Of Pride & Playing Ball ~ Part 1

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My friend Skip and I made our third annual Boston Red Sox pilgrimage a couple of weekends ago, and before the memory fades let’s get some of it jotted down here. Time is funny in the way that it already feels so long ago, yet flashes of it ring as fresh as a pastry from Café Madeleine.

We made the wise decision to leave on a Friday, even if we hit a bit of weekend traffic. Last year we went wild on our first night, and it was a lesson learned. Skip was also a bit under the weather, so we kept things calm and quiet, with a return dinner to Boston Chops.

Yes, it’s rightly renowned for its steak, but the lobster isn’t bad either. Neither is the Negroni. It was enough to satiate our hunger and send us into dreamland. We had a big day of pride and baseball coming up…

The next morning dawned sunny and bright – we lucked out in the weather department – and after a quick stop at Café Madeleine for some croissant, we walked to Newbury Street for some shopping, then returned to the condo for some parade pre-gaming.

In the midst of one of my scintillating stories, Skip went silent. I thought he was simply enrapt with my words. More reverent silence. (I know how to tell a story.) I paused for some comment, some exhalation of ‘Wow’ or ‘Unreal’ – still nothing. I raced to the finish – but calmly – I didn’t want to give the guy a heart attack with the thrilling conclusion. I couldn’t see his face, since he was on the couch and I was in the front of the room, and as I waited for what would undoubtedly be a terrific reaction, I heard the slightest rumblings of a stunned response. Turns out he was just snoring. I walked over to the couch and this bitch was asleep.

Such is the deteriorating state of our wild Red Sox adventures. We’re getting older. Still, it was Pride weekend in Boston, and I woke Skip up to head out to his very first Pride Parade.

Hedwig was part of the festivities, a fitting throwback to the show we had just seen with Skip and Sherri a couple weeks ago. That too felt far away now, and part of me wanted to slow things down, to halt the spinning of the planet. I went quiet and tried to make a memory. Maybe that’s what I’m doing right now. Maybe that’s been the entire point of this blog. Maybe I just want to cling to these happy times because I know I’ll seek them out when the winter comes back.

We made it through a couple hours of the parade, then went back for a brief siesta before the game. In my younger years, I didn’t require such breaks, but these days they are mandatory. Besides, it’s always the in-between moments that matter. That’s where the charm of life resides. The big events are fun, and the impetus for so much of what we do, but it’s everything that happens before and after that makes them what they are.

Our mid-day respite done, we rallied ourselves for the night game against the Detroit Tigers. In retrospective honor of our opponents, we dined at Tiger Mama, just a couple of blocks from Fenway Park. As the restaurant filled, the excitement grew, and the buzz about the ballgame became an electric wave we would ride until the end of the evening…

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High in a Tower

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Our recent stay at the Towers at Lotte New York Palace is worthy of another look. This may very well be the best view I ever get from a hotel in the city (though I do enjoy a look at the Empire State Building for nostalgia’s sake). This particular vista is what the 52nd floor allows you to behold on a sunny day (and clear night). It is even more striking in person, when those tiny dots representing people and cars are in motion, and the clouds scroll slowly across the sky.

Not pictured are the equally transfixing views when a storm has engulfed the city. We were unfortunate enough to have much of a day marred by rain and clouds, but it’s fascinating to see it unfold when you’re actually up in the clouds themselves. It’s like being close to gods fighting.

On the morning seen here, it was clear and bright – the view stretched all the way to the river. New York can be stunning when the light is right.

At night, the transformation is remarkable. A different kind of beauty is at hand then, and it carries the hand of God and the hand of humankind gloriously intertwined. The winking lights of a city that never sleeps keep company with the brave and restless souls who stay awake.

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Halibut & Citrus

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A simple sumer dinner on the grill can be had if you find a good piece of halibut and slice up some citrus. Here we have a grapefruit and orange salsa of sorts, with some cranberry-pear white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and fresh basil. Slicing off the bitter peel and dividing membrane is what makes this extra sweet, balanced by the tart, savory edge of the vinegar.

As for the halibut, I’m told the trick is not to overcook it – four minutes on one side and three and a half on the other was ample, and the result was a delicate and juicy piece of fish. A simple quick marinade of grapefruit juice, olive oil, fresh basil and salt and pepper (too long and the citrus can wreak havoc with the halibut) was all that it took to make a perfect meal.

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A Mother’s Namesake

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This interesting bloom is the Mountain Laurel, which happens to be my mother’s name. I planted it a few years ago on a whim, plopping it into the space outside our fence, which means I tend to forget about it. This year it caught my eye just as it came into bloom, so I quickly snapped a few photos to remind me to take a little better of it.

Given its shady nook and such negligence, it hasn’t thrived, but still it blooms. That’s the kind of determination I admire and reward. I’ll pamper it with a top-dressing of cow manure, the greatest gift I can give to such a recipient.

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Langham Love & One Last Time Around the Boulevard

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It’s been a rough summer, and it’s only a day old, so to lift our spirits I ordered tickets for the final performance of ‘Sunset Boulevard’ for Andy and myself, and booked a weekend at the Langham Place New York. Happiness will always be a hotel room for me, and this is my first time trying a Langham. I’ve marveled at their Boston property for years, with its celebrated chocolate buffet and one very chandelierious (and richly appointed) bar lounge ~ Bond. This time I’ll actually get to sample their hospitality, and it’s something we need right now.

As for the show, my history with ‘Sunset Boulevard’ runs wide and deep. The first time I saw it was with Glenn Close in 1995, and ever since then I’ve wanted to attend it with Andy. We’ve seen a few lackluster productions in the last two decades, and no one comes close to Ms. Close, so when a couple of third-row tickets showed up for the very last show, I jumped at the chance. The only final performance of a Broadway show I’ve seen was the last one of ‘Bullets Over Broadway’ and it was fascinating to see performers going through their parts for one last time – emotional and moving and thrilling all at once. I have a feeling this last one by Glenn Close will electrify and astound, and I will bring an extra tissue or two just in case.

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Summer Start Over

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On this, the summer solstice, we look to recharge from a somber spring, and according to the garden and lawn, things are right on schedule. Beauty has dotted the landscape with these striking accents of rose campion. I planted this solely for that wonderful color, but I’ve since com to appreciate its furry gray leaves and their rosette form, as well as the way the flowers float high above them like butterflies. I even enjoy their pepper-shaker-like seed dispersal containers, like mini poppy seed pods.

As for summer, I embrace it tentatively. Too much celebration is a sure path to disappointment, and we’ve had enough of that lately. For now, a hesitant smile at the sun. And hope.

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Flowers and Photographs

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Flowers and photographs may fade, but digital files, for the moment, seem to last a little longer.

That’s why I take so many photos and save them to a storage drive.

They can’t evoke the scents or the tactile features, and they can only approximate the feeling, but there will come a time when they are all we have. Memories fade too, sometimes quicker than photos.

Is healing just another kind of forgetting?

 

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Beauty Never Dies, It Fades Graciously

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“We were once enwombed in the earth and the silence of the body remembers that dark, inner longing. Fashioned from clay, we carry the memory of the earth. Ancient, forgotten things stir within our hearts, memories from the time before the mind was born. Within us are depths that keep watch. These are depths that no words can trawl or light unriddle.” ~ John O’Donohue

 “The beauty of the imagination is that it can discover such magnificent vastness inside a tiny space. Our culture is dominated by quantity. Even those who have plenty hunger for more and more. Everywhere around us, the reign of quantity extends and multiplies. Sadly the voyage of greed has all the urgency but no sense of destination. Desire becomes inflated and loses all sense of vision and proportion. When beauty becomes an acquisition it brings no delight.” ~ John O’Donohue

“In the light of beauty, the strategies of the ego melt like a web against a candle.” ~ John O’Donohue

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Ever More Beauty

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“THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH IS THE FIRST BEAUTY.

Millions of years before us the earth lived in wild elegance. Landscape is the first-born of creation. Sculpted with huge patience over millennia, landscape has enormous diversity of shape, presence and memory.” ~ John O’Donohue

“Our neon times have neglected and evaded the depth-kingdoms of interiority in favour of the ghost realms of cyberspace. Our world becomes reduced to intense but transient foreground. We have unlearned the patience and attention of lingering at the thresholds where the unknown awaits us. We have become haunted pilgrims addicted to distraction and driven by the speed and colour of images.” ~ John O’Donohue

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Beauty & Reverence

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“The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere – in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion and in ourselves. No-one would desire not to be beautiful. When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming. Some of our most wonderful memories are of beautiful places where we felt immediately at home. We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul.”  ~ John O’Donohue

“How can we ever know the difference we make to the soul of the earth? Where the infinite stillness of the earth meets the passion of the human eye, invisible depths strain towards the mirror of the name. In the word, the earth breaks silence.” ~ John O’Donohue

“When our eyes are graced with wonder, the world reveals its wonders to us. There are people who see only dullness in the world and that is because their eyes have already been dulled. So much depends on how we look at things. The quality of our looking determines what we come to see.” ~ John O’Donohue

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A Bittersweet Recap

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There are some weeks you don’t really want to remember, weeks that are filled with sadness and strife, loss and suffering, or just thunder and rain. You don’t want to remember those weeks, but you know you must, if only to feel better about other ones. This past week we lost Andy’s Dad, so if postings have been a little slim, you’ll understand why. [Here is the online obituary from the Times Union.]

The peonies stole most of the show, and we were grateful for their beauty.

A sunny coreopsis.

A shady nook.

The bashful and the beautiful.

Black and white.

A voyage.

Father’s Day.

 

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Father’s Day

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On this Father’s Day I’m going to hug my Dad a little tighter, because I’m keenly aware of how dear our Dads are. My father has always been a strong and silent support system throughout my life, and I’ve often been too silent about how much he means to me. I’ll try to show that more than one day in the year. To all the Dads out there who do their thing in such unassuming yet loving fashion, Happy Father’s Day to you.

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Asleep

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Sleeping in the Forest 
By Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
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A Father’s New Journey

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My father-in-law passed away early on the morning of June 14. He will be buried on what would have been his 91st birthday, and there’s a beautiful bit of poetry in that. A small glimmer of hope and celebration in this ultimate rebirth, and I hope there’s a sliver of healing in the midst of such profound sadness.

He had always been kind to me, no matter what was going on in the world, and that meant more than I could ever fully express. Andy used to take him to see the car shows at the Saratoga Automobile Museum. On those mornings I would gratefully step aside while father and son spent the day together. One year they brought back a photo of a ridiculous Country Squire station wagon – and told me that the monstrously wood-paneled beast was ours. I didn’t believe it until it arrived a few days later. (Despite my pleas for burglary, it still resides in our side-yard.)

The following year, they attended another show, and when they came back they had a photo of Andy’s father pointing to another car, as if Andy was getting a bride for his Frankenstein. I was mustering every ounce of self-control to not lose my shit in front of his Dad when he said that he got me. Every time they went to a car show thereafter, Tom would pose with a crazy car and Andy would send the pic to me. Once I got his sense of humor, and he had a wonderful one, I felt like we bonded.

He got along swimmingly with my own father, and at gatherings at our home they would often sit together and talk. There was lots of laughter between them, right until the last days, and I know that my Dad will miss his friend.

He remembered me every Christmas and birthday, and he treated me as well as he treated his own children. He didn’t have to say anything to make me chuckle. It was a roll of his eyes, or a hysterically incredulous ‘are you crazy?’ look that could elicit a howl of laughter. He was sly in his digs, and witty when he wanted to be. There was a thoughtfulness in the way he spoke, and in the way he interacted with people. By the time he reached 90, he took it all with a grain of salt, but even in his last days there were glimmers of the hard-working man who brought my husband into the world.

On his last night, his father showed Andy a glimpse of who he had been. He mustered the energy to pull his Boston Red Sox cap onto his head. He tugged on the bill a bit, as if he was about to throw a pitch, and let a quick smile cross his face. He was ready for a new inning.

We will miss you, Dad.

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Journeying On…

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NO VOYAGE

By Mary Oliver

I wake earlier, now that the birds have come
And sing in the unfailing trees.
On a cot by an open window
I lie like land used up, while spring unfolds.

Now of all voyagers I remember, who among them
Did not board ship with grief among their maps?—
Till it seemed men never go somewhere, they only leave
Wherever they are, when the dying begins.

For myself, I find my wanting life
Implores no novelty and no disguise of distance;
Where, in what country, might I put down these thoughts,
Who still am citizen of this fallen city?

On a cot by an open window, I lie and remember
While the birds in the trees sing of the circle of time.
Let the dying go on, and let me, if I can,
Inherit from disaster before I move.

O, I go to see the great ships ride from harbor,
And my wounds leap with impatience; yet I turn back
To sort the weeping ruins of my house:
Here or nowhere I will make peace with the fact.

 

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