much-played baby grand speaks to your blogger’s long, incredibly amateurish, devotion to the instrument (and to singing along, less amateurishly, to what she plays). The featured music is the very same adagio cantabile UD’s father also spent years swooning over at the keyboard. There are also, in this picture, books and vases and ancestors and tall windows with greenery outside of them — and all of this, as well, is very UD.

Anyway, she leaves tomorrow morning to celebrate her birthday up there. She will blog about the experience.

Architectural Digest

My striated rain forest stones arrived.

I put them on the coffee table.


Outside, finally a beautiful day.

UD’s Sunday Pilgrimage: Part Two.

So UD woke up this morning and, thinking how she might frame this second part of her account of her visit yesterday to the grave of a person she never met (see post immediately below this one for Part One), she decided to let her musical mind focus hard on the visit.

To what music would her consciousness, subconscious, unconscious, take her if she set all her pistons firing in the direction of Laurie’s grave, broad sunlight, the fallen city, forgiveness, suffering?

Well, here’s where she went, instantly.

And in particular to the song’s first verse:

All of the riverboat gamblers are losing their shirts
All of the brave union soldier boys sleep in the dirt
But you know and I know there never was reason to hurt
When all of our lives were entwined to begin with

Maybe it’s not surprising that she went to that song and that singer. Steve Goodman was, like Laurie, a brilliant Jew who suffered and died before his time. And the question the song poses – Why do people hurt each other so much when their lives after all are entwined to begin with? – is right on the money. Plus of course there’s the morbid business of the brave soldiers sleeping in the dirt…

UD found herself thinking also about the “mystery” vs. “muddle” business in E M Forster’s Passage to India. If you don’t visit the grave, if you settle on all that personal history being a muddle and not a mystery, you are enabled to avoid, all your life, confrontations with that past and your part in it, and the question of whether you’ve made any progress beyond hurting and being hurt. After all, who knows. It’s all a muddle.

But if one hot summer afternoon you find yourself actually standing at the grave, reading aloud the two things that your Israeli friend Janet suggested you read, and placing on top of the gravestone one of your prized calcite-lined beach stones on which you’ve taped a thin piece of paper with these words on it —

One evening she surprised us by belting out “Amazing Grace,” every note pitch perfect.

— taken from a memorial essay two old friends of hers wrote… If you find yourself doing all of that, trying to puzzle out not only the story of this brilliant and thwarted life, this over-richness lying in a plot for the poor, but also your weird feeling that you are somehow implicated in the story (when the only thing that ever happened between me and Laurie was her replacing me in the affections of David Kosofsky), things have obviously progressed from muddle to mystery.

UD’s Sunday Pilgrimage: Part One.

It wouldn’t be a pilgrimage without obstacles,
mysteries and wrong turns, and my sister and I
had all of these today in our search for this grave.

The trip from the Beltway to Capitol Heights
in Prince George’s County Maryland was without
incident, but we missed the turn into the cemetery,
so hidden and overgrown was its entrance.

We didn’t know about the several adjacent Jewish
cemeteries in this rather forsaken corner of the
metro region, so when we took a few more turns and
came upon the National Capitol Hebrew Cemetery,
we thought this might be the place.

The layout was all wrong, though, and after
a short walk in the blazing sun we began piling
back into the car. As we left, we photographed
the back of a gravestone:

One of the caretakers there –
very nice guy in a red pickup –
asked if we needed help.

“Is there another cemetery near
here?” UD asked. “For indigents?”

He said yes and told us to follow his truck.

Seconds later, he escorted us through the gates.


Immediately the place jibed with the instructions
Phil Goldman had given me:
A hill on one side, flat land on the other, and
Laurie was buried on the left, on flat land.

This cemetery was much prettier and better kept
than the first one we saw. The ugly urban streetscape
outside its gates unsettled one, but this secluded
little space, with its rows of identical headstones
framed by oaks whose rounded crowns mirrored the
tops of the stones, instantly created a hush within and without.


All photographs Frances Eby.

UD is visiting her grave tomorrow.

Not an old friend.

Never met her in fact.

She was a (triumphant) rival for an old boyfriend’s love. Wee UD spent some years feeling hatred for her.

And then all that youthful passion and rivalrous intensity was over and we both grew up and married (neither of us married the old boyfriend) and she became a scientist at NIH and ol’ UD, well, you know…

But though she was a golden girl with everything going for her – blistering beauty, intellectual as well as artistic brilliance, Bronx-bred cockiness – she got only half a life, and she suffered a lot. Family and health woes beset her, she died barely into her sixties, and her end was seen to by the Hebrew Free Burial Society.

It has gradually become important for UD to make a pilgrimage to her grave.

To – I suppose – make amends for the hatred UD felt for her, and to honor her exuberance and her suffering.

The man who runs her obscure resting place responded to UD‘s email and gave her directions to the place, and to her old rival’s gravestone. So that is what UD will try to do tomorrow (try, because the place is open only on Sundays for a few hours and UD suspects no one ever goes there and so maybe although it says it’s open it won’t be open) and she will write about it here.

Deerbath – formerly birdbath –

… in UD‘s backyard.

Every December, when UD was a kid, her family piled into its Volkswagen Camper…

… which looked like this, and drove – slowly – to Florida, camping all the way.

This trip accomplished two things dear to my father – it saved money on hotels and food (he was cheap), and it got him and his little Jewish tribe away from the madness of the Christmas season.

UD has grown up to detest camping, so I’m thinking I didn’t have the greatest time during all of this.

My one clear memory is being marooned in some state park that smelled of sulfur, and trembling in my half-dome tent as something close to a hurricane whipped the guy lines.

But it wasn’t all a nightmare. The one thing my father threw in to thrill the kids, to make it all worthwhile, to delight and amaze us totally, was South of the Border.


South of the Border! We were allowed to stay one night at this immense garish wonderland that announced itself miles and miles in advance, in the form of billboards with hilarious messages on them. I don’t remember any of the messages, only that everyone in the car (father, mother, four kids) read them aloud (there were tons of them) and screamed with laughter.

The article UD just stumbled on, which informs her that – incredibly – South of the Border is still open, quotes one of these billboards:

Ees onlee wan South of the Border, Amigos

The article wrestles with the staggering political incorrectness of the place, entirely constructed as it was around the image of a fat lazy Mexican named Pedro. They dumped some of the most offensive billboards (like Ees onlee…), but have retained (according to the article) the basic fat lazy Mexican motif.

The article invokes the word kitsch, and indeed South of the Border must have been wee UD‘s first serious encounter with the phenomenon. Whenever she talks about kitsch in her course on beauty, visions of South of the Border dance in her head.

UD‘s not sure why she’s so happy to read that tacky campy South of the Border continues to thrive.

URGENT UPDATE to my post about the curious bug I photographed on my potted…


As a couple of readers already suggested, I was way off in identifying it as an assassin bug.

I wrote to What’s that Bug? about it, and lookee here!

Not only did they write back right away, identifying “this beautiful creature” as a parasitoid Braconid Wasp, they feature my photographs of it today on the blog’s front page.

In case you don’t click over to the site, here’s what they say:

This beautiful creature is a parasitoid Braconid Wasp, and we believe it is Atanycoius longicauda based on this BugGuide image. BugGuide states of the genus: “Parasites of woodboring beetle larvae, especially metallic wood-boring beetles (Buprestidae) and longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae).”

UD Face to Face with an Assassination…


Not that she knew it.
The fool kept photographing
the thing on her potted hosta
because she’d never seen
anything like it before.

She could have been very
badly bitten.


A side view.

From behind.


La Kid.

Home from Ireland for a brief visit.

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