Friday, October 30, 2020

Birmingham, AL: Mushrooms to Mush.rooms



Honey mushrooms, Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.
Honey mushrooms, Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.

I glanced out my kitchen window, which opens to the back yard.

Wa! What happened there?! 

Clutches of golden mushrooms seemed to have blossomed overnight. I walked out to investigate. 

Soft, golden mushrooms stood close together, like giggling girls on the playground during recess, talking deliciously about those cute boys over there. 


Honey mushrooms, Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.
Honey mushrooms, Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.

And "over there," squads of flat butterscotch boys with curled-up edges. 

Honey mushrooms, Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.
Honey mushrooms, Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.

A new friend identified them for me as honey mushrooms. "Them" being all of them, even though, to my untrained eyes, they looked like entirely distinct varieties due to their different colors, shapes, and sizes. 

But apparently the butterscotch boys are mature golden girls.

The above photos are from the first day I saw them. 

Oi. How things changed in just two days. 

Honey mushrooms, Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.
Maggots on honey mushrooms, Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.

From mushrooms to mush. Made so by the little white maggots? Or did someone go by and zap them with a fungicide?


Regardless of the cause, maybe this mushifying is karma, as apparently, honey mushrooms prey on tree roots, living or dead. 


Honey mushrooms, Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.
Honey mushrooms, Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Back to Texas: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 888: My Site Mates



 Notwithstanding COVID, I was not alone in my campsite. Strangers pushed into my corona bubble. 

The night before my departure from Lake Livingston State Park, as I sat outside in the gloaming, I felt-heard a small rustling beneath my chair. Discounted it. Then I heard it again. Pulled out my phone and hit the flashlight feature. Who - what - goes there? I panned the leafy floor. 

A frog. 



The next morning, as I broke camp, other site mates revealed themselves. 

Tucked into the space between my tent roof and the rain fly, a walking stick.  

Gripping the side of my colorful tablecloth - a sentimental artifact from the road trip my daughter and I took to Alaska when she was 16 - a green lizard. 


Neither the walking stick nor the lizard gave me any mind. 


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Back to Texas: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 888: A Wee Walk


Pineywoods Boardwalk Trail, Lake Livingston State Park, Texas. October 2020.
Pineywoods Boardwalk Trail, Lake Livingston State Park, Texas. October 2020.

On my Voting Pilgrimage to Deep East Texas, I camped at Lake Livingston State Park for several nights. 

On Sunday, I took a wee walk on the park's Pineywoods Boardwalk trail

A bit drizzly, but I'd brought my umbrella with me in the event of an actual rain.

A lizard on a trash receptacle cheered me, as the sight of lizards always does. 

Pineywoods Boardwalk Trail, Lake Livingston State Park, Texas. October 2020.
Lizard, Pineywoods Boardwalk Trail, Lake Livingston State Park, Texas. October 2020.


Ooooh, and a mushroom that looks like a golf ball on a tee! 

Mushroom, Pineywoods Boardwalk Trail, Lake Livingston State Park, Texas. October 2020.
Mushroom, Pineywoods Boardwalk Trail, Lake Livingston State Park, Texas. October 2020.

My online research does not culminate in an ID consensus, but the closest description seems to belong to amanita subcokeri


Monday, October 19, 2020

Back to Texas: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 888: A Toast to Dan


A toast for Dan, Lake Livingston State Park, Texas. October 2020.


Yesterday afternoon, when I neared Livingston, Texas, I pulled into a Walmart to select a sparking white wine. 

I prefer reds such as a pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon, but the wine wasn't for me. 

It was for my best Tucson buddy, Dan. He liked good sparkling whites. I bought a prosecco that he would have likely sniffed his nose at (both literally and figuratively), good-naturedly, but, well, he wasn't there, so ...

Dan wasn't there because two weeks ago, he died. 

Last night, in the dark, beneath the lacy lingerie of treetops and a deep blue sky, I lifted a toast to Dan, and thanked him for enriching my Tucson year. 


A toast for Dan, Lake Livingston State Park, Texas. October 2020.

We met in 2019 at the weekly blues fusion dance event, held at CeeCee's Jamaican restaurant on Speedway. Dan was a superb dance partner! He liked a little drama in his dance step, as do I. He was all about both of us enjoying the dance, and he forgave all of my missteps. Dan made me look good and we synced well. He made it easy to be a follow.

Dan took me to my very first hockey game. He took me to my first football game since I was a high schooler. As an alum, he proudly showed me around the UA campus before the football game. 

We took a day trip together so that Dan could introduce me to various Arizona points of interest. A man who liked organized planning, I drove, but he carefully plotted all of our stopping points for the day, including a lunch break in Sierra Vista. Dan showed me Tombstone, Bisbee, Naco, Miller Peak, and even Miracle Valley. 

Dan loved good wine, especially white sparkling wines. I'd call him a sensualist, with his love for blues fusion and tango dancing, for the flavors of cheeses and meats and olives and sweets, an ear for the instrumentals in music of all genres, for the visual and perhaps tactile adventure of his cactus collection. 

I know this sounds like I'm stating the obvious, but: death wasn't in Dan's plan for this year. 

However, even before COVID's heavy blanket descended, 2019-2020 was different for Dan. 

There were unsettling, seemingly discrete, medical things that cropped up. Not trivial, but not un-fixable. A treatable this. A treatable that. An elevated this. An ophthalmological issue that popped up, and which required prompt treatment and slow recovery. Then a scarier thing presented itself, for which he underwent a course of treatment of some months, which resulted, he was told (at least at first?) in a clear report.

There were disconcerting and unexpected changes, too, in some social and cultural activities that he'd lovingly participated in for decades, which became suddenly, somehow elusive, for a variety of reasons.

The cloud of COVID settled in, and Dan sometimes struggled with the isolation. 

Dan suffered a grief, as well, for someone close to him, who was gravely ill. 

Twelve months, being worn down, bit by bit.  

There is a gap in the universe where he once stood. Where he danced.

Goodbye, Dan.


A toast for Dan, Lake Livingston State Park, Texas. October 2020.











Sunday, October 18, 2020

Back to Texas: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 888: The Caesar's Pilgrimage

NOTE: My COVID-19 posts are all over the chronological map for now; I'll number them down the road. 


On Saturday morning, I set off for my legal home: Livingston, Texas


This trip to Livingston – the planning, the doing, the arriving, the voting – I am one of a million or more on a pilgrimage to cast out the current, corrupt president who has subjected all of us to his verbal, emotional, physical-by-proxy, financial, and sexual abuse for the last four years.

But why not a mail-in vote, like I did for the primaries? 

I dare say that the majority of my fellow pilgrims, like me, lost trust in the integrity of the mail-in voting process, thanks to the imperial ravings of Caesar Trumperius. 


It was worth the 1000+ miles round trip for me to personally push some buttons on a machine. 


At a rest stop along the way, I saw evidence that suggested a Caucasus Georgian family had also stopped there


I consumed a picnic lunch at a Love's at that high-priced gas junction that is bookended by exits with more reasonable gas. 




To slice my roast chicken breast and sweet potato, I employed the brand-new folding knife that my New Mexico friend sent me: 



On Saturday night, I passed the night at a Flying J / Pilot truck stop near Shreveport, Louisiana. As with my maiden overnight earlier this year at another truck stop, it went seamlessly! To remind me that I was in Louisiana, there was this welcome sign: 


On Sunday morning, a Louisiana friend visited me at the Flying J, and we gabbed for more than two hours on a grassy space at the truck stop, exchanging a careful but heartful masked hug at our parting. Gosh, it was good to see her! I think it had been five years since we saw each other in person, as we typically communicate via text.  

Note: Speaking of Livingstons, let's take a commemorative visit to Livingston, Louisiana


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Birmingham, AL: Stuff


My Birmingham living room ensemble. October 2020.
                                        Living room ensemble. October 2020.


Since 2010, I've lived as a tourist-in-residence in seven places:

  1. Caucasus Georgia
  2. Alamogordo, New Mexico
  3. Lafayette, Louisiana
  4. Opelousas, Louisiana
  5. El Paso, Texas
  6. Ferguson, Missouri
  7. Tucson, Arizona

Until this year, it was my tradition to haunt the thrift stores for furniture in the first months of a new locale. The furniture typically included: 

  1. Floor lamp + desk lamp
  2. Living room chair
  3. Side table(s)
  4. File drawers

But this year, after a severe edit of stuff when I left Tucson, I had two new goals: 

  • Add as little furniture as possible to my Birmingham nest without feeling deprived in tangible comfort or intangible vibe
  • See how well I can incorporate my Chez Prius 'furnishings' into the apartment so that the stuff I do have serves me in both venues

Now, about two months in, I've had mixed results. 

The good: furniture

  • Cut considerable time and energy visiting thrift stores in the annual hunt for furniture that I'll only keep for a year, and then have to unload when I move on.
  • For every trip I've not taken to a thrift store, I eliminated exposure to COVID-19 risks.
  • My living room chair is a comfortable, collapsible, lightweight backpacking chair that I bought in Tucson, which performs double duty in my apartment and ChezP, and I won't have to unload it when I leave.
  • My bedside table is a sturdy, collapsible, lightweight, camping table that I bought in Tucson. Like the chair, it performs double duty and I won't have to re-home it when I move on. 
  • My bedside lamp is a cute, diminutive, battery-operated camp lantern, with three brightness settings, and for which I use rechargeable batteries. Again: double duty and no need to offload it when I leave Birmingham. It happens that my Birmingham apartment has ceiling lights in all of the rooms, so I haven't had to buy additional, freestanding lighting. But if I did, I'd already planned to buy another battery- or usb-powered light source. Another advantage of my camp lantern is that if I want more subtle lighting, I can easily place my lantern anywhere in my apartment. 
  • There's an Aldi's in Birmingham, and there I found robust cardboard boxes to serve as an ottoman and a shoe shelf. 


The good: other stuff

Before leaving Tucson, I reduced my place settings to two dinner plates, two salad plates, two small bowls, and two soup bowls. I pared my flatware to four dinner forks, two salad forks, four spoons, two soup spoons, and two dinner knives. I don't miss the additional items at all. 

I'd had two and a half sets of twin-size sheets since I lived in Alamogordo: four flats and two fitted. Before leaving Tucson, I released the fitted sheets. What a hassle-saver in folding after laundering and in making a freshly changed bed!

The disappointing: My bed

It's the least comfortable of all the beds I've had so far. I placed my ChezP foam pad atop a cot that I bought at a big box store in Birmingham, my first night in my apartment. I thought the inclusion of the foam pad would offset my past cot experience, and it has, to some extent, but not enough. Oh, how I miss this bed and this bed and the vintage, bed-spring cot + thin mattress that my aunt gave me! 

The air mattress I used in Opelousas and Ferguson as my guest bed, and in Tucson as my primary bed, was very comfortable. Because of its bulk and my ruthless editing of stuff before I left, I gave it to a friend before I left. I do not regret this decision, as I saved precious real estate in ChezP and, just as importantly, learned an important lesson with the cot-purchase mistake. 

I don't know yet if I'll try some more strategies to add comfort to my bed, or if I'll just spend the money on a new air mattress. 


 Overall: stuff evaluation

I feel good. 

Sometimes I smile when I look at my Spartan surroundings. For now, it suits me.


Friday, October 2, 2020

Flashback to 2010: Gezellig

In the beginning of the last decade, gezellig, was the word. It's now been superseded by hygge. But they mean pretty much the same thing.

When I was working on my CELTA in Playa del Carmen in Mexico, a Dutch colleague introduced to me to the mental, spiritual, emotional space called gezellig. Thank you, Chantal!

The original post here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Today was a tough day school-wise. Glad it's over. Glad it wasn't as disastrous as it felt at the time. So moving on from there ...

Chantal, one of my colleagues, introduced us to the Dutch word gezellig. It's pronounced like this, though I like Chantal's pronunciation better. 

There's no translation to English. As I understand it, gezellig perhaps captures a period of time, maybe a few moments or an hour or hours or a day or days, where you're in a house or maybe another place, and its ambiance is just right. And you're with friends or family, maybe some wine or coffee, and you just feel good together in that space and time.

Here is a group of people feeling the gezellig:

Makes me feel gezellig every time I look at it. I like the woman kicking up her heels.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 10: Service and Activism

Gloria Richardson and protestors facing National Guard troops, Cambridge, Maryland, ca. 1963. Source: Black Past. Credit: National Museum of African American History and Culture

On Build thus far

Word of the Year 2020: Build 1: After the Floods
Word of the Year 2020: Build 2: Fronterista
Word of the Year 2020: Build 3: "House"
Word of the Year 2020: Build 4: Chosens
Word of the Year 2020: Build 5: It Takes a Village
Word of the Year 2020: Build 6: Elevation
Word of the Year 2020: Build 7: Trail Building
Word of the Year 2020: Build 8: Money
Word of the Year 2020: Build 9: Health

In July, I said ....

If I visualize a long trail such as the Appalachian Trail, there are sections, each with different geographic and climate features. I can divvy up my through hike into sections, too:

  1. Money
  2. Health
  3. Relationships
  4. Service and activism
  5. Creative life
  6. Rootless goals I want to achieve

This month is about building service and activism. 

A woman I admire shared the image (and accompanying video) of Gloria Richardson on a social media platform. The scene captured me immediately. 

The command of the Ms. Richardson's look. Her direct eye contact with the armed soldiers, who were sent to quell her and her fellow activists. How she pushed away the rifle with an open palm, evoking a martial art movement.

This photo - this woman - Gloria Richardson Dandridge - inspired me.

A video about her work below:

My favorite quote from the video: 
She defied the white power structure here. They had always expected the Black leaders to hold the peace, hold the order. They're saying, "Okay, if you guys agree to call off your protest, we'll negotiate with you." And she said, "No, you're not going to negotiate with us unless we're on the street, unless we're marching." 

When I consider service and activism in my build for the future ..........[insert blah, blah, blah, blah, and .... more blah] ........

Let's skip past all the blah, blah, blah

The bottom line: What will I do to make the universe a little better place for more of us?  

  1. I do some stuff now. 
  2. I must do more.  
  3. Be a chingona, Mzuri.