Black Panther

Purple robe dignifiedblank_pixel._V137875076_I may become a fan of super hero movies. First Wonder Woman, which I guess was last year already, and now Black Panther. I wasn’t real excited about going to this movie, but we’d made a date to go see some movie with Scott and Kaye and here came Black Panther. I asked around, I guess I hate to waste my precious time or something, and the scuttlebutt was that it was pretty good. Then I read a review that was highly complimentary, saying the movie was a rare bird among superhero movies in that it was worth a second viewing. So we got eager. And we were not disappointed. I loved it. Yes, some scenes are pretty loud and they like to have a lot of clashy battles, explosions abound, and there is a car chase. We come from hunters, we like chase scenes. Did it all start with the Dodge Charger and Steve McQueen in the Mustang roaring around the streets of San Francisco? It did for me. If you like the loud stuff I think there is probably enough for you in this movie, but what I loved was not that. The idea of a . technologically superior place kind of hiding in the mists of Africa, protected by mountain and impenetrable jungle from outside knowledge, is pretty appealing. Shades of the old comic Phantom, by Lee Falk. Ok. we need to have the willing suspension of disbelief that we couldn’t fly over or that a satellite wouldn’t pick it up, or google maps doesn’t have a street view of it. There you go. One of the features of us humans is that we can do that. We enjoy stories and they are important to our progress as a species. We aspire to greater heights because of stories. we get ideas from stories.They are tremendously important to our future. We think because of stories. Yes, I know everyone and his brother thinks that technology is the answer to all our woes, but they are wrong. We are human. We thrive on stories. And Music. And art. And this movie starts with a story. “Tell me a story.” “Which one?” And the kid wants to hear about Wakanda. We are listening, too, rapt. Secret land? Technologically advanced? Hiding in plain sight? Then we have some pretty good heists, shady deals to buy contraband and some explosive action. We get a good view of a scary bad guy, the weapons dealer who escapes from our hero with the help of a young kid we thought was just a punk who turns out to be Formidable. We’re confused. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys. Some internal tension- the new king makes decision that doesn’t work out well and his militant friend is disappointed. And we thought they were brothers. That’s why the disappointment is so powerful. And then things get complicated. I kept waiting for the Black Panther to go somewhere and do something superheroish. It’s right at home that it happens. Insurrection. Isolationism versus helping other nations. Or maybe overthrowing other nations. And the bad guy has a good point. There are a lot of people out there who don’t have what the Wakandans have. We ought to share. There’s plenty for all. Factions. How to accomplish this sharing? Allegiance to the office, or to the man? Or to the idea. Oh it is rich. And timely. Our government is going through the same thing. Building walls to keep out the riff raff. Various people who have allegiance to the office, some who are loyal to a man. So when this movie resolves all these problems it feels pretty darn good. And the portrayal of women in this film is stunning, and not just because the women are good looking- which of course they are. They are scientists, nerds, healers, warriors, dignified states people, wise. Impressive. And did I mention funny? We have our royal highness brought up short any number of times by a woman’s remark.  The king says to his gorgeous female friend, “You’d make a good queen if you  weren’t so stubborn.” She responds “I’d make a good queen because I am stubborn. If that’s what I wanted.”


Black pnather yellow dress

There’s one line I was hoping wasn’t there. Spoiler alert? There is a moment when I was hoping the king would say to a vanquished foe, “We can heal you.” He says that we could probably heal you. And the vanquished foe will have none of it. He says something about how all those who jumped off slave ships knew that “Death was better than bondage” and it makes a good line in the movie and a dramatic moment, but I disagree.  I think that the cause of liberation of blacks, of the remarkable rise out of bondage was accomplished by people who did not die, but who worked and taught and fought for a future they could hardly see at the time. Are we there yet? To a place where we are all accepted as humans no matter how we look. Are you kidding me. No we’re not. And there is a long way to go yet, and that’s what I really liked about this move. That it is a big step forward on that journey. Inspirational. Laying out that fighting is not the way, that education and social responsibility, and helping those less fortunate is the way. That we do not need more boundaries. We need to start acting as if we were all from the same tribe.

So when I read about trolls tweeting about how they were beaten while waiting ion line to see the film- white people being beaten by blacks of course, being told that this is not their movie, I get distressed. Funny thing about those trolls tweeting is this. In New York, in Chicago, in Houston, in L.A., the police have had no reports of beatings at movie theaters. So is it a conspiracy to cover up black violence against whites? Or is it an attempt by some to stir something up, to create division where none exist because this movie has the power to change the way we view the world in a very positive way. You might have to think about that. There is a line at the end of the movie where the Wakandans are speaking to what I presume is the UN, offering their help. Some jackass in a suit says something along the lines of, “With all due respect, sir, how can you teach us anything?” Right. If we have all the answers already, we can’t learn a thing. That’s Trump’s whole schtick. He knows what he knows and like to stir things up, create commotion so nothing can get done except what he wants. I think you should go see this movie. And think about what we can do to start acting like we all belong together. It’s pretty heady stuff.



Pray for Pond Ice




Hobbes was excited. All these cars and people started showing up. Saturday morning, crisp and cold, but bright sunshine and supposed to warm up. The ice on the pond is gorgeous. We’d had some warm weather and some rain, so even though both of my tractors chose to break down and I  was not able to remove any snow from the pond, Mother Nature came around and did a beautiful job while I cheerfully? worked on the tractors. I did actually fix one.   A few years ago, back when my tractors worked better, a guidance counselor at the local high school  and I used to run a pond hockey tournament. Quite fun. And a number of those kids are still around. I posted on facebook that there was ice and made a call to a friend.  Ed showed up, a fellow older skater, to join me for a little time on the ice. Two old codgers passing a puck and taking shots at the goal. We had just started when another car shows up. It’s Jacob!  a former student who lived nearby and has skated here a lot. How nice. And then Snowy, another pond hockey tournament veteran from the Bone Mill Pond squad, shows up. Two old guys and two younger ones. It is fun. Hockey into the sunset. Cold air, breathing hard, sweating. Life is grand sometimes and nice ice is a real treat. Of course if you go to a rink they run the zamboni around every hour or so, in a hockey game even more, and you always have nice ice. This is not how a pond is. That deprivation, rotten ice, bumpy ice, snow-covered ice, no ice, is what life is all about, right? I mean if your jeans were always clean would you appreciate clean jeans? My wife and I have this discussion now and then. So for pond skaters, when you get good ice it is really special.  Jacob and Snowy wanted to skate again the next day. Of course. So Saturday morning seven kids show up. I shouldn’t call them kids. I’m just remembering back to when they were kids and I was teacher at the high school. They look sort of the same, they’re all recognizable. And some call me Mr. Murray still. But they are all young men in their twenties. Ed, my confederate of the day before, is busy today, so I represent the 68 year old contingent.


It is bright sunny day and we get our skates on and we skate. Oh god is it nice ice. And these guys can skate.


Some are former high school hockey players, some are just talented skaters. I’m older, and slower, and they’re nice about it. They let me have the puck now and then, give me a pass which sometimes I don’t muff, take the shovel away from me when it’s time to clear snow off. Polite, capable, competitive, but good-natured about it. Impressive. I am proud to know these guys. America will be in good hands with young men like these taking over. I stayed out for an hour and a half. Yes, I was done in, but happy. So I shot a few photos and went about my business while these guys skated on. My business, by the way, is fixing broken things that I think I own, but in reality own me.  And I listen to the sounds coming off the pond.

Skates cutting ice, a shout of joy at a good shot, a cheer over a clever play. And Hobbes, continually barking.



He’s learning to play hockey.

It sounds good to hear a group of kids and a dog on a pond playing hockey. Kind of what makes America great. Did I say kids? Yep. When you’re on the ice, we’re all kids.




Star Karate Class

IMG_6930What fun. Christine Lee invited me to come to work with her class- to teach a karate class. She runs a program, a cooperative effort between E.O. Smith High School and University of Connecticut to help kids who have finished high school find their way in their way in this complicated world. It was an honor to be invited.  Check out their website here. .  This was an terrific batch of kids. Let’s see how I do on the names. In order of appearance??? Amy met me by the car. Mike, Stephen, Shelby and Alec all by the table.  April and Kayleigh around the corner. Oh how fast things fade.  Skyler and Caleb joined us later.  Claudia is in a wheel chair and meant to join us, but never made it back in time. It worked out to nine kids and some teachers in the class. Kudos to Christine and Baron for joining in. It was a blast. We usually work in a smaller group here at Wildwood dojo, and it is a lot of fun to have the energy of so many in class.  We warmed up a bit and then I showed them a couple of stances a couple of blocks and  punches. And we played around with those things. IMG_6924A bit of movement, working with partners. A little self defense. And boy did they look crisp after an hour. I was impressed. We now have a good start on the 26 basic movements: Junbe, front stance, horse stance, long cat, straight punch, punch to face, upper block, lower defense and we are getting the idea of chambering- moving the other arm into position when you block or strike. A fantastic start with a great group. I can’t wait for the next time- next Friday!!!!


And maybe some of them will start joining us at Wildwood Dojo. It would be good to have some new students instead of these old pros from December’s big meeting. Grandmasters galore!IMG_1897





The Gathering



All night last night I dreamed of karate. I know it. I’m 68 years old and I’m like a little kid. There were grandmasters and masters everywhere. This was not the dream, this was the day. Stephen and I were putting the last touches on cleaning up the place. Our dojo is the upstairs of my barn and downstairs is a workshop full of sawdust from my latest projects. I didn’t know how many would be coming, so I thought it might be smart to have people change downstairs and I needed room on my benches. It turned out that just shy of 20 were there and it was awesome. First to show were the Wades. I remembered Roy from the Philadelphia Martial Arts Hall of Fame affair and once I saw JQ all dressed up in his gear I remembered him, too, and then their brother Bobbie.IMG_1866IMG_1858

This was to be a short workout and then some promotions and awards. The Wades came in to get settled and then others were showing. Stanley Heath,  Jose Rivera, Ken Finley, Arthur Roberts, were guys I knew. some I didn’t. Chuck, tenth degree Grandmaster and founder of American Federation of Tae Kwon Do Moo Duk Kwan was a little late. He was coming up from D.C. with Mike Lawrence so we’re all standing around schmoozing and stretching and waiting. Some spectators were there, Drew’s folks to see his promotion to master and our little dojo felt like it was bursting at the seams.


Chuck finally showed, to a round of applause and good feelings, and we got started. “Line up by rank!” When Chuck barks you listen. We lined up. I’m almost at the very lower end.  We’d had taken the punching bag down to make a little more room, and there was still not enough room for one line. “Two lines.” I moved forward. I was told to move to the back. The earning of rank is something you get to respect and this is part of it, even if I built the dojo.  I’m a second degree, not a master. To the back buddy. I’m still thrilled. He moves Steve to the front- he’s sixth degree- and puts me back where Steve was and calls out “Junbe.” We stand feet apart with both fists down, ready. He talks for  a minute and then says, “Squat punch left. Move.” And fifteen of us move in unison. And shout. The energy is palpable. “Return.” We return to Junbe. “Squat punch right. Move.” Again, and again and again. You get into it. I once saw a group doing Tai chi in a park at sunset and it was beautiful, all those people moving in unison. This is kind of like that, just faster, but still moving in way that not many things are. I get keyed and move out of the straight punch to junbe before Chuck says to return. He nails me. “Wait for the command.” He runs us through the basics, not all of them. We are breathing. Chuck speaks. “The basics are our alphabet. You learn the basics well and you can use that alphabet to form words. You use words to form sentences. You put enough sentences together and you get a book.”  I want to get a picture of this moment but I dare not break protocol. Finally I dare. I have to.IMG_1873

Grandmaster Graham and Grand master Wade up front.


Grandmaster Graham goes on about philosophy, about how he’s changed over fifty years. He pointed out that there had been some laughter in the group. “Some schools don’t allow that.” We have different styles in the room, Some schools don’t allow that. He talked about how it was possible for anyone in that room to do serious damage to another person. That’s not the point. The two most important moves are…. He waits. He gets some wrong answers. No one seems to know. “The first move and the last move.” Your initial response and how you end it. We teach our students to do things that can hurt, that can maim, that can kill. If you punch someone in the chest hard and collapse something, what do you then do. Triage? Let them die? Go to jail? Think about avoiding the confrontation. Step away. Avoid. Get your ego out of the way. This is tremendously thought provoking. He then asks if anyone can remember the last time they were in a fight. For everyone it is decades. Except one. That’s interesting. The more you learn about fighting the less you fight? Grandmaster Graham never fails to fascinate.

Then Chuck explains what class was going to be. I want you all to pick one self defense technique and teach it.” I instantly think of my favorite move and hope no one uses it before me.  Grandmaster Wade goes first. He is wonderful to listen to, asks for a partner, Steve volunteers as Uke. Grandmaster Wade, originator of the Hard/Soft style puts out a wrist and has Steve grab it. “This is too late,” he says. “They’ve got you.” A strong enough person will have a grip on you that is impossible to break. You have to move before it is too late. This anticipation pervades his whole presentation. He talks about spirit as opposed to mysticism. It informs what everyone says. It is a great class. I love karate. I am not alone.


Then the presentations. First is Ken getting a certificate from Master Wade.IMG_1878


Then some promotions to second degree, and to master level- that’s fourth degree.IMG_1893

Drew saying some words to Grandmaster Heath after having been promoted by him to master.



A new version of tieing one on.



Steve goes to second degree from Master Finley.


At the end of the awards Roy Wade had a lot to say about his plans for the organization, of merging into a new federation, of healing some old rifts, of helping each other out, offering his help in any way possible: demonstrations, seminars, coming up to teach. Hoping not for unification and homogeneity, but a chance for different styles to prosper together, for some standardization on kata, and mutual support. The Wades are like a breath of fresh air: fun to be around, ready to help us grow, and eager. Not a bad way to be.


And then food.IMG_1912Master Hill setting up some chow.

It was absolutely a day to remember. No wonder I dreamed of karate all night long.













The Last Book Store

IMG_1173 Suzy and I are visiting  Saben  and Iris together now in Los Angeles. They’ve moved from San Francisco and that has not been easy for either of them. As parents we’re thrilled to  finally see our son no longer living out of a suitcase and comfortable in a very cool apartment with Iris. We arrived yesterday morning, having left Storrs CT at three o clock in the morning. We had a nice tour of Venice, where they used to live, and a fabulous brunch, IMG_1135

then headed over to their apartment, gawking the whole way.




It is so cool to see where they live. Spacious, tall, tall ceilings. Nice.  Suzy and I feeling tired from the flight? the time change? no sleep the night before? I’m not used to getting up before 3:00. We hang around watching construction out the window. Cranes are astounding. Twenty-five floors up and the operator climbs up by ladder. Our first adventure is to go out to tour. By train, then trolley over to Angel’s Flight, LA.’s version of the SF trolley up the steep hill. This is smaller, but very cool. Victorian houses used to be be here, offering the wealthy some respite from the heat and bustle of LA below. Now modern, with a pool and Christmas decorations IMG_1169and kids scooting around on their wheelie sneakers. IMG_1176

Cool vistas off in the distance.



We descend and hit Central Market. Way cool.IMG_1185


We wander looking for something for supper. Beans are cheap. This is heartening.IMG_1187

We buys some asparagus and head over to see the Bradbury Building, before the light is gone. It is built in 1890’s on the historic registry since the 1970’s, and the sight of a number of movie scenes- the original Bladerunner had scenes shot here.  It is spectacular: carvings on the trim, the original elevator- still running, the floors incredible, the stairs, the doors. Why don’t we build as attractively as this anymore?IMG_1189We leave to see what proves to be the coolest book store on the planet The Last Bookstore.


We enter. Out of the dusk and into the light. Iris is called back. She has a shopping bag, with our asparagus in it. An interesting black man, thin and smiling, gives her a  tag and stows her bag in a cubby. We are not offended, although I become self conscious about the camera hanging from my neck. It is apparently not an issue. We wander, dazzled. I drift, not overly impressed initially. A book of short fiction by a fellow named Tom Hanks presents itself. Hey, it is Tom Hanks. I’m not always a fan of short fiction. I somehow end up the children’s’ classic section. Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch. Roald Dahl, Charlie, The Champion of the WorldBFG. I hunt for Lewis Carroll. I want to read the Humpty Dumpty passage after having heard Elizabeth George read a riff on Humpty from her new book The Glass Teepee,  recently published in a chapbook series put out by Gallery of Readers in North Hampton, MA I might as well mention, as long as I am doing shameless plugs,  the artist for that book was Adell Donaghue, found here.   I wander with Iris and am pulled into the comics section where I discover a graphic novel Shaolin Cowboy. I begin to read it, reminded of course of the t.v series starring David Carradine as a Shaolin Monk wandering the wild west dispatching bad guys with gentleness and kung fu. The graphic novel is impressive; I cannot give it the time it deserves just standing here. Saben comes over with a copy of Phillip Pullman’s latest, seventeen years overdue since the last of the Golden Compass series, Book of Dust. He invites me upstairs. I cannot leave the graphic novel yet. I say I will meet him up there. When I can pull myself away, I start looking for the stairs. I see a nook that has vinyl for sale, and on a rack just out side the record department is a book we gave Saben for Christmas- The Way Things Work by David MacCaulay and next to that a sex guide for women. All sorts of ideas in this book store. An extraordinarily beautiful woman in flowing white top and tight grey bottom- exotic, Asian?-walks by with her boy friend. Oh right, L.A. Hollywood. An actress perhaps. Did she smile at me? I don’t think so either. I see a sign for upstairs. I head over, get confused. People are lounging everywhere on couches and chairs. I approach a window and see some seedy looking people. This is not an exit, is it? Surely after having us check a bag we would have to go out the same way we came in. A sign says NOT AN EXIT. An arrow points up stairs. I go. There are books everywhere. Of course. It is a book store. But I mean everywhere. There are books that hold up the cash register counter. There is a wall of books with a giant hole in it made up of books. IMG_1200

There is an arched tunnel of books. It defies sense as well as gravity. It is captivating. How does it work. Glue? Saben thinks wire. It promotes thought, discussion. Right, a book store.. No glib answers. No dismissals with a wave of the hand and a hearty
“That’s fake news.” Figure it out yourself with what tools you have. Allow us to help.IMG_1195

Another clever sign.IMG_1194


Down a hallway to what looks like the receiving room. Can I go there? It is not unmistakably clear. Tentatively advancing. Yes. More books. Oh my. The Case for Impeaching Trump. Interesting title. A book on how to survive Trump. A book making a case for socialism. I am in full browse mode now.

We do eventually leave. It feels good to have been in. We need more such bookstores. We need more people who read to help us through the hard times ahead. If you get a chance. Check out The Last Bookstore. IMG_1199




Lorraine Waido, the first department chair I  had as a brand new shiny  teacher, was an absolute monument in my life then.  I remember clearly one morning when we walked together from Windsor High School over to Sage Park Middle School  after I’d been hired  she said a couple of things that struck  me. One was how odd we made so little actual contact with the earth as “civilized” humans. Here we were walking on it, but parts of it were paved, and we were both wearing shoes, so the contact was diminished. The more removed we are  the less we understand anything. The other tidbit was that we never let our students become obsessed. We keep them too busy. This was forty years ago. Now in education, in some circles, at UConn, Neag School of Education, in the Gifted and Talented circles,  allowing students to become obsessed is alive. It seems to work. Well. Should we encourage obsession in others. Of course. In everyone? Absolutely. Not just kids who are labelled gifted? No, everyone. Every student. Every teacher. Every worker. Every manager. Every last one of us. Really? Where will this lead? Are all obsessions good? Well there you are, possible problems. We have a whole bunch of Republican politicians who seem to be exhibiting some dangerous obsessions- Trump leads the charge- his obsession with power, with his own image- “I’m very intelligent.” “I’m the only one….” Judge Moore from Alabama and his sex scandal. Devin Nunes conducting his own little investigation on the side. No, not all obsessions are good. I guess we need to have some moral guidelines instilled in us or someone needs to watch over us.


But for most of us, obsession is a good thing. Yhis past month has gone by in a whirl. When I left UConn, just over a year ago, my wife asked me, now that I was no longer formally pursuing another degree,  what it was I really wanted to do? That’s the question. For us all. What is it we really want to do.  What is the point of being here on the Earth? Do we just take up space. Do we just become fatter until someone slaughters us to eat like Stanley pictured above? Do we just accrue stuff- bigger cars, bigger boats, bigger houses, bigger airplanes, bigger meals, bigger trips, bigger friends, until  we drown? Or do we pursue something unique, something we have a passion for that may be our special gift to the world? Is obsession a path to finding that purpose? I believe it is.


My answer to my wife when she asked me was that I wanted to feel as if I were not behind all the time. That I had caught up, that I was ahead of what we had bitten off together. What we had bitten off was a house and four acres in Storrs, CT  we bought as raw, forested land and have been building since, while we both worked full time as teachers and raised our son. We also squeezed out a piece of land in Maine, another four acres- this not all forested- near the coast where we built  a small cabin and pursued the good life up there in the summer: building, boating, swimming, playing soccer and baseball and doing archery and croquet and badminton and chasing chickens and generally amusing ourselves and the other kids in Owls Head. Now I was really retired, and I wanted to clean it all up. I painted and repaired and mowed, and weed whacked and weeded and threw out and sold old cars and trucks and rebuilt. It’s not been horrid. We took time to row and sail and swim and surf and visit with friends. We traveled with our son and his girlfriend and ate out a fair amount.   It’s been fun. When we got back from Maine after our summer up there, I started again in earnest here catching up.  Winter is coming. We need a way to clear our 700 foot long driveway since I’d sold my old plow truck, my trusty 1998 Chevy. It stopped being so trusty and I didn’t want to throw more money at it.IMG_0928


I  have a tractor I’ve used to clear snow in the past.IMG_1092This is a 1939 Ford 9N. Right. 1939. That’s 78 years old. I bought it from a local farmer probably 15 years ago for $700. It ran like a champ, until I powerwashed it to get rid of the manure and hit the electric parts. Ooops. But I learned a lot getting it going. I pulled  it apart and painted it. An obsession? Totally. It ran well for years, and that astounds me, in this age of planned obsolescence and throw away goods. I hadn’t used it for a while for a variety of reasons, in fact had sold it once, for $1500. I had it running to demonstrate and all, but I backed out of the deal. I was afraid to let it go. I tucked the front end of it under a shed I had and left it. For years. Now I need it. So I got to work on the tractor. First stop? I have forgotten how to pull the distributor. You tube.  You can watch for hours. I did. tractors of all sorts going into my brain. How to videos about all sorts of tractor problems.  So I get through new points.  I cleaned the plugs. I changed out the whole fuel line. One of the things I really love about this tractor is that you can go down to the  tractor place, 25 minutes away,  ask for a sediment bowl for a 1939 Ford 9N and they don’t even blink. They just go out back and come back with one. And a carburetor rebuild kit. “Is that the original Marvel Schebler carb?”  I charged up the battery and cleaned off grime and lichen, put in fresh gas and finally tried it.  It burped. Then I got it to fire!  It runs a bit rough and so I start it daily and it is settling in. Last night I ran out at 10 o’clock at night because I hadn’t run it yesterday and I wanted to hear it- to make sure it started. It did. And I can idle it down to pretty slow and it just purrs/putts in way that is tremendously soothing. Once I pull that distributor again and set the timing I believe I will be all set. This all took about two weeks, partly because I decided, now that I am totally obsessed with tractors once again, that we might want to go look at some others, you know in case I couldn’t get mine fired up again. So we looked at a Ford 2N- from 1942 that started and ran nicely, but leaked gas and oil. Mine doesn’t. And a Ford 8N from 1949- my age- that had trouble starting and wouldn’t stay running. Oh I could take care of that.  One of the tractor stops was in New Braintree Massachusetts, some of the most spectacular country I have seen in while: small towns, rivers, rolling hills and of course we got lost and had to stop and ask. A local farmer who had a half dozen tractors in his yard seemed like a good one to ask.  Yep. He knew the tractor we were looking for and told us how to get there. The fellow selling it had a brother who just happened to have an absolutely pristine John Deere 430 nearby in a shed.IMG_1080

I went over to marvel at it.  I crawled around, wowed. When my Ford was freshly redone it was nowhere near as nice as this one. He mowed hay with it. Would I like to hear it? Yes, I would. Six volt system. It strained. Hadn’t run in a month. It fired. Oh my god. Two cylinders. Each about the size of a Fosters beer can- the 22 ounce ones. What a sound. And it idles down so slow with that big flywheel turning and turning. You can hear the hushed spinning of the bearings. It is music.

I am reminded of the book Suzy and I gave to our son on the occasion of his third birthday: a celebration and history of the John Deere  company and its tractors up to 1958. The cover has a farmer on a John Deere tractor in that great green and yellow paint scheme in a field in Iowa or Illinois somewhere with green and yellow fields and big white clouds in a blue blue sky. Spectacular. And I mention that I was in love with the John Deere M  which according to this book makes its debut in 1949. Am I obsessed with 1949 tractors for some reason? Where does our obsession come from? And then this fellow showing me his big 430 says, “I  have  an M. Do you want to see it?”


I could no more have said no than I could have stopped breathing. Up we went to his garage and there was the most stunning tractor I have ever seen.IMG_1065IMG_1069.JPG

It could have been in a museum. I was stunned.

Want to hear it fire up? Again. It’s been weeks. Six volt system. It struggles. Then that two cylinder fires up. Oh my. A little loud, but we are inside. “I’ve been thinking of selling it.”

I drag Suzy up to see it. She likes it.

When we finally leave we wander home, stop for a beer and a bite to eat. We drink our beers overlooking the lake in East Brookfield, stunning the the foggy sunset, and Suzy asks me which tractor I liked the best. We talk. She is supportive.


We get home and I continue to work on my tractor but I now have this idea in my mind that we really need a tractor shed to keep our tractor in. If we got a nice tractor it would have to live indoors. Any tractor will last better indoors. I just happen to have some beams lying around my barn. I start to design a shed I can hang off a the building where our current shed hangs. I measure and think. About 11 feet x 17 feet. I buy sono tubes and concrete mix. I dig.  Winter is coming on and just ahead of three days of cold and possible snow I decide I have to finish the concrete work or I’ll end up waiting and that’s no good. I finish pouring by 3:30, but the temperature is already below freezing. I know this because when cleaning up my fish box/mortar tub the water is freezing to it. We don’t want frozen concrete so I decide I’d better insulate the tubes  where they stick out of the ground. It goes into the 20’s that night. I worry. Why didn’t I wait? Next day I check. We made it! Within a week of having seen this tractor I have the four sonotubes dug and filled with concrete.IMG_1088.JPG


I start to clean up the barn so I have room to start working on the frame for this shed. Timber framed. I have beams I need to move into the cellar. We’ll be using theses next summer up in Maine on a little barn  there. I get out my beam mover  I’d cobbled together out of heavy duty bicycle wheels and some angle iron. I works, but. very unsatisfactory. It is one inch wider than the door to the cellar and it doesn’t hold the beam to it steadily.IMG_6766.JPG


More angle iron. I bolt. I weld. I am in the barn happily inventing how to do this. Well mostly happily except for the time I lost my temper because something wouldn’t stay still while I tried to assemble two parts. IMG_1095Finally- hey it’s after 6 o’clock! What happened? Obsession. Time doesn’t matter.


And I have a beam mover that works beautifully. IMG_1102


Oh. All this to move some beams so I can have some room to work on other beams for a tractor shed that I decided to build to keep a tractor  I now need to plow the driveway in the winter because I sold my old plow truck to clean up the yard and because I didn’t want to spend any more money on it?


O.K. Obsession.


Am I still sure I mean to encourage it in others?



Fiftieth Reunion Yeah NHS!!!!



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.


IMG_1770 eda


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.