Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Can you say that? POT- la- JOHN…

Well, now you have just increased your Turkish vocabulary by one word. (You already knew Kismet, right? Didn’t know it was Turkish?) Anyway, today’s word is Patlican, pronounced Pot-la-john, the c being pronounced like a J in Turkish.  

My friends down the road here gave me a patlican just before they left on their road trip to Maine. It was a beautiful, just the right size, deep purple patlican. I never thought to take a picture of it – I know, I should have. But I am not into cooking (its a chore, not a fun activity for me) so I am not into recipes or putting food pictures on my blog. In fact, if I look thru blogs and find one that is mostly recipes, chances are I will not be back for a return visit. Cooking bores me. Eating bores me. It is a means to an end.

BUT, my friends Beatrice and Grenville are into cooking and love to eat good food, and, well, they gave me this patlican. (are you still reading POT la John?) Maybe it was the prize for recognizing the picture of the boat’s bottom after the barnacles had been scraped off. (My knuckles hurt with the memory of hours of barnacle scraping!) At any rate, home it came and into the dish and oven it went… I must say, it was delicious! DSC_0700DSC_0701

OK, why do I call it patlican? As a little kid growing up in my grandmother’s house in PA, we never ate it. In fact, I never even heard of it until I went to live with my father in Turkey, and there I learned a number of foods by their Turkish names and to this day, that is how I think of them. Having Turkish friends who own a restaurant down the street and having a Turkish waiter most of the time, I love being able to practice my rusty Turkish.DSC_0919 And they seldom laugh! In fact, some times they are quite amazed at what I do remember – but not as much as I am! I spent much of my time with older Turkish people and some Kurdish folks. They used (and I picked up) some apparently quaint phrases, actually using very old language, Ottoman, in fact. Hey! What do I know? If this is a phrase you use under certain circumstances, like any other kid, I used it. oh, I do digress… But the point is, I still think of some things by their Turkish name, and if you hang out with me, you will too. Just yesterday, the friend I had lunch with ordered “soot-lotch” – and the waiter brought him some rice pudding. My friend speaks English and Italian, patlican and sutlac in Turkish!

So, the point of this blog, actually, is to thank Beatrice for giving me the patlican, Grenville for growing it, and Anna for cooking it.

Friday, September 24, 2010



I don’t usually make a big deal of my birthdays – and this year, it seems my brain was about a month behind schedule and I managed to forget a couple VERY IMPORTANT birthdays (note: head hanging in shame) for which I will be apologizing for at least a year… BUT I mention this year’s birthday, not because there was a RADICAL number change (not yet) but because the celebration was unusual for me. I don’t do the party thing very often. Almost never at my house where parking can get tricky… and my parties are always non-alcohol events (no buzz dust or smoke, either) and so I pick my companions carefully. I am fortunate to have some wonderful friends. You can visit the Frog and PenguINN’s blog to see what we had to eat! (http://thefrogandpenguinn.blogspot.com/2010/09/birthday-time.html) And I might mention, in passing, due to the hatred being spewed forth by certain individuals in the “news” – my guests represented Catholics, Methodists, Buddhists, Muslims, a couple agnostics, even a Baptist, and all the races were represented except Chinese or Japanese. (They tell me Oriental is not PC anymore.)

My friends also know, not all gifts come in boxes wrapped in paper, and even though I did get a number of them, in spite of stating, I thought quite firmly, “NO GIFTS!” the point of this posting is to share some of the OTHER gifts. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know I consider a beautiful sunset a gift, or a butterfly… or coming over and plowing my garden for me, or building me a Stand Uppity Garden… Those are all great gifts! A friend came by with his weed whacker and cut the grass and weeds out in front of my house that the town has decided to no longer cut. There is a drainage ditch in  the middle of this, so mowing is not an option.  They have trimmed alongside the roads for years, but the new mayor decided it is VDOT’s job.DSC_0683 Is this a mess or what? VDOT cuts along side the roads once, maybe twice a year. So the town looks like crap now because the mayor apparently does not take pride in how the town looks, just in being Right. “It’s NOT our job!”

Another friend came by and saw how the culvert under my driveway was blocked… again, a problem for VDOT. But, being a practical man, he also knows the serious cutback in VDOT jobs and knows it may be another year before VDOT gets the job done, if then. So, he asked if I had a shovel, and in 5 minutes cleaned a load of mess out of the pipe. DSC_0682DSC_0681 Before it was weed-whacked, you couldn’t even find the pipe!  OH, see the autumn leaves? 

Still another friend volunteered to come by and cut back the branches on the redbudDSC_0679  and a birch tree where the small branches and leaves were hitting the roof.DSC_0680 Check out the pile of branches!  It is over my head again!DSC_0686

One gift was a work of art for my refrigerator… though I can’t decide which side to show, so I change it periodically. This artist is 3 1/2. DSC_0694

And then there are those friends with a sense of humor that is more wicked than even I could imagine… Imagine coming out of a restaurant with a friend and finding a parking ticket under your wiper!DSC_0695

It’s the time of year when critters tend to wander – guess it is the cool crisp mornings we had… can’t be much else, my boys have been “fixed” – heck, they don’t even spray around the yard. Anyway, they disappeared for a day and a half. I walked up and down the road, called and called… nobody in sight, not even at mealtime. So it was a “sight for sore eyes” as my grandma used to say, to see 2 little boys out in the back yard on the morning of my birthday. What a gift!DSC_0691 Hmmm, they hate strangers and loud noises, so maybe they took refuge in my neighbor’s garage when Mike came with his chain saw????? Maybe they got locked in?

Mother Nature gives me a gift each year – every year, right on my birthday, the first fall camellia blooms. It has not failed since it started to bloom 20 years ago, though I wondered about this year with the drought. But! There it was! Right on schedule! Am I honored or what?DSC_0693

What can I say? Can there be any better gifts than these? 

Monday, September 13, 2010


A friend sent this article to me today… I just had to share it. As most of you know, I taught school for 38 years. Some classes were great, some, well, not so great. At no time did I ever see any one teacher who had a wonderful class year after year – at least not after homogeneous grouping became the rule so no kid felt like he was in the “dumb” group. And to be honest, I know there are advantages in having these large schools, but the smaller schools of yesteryear seemed to produce better students. Maybe it was that personal, neighborhood thing… Anyway, this article spoke to me…

We’re No. 1(1)!

Published: September 11, 2010
I want to share a couple of articles I recently came across that, I believe, speak to the core of what ails America today but is too little discussed. The first was in Newsweek under the ironic headline “We’re No. 11!” The piece, by Michael Hirsh, went on to say: “Has the United States lost its oomph as a superpower? Even President Obama isn’t immune from the gloom. ‘Americans won’t settle for No. 2!’ Obama shouted at one political rally in early August. How about No. 11? That’s where the U.S.A. ranks in Newsweek’s list of the 100 best countries in the world, not even in the top 10.”

The second piece, which could have been called “Why We’re No. 11,” was by the Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson. Why, he asked, have we spent so much money on school reform in America and have so little to show for it in terms of scalable solutions that produce better student test scores? Maybe, he answered, it is not just because of bad teachers, weak principals or selfish unions.

“The larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation,” wrote Samuelson. “Students, after all, have to do the work. If they aren’t motivated, even capable teachers may fail. Motivation comes from many sources: curiosity and ambition; parental expectations; the desire to get into a ‘good’ college; inspiring or intimidating teachers; peer pressure. The unstated assumption of much school ‘reform’ is that if students aren’t motivated, it’s mainly the fault of schools and teachers.” Wrong, he said. “Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don’t like school, don’t work hard and don’t do well. In a 2008 survey of public high school teachers, 21 percent judged student absenteeism a serious problem; 29 percent cited ‘student apathy.’ ”

There is a lot to Samuelson’s point — and it is a microcosm of a larger problem we have not faced honestly as we have dug out of this recession: We had a values breakdown — a national epidemic of get-rich-quickism and something-for-nothingism. Wall Street may have been dealing the dope, but our lawmakers encouraged it. And far too many of us were happy to buy the dot-com and subprime crack for quick prosperity highs.

Ask yourself: What made our Greatest Generation great? First, the problems they faced were huge, merciless and inescapable: the Depression, Nazism and Soviet Communism. Second, the Greatest Generation’s leaders were never afraid to ask Americans to sacrifice. Third, that generation was ready to sacrifice, and pull together, for the good of the country. And fourth, because they were ready to do hard things, they earned global leadership the only way you can, by saying: “Follow me.”

Contrast that with the Baby Boomer Generation. Our big problems are unfolding incrementally — the decline in U.S. education, competitiveness and infrastructure, as well as oil addiction and climate change. Our generation’s leaders never dare utter the word “sacrifice.” All solutions must be painless. Which drug would you like? A stimulus from Democrats or a tax cut from Republicans? A national energy policy? Too hard. For a decade we sent our best minds not to make computer chips in Silicon Valley but to make poker chips on Wall Street, while telling ourselves we could have the American dream — a home — without saving and investing, for nothing down and nothing to pay for two years. Our leadership message to the world (except for our brave soldiers): “After you.”

So much of today’s debate between the two parties, notes David Rothkopf, a Carnegie Endowment visiting scholar, “is about assigning blame rather than assuming responsibility. It’s a contest to see who can give away more at precisely the time they should be asking more of the American people.”

Rothkopf and I agreed that we would get excited about U.S. politics when our national debate is between Democrats and Republicans who start by acknowledging that we can’t cut deficits without both tax increases and spending cuts — and then debate which ones and when — who acknowledge that we can’t compete unless we demand more of our students — and then debate longer school days versus school years — who acknowledge that bad parents who don’t read to their kids and do indulge them with video games are as responsible for poor test scores as bad teachers — and debate what to do about that.

Who will tell the people? China and India have been catching up to America not only via cheap labor and currencies. They are catching us because they now have free markets like we do, education like we do, access to capital and technology like we do, but, most importantly, values like our Greatest Generation had. That is, a willingness to postpone gratification, invest for the future, work harder than the next guy and hold their kids to the highest expectations.

In a flat world where everyone has access to everything, values matter more than ever. Right now the Hindus and Confucians have more Protestant ethics than we do, and as long as that is the case we’ll be No. 11!

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on September 12, 2010, on page WK11 of the New York edition.

Monday, September 06, 2010



OTHERWISE known as miscellaneous whatevers…

If you listen to the news, they have all proclaimed the end of summer, and I for one will be glad to say good-bye to almost 40 days of 90 degree temps. I didn’t mind the heat when I lived in Turkey, because I did not have the Eastern Shore’s humidity to deal with. But, when you live 2 miles from the Ocean and 2 miles from the Chesapeake Bay, it tends to get a bit humid! So, if you want to say summer is over on Labor Day, OK, but I, personally, will wait until September 22nd or 23rd, depending on the calendar you look at. On the other hand, the mornings are cooler… a morning in the 60s sure beats waking up to the 80s, phew! In fact, it has been so cool in the mornings, the Rat (Rascal) is now looking for a spot of sunlight first thing in the morning, claiming it as his own.

DSC_0622While it is true the leaves have been falling since July because of the drought, they have not had any autumn colors… and there it was, the beginning of the Labor Day week-end – the first autumn looking leaf in the middle of the driveway.DSC_0633

Hmmm, maybe I should have called this ends and odds, since I seem to have started with ends. On the other hand, calling a cat the Rat probably qualifies as ODD, and indeed, Rascal is truly odd. He is a hair stylist in his spare time. Definitely odd, that little boy. grooming

Anyway, in the odd department is this little guy, sitting on the grill cover     – DSC_0646 I personally think of him as being beautiful, but everyone else who saw him did the Eeeeeeeewwwwwww sound. One great macho friend wanted to squash him. (He did not get the chance.) I thought it was like this little guy was wearing gold jewelry. Really, now, isn’t he pretty? (or she? I have no way of knowing) So far I have not found him in my Butterfly/Moth Field guide… but then I have not looked thru but 2 of them.

Another End – this is the old Bailey’s Florist shop… DSC_0629 it stood down town for as long as I can remember, not long by European standards, very new by Middle East standards… anyway, it is now gone, there is just a big empty spot where it used to stand, bare earth covered with hay. I will not get into the political mess involved in the purchase of the building by the Town or the triumph of the current mayor who had it destroyed. Torn down does not seem to be the correct word – destroyed is. DSC_0632

RIP – Rest In Pieces.

In the odd department, this red coleus is well over 4 feet high. St Francis is almost invisible in the cover of Strobilanthes and coleus. The bird bath has disappeared. DSC_0641

Thursday, September 02, 2010



Service, to me, is the key to personal fulfillment. In my many years of observing the human race, it seems to me the happiest people are those who give and give freely, not expecting any pay or even any publicity. A heartfelt thanks is often enough. Best of all is when folks give in such a way as to be totally anonymous… the thanks is understood, just not publicly acknowledged. On the other hand, giving for the recognition - well, yes, it does do some good, of course, but I have a feeling the brownie points don’t count… it is no longer real giving, it is buying publicity. Do you know what I mean?

We all have the opportunity to GIVE to others in so many ways. Maybe you have tons of money and you can set up your own foundation to help others. Maybe all you can do monetarily is a small donation to the Red Cross, or put a bit in the SPCA jar on the counter at the convenience store. Or, maybe you are lucky enough to fall somewhere in between…

Many of us give to Foodbanks, thrift shops and the like. Likewise, buying stuff from thrift shops is also supporting a charity. We have 3 thrift shops within 2 miles of my home. I donate to 2 of them regularly, the Hospice thrift store and the Foodbank. I used to patronize the 3rd shop, but they “cleaned” it up and have tried to make it into a boutique or something, so I no longer go there. There is little on the racks – I love to buy big old shirts to work out in the yard in, and used to buy lots of clothes for kids who had little or nothing to wear to school. But, I go elsewhere now.

Whereas giving money or goods is nice, there is still another way to give to others… service. That could mean volunteering in a thrift store, Foodbank, hospice, the literacy council, soup kitchens, hospitals, or any other number of places where your labor is greatly appreciated.

There are those who also give and do for others every day in totally unsung ways. These people go unnoticed, their names don’t get put on plaques or in the papers… these are the folks who step up, show up, lend a few muscles or brain power when someone else in the neighborhood has a need. These are the real heroes!

A perfect example of this would be my neighbor whose identity will be protected here… I needed help a week or so ago getting some furniture on sale for a woman moving back to the Shore and getting her own place for the first time in years. She had a bag of clothes (luggage by Hefty) and her stereo. Period. Sometimes life does things like that. She gets a disability check. That is her income. Fortunately, we have housing for people with circumstances like hers, and she was able to get an apartment.

I have known her since she was a little kid, 6 or 7 years old. I figured even back then, this was one of those kids who was going to have a hard life and struggle for every good moment. To say her life as a child was pure hell is pretty close to the truth. So now, MANY years later, she has come “back home” and is trying to put her life back together. she needed some serious help. Her family had a few things to give her, I picked up a futon on sale and a couple other things. Have you noticed, everything you buy today has to be assembled? Geez!

I got my neighbor to help me get the futon in my van, and then again, a week later, he helped unload the van and move my stuff and her family’s stuff up into the gal’s apartment. The family said they could put it all together. (BEEEEEEP- wrong.) So, the other day, once again, my neighbor gave up what he was doing and we spent 4 hours on the floor of her apartment putting together a futon, floor lamp, bistro set, and book case. Until last week, he had never even heard of this woman, and possibly might never see her again.

He is one of my unsung heroes. He has come to my rescue many times. I hope he realizes how much he is appreciated. His wife is also a good friend who often helps him on his projects when he takes on jobs for other people. She is a good sport about it and is usually there when she is not volunteering in a thrift store. To me, they define what neighbors are supposed to be like.

Another neighbor has been fussing with me lately – I don’t even remember what I needed help doing, but I did not ask him and he felt left out. “You MUST learn to ask for help,” he said! Ah, but it is so difficult… but I can ask if it is to help someone else!

Another friend, a dear young man, calls frequently to see how I am doing, if everything is all right and if he can do anything for me. I am not sure what I have done to deserve all this helpful attention, but I sure am grateful. When he called today, he asked if I had everything taken care of in preparation for the hurricane. I said I was in good shape, most everything was either put away or bungeed to each other so they would not blow around. At the time he called, I had just come in from cutting some branches off the redbud where they were hitting the side of the house and the new roof. I bought a little 8 inch extension chain saw a couple years ago – I usually use it at the 8 foot point, but it goes up to 12 feet – a bit too much for me. I figure if the saw is 8 feet away, I stand a good chance of not cutting off my toes or fingers! Well, the next thing I know, this handsome young man is in my driveway on his lunch hour cutting the 12 foot away branches off my trees. It was amazing what he could do! He cut and cut until the battery went dead, and came back after work to finish the last branch. He had to climb up on a ladder AND use the 12 feet of saw handle to reach it. He didn’t have to do this.

These guys are not family. I have no family around here. They just believe in helping others. Of the 3 I mentioned, 2 consider themselves Christian, one occasionally attends church, the other does not, and the 3rd is working on becoming a Buddhist, a “religion” of service to others.

This is what it is all about… helping each other… I do not know of any religion that does not tell us to help one another. Living in a predominantly Christian area, and having spent much of my life in and around Christian churches, I know it is supposed to be a part of Christianity, yet I also know numerous folks who claim to be Christian who would not do a thing for anyone. I have several neighbors who know my level of ability is limited… one who is forever calling me on the phone for advice (read to complain about his life, his wife, even though he knows I will yell at him about getting sober and getting his life back on track.) he attends church on a regular basis and goes to a Christian counselor. Would he do anything for anybody? Nah. And if you asked him, he would call someone else to see if they would take care of it. Which is probably a good thing, come to think of it…

I also have several Muslim friends who have come by and helped me in the yard. They refuse ever to take any money for anything they do for me. So, I do anything for them when they need someone to help cut thru the paper work or get them enrolled in college… or find furniture… They also feed me very well!

Friendship, service… just knowing that I have friends there, what a blessing. Perhaps you have family, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandkids – I don’t have any of them around here, but I do have wonderful friends.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010



Boy, as they say around here, “Ah sher am tarred!” but not feathered, thank goodness. Been getting ready for Earl and hoping he does not arrive! The wind chimes are down, Adirondacks are bungeed together, the plastic one is in a barn, hanging pots are on the ground mostly under bushes, garbage can bungeed to the old lawnmower. A few of the birdfeeders are in a barn, 3 to go… but I will save them for tomorrow afternoon so the pigs don’t starve.

It’s interesting, the phrase “eating up a storm,” isn’t it? Have you ever thought about it? Where did that idea come from? Well, if you ever watched birds, I mean seriously watched their habits, you probably have noticed how voraciously they eat just before a storm. Wouldn’t you like to have a peek at their weather channel? Do they have a chief meteorologist bird in each flock that warns the others of what is coming? Or is it built into all of them to know these things? Probably built in… another talent we humans have lost if we ever had it.

Ya think God asked Adam if he’d rather have all these awesome abilities, sense of smell, hearing, knowledge of weather events, earthquakes, or opposable thumbs. Thinking of the future and thumbing thru the channels on a remote control, Adam took the thumbs. Oh well. Hmmm, what would they have done in Rome’s coliseum? Thumbs down on that idea!

So, anyway, most of the day has been spent moving this, tying down that, hitting the grocery store with a gazillion other people. Most of the water was gone and the bread supply was low. Since I eat Ezekiel bread and drink organic 2% milk, I thought it might be a good idea to be sure I had enough on hand, but most of all, I had to be sure there was enough cat food on hand – just in case! Can’t have the boys worry about not having enough to eat! I usually keep a supply of what I call hurricane food on hand anyway, all year long. If its not hurricanes, its nor'easters to worry about!

After the store, I filled the van with ga$, then went down the street to get the extra propane tank filled in case I have to use the grill. I laid in a good supply of Starbucks which does not have to be refrigerated – in case the power goes out.


After the trips for ga$, I trimmed the low branches on the redbud and birch that have grown out too close to the new roof. A few are too high to reach easily with the pole clipper, so the charger is plugged in for the little chain saw. It is only an 8” saw, but the pole goes up to 12 feet. I have never tried it beyond 8 feet. The battery makes it usable for me. I figure if I can keep the chain 8 feet away, I might not cut myself! So, that will be my job for tomorrow along with closing all the windows in the barn and 2 left in the house.

The last job today was to pick all the ripe or nearly ripe tomatoes and the one cucumber that I missed yesterday. The rest are green or too small, they will last.

The news is still saying this one is too close to call, but we can always be prepared and hope for the best. I always figure being prepared is the best insurance that we will be fine. Also on the news, they had a little reminder about hurricane Isabel. They said that was 7 years ago. Gosh, it seems closer than 7 years… 5 maybe. That is when Spook and Punkin blew in with the storm and they have been here ever since. 7 years! Really? That means spook is already 7 years old… Punky is about 12 or 13. Bless his heart! And rascal came a few months later, so he is about 7. It is hard to believe we have had them all that long. Of course, we are just making a wild guess about Punk. Hadji is 12, also. 

Cats 009I just found a picture of Punk and Spook their first year here. Spookie was still a kitten. They were very traumatized by Isabel, it took several months for them to get close enough to touch – several months and a Thanksgiving turkey! Spook is still, um, spooky. I can touch him, no one else can. He runs when ever anyone else gets near.

I put a big box inside the greenhouse for Spook and Punkin to hide in if they feel the need. Punk hates bad weather, but, he will not come in the house. Spook will come up and knock on the door – a trick he learned from Punk, but as soon as it starts to open, he is gone and his shadow is busy looking for him!

I hope you all make out all right if you are in the storm’s path. And after Earl, there is Fiona, Gaston, and one coming after that! The hurricane Watch is now official…