Monday, May 9, 2022

Mobile, Alabama: A Bloom of Jazz and Beauty and Our Gregarious Souls Together Again

 

 

Mother's Day Jazz at Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. May 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Mother's Day Jazz at Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. May 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

As we emerge from COVID's long winter, outdoor music gatherings bloom. Their return - reunion - communion - brings tears. 

Mobile's lovely Washington Square Park was the site of a joyful jazz celebration of Mother's Day. The Excelsior Band opened, followed by the Mobile Big Band Society

The park is in my neighborhood. Based on a couple of recent experiences, I presumed that "Mobile Time" was similar to "El Paso" time or "Border Time" or "Caucasus Georgia Time." 

So I ambled down a few minutes after the 3:00 p.m. start time of this Mother's Day event. 

On the contrary! Not only were there already lots of folks at the park, but there were tables and chairs with white tablecloths set up! Other tables, with Easter-y colored tablecloths! Garden chairs, lawn chairs, beach chairs, and blankets. 

 

Mother's Day Jazz at Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. May 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Mother's Day Jazz at Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. May 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

Bottles of wine and other adult beverages cooling in chiller containers. Cut fruit. Crudites. Pretty hats. Pastel blouses and summer dresses and bermuda shorts. Sun hats and fedoras and Derby Day-type confectionary hats.

Mobile knows its festival-in-style shit. 

Mother's Day Jazz at Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. May 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Mother's Day Jazz at Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. May 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

 

The best al fresco dining "room" arrangement was next to where I plopped my chair. The designer even attached a floral chandelier to a branch that extended above the table. She told me she used a Mardi Gras hula hoop, attached Spanish moss to the perimeter, spray-painted that gold, then added artificial flowers. 

Maytime dining "room" at the park for Mother's Day Jazz. Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. Credit: Mzuriana.
May-time dining "room" at the park for Mother's Day Jazz. Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. Credit: Mzuriana.

And the music - that ol' jazz brain massage. A taste here



The bouncy vigor of the Mobile Big Band Society's double bass player reminded me of Sorry About Your Sister at the Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. And the energy of the double bass player in the Juarez border band, Viva Las Vegas, at the Fountains' summer music series.

 

 

Mother's Day Jazz at Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. May 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Mother's Day Jazz at Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. May 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.


Mother's Day Jazz at Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. May 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Mother's Day Jazz at Washington Square Park, Mobile, Alabama. May 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

 A slide show of Washington Square Park, which includes the Mother's Day Jazz: 

Mobile: Washington Square Park


 How heartening the day.

Monday, May 2, 2022

10 Years Ago: The Three Tests in Borjomi, Caucasus Georgia

Original May 2012 post here about a trip to Borjomi in Caucasus Georgia. I laughed out loud when I re-read our day's adventure. 

I still use that backpack. It is my portable office when traveling. It houses my laptop, my chargers, cords, batteries, file folders, etc.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Borjomi, Part 3: The Three Tests

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.


Every good fairy tale has three tests that heroes and heroines must pass. Indiana Jones had to solve three clues in The Last Crusade. Thus it was in our walk to the spring pool in Borjomi's Mineral Spring Park.

Once we got off the pavement and turned a bend, Sandy and I found ourselves in an idyllic wood. We soon arrived at a bridge over the River Mtkvari. It was so pretty, I called Kate and suggested that she come just this far to see how gorgeous it was.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.


This was my kind of place: Trees, a river, spring flowers, mossy bark, cool woodland breeze, birdsong, piney scents. There was no one else around.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.
 
Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.


Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.

Presently we came upon a rivulet that fed into the Mtkvari. Shallow but somewhat wide, we carefully stepped on the rocks to cross over. A bit of a delicate operation to keep from getting our shoes wet, nothing onerous. I expressed my relief to Sandy that we'd successfully traversed the spot of trouble before getting to the spring pool. Sandy doubted this was the trouble spot as it seemed a little too easy.

We passed a grave.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.

We went up a steepish hill. We went down the hill.

And then Sandy and I saw it. The real challenge. No rivulet this. It was an adolescent stream, bristling with watery bravado, fast. Big, slippery rocks. Falling into this would mean an injury or being pulled into the roiling Mtkvari. There was no gingerly stepping across stones here to avoid getting one's shoes wet.

How to pass? Ah. There were two stripped, straight limbs laid parallel to each other across the stream. Each was about five inches wide. The stream was too wide to enable the holding of one end of something on one bank while crossing to the other bank. The stream moved too fast and furious to stick a large branch into the wale for anchoring while crossing. No. One had to, for a space, walk what seemed like a tightrope.

Borjomi, Georgia. Second water crossing. Photo credit: Sandy.

And we did it, Sandy more nimbly than I, and with her attempting to give me a hand at my turn, in the form of a decrepit, dried branchlet that crumbled into the rapids below. It was the thought that counted. 

Much relieved that we'd passed the trouble spot, we headed confidently toward the spring pool. Along the way today, we'd touched base telephonically several times with a TLG colleague who'd walked partway on this trail just a couple of weeks ago. We called her again after achieving our little feat, to discover that she and her husband had turned back at the first rivulet (not because of its difficulty, but because they hadn't received good direction and thought perhaps the spring pool was simply too far ahead).

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.


So Sandy and I pressed on through the beautiful wood.

We heard people's voices up ahead. As we came closer, we saw a woman standing on the bank of the river. And we looked where she looked.

Shit.

This is what we saw.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.


The woman's companion was walking ever so carefully across a log across the River Mtkvari. He held on to a steel cable to maintain balance.

Then the woman went across.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.


Sandy and I could see what had to be the spring pool over on the other side, up the path a bit. Should we go across? Could we? Were we stupid? Or adventurous?

We were so close to the spring pool. We had passed the previous two tests. We must finish the challenge.

But first, let's take a moment to reflect on the Georgian belief of what deserves care and what doesn't. As you can see from the above, Georgians are cavalier about park visitors taking on this treacherous path to a spring pool. No signs of caution. And, you can't see this from the photo, but that steel cable is frayed smack in the middle of the log "bridge," and I pity the person who happens to be going across when it separates, notwithstanding the single bale wire holding it somewhat in place. 

Here is what we saw in the hotel wastebasket: 

Borjomi, Georgia. Hotel Victoria wastebasket warning.


Go figure. Though now that I think about it, maybe Georgians do need to have such stickers on trash containers.

BTW, this is a thought-provoking article (Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes) on how safety features in parks may actually contribute to injuries and death. I've linked to page 3 of the article, which goes straight to this point, but the entire article is excellent information about how our mental models affect our safety in the wilderness.     


But anyway, Sandy and I each went across the log, Sandy venturing first. Oooh, I will admit, it was a little scary! It made a tremendous difference having seen two people cross it before us.

Here are different perspectives:

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.

Sandy and I felt like we'd achieved a cool thing by walking across that log.

So we walked confidently to the spring pool, not worrying that we'd have to re-cross the log on the return trip, only to discover one more hurdle before reaching the pool:  


Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.


Really, all we could do was laugh before crossing over.


Views of the spring pool:


Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.


The spring pool was rather anti-climactic after we passed our three tests, but we still dipped our feet into the lukewarm water.

The walk back was uneventful, though not without challenge of re-crossing our waters.

I dropped my backpack on the path before trotting into the brush for a wilderpee.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.


We collected Kate at the park entrance and began our return to town center.

But just outside the park, we noted -- and I don't use this word lightly -- an amazing house in the process of renovation. It might be worth a trip back to Borjomi just to see the finished product. We had no idea of its provenance, but it was dazzling.

Blue-trimmed exterior and design reminiscent of America's "Painted Ladies."

San Francisco Painted Ladies on Alamo Park. California.



But there was a mirrored tile balcony that had us mesmerized.  

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.

Borjomi, Georgia. Mineral Spring Park.


It was fine.

By the time we got back to town center, it was time for dinner, so we went to the restaurant adjacent to the train depot. We arrived in the nick of time, as all tables except one was filled. Most customers were women of all ages, drinking merrily and then later, dancing. Traditional Georgian dancing, and modern. Although the food was nothing special, Sandy, Kate, and I got into the fun of the happy dancing.

A pleasurable day.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

International Jazz Day

 

Eugenia Leon Band. Playa del Carmen Jazz Festival. November 2010. Credit: Mzuriana.
Eugenia Leon Band. Playa del Carmen Jazz Festival. November 2010. Credit: Mzuriana.

 April 30 is International Jazz Day

Oh, how lucky I have been to experience jazz on my travels around the world, whether physically or in spirit! A playlist here.

2010: Playa del Carmen: Homework, Massage, and All That Jazz

2011: Nazret, Ethiopia: Introduction and a Brush With Fame (Spoiler alert: Mahmoud Ahmed, super famous Ethiopian jazz musician ... and a scream at the end)

2011: Caucasus Georgia: Nino Katamadze

2015: Lafayette, Louisiana: Blackpot Festival: Djoukil, a gypsy jazz band from France here


2016: Washington D.C. Jazz Festival

DC Jazz Festival. June 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.
DC Jazz Festival. June 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.

2016: Ethiopian jazz at Twins in Washington, D.C. 

 2016: Toronto Jazz Festival here (swing versus street) and here (KC and the Sunshine Band) and here (Jamison Ross) and here (Toronto Mass Choir) and here (Dione Taylor) and here (Jane Bunnet and Hilario Duran).

Dione Taylor and the Backsliderz, Toronto Jazz Festival. June 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.
Dione Taylor and the Backsliderz, Toronto Jazz Festival. June 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.

2016: El Paso: Jazz at Sunset

2017: St. Louis: Early Days Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon

2018: St. Louis: Duke 'n Jazz

Duke Ellington tribute, Christopher Parrish Octet 3. St. Louis, MO. April 2018. Credit: Mzuriana.
Duke Ellington tribute, Christopher Parrish Octet 3. St. Louis, MO. April 2018. Credit: Mzuriana.

 

2019: Las Cruces, New Mexico: Here and here and here

 

Jazz at Mom's Coffee in Las, Cruces, NM. February 2019. Credit: Mzuriana.
Jazz at Mom's Coffee in Las, Cruces, NM. February 2019. Credit: Mzuriana.


2019: Tucson: International Day of Jazz

2019: The Sunday jazz jams at Brother John's in Tucson, with an example here


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Portable: A One-Pot Place

 

My hostess making borscht. Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. August 2011. Credit: Mzuriana.
My hostess making borscht. Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. August 2011. Credit: Mzuriana.

 

I've only got one pot, one skillet, and a broiler pan set-up for cooking. No microwave. 

Most times, this presents no problem. 

On rare occasion, as was the case this morning, it did present a problem. 

I laughed when I realized my pickle. 

Yesterday, I made chicken soup (another rare event) after I'd roasted, then de-boned two whole chickens in the oven. 

I placed the pot of chicken soup in the refrigerator, as I would heat it for lunch today. 

This morning, when I went to prepare oatmeal, I wondered, "where is my pot"? 

Oh, right. 

Would that all problems be so easily resolved! I pulled out my one large salad bowl, poured the cold chicken soup into that, then made my oatmeal. 

Upon the achievement of my breakfast mission, I poured the soup back into the pot.

In an environment of a pandemic that won't go home, war, and retrogressive laws being promulgated in a panic to protect the institutionalization of racism and withdraw women's rights of self-determination ..... what a delightfully frivolous problem for me to resolve today. 

And it made me laugh to do so.

 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

10 Years Ago: The Earring

 Original April 2012 post here: The Earring (Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Georgia: The Earring

My earring.
My earring.

I got together with a group of TLG colleagues in Tbilisi awhile back.

We vented about living with host families, school problems, poor customer service, sex discrimination, the winter cold, the dearth of showering opportunities ... the usual expat bitching.

On my way home to Rustavi, I climbed aboard a packed marshrutka, lucking into the very last space. It was a pull-down seat almost smack against the sliding door. As I squished my backpack into the space between me and the seat in front of me, I heard a tinkling metallic sound to my right. Something had fallen. Within my tight quarters, I did a body and pack check --  keys? coins? what? Oh, I thought, as I put my hand to my right ear, an earring fell off.

It had fallen onto the running board alongside the marshrutka's sliding passenger door. I could barely see it if I carefully looked down on my right, as if peering into a narrow crevasse. Damn it.

As I contemplated retrieval strategies, a man behind me called out gamicheret, indicating the driver should stop the marshrutka. I slid open the door and prepared to stand up, close my jumpseat, then step out of the van to allow room for the man to get off the vehicle. But he motioned to me to stay put.

While 20 cramped humans waited in silence, the man reached down, picked up my earring, and handed it to me.

And we took off again for Rustavi.

Georgia.  So exasperating at times, and so charming.


A lagniappe: Tales of other earrings






Thursday, March 31, 2022

Semmes, Alabama: 2022 Azalea Festival

Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

When I pulled onto the wet-grass ersatz parking lot, I saw folks carrying to their cars green plants. Azaleas, I presumed. 

I wasn't really at the 2022 Azalea Festival for the azaleas. I have no yard; no garden. I was there for the sunshiney, springtime-in-the-offing, getting-back-to-some-kinda-normal-maybe, some live music maybe, and the potential for kettle corn. 

Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

 

Spoiler alert: No kettle corn. Oh, there was a vendor selling some bags of what they might have tried to pass off as kettle corn, but no, I didn't bite on that bait. For one, some of the kernels were dyed green. Pffft. You don't do that to kettle corn. You just don't. 

 

Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

 

I'm not a Christian, but the most endearing thing I saw at the festival was a Christ, standing between a purple-draped crucifix and a papier mâché cave, offering hugs with wide open arms to all passersby. I saw him enfold a man into his arms into a big ol' Jesus hug. 

 

Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Jesus at the Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

 

Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

 

What a beautiful idea. 

The scene also took me back to a day at the Sprouts Market in El Paso in 2016 or maybe early 2017. Trump had won the presidency, all sorts of racist and aggressive effluvia had poured out from the American sewer systems, and families fleeing untenable lives in Central America were being ripped apart, their children stolen from their parents. 

While I walked between the big bins of fresh vegetables that day in El Paso, the Muzak played some kinda tune, maybe from back in the decades of the Vietnam War-Richard Nixon-Watergate-Oliver North-and-Iran-Contra, and this thought came: "I need a hug." 

I hope Azalea Jesus gave many hugs at the festival. 

Which now reminds me of Parking Lot Jesus, who restored order from grocery cart mayhem


 

The city of Semmes recently rebranded itself with a new logo and stuff. This resulted in the purchase of lots of swag for residents and visitors: pens, magnets, fans, and the like. I availed myself of some bounty. 

It was nice to see kiddos out doing what kiddos do on a sunny festival day. 

Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Azalea Festival. Semmes, Alabama. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

 

 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Mobile, Alabama: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 8888: The Free Tests Delivered

 

Free rapid COVID tests from US government. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Free rapid COVID tests from US government. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

To add to the future archives of COVID-19 history, I bring to our societal photo album the four boxes of free rapid tests. Each box holds two tests. 

 

 

Screenshot of COVIDtests.gov on March 15 2022
Screenshot of COVIDtests.gov on March 15 2022

 

 

I have taken one of the tests. Negative. 

By the way: The instructions suck because of inconsistencies or weirdness in style, confusing punctuation, and a red-herring alert. 

To wit: 

A.      You may have Test Set 1 or Test Set 2 in the package. Please follow proper steps based on the specific set you received. 

There is no written guidance to tell you which test set you have. To discern which you have, you've got to look at the content images and then the contents of your package. It would have been so simple to state: Test Set 1 has a prefilled tube. Test Set 2 has an empty tube and a bottle of solution. And then the images can support the text. 

B.      Instructions for Test Set 2: Open the package, take out the COVID-19 Test Card in Pouch, empty Tube, sealed Solution and the Swab. 

So you've got a combination of verbal commands and also a series of nouns. And the weird capitalization of the nouns. A lack of articles before the nouns. And silence on the screw-on top for the tube.

This would have been much clearer: Open the package. Remove the contents: a test stick (inside a plastic pouch), an empty tube, a screw-on top for the tube, a bottle of solution, and a cotton swab.  

 C.    Weird information about the TWO EDGES in the empty tube: Please look carefully, there are two edges on the empty tube. Then squeeze the sealed solution completely into the empty tube. 

What? Why are the two edges important? The sentence following this alert gives no guidance. It isn't until after the images that they become relevant. 

This would have been much clearer: Squeeze all of the solution from the bottle into the tube. There are two edges in the side of the tube. Look at the edges in the drawing. The solution in the tube must be at Edge 1 or higher. If the solution is below Edge 1, the test result might be invalid. 

Finally: The technical writers and their supervisors have not followed the principles of plain language. When a target readership is the general public, plain language is a must. Not because the general public lacks intelligence. It's because, in the case of the COVID-19 self-testing kits, most members of the general public have neither experience in lab testing nor exposure to the clinical vocabulary. 

The INTENDED USE section of the test instructions seems directed to health care professionals, based on the polysyllabic clusterfuck in same, in addition to the:

  • Use of third person in reference to the test takers; and
  • Reliance on passive voice. 

However, the technical writers change the voice in the FAQ to second person ("you" form), which is an improvement in readability for us regular folks. 

 

Lotsa tubes. Exhibit name: Chubasco. Tohono Chul, Tucson, Arizona. April 2019. Credit: Mzuriana.
Lotsa tubes. Exhibit name: Chubasco. Tohono Chul, Tucson, Arizona. April 2019. Credit: Mzuriana.