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

Quest for the Best Picture (2016), Part 2

Film ReelAfter this weekend, Candice and I are one-third of the way towards our annual goal of viewing all the “Best Picture” Oscar nominees.  We’ve seen three very different films, but all terrific in their own way.

Last weekend we saw Hidden Figures, a wonderful movie with an inspiring story just right for our times.  On Friday we again walked up to AFI Silver Theater, this time to see Moonlight.

This coming of age film was both difficult and yet ultimately very satisfying. I was initially uncomfortable, because I was disoriented by the context.  The story of a young, gay, African American male learning about who he is through the bullying, teasing, and uncertainty was one I could understand. However, the setting – amidst the poverty, racism, and drug culture of Miami – was not familiar.  Once I sorted that out in my mind, I saw the strong qualities of this movie on multiple levels.

The acting is superb, beginning with Mahershala Ali as Juan, the drug dealer who befriends the main character, Chiron, and Naomie Harris as Chiron’s mother Paula. It was also nice to be introduced to Janelle Monáe in the first two films we saw the week, in Moonlight as Teresa and as Mary in Hidden Figures.

Moonlight is a well-crafted film on several levels, and is worth a view.

On Sunday, we decided to go in a different direction and took in La La Land at the nearby Bethesda Row Cinemas.  This film has much to recommend it.  The music is infectious.  The acting – especially Emma Stone – is superb.  The opening musical sequence is incredible – and worth the price of admission.  Do I think it is the year’s best movie?  No.  Do I think it is worth your time?  Absolutely.

So my first ranking looks like this:

  1.  Hidden Figures
  2. Moonlight
  3. La La Land

Two and three are actually interchangeable, and they might change as I see more.  But I think the time is just right, and perhaps even critical, for Hidden Figures.

We have some more to see, so check back!

More to come…

DJB

Annual Super Bowl Rant

NFL Brain Diagram via SportsPickle.com

NFL Brain Diagram via SportsPickle.com

I thought I would just be upfront about it, and title this post accurately.  No alternative facts here, folks – just truth in advertising!

Ever since Super Bowl 48, when I famously (at least in my mind) declared it to be my last, I’ve gone back and explained why it is time to give up on the NFL.  Surprisingly, they still play the thing, and here we are at Super Bowl 51.  (Reason #10 I gave up on the NFL was those stupid Roman numerals.)

So, here we are on Super Bowl Saturday, and I’ll just give you a few more reasons you may want to go to your local theatre and watch Hidden Figures – my early front-runner for Best Picture of the Year.

(And since I gave you ten perfectly good reasons back in 2014, I’ll begin with reason #11.)

11.  It’s the damn Patriots.  Again.  Is there anyone more insufferable in sports than Bill Belichick/Tom Brady? (Wait, I’ll answer that.  Maybe Coach K. But that’s another post. And I know that Belichick and Brady are actually two people, but I’ve grouped them as one because they synch their grating to perfection.)  They push rules up to the line and over, and then act like their sainthood has been challenged when they are caught.  I hate Roger Goodell – he of the $40 million+ salary as a nonprofit executive (seriously) – but even I don’t wish for a Patriots victory so he has to eat crow and give them the trophy the year after Deflategate.

12.  The game is on FOX.  OMG.  You will recall that the last time FOX carried the Super Bowl, fans were subjected to Bill O’Reilly’s Gift for the Ages – otherwise known as the highly disrespectful “interview” of President Obama by the FOX News blowhard and original spinner of alternative facts.  So this year, will we be treated to the coronation of King Donald by Sean Hannity?  Will we learn that the most recent jobs report (the reporting period of which ended prior to Trump’s inauguration) reflects what a tremendous job Donald is doing?  (The Best!) Will we also learn that jobs report reflects the 76th consecutive month of job growth – the longest on record?  (That’s a trick question.  Of course we won’t.)  And once the annual game begins, will Donald finally get his military parade?  (That’s also a trick question, since FOX has been militarizing sports for decades.)

13.  It is all about the concussions.  Troy Aikman, who is providing color commentary for the game on FOX, says he cannot remember a playoff game that he won, due to a concussion that he suffered during the game.  Concussions are serious.  ‘Nuff said.

That’s enough ranting for this year.  And by the way, pitchers and catchers report in 9 days.

Winter bad.  Baseball good.

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

Merry Christmas 2016

Singing at Christmas Day Dinner

Singing Carols at the Christmas Day Dinner at St. Alban’s Parish

Several years ago we first volunteered to help serve Christmas dinner at our parish.  This is a wonderful tradition that we had just discovered.  Several hundred people – some homeless, some single, some elderly without family nearby, some simply wanting someone else to cook for them – come together for several hours of turkey, stuffing, pies, caroling, and conversation.

That first year, as we were leaving, one of the children said, “Can we make this a regular part of our Christmas Day tradition?”  We’ve been there ever since.

Because Andrew and Claire were born five days before Christmas, we have always waited to jump into the season until after we celebrate their birthdays.  Plus, Candice and I have always wanted to focus on Advent, and then celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas through until Epiphany on January 6th. But this year we’ve actually scaled back some of the past over-the-top holiday celebrations.  Our decorations are simpler. We are content to be together as a family around a dinner table.  (No cell phones, please.)

And just as the twins helped bring the Christmas dinner into our family celebration, they now help us choose one event for each of the 12 Days of Christmas.  This year’s list includes a night of making pasta together.  Two evenings at the theatre. Brunches and dinners with dear friends. Dim sum.  A family hike.  And a belated 24th birthday celebration, since Claire didn’t arrive home until Christmas Eve.

If you celebrate the season, dear readers, I hope you have a wonderful time filled with family and friends you love along with outreach to those who need our love.

Browns at the Christmas Day Dinner

The Browns at the St. Alban’s Parish Christmas Day Dinner 2016 (photo credit: Suzy Mink)

Merry Christmas!

More to come…

DJB

Be Civil, Be Urban

Civility

Civility by Stephen L. Carter

Each morning on my walk to our offices at the Watergate, I stop off at Filter coffeehouse for a coffee to begin the work day.  What first drew me to this particular coffee shop on I Street, NW between 19th and 20th (as opposed to the 15 others I pass in my 25 minute walk) is the sign on the door.  It reads, simply, “Be Civil, Be Urban.”

I was intrigued.  My interest was really piqued when I stepped inside and found urban planning books and architectural models on the bookshelf, a prominent “Nope, No WiFi” sign, and a quote on the wall from architectural historian Spiro Kostof that reads, “Civilization, in this strict sense, is the art of living in towns.”

Living and working in groups – in towns, cities, and organizations – led us to move toward a civilized society.  But civilization is not guaranteed. How we live and work together is a key to productivity, learning, growth, and happiness.  Civility is – unfortunately – in short supply in much of our national and international discourse today.  The author and social critic Stephen Carter, in his book Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy, blames this on an over-reliance on markets, a forgetfulness of the obligations we owe each other, and a lack of a moral compass in decision-making.  He says,

“…the language of the marketplace, the language of wanting, of winning, of simply taking – the language of self – is supplanting the language of community, of sharing, of fairness, of riding politely alongside our fellow citizens…”

That quote from Carter has stuck with me through the years, and it fits in with the “Be Urban, Be Civil” mantra at the coffee shop. That “Nope, No Wifi” sign states that Filter “is a place for talking, reading, and drinking coffee.”  Patrons are asked to “Please leave your laptops in your bag and take a break.  Say hi to your neighbor.  Emails can wait.”

No WiFi

No WiFi at Filter

I find that my daily 3-5 minutes in the shop helps me stop and think about ways I can be civil as I ride alongside my fellow citizens.  I think about it as I walk through the George Washington University campus, and look and speak to the staff and students who are out and about at that hour. On good days, it remains on my mind in the office, in meetings, and as I return home to family. When I’m reminded each morning that to live together well requires civility, I try and carry that mindset as far into the day as I can.

I don’t always succeed, so I’m happy to have a place to get my daily reminder of civility along with my cup of coffee. None of us got to where we are today on our own, and our lives are intertwined and enriched by all those who surround us.  If I forget to recognize that when I see you, please remind me that it may be time for a refill of my cup of civility coffee.  I’ll know exactly what you mean.

Have a great week and a wonderful holiday season.

More to come…

DJB

The Real Voyage of Discovery

Duffle bag

On the road (photo credit: Floto)

I was in college before I took my first airplane ride – a trip from Nashville to Philadelphia for (no surprise here) the 1976 National Trust Preservation Conference.  It was probably another ten-to-fifteen years after that before I traveled outside the U.S.

Growing up in a large, middle-class family in Tennessee in the 1950s and 1960s, we didn’t just jump on an airplane when we felt the urge. My children find this difficult to comprehend, since they took their first flight at 6 months of age, and by the time they were in college the number of countries they had visited required both hands to count.  When I tell them that my grandparents probably stayed in Tennessee their entire lifetimes, they begin to recognize the dramatic changes that take place from one generation to the next.

I’ve been working to make up for lost time when it comes to travel.  Both personally and professionally, I have the opportunity and privilege to travel to many places both in the U.S. and around the world.  I was thinking about this recently while listening to the writer Pico Iyer talk about travel and change.  Like me, his grandparents “almost had their home in their community and their tribe and their religion handed to them at birth, whereas I felt that I could, in some ways, create my own.”  In describing what to take from the opportunity to see so many wonderful places, Iyer writes,

“…anybody who travels knows that you’re not really doing so in order to move around – you’re traveling in order to be moved.  And really what you’re seeing is not just the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall but some moods or intimations or places inside yourself that you never ordinarily see when you’re sleepwalking through your daily life….there’s this great undiscovered terrain that Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Merton and Emily Dickinson fearlessly investigated, and I want to follow in their footsteps.”

We really do sleepwalk through many phases of our life.  The trick is not to require travel to open up our inner places, but to live more of our lives as we do when we “travel to be moved.”  Or, as Marcel Proust once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Have a great week.

More to come…

DJB