She’s Here

So my darling Yunah Anne Johnson was born last week on an early Monday morning bringing joy and happiness into this sometimes jaded man’s life. She’s a perfect (aren’t they all?) melange of my wife and my features, though she’s got big feet and and a toe larger than her big toe (thanks Mom). She’s blessed us now with the experience of parenthood and though we’re rank amateurs, we’re making improvements day by day. I can put a diaper on under 30 seconds half-asleep and can recognizer her “gas face.” And this is just the beginning. The other night my one year old nephew Yemi Joel Johnson (yep he’s my namesake) came by with his parents and he was walking everywhere, getting into everything, and blubbing up half-eaten words, all smiles, and eager to show off his dance skills. It was astonishing to imagine what will happen over the course of the next year of our lives! But for now, I’m glad she’s just plain here. And that everyday I get to wake up, several times a day in fact, to her  bright eyes, cooing and crying.  Let the adventures begin!

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Transitions

I haven’t posted in nearly a month to deadbait because my life has been taken over by some pretty serious nesting. My wife and I moved (for the 3rd time in 3 years!) to Silver Spring, MD just outside DC to a 1950s rambler that has lots of space and a gorgeous yard. And all our thoughts and attention are getting the place ready for a little bundle of joy we’re expecting in just about two weeks!

As I sit here writing this post, I’m looking out onto a sun-dappled backyard where the pink, purple and red azaleas are in bloom.  Black and grey squirrels and rabbits are scavenging and flitting around the back yard. Somewhere in the background I can hear my cat Ninja meowing for a treat. My wife sleeps long and deep these days in anticipation of many restless nights ahead. And I feel thankful, content and a deep overwhelming sense of accomplishment, that the many long years of work, risk, adventures have lead up to a moment where I get to fulfill perhaps our greatest achievements in bringing another being into this world and raising her well. I look forward to the next chapter of life, this transition, with trepidation, in awe…

So when I’m neck-deep in baby poop and can’t get the baby to stop crying in a few weeks, remind me of this moment will you?

Transitions

Sorry I haven’t put up a post in a while. I’ve been a little busy at work and on the home front. My wife is now 30 weeks pregnant and all our focus has been on preparing for the baby in May. To top it off we are closing on a house in Silver Spring this week! We’re thoroughly excited about all these major changes. Hell, we’ve only been in DC since August so its safe to say 2012 and 2013 are all about transitioning. Sure, if I thought I had my sh*t together before, its all about to be tested again. But I’m cool with that, life is and adventure and what is the point of life but to experience it? I can’t wait to get my Daddy on.

I’ve of course been exploring various approaches to raising a baby and taking care of house–and concluded one thing, it will be what it’ll be. No theories, no “systems” are going to change the fact that life likes to throw challenges in front of you to keep you on your toes, from leaky faucets to leaky diapers. I’m just blessed to be going through these transitions with my lovely, amazing, inspiring wife. It’s cliche, but we really do complete each other–where I am fast and loose she is studied and patient. Where I am subdued and cautious she is outgoing and adventurous. We remind each other of just how far we’ve come, of the obstacles we’ve dealt with, of the fun we’ve had so far, and look excitedly to the future.

So all these transitions of course deserve a few upgrades in the life-well-lived category. That’s where I want to buck the tradition of going ultra-casual. While I may have to adapt and go-with-it on the home and baby, I look forward to relishing experiences that are highly-structured, the kind that make you pause and savor the moment. Case in point, I recently learned how to make a proper whiskey sour. I know, a cocktail? Well, its one of the easiest place to go from casual to considered.

Here ya go, from the Real Men Drink Whiskey blog, here’s a recipe that uses all fresh ingredients including egg and fresh-squeezed lemon.

Whiskey Sour Ingredients

Whiskey Sour Four Roses

From Real Men Drink Whiskey:

  • Martini shaker
  • Rye straight whiskey (if you can’t find real Rye, not Canadian Rye, use Bourbon)
  • Fresh whole lemons (1 per drink)
  • Super fine sugar (I like to use berry sugar, as icing sugar tastes odd to me)
  • Large Egg (1 per drink)
  • Orange Bitters (not crucial, but highly recommended)
  • Ice

Note: This drink was originally created to be made with real Rye. It is the only whiskey I would use for this drink… but if you really can’t get your hands on true Rye bourbon will work nicely in its place.

More Notes: This drink makes a single, it will fill about half of your whiskey glass, double everything up for a full glass.

First, squeeze the shit out of a lemon into a standard short whiskey glass, removing any seeds. You’ll want to squeeze one lemon per drink, around 1oz.

Once your lemon is squeezed pour an equal amount of whiskey into the same cup (or measure the lemon and match it with the whiskey). I like to use just a tad more whiskey than lemon juice; again this will be around 1oz.

Fill a martini shaker ¾ full with ice.

Sprinkle 1 heaping teaspoon of sugar over the ice (you can use more or less of this to taste, if you like things a little more sour start with one flat teaspoon and work from there).

Pour the lemon/whiskey mix over the ice.

Crack an egg and add just the egg white on top of the ice. If you’ve never done this before just “juggle” the yolk from one half of the shell to the other, letting the white slide out into the shaker.

Put just 2 drops (not dashes) of Orange bitters into the mix. You’re not trying to flavor the drink orange, this is just to help round out drink for a complete full-bodied flavor.

Put the lid on the shaker and shake the living fuck out of your mix. You’ll want to shake harder and longer than you have ever shook any martini. The reason for this is to beat up the egg white, which will give the drink a perfect frothy meringue like head, and a distinct every-so-slippery texture.

Strain out the mix back into the glass, and enjoy.

Give Back

Ghost of Christmas Present

 

Its been a strange holiday so far, let me explain. On the one hand, I couldn’t be happier to once again be living close to my father, brother and sisters and their families. I even feel closer to my in-laws in Atlanta. I’m surrounded by extended family too, and lots of young nieces and nephews. While I dearly miss my friends back in New York, it brings me great joy and comfort living here in D.C. On the other hand, the tragedy in Newtown, CT is a sobering reality. And while this is a festive time, some people I am very close to are experiencing pain and loss this season.

Its in these times, where a blessing has more to teach us, than to provide. And, of course, that’s what the holidays should be about. To me they are a time to put aside your wants and desires and to celebrate each other, our common bonds and to make a promise to one another that we will love and hold Christmas in our hearts the year round.

So, a gentle reminder, to myself and to all deadbaiters. Give back. Don’t wait and don’t feel guilty if you didn’t do any giving this past year.  Just give back. Find a way to help your common brother and sister, the Earth that holds you, and the all mighty universe, God or being that created you. Hell, maybe you’re just happy the Mayans were wrong.

Here are some ideas:

  • Take a child to a free museum. Today, almost every urban museum has free days, and if you live in DC, nearly every museum is free at some point in the week.
  • Give away your favorite book. Share a story that’s meaningful to you, maybe they’ll find it meaningful too.
  • Make a care package. For those struggling through tough times, a homemade lasagna, handmade baked cookies or a carefully selected basket of local goodies can turn around someone’s day.
  • Write a letter. No not an email, but a handwritten two or three page letter to a relative or friend you don’t spend enough time with. Share your life, reminisce, ask about their lives or tell a story.
  • Donate unused winter clothing. Do you really need those boots or that coat you haven’t worn in two years, or that  funny elf hat anymore? Its going to be a cold winter but you can keep someone warm.
  • Gather your family’s resources to help another family. We all know have a family friend that’s fallen on tough times. Instead of just one person helping out, ask your entire family to pitch in and help. Maybe they need a big item that you all can take care of together?
  • Give someone some time off. Remember giving you parent’s I.O.U.s promising to wash the dishes or take the trash out when you were a kid at Christmas? You can do the same thing for a friend of family member who might need a night off from the kids.
  • Invite your neighbor around. If you know your neighbors might be alone this season, or if you just want to thank them for keeping their dog off your lawn this year, invite your neighbors around for tea or cocktails, open your heart and open your home.

Jackson River Virginians Give Up US Citizenship?

Did you know certain Virginians would rather give their fealty to the British Monarchy than the United States of America?

Yes, that’s a bit dramatic, but its true. You see CERTAIN Virginians claim Crown Grants to a riverbed that dates back to British rule of the colonies in order to keep their fellow Americans off a small stretch of the Jackson River in VA, a legally navigable tailwater in Southern Virginia. I’ve written about this problem before you may recall a YEAR AGO, but it seems as if the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries continues to prefer bangers over hot dogs, Speckled Hen over Old Dominion, bowlers over baseball caps, tweed over jeans, Rod Stewart over Bruce Springsteen, Marmite over PB&J, Fawlty Towers over Seinfeld, Doctor Who over Star Wars, high tea over whiskey, idiocy over common sense, and monarchy over democracy. Where’s that independent spirit Virginia?! Nah, the VGDIF and its cronies would rather let a bunch of rich folk with decidely un-American attitudes deny other Americans the right to enjoy the Jackson River. Nevermind its something the Virginian tax dollar and the American tax dollar paid for when the state and Army Corps of Engineers dammed the river that created the tailwater years ago. Virginians ought to be ashamed that a small group of fools are giving VA a bad name with this ludicrous Crown Grant assertion. Seriously. Here’s an idea. If you assert a Crown Grant, you give up your US citizenship in exchange? How about that?!

OK. I am somewhat inelegant on the issue. You may wonder at my indignation, but frankly, the British law has implications on American waterways all over. Clearer on the issue is Beau Beasley, respected Virginian, author, fly fisher and citizen. Here, via Midcurrent, is his latest article/letter to the VDGIF asking for clarity on the issue.
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Dear Chairman Reed, October 1, 2012

Thank you for your response dated August 2, 2012, regarding my concerns for anglers legally fishing along the Jackson River. My questions were in part to help me understand VDGIF’s policy and position on this issue and what the public should expect from your agency going forward in this matter. My questions have been answered but your responses and the VDGIF white paper which was written as a result of my inquiry on the subject have generated further questions.

I understand that your agency has no ability or authority to get involved in the current lawsuit North/South Development v Crawford along the Jackson River. Further you have made it clear that you will not discuss whether you have asked Attorney General Cuccinelli to intercede on the angler’s behalf who here represents the public, because this is privileged attorney/client information. While this is certainly understandable, this is regrettable because this is the second time since 1996 that an angler has been sued for fishing along the Jackson River on property widely advertised as public by VDGIF.

I was particularly concerned by the following statement in the white paper on page 5 section 2 (a):

while much discussion has been had over the effect of a fishing license issued by the Department, in no case does a Department hunting or fishing license grant access to private property. They are instead authorizations to engage in the hunting or fishing activity in a lawful manner; the decision as to where to hunt or fish is a separate issue that must be addressed by the sportsman.

No rational sportsman believes that purchasing a Virginia hunting or fishing license means he is entitled to hunt or fish on private property. Rather, the purchaser of such a license believes it entitles him to hunt or fish on state property, or other property advertised by the state as usable by the public as long as they follow the fishing and hunting regulations written by your agency. The latter part of the statement I find particularly galling:

The decision as to where to hunt or fish is a separate issue that must be addressed by the sportsman.

This statement appears to be legalese and essentially states that while VDGIF will gladly tell sportsmen where they can hunt and fish, if they encounter legal troubles such as trespassing for going precisely where the agency advertised as public, they are on their own. How are sportsmen supposed to know where to go? I suspect few if any license holders in this state know that once they take the state at its word as to where they can hunt and fish they are engaging in what could be legal jeopardy and that doing so is “a separate matter that must be addressed by the sportsman.”

Since the beginning of this year VDGIF has issued nearly 30 press releases informing the public on issues ranging from White-Nose Syndrome of bats to warnings about not handling snakes and fawns. Yet your agency is silent on issues that have much greater import to many license holders, namely that we can’t rely on VDGIF to protect us in court for hunting or fishing in places you advertise as public. While you have posted a white paper on the Jackson River, few if any anglers would go beyond looking at the state maps you provide on line, or at the river’s access points. Given the statements above I would like to know the following:

1) Why has no mention of the current legal troubles been made public via a press release, when nearly every angler I know is confused on the issue of where they can and can’t fish on the Jackson River?

2) When the Army Corps of Engineers created the Gathright Dam, part of their Environmental Impact Statement included language that said they would create a public downstream fishery below the dam. Since 1996 two anglers have been sued and spent tens of thousands of dollars defending themselves while the state of Virginia stood on the sidelines. How can the Army Corps of Engineers have met its obligation to create a public fishery, if the public can’t go there without the fear of litigation?

3) While your agency may not engage in legal action protecting this angler, what steps have you taken to prevent other anglers from suffering the same fate on this river?

4) Is VDGIF considering putting a warning label on state signs and licenses informing sportsmen that following all VDGIF instructions as to what is public property, in no way protects them against being prosecuted for trespassing?

The public places a great deal of trust in the VDGIF, and when sportsmen purchase a license, and follow signs with your imprimatur, they assume that they are engaging in legal activity. There is no doubt that the angler being sued for fishing on the contested section of the Jackson River stood his ground because he trusted the VDGIF signs and what he was told by VDGIF staff members. If this angler loses his case, no doubt VDGIF will then be forced to change their signs. There is also very little doubt, however, that the current system uses law-abiding sportsmen as guinea pigs to find out what is and what is not public property.

Chairman Reed, in closing let me say that I realize the VDGIF is in a very difficult position and is working under constraints that may have existed long before you or your fellow commissioners began serving. I also recognize that the issue of crown grants is something that is best dealt with legislatively by the General Assembly. But until such time as these matters can be resolved, VDGIF must act to protect law-abiding sportsmen who are guilty of little more than taking VDGIF at its word. I fear without clear direction the ambiguity that revolves around the Jackson River, and now other rivers like the Hazel where crown grant ownership is being asserted, could result in depressed license sales and fear among sportsmen in Virginia.

I look forward to your response.

Respectfully

Beau Beasley

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The Virginian River Defense Fund continues to need support, as their legal bills have only increased as they fight the spurious lawsuit.