Fiftieth Reunion Yeah NHS!!!!

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True!- nervous-very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? It’s the 50th reunion of Newington High School’s class of 1967. Why should I be nervous? I’d been totally psyched tor this all summer; now the night has arrived and I get nervous? What’s up with that? Well, I guess you start to remember some times in high school when you got frosted by someone. An unkind remark by a classmate? Surely not at Newington HIgh. It can’t be true. I did get nervous, and start to tell myself that we’re all grown ups now. I’m not 16, but could this be why some people don’t come? A little less than eager to open it up again? We have closed the book on high school We’ve moved on in our lives and we’ve done o.k. Why revisit it?

 

I want to try to to tell you why. I want to try to capture just a little of the absolute electricity that flows through you as you arrive in Newington a little after sunset, colors fading from the sky as you drive around streets you haven’t been  on in a long while. there’s a giant glowing orange thing in someone’s front yard on Walsh Avenue. A pumpkin? With legs? Oh, a spider. Right, Halloween is coming. Kids will be terrified of this gigantic orange spider with furry plastic legs as they giggle up to the door to get some candy. I wish I were at home, in my parents’ place on Indian Hill Road, giving out candy to bunches of kids, traveling in packs, holding out their bags for candy. A pillowcase? Me ‘n Kenny again, stealing a pumpkin a week before the big night right off a front door step, and carving it, and putting a candle in – Kenny just happened to have one on him- and lighting it and putting it back on their step, ringing the door bell, running like hell across the street to hide in the bushes and watching their faces when they see their pumpkin carved and lit up. Memories begin to flow. I drive to Churchill park. God it’s changed. We used to swim in that pond? Frank O’Rourke ran the waterfront. I drive down road after road, just pumped. It’s becoming magic. Dominic’s street, where I met Krista Telangitz. The street Truda lived on. Sandy St. John. Is that it? Are we looking for lost love? Do we want to revisit for a night the time in our lives when we were so full of life and possibilities? Do we want to be like that again- instead of on the other end of it,  shuffling along with our aching bones? Do we want to see how everyone turned out? Do we want to say hello again to people who were our friends, our classmates but have been out of our lives for too long? Do we just want to revisit a time in our lives when we were in love with life, in love with ideas, and friends, and excited about what might be, not at all worried yet. Or are we just curious to see how Doug turned out, or Laurie?

 

Remember in ninth grade when Steve Toce combed his hair down over his forehead in imitation of a Beatles haircut and he got sent to the office? Remember being told you couldn’t wear a tie loose around your neck; you had to pull it up tight. You couldn’t wear loafers with no socks. Your skirt had to be so long. And no shorts. And no shirts without collars. Isn’t it fun to remember? Remember the 40th reunion, which was held in Afghanistan as I recall, or Berlin, or some foreign place miles from Newington, and was in conjunction with every other class that ever graduated from Newington High and you couldn’t find three people you knew? I swore I’d never go to another. Then ten years later I get a postcard with an announcement that there will be a fiftieth and it will be our class alone and it will be held at Newington Country club and I can suddenly no more stay away from this reunion than I could not breathe. I have to go. And apart from a few pangs of nervousness thinking I’d be sixteen again and punctured by someone’s rapier wit, it is absolutely wonderful. I pull into a parking space down from the country club. Not far from Greg Tower’s house. I walk up the hill. I have to check the hill in back of the putting green to see if it is still as steep as it used to be. All the other hills in town, the ones I struggled up on my bicycle as a kid,  seem to have shrunk. The one in back of the country club has not. It is steeper. We used to ski back there and set up a jump. Not now. Whoa. I walk to the entrance. Someone grabs my hand to shake and he looks pretty familiar, but I can’t place him. He lets me struggle a moment. It’s Ray Acey! And then Phil Paternostro. And Paula, and Sue. And I’m not nervous now. And our name tags have pictures of us from the year book and you soon become completely unabashed about staring at people’s name tags, and then excitedly talking about the good old days. And the stories flow. And people seem very much like they used to be. 50 years ago. It’s different from other reunions. Better? Better. Absolutely cosmic. The first night there is no music- just some hors d’oeuvres and drinks so you can walk around and talk with old classmates. Erstwhile class mates, not old. No one is old tonight. We are in high school again. The best times of our lives? No. But good times. And Jean Pezzenti- now Napper- has assembled a book of memories that is absolutely fabulous. She manages to squeeze as many of us in to news clippings from the Town Crier as possible and she does a wonderful job. I razz her about shameless self aggrandizement because she is mentioned in one clipping as the winner of the 11-13 division in the Elm Hill Playground Tetherball Championship. Cathy McCusker becomes inflamed.  She is undefeated in tetherball. She could beat Jean. Trash talk begins- completely not serious- we laugh. Such fun. Do they still have tetherball tournaments? The good old days.

 

You find out about people. Dannie Buden, Corporal Dan Buden, writes from Vietnam about how what we are doing back home affects moral of the Marine grunts over there. About the same time Ernie Minor left for Canada to avoid the draft and has never returned. You have to admire both stances. People have died. Thirty- three of us are no longer around. I want to know why. Alfred Parys can’t be dead. Nor Linda Flynt or Janet Rosenblatt. How can that be? We’re so young. Lynn Sorrow? No. Lucinda Shipps? Can’t be.

 

And some people don’t show and I wanted to see them. Where’s Arty Fuchs? And Kenny Peterson. And Bruce Mortensen. And Roddy. And Al. And Steve Freeze. And Joy. And Lynn Grogan. And Debbie. And Mary Ellen. And Bubbles. Why didn’t Bubbles show? And Bruce Phillips.

 

But so many of us are there that you do not have time to get to everyone on the first night. Some of us have gained a little weight. Some of us are thinner. There’s less hair. But our smiles are the same. It feels so good to be together again. Why is that? Did we share some magical time? Yes. We did. Our youth. School. In Newington, CT.  Headed  home one night I am passed by two cars on the Berlin Turnpike being driven noisily and fast-  high school kids I’m guessing.  There are other generations coming along. I hope they have as great a youth as we did. I hope our schools are still as good, and our towns still as supportive. I hope that greed and technology do not spell an end to all the good times that growing up in Newington meant to us.

 

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You find out cool things. Stanley Sobielski has a letter to the editor in the paper this weekend; Steve Seymour lives on the Cape and used to run by Kurt Vonnegut’s house. Gayle and Dennis are pals with an alligator. Sharon and I talk about Friendly’s. I hear of an escapade with Dean and David involving a small boat and trip to NY for beer. Fred Roth still plays the sax. Fred Lewonczk’s as witty as ever. Kurt Austin is a professor of electrical engineering in Vermont. Henry Kalman is still playing tennis and has a really cool mountain bike. Claire Barrows still talks when someone is speaking to us all and needs to be hit with a magazine and shushed by Marcia. Betty has been married for 46 years to a man who writes poetry and they have five grandkids, one of whom was there. Ann Marie is still completely irrepressibly fun to be around. You leave that first night just thrumming. What a jolt.

 

And on the second night you start up again, but it is different. Food. Tables. We have to sit. Speeches. Roger thanks Jean for her efforts on the cool booklet of news clippings and photographs. Then the music starts and my older ears can’t handle the extraneous noise and conversation so well as maybe they once could have. So I have to start to listen to the music. And it’s late 1960’s again. The Wild Weeds. Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs. Rock Around the Clock.

 

I ask Betty if she wants to dance. I guide her out onto the dance floor: she’s blind, and we dance a few slow ones, talking about NHS, our lives, our classmates. I’m in a line dance with Paula but somehow we get goofed up. It’s fun. After ice cream, Marcia and Nancy drag me out onto the dance floor. I end up dancing with Steve Argosy’s wife, Carol. Later, we’ve drifted completely into the past.  Claire and Karen and Janet and Gail and Doug and Jean Paul and Fred, are all dancing, but Dominic is the man of the hour- cutting the rug. High school. 1967. Again. But somehow improved with age.

 

It was a blast, An absolute blast. The feelings of affection for the town I grew up in, being here again at the country club, the comradery of my classmates all leave me feeling pretty wonderful.  It’s a special time. Thank you all, planners, who made it possible. Thank you all who were there.  I can hardly wait for the next one.

 

 

Phragmites

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We’re home from a busy summer and it feels really good. We have almost four acres here in Storrs to keep up with and sometimes I feel overwhelmed. There’s a house IMG_1019

and a barn, IMG_1021downstairs a shop and upstairs a little gymIMG_1022

and a few out buildings, two for wood, one for the old garden tractor and boat gear with a shed off it for our 1939 Ford 9N tractor a and boats, and paddle boards,IMG_1020

and a pondIMG_1017

 

The pond is lovely. We swim in it in the warmer months although Suzy will often start  when there is still ice on the pond. I know, from my high school physics class with Mr. Hill,  that any stable mixture of ice and water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Suzy doesn’t know this.  The sun streams in nicely in early April and she’ll think it’s time for a dip even though there’s still ice floating around on the pond. Yes, We’re both crazy. We skate on it in the winter, and we have loved out pond. I remember when we had it dug that I was worried about the lack of growth in it and around it. It looked kind of barren. Be careful what you wish for. Over the years it started to grown in nicely. I thought it might be pampas grass and was excited, stately and tall with fronds at the top. Well, it’s not. It’s a weed called phragmites and it is tough. And it grows.  It will go out from the edge of the pond about eight or ten feet and gets so thick and tall that it hides the pond. Two years ago I had an excavator come in the fall and dig out the edge of the pond.   It looked wonderful over the winter, but the next spring it came back thicker and taller than ever. Gasp! Last year I waited until the water was little low in our drought,  lashed together an eight foot dinghy and a canoe so I could work from a stable platform, and went around with a weed whacker. I cut it off pretty close to the surface of the water, then raked the stuff out.

 

This year I wanted to cut the weeds off lower, under water. I’d bought a tool, two feet wide and sharp, with a long handle that you can toss out there and pull back, but phragmites is tough to the point that I cannot pull a two foot blade through. So I started using a pole saw. that worked great up close, but as you got out there and extended it, you had to kind of hook it out there, push with one hand, and pull with the other. It got tough. I needed something with an angle.

 

So I welded some quarter inch rod to a piece of flat steel, heated the flat steel with a torch so I could bend and twist it to about 110 degrees so it would hold a blade with the teeth aimed back, drilled couple of holes to hold a twelve inch pole saw blade, mounted it on an old bo staff I’d made and volia!

The ultimate pond weeding tool. Wow. It cuts like a champ. You stand in the water up to your knees and just pull, pull, pull. It’s pretty satisfying to cut them off. They’re tall and collapse into the pond slowly. Now and then you manage to pull one out by the roots and that’s strangely fun. Their roots are incredible, insidious: long, hollow, white, coming to an incredibly sharp point to penetrate everywhere. Then you flip those you’ve cut out onto the bank using the handy tool as a pitch fork, and keep going. We got four truck loads out, and the last one is drying on the bank. it’s an awfully good job to finish.

 

Part of why I like Storrs is that Suzy and I have built this place and we work at it to keep it up and it all feels very real. Cleaning, painting, gardening, building, weeding, mowing, stacking wood, plowing snow. Salt of the earth? Yeah, I guess. Old New England farmer? Yeah, I guess. On a very small scale. I look at Trump and his gazillioniare buddies trying to assemble deals that are too good to be true and wonder if shady financiers are going to take over the world.  I think about how obstinate we as a nation were when more of us were farmers. We knew what we knew and you couldn’t budge us from that. Plants need water and sunshine, and attention. People and animals need plants. The soil needs care if you want to eat. So does the water. Caring carefully for the present to build a decent future was our national passion. Caring for plants, animals, children, our families, our friends, our neighbors. Sure. Of course. That’s what we humans do. You couldn’t manipulate a farmer away from that with all the fancy talk in the world. Is the world is more complex now?  Or do we just see more of it?  Are there more people now who will take advantage of you? Confidence men. Overly confident self promoters. People with all the answers. The only one who can solve the problem. Believe me.

 

I once got a call from a broker selling sugar futures. He made is sound like I’d be crazy not to buy. Poised on a historic moment. Couldn’t miss. If I could come up with 10K – oh. You could hardly believe what the future would be like. I was young. I was training to get my series seven license to become a  mutual fund broker and fancied myself pretty sharp. I didn’t have ten grand. That was a year’s salary for me at the time. I approached my brother Mike. He couldn’t help. I approached my aunt Eleanor. She refused to help and inferred I was being foolish. I didn’t get the money. I never invested in sugar futures. And guess what? That deal didn’t pan out. Sugar futures didn’t do what this broker said they would. I would have lost the whole kit and caboodle. I would have been in tough straits financially for years. Close call.

 

I’ve become more skeptical.  My mom used to say that talk is cheap. I get it now. There are a lot of people out there with unbelievable deals out there. The art of the deal is alive and well. There are people out there who lie well.  Changes to health care, tax reform, gun issues, education cuts, no connections to Russia, very fine job helping in Puerto Rico. Sounds little like a sales job.  A broker selling sugar futures. A con job? How do we get rid of the con artists? It’s a little like phragmites. Kind of pretty and interesting at first, but before you know it you could have a problem on your hands. Maybe we should talk about what to do. Maybe we could use a tool to cut through the con men.

Owls Head

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There aren’t too many more places you’d rather be in August than Owls Head, Maine. Sullivan Reed told me that quite a few years ago. I guess one of the places is Alaska, since that’s where he is now, but I know what he means. It is stunning.  My wife and I were at Crescent Beach in the late afternoon. We both swim, but mine is brief, 30 or so strokes of the crawl, then I get out. Suzy swims for 30 minutes in that cold water. Hobbes and I take a walk on the beach, it’s about a half mile sand crescent bordered on either end by the rock that predominates Maine’s coast, and then I leave Hobbes at a place where he likes to fish- Hobbes is our Australian shepherd pictured here being cute, but not fishing.IMG_0920.JPG

Once Hobbes is comfortably fishing and Suzy swimming I grab my board and go for a paddle.IMG_0899.JPG

 

The sun is low enough to make the light magic. The islands you can see from Crescent and there are quite a few: Sheep a mile off, Fisherman’s a couple, Vinalhaven and North Haven further out, Eben Island just off shore, are just etched against the blue of the sky. You put your paddle in to that fantastic liquid and pull and the board makes such a nice sound as it glides through this scene all blue and gold and green. When we are all out of the water, done paddling, swimming, fishing, standing on the sand looking around breathing it all in, remembering years ago when our son Saben would be with us, young, having just spent the afternoon building sand castles. We would often have ten or fifteen kids helping. The sand at Crescent Beach is exceedingly fine and perfect for drip castles.  And there are all those beautiful rock, and interesting shells- sand dollars galore at Crescent, and mussel shells, and driftwood and seaweed to decorate with, and moats and channels to build. It is not hard to get kids going on a project like that. There they are through the mist beginning to gather,  a group of kids ranging from two or three years old to twelve all working together on castle complex. We stand on the same beach as the sun settles  lower and a chill begins to take hold of you and you just have to smile.

 

We keep a dory in Maine and I row frequently. IMG_0673.JPGYou get up early and row in the morning glass with the sun just beginning to warm things up and you can feel pretty special. On the back side of Monroe Island you can feel as if you were the only one out there. Not a soul in sight, you, your boat, the sea, the smells of that air: spruce and seaweed. Then a boat pulls into sight and you’re brought back to earth. You were pretty close to heaven for just a minute. Pretty nice, Owls Head, in August.IMG_0679

 

Confratute 2017

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For the past 40 years, there has been a fabulous conference  at UConn whose purpose is to excite, ignite and delight teachers and to promote the best ways to work with young people. A massive group of  teachers from elementary, middle, high schools and colleges, administrators from schools and governments descend on Storrs, CT and the place is hopping for a week. Sunday night  Joe Renzulli and Sally Reis introduce Rachel McAnallen,  who by the way earned her Doctorate at UConn in 2011 at the age of 75, and the race is off. It is the most stimulating, energizing thing a teacher can do. By the end of the week of classes, discussions, chances to question, think, learn, change, hang out with super stars and perform, you are exhausted. Books, camaraderie, novel approaches, creative juxtapositions, teachers of all sorts from all over. You have been steeped in ideas in ways you would not have conceived. It is a good as it gets. It is the high point of the summer. Confratute. Part conference, part institute with a dose of fraternity: totally electrifying, from early morning to late at night.

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What’s best about Confratute?  There is no best. It is one long continuous best. Alright you get nervous now and then- when you first show up and don’t know quite where to go or what to do, or you’re asked to do something in a class and you don’t quite understand yet and there’s a blink of confusion. Then you notice: everyone is nice. Everyone is helpful. Yes there are gods striding around: Renzulli and Reis, Sandy Kaplan, Del Seigle, jean Gubbins.  Susan Baum, Firmender Richards,  Leppien, Beghetto, Housand,    But they’re all friendly gods. And they want you to call them by their first name. And the upcoming gods, the younger members of the gifted community who got their doctorates ten or fifteen years ago, and the new ones, who just got their doctorates, and the ones who are working on various degrees, and crowds of  dedicated teachers, writers, illustrators, painters, dancers, publishers. Oh my goodness. This is hall of fame stuff, right? Is there a strict hierarchy? Are people arrogant? Aloof? Inaccessible? Intimidating?IMG_0570No. People pitch in together and help make this happen. And you’re here, one of the mix, and it’s just fantastic. You can learn more about teaching effectively here in a week than you can anywhere else on earth. And it is exhilarating.

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Well, for most.

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At the end of Monday I got home and was exhausted. It’s only Monday. You don’t want it to be over by any means, but you can’t believe how tired you are. And then the next day is even more exciting. Susannah Richards talking about books in away that ought to be put in bottles and given to every kid in the land the way Coke is now. Ron Beghetto getting us going on creativity to the point that electricity is crackling from the walls. Melissa Thom using actual electricity and we’re making lights light when we stick them in play doh. Did you know play dough conducts electricity? Neither did I. My partner and I leaned more about electricity and circuits in half an hour than I could have imagined. And we loved it. Maker Space. The keynotes are wonderful.The morning sessions are fantastic.  Brian Housand stunned us with his Long and Brutal history of Fake News. We should all listen to our high school English teachers: consider the sources boys and girls.   Tonya Bolden, – so eloquent and concise. Such a writer. Work toward being good. It’s all best.  The new state commissioner of education who was a teacher for 25 years and is so sensible sounding.  Joe and Ron Beghetto on their latest creativity project. In a world that faces monumental problems that we sometimes can’t yet define, is creativity something we all ought to be interested in? Hmmm.

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I don’t mean to offend anyone by leaving out names. I know that every presentation is worth while. I go to as many as I can, but I don’t get a tenth  of it. I talk to others who feel as excited about their instructors as I did about mine. And this year I worked up my nerve and did something I was afraid of. I joined the choir. A beautiful risk? You bet. And it paid off. Ben is an astounding choir director. We felt good right off the bat and he kept pumping and prodding and congratulating all week. Will I do it again? You bet. How about you?

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And the final program. The talent show, the variety show I mean.  What a hoot. It gets zany. People perform. Drs. Whiting and Gentry having a plank contest on the stage. People end up on their heads. Earnest steps in as an accompanist for the choir at 7:17 just over an hour before the performance so Ben can concentrate on directing. Interesting acts. Silly acts. Fun acts. Good music. Some profound moments. Some hysterical moments. How many state education departments have a folk singer on board? I don’t know, but we’ve got a friend. Any mistakes in the show? You bet. The sound system screeches, goofed intros,  forgotten lines, wrong timing.  Just like a classroom performance. We accept it, we see it for what it is and we appreciate what people are doing. We more than appreciate it. We enjoy this a lot. We’re a raucous and good spirited crowd. I can’t wait to hear next year’s letters from parents. Two alpha females who both like to be in charge- good luck with that.

 

Then when it’s all over on Friday it isn’t over. Ana, a student I know from E.O Smith High School years ago, now  graduated from college with a degree in communications and helping here at Confratute,  offers to help me learn to use Twitter.  She eases my fears, she patiently explains, she makes me feel that it’s o.k. not to know, she compliments some pictures I’ve shot. She’s really good. And in half an hour I can kind of tweet. Slow learner.IMG_0582

 

Confratute is like that. You get pretty pumped. People are nice. Experts abound. Ideas flow. Friendships happen. Fun happens. Discoveries happen. Moments of clarity happen. Confusion happens and no one yells. Patience. Tolerance. Listening. Administrators and teachers and researchers and writers and singers and dancers and painters from all over the world and the United States. Giovanna and Shannon and Greg and Gerry and Kashif and Demi and Jessica and Maggie, Matt,  Susan, Christy, Kristen. Italy, the Phillipines, Alabama, Maine, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, California,  Long Island and Boston and Fort Lauderdale and Utah and on and on.

 

 

Yoga and walking and spirited discussions and trivia contests. Engagement happens. Is this what schools should be like? Right. Confratute. It’s over, but it’s not over. It’s just beginning. Keep in touch.

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Well I Guess the Lord Must be in New York City.

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You can feel it when you step off the train. When you come up to street level from Penn Station, the energy in palpable. New York has a very strong pulse. People walk fast. Three guys from a boxing club, waiting for the light to change so they can cross. Middleweights in a city of heavy weights. A gorgeous black woman in her twenties who could be a model, standing, waiting for a bus, an opportunity? Women with dogs, men with briefcases, bicycles, buildings, cars, buses, skateboards, scooters, joggers, dancers, waitresses, janitors, barbers, coffeehouses, sandwich shops, art schools, universities, hot young people, cool old people, billboards, sidewalks, whizzing by in a symphony of color and sound that electrifies, stupefies, makes me gape. Was my mouth really open? Am I that much of a rube? Saben and Iris are on their phones, The Lift car will be across the street in three minutes. I’d be standing there still if not for them. Kristina and Christian, both more seasoned travelers than Suzy and I, have their luggage and are waiting to cross 8th Avenue. I close my mouth and hold Suzy’s hand and we join the throng.

 

The Lift driver shows up. He angles in, hops out, grabs luggage, I help. Six of us crowd in and I have my eyes glued out the windows. He drives well. There are no issues. We have a tour. I am fascinated. I eventually ask a few questions, and talk a bit. We arrive at our destination on Sullivan Avenue, in the village.IMG_0160

So cool. We hop out. The stress is less here. Do I dare say quiet? It’s not quiet, but the vibe is nice. Not frenetic as it was at 8th and 31st Street. Saben pays with his phone. The driver shakes my hand an says I am a positive person. I am struck. What did I do? He is off. We are off. Up we go. Four flights: a walk-up. I have my bag and Suzy’s bag. The fellow meeting us at our Air B n B takes the bigger bag from me in the middle of the third flight of stairs. I admit that I am glad he did. My heart was racing. Hot. Steep. We get shown the code to get in, the keys to get in, the bathroom, the beds, the towels. He leaves. We are in New York City.

 

We get settled and within fifteen minutes are walking down the street. Kristina needs an ATM. There is a store.  A girl dressed all in black, young, very pretty, looking over the cool drinks. People wash over you, around you. We stand on a busy sidewalk. Lights change, bicycles whiz by, people hustle. We move. Saben suggests going to Washington Park. I’m wondering why. I do not wonder why now. My god is it interesting. I thought the sidewalks had a show going on. They do, but not like this. A dog park with fifty dogs and owners. Some owners busy with the ear buds. An aussie being invited to play by a beagle. A pair of aussies comes down the sidewalk. IMG_0123 Interesting people come down the sidewalk. We are making our way slowly into the park. A man walks by wearing a woman’s bathing suit. Jazz is coming from where he is headed.  A young man is riding his bicycle backwards in a circle. IMG_0130He does a wheelie, he does a spectacular fall, sliding into it. He lies there, unhurt, laughs, gets back up and starts again. There are two pianos playing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, a favorite from my youth, IMG_0135

 

A group has huddled up. They cheer and come out of the huddle clapping.  Cones are set out. A game? IMG_0138

 

They dance. And they can dance. I don’t dance like this. You don’t dance like this. IMG_0142

But you have to leave because there is a statue over there with a crowd and I wonder what the commotion is.  IMG_0147

As we approach something happens. I could swear I just saw  that statue move.IMG_0144

I did.

Someone put some money in his hat. The statue bowed.IMG_0143

 

We’ve been in New York for an hour. We wend our way over some very interesting streets, the parade continues. The afternoon is getting later. Bicycles and joggers are everywhere. People with good posture walking home from work. We stop at a little Greek restaurant. We ask to be seated outside. I recognize a guy I’d seen in the park. He shakes my hand heartily and calls me brother. We go out to the garden. They pull tables together for us.IMG_0161

We have dinner. Some appetizers.IMG_0164.JPG Some Retsina. Some food. IMG_0168 Great company. IMG_0167.JPG

This is fun. There is no way this is not fun. Notice that the  t.v. was not on. Hmmm. Is New York on to something?

For those of you who want to know, Kristina on the left was our son’s host mom in Sweden when he spent a semester abroad. Her son, Christian, is the young man with the beard by the exit sign. He has just finished his studies in Budapest to become a doctor. The good looking couple next to Kristina is Saben and Iris, now living in Venice, California, Suzy and I are on the right. The old self timer worked fine and I made it back to my seat.

After dinner, barely able to waddle, we made our way over to the river on the west side along with approximately five thousand other people. We were at pier 45 and watched the sun go down and the show continue: joggers, skaters, bicycles, people doing yoga in the grass, a fellow doing a great looking workout- I stole a few exercises from him but could not conceive of doing anything so active so soon after that incredible dinner. The sun set while a rowdy group talked and sang and laughed and had more fun that would probably be legal anywhere in Connecticut.

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The city comes alive with lights.IMG_0212

This photo does not begin to capture the charm of it.

What next? Why ice cream of course. Oh god, no. Not more food. I vow not to get any. My resolve is not tested. The line for ice cream is long- out of the building and across the street. We head back to our comfy little place. Suzy and I are pretty roasted. Iris goes across the street to the store to pick up something. We open up the apartment and turn up the AC. iris shows up with cool and bubbly drinks. Orangina and Seltzer over some ice cubes we found. Absolute heaven.IMG_0215.JPG

What did people  in New York do before refrigeration and air conditioning? They suffered.

We slept. The city did not. I heard it being rowdy at three o’clock. I heard it yelling and laughing at 5:30. I got up to go see it a little after 8:00. Back to Washington Park. It was cool. It was quiet. It was lovely. There were tender moments. This man was playing his heart out on the saxophone. He was good. A little girl, riding a scooter, and her mom, not riding a scooter, had stopped. The sax player got down on one knee to serenade this little girl who absolutely loved it. When he stood, to resume belting it out, the little girl shook her head no. She wanted the serenade to continue. So did I.IMG_0236 I did not have a fond spot in my heart for New York. I have been stuck in traffic there. I have been lost trying to get by it. I once stayed there for week while my wife was trapped in the Hospital for Special Surgery  and felt extreme relief when we were able to come home. I have tried to avoid it when driving south, good old Tappan Zee Bridge. I was not prepared to be so delighted. My son has said that to get into or out of a city is often difficult, but that once you are in, it’s not like that at all. I can understand that now better. I understand the appeal of a large city.

Our next day was just as amazing. We started with coffee at Lena’s, run by Pierre, a Frenchman from the Basque region who named it after his daughter. He is a former rugby player who hurt his knee after ten years. Now he and a young girl handle the morning onslaught with grace.IMG_0251

We ordered coffee and tea and sandwiches and of course one of these: made from his mother’s recipe. It is a good way to get your breakfast quotient of chocolate.IMG_0242

The coffee looks like this.IMG_0247

Fueled with caffeine and chocolate- we had breakfast sandwiches, too- we headed out. No plan for the day, just over to a park over by the former meat packing railway.

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Here we saw all sorts of cool stuff. A park above the city.

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We went to a mall where we met up with Iris’s Aunt and Uncle who were visiting from Taiwan. She has cousins who work in New York who were hosting the aunt and uncle and had to hustle back to work so the visit was brief. Some shopping- I got a scraper for baking bread- and lunch. Then off to Central park on the  Metro for a hansom ride. Haven’t you always wanted to go for a hansom ride through central Park.Of course you have. We did! boy is it fun.IMG_0344.JPG

I don’t know if I should mention this because I do not mean to give Donald any more press time than he already gets, but we did see Trump Tower. It is, like the man himself. pretty big and ugly. And it’s orange, too. The nice thing about it was that there was a protest happening about the secret Republican health care bill. How can any legislation be formed in secret committee that is anything but a sham? It dawned on me this morning that what the Republicans are doing is trying to leave the very profitable health care industry alone so that rich people can continue to get rich in it, but to appear to be having some kind of government regulation over what should be a right for every person in America. the Democrats, who believe that government should intervene on behalf of people had their go at it, and now with Trump in power and Republicans in the majority, they are trying desperately to get back to getting the government out of the health care industry. You know when Adam Smith argued for free markets setting prices and all that, he maintained that there could be no undue influence on the market. Does paying lobbyists gazillions of dollars to “talk” to senators count as undue influence? I suppose not. Trump Tower brings out the best. Russian influence in our election, oligarchs laundering money, stiffing the working class. You know. All that stuff that I guess somehow makes America great again. Hey, wait, was American not great for a little while there? I didn’t think so.

 

Of course after all our walking and riding around on various conveyancesIMG_0339

we thought we ought to eat again. And did we eat again. We went to an Italian place called Via Cataro and had the best dinner I have ever eaten. We had to wait, but since they would let us sit down and bring us a drink we didn’t mind an hour and fifteen minute wait. Did that beer taste good. Saben ordered some appetizers- fresh figs with a soft cheese and some onion on bread that was out of this world. When we got our table we had fun ordering.  It was just wonderful to be there. This restaurant encourages the sharing of their dishes, the portions are more than ample. The feeling of the group was that we should order four pasta dishes to share, including wild boar, pesto, and two other delights, each as delicious as you could conceive, And two main dishes: pork and sea Bream. They did the indignity of calling this most wonderful dish of pork I have ever consumed, a pork chop. Kristina suggested wine and for a couple more hours we dined and talked and laughed. We got Suzy into a fit of giggles over the size of my nose. I think the wine may have helped. It was really good company. Then the debate about dessert. We’d missed ice cream the last night, and now it was Thursday night, probably busier. The line might be across the street  down the whole block. No tricking everyone to leave to try the mythical ice cream shop around the corner. We decided to get three desserts right where we were and split them. Why walk when you could just keep eating? Peaches in a sauce. The waitress said it was amaretto, but we  thought, after discretely licking the plate, that it was a raspberry liqueur whose name escaped us but I think now is Chambord. We had, since we’re familiar with it, to try the Tiramisu. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/tiramisu-recipe-1913608

And then a chocolate torte. Indescribably good. Every one. Although those with the most discerning tastes liked the Tiramisu best. Saben staunchly maintained that the peaches were the best, but he was wrong.

It was an amazing dinner. Saben and Iris treated us all to it which was pretty nice of them to do.  A fitting cap to an incredible visit. Will I ever view New York the same? No. I never will. It was a lovely visit. Next morning onto the train. A tense moment when our train is supposed to be leaving at 8:30 and they’re pretty prompt about leaving and it’s 8:29 and the track we depart from is not yet listed on the board. I get nervous over that sort of thing. I was glad our son and Iris were there for support. 8:31 and they announced the track. Two hundred of us hustle over. Suzy and I at almost the end of the line. We hugged Saben. And Iris. We did make it. And back home. Wow. IMG_0211

Wonder Woman

“Be careful in the world of men, Diana. They do not deserve you,” mom says to her daughter who is about to leave.

Suzy and I saw Wonder Woman yesterday. Of course you have to start out with about nine previews of really loud superhero movies. I ran out to get some napkins to stuff in my ears. Do people really like that much noise? Stimulation I guess. I’m just a quiet little wallflower. Wonder Woman though, was not nearly as loud and I got to take the napkins out of my ears. I suppose the previews all put all the loud noisy parts in because there are some noisy parts of this movie. Even Diana went deaf on one of the noises. Pretty funny. Background. I never liked Wonder Woman much. I grew up with parents who wouldn’t let me read comics. They corrupted your morals or something. I had to sneak them. That really corrupts your morals. Louie Thompson had them and he’d bring them to school.  I got to read Superman a lot and so got to like him. There was a Superman t.v. show that was terrific, starring George Reeves who later committed suicide. On t.v. though, he was able to leap tall buildings at a single bound. Well duh, he could fly. Faster than a speeding train. Pretty tame by today’s standards. You know Superman would stand there with his arms akimbo, with his little paunch sticking out of his blue uniform- yeah, he wore his underpants on the outside while he fought for truth, justice and the American dream.

superman:

Bad guys would empty their guns at him. He’d smile. He’d take their guns to bend them. Then he’d hustle them off to jail. We loved it. There was never any real doubt that Superman would prevail. A reflection of our beliefs back then. There was a right and a wrong and right always won. The United States was always right. Things are more sophisticated now, more subtle, more like what happens when you have seven billion people hanging around together. The only other superhero show I liked was Batman with Adam West, which was corny- I think camp was the term- but we loved it anyway. We laughed at it, but we watched it.

Biff. Pow. Great music.

Then they tried a Wonder Woman show. Linda Carter was the star. That show just never appealed to me. She couldn’t fly. She had lasso? Who cares. Magic bracelets? Oh really. A girl super hero? That Linda Carter was good looking was not enough to pull off the show. I’d never read Wonder Woman comics, had no interest in the mythology that I guess is a large part of Wonder Woman. Fast forward 50 years and I read a review of Wonder Woman, watch the trailer and am suddenly intrigued.  I wanted to see it, and now, having done so, I am totally enthralled. This movie was fantastic. Yes, there is some pretty witty dialog- the pithy comment made under duress- the ultimate in cool. Yes, Diana, as one who grew up sheltered from our complicated world, is innocent in some ways that lead to some pretty funny situations and lines. Yes there are terrific characters: Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are a good looking couple, their sidekicks are interesting- an Mid Eastern man, an Indian, an Scotts/Irishman. But what I really like, what has me thinking, is the message that love is the answer not war. That love can conquer war. Could love conquer Isis? Diana cares about people who are hurting. She is driven by this compassion. She wants to help. She is willing to fight to help. She wants to fight. It is her duty. Determined, brilliant, beautiful, focused, unconcerned with what people think of her, courageous, capable of fighting. Oh yes, Wonder Woman has it all going on. Then she gets has a falling out with her cronies. They part ways. She gets disillusioned. She has to fight her preconceived notions. She repeats something that her mother said about deserving her. Hubris? Arrogance? And Chris Pine delivers a line that fuels everything: It is not what people deserve that should drive you; do what you believe is right.  And it appears that you do not know always what is right. You may have to learn things. Exercise judgment.

 

Yes there is a terrifically tense time in this movie where it looks grim for the good guys. This is after a point where I thought it was over. The bad guy was taken care of. O.K. Let’s get Diana married off and end happily ever after in our typical Hollywood ending and ooops. Oh my, the trouble is just beginning. Yes, lots of loud crashes and banging around at this point. Dianna picks up tank in a way that defies physics- how can a 110 pound woman pick up a twenty ton tank from the side? Wouldn’t she need special sneakers  with extra grippy treads and have to lean really far back? But our suspension of disbelief has kicked in now, and we don’t mind. Lots of crashing and banging, but there is a moment on the hero’s journey- the abyss- where it appears utterly hopeless. Then the command from a powerful male to give up. Temptation. Yield, You cannot win. Our heroes, every one in the fearsome fivesome, are in deep doo doo. Oh no. How will we get out of this? The Greeks  had their Deus Ex Machina endings where the gods descend from the skies- with crane in the good old days- now it’s special effects- to save the day. This is different. The gods are fighting. Who saves them? time to dig deep, Diana.

 

It is a very good ending. As the Beatles put it so long ago: Love is all there is. And we get a very different definition of love in this film. One that I wholeheartedly embrace. This is an awesome film to watch. And an added benefit is that Wonder Woman watched the movie with us! Unbelievable, but as the credits rolled, a little girl got up and started twirling around in front of the screen with her Wonder Woman costume on. Just like the young Diana in the movie, doing the same blocks. Pretty charming. And if she and all the other little girls in Wonder Woman suits grow up to be like this Wonder Woman- courageous, determined, willing to work, eager to fight for others, not egotistical but confident, willing to learn, focused, persistent and compassionate- the world will be better off. Go see this film. Earplugs optional.

Wellfleet Harbor

IMG_9694“Utterly at peace.” Suzy mentioned this morning, talking about our recent weekend on the Cape, how relaxed she had felt: listening to the radio, knitting, sitting in the chair in the sun in between helping me when I needed a hand. We had hit some warm water for swimming at Boat Meadow Beach. Our first day the air was in the high 80’s and the tide was coming in over the sand flats and the water was 70 degrees. Absolutely salty and lovely. I stayed in for 15 minutes, Suzy longer.. Not bad for May 19th. Wine, Campfire. Long chats. Walking the beach.

We got quite a few things done on the cabin. I had three items on this trip’s agenda: 1. Pay for, prepare and launch the mooring up in Wellfleet 2. insulate and sheetrock behind where the kitchen counter will go and install the counter 3. install the dry well for the outside shower. And we did them all!!!! Yeah. The counter top is not quite in yet- some leveling issues, but I got all the uprights in and the counter top is on top of them. The building is now out of level quite substantially. It appears to be sinking. ARRRGHH. Do I shim up the counter, or the building? Well of course I should shim up the building. Sono tubes. Sinking in the sand.

The mooring was fun to launch. I know John Milliken- we called him La Foote in the good old days, after the pirate Jean Lafitte. LaFoote rode a kneeboard and tried to convince the rest of us surf rats it was better. You can’t convince a surfer to give up his board. What are you crazy? LaFoote was an instructor at some surf camp in Nicaragua where he developed the nickname Dr. Ding. It wasn’t because he beat boards up; it was because he did repairs so well. I was going to take the mooring out of my truck and carry it down to the dock when John said to wait. He came back with a handtruck and a typically clever comment, “I’ve learned all I need to know about hard work. Use this.”IMG_9697

I’d brought my dory up to row the mooring out where it goes, but Lennie was headed out in the skiff and offered to take me out to drop the mooring. He’s just had a very successful three disc repair done to his back and said he wouldn’t lift it.  I was thrilled not to have to launch my dory and row out then row back and get the dory back on the trailer. I got the mooring into the skiff, then went along as Lennie checked what he had to check and tossed the mooring over where Lennie said to. It’s a nice feeling to be a little part of a harbor.IMG_9717

Looks nice. Next trip up, we”ll launch the Sturdee Cat, a fourteen foot catboat. Cape Cod is cat boat country.. Here’s a Sturdee Cat they rent out in Wellfleet. Ours will be off to the left a quarter of a mile, tucked in behind the jetty.IMG_3781.JPG

Here is what I am going to feel like when I sail it.

The Long Leg, 1935 by Edward Hopper

The dry well and the insulation and the sheetrock are not as much fun. Insulation feels good to finish and it makes the cabin warmer. Sheetrock, too, you jsut want to finish. I just did the lower half of the back wall so I could install my clever plywood sandwiches that will hold up the counter and give me a place to put drawers. I’ll face these plywood separators  with some cherry, put in the drawers, and volia! Kitchen. The counter top is two inch pine. I had a board 25 inches wide, that I had sawn from logs we cut in our back yard in Storrs. I did not want to plane it by hand, though and so had to cut it down to fit through my 13 inch Dewalt planer. Then I joined it back together to 25 inches with a few butterfly mortises. You can just see one of the mortises on the right end of the counter. Three coast of urethane, and it’s a pretty nice top.IMG_9687

The drywell is astoundingly satisfying to install. I worked for Ralph Mayo when I was a young college kid.  1967. He pumped out and built cesspools. I’d dug a cesspool myself as a kid for our cottage on Oak Ridge Road.  My wife thinks I’m crazy and so do a lot of people, but I always loved to dig. Most outgrow it, but at a critical age, my dad let me dig a whole cesspool by myself on the east end of our cottage. He’d helped dig the one at the west end. I think that may have been why he let me dig the second one all by myself. I was thrilled. Somewhere there is a picture of this goofy little kid, leaning on a short handled shovel, at the bottom of a ten foot deep hole six feet around sporting a white t shirt and jeans, a butch haircut and a great big grin. I was 11. I’ve been hooked ever since. Working for Ralph was nothing but fun for me. I didn’t mind the pumping, although at first I was repulsed. Ralph laughed. He said, “In a couple of weeks you’ll be pumping out a pool and the noon whistle will blow and you’ll just grab your lunch and sit right down while it’s pumpin’, dangle your feet in the hole and eat. You won’t even wash your hands.” This did not come true, but you do get pretty used to it. Except for kitchen cesspools. Oh god are they disgusting. You probably don’t want any details, but that grey, greasy sludge is much worse than a bathroom one. Of course there’s quite a lot more I could tell you about cesspools, and their evolution from holes in the ground lined with stone or cement block to septic systems with tanks, and leech fields and stone, but you’ll have to read that in my memoir. It’s pretty interesting, really.

So this drywell was a mini cesspool. I punched a bunch of 3/4 inch holes in a 55 gallon plastic barrel I had. Once when Ralph and I  were putting in a new pool down by the beach in Eastham we dug up the old one and it was a 55 gallon barrel that had been attacked with an ax for drainage. It had lasted twenty years. The Cape has good drainage. This will last longer. Plastic, plus I surrounded it with a ton of stone. I brought up a half ton from home, and then zipped over to Easy Doze It in Wellfleet. and got another load from Dennis. He refused any money. We’re neighbors. Isn’t that nice? His son Zach loaded me up and I went very happily home to fill in my drywell.IMG_9579

Old man digging. Young dog supervising.

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Completed hole. A thing of beauty to some.

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Filled hole- barrel and stone  and pipe from the shower. Now that’s good lookin’!

Yes and I got to swing an ax a lot when digging the trench because of all the roots. I’m fairly easily amused.

 

One last thing. You’ve been very nice, to listen while I go on about septic systems. Saturday night we went to the package store to buy a corkscrew. We’d bought a bottle of wine Friday night but when we were back at the cabin had no way to open it. We have a corkscrew in our van, but I do not keep one in my pick up truck, sad, but true. While in the package store I hear the word fiddle, I look up and through the gloom of four decades think I recognize a face. “That’s not Bill Hardy?” It was Bill Hardy. We had not seen each other in it has to be pretty much forty years. And he’s still playing fiddle. He invited Suzy and me to come over Monday night to join him and Beth and some others playing and we chickened out this time. We had to get going on Monday, but I stopped by to apologize and he gave me a couple of CD’s which we rocked out to on the way home. Great music! We hope to go see him play and if you get a chance you might, too. He plays at a tavern in Boston regularly and I think at the Land Ho in Harwich. Here’s a link to his website.

http://billyhardy.com/

 

And here’s a link to Land Ho, which is an institution on Cape Cod.

 

http://www.land-ho.com/

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