Grackle nest

There’s a nest of common grackles just outside our bedroom window. We didn’t notice it until I heard the chirping chicks a few mornings ago. When the parent arrives the chicks (two or three of them) open wide and cry for food. The adult usually has a worm or a grub. They do this all day long, sometimes every few minutes. When the adults catch us watching, though, they’ll stay away from the nest. In fact, one will usually call for the other and they’ll cluck on a branch away from the nest.

A black bird feeds its chick in a nest in a tree.
After some patient waiting, I got a picture of the adult passing food to the chick.

Parade of historic homes

Peeling painted flower decorations on a wooden cabinet.
The fact that the paint was peeling made this cabinet even more interesting.
We enjoyed our afternoon of looking inside other people’s homes. The Friends of Historic Preservation held their annual “Parade of Historic Homes” today. There were about six homes on display. Most of them were American foursquare, a style I’ve been mistaking as large bungalows. There are a lot of them around here.

These homes are historic in the sense that they are old and restored. Two of the homes are in the Woodlawn neighborhood, a 19th century suburb along a private drive overlooking the Old Capitol. One elaborately decorated Queen Anne house was famous for having a couple of lions in captivity for a while. It was a nice opportunity to visit this private area and to go inside a couple of the buildings.

On display more than the local history was the astronomical taste and matching budgets of the homeowners. There was a lot of cool antique wooden furniture. I guess a house is only as awesome as its furniture, otherwise it’s just a big fancy ape habitat.

Scenes from Iowa City in May

A woman drawing with pastel chalk on brick pavement.
Lore prettied the ped mall with chalk flowers.
Today was the first in about three weeks that it wasn’t too cold, windy, or rainy to go outside without complaining, so this afternoon we wandered around downtown unjacketed, starting with a visit to our favorite library.

The library installed a new self-checkout stations this week. They are very slick and amazing to use. Just scan your card and place your books in a pile on the pad and miraculously your books are checked out. It’s like borrowing books from the Starship Enterprise, the only anachronism being the books themselves.

While they were upgrading the machines they also rearranged the furniture in the reading lounge, which is to say they rearranged the hobos who sleep there. The new arrangement gives the lounge a refreshing but still hobo-encrusted appearance. I think the librarians should deposit classical volumes in their sleeping laps so that it looks like they fell asleep reading, just in case inspectors from UNESCO come to check up on the International City of Literature.

Oh yeah, and Lore reported a guy watching pornography at one of the computer terminals. So it’s not all Kurt Vonnegut and poetry contests around here. Just so you know.

Otherwise the streets of downtown have a very cheerful air this weekend. Parents of university students add to the weekend population as they visit town to see their kids graduate or help them move. A couple of elderly tourists even stopped to inspect the bronze statue of local historian Irving Weber.

While we lunched outdoors on chicken salad sandwiches, a group of young performers wearing white lab coats played music and danced outside a used book store.

On the pedestrian mall, there was free chalk for drawing, so Lore chalked up about 25 square feet of colorful flowers on the brick walk while I doodled on the side.

Clam juice and asparagus

I found myself in the hunt for a bottle of clam juice at the grocery store. The lady at the checkout asked how I use it.

“Well, it’s in a recipe I have,” I said. “I have to cook the pasta with it.”

“Oh, that’s sounds good,” she replied.

“Really?” I asked. “Does clam juice really sound good to you?”

Apparently she really likes clams. Imagining loads of clams being dumped into a giant squeezer over the objections of their barely audible screams, I wondered out loud how clam juice is made.

I bought the clam juice for only two reasons: because it’s asparagus season and because Lore suggested we eat more fish. We enjoy good, fresh asparagus, and because we’ve been loading up on it at the farmer’s market this weekend I was in search of a recipe requiring it. I found one in my usually reliable Monday-to-Friday Cookbook which fit our two criteria: orzo with salmon and asparagus. The orzo was to be boiled with clam juice, the way you might boil rice in chicken broth. The recipe looked tasty, and probably would have been tasty if I hadn’t bollixed it up.

I like salmon. I like pasta. I like asparagus. I might even take a swig of clam juice every now and again. We could have had a couple of baked salmon fillets with a side of seafood-accented pasta along a few steamed asparagus spears. Instead we had them all boiled together into an overcooked mush. And we have enough of it that I will be reliving this disaster for lunch every day this week.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

We watched “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” last night, one of my favorite movies. Lore had never seen it before. This is the second time I’ve seen it, and like any time I re-watch a film I notice new things.

For example Sergio Leone managed in one scene—the battle at the bridge—what it took Coppola two and half hours to do in “Apocalypse Now”: illustrate the absurdity of war. War crazy, move on to the next scene. So tidy.

Also, when Tuco says, “When you have to shoot, shoot; don’t talk” he’s calling out a movie cliche. Forty-five years later, though, films are still using that cliche.