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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
|Saturday, March 28, 2009|
|To market, to market, Saturday, March 28, 2009|
| Uncle Jack has healed up enough to accompany Mrs. U.J. to the Farmers Market this morning which gave him great pleasure because he couldn't make it last Saturday. Even in the dead of winter going to the Waverly market was a high point of the week for them but as the weather improves it keeps getting better and better. Vendors who apparently wintered in Florida (or just stayed home in their comfy farmhouses) are trickling back and adding their wares to those of the hardcore sellers who tough it out no matter what Mother Nature cooks up for Saturday morning in Baltimore.|
When Mrs. U.J.'s cholesterol reading went off the charts about six years ago she was forced to abandon her Julia Child-inspired "all butter all the time" approach to cooking. Fresh vegetables and fruits suddenly became the staples of their diet and so they still are today. Having a first rate farmers market loaded with locally-grown organic produce at reasonable prices within walking distance of their home is like living across the street from Jim Beam's distillery might have been at another time in Uncle Jack's life.
The market is not without its temptations. Two young women bakers draw a crowd every week with their spectacular multi-grain breads and sticky buns. While it may be true that virtue is its own reward there is no substitute for a couple of superb sticky buns after a hard morning of shopping for green, leafy vegetables.
Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. learned about another Baltimore tradition by accident this morning when they stopped by Wells Discount Wine Shop on York Avenue to pick up a bottle of their favorite cheap Chilean merlot. The place was jammed with frenzied customers who had come from as far away as Pennsylvania to take advantage of Wells' amazing annual pre-Easter sale. The bargains were so irresistible (Pilsner Urquell from Czechoslovakia for less than the price of Miller Lite, for example)that they loaded the Mini with what looks like a six-month supply of liquid digestifs. (Uncle Jack is well-acquainted with the health benefits of red wine, especially for elderly persons with heart conditions).
He has been donning his best hair shirt several hours a day since Thursday and writhing uncomfortably through the NCAA tournament. He loves to watch the games but he knows too much about the corrupt underpinnings of this annual made-for-TV extravaganza to fully enjoy it. But you can be sure that he will be glued to his barcalounger at 5 p.m. Sunday when the Tarheels and the Sooners slug it out. What it all has to do with higher education is anybody's guess but you can be sure it moves a lot of product.
posted by Uncle Jack at 10:34 PM
|Thursday, March 26, 2009|
|Rehoboth Rocks!! Thursdy March 26, 2009|
| Uncle Jack's hernia operation is now a week old and he is continuing to recover, although a lot more slowly than he hoped he would. He has learned that the best thing to do at this point is nothing at all which he is finding hard to do. A very funny book by Garrison Keillor called "We Are Still Married" has kept him happily in his barcalounger for many hours and the new TV has provided a fair amount of sedentary pleasure but he is itching to get back outside and behind the wheel of the Mini to continue his explorations of the Monument City, his new home town.|
He has devoted much too much time to reading the online New York Times and Google News with their daily round-ups of all the ghastly news from every corner of the planet. This is a very bad habit which he really should try to overcome, at least until he is feeling better.
He did get some sadistic pleasure out of a google piece on the continuing saga of beach replenishment in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Readers with long memories will recall that Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. visited Rehoboth back in 2006 not long after the Great Replenishment Project which greatly widened the beach but not without some amusing unforeseen consequences.
By the time they got there five months later about a third of the new beach had already washed away and what was left was in terrible shape. Later beachgoers started discovering unexploded ordnance in the new sand which prompted a costly emergency clean-up project and gave new meaning to the phrase "shell collecting".
Last summer bathers found that jagged rocks and broken seashells had congregated in the surf at the edge of the replenished beach and there were numerous reports of injuries---some of them severe. Studies were made over the winter of how to deal with this latest calamity and today's report, which you can read by pasting this link into your browser's address bar or by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page,
will bring you up to date.
Uncle Jack will now resume doing absolutely nothing and perhaps in a few days he will be able to return with more about exciting, beautiful, monument-strewn Bawlmer. Stay tuned.
posted by Uncle Jack at 2:07 PM
|Monday, March 23, 2009|
|One great hospital, Monday March 23, 2009|
| Before his recent surgery fades from memory Uncle Jack would like to say a few complimentary words about the Johns Hopkins Medical Center. Not that they are needed; JHMC has been called the finest hospital in the U.S. by so many experts over such a long period of time that additional kudos from him is probably superfluous. Having spent only one night in a hospital in his entire adult life Uncle Jack hardly qualifies as an authority but he can now tell you with some confidence that if you ever need excellent medical attention you will get it at JMHC. From the initial referral by his new family physician through the thorough post-op procedures, he has felt like not even Donald Trump himself could have gotten better care.|
He can't say much about what went on in the operating room, having been rendered "non compass Memphis" as Pogo used to say by his anesthetist with whom he had a long and searching conversation in pre-op before they wheeled him like a dead tuna into operating room #7. While he was still conscious, between 7 and 9 a.m., he had ample opportunity to observe the goings-on in pre-op and he can tell you they filled him with confidence that his hernia was in good hands.
When he came to in the recovery room a couple of hours later he had another opportunity to marvel at the performance of a well-trained, well-organized team of professionals who were on top of everything at all times. A small example: when Mrs. U.J. expressed some concern about her ability to find her way in the Mini from the parking garage to the main entrance, an orderly promptly volunteered to transport Uncle Jack to the parking garage in a wheelchair so he could get home to his long overdue lunch without undue delay---kind of a reverse takeout which he really appreciated.
Uncle Jack can't say that he is actually looking forward to the time when his rickety heart and his problematical prostate are going to need further attention but he is very glad that Johns Hopkins Medical Center is only ten minutes away by Mini.
Sunday afternoon was sunny and warm and Uncle Jack's powerful painkiller was working well enough to permit another trip to Meyerhoff Hall to hear the Baltimore Symphony---or so he thought. They greatly enjoyed the first half of the concert which included a performance of Chopin's barnburning First Piano Concerto by a 22-year-old Czech virtuoso named Lucas Vondracek who will be very famous soon. Uncle Jack did a lot of moaning and groaning during the intermission so Mrs. U.J. took pity on him and returned him to his barcalounger and the bracing tonic of March Madness,
He took what he hopes was his last pain pill last night so he should be able to drive again in a day or two the way things are going. Watch out, Baltimore.
posted by Uncle Jack at 2:41 PM
|Friday, March 20, 2009|
|Happy Hernia Happenings|
| Just a quicky to let everybody know that the operation went smoothly and Uncle Jack is on the mend and feeling fine.|
Would that he could say the same for his computer. He made the mistake of downloading a new Google program called "Chrome" which is supposed to do all kinds of things better and faster. What it seems to have done best and fastest of all is to screw up the page on which he writes his new weblog entries. For some reason it won't let him choose his own typeface and font size. Maybe Will can fix it. Maybe not. Let us see how this looks on the page first. If it's o.k. Uncle Jack will greatly elucidate the excellent experience he had at Johns Hopkins Medical Center yesterday. He could not have been more pleased.
posted by Uncle Jack at 10:34 AM
|Monday, March 16, 2009|
|Tempus Fugit, Monday March 16, 2009|
My how time flies when you're having fun. Uncle Jack just realized that it has been a week since he last took laptop in lap and fashioned a blog entry. This kind of lackadaisical behavior could get him thrown out of the Bloggers' Society if he isn't careful.
Looking back on the past seven days puts him in mind of Garrison Keillor's weekly review of the news from Lake Wobegon which is often almost terrifying in its banality. Uncle Jack's news from Bawlmer this week is of a piece.
The high point came on Friday when Mrs. U.J.'s granddaughter Isabella Sabatino, age five, had her first sleepover at grandma's new apartment. In honor of the occasion grandma decided to take Isabella and Uncle Jack out to dinner before settling in to an exciting evening of watching DVDs on the 52-inch you-know-what. Choosing a restaurant was difficult because there are two in Little Italy that seemed equally appropriate for this special occasion. One is called "Isabella's Pizza" and the other is "Sabatino's Restaurant"---located only a block apart in the heart of Little Italy.
Not surprisingly Isabella preferred "Isabella's" and her choice, as always, was pepperoni pizza. Thanks to Isabella Uncle Jack has consumed an inordinate amount of pepperoni pizza in the past three months, the vast majority of it mediocre, and he can tell you that Isabella's "stone oven" pizza did not rise significantly above the mean. Unfortunately Uncle Jack was spoiled at an early age (about 40) by prolonged exposure to Mineo's on Murray Avenue in Pittsburgh, producers of arguably the world's finest pizza at that time. Every pizza he has tasted since leaving Pittsburgh in 1980 has been disappointing in one way or another. The Curse of Mineo's.
The rest of the week was uneventful, thank goodness. The Farmers Market was delightful as always and the 52-inch you-know-what served up a splendid assortment of NBA games and gave promise of bringing a new dimension to March Madness. The mute switch works perfectly which is comforting for Uncle Jack, knowing as he does that the insufferable Dick Vitale will need to be silenced frequently.
The week was not without its downer. It came when Uncle Jack discovered that the refrigerator magnets he bought at Target last Monday do not work on his refrigerator. They work fine on the dishwasher but he is too old and creaky to bend over that far every time he wants to check his doctors' appointments.
Speaking of which he has a biggy coming up at 9 a.m. Thursday when the comely Dr. Hininger will do battle with his hernia somewhere in the bowels of the Johns Hopkins Medical Center. With any luck he will be allowed to go home Thursday afternoon where he will commence his recovery while propped up in front of the 52 inch you-know-what. Will Oprah help or hinder? Stay tuned.
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|Mural in Little Italy. Controversial because an artist from Brooklyn was chosen to do it in spite of the fact that Baltimore is crawling with artists who would have leaped at the chance.|
posted by Uncle Jack at 10:39 AM
|Tuesday, March 10, 2009|
|Jack the Geek, Tuesday March 10, 2009|
Most of Uncle Jack's battles with balky computers have ended in ignominious defeat. Either he winds up forking over a huge sum to some tattooed twenty-something, usually arrogant, who can charge what the traffic will bear because his customers are both stupid and desperate, or he winds up buying a new computer because it's cheaper than paying the repair bill.
He was faced with this Hobson's choice last weekend when Mrs. U.J.'s Sony laptop steadfastly refused to turn on. Even though it had worked perfectly only a few hours before, it absolutely refused to respond to any known form of beseechment---not even prayer which Uncle Jack resorts to only in truly dire circumstances such as the possibility of imminent death.
And dire they were. Mrs. U.J.'s Sony is the repository of countless gigabytes of stuff that she needs to carry out her responsibilities as chief resume writer for a major career counseling company. With her computer in a dormant state she would be unable to complete a couple of promised jobs by their Sunday deadlines which would besmirch her stellar reputation for reliability under pressure, an unforgiveable failure in the high pressure world of corporate resume writing.
The computer failure occurred on Friday evening but panic did not ensue until Saturday morning when Uncle Jack discovered that Eli the Computer Guy, who had recently brought his own laptop expensively but quickly back to life, did not work on Saturday. Nor did the hired Geeks at Staples---all of them apparently preferring to devote their weekends to squandering the vast wealth they extract from the wallets of their helpless victims during the week.
At this time of desperate need Uncle Jack turned for help to his best friend in cyberspace---the omnipresent and omnipotent Google. He typed "Sony laptop will not turn on" into the search bar and was instantly rewarded with something like 1,350,000 responses to explore. Apparently Mrs. U.J. was not the first to experience this particular problem.
His initial elation began to sink to the level of despair as the first thirty or forty entries described possible remedies that were light years beyond Uncle Jack's capabilities. ("First, remove the motherboard......"?) He was about to give up when he stumbled across a suggestion that he could actually try. A similarly afflicted Sony owner had called attention to a tiny switch in the lid of all Sony laptops which turns the machine off when a user closes the top while the computer is still on.
Eureka!! Mrs. U.J. had confessed that the screen was still illuminated when she last closed the lid and the little switch could therefore have something to do with its refusal to start up again. (A fit of pique, perhaps?). After careful examination Uncle Jack found what he thought could be the recalcitrant switch and in the time-honored fashion of tinkerers everywhere he tweaked it with a paper clip. Then he pressed the "start" button again and was rewarded instantly with a row of flashing lights.
Readers can only imagine the sense of triumph and elation that swept over him as he realized that not only had he saved Mrs. U.J.'s bacon (for which he would be suitably rewarded later) but he had probably saved at least a hundred bucks Eli would have charged him to unstick the same switch (without telling him what he had done and how long it had taken him to do it).
Uncle Jack is no doubt guilty of hubris and Eli will surely take his revenge in the future but it's a great feeling to have beaten the geeks at their own game for once.
posted by Uncle Jack at 8:39 PM
|Sunday, March 8, 2009|
|The Joys of Urban Living, Sunday March 8, 2009|
Spring came early to Baltimore this weekend and Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. made the most of it by sampling several of the city's delights. They started early Saturday morning with their obligatory visit to the nearby Waverly Farmers Market where they load up on a week’s worth of fruit, vegetables, cheese, whole grain homemade bread and other goodies at prices that should make the Whole Foods store blush. One of the vendors specializes in sticky buns like Uncle Jack hasn’t tasted since he was a kid and his mom made them every Saturday morning along with the week’s supply of Swedish rye bread. Good sticky buns are hard to beat for breakfast after a strenuous hour at the market.
After lunch on their seventh floor balcony overlooking the Johns Hopkins campus (it was over 70 degrees by this time) they drove a few blocks up Charles street to “Evergreen”, one of the two Johns Hopkins museums housed in elegant old mansions, the other being “Homewood” right across the street which they have already visited. Evergreen is by far the most impressive of the two in terms of size, ornateness, interior furnishings, and all around opulence. It was built in the 1870’s by a Baltimore and Ohio railroad executive named John Garrett for his son who eschewed further moneymaking and became a diplomat, serving under five presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover. When the younger Garrett, a friend of Johns Hopkins, founder of the university, died in 1942 he bequeathed the estate (which includes 26 acres of prime real estate nestled between Loyola University and the College of Notre Dame of Maryland on Charles street) to JHU along with a huge endowment to keep it open to the public as a place for cultural gatherings of all kinds.
Saturday’s event was a concert by the Modigliani String Quartet of Paris who played works of Haydn, Ravel and Mendelssohn in an intimate room originally designed to be gymnasium for the Garrett boys but later converted into a kind of wacky theater where the diplomat’s wife, a dancer, would entertain her dinner guests. It’s a great room for chamber music as the quartet, made up of four young Frenchmen, demonstrated. The concert was preceded by a tour of the house and followed by a pleasant reception featuring all manner of elegant hors d’oeuvres and a large cut-crystal bowl of fruit punch laced with something that Uncle Jack couldn’t quite make out even after examining several glasses. A lovely way to spend an afternoon, for sure.
On Sunday afternoon, with the temperature still in the 70’s, they headed for the Fells Point neighborhood, a once badly run-down area in the harbor east of the the famed Inner Harbor, most of which somehow escaped the urban renewal wrecking ball and has emerged as a thriving community which is a magnet for fun-seekers from all over Baltimore. It has a wonderfully eclectic assortment of shops, restaurants, and bars lining its cobblestone streets through which they wandered for a couple of hours, fueled by cups of the best gelato they have discovered outside of Italy. On their next visit, which they hope will be soon, they will make pilgrimages to Ostrowski’s Polish Sausage Shop (not open on Sunday)
and Bertha’s Mussel Shop and bar where, mirabile dictu, Pilsner Urquell is available on draft.
A walk on the beach would have been nice to finish off the weekend but for right now Uncle Jack is very happy with what he has found in beachless Bawlmer.
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|The Waverly Market drew the biggest crowd of shoppers of the new year due to the balmy temperatures prevailing on Saturday.|
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|New Baltimore resident, NOT a tourist, graces the steps of "Evergreen", the house that B & O built.|
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|The Rare Book Room in Evergreen, part of the collection of 30,000 books assembled by the Garretts, father and son, over half a century.|
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|This copper and zinc bathtub was a feature of the "Gold Bathroom" where the Garretts refreshed themselves after exhausting days of spending their money.|
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|The Modigliani Quartet performed against a backdrop designed by Theo Bakst, a friend of Mrs. Garrett, whose day job was doing sets for the Ballet Russe.|
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|Mini looks right at home on the cobblestoned streets of Fells Point. The near future holds a new Maryland license plate if Uncle Jack can ever find the Motor Vehicle Bureau.|
posted by Uncle Jack at 7:52 PM
|Wednesday, March 4, 2009|
|Still here, Wednesday March 4, 2009|
Uncle Jack is starting to get inquiries about his whereabouts which suggests that it is time to let his faithful readers know that he is still on the planet. As he said in his last blog entry he and Mrs. U.J. have been up to their ears in the exigencies of moving, complicated by a couple of time-consuming and energy-sapping health issues for the past several weeks. He is pleased to report that both are now under control and they are beginning to resume their interrupted love affair with Bawlmer.
He has to confess that since moving he has encountered a number of natives who have seriously questioned their sanity. The two young furniture movers who accompanied them to Nags Head a couple of weeks ago, for example, after spending a few hours in beautiful South Nags Head, could only shake their heads in wonder.
Last Saturday's splendid concert by the Baltimore Symphony in magnificent Meyerhoff Hall did much to restore their confidence that this is where they belong at this stage of their lives. Their recent discovery that the Chinese take-out next door to the neighborhood wine shop offers an extensive menu of delicious dishes at ridiculously low prices also helped. Both deliver, too.
They are now settled comfortably into their new digs with only a few more mall safaris needed to fill in the remaining gaps---a lamp here, a wastebasket there, a few of the more exotic kitchen utensils. Several colossal shopping complexes reside within a ten-minute drive which together could probably satisfy the needs and wants of a population ten times the size of Baltimore's. It remains to be seen which, if any, will survive the current unpleasantness.
And now it is time for Uncle Jack to hie his hernia over to the Johns Hopkins Hospital Outpatient Clinic for a pre-op conference with some of the folks who will play principal roles in repairing it on March 19. So far he has been very impressed with the hospital and its staff and apparently he isn't the only one because Johns Hopkins has been rated the best hospital in the country by those who know for the past 15 years or more. Uncle Jack's surgeon, by the way, is a very attractive young woman whom he hopes is as competent as she is comely.
Look for another episode along about Sunday. Thanks for your patience.
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|Johns Hopkins in the snow. Five inches fell on Monday but caused no distress except for the usual school closings. Viewed from the 7th floor the blizzard was quite beautiful. |
posted by Uncle Jack at 1:20 PM
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|Except for short hiatus in Baltimore Uncle Jack has lived in Nags Head for over 45 years. He was a columnist for the Outer Banks Current and its successor, the Outer Banks Sentinel, for 20 years. A collection of his columns is available from Amazon Kindle under the title Uncle Jack's Outer Banks. He and Mrs. Uncle Jack, aka Sue, live in South Nags Head whence he observes and sometimes comments on the passing parade.|