How long has that hyphen been there?

Central Fire Station, Dover, New Hampshire.

After years of taking the same route, have you ever been startled to look up and see something striking for the first time?

I’ve driven or walked past this almost daily for the past 20 years but simply hadn’t noted the one detail. The 9-11 in the address.

Take a close look at that sign.

Firefighters across the Northeast feel deeply about their fallen brothers in the World Trade Center attacks, especially those afflicted later by the toxic consequences. Dover’s professionals are no exception, as the mural painted across the back of the Central Station parking lot proclaims.

The mural reflects the department’s solidarity with the wider brotherhood of firefighters.

When I gazed up and saw that hyphen in 9-11, I thought they had inserted it in the street address – 911 – perhaps as a sign of continuing support.

The building next door, at 7 Broadway.

Then my eyes caught the address next door – 7 – and I realized the station sits at 9 and 11 Broadway, where it’s been for more than a century. How coincidental, then, that its address would line up with a much later significance.

Ten favorite restaurants in my experience

Some of these no longer exist, other than in my memory. And while some are expensive, others are quite the affordable but deserve kudos for skillful preparation and good ingredients.

  1. Big Night, Dover. Anything Chris and Linda did here or in their later incarnations in South Berwick, Maine, was always masterful, often with a French or Mediterranean base. Small-scale, as in a two-person operation, can truly be beautiful. They’re the standard by which we now measure all others.
  2. Fore Street, Portland, Maine. On a larger scale and an industrial style room, this is simply great food. We had a sauvignon blanc that was delivered with very little markup from retail simply because the owners thought this would be perfect for our meals – and we’re still searching for another bottle that comes close. My wife will rattle off the details of our meal and why we were so thoroughly impressed.
  3. North, Providence, Rhode Island. Another small setting – 18 seats, plus a small bar – this Asian fusion laboratory was a revelation with tastes I didn’t know even existed.
  4. Gasperetti’s, Yakima, Washington. A small setting – about 48 seats at the time – this was considered by many to be the best Italian restaurant in the Pacific Northwest when we lived there.
  5. A tiny Japanese restaurant near Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Four tables, as I recall on my first and only visit to the city. My introduction to raw fish (shashimi), sake, and plum wine. Heavenly.
  6. PB Boulangerie, Wellfleet, Cape Cod. Wonderful French with a chef proprietor from Lyons.
  7. Little Saigon, Worcester, Massachusetts. I love Vietnamese, and this one most of all.
  8. Lobster in the Rough, York, Maine. Many fine Sunday afternoons here with a cover duo and families playing bocce. They knew how to make fine onion rings and French fries, in addition to haddock and lobster. And don’t overlook the slaw. Straight-forward fare like this can be a tough test for many restaurants. We really admire the ones that pass with flying colors.
  9. Wonderland Café, Watertown, Massachusetts. Unpretentious Chinese cuisine that demonstrated the importance of fresh ingredients. This was takeout that was welcome a two-hour drive away a day later. ’Nuff said?
  10. Ta-boo, Palm Beach, Florida. My first truly upscale restaurant experience, thanks to my girlfriend’s parents. Had my first raw oysters and first orange flambe while being entertained by a Yale glee club. After that, everything’s a delirious swirl.

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So how about your favorites? And what makes them stand out?

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A Corinthian column on the exterior of the Bradford Congregational Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts, is a classic touch. The screening is to keep birds at bay.

Of course, this is totally unrelated to the theme. Just another thing on my mind.

Ten things I do every evening

So much of my evening routine these days depends on the indoor pool swim schedule. Sometimes I get my laps in the midafternoon, which seems to define the beginning of my evening. And at other times of the year, I the pool’s open at 7 or 8 for my use. With that perspective, my late afternoons and evenings often look something like this:

  1. Swim a half-mile.
  2. Hang up wet swimsuit and towel.
  3. Afternoon nap, if I can. Likely in the guest room or on the floor of my studio.
  4. When I’m back up, some chore. I’m flexible.
  5. Dinner. I prefer my big meal of the day to come around closing time.
  6. Clean-up, wipe counters, start dishwasher.
  7. Feed the rabbit and change the water.
  8. Martini.
  9. Listen to a round of music.
  10. Slip into bed, reflecting on the day and the morrow.

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What tips or even secrets do you have for settling in for the evening?

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A pot of decorative red cabbage sits beside our front steps this time of year.

Of course, this is totally unrelated to the theme. Just another thing on my mind.

My 10 favorite characters (who aren’t my protagonists)

Yes, an author is supposed to like his protagonists – and maybe even some of the key villains, in their very devilishness – but lesser characters sometimes privately rise to the top.

Here are 10 of mine, some in upcoming volumes:

  1. Nita: In What’s Left and the full Freakin’ Free Spirits cycle. She’s really evolved along the way.
  2. Merry Sherry: Hometown News. I’m so glad the real-life Sherry who showed up later, with many of the same endearing qualities, didn’t have the same penchant for creating nicknames. We would have all been doomed.
  3. Wendy: In the upcoming Nearly Canaan. This pastor’s wife has qualities that really play off Jaya well. She began to write herself.
  4. Pastor Bob: Nearly Canaan. Changing the Roman Catholic priest in the early drafts to a flashier Fundamentalist/Evangelical preacher created someone much more, well, surprising. He has a good heart – and a great wife.
  5. Fran: Big Inca. Just what Bill needs.
  6. Rusty: Pit-a-Pat High Jinks. As he demonstrates, some in the movement had practical skills and insights. I wonder what happened in the rest of his life – and whether he ever married his lovely companion.
  7. Judith (rather than Tara!): Pit-a-Pat High Jinks. She’s grown much more interesting and intriguing than the young woman who inspired her, way back when. There’s even a novel you’ll probably never see, at least not under my name.
  8. Satyabama: Yoga Bootcamp. She has all of the wonder that embodied yoga for us.
  9. Surfer Girl: Hometown News. In real life, she never gave me the time of day.
  10. Alexandros: What’s Left. In the later revisions of the manuscript, Alex came fully into his own. Cassia was already “talking to me” and essentially writing herself, and then Alex stepped up to match. Oh, I wish my cousins had been something like him.

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In the books you’ve read, who’s your favorite character?