Monday, April 29, 2013

A Day of "Making Nice" and ARGO

Yesterday I was at church from early morning until late afternoon. Our brief Sunday morning choir practice began earlier than usual, at 9:15. After church, I helped set up Wyatt Hall for a funeral reception and attended the 2 PM funeral for a dear woman who actually practiced what we promise in our Baptismal Covenant--"to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself." I had known she was a retired librarian,  but had not known that her library was at Northern Virginia Community College, which would have entailed a one-way commute of nearly an hour. Co-workers and women she had encouraged to complete their educations traveled some distance on a beautiful April Sunday afternoon to say good-bye, but I am not surprised. Rebecca was a loving woman. 

The parishioners brought way too much food for the reception afterwards. At the end of the day, we boxed up the leftovers and took them to Reality House, a half-way house for folks in recovery, which is just down the street from us. "Thank you, Jesus!" said one of the residents as she helped carry the cut-up vegetables, tea sandwiches and cake into the house.

After acting more sociable than I actually am for more than eight hours, I was ready to turn off the phone and raise the drawbridge. That evening we--husband, pit-bull and cat-- watched ARGO, a thoroughly enjoyable cliff-hanger. "Get that plane up in the air!" I fretted, as the story moved toward its climax. Would the six American diplomats, who were impersonating Canadian film makers, manage to elude the clutches of the Iranians, who were holding the other American diplomats hostage after the embassy take-over in 1979? Glitches in the carefully-crafted escape plan kept popping up, escalating my anxiety. In addition to suspense, the film displayed an impressive array of engaging characters: fusty government bureaucrats, irreverent Hollywood types, and a brilliant CIA operative, a good guy for once. The success of his mission depended on winning the complete trust of all six Americans, which he appeared to do, with one persnickety exception.

Tory if you're reading this, I have a question for you. (Tory, who blogs at, is from Toronto.) Ben Affleck, whose speciality as a CIA operative" was getting people out," put the six Americans through a crash course on their new Canadian identities, including correcting their accents. I expected him to work on the pronunciation of "about" or "house," but instead he cautioned the woman who was supposed to be from Toronto not to call it "ToronTO."   Natives call it  "Torono," he said. Tory, is this true?  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


One week ago today, I heard Mabel (Margaret and Michael's dog, who was at our house for doggie day care) barking like crazy. When I went to let her in, I saw a low-burning fire all along our back fence. It seemed to be in the neighbor's yard, which was filled with billowing white smoke. Next thing I know, the  fire looked like it was on our side of the fence, licking at the base of a tree. (It was! We were left with a patch of scorched ground and trees after the fire was out.) I called 911. Then I went outside. The fire department was already there. I wasn't the only one to dial 911.

The neighbor was already telling his story to the fire investigator. He claimed he'd started raking leaves after getting home from work and that the first he knew of the fire was when he heard it crackling. A case of spontaneous combustion, according to him. My first thought was that he'd been burning leaves and had lost control of the fire. He seemed to be suggesting that it started in both our yards simultaneously, but most of the burn was on his side of the fence. Actually, before I even came out of our house, I'd seen a big flare-up on his side of the fence near his pile of leaves. The fire investigator wasn't exactly buying his story. He took me aside and questioned me about mischievous kids, neighborhood vendettas, etc. Meanwhile, a Pauline Bunyan of a fire woman, with a huge ax, was chopping up a smoldering woodpile along the fence of a third neighbor.

Phil was away at the time. When he got home, he said he'd seen the neighbor burning stuff in his back yard five or six times recently. He says he complained to me about it, but I must have tuned him out. Otherwise, I would have told the fire investigator. The investigator had left his card, so Phil called him.  The house in question used to be a group home and we'd thought it still was, but the leaf-burner is apparently the new owner and has been living there since last summer. The fire investigator thanked Phil for the new information and said he'd go have a little chat with the neighbor about Rule # One: It is illegal to set an open fire in our county. In fact, the county had just issued a "red flag" alert that very day, which meant no fires of any kind due to dry conditions.