Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Ride: You mean the hike?

What to do the morning after your neighborhood is socked by a derecho?  Go on a long bike ride, of course.  Because what better way to express solidarity with your 1.5 million neighbors who are struggling without power than to venture forth into the heat and humidity with a bike and a couple of bottles of fast-warming Gatorade (knowing full well that you'll be able to come home to a cool apartment and fully functioning fridge)? 

The heat and humidity weren't actually that bad.  The night's tempest had dramatically reduced the temperature and cleared the air.  In fact, as far as the air was concerned, riding conditions couldn't have been better.

The situation on the ground, however, was a totally different story.  I had expected some storm debris; what I found looked more like Armageddon.  The path was blocked by one fallen tree.

Then another.

And then by what appeared to be an entire fallen forest.

At which point I realized that going for a "ride" may have been the wrong goal.  Instead, I felt more like a hero in a mash-up between a natural disaster movie and a comic book movie -- here I was, masked and helmeted in a bright spandex suit, wading undaunted through the wreckage of my world with a bike slung over my shoulder like a superpower. 

Unfortunately, a bicycle on one's shoulder is not actually a superpower.  And those silly bike shoes made tromping over the woods less fun than it could have been.  So when I'd gone about a hundred yards in my post-apocalyptic superhero mode and the path ahead still looked like this . . . 

. . . I decided to abandon that narrative and go back to my Saturday morning bike ride.  I crashed through the underbrush until I got to the neighborhood on the other side and continued my ride through the tamer residential neighborhoods of northern Virginia, rejoining the trail some miles later where the storm hadn't it it quite so hard. 


Last night the DC region was hit by a whopper of a thunderstorm. Amanda and I had turned in early (around 10pm) thinking we'd get some rest after a tiring week and be ready for an early start in the morning. Half an our later we were roused from our descent into slumber by what sounded like a freight train blasting past the apartment. We rushed outside and witnessed the most violent windstorm I've ever seen. It ripped through the alleys between the high-rise apartment buildings with enough gravel to sand-blast the paint off the facades and transform my eyeballs into unhappy sandboxes. The sandstorm was only the prologue, however: About four minutes later, the deluge hit with a full battery of thunder and lightning. The power went out. We were soaked. It was awesome. A fitting end to the hottest day in DC in something like 150 years.

Naturally we watched until the tempest subsided into an ordinary summer rainstorm and the power came back on. We reset the clocks and went back to bed.

Next morning, while munching on a quick pre-ride bowl of oatmeal, I scanned the front page of the Washington Post. Turns out the storm was not just any old summer downpour: Five people were dead, 1.5 million had no electricity, hundreds of trees downed everywhere. Whoah. 

In fact, this was a special kind of thunderstorm.  According to The Washington Post, "this kind of fast-moving, long-lived, large, and violent thunderstorm complex is known as a derecho."  More facts about derechos can be found here and, about our derecho in particular, here.  Apparently the defining characteristic of a derecho is the severe "straight-line" wind combined with thunderstorm squalls.  Ours formed in Indiana and blasted its way to DC in about 10 hours.  For all the hype last year about Hurricane Irene, this was way worse.

We were fortunate to have made it through the storm relatively unscathed.  Over the course of the day yesterday (and through the weekend), we discovered that many other people were not so lucky.  Trees were down everywhere.

Next door to the church
The Post has more photos of the destruction here.

Most businesses in the region were closed due to power outages, and those that had backup generators generally had no Internet connection and so could not process credit cards.  This made running errands difficult; we took to calling ahead before going anywhere.  It also complicated Saturday-evening plans for dinner and a movie.  The crowds seeking refuge from the heat meant that the theaters were sold out, and the waiting lines to get into the few restaurants with power were much longer than ordinary.  We managed nevertheless to get a table at Southside 815 in Alexandria and catch a late showing of Brave before coming home with a newfound thankfulness for the blessing of electricity, air conditioning and food refrigeration.

Buiscuits and corn bread,
with peach-pepper jelly and apple butter
Pork chops with onions, green beans, yams and mashed potatoes

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day at the beach: Assateague Island

Nothing says "summer" quite like a day at the beach.  As we move out of the lovely spring coolness and living in Washington starts to feel like camping inside a dog's mouth, the beach beckons with its breezes, gentle waves, and hours of sun.  That said, the beaches here are all at least three hours away by car, so going to the beach isn't something you just do at the drop of a hat -- there's usually some other planning involved.

This weekend, that "other planning" came in the form of an invitation to join some friends in celebrating the six-month birthday of their new baby.  They proposed a weekend camping trip to the national park on Assateague Island on the Atlantic shore of Maryland.  While sleeping in heat and humidity with a brand new baby, hordes of mosquitoes, and sand everywhere may have its charm for some people, I counter-proposed that Amanda and I would come for the day, to enjoy the beach and a dinner barbecue.

We got to the beach around 11:30am and found it delightfully deserted.

our spot
to the south
to the north
We quickly unfurled our blankets, set up our lawn chairs, and set about the serious business of sunning ourselves.

Amanda, moi, Amy
I had planned to be productive while sitting on the beach.  With the latest issues of Elle Decor, The New Yorker, Details, and Foreign Affairs in my tote, I had a lot to get through!  But such is the lull of sun and waves that I soon gave up and took a nap.

Until a hue and a cry from our neighbors alerted us to the presence of wild horses on the beach.  That's right -- as anyone who read Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague and Sea Star knows, Assateague Island is home to bands of wild ponies that roam freely on the island.  The origin of these horses is somewhat obscure.  The romantic version is that a Spanish galleon ran aground and the horses swam ashore.  An alternate version claims that property taxes in the early colonies were based on the amount of fenced-in land you owned, so if you could stick your livestock on islands and let the water do the fencing, then you could avoid some taxes.  However they got here, the horses are a fact of life on Assateague Island.  (We were warned, however, not to go near them, and handed very scary pamphlets with images of victims of pony mawlings -- ponies, apparently, are akin to mountain lions in their ferocity.)

As the sun began to set, we packed our blankets and lawn chairs back to the campsite and set up our barbecue.  We brought sausages from the German bakery, as well as some jalapeno poppers that Amanda had made the day before (consisting of jalapeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon).  Stacy and Eric (the baby owners) contributed a different type of sausage, zucchini, and corn on the cob.  Amy brought 'smores.  It was all delicious, with the added zest of campfire cooking after a long day outdoors that made it all the better.

At one point Stacy went out to get some water from the pump.  When she returned she said, "You know how sometimes you go camping and you walk by other people's campsites and think, 'Man, they really have it together! I want to join that party--look how much fun they're having!'?  Well, that's what our campsite looks like."  And she was right.  Despite some minor difficulties with the charcoal briquettes and the overhead tarp (and some anxieties about the baby's first encounter with the wilderness), it was a great little party.

Once we'd polished off our 'smores, Amanda and I bid farewell to the others and headed off into the sunset, back to civilization (aka, air conditioning and hot showers!). 

Sunset from the campsite

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Weekend

I learned a long time ago that so much of leading an interesting life lies in how you tell the story rather than what you actually do.  On my mission, in particular, I remember listening to a companion of mine tell someone about a day that had seemed totally ordinary and unremarkable to me -- his account was perfectly accurate, but his manner of telling the tale and his observation of detail/humor/irony in even the most mundane elements made it compelling. 

Since then I've paid a lot more attention to storytelling, and it's made my experience -- and my retelling -- of "ordinary" days all the richer because I'm looking for the story (and sometimes humming the soundtrack).  Ocassionally, though, the opposite happens:  I'll actually be doing lots of interesting things but, because I'm too busy or stressed or tired or focused on work or the painful, massive bruise on my rear-end, my storytelling sensors are dulled and everything becomes bland. 

That's where I am right now.  I haven't posted for a while, and my inclination is to say, "Well, that's because nothing interesting has happened for a while. Just boring regular life."  Only that's not true -- in the past four days, many things have happened that were plenty interesting and ordinarily would provide fodder for good stories.  For example:
  • On Thursday Amanda arrived from Denver to spend a few weeks with me before heading out to Spain.
  • On Friday, we went to the Smithsonian's "Jazz in the Park" concert in the National Gallery of Art's sculpture garden, where we met up with a group of my friends from Kennedy Center days to bid farewell to Mark before he goes to Afganistan for a year with USAID.
  • Also on Friday, after the concert, we saw the Shakespeare Theatre Company's new production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which was not good at all (neither the play itself nor the performance) and left both of us wishing we'd left at intermission.
  • On Saturday, after my bike ride, we ate bauernwurst and sauerkraut at the German bakery and went to a garden party at the house of the managing partner of my firm, where we hobnobbed with firm bigwigs (whose notion of "very casual" meant cocktail dresses and sportcoats) and a bunch of new summer associates.
  • On Sunday, after church, we went to a dinner party at the apartment of some friends from the ward, some of whom I knew well and liked, others of whom I knew less well but also liked and appreciated the chance to know better.
So there's plenty of fun stuff going on.  The downside is that I've spent all of the time in between those activities working on some big projects for work (and focusing on the pain in my rump -- pain has a strange way of focusing one's attention and sobering an otherwise light mood).  One of the big work projects is due tomorrow so, assuming I manage to get it done (fingers crossed), things should lighten up later in the week.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Ride: Perfect Weather

Lest you think that "cycling" is just a scheme for hurtling about on a metal contraption through a series of crashesbloody legs and general misanthropy, I would like to say that I just finished a fifty-mile ride through northern Virginia without a single incident -- I did not crash, cut myself or even hate anyone.  The weather was perfect (sunny, upper sixties, low humidity), the biker/runner traffic virtually nonexistent, and I felt great. 

Thanks to my newfound skills at bandaging my bruised and scraped left bum (I'm practically Florence Nightengale now), my injury from earlier in the week didn't bother me at all.  In fact, it hurts much less to be wearing bike shorts and sitting on a bike than it does to be sitting in a chair or walking around in ordinary clothes.

And I've made some progress in the fueling department.  In addition to my rations of Shot Bloks that I eat periodically, I've changed out my water in favor of Gatorade.  Having those additional calories and electrolytes made an enormous difference today in my endurance.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Ride: Physics Experiment

Based on the chart below, can you guess what happened at approximately two miles into my ride this morning?

That's right, I learned that you can use your left buttock as a break pad to go from 35mph to a full stop.  So now I can cross that off the list of things to try. 

I can also cross off figuring out how to apply neosporin to a hamburgery goose-egg the size of my palm with minimal pain.  (Hint: spread it on a plate first, then lay a gauze bandage in it to soak it up before applying to the skin.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Teya's Texts

One of the things that I love most in the world is when Ashley or Heather tells me about how their kids think or talk of me when I'm not around.  Sometimes they tell me over the phone, but more often I'll just get a text during the day letting me know how "Uncle Jason" came up that day. 

I should have started writing them down ages ago -- and it's too late to go back and get the messages that were saved on my old phone.  But here are the most recent notes about things that Teya has said while playing:

April 16, 2012, 6:44 PM

Teya singing at the table (avoiding eating broccoli...) "Uncle Jason, Uncle Mark, Uncle Dad, Uncle Heather, Uncle Brynn, Uncle Teya . . . .  How about Uncle Jordan!"

May 30, 2012, 11:15 AM

Teya found a pair of glasses that apparently look like yours . . . She keeps holding them out, saying, "Come get your glasses Uncle Jason! Come get them when you get home from work!"

May 31, 2012, 1:18 PM
[After receiving a package I'd sent with stuffed animals that I'd bought for the kids when I was in Guatemala earlier this year]

Teya has finally figured out what "present" means . . . . She was so excited!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Watergate at Forty

This week is the fortieth anniversary of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon.  As you might expect, Washington is abuzz and the Washington Post (whose reporters famously cracked the story) has compiled quite an array of current and archival materials analyzing the events and their impact on American politics.  The Post also hosted a fancy event in the Watergate office building itself, where a handful of the key players were given a chance to talk about it all.  Thanks to my friends at the newspaper, I was invited to attend. 

Entrance to the Watergate office building
Hallway to the room where the
burglers were caught
Cocktail reception on the top floor
(the room later filled up completely)
The program
The program had an impressive line-up:
  • Jim Lehrer gave the opening remarks. 
  • The first panel focused on the investigation and cover-up.  The panelists were John Dean (White House counsel to Nixon), Fred Thompson (chief minority counsel, Senate Watergate Committee), Richard Ben-Veniste (special prosecutor during Watergate).
  • The second panel focused on the legacy of Watergate.  The panelists were William Cohen (member of House Judiciary Committee during Watergate), William F. Weld (associate minority counsel, House Watergate Committee), and Bud Krogh Jr (co-director, White House Special Investigations Unite).
  • The third panel focused on the reporters.  The panelists, not surprisingly, were the reporters:  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and their conversation was moderated by Charlie Rose.
I couldn't stay for the entire program, so unfortunately I missed the second two panels (which were the ones that were most interesting to me).  But even so, I learned a lot about the events surrounding the scandal that I hadn't known before.  And it was neat to be in the same room with all those key players, just a few floors up from where it all began.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Ride: Approaching 100

I did two rides this weekend:  One early-ish yesterday morning, when the weather was perfect; another this afternoon after church, when the weather was horribly hot and humid.  Each ride was a little over 47 miles, so my total weekend mileage was about 95 miles.  Fortunately, the cramping from last week didn't return.  And the gash in my leg has healed enough that I didn't need to keep it bandaged during the ride.

Some observations:

First, an early-ish start on a Saturday morning when the temperature is cool and the humidity low is not the same as an early start.  When I'm on the road before 7am, the other bike traffic is manageable.  If I start at 8am, however, I find myself in traffic jams like this one where we were waiting for the light to change so we could cross the intersection (and there were more bikers behind me):

Second, I need to learn how to fuel better.  The sport beans and gummies that I eat are great for medium-distance rides, but on long rides -- especially when the heat is high -- I think I need something more substantial.  Today's ride started very strong because I had pasta for lunch, but by the end I was completely drained, and no amount of glorified jelly beans was going to fix it.

Third, note the clump of Pickerel rushes gracing the banks of this golf-course lake.  I've got the same thing in my water garden.  (Also water lilies, but mine are way smaller than those.)

Fourth, I most definitely need to revisit the bike seat section of the bike store.  You're not getting any pictures of this one (obvi) -- let's just acknowledge that chafing is not our friend.

Errand Impediments

DC is a city that loves (LOVES) traffic-disrupting, high-crowd events.  It makes for a vibrant city; there's almost always something going on during any given weekend.  But it also makes for surprises when yours truly forgets to check the happenings calendar before driving into town. 

For example, yesterday I needed to drop off some dress-shoes for resoling at the shoe shop.  So I headed downtown and found myself in a sea of Girl Scouts and their leaders.  They were everywhere.  Turns out, this weekend was the Girl Scout National Jamboree, so there were literally 250,000 Girl Scouts swarming across the National Mall and throughout the downtown area.  It was an astonishing sight (both for the numbers and colors, but also for the size of the bodies in those shirts -- no way could you look at that crowd and not think that we have an obesity problem in this country).

I missed the best photo ops because I was driving, but the crowds were still heavy once I got into the metro station (I decided to park because all the charter buses, plus the flocks of women/girls in streets, made driving insane).
Entering the metro
Scrambling to get on the train
When I got out of the metro I found myself in quite a different sort of crowd.  Lo and behold, the Gay Pride parade was wending its way through the city.  (No obesity problem here.)  Reminded me of the last time I'd encountered the DC Pride parade -- that was back in 2002, when I was a naive intern who just wanted to get to the bus stop that would take me to the Carter Barron amphitheatre so I could see a production of Two Gentleman of Verona; natch the bus stop was on the other side of the parade route.

I made my way through the crowd to the shoe store, deposited the shoes for the work-up (mission accomplished!), and then met up with one of my friends who lives in the area for a dinner of enchiladas at Lauriol Plaza (which I had also not been to since 2002).  The food is tasty but nothing special, but I was too hungry to go hunting for some other place.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

tUnE-yArDs and Mariachi at the 9:30 Club

Still playing catch-up from last weekend:  After the gardening, the art show, and a great conversation with Lady, I met up with Amy for a concert at the 9:30 Club.  It's arguably the best place in DC for live concerts of the non-classical sort.  They get all sorts of people, and the shows are constantly sold out.  For that reason -- and the fact that rock concerts aren't usually top of mind for me -- I'd never been to a concert there before (Amy, thankfully, had had the foresight to get tickets back in January). 

The venue was smaller than I'd expected -- definitely smaller than a high-school gym, with a balcony around the top.  And I quickly discovered that all the concert-going rules/norms that I know and love from the classical world didn't apply.  In fact, they were just the opposite:  One should have worn a hipster T-shirt and jeans/shorts, flip-flops/sneakers, and an ironic mustache instead of a pristinely ironed white shirt, cords and loafers -- though the mustard-yellow color of said cords was probably a step in the right direction).  One did not sit; instead, one stood body-to-body and wormed one's way as close to the stage as one could.  Talking, singing along, drinking, and photography/videotaping were all perfectly acceptable (and if one wasn't doing one or more of those things, one risked appearing awfully square), as was standing in front of people who were shorter than one and/or trying to sit.  In other words, I felt like I'd gone through the looking glass -- but it was all enormously fun.

The best part was the sound.  I've been to rock concerts before and have generally hated them because the music is amplified so loudly that I can't hear anything other than noise -- there's no balance or musicality.  The difference in sound quality between those concerts and this concert was like night and day:  It was awesome.  I could hear everything that I was supposed to hear, and I could hear it in proper balance -- even at earsplitting volume. 

Yeah, the volume was the worst part.  SO LOUD!!!  Especially the mariachi band, with its trumpets -- honestly, I don't think my ears have ever hurt so much outside of an ear infection.  (Turns out I wasn't the only one with volume issues: I noticed a lot of people wearing ear plugs.)  Even so, for the sound quality to be so impressive at such a loud volume only impressed me more.

So what bands did we see?  The opener was Mariachi el Bronx, which, as you might imagine, was a mariachi band from the Los Angeles (go figure).  Only this wasn't the traditional cheesy mariachi -- this was punk mariachi and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The trumpets were amazing, and they all clearly were having a great time.

Mariachi El Bronx

The main draw was a band called tUnEyArDs, who, despite the annoying capitalization and a difficult-to-read website, was super impressive.  

The lead singer was really the driving engine of the band, and most of the songs were just her on vocals and percussion.  The trick was extensive and expert use of looping to create richly-layered recordings of herself that then accompanied (and became) the rest of the song.  She was SO good, and the whole ensemble had impeccable timing so that the looping really worked like clockwork.  Improvised clockwork.  Because although the songs clearly had a basic structure, they also seemed to have a significant improv element (less obvious than jazz, and following different rules, but still there).  As for how to describe the sound, my amateur critic's lexicon is inadequate:  I'd say it was pretty heavily influenced by African rhythms, but there was a lot of other stuff in there too.  So maybe just look for clips in YouTube.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


After gardening with Danya I headed to Crystal City in Arlington and met up with Amy at Artomatic, a giant populist artistic event.   

Essentially, the organization has an entire vacant office building that it turns over to as many artists and other creative types as sign up.  Entry is free -- you get a wrist band that entitles you to a free drink on the tenth floor, so most people start there and wend their way down through the many floors of exhibits below.  The artists have total free rein over their allocated spaces.  There was enormous variety, both in theme and in quality of execution.  Not a high-brow artistic experience by any means, but tons of fun and a great way for lesser-known artists to gain exposure.  Plus, there were no cranky guards telling you not to take pictures of the art.

Shredded newspaper was a very popular medium.  This is one of the better ones:

As far as I could tell, only one exhibit involved decapitated Barbies with giant doll-heads and photographs of small children's faces.  Super creepy.

And then there were the Peeps -- the opposite of creepy.  These are some of the better entries from this year's Peeps Show diorama contest run by the Washington Post:

The royal wedding
On the far end of the Peeps room was my favorite exhibit:  Bunny Noir Bunny Blue was a series of charming and slightly disturbing images of bunnies in surrealist settings.  For example, bunnies in underground tunnels, where some of the bunnies have owl wings and feet.  Bunnies doing yoga with cats.  And then sleeping bunnies being carried away from their beds by night, over the sea, by giant parakeets.  Loved it!

Garden Consulting

Danya, a friend of mine, has a cute little condo in one of DC's cooler neighborhoods. She's on the ground floor and has a great patio in the back, with a small square of unplanted ground. When she heard of my adventures in balcony gardening, she asked if I would be her gardening consultant for that unplanted area - she wanted to do something fun but didn't feel confident doing it by herself. Of course I said yes -- I love designing new gardens from scratch, especially when someone else is footing the bill!

My first suggestion was for Danya to start developing her taste and forming opinions by paying attention to plants she liked in other people's gardens. She did so, and soon her phone was full of snapshots of foxgloves, tulips and poppies.

Saturday was our shopping day. I set aside all afternoon for taking Danya to the nurseries. I started with Home Depot, since I knew it would be more economical. As you can imagine, they had tons of the staple bedding annuals (petunias, marigolds, vincas, impatiens) and a very limited selection of everything else. It was also a complete zoo, with millions of shoppers in a relatively small space. I sensed that it was overwhelming Danya, so I recommended that she leave the carts behind and just wander for a minute to get a sense of the inventory and pricing.

Then we fled to the Merrifield Garden Center. Cue the heavenly choirs.

There we found all the varieties we could hope for. I pointed out some of my favorites and located some of the flowers she'd found in her neighborhood. After five minutes Danya turned to me, "I can see why you like this place so much!"

We spent about an hour and a half selecting plants and staging them in an empty corner by the azaleas.

Staging at the nursery
We learned that Danya favored color, symmetry, and the lush look of traditional plants like hosta, azalea and day lilies (no spiky grasses for this garden). Once Danya settled on an arrangement we loaded up and bought the things that we couldn't get at Home Depot, went back to Home Depot to fill in the rest, and then went home.

We didn't have time to plant anything (Danya was hurrying off to a Buddhist meditation party, and I was meeting friends at an art gallery). So we just nestled the plants in their designated spots and left planting for another day. Still, it's enough to see what it will look like when it's done. Not bad for starting with nothing, right?

Back row from left: hosta, speedwell, azalea, speedwell, azalea, day lily
Front row: hosta, vinca, lambs ear, petunias (repeating)

The rest of the story: Danya called me on Sunday afternoon to let me know that crisis had been averted. Crisis? Yes. Turns out, when she went to plant her new babies, she discovered that the plot of earth was only about three inches deep: underlying the whole was a pavement of bricks! After a brief panic she managed to tear up enough bricks to plant the azalea. The remainder of the plants were subject to plan B, which consisted in potting everything in roughly the same configuration. A disappointment, yes, but certainly not the end of the world.

The Ride: Not all roses

You know that bit from the Teddy Bears' Picnic song, where it says "It's lovely out in the woods today, but safer to stay at home"?  Well, I kind of wish I'd gotten a similar warning before this morning's ride.  Not that I was in any great danger (although I did end up bleeding), it's just that it was a terrible ride. 

I woke up tired and a little grumpy after working late last night on an incredibly frustrating and stupid project.  I didn't want to get out of bed, but then I saw that the weather was perfect and I figured it would do me good to get some fresh air and sunshine.  The problem is that the bad mood held on like a bugger -- as much as I pushed myself, I just kept stewing about work and things I needed to do and friendships that suffer from poor communication and uneven expectations.  And then, around mile 20, my right quad started cramping, forcing me to take a half-hour break and start heading home at a snail's pace and much earlier than anticipated.

As the miles passed, I grew angrier and angrier.  Whereas at 7am the primary agitators were my own thoughts, at 9am the road was thronged with cars, runners and fellow cyclists, some of whom seemed to have been sent as personal plagues.  At one intersection where I had the right of way, an oncoming van refused to stop, forcing me to come to a rapid and ungainly halt that left me with a gash in my calf.  As much as I normally love bleeding in public, today I was not in the mood.

A few minutes later, as I was passing a series of walkers, runners, and slower cyclists, I somehow managed not to say "on your left" loudly enough for some octegenarian crawling along on his weekend cruiser to hear, and so he started screaming at me about how inconsiderate and rude I was.  Gah!

By the time I discovered an expansive rose garden, I felt like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland: "Off with their heads!  OFF WITH EVERYONE'S HEAD!!"

Still, I stopped.  I learned from a plaque that it was a community rose garden dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives in World War II.  As I contemplated the perfection of the roses and the tragedy and sacrifice that their loveliness honored, I finally felt some relief.  My perspective shifted; things got better.