February 18: The day had arrived at last: Jeremiah, his best friend and his best friend’s dad invited me to watch the start of the new season of BattleBots. Designed by university and community college students — and ordinary people too — the radio-controlled Bots try to slice, flip, mash and (yes) melt their opponents while avoiding like damage. They look like pizza boxes, squat vacuum cleaners and Hot Wheels cars, if those things had blades and flame throwers. Each episode had a fight card with a main event. And each Bot was gunning to take on last year’s champion, “End Game” from New Zealand, and claim the coveted Giant Nut.
We watched 21 matches. I hope I’m invited back for more.
February 19: On my walk back from the beach at Assateague, I leaned low against the wind on the pedestrian bridge crossing Sinepuxent Bay. Looking up, I saw crowds of people gathered at the rail facing south. Had someone spied a snowy owl far from home?
I know birders are friendly, so I asked a man standing nearby. Well, outer space enthusiasts are friendly too. “It’s a rocket launch,” he said. And at that instant we saw a pinprick of fire rise above the horizon. NASA had just launched a rocket from Wallops Flight Center, near Chincoteague, Virginia.
I watched as the tiny flaming ball rose into sky. It released vapor, traveled a bit farther into the bright blue atmosphere, and disappeared.
Wallops’ next launch is on June 23 at 5:30 am. Maybe a sunrise picnic on the beach will be the perfect way to start that day!
My son Nate sent me this tweet:
And two days later, the rocket completed its mission!
February 20: As I walked toward the beach along a different path, I confronted a gate swung closed in the off season. Abutting the gate was a split rail fence. Could I slip through the space between gate and fence? Then I saw a pile of horse droppings in the gap. I had my answer.
February 21: On this magnificent sunny warm day, my friend Lee and I returned to hike the forested stream valleys of Arlington County, Virginia. We enjoyed glimpses of the Potomac River through winter-bare trees, spotted the Capitol dome in the distance, and lingered on a well-placed bench warmed by an enthusiastic February sun. Looking down into the wooded valley, Lee noticed the delicate webbing of the twigs before us, like filigreed ironwork of New Orleans balconies. We even made a stream crossing after another silver-haired hiker urged us on. I love all things green — and apparently black, gray and white too.
February 22: Last night we grabbed grilled cheese sandwiches and beer at our local brewery. Jeremiah proposed a new game: what was the most meaningful music to you when you were 5, 10, 15 and 20 years old? (He turned to Kevin and me and said we could go all the way to 60, if we wished!) Stories, laughs and a little singing ensued.
Jeremiah reported U2, the Strokes, Vampire Weekend, and Kevin Morby. Kevin talked about his teenage neighbor’s garage band and, at 5, jumping up and down to the Rolling Stones; he recalled “American Pie” at 10, seeing Kansas and Heart live at 15, and listening ardently to Tom Petty’s “Damn the Torpedos” at 20. Here are my responses:
- When I was 5, my Dad introduced us to the Beatles. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!
- By the time I was 10, I had outgrown the Beatles. (They were for little kids, right?) and mostly listened to my Dad’s Broadway music, especially “Gypsy” and “Guys and Dolls.”
- At 15, my sister and I were back into the Beatles, when the Red and Blue compilations were released. (A few years before, I’d purchased my first album, “Tapestry” by Carole King.)
- At 20, in college, my tastes were eclectic. When I said Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jeremiah gasped and corrected me: “I think you mean Bruce Springsteen, right?”
What are your 5-10-15-20 songs, albums or bands?
Another Correction: Jeremiah reminded me that U2 was his favorite band when he was 3. He was into both Bruce Springsteen and U2 by the time he was 5. And Jeremiah urged me to name his favorite albums: 5 — Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” 10 — The Strokes’ “Is This It?”, 15 — Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City,” and 20 — Kevin Morby’s “City Music.” Check ‘em out!
February 23: An apple for teacher and sharpened pencils in a jar? Yes! I was hired today as a substitute teacher for our local school system.
I’m invited to serve at any of our town’s five schools: from the high school (love ya!) all the way to pre-school (yikes!). Although I’ve savored months of yoga, long walks, museums and leisure, I’m eager to teleport back to the days when I “played school” with my patient younger sister. And how fun to wear earrings, wake to an alarm clock, and reclaim the meaning of weekends.
Returning to public service feels awfully good too.
February 24: Today I hurried to the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery to see New Glass Now. In its waning days (yes, I respond best to deadlines), the exhibit arrayed 21st century artists probing the beauty of blown glass, spun glass, woven glass, glass paste shaped on a potter’s wheel, and the interplay of light and shadow on and around glass. Here are some of my favorites:
Then I wandered into the Renwick’s other galleries. There, glass imitated cloth, wood imitated cloth, and a giant flying fish soared across a wall with a thousand toys beading its surface. Hmmm. There must be some way to squeeze these beauties into my substitute teacher lesson plan…
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