Ah, what a splendid day! Thanks to the generosity of my girlfriend’s ex-husband (who lent us his pickup) and my late wife’s sister (who provided both physical labor and an SUV she loaded with “stuff”), we got a tremendous amount done yesterday. Though there is much, much, MUCH more to do, we will use yesterday as a propellant for further efforts. The deck on the old house is virtually empty now and the garage is looking more like a garage and less like a staging area for a move.

After all the physical exertion, it was only fitting to end the day with a relaxing celebration. And celebrate we did! Gin martinis. Several gin martinis. I did not keep count, though I probably should have done. But how could I keep count while riveted to the television, watching Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night?

The Cinemax television special was filmed in 1987 at what was then the Ambassador Hotel‘s Coconut Grove nightclub. We commented during the program that many of our favorite musicians were on stage with Orbison. Our observations were verified by Wikipedia, which notes:

The backing band was the TCB Band, which accompanied Elvis Presley from 1969 until his death in 1977: Glen Hardin on piano, James Burton on lead guitar, Jerry Scheff on bass, and Ronnie Tutt on drums. Male background vocalists, some of whom also joined in on guitar, electric organ and keyboards were Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther and Steven Soles. The female background vocalists were k.d. lang, Jennifer Warnes, and Bonnie Raitt.


Speaking of Bonnie Raitt, we have tickets to see and hear her perform, along with Lucinda Williams, in Little Rock in two weeks, just a few days before the sale of my house is scheduled to close.

I have never been a fan of concerts, mostly because I loathe crowds and the chaos involved in finding a place to park at the outset. And I despise the post-show scramble and nerve-wracking traffic jams caused by concert-goers spilling out of the venue.  But we will not face those ugly elements of concert-going. We will stay arrive in Little Rock several hours before the concert begins, checking in to a hotel very near the music venue. After a leisurely dinner somewhere close by, we will walk to the concert hall. Following the show, we will walk back to the hotel. The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we will saunter back to Hot Springs Village. Assuming one can saunter while driving an automobile. I feel sure one can. As a young man (and even into early decrepitude), I was unwilling to part with the money involved in making concert-going such an easy-going activity. Now, though, I am willing to spend the money as part of the investment in entertainment. What I remain unwilling to do is to participate in the chaos of concert-going; if I cannot bypass that misery, I will happily forego the experience.  Such is the privilege of age and the attitude of “you can’t take it with you.”


And while my mind is on gin martinis…a good gin martini, followed by several more good gin martinis, is a beautiful luxury. Imbibing a nice, cold gin martini (with three big green olives) is a decadence I find absolutely compelling. Ideally, I would mix a quart of gin with about six ounces of dry vermouth and shake the mixture ferociously in a container filled with ice-cold stainless steel chilling stones. Then, I would pour the mixture into an ice-cold container fitted with a pour spout; that container would go into the freezer. Then, I would place several martini glasses in the freezer. Every time a person in my proximity wanted a gin martini, I would simply stab three big olives (which I would keep in a jar in the refrigerator), place the speared olives in glass I retrieved from the freezer, place the glass under the martini container, and turn the spigot on the spout. Presto! Instant martini!

Because I do not have space for all these instruments of intoxication, I will be satisfied with occasionally preparing a much smaller number of gin martinis the old-fashioned way. Actually, until last night, I think I had gone a year or two (or more) without a gin martini. It is possible to survive for long periods of time without gin martinis. I am living proof.


“Feast your eyes on…” On whatever one finds visually pleasing. But staring at something (but especially someone) one finds visually pleasing or just simply interesting often is considered rude. Or worse. For example, I find many women very attractive. And though I am thoroughly heterosexual, I find some men sufficiently handsome to warrant an envious stare. But most people seem to find being stared out offensive. So, even though I might want to “feast my eyes” on an attractive woman or a handsome man, I try to conceal my staring by modifying my behavior; turning a single stare into multiple furtive glances. I mention my heterosexuality when discussing the visual appeal of handsome men because it is relevant in the larger scope of the conversation. Meaning, just like staring at handsome men has nothing to do with sex with them, staring at attractive women is not a precursor to attempted seduction.

Women are not going to be equal outside the home until men are equal in it.

~ Gloria Steinem ~

I consider human beings sentient forms of art. And just like I find paintings and sculptures and all sorts of other artistic expressions sufficiently intriguing to stare at, I often find people similarly attractive. But society has taught us not to express our admiration of the art of the human form in the same way we express that admiration for inanimate objects. Yet we are encouraged to stare at some animate objects; zoos are created for that very purpose. And, I suppose, so are strip clubs. But it’s not quite the same, is it? I wish I could feel as comfortable in a restaurant or a grocery store or in church staring at a person as when I stare at an elephant in a zoo. “But people are not animals!” Oh, yes we are. But I am not the kind of animal you might think I am, after reading that I want to stare at beautiful women and handsome men. If you find me staring at you, my gaze fixed on you with unnerving intensity, you need not worry that I am planning anything untoward. It’s just that I find your human form compelling. But that assurance doesn’t give you much comfort, does it? No, socialization engrains in us an automatic skepticism of words that conflict with what we have been taught. So each of us must be satisfied with furtive glances. Or be labeled a potentially dangerous deviant. That’s a cheery thought on a cool Sunday morning, isn’t it?

This issue makes me think of another common phrase: “A sight for sore eyes.” I wonder whether, when one’s eyes are sore, a feast might sooth them? 😉


This morning’s insight service at church will feature a presentation by a Buddhist. The title of his talk is “Suffering, Zen, and Cultivating a Don’t-Know Mind.” I find Buddhism intriguing, so I look forward to hearing his presentation. I was looking forward to participating in his post-presentation conversation, but that normal feature of insight services was scrapped in favor of what is being called a “Potluck Ladies’ Day Lunch.” This event replaces the “Mother’s Day” event that had been held in the past, but it essentially replicates it. Both events call for the men in the congregation to serve the women lunch and to clean up afterward…a nod to the fact that women usually are expected to both serve and clean up after men. I suppose some people might think a once-a-year role reversal is sufficient acknowledgement of offensive expectations based on gender. I don’t. I would rather have a discussion with a Buddhist and arrange for another insight service to discuss how we might work toward dismantling gender stereotypes. Oh, well. That will be a conversation with the church board and/or program committee at another time. Soon.


Stereotypes are fast and easy, but they are lies, and the truth takes its time.

   ~ Deb Calleti ~


It is just after 6 and the day is dawning. I’ve put in two hours of “work” so far this morning, so it’s time for another cup of coffee and a quick shower and shave. After church, I’ll put in another kind of work, the kind that will make my time in the shower a waste. I will be dirty and sweaty and in need of yet another shower. One of the outcomes of moving from one house to another is a higher-than-average water bill.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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