Saturday, October 23, 2010

To Original Happiness

A good friend recently sent me an article documenting the continued gratefulness of the citizens of the city of Plzen in Czech republic to the American soldiers who liberated them at the close of World War II. It's an annual celebration and the article closes with an invitation to visit Plzen in May. I'd love to visit Plzen in May or any other time of the year. Plzen -- English spelling Pilsen -- is where they invented the beer called Pilsner, and where they continue to brew it today. In German, the word Ur means original, as in "original recipe". The word "Quel" means source, as in source of a river. Urquel therefore means "Original Source". So Pilsner Urquel is the original recipe Pilsner from the original source, the Pilsner Urquel Brauerei in Pilsen. I am a long-time fan of Pilsner Urquel. In Germany, I sought out establishments with signs advertising "Pilsner Urquel vom Fass", that is "from the barrel" or on tap. That sign has been the source of very many very pleasant evenings. Germany boasts many excellent beers, and among them many Pilsners or Pils. More than a few called Ur or original Pils. Some, like Kirner Pils and Alpirsbacher Klosterbrau, are excellent, but there is only one Pilsner Urquel, and it's the best. If you find yourself in Pilsen in May or any other time of the year, please consume at least one Pilsner Urquel in my honor. Or, if you can't make to Pilsen, feel free to consume one purchased locally. Benjamin Franklin once said that "Beer is God's way of saying He loves us, and wants us to be happy." Ben was right. Pilsner Urquel proves it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Every high school class has one -- the girl who is near or at the centre of everything. Known by all, if she is not in charge then she gets everything organised for the one who is. If she's not the organiser, then she's the tireless worker who makes the event or whatever happen. She has very definite ideas about what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, when it needs to be done and, if all else fails, the gumption to do it herself and to joke and cackle and make it fun. In our class, that person was Anna. No matter the activity, whether a dance, a choral performance, an operetta, or a student council election, she was part of it, usually infecting and involving a lot of others with her enthusiasm. We met during our first week of kindergarten in 1950 and remained classmates until graduation in 1963. After graduation, we saw each other only infrequently but somehow maintained the bond of shared experiences. At our most recent class reunion, all of us spent a great deal of time recounting and chortling over incidents and events long past, yet still as fresh as yesterday in our minds. Anna chortled the loudest. Anna left us last Monday. She was visiting one of her daughters, and on Sunday evening complained of a cold. On Monday morning, she failed to awaken. She leaves behind her loving husband of 44 years, four daughters, numerous grandchildren, many friends, and at least one BFF. Her death leaves a large hole in the lives of those of us privileged to be her classmates and friends. Go in peace, Anna. You left us too soon. There was never anyone like you before, and after you there shall come no other. You are missed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lazy Days

Leaves are beginning to fall in Northern Virginia. The trees have yet to turn, but some leaves, not knowing any better, have begun to fall and cover the back yard. It is the turning of the seasons. Some trees have the first blush of colour, some have started to go yellow, and others remain summer green. But the leaves have begun to fall. Today, Columbus Day, we celebrated European discovery of Western Hemisphere by working in the yard. My wife raked up the first leaves of autumn and I mowed our scant fifth of an acre for what I hope will be the last time this season. Each time I mow, I am freshly amazed at the number of mini-climates of which I am steward. Today, the weather was too perfect not to be outdoors. In this weather, autumn often seems better than spring, more settled, more laid back and relaxed. Days like today, joy is found in the simple and ordinary things of life -- a sunny day, an autumn breeze, and the smell of fresh cut grass. Sometimes, life just can't be more perfect.