Sunday, December 27, 2009

On Friday December 18th, my Dad died, and although we didn't have the closest of relationships, there is still a void. An empty chasm because of so many things that were left unsaid and undone, all emotional. My father was a perfectionist in everything he did and his last workplace stands testament to that as even after 2 years, they've still been unable to replace him.
I learnt a lot from my father; he was the best in every handyman job and happy to teach. I learnt how to lay a lawn, how to build a brick wall, how to build a pond, how to paint correctly with a brush and a roller, how to wallpaper, how to mix cement. I learnt how to do all these things properly and well, apart from tiling. I never mastered that or his woodworking skills.
He also taught us about respect, discipline and honor. Because of those values, I have many longstanding friendships which I have always fiercely protected, and I have always been devotedly loyal to my employers.
He also had a great sense of humor and I was always proud to have my father at my parties. He never failed to raise a laugh, and was often the life and soul down at the local pub.
I only wish he had been more communicative with his emotions and not been afraid to display affection. I remember on my last visit holding his hand, and he looked down surprised. I don't think we'd ever done that before.
A friend and colleague sent me a beautiful e-mail after my father's death and I took strength from the words she sent me:

Romans 8:35-39 (New International Version)

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
   "For your sake we face death all day long;
      we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."[a] 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So I will hold no grudge, nor fester with bitterness, because I know one day I 'll meet Dad again, and this time, we'll both greet with unrestrained affection.
I love you Dad.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Floating Palace in Baltimore

Emily, Tim & I trekked to Baltimore on Saturday, and having not explored for a while, we were chomping at the bit. We decided to have lunch first, stopping at a fast food restaurant offering a tasty menu of chicken livers, gizzards and lake trout. I had the trout for the first and last time!
Our next stop was the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, dating back to 1873. In 1924 it became West Baltimore General Hospital, to be renamed Lutheran Hospital around 1950. It closed in 1989. And it was still very closed up as we skirted the perimeter. We saw no point of entry so had to make do with some external shots before walking around the neighborhood.

Many of the houses in this area were boarded up or about to fall down. Feral cats skulked along fences and guard dogs barked loudly, guarding I have no idea what.

Some one had dropped their breakfast so it made for a colorful photo amongst the drab surroundings. We soon tired of these sad streets, so decided to go scouting. Clambering back into the car, we scoured the streets for a nice derelict building. Bingo! We came across a large industrial looking place which looked as though it had suffered fire damage at the rear.

We found an open door and walked into a strange warehouse.

It became apparent as we stepped on the floor that all the wooden boards were floating, and it was a little weird walking across the open space. Tim correctly determined that this was once a cold storage place and underneath us would once have been ice. We realized later that this was an ice making factory. The rectangular moulds to the right of the photo held the ice blocks.

We came to a spiral staircase and saw below the machinery which once powered this plant. The "Ice House" is the remaining structure of a large ice manufacturing plant constructed in 1911 by the American Ice Company. Designed by New York architecture firm Mortimer & Co. and built by Fidelity Construction Company from Baltimore, the plant complex was "one of the largest and most modern of its kind in the State" when built and marked the significant shift from the sale of natural to manufactured ice.

 I loved this ammonia gauge, and this link explains why ammonia is used in refrigeration. There was an ammonia leak from the building in 2008 as workers were tearing down part of the building. There were also 2 major fires in 2001 and 2004.

Going up the spiral staircase took us to the roof and a floor with more machinery possibly for ventilation. I found this interesting link, which reports from 1909 and shows the machinery we saw here, eg, the horizontal compressor.

We left 'The Floating Palace' happy that we'd found somewhere new and exciting, and readily agreed that the next stop should be a bar to celebrate. We found a little dive bar, and entered to a strong smell of cleaning products. We sat on a stool and enquired about the draught beers of which there were none.We ordered a local beer, were given cans and asked if we needed glasses! It was also discovered that the bar didn't do food, so we decided to drink and go elsewhere. As we were about to leave, we stood, and disturbed a coachroach on the counter which the barman expertly squashed with my empty glass as it tried to scuttle away. Without batting an eyelid, he smiled and wished us a good evening and we left thankful that a menu had not been available. We may not have had a gastronomically delightful day, but at least our explorations had been successful!

Monday, December 7, 2009

First December Snow

On Saturday, Kota and I were laying in bed enjoying the sound of the rain against the windows and snuggling under warm covers and fleeces. It slowly dawned on me that the rain had turned to snow and was coming down thick and fast. I leaped out of bed, dressed quickly, pulled on boots, jacket and hat, grabbed my camera bag and headed out of the door, leaving Kota looking at me as if to say, 'Are you in your right mind?'
I didn't want to go too far as the roads were getting covered quickly so I drove to the Manassas Battlefields, paid my fee, grabbed a large umbrella and started trudging. The wind was very strong and my umbrella was almost vertical as I pushed against the force of the snow trying to keep my camera dry.

This image of Stonewall Jackson shows the angle of the snow. I was the only one there walking about and was glad nobody witnessed me trying to wrestle my umbrella and wield my camera. After a few shots, I tramped over towards some cannons. They looked wonderful under a large tree which due to the force of the wind was only half covered in snow.

There are a few blobs on the images of snowflakes which evaded my efforts to keep them off my lens. The wind blew through my jacket and fleece so I decided to seek sanctuary in my warm car and explore further afield. Some of the park area had already been closed off but I found a small track which led to the officers' offices. Driving slowly, I decided to observe from the car to find a shot rather than walk up and down. 
Because I was driving so slowly, I was lucky enough to catch this doe as she wandered through the woods. Further along the track, I noticed a small lake so grabbing the umbrella again, I left the car.

I came across this little winter wonderland and crouched down to shield myself a little better. Once I taken enough photos, I decided to call it a morning and headed back home for a hot chocolate. Kota was still sitting on the bed, and threw me a look which clearly said, 'I don't believe you sometimes.' Whatever, Kota!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

DC Roller Girls

A small group of us went down to DC Armory on Saturday afternoon to see a roller derby. This was my first experience of the sport and after reading about it in the Washington Post a while ago, I was excited to see it first hand. I was impressed that we could get so close to the circuit. As well as bleachers, there were chairs close to the ring and I was also able to sit on the floor feet away from the skaters as they passed.   
This mother held a sign for her daughter AKA Hoova Dayum, who as well as being a great pusher was also very fast.
The rules in a nutshell are points are collected by 'jammers' who are sprinting skaters. There is one on each side and four blockers who form a pack. So there are two jammers on the circuit trying to pass eight blockers. The blockers will obviously block the opponent jammer while trying to help their own jammer pass through the pack. A point is gained once the jammer passes through the pack. Each 'jam' or session lasts for two minutes or until the lead jammer calls off the jam. The team with the most points after two 30 minute periods wins the game. 

Each jam commences with the pack skating off at the first whistle and the two jammers behind starting on the second whistle. It's a fast and furious pace with many tumbles and much encouragement from the audience.

I loved this shot! It's obviously not a totally glamorous sport having to wear mouthguards!

This is Condoleezza Slice, featured in the above Washington Post article.
 I spent quite a lot of time sitting here on the floor which turned out to be a great location as I ended up having the whole Cherry Blossom Bombshells team sitting next to me, so my camera was clicking like crazy.

There were so friendly too and more than willing to let me have a photo with them.

Here they are on the edge of the circuit cheering their opposition as they're introduced. It's a very friendly sport and each player is introduced to the crowd as they do a lap.

This guy is an avid supporter of the Heavy Metal Hookers, a team from Philadelphia.

This was Condoleezza Slice and her Scareforce One team after the match, slapping hands with their opponents and anyone else who wanted to come to the sidelines and take part. Of course, I had to do that.
This was a brilliant afternoon out and I immensely enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and joviality of the teams. It seems to be a sport building rapidly in popularity, and now uses a flat track as apposed to the banked tracks from the 70's. There are now more than 400 flat track derby leagues worldwide.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Day in Frederick, MD

On Saturday, our Brit group visited Frederick, MD. We were meeting at Sugarloaf Mountain Winery, so I decided to drive the scenic route and enjoy the last vibrant leaves that were still clinging to the trees. Just before the brewery, I passed a small empty cottage which was surrounded by hundreds of homemade bird houses.

They were stacked outside the building, on both sides and stretched into the woods behind.

The guy who made these, Rick Keeney, had used all kinds of wood and artifacts to create them, even some vehicle plates as roofs. They were all for sale and a check could be dropped into a box by the door.
I got to the winery where a few of us were meeting and we got straight down to the tasting. I had a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve but could not be persuaded to buy a bottle.

After out tasting, we went straight to Frederick where we met with some others at Rose Hill Manor. Unfortunately we got there a little late and missed most of the house tour but we were given tickets so we could return at a later date to see what we missed.

The manor was built on land given by Thomas Jefferson to his daughter, Ann. When his wife died, he spent the rest of his life here with Ann's family.

We saw the outbuildings, including the blacksmiths and a wonderful carriage museum. We then went back into the town to have dinner, followed by a walk round the streets to try and work off our huge meals.

I was particularly keen to find the Community Bridge Mural painted by William Cochran, and as we strolled towards the canal, we came across another of his works, Earthbound, just off the main street. You had to get close up to realize it was not real, it looked so convincing. We then came to the Bridge where Cochran painted a completed concrete bridge in trompe l'oeil. 

The effect was astounding as we approached it and we twisted our heads every way to ascertain whether a painting was actually a carving.

Here are some of the paintings from the bridge. There were so many small hidden images painted within the 'stonework' that I could not photograph them all.

This bird bath looked very convincing from the other side of the canal and I heard that even some birds have been fooled and tried to land on the rim of the bird bath.

This painting, Archangel, is an anamorphic project which can only be seen correctly from a window in the adjacent art gallery. Cochran and his team started painting this bridge in 1993 and didn't finish until late 1998.

Close to the canal is the Frederick News building, also decorated with a trompe l'oeil image, but I was unable to identify who had painted it.
Frederick is a charming town and I want to return as I barely saw a fraction of it. I think some of us will go when the Christmas decorations are up.There are still art galleries, museums and craft shops to be visited. We spoke to some of the residents who adore their town and claim it as the best place to live as far as community life is concerned. During our short trip, I had no reason to disbelieve them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cool Things from the English Trip

The High Street of West Moors where Mum and Dad live. Greg and I spent a few late evenings in The Elephant and Castle pub. Some of these images are not very good quality because they were taken through a car window.

This is Louise who owns the Moorsvale Lodge B&B. The place is very comfortable and immaculate. I became friends with Louise and was very impressed when she emailed me back in the States to let me know she'd woofed a bag of Take 5's that I left behind and wanted more. You go, girl!

Her breakfasts were amazing. We had this every morning with toast and marmalade washed down with a pot of tea. I chuckle when I see this photo as Greg is sitting so patiently with his hands in his lap while I took the photo, when I know he was dying to tuck in!

Mum and I outside Moorvale Lodge.
A butcher and produce shop in the village. These are slowly disappearing as the larger grocery stores steal their business.

One of the beautiful houses in West Moors.

 A fun Beetle seen in Maidstone.

Boxley Road in Maidstone, where I shared a house after leaving home. The stone wall surrounds Maidstone Prison where the Kray Brothers were incarcerated.

St. Michael's Church in Maidstone where Greg and I were baptized.