Although I vary the routes for my morning walks, more often than not I include a few laps around the tree-lined paths of a local park. I see other “regulars” there – mostly dog walkers – with whom I’ve developed the nodding, I recognize you, acquaintance.
One of the Regular Park Walkers ® is a woman with big (as in thick), almost waist-length, curly, fading-red hair. Big Red’s hands are always busy: one pushes a stroller occupied by a vivid-red haired baby boy, and the other clutches the leash of what looks to be a Bernese Mountain dog.
Wednesday morning I saw Big Red at the park. She’d stopped on a path ~ 50 feet ahead of me to adjust the baby’s blanket; I slowed my pace as I approached. We exchanged good morning’ s, and I made a comment about her son’s adorable smile.
“Grand-son,” she corrected me. Her tone, furrowed brow and gawking eyes – it was as if she’d reacted to a non sequitur I’d made about her triplet chicken sweaters.
I generally refrain from guessing people’s ages, for several reasons. One reason involves me doing my bit to raise consciousness re the pernicious effects of ageism. As part of this noble cause, I generally try to deflect or “reroute” that rare  comment-meant-to-be-a-compliment “Oh, but you don’t look ____ (whatever age you in fact are)” when it’s been flung my way after someone has guessed young about my age and I’ve corrected them. Another reason is simply because I’ve never been good at it.
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, unless a person had drastic facial, verbal or postural indicators of either youthfulness or decrepitude, I thought everybody was more or less twenty-six. When I myself was twenty-six, I was more or less correct about the ages of most of my peers, neighbors and co-workers. It took many, many years, but someone  finally gave me the equivalent of a verbal face palm – How can you be so dense? He’s obviously twice/half as old as that! – and called me on my deficient age-estimating ability.
So. Yeah. Live and Learn. Nobody is twenty-six, anymore. We’re all hovering around forty-four, aren’t we?
* * *
Department of They Meant Well
For the past few years hundreds of people  hoping for better economic and social opportunities make a dangerous crossing of Mediterranean, from spots along the North African coast, trying to enter Europe by boat. Some of these boats capsize, and some of the migrants drown.
Last week I heard a BBC News radio story about one “side effect” of the sad situation. The story concerned a wealthy couple who, while on a Mediterranean yacht cruise, became aware of the boat migrants’ situation and decided to get involved. Their involvement has taken the form of spending over two million euros to purchase a yacht, outfit it with two dinghies and state of the art surveillance drones, and hire a crew which will patrol the seas near Malta (a common migrant destination), looking for boats in distress:
When the ship comes across a migrant boat in international waters, the crew will contact the nearest authorities….. While they wait for instructions, they will use the dinghies to approach the boats, pass over food, water and lifejackets and offer medical assistance….. in case the boat is taking water or the number of the people [on board] is higher than should be, [the crew] will communicate that to the authorities and we will do what needs to be done. “If we need to take people on board we can, until Malta or Italy come to take them, and disembark them on land.”
This is one of those stories that make me feel good for a moment, until the wait a minute…. sets in. Yep, I’ll be the curmudgeon who points out that short term acts of “heroism” often do nothing to alleviate long term misery and may even, unintentionally, contribute to the latter.
The Wealthy Yacht Philanthropists get the immediate satisfaction of assisting hungry and thirsty boat people – along with the irrational appreciation of alleged divine approval that only a misguided zealot would treasure feel-good-glow that comes from having a priest tell them they are on a “mission from God”  and present them with just what every boat rescue team needs, “…a small bottle of holy water from Lourdes and a golden crucifix.”
Meanwhile, the WYP inadvertently produce the possible (read: highly likely) side effect of encouraging more desperate people to make the hazardous journey (No worries, we hear someone with a big boat will rescue us and even drop us off where we want to go!).
How much better, IMHO, would WYP’s money, effort and influence be spent, were it to be invested in solutions to the economic, social and cultural problems that impel people to flee their homelands in their first place. Pulling a few people out of the water and waiting for the next boatload to fall in – it’s like putting a finger cot on a wrist amputation.
* * *
Speaking of the dangers of the Mediterranean, here’s something you will never hear me say when I talk about my recipe for Mokh: 
“So now I do as Moroccan cooks do, and I think my brain salad dishes are better for it.” 
* * *
Now Appearing in My Kitchen:
Cucumber avocado soup; quinoa, chevre, black bean, scallion and cilantro stuffed sweet red peppers.
Tasty distractions for getting used to having only two of us at the dinner table.
* * *
Empty Nest Chateau Report
My prudent admonition to my fledglings about dorm life – don’t expect or (even want) your dorm roommate to be a best friend; consider it gravy if you like your roommate or at least find him/her tolerable – is on the record.
Belle’s never been one for gravy.
K’s freshman dorm situation was benignly ideal: he and his roommate were considerate occupiers of the same space and socialized occasionally, but it went no further than that. They parted amicably at the end of the year; the roommate transferred to another college.
Belle adores her roommate, JFS. Just loves her. And (so far), so do we. I know, it’s only been two weeks, but they are so cute together.
Really, almost this cute.
We met JFS’s family (parents and younger sister) on Friday of Orientation week. I liked them immediately. The UPS Orientation week organizers suggest that parents take their freshman offspring out to dinner on Saturday, and then, essentially, get lost go home and let the students dive into Orientation week activities. Since Belle & JFS seemed to be getting on so well we asked Belle to pass along our suggestion that both families do the Saturday dinner together.
I felt comfortable enough around Belle’s roommate’s family to confess, during our mahhhhhhhvelous dinner at the Europa Bistro in the Proctor district of Tacoma, that I hoped Belle’s & JFS’s mutual admiration society wasn’t just part of the honeymoon stage and that soon they’d be fighting like siblings. I shared that hope when JFS’s mother said that her daughter had been talking nonstop about how much she liked Belle. I in turn told her that Belle had praised JFS to MH and I.
Belle and JFS stayed for a little over an hour at the bistro, then left to go back to some dorm social activity. JFS’s parents, sister, MH and I stayed for almost another two hours, getting to know one another and sharing stories.
The bistro was crowded with UPS families and service was a bit leisurely,  but we were having such a pleasant evening we really didn’t notice or mind. We finished dinner, hadn’t ordered yet dessert, and out of the blue our waiter set two gorgeous ramekins of crème brûlée on our table. He gave us the compliments of the chef and apologized for making “such nice people wait so long.”
JFS’s parents and sister exchanged mirthful looks and laughter. JFS’s father explained to MH and I that crème brûlée is JFS’s favorite dessert, and oooh, just wait until she finds out what she missed by cutting out on the old folks! Why wait? said moiself At my urging, JFS’s father took a picture of the crème brûlées and texted the photo to her with a brief message about what she was missing. He guffawed at his daughter’s one word reply, and hesitated only a moment before he showed the text to MH and me:
This is a good match, I said to myself. Everything is going to be okay.
* * *
May your matches be picture perfect, your crème brûlées complimentary, and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 Well, rare for me.
 I cannot recall the name of the person who enlightened me, but whoever you are, I’m sure you look fabulous…for your age.
 An estimated 1600 people in 2013.
 A god who apparently can’t be bothered to help the migrants walk on water, or do whatever he might do to alleviate their situation.
 And this is because I am never going to make Mokh.
 Or, as I like to say, European.