Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Number Fifty-Three (Wow!)

Dear George,
Today is Katja’s and my 53rd wedding anniversary.  We got married in our early twenties, and, though we expected to be together forevermore, I don’t think either of us could envision being married for fifty plus years. In a short while we’ll be leaving for a trip to Dayton to the Art Institute to see Andy Warhol’s “Athletes” exhibition.  Dayton is a fitting anniversary destination because we had our one-night honeymoon there after getting married in Yellow Springs.  Afterwards we’ll probably come back to Cincinnati, walk the dogs, and take in a movie (maybe Elysium) at the new 17-screen cineplex in Oakley.

Wedding anniversaries seem a lot like birthdays to me.  They’re pleasant and notable annual occasions, but it’s a little scary how quickly they accumulate. My parents celebrated 53 anniversaries during their lives together; Katja’s parents 63.  So now we’re getting right up there with the oldies.  I guess the best mindset is to reflect on all those years of shared experiences, careers completed, children and grandchildren, loving family members, a lifetime of good friendships, our home and community.  We’ve plenty to be grateful for and are looking forward to lots of good times to come.  Now we’re off to see if Andy Warhol agrees that life is one giant fiesta.   

G-mail Comments
-Phyllis S-S (8-29): Dave,  How was the Warhol show?  Again, congratulations.  Phyllis
-Linda C (8-29): And hope you have many  many more. Love Linda
-Gayle C-L (8-28): Congrats!!  Happy Anniversary!   Great photo!   I hope you both had a great night ..  Keep them coming ::)   Love   G
-Vicki L (8-28): Good for you! You're shakers and movers. Have a great time. Love, Vicki

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Blazing Serves and Fresh Lemonade

Dear George,
Thanks to gifts of tickets from our tennis-loving friends, Paula D., Frank C., and Tom J., Katja and I spent three afternoons at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament in nearby Mason last week.  This world-class event just gets bigger every year.  It’s one of nine elite Masters 1000 tournaments on the men’s ATP World Tour and one of five Premier 5 tournaments on the women’s WTA Tour.   This year the draws included the top 44 men in the world and 44 of the top 46 women.  After a six-month injury layoff preceding this summer Rafael Nadal won the men’s title (prize money, $583,800), and second seed Victoria Azarenko was the woman’s champion ($426,000). 

Also known as the Cincinnati Masters, this is the oldest tennis tournament in the country that has been continually played in its original city.  It began in 1899 as the Cincinnati Open, held on the clay courts of the Avondale Athletic Club (now on the site of Xavier University’s campus).  In 1903 the tournament (subsequently named the Tri-State, the Western, and the ATP Championships) was moved to the Cincinnati Tennis Club and continued there until 1972.  After stints at the Cincinnati Convention Center and the Coney Island Amusement Park, a new tennis center was built in suburban Mason, and the tournament moved there in 1979.  The Lindner Family Tennis Center now has four permanent stadiums, the only tennis facility in the world, aside from the four grand slams, to have more than two stadiums.

I’ve been going to the Cincinnati tournament since the late 1960’s when my friend Clyde M. would organize pro tennis outings of grad students and faculty.  In those early days tournament winners included Ken Rosewall, Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors, and Ilie Nastase.  A daytime pass for the entire week in 1970 cost $10, about the price I paid for an order of fish and chips last week.  When our son J started playing in Cincinnati junior tennis tournaments in 1980, we became tournament regulars at Mason as did other local tennis families, cheering for John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander, and Stefan Edberg.  Since the tournament’s beginning in 1899 Roger Federer has won the most singles titles (5); Cincinnati’s Bill Talbert appeared in the most singles finals (7); and Bobby Riggs is one of the very few players who won three consecutive singles titles. 

We saw some wonderful players this year: Venus and Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdytch, Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Richard Gasquet.  John Isner, a 6-foot 10-inch American ranked No. 22 in the world, was the story of the tournament.  Isner, who’s currently the highest ranking American on the ATP tour, defeated No. 1 seed (Djokovic), No. 7 seed (Del Potro), 8th seed (Gasquet), and 11th seed  (Milos Raonic), before falling in the finals to Rafael Nadal, 7-6, 7-6.  Isner has a gigantic serve, the most powerful on the tour, and Nadal eked out a narrow victory without breaking Isner’s serve a single time.  We watched the men’s and women’s finals on TV, and both were tight, tense matches.  Azarenko won a close match against Serena Williams in three sets, decided by one or two points here and there.

Our weather was perfect, mostly highs in the mid-seventies.  We feasted on pretzels, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and spicy vegetarian wraps.  The crowd was festive and ritzier than our neighborhood grocery store or the public park down the street – leaner, blonder, more athletic looking, younger, and fashionably dressed.  Lots of tennis-playing teenagers with their team affiliations proudly displayed.  Katja bought us Western & Southern Open T-shirts, as well as a black Roger Federer cap for herself.  You’d have to say we look like tennis aficionados.  The legend on one woman’s hat proclaimed, “Life is Good!”  That pretty much sums up the scene.  Now we’re getting geared up for the U.S. Open which starts on TV tomorrow.  In the meantime, here are a few pics from the Western & Southern.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Zoo Flora

Dear George,
People talk so often about the “Cincinnati Zoo” that we usually forget that its full name is the “Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.”  While the zoo is home to over 500 animal species, it’s also home to over 3,000 plant species.  It’s one of only two accredited botanical gardens in Ohio, and it’s the only facility of its kind in the world to do research on both endangered animals and endangered plants.  Various zoo areas simulate tropical rainforests, Florida swamps, an African savanna, and the native eastern woodlands. Specialty display gardens include the Butterfly Garden, the Food Garden (e.g., coffee, banana, and chocolate trees), the African Violet Display, the Rain Garden, and the Native Plant Garden. I was taking pictures the other day when a zoo volunteer walked by and asked me what I was photographing.  “The zoo flora,” I replied.  “Oh,” she said, “I knew I didn’t see an animal there.”  Most customers take photos of the animals and/or their children, but the plants deserve their attention too.  Here are just a few of the many beauties.

G-Mail Comments
Linda C (8-20): David, I wish you would enter these to be published . I don't think I've seen a more beautiful group of flora ever. Just beautiful.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Breezing Through the Dog Days of Summer

Dear George,
As everyone knows, we’re smack in the midst of the dog days of summer.  The ancient Romans classified July 24 to August 24 as the dog days.*  They believed the sultry weather was due to the ascendance in the morning sky of Sirius, the Dog Star, and they sacrificed red dogs in the spring in the hope that that might appease Sirius's rage.  The conviction that the summer dog days are an evil time has continued over the centuries in many cultures.  According to John Brady's Clavis Calendaria (1813), "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies." 

We’re definitely going through the dog days here in Cincinnati.  Though we're not near enough to the ocean to check whether the surf is boiling, almost everything else is in a state of chaos.  At our house the disruptive effects of the dog days became obvious a couple of weeks ago when I tried to open our motorized garage door and nothing happened.  I got a stepladder to climb through the garage’s rear window and check on the problem.  However, there was about a seven foot drop from the window to the garage floor, too high for a comfortable jump.  I’d left a second stepladder inside the garage near the window, but it was trapped behind a 4-foot by six-foot piece of heavy plywood.  To get access to the ladder, I pushed the big piece of plywood over onto the garage floor.  However, I hadn’t noticed that our tempered glass patio tabletop was leaning against the plywood.  The glass hit the floor and shattered into a zillion pieces. Horrified at what I’d done, I gritted my teeth and climbed through the window. I looked the garage door over, jiggled it a few times, then went back out and tried the on-off switch again.  No luck.  I called the garage door company in Kansas City, but, after forty minutes of telephone troubleshooting, we were unable to solve the problem, and the consultant said I would need to get some local help.  Katja was perturbed when I told her about the glass tabletop since she’d bought the patio set from the most expensive furniture store in town.  I checked on the Internet.  It would cost $350 to replace the glass top.  Within seconds I lapsed into a painful case of the phrensies.   

By coincidence our handyman, Nat, showed up the next morning to finish painting the patio deck.  He took a look at the garage door motor and concluded that there was something amiss with the electrical line that ran from the house to the garage.  Nat shook his head and said it looked pretty bad (since the line went underneath our paved patio).  He recommended an electrician friend of his to check out the problem – a good Christian man like Nat, fair, honest, reliable, and inexpensive.  Hmm, I nodded, but held off on a clear commitment.  Katja asked Nat to look at a drainspout problem, and, as he did that, he determined that some tiles had come off from our roof near the chimney.  Katja asked him to go ahead and fix that as well.  Later in the day Katja mentioned to a friend what an expensive day it had been.  When she mentioned the specific amount of the bill, I nearly fainted.  Basically Nat had charged us about eight hundred dollars an hour for his morning’s worth of work.  We might as well have been robbed.  I already had a case of the phrensies; now I was being overcome by hysteria as well.

It was Saturday, and, emotionally exhausted, we decided to just stay home and have a quiet night of TV.  When we tried to tune into an HBO movie, however, we discovered that none of our “on demand” premium movie channels were functioning.  We’d just switched cable providers two months before, and, when I called, our new company scheduled a technician visit for a mere five days later.  The cable guy found that they’d used the old original cables in installing their new system, and the cables were defective.  He replaced them, and the TV started running again.  A couple of days later the cable company made a “courtesy call” to see how things were going.  I calmly explained that this had been the fourth service call we’d needed in two months, we’d also had to get remote technical help from the company an additional three or four times, and I’d rebooted it myself a couple of times.  I didn’t say it explicitly, but our supposedly state-of-the-art new technology had been a nightmare.  I asked the guy on the telephone if our high frequency of problems was abnormal.  “Oh no,” he said.  “Your problems are actually quite low.   Some of our accounts need four or five times as many service calls as you.”  Hardly reassured, I asked if they were likely to iron out the bugs in our new installation.  “That’s hard to say,” he said.  “You’ll have to wait and see.”  He didn’t seem the slightest bit worried.  I wondered if the dog days were making me overly hyper.

About the same time our sheepdog Mike started developing a pronounced limp.  The dogs are getting older (11.3 years), and they’re creakier than they used to be. Recently, though, I’ve had people shouting from their car windows to ask why my dog is limping so badly.  We took Mike to the vet who diagnosed it as an arthritis problem and prescribed a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug.  We started last night and hope it will help, but the dogs’ aging problems weigh on our hearts.  Their infirmities are more disturbing than the combined effects of broken table tops, nonfunctioning garage doors, being cheated, and erratic cable TV.  This summer’s difficult dog days are literally difficult dog days.   

I myself hadn’t yet suffered any “burning fevers” from the dog days of summer until I went in for my semi-annual blood test to check the effects of my cholesterol medication.  According to the test, my liver and cholesterol were in fine shape, but the doctor said that my blood sugar was high.  My blood sugar has been on the high side as long as I can remember, but now he said it was creeping into the “pre-diabetic” range.  I didn’t like that idea at all.  He prescribed some test strips that I could use for self-monitoring and asked if I would like to meet with a dietician.  I made an appointment, and Katja came along.  It was interesting and helpful.  The dietician said my diet was very good already, but she had suggestions for “tweaking” it.  As a result, my already Spartan diet is now more enjoyable because I’ve added stuff like almonds, cottage cheese, hummus, black beans, sliced turkey, lots of berries, etc.  Though I still have a ways to go, I’ve shed some pounds and my blood sugar seems to be gradually dropping.  All this gives me an excellent new life project, allowing me to keep daily lists (i.e., food diary, blood sugar readings, weight), strive for easily quantifiable goals, and track my progress.  Energized by a new mission, I’m optimistic that all this good health activity will sustain me through the remaining dog days of summer.
*, "Dog Days"