Inclines–I’m incline to Love Them and ATMs, read on to See How it All Connects

Of the inclines in my life which am I inclined to more?
Might it be this one?
Ranked the second most beautiful place in America (I need to find out which is number one, don’t I?), Pittsburgh knows how to strut its stuff. Directly across the Monongahela River from downtown Pittsburgh is 367-foot-high Mount Washington. This is where we went recently to get the “grand” view. Known as “Coal Hill” in Pittsburgh’s early days, Mount Washington was originally the site of many prosperous coal mines. More than a dozen inclines once carried passengers and freight, even vehicles, between the coal mines and neighborhoods of Mount Washington and the city of Pittsburgh and railyard at Station Square. Two of the oldest of these inclines still survive.

The restored Mon Incline (short for Monongahela), built in 1870, carries residents and tourists between Mount Washington and the popular Station Square shopping complex. About a mile down the road, at the other end of Mount Washington, the beautiful Duquesne Incline still retains its original, 1877 ornate wooden cable cars. The top station is a must-see for visitors, featuring many excellent displays and photographs of Pittsburgh history, as well as a gift shop and outdoor observation deck.
The dramatic vigor of Pittsburgh’s Phoenix-like rise from the dead after the steel and coal companies burned out is as breath-taking as the view. Jack and I ascended and then descended the incline. In between we strolled Grandview Avenue and leaned on the railings of the overlook decks that jut out for views of Pittsburgh’s landmark skyscrapers nestled at the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers flow together to create the Ohio.
Pittsburgh - "Golden Triangle" (1968)
Image by roger4336 via Flickr
The confluence of the mighty rivers is a wonder but not as wondrous as the capacity of our country for renewal.
Take courage during these trying times, be inclined to compromise, and look at what Pittsburgh has become.
And, while I’m at it, I’ll use the rivers as a metaphor–I’m strongly inclined to do so thanks to that Mount Washington Incline.
The Ohio derives great energy from the Allegheny and the Monongahela. Those skyscrapers represent a huge amount of wealth. And the extremely wealthy in our country have a role to play current financial crisis. A small story about one such wealthy person caught my attention. David Tepper, a hedge fund mover and shaker from The Hamptons dropped his ATM slip. The wind took it and someone picked it up. And found a story to tell. The story went viral, not because Tepper had to pay a $2.75 ATM fee, but because of the balance he carries in his checking account. 100 million dollars. Well, 100 million minus that ATM fee. The wafting in the wind ATM slip underscores the difference between the Very Wealthy and The Rest of Us. The effective tax rate for the David Teppers in our country has plummeted by nearly half in recent decades, even as their pretax incomes have grown five times larger, new IRS data show. This needs to change.
Imagine the power of the confluence of those three rivers and then imagine the increased power to our revenue stream of a raised tax on the Very Rich, the David Teppers of our marvelous country, a country founded on the premise that taxes will be levied to assure the health and prosperity of all.
The issue of  health and prosperity  brings me to my least favorite incline–the one I ratchet myself up on.  The treadmill, at the gym. Although now that I’ve learned to change the gym television from Fox to CNN  I’m better able to tolerate my 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on an incline.  (I’m pretty sure Fox wouldn’t have shared the ATM story either.)
So: Visit Pittsburgh! And keep your eye out for wafting ATM slips; they’ve got stories attached to them, if you’re so inclined.
Revised on July 1st

Stand By Me While I Share an Inspiring Video and a World-Wide Phenom

Stand By Me

This song transformed Playing For Change from a small group of individuals into a global movement for peace and understanding.

Stand By Me

This is a great story. (Thanks to Ray for sharing it.)

About 10 years ago a batch of documentary filmmakers decided to make a film that chronicles–sings–the songs of the streets. They traveled the world, filmed, and recorded the singers and the players. No matter their income or standard of living the musicians were full of humanity and tied together with the common chord of music.

The result: The Playing for Change Foundation, a huge umbrella of a project that shelters and nurtures musicians of every stripe. The foundation is dedicated to figuring out a way to get  a music education to anyone who wants it. Millions of people around the world have been touched  by the warmth and generosity of the musicians, enhancing the conviction that peace and change can speak through music, no matter the language the different musicians speak.

Playing for Change asks this question on their website:

“Wondering what you can do to help us further our mission? Get involved or Donate.”

Need convincing? Watch the videos.

Patty 6/29/11

5:27Add toAdded to queue Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around …by PlayingForChange33,059,480 views

Rudesheimer and Asbach – Life’s Essential Elements

Email post from Rudesheimer…beer and sausages on the sundeck at 10:30 AM, followed by castles and Asbach in coffee. Now the heavy lifting begins ~ tea time, lounge chair, Ann Patchett’s new book, aptly named State of Wonder. I’m so there, thanks to you all.


Backyard Update: House Wrens Relocate and the Furry Fandom News

House Wren Family Number One has fully fledged, and Mr. and Mrs. are negotiating the next nest site.

Choices: This is the license plate-roofed house that’s always been the starter house each season for our fertile couple. One year they used it for all three of their households, giving me a new way to think about the meaning of the word household. By the end of the summer we’d had–well, it wasn’t us humans, actually, or even at all who had them, except that we DID try be mindful of them and we had rules,such as: when watering the veggies, don’t spray the hose into their doorway; or: don’t pick peas from the pods nearest their house; or: if  you do, pick the pod and then step away to munch. (See teepee trellis in the picture with peas climbing up for this year’s harvest) By the end of the summer the parents had created a new generation of at least 15 kids. That’s a lot for a house to hold that’s for sure.

Now it’s time for Family Number Two and Our Dad, The Worthy Provider, is twirling all over the place, tucking twigs in his signature twitchy manner and constantly calling Mom over to check on his work.

He’s put new sticks into the first two houses. He’s like his own realtor; I can picture him inside, fluffing pillows and spraying Homemade Cookie Scent all over.

Here’s Option Number Two, located a few feet back from the Starter House. It’s a pretty traditional, made-from-a-kit bird house, and the two of them moved into it last year for their last set of babies. More scenic? Cooler? Fewer bears?

But it’s the third option he’s pushing, that’s for sure. I have a hanging plant on the railing outside of our slider. On the hook of the planter, in addition to the hanging flower pot, I hung a decorative bird house. (It’s got a decal on it, and it’s made of metal, but it was one dollar at a nursing home rummage sale.) I’ve just  watched him manuever  a too-wide-for-the-opening twig for several minutes before he figured out how to turn it the other way, with help from his good lady coaching from the sidelines. (It reminds me of myself, giving directions to the men trying to get the mattress in the house and up the stairs.)

Honestly, it’s hard not to anthropomorphize this whole process, which reminds me of something I learned this weekend when in Pittsburgh for the Sox-Pirate series (we won only one of the three games, but adored the field and Pittsburgh).

Trust me, this does tie in with our House Wrens Update.

Image by Xydexx Squeakypony via Flickr

We stayed at the Downtown Courtyard on Penn Ave. There were lots of other Sox fans there too, along with a few prickly Pirates, and THE FURRY PEOPLE.

The Furry Fandom Convention was huge and peopled (probably the wrong word here) with fictional anthropomorphic characters with human personalities and characteristics. We talked to them in the elevator and met them on the street. I watched one man (or woman, or kid, or…who knows!), one gorgeous leopard meow and hiss and then paw the mike of the interviewer. Fake claws though. I guess.

(I have to write a separate entry for this phenom we witnessed, but in the meanwhile check out:

A few Sox fans–I say only a few because generally we fans are pretty open-minded, except for when we’re dealing with that New York team that begins with the letter Y–a few of the other denizens of our hotel were freaked out, but I’m clueless as to why. I mean how many of us non-furries buy cereal because it’s got a Tiger on the cover, or keep a furry mascot on our rearview mirror–and talk to it–or engage in long back and forth conversations with our dogs?

So–here we go, back to the main topic–so,yes, I’m ascribing some very human emotions to my backyard birds.

During the course of writing this piece, I’ve given the lovebirds a chance to hash the house issue out. And! Drum roll please, but, not too close, not too close! (Think, I’m whispering now.) The choice is the third bird house spot. And for the life of me, it seems daffy, as in crazy, not ducky.  I mean it’s Right Outside Our Slider. We sashay in and out of our sun room past this bird house to our deck and gardens all day long. My lettuces grow in pots all along the railing.

(I know, I know, a picture would be better, but They’re Right There Now, doing the sorts of things House Wren parents need to do in order to get going with set number 2. So, no pictures. No pictures yet, anyway.

Now, I won’t pretend that I didn’t secretly hope a bird couple would choose it so I could have an Up Close and Personal View of all things bird, but now that it’s happening this hope like a thing with feathers has taken flight. Bad Idea.

So, how to deal with these unintended consequences. Will I lock up the slider? Let the lettuce go to seed? Put up Quiet signs? Move the house and hope they’ll follow it?

Stay tuned.



Fast List of Other Yard Actions This Morning:

1.Male hummer lording it over his lady and treating her rotten, batting her around if she lights on the wrong flower. For heaven’s sakes, woman, ditch him.

2. Dusted Skipper seems to be interested in pollinating today. Atrytonopsis hianna - Atrytonopsis_hiannaTNPolk10May2008StephenWJohnson.jpgMaybe it’ll leave off the clover and come into the veggie beds?

3. An agitated blue jay is giving his imitation Red Tail Hawk call, but I don’t see the hawk. This jay is bobbing his head up and down, though. Must have a nest nearby?

4. It was about this time last year that I began to see Luna Moths on the back window screens at night. I hope I remember to check. Last summer I saved one from drowning in the pool. Skimmed it up and put it, skimmer and all in the sun. At first I thought it was All Over, but then, with a lovely, graceful arch and shimmy, it took off.

Food that Makes My Mouth Water

I start lots of lists in my notebooks, but often my intention fizzles after only one or two items are added. Rereading my last few notebooks I find a certain list in each one, sometimes started multiple times in the same notebook!  (Organization of my notebooks isn’t something I work on, relishing the surprise of it all as I do.) This particular Fizzle List always has the title: Food That Makes My Mouth Water (F.T.M.M.M.W.)

Before I continue, one caveat:

I haven’t usually, actually, eaten the food on these lists, although I HAVE experienced it in some way. It’s mostly a mental thing–a below the level of cognitive thought kind of joyful reaction. Maybe it’s the medulla oblongata? My yoga teachers talk about drawing energy into the body through the medulla oblongata. That, they say, is the secret of joy. But as much as Downward Dog does it for me, food is right up there as another source of pleasure.  Just contemplating certain food opens a portal through which the energy enters my body–as the yogis say.

I think about the food, I see a picture of the food, I watch someone else eating the food, I read about the food and My. Mouth. Waters.

I’ve made a short compilation of some of the items listed under Food That Makes My Mouth Water:

1. A perfectly ripened Beef Steak tomato–straight out of my garden, preferably dipped in  salt. (Oops! No sooner do I establish that I don’t usually eat the food and here I am telling you that I eat the very first item!) One summer we had a perfect storm of weather conditions for creating out-of-this-world tomatoes. I’d wander the rows in the early morning, flick the leaves, rub my fingers along the stems, and inhale. Just inhale. And I’d start to water up.

Jubilee vine tomatoes(I love the factoid that tomatoes are relatives of deadly Nightshade, with a smell that’s just as dangerously addictive.) I could stop here to keep with the principle that I don’t usually eat what’s on the list, but truth to tell? I’ve never not sampled a tomato from my garden. So after the flicking and the rubbing and the inhaling,  I snatch the ripest tomato off the bush and take a huge bite. Thin skin. Tons of sweet juice. I touch the edges of the now-bit tomato to the salt I’ve got in the palm of my hand and take another bite. Nirvana.

2. Huckleberry stuffed french toast: We were on our way to Waterton National Park in Canada and had just crossed Glacier National Park on the Going-to-the-Sun-Road. Uncle Dana had told us we had to go to the Park Cafe and Grocery in tiny St. Mary, Montana located right at the East exit of Glacier.   There it was: quaint house, wrap-around porch, a gift shop next door, and lots of cars, vans, and jeeps loaded with duffle bags and tents come to rest and refresh. The motto of the chief chef, Kathryn Hiestand, is Pie for Strength,Park Cafe Logo

and knowing that we were going to need lots of power for hiking and exploring, we piled out and gorged on some of the best pies ever. (You’ve got to enjoy these pies, even if it is vicariously, by going to their website: I think you could even order some and have them shipped, just omit the ice cream!) I remember studying the list of 19 pies and then having a terrible time deciding among the razzleberry and strawberry rhubarb, blueberry-apple and lemon meringue, finally ending up with a strawberry-apple with a crumb crust and dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

As I licked the last crumb off the fork and pulled my waistband out for a little more room,  my eye wanders to a neighboring table where one of the wait staff was eating something beautiful that wasn’t a pie. Other menu items at the Park Cafe do include bison burgers, vegetarian “gypsy burritos,” and something called potato bakers which are baked potatoes stuffed with delectable treats, but this young man wasn’t having any of that. It looked like a gigantic hunk of battered and maybe deep fried bread filled with some kind of berried cream. On top was a drizzle of huckleberries and huckleberry syrup. (I recognized the huckleberries from some of the pie pieces at our table, huckleberries being a grand Montana product.)  So it looks a bit like egg in a nest but with frenched-type toast rather than plain bread and with huckleberries rather than an egg in the middle. It was topped with whipped cream, or it had been topped with it. When the eater of said confection paused to chew and pour more syrup, I leaned over and asked him what he was eating. With a hand held over his mouth he said, huckleberry stuffed french toast and went back to devouring. And devour is the word for it, or any eating word that connotes speed and gusto. Practically eating it with two hands. I began to get that gustatory tingle as I watched him finish off the berry-soaked last crust and run his finger along the rim of the bowl to get the last bit of syrup. Tingle?  Now you might think I couldn’t drool–that it isn’t physically possible to drool–since I’d just eaten pie and ice cream, a serving so large it came on a dinner plate. I guess the medulla oblongata doesn’t work that way. I’ll tell you, it’s delightful to learn that gluttony has no bounds. Except for this one time I’ve never seen it on any menu, but…here’s hoping!

(As I await the treat, I am considering planting huckleberries…)

3. Pulled pork bellies on sourdough toast slathered all over with jalapeno blueberry jelly: We were at a Cajun-Zydeco-Blue Grass festival in Escoheag, Rhode Island. The music and food were to die for:  Martha White Corn Bread, Louisiana crawfish, creamer potatoes & corn, boiled jumbo shrimp, bayou fried chicken, Cajun Buffalo wings, crab cakes, fried oysters, fried flounder, crawfish ettouffee, red beans & rice with andouille sausage, chicken jambalaya, Cajun homemade potato chips, cole slaw, potato salad and rolls. But it was what the guy next to me was eating that got me going, even while I was digging into my corn bread, barbeque chicken, Cajun potato chips with a little fried flounder on the side. I mean this fellow was just. yumming. it. up. and it just seemed so, so…decadent. I tapped him on the arm–you can do this at Cajun Festivals. Strangers ask you to dance, musicians teach you to play the spoons in groves, and diners tap each other on the arm. What’re you eating? It looks great. He pauses, swipes the back of his hand over his lips, and says pulled pork bellies and points. There’s one whole food stall that’s devoted to just cooking up pulled pork bellies on sourdough toast slathered all over with jalapano blueberry jelly. Just that. And the line in front of the grills needs some of those crowd organizers like they have at the entrance to airport security sections. Funny thing is, I don’t even eat pork and jalapenos are way too spicy for me, so the allure here is a mystery. Maybe the alliteration of Pulled Pork? The promise of a pungent punch from the sourdough? The idea of belting blueberries, which I love, with jalapeno that I fear?  It seems such a sophisticated sandwich for such a raucous, earthy venue. But, hey, what do I know? I’m afraid of jalapenos!  (But, come to think of it, this jar of Jalapeno Blueberry Jelly from Blue Ridge Jams–someone gave it to me a while ago–sure looks wonderful.  Uh oh…where’s that notebook? Maybe I’ll need to add this to the list of  F.T.M.M.M.W.)

5. Open-faced Avocado Plus Sandwich: A very recent F.T.M.M.M.W. list item  came from a lovely creation that appeared at our kitchen table when  Doug and Taly were visiting. It was around breakfast time, or at least sometime before noon. I’d already had a pot of tea and a big bowl of  oatmeal with some crunchy toppings and wouldn’t have said I was still hungry.  I watched the two of them do this sort of tango-type set of moves:

Doug: slices the bread (maybe some of the delicious homemade bread he made last night!) and puts it in the toaster.

Taly: cuts an avocado in half and mashes it up–inside the peel; takes the toasted pieces of bread and slathers on the avocado; dashes some Trader Joe’s jalapeno hot sauce preferably on top of the avocado and spreads it over the toast; take chunks of goat cheese and plop them on the toast.

Doug: slices a tomato.

Taly: puts the tomatoes on the toast.

Doug: makes coffee using a french press.

Besides looking wonderful on the blue plate on the blue print placement, the sandwiches had this gorgeous guacamole type mash, and I’ve been getting into avocados. Besides providing 20 essential nutrients, they act as a nutrient booster, and Baby Boomers need lots of boosting, so this intrigues me. What avocado does is this: it helps you absorb more fat-soluble nutrients such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein in foods that are eaten with it. Much better than popping a pill that says it’s got lutein in it that’s for sure.

I  think the picture on the right is a good advertisement for the nutritional benefits of the avocado listed on the left.

In the end, I didn’t get to eat one of these sandwiches; I was truly full of oatmeal, but the sandwich creators will be back again, and I’ll ask them to show me how it’s done. (I need help with the mash-it-inside-the-peel step.) I love nutrition boosters disguised as beautiful food!

6. I’ve run out of time, and I’ve just found another list in another notebook and on it is Maryland Crab Cakes! Stay tuned!