A Fine Week

BaseballBabe Ruth — when asked in 1930 why he made more money than President Herbert Hoover — replied, “But I had a better year than Hoover.”

I had a fine last week in July.  Much better than Donald Trump’s week, I hasten to add.

What made my week so special?  I went to two games at Nats Park, where the Nationals lost both games and looked pretty sleepy while doing so

But…

  1. The weather was clear and cool, with highs around 80 degrees and a light breeze adding to the perfect atmosphere.
  2. Ryan Zimmerman — in the midst of a monster comeback year — hit a home run on Tuesday night that gave him the lead for most career home runs by anyone playing for a Washington franchise.  (He passed Frank “Hondo” Howard for the honor.)
  3. Any day at the ballpark beats a day without a game.

And…

Family time at Nats Park

Family week at Nationals Park – first with Andrew on Tuesday and then with Claire the following Sunday

…oh yeah, Andrew and Claire each joined me for a game at the old yard.  With Claire in Washington for a month before heading back to graduate school, everyone has been around the house and we had the chance to catch a couple of games on the recent home stand.

One of the wonderful things I seem to have done as a dad is to have raised a couple of baseball fans.  This was Andrew’s fifth game of the season – four at Nats Park and one with Claire at Dodger Stadium in LA.  Claire just moved to Oakland, and what do you suppose she did for her first night in her new city?  Yep, went with a new roommate to see the A’s (a significant downgrade from the Dodgers, I must admit).  However, it was “Bark at the Park” night, so she got to see fans bring their dogs to the stadium and catch an A’s win.

Both took selfies after we found our seats in section 313, and soon I was all over Facebook.  Andrew was in a discussion with a mutual friend who was asking him to define “biggest” in his post about being at the game with the family’s biggest fan.  (Not funny.)  Claire posted that there was no one she would rather be at a game with…and then added that it didn’t have anything to do with the fact that I’d buy her beer.

Here I am on vacation, living the dream.  Any better way to spend three hours or so than with your son and/or daughter at the ballpark.  (That’s a trick question.) No!

Hope you get time to catch a few innings, savor a half smoke (all the way), and down an I.P.A. or two this summer with someone you love.

Play ball!

More to come…

DJB

Lamenting the Lost Card Catalog

The Card Catalog

The Card Catalog

Earlier today, my brother and sisters and I received an email from our older brother Steve.  He had just read a book review in the Washington Post concerning a new Library of Congress book entitled The Card Catalog:  Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures.

It brought back memories, and I’ll let Steve’s note to the four of us take it from here.

This story took me back to all those days in libraries…Cookeville and Murfreesboro public, at Tennessee Tech & Western Michigan (where I almost lived while doing my thesis– I even had a private cubicle!), and the 2 church libraries. I spent lots of time at the one in Cookeville where Mom was a one-woman staff for a long time. I would help bind books, glue return card pockets, and watch her type cards for the ubiquitous card catalog. I loved all that. Now I read on my pad and search online, rarely going to an actual library except to find a book old enough to not be available digitally. This article reminded me of how much I’ve lost, and how much I miss Mom.

Being just three years younger than Steve, I have many of the same memories (although the colleges are different).  Our mother was a librarian and a lover of books, and she imparted that love to all of us.

Helen portrait

Helen Roberts Brown – Mom – as a young woman. She began her career as a librarian after my parents married and moved to Cookeville, Tennessee

Writing the review in the Post, Michael Lindgren captures it well:

“This book about card catalogues, written and published in cooperation with the Library of Congress, is beautifully produced, intelligently written and lavishly illustrated. It also sent me into a week-long depression. If you are a book lover of a certain age, it might do the same to you.

“The Card Catalog” is many things: a lucid overview of the history of bibliographic practices, a paean to the Library of Congress, a memento of the cherished card catalogues of yore and an illustrated collection of bookish trivia. The text provides a concise history of literary compendiums from the Pinakes of the fabled Library of Alexandria to the advent of computerized book inventory databases, which began to appear as early as 1976. The illustrations are amazing: luscious reproductions of dozens of cards, lists, covers, title pages and other images guaranteed to bring a wistful gleam to the book nerd’s eye.

For someone who grew up in and around libraries, it is also a poignant reminder of a vanished world.”

I haven’t read this book (heck, I don’t even own it yet), but you can bet I’ll buy it soon (and not the digital version…I still like the tactile feel of the book cover and paper in my hand when I read on my train ride to work every day.)  But just the fact that someone would lament the late, great card catalog is reason enough to put this book on the recommended list.

When you see me seriously depressed for a week, you’ll know I’ve finished The Card Catalog.

More to come…

DJB

Observations from the Road (Or The “I’ve Been Everywhere” Edition)

Rook Coffee

Dad Hat from Rook Coffee (photo credit: Rook Coffee)

Life on the road can become a blur.  I began writing this from the Molly Pitcher Inn’s dining room which overlooks the Navesink River in Red Bank, New Jersey. Candice and I have come here to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of her cousin Mary Beth and husband Greg.  It is the second time we find ourselves in Red Bank in three weeks, as we were here earlier in the month to celebrate with family and friends the life of Candice’s aunt and godmother, and Mary Beth’s mother, who passed away at age 90.

June is perhaps a bit more than typical in terms of travel (16 out of the first 24 days spent on the road), but only at the margins.  Good thing that I enjoy it.  In June alone I’ve not only visited Red Bank twice, but I’ve also been to Madison, Wisconsin (one of prettiest small college cities in America…in the summer); Athens and Atlanta, Georgia (my God, they never stop building highways); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (a gem of a city with much to recommend it and work to be done); and Hampton, Virginia (home of Fort Monroe, Freedom’s Fortress). And there’s still a week to go before we hit the 4th of July weekend!

I’ve thought so many times of writing a blog post on this or that subject, only to drop the idea as I rush to a meeting or another airport.  So this “Observations from…” post will be very short (dare I say Twitter-like”) comments on several things swirling around my travel-addled mind.

Rook Rocks—The waitress at the Molly Pitcher on Friday morning commented on my big cup of Rook Coffee. I told her I just had to try any independent coffee shop with the guts to locate next to a Starbucks, as is the case with Rook in downtown Red Bank’s wonderful Main Street.  She replied, “Oh, you’re not from around here.  In these parts, Rook so out-performs Starbucks.  After a few sips, I knew why.

Independent Coffee Shops (and bookstores) are holding their own—I’ve come to seek out those independent coffee shops no matter where I go.  When in Madison, stop by Colectivo Coffee on the Square. Their baristas  rival Rook in their friendliness (and they have that Midwestern Nice vibe going for them).  Jittery Joe’s is a tasty find in Athens. And on that rare occasion when I’ve been in DC, I took the time to stop by my favorite bookstore, Politics and Prose, where Candice and I enjoyed a late-night coffee recently at The Den after stocking up at the store’s member sale.

Everyone (and every thing) needs refurbishing now and then—I have stayed in just about every type of hotel imaginable this month. Most have been great.  A couple have been a bit long in the tooth.  Just like people, hotels need the occasional refurbishment every now and again. Let’s begin with those electrical outlets. (I’m looking at you, Molly Pitcher Inn!)

If I keep up this level of travel, I’m going to have to break down and get the MLB network—In June I’ve been to the ballpark once (but have a second game next week to see the World Champion Cubs and our Nats) and have only caught about five games on television. While I have enjoyed catching up with some other teams, I miss seeing my Nats on a regular basis.  And I really like our announcers—Bob and F.P.—after sampling home team announcers in other cities.  Truth be told, however, I don’t miss the heartburn that goes with the all-too-frequent Nats bullpen meltdown.  Come on, Rizzo, please go find a closer.  Thank God for yesterday’s laugh-fest blowout against the Reds!  And I want to have a renaissance like Ryan Zimmerman!

I have to drive HOW FAR to go see the Braves—Even though I don’t need to visit the new Atlanta Braves stadium to add another one to my bucket list, I gave serious consideration to taking in a game one evening while I was in town.  Then I Googled the distance from my mid-town hotel.  Then I drove a bit in Atlanta.  Then I watched the game from the comfort of my hotel room.  What a dumb way to build a broad base of support for a sport that’s already seen as too old and white…build a new stadium way out in the northern suburbs to make sure that the city’s African-American fan base (real and potential) can’t get there.  Jeez.

If I bite my tongue any more, part of it will fall off—I try to keep politics out of my blog. For now.  But with so many things happening to endanger our American experiment in democracy, I may have to throw caution to the wind.  I’ve traveled in both red and blue states this month and I’ve spoken with people from across the political divide.  We need to face some hard facts as a nation.

Celebrate family and friends—Candice and I were talking today about all the interactions with family and friends we’ve experienced in recent months.  Funerals.  Weddings.  Wedding Anniversaries (our own and others). Birthdays.  Celebrations of Mothers and Fathers. Dinner parties. Picnics on our saint’s day at church.  We’ve traveled for as many of these as we’ve celebrated at home in Washington.  When family isn’t nearby, you lose something by not making the effort to see them on a regular basis.  And friends expand the family circle.  We are blessed on both counts.

Father's Day at Jack Rose

Drinking whiskey at Jack Rose on Father’s Day with Andrew

Is anything better than bourbon and baseball for Father’s Day—That’s a trick question.  Nope.  Well, yes there is.  It would have been even better if Claire had been here in D.C. with us.  Andrew and Candice took me to Jack Rose Dining Saloon for a Father’s Day feast and some mighty fine bourbon last Sunday. (Largest bourbon selection in the Western Hemisphere!) Claire and Andrew are buying me a Nats jacket in anticipation of those October playoff games.  What could be finer?  (Another trick question.) Woo hoo!

Even in very busy and often challenging times, it is important to remember the wonder of travel, the joy of seeing new places, the lifetime pleasures of staying connected with family, the unexpected moments of delight that come from an expanded circle of friends, and the satisfaction of seeing (and being) people living their passion.

More to come…

DJB

A Family Celebration

Erin Brown Belcher

Erin Brown Belcher on her wedding day

After three family funerals in the past eighteen months—two of which came much too early in the lives of those we lost—the Brown family was able to come together this weekend for a family celebration.

We gathered at my brother Joe’s beautiful Cripple Creek farm on a sunny and cloudless spring day to celebrate the wedding of our niece, Erin, and Jonathan Belcher.

The bride looked beautiful in the wedding gown she had made by hand (over 53 1/2 hours!). The bluegrass music for the reception covered the countryside. The children of our other nieces played games and ran through the fields and around the pond.

A good time was had by all.

It is nice to remember the cycle of life continues in a year when we’ve said goodbye too many times.  So on this Mother’s Day, which falls on the one-year anniversary of my father’s passing, here’s to Erin and Jonathan and to the resiliency of family and love.

 

Remembering those who came before

Remembering those who came before

 

The farm

The farm

 

The family gathers to celebrate life and love

The family gathers to celebrate life and love

More to come…

DJB

 

35 Reasons I’d Do It All Over Again

At Prospect Hill in 1982

The newlyweds – poor graduate students – on our honeymoon at Prospect Hill

Thirty-five years ago tomorrow – March 20th – Candice and I started our adventure together.  I remember the first time I saw Candice.  She was coming around the corner of an office cubicle at the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office – where we’d both just been hired – and I thought, “Wow!”  (That’s a technical term meaning, “This could be interesting!”) As I got to know her over the months and years, my initial assessment was more than confirmed.

In her book Two-Part Invention:  The Story of a Marriage, Madeleine L’Engle describes the evening that her husband Hugh proposed to her.

“We went to one of our favorite restaurants in the Village, and after dinner he came home with me.  We talked.  About this, about that. He suggested that we play records, and chose Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

He picked up a book of poetry off the shelf and began leafing through it, and then read me Conrad Aiken’s beautiful words:

Music I heard with you was more than music, and bread I broke with you was more than bread.

And then he said, ‘Madeleine, will you marry me?'”

I love that sentiment of how two make something more than what we feel alone.  That is so true with Candice.  In honor of our anniversary, here are thirty-five reasons I’d do it all over again.

1. Thinks deeply about what type of wife, mother, sister, in-law, and friend she wants to be.  Then she acts out of that conviction.

2. Will go to a restaurant, taste something we both love, and come home and duplicate it for us.  How does she do that?

3.  Treats children as people. They respond to her respect with love and respect of their own.

4.  Is both romantic and pragmatic, and knows when each is the proper approach.

5.  When we were first married, I brought a habit of buying things on credit to the marriage.  Candice grew up waiting until she had cash before making a purchase.  We talked through our attitudes toward money, and then we adopted her overall approach whenever possible.  (House mortgages excepted.)  When I look at our family’s financial situation thirty-five years later, I am so glad she had the patience to work with me on financial management.  She’s also taught Andrew and Claire about the thoughtful use of money.

6.  Even in light of the previous reason, when I took a shine to several very nice guitars, and had the wherewithal to buy them, she fully supported the scratching of my Guitar Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.) itch.

Playing my Running Dog

Playing one of my Running Dog guitars

7.  Has consistently seen more in me than I see in myself.  Over thirty-five years, that’s a great confidence builder.

8.  Remembers everyone’s birthday, and sends cards, calls, and otherwise makes you feel very special…even if you don’t want to remember that you’re now 62!

9.  There have been times of misunderstandings.  All marriages have them.  Yet when one of us outruns the other, Candice will wait for me to catch up (if she’s ahead) or ask me to wait for her to get comfortable with wherever I am.

10.  We renovated two old homes early in our married life.  On the first house, we found ourselves arguing over how well I did the detail work and how slow she was in moving through items that didn’t require a lot of thought.  She had the good sense to point out that her focus made her the best person to take the paint off the baseboards, while my zeal for the big-picture meant that I should strip wallpaper to my heart’s content.  We never again strayed into each other’s territory, and it probably saved our marriage.

11. Wears “jewelry” created by Andrew and Claire in kindergarten and pulls it off as if she’s wearing the latest designer creation.  She always gets compliments when she brings them out.

12.  Is incredibly patient.  Will wait (and wait, and wait) for what she wants.  I guess that was a good trait, in that she waited for me!

20th Anniversary Dinner

20th Anniversary Dinner at Prospect Hill

13.  Is non-judgemental.  She has said that when she sees a situation where she might get frustrated by someone’s action, she stops and thinks, “What don’t I understand about this situation?”

14.  Loved both my parents and always treated them with respect and affection.  Candice and my father had a special bond, driven, in part, by their shared love for theology.  When my father died, Candice asked me to get as many of his theological books as I could from his library.  Two or three boxes of books later, we had significantly added to our collection.

15.  Knows how to snuggle.

16.  Takes good care of me when I am sick – especially those times when I’m a terrible patient.  I certainly would not put up with what I put her through when I don’t feel well.  (Note:  The times I am really sick, I’m actually a pretty good patient.  But that’s not often.)

17.  Is a wonderful mother to our children. I give her (and the twins) all the credit for how well they turned out as people.  Plus, I think the twins have been helped by having a mother who is a teacher.  She knows things from her training where I am clueless.

San Gmignano

Claire and Candice in San Gimignano

 

Andrew and Claire in Stockholm March 2014

Andrew and Candice in Stockholm

18.  Loves to travel, and is a great traveling companion for all of us.

19.  Does everything in her power to get me to eat a healthy diet.  If you see me with an order of french fries, you can be assured that I made the choice (instead of being served them as part of one of her dinners.)

20.  As the years of our marriage have passed, Candice has become much more comfortable with each of us separately focusing on things we enjoy.  I might go to a ballgame with a friend, and she’s fine with that (and in fact, is supportive.)  We can now spend the day together at home, and go for hours between checking in.  Yet she’s also aware of when we might need to connect.

21.  Loves good food and encouraged us to sit down and eat a civilized dinner with well-cooked food, thoughtful conversation, and no television.  We’ve been doing that for thirty-five years, and I think all of us have benefited.  As the children became older, we added candles (and later wine) to the mix.  Andrew and Claire have always been able to carry on meaningful conversations with adults, and I credit their experience at the dining room table.  We’ve also had some amazing conversations with them in recent years around topics that I never thought I’d consider – much less discuss.  All because of the good food and drink, and the space and time to share.

22.  Laughs at (most of) my jokes, even when she’s heard them dozens of times before.

23.  Has never been afraid to try new things.  In the course of our marriage, Candice’s jobs out of the house have included preservationist, teacher, tutor, shop keeper, caterer, teacher (again), innkeeper, and teacher (yet again).  I may have missed one or two.  Her curiosity, openness to new experiences, and desire to make a difference in the lives of others has taken her down many rewarding paths – for her and for our family.

Candice and Margaret

Candice and Margaret – two thirds of the catering team at Table Grace – seen here preparing one of our Thanksgiving dinners with the Pearsons

24.  Makes getting up early on Saturday to get to the Farmers’ Market fun, by tying it in with coffee and pastries at Tout de Sweet.  Saturday mornings are our time to connect with each other, catch up, and look ahead.  We both see it as our sacred time.

25.  Her idea of a perfect evening is to have an intimate dinner and conversation for several hours with a small group of friends.  As someone who doesn’t like large parties, I am forever grateful that this is her preference.

26.  Can get me out on the dance floor.

 

Candice and David celebrate their 32nd anniversary in Copenhagen, March 20, 2014

Our 32nd anniversary – celebrated in Copenhagen in March 2014

27.  Makes an effort to stay connected to family and friends.  She calls her family faithfully, and visits often.  When she hasn’t heard from someone in a while, she’ll often reach out with an email, Facebook post, text, or call to see how they are doing.  Once she “retired” she took to scheduling regular tea time or lunches with friends new and old.  My social life would be pretty limited without Candice’s instincts to connect with others.

28.  Loves traditions, and makes great ones for our family.  The twins – at age twenty-four – still look forward to getting their shoes filled with goodies on St. Nicholas Day.

29.  When cancer, a concussion, and hip replacement entered her life (at different times), Candice tackled each recovery with a dedication that I’ve seldom seen. She is a great example of how patient, doctor, spiritual director, family, and friends work together to bring healing to one’s body.

30.  Jazz is the only intersection between our musical tastes, but she has been to many more folk, bluegrass, and acoustic music concerts than I’ve been to concerts with acapella singing groups. She will put up with my music for a long time until she asks for a change (and Del McCoury is often involved in pushing her over the edge.)

31.  Candice grew up Catholic.  I was raised Southern Baptist, but by the time we met I had joined the Episcopal Church.  We agreed that we both wanted to worship in the same church, so we each took classes in the other church as we were preparing to get married.  (Note:  You can tell the difference in the two when you hear the names.  In the Episcopal Church, one attends the “Inquirers Class.”  For the Catholics, one goes to the “Converts Class.”)  I will always appreciate Candice’s willingness to move from her family’s church and towards the Episcopal church, where we’ve now been members for 35 years.

34th anniversary

Celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary at Ditirambo in Rome

32.  Neither one of us is perfect (surprise) and we often disagree.  But as Alain de Botton said in Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person, “The person we are best suited to is not the person who shares our every tastes (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in tastes intelligently – the person who is good at disagreement.”  Candice is good at disagreement, in that she never makes that disagreement personal, hurtful, or permanent.  To use de Botton’s phrase, “She can tolerate differences with generosity.”

33.  Loves to cook and is very good at it!  The first meal she made for the two of us had me hooked, and she hasn’t let up yet.  Yes, I know how lucky I am.

34.  For our 35th anniversary, was “all in” when I suggested a long weekend away at Mohonk Mountain House, for time to eat, read, meditate (yes, I went to a guided meditation class!), eat, get a massage, do yoga, eat, drink, and celebrate.  We had a delightful time re-connecting with each other and with this wonderful place.

35th anniversary dinner

Celebrating our 35th Anniversary at a snowy Mohonk Mountain House in March 2017

35.  Loves me unconditionally.  Who could ask for more?

Thank you, my love.  Let’s do thirty-five more!

Love, and with hopefully much more to come…

DJB

The Two Year Anniversary of My (In)Famous Encounter with an Ambulance

60th Birthday celebration

Celebrating my 60th birthday, along with my fractured shoulder and new sling

I was at work today when someone in a meeting reminded me that today was the second anniversary of my (in)famous encounter with a sliding ambulance.

What, you haven’t heard that story?  Well, go here to be reminded. You don’t want me to tell you about it now, because the story becomes “better” with every retelling.  I was reminded again that I was once “famous in cabs!”

After it came up today, I mentioned this anniversary to a guest in the meeting and he said, “You can’t say you were hit by an ambulance without telling the story,” so I’ve already had a chance to recount it once today.

When I ended he said, “That’s means you’ll be 62 tomorrow on your birthday?”  I replied, “If I make it!”  After my ambulance encounter at 59 years, 364 days, and 21 hours on March 3, 2015, I don’t take anything for granted.

Fingers crossed that this evening is uneventful. At least there is no ice in the forecast.

More to come…

DJB

Top Posts of 2016 (Family and Friends Edition)

Family in Philadelphia

With Candice, Andrew, and Claire (clockwise from bottom left), June 2016 in Philadelphia

I’m lucky to have patient readers of More to Come… as the blog (like my mind) is often all over the place. In looking back over posts from the past year, I decided to highlight the top ten (in terms of views) in a “family and friends” edition, to be followed tomorrow by a “whatever else tickles my fancy” edition, where I’ll catch the posts that don’t directly relate to family members.

Unfortunately, many of the top family posts this year related to death and loss. There were so many losses this year (both family and others who felt like family) that I added a Rest In Peace category to the blog. I’m grateful for the notes and comments these musings brought, but like so many readers I still miss the people who are no longer with us.

I’ll highlight the top ten family and friends posts in the order in which they showed up on More to Come…

Andrew was asked to join Lady Gaga and 50 other survivors of sexual assault on the stage of the Academy Awards as she sang her Oscar-nominated song ‘Til it Happens to YouWe Believe You – my March 2nd post – flowed from that experience.

Andrew and Lady Gaga

Andrew with Lady Gaga at the Oscars

Three of the posts revolved around my father’s death in May of 2016, just shy of his 91st birthday.  The first post came the day I learned Daddy had died – May 14th – and was titled R.I.P. Daddy, Tom, Granddaddy.  After the funeral, I posted My Favorite Tom Brown Stories, which captured all the things people had to say about Daddy in the days we gathered to celebrate a life well lived.  A few days later, A Blessing For Our Children, taken from notes in my father’s Bible, spoke to the blessing of unconditional love.

With the children spread from coast to coast, we celebrate the few times we get to have all four of us together.  A Philly Family Weekend was built around the marriage of our dear friend Julia Pentz to Barry Katz.

Claire and Andrew ready for the wedding

Claire and Andrew ready for the wedding

In early August, we lost a dear friend in Staunton, Virginia, Ted Jordan, who died after an accident on a construction site.  And When From Death I’m Free, I’ll Sing On was my remembrance of Ted’s many gifts and the music we made together for over a decade.

Adventures in Moving was a late August post that captured a three-day road trip with Andrew, as we traveled to Tennessee to gather furniture from my father’s house and bring it back to our home in Maryland.  Andrew even got to stand in Tennessee and Virginia at the same time.

Andrew in Bristol

Andrew (and his Beyonce shirt) have a foot in Tennessee and a foot in Virginia on Bristol’s famous State Street

I began writing a short Monday morning email to my staff at the National Trust this year, and I captured these on this blog under the category of “Monday Musings.” One of my posts from my new category made it to the top ten list this year in the family and friends category.  In September, I wrote a blog entitled Hope is Grounded in Memory, which references my Grandmother’s clock as a way of choosing hope in life.

Grandmother's clock

A small symbol of hope

In November, our parish held its Commemoration of All Faithful Departed service, which led to the post Going Out in a Blaze of GloryMy father was a big fan of Mel Brooks and the movie Blazing Saddles.  If you missed this post the first time, you’ll have to read it now to see how the two fit together.

Each Thanksgiving, I post a special blog of photographs from the year.  It is usually a favorite (perhaps because I link to it in our Thanksgiving letter to friends and family).  Our Year in Photos – 2016 was no different, and this year it included a picture of the visit Claire and I made to see the LA Angels (and check another major league baseball park off my bucket list).

With Claire at the Big A

With Claire at the Big A

So there are the top ten “family and friends” posts from 2016.  Thanks, as always, for reading.  And as you know, in 2017 there will be…

More to come…

DJB