Monthly Archives: July 2002

Lest I leave an inaccurate impression…

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Okay, I didn’t JUST watch the waving ivy yesterday. I also spent a good five minutes watching someone try to parallel park a midsize sedan in a spot that was easily half again as big as it needed to be. Granted, it was on a hill, which would have presented a challenge in a stickshift, but this wasn’t a stickshift. The person, my age or older even, couldn’t seem to put together the two swings of the wheel necessary, and in fact kept stopping at the end of the first arc before trying to launch into the second arc. If you don’t maintain movement through the two arcs, you’ll never be able to put the car where you want it, as this person’s repeated caresses of the curb with the back right tire attested. Ultimately, the driver gave up. Living in the suburbs robs you of the need, and therefore the ability, to parallel park. I’ve always been pretty pleased with myself for my ability to put a car into a tight space on the first try (my deep sense of shame would never let me try it for five minutes, believe me), although I’m not sure I understand it well enough to teach it. It’s just a zen thing, a being thing. Be the car, park the car.
On the other hand, we’re all idiots for some part of each day, so maybe that was just that particular person’s five minutes of idiocy.

Urban spaces

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The least of cities contains spaces that are more interesting than the best of suburbs. Little spots of magnificence, little spots of decay, little spots of history. You wonder, looking at the bare brick on an outside wall, what happened to the building that used to be attached there, when it came down, who may have lived there, just a couple of blocks from the State Capitol. I spent a wonderful half hour in a semi-secret garden behind City Hall, watching the patterns the breeze made in the ivy that climbed up one of Richardson’s more lighthearted designs. (Note to self: be sure Richardson did City Hall.) Just a delightful way to spend time.
I heard not too long ago that one of the things that most distinguishes the human brain is its ability to distinguish patterns (often even when they are not there). It made me think of all the different patterns there are to a river . . . the ripples that you see on the surface, gathering into the patterns of waves and riffles you see as a canoeist, which assemble further into different patterns that are visible from the air, and from still farther away still different patterns. Wind is the same, harder to see. Did this ability help us to thrive and survive? Maybe it’s the thumbs.
Community swimming pools are a very good thing. Just thought I’d mention that. I don’t quite understand owning your own swimming pool, but I’m pretty chore-averse. For the fifteen minutes a day I would spend in the water, I’m willing to let somebody else do all the work.

The bride wore . . .

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Well, in my opinion, brides should always have biceps. It just looks better. A little muscle tone isn’t too much to ask…
Weekend of wedding and birthday parties and some stealth virus that keeps giving people spiky fevers. Yesterday was a lie-on-the-floor-and-finally-watch-the-end-of-Harry-Potter day, so that’s what we did. Not enough caffeine in the house and no energy to go out and get some. Scanned in some old postcards for some eventual project or other, and called it a day. Watched “Hell is for Heroes” on AMC, it was really still as good as I remembered, and enough years have gone by that I can see Fess Parker as someone other than Daniel Boone (I know, he was Davy Crockett first, but that was just barely before my time). Steve McQueen and James Coburn were great, and Bob Newhart was the comic relief. They actually had him doing one of his telephone routines, and it fit into the movie, which is amazing. Night before we had watched Caddyshack on DVD; it was somewhat above our intellectual capacity after having hosted a 6-year-old’s birthday party at the pool, but we tried to follow the complications and plot twists. Hadn’t seen it unedited (read: unruined) in years, so it was a treat.
Even snuck in a paddle on the Hudson on Friday morning. Cool, quiet, gloomy . . . perfect paddling weather, and not a single asshole jetski around.
Asshole Jetski would be a good name for a band.

Old friends

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Had one of those weekends that could not be ruined, even by drunken motorcycle racing fans who think it’s okay to try to assemble a tent between slugs of beer at midnight, swearing the whole time, next to tents full of families. (Give them credit for stamina, though . . . up drinking until 2 a.m., back at the drinking before 7 a.m.). But when we were away from all that nonsense, had a wonderful weekend of playing whiffleball and swimming, building sand castles and hiking around the lake, with my girls and three of their little friends, and it was just delightful. Cooked hot dogs on the fire (note: longer fork needed!), made smores (laugh at my store-bought marshmallow sticks if you must, but they’re thin and they keep the kids out of the fire), looked for werewolves and zombies in the woods (the whole Scooby-Doo thing), and let the girls bike in circles until they dropped. Massive breakdowns waited until the tents and gear were already packed up and we were ready to go . . . success!
Then home, quick shower, run to the grocery store and off to an old friend’s birthday party at Thacher Park. Just a great time, seeing people I see too seldom. If my every weekend seems to be committed to something all year round, why are some of those weekends not to these people? Something wrong with me, something I intend to fix. Some of these people have been my friends for more than 25 years; we come and go out of each others’ lives but we’re always there. And all these children! Wonderful little creatures.
Mine have been having The Summer of Fun. Baseball, ballet, camping, picnics, bicycling, swimming, summer camp, hiking, fireworks . . . and summer’s only half over!

Le maillot jaune

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I’m excited about the Tour de France, really I am, just as I am about most displays of outstanding athleticism. And I think Lance Armstrong is a tremendous athlete with a great story, and I’ve used one of his trainers’ muscle recovery techniques to maintain my Achilles tendon with marked success (stretch, stretch, then stretch some more). But damned if I can find anyone or anywhere where I can get a simple explanation of the rules in these damned races. How does the whole team thing work? What does it mean that a teammate led the way most of the way today, then dropped back to let Lance take the stage? How does all that work? The press reports it all as simple fact, as if every one of us had a Frenchman’s understanding of bicycle racing. I think it’s a good sign they don’t understand it themselves. And if you read the dispatches from former bicycle racers covering the race, they don’t bother with explaining the basic assumptions. Somebody just tell me how this damned thing works.
Let’s be honest, this thing would get ZERO coverage over here if it weren’t for Lance. We don’t cover a lot of bicycle racing in this country. Or yacht racing. Or distance running. Or even non-Olympic skiing. It’s a little frustrating for someone who doesn’t really think that doubling your normal body size with steroids and then banging your body into another steroid case is precisely athletic.

Fourth of July, life and death

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People ask how my Fourth of July weekend was, and my only answer is, “It was the best Fourth of July I can remember, except for the part where my daughter went into anaphylactic shock.” And that’s about how it was. We went to Lake Placid, had a wonderful afternoon watching the ski jump competition and swimming in Mirror Lake, had a nice dinner and got out just in time for a great parade (the paraders threw SO MUCH candy at us – and when we tried to wave them off, they threw even more), trekked up to the lakefront park to listen to some speechifying and watch some Olympians and sing along to “God Bless America” (because Kate Smith was, of course, from Lake Placid). I was moved to tears as my daughters got up on the stage with the other kids and waved their flags and sang along. It all means so much more since the attacks. And then we stayed up insanely late to watch the fireworks, which scared Rebekah for a while but Lee got her calmed down and then it was all right and she loved them. Drove back to the campground and spent a kinda restless night with some pretty high winds (bringing, as we soon learned, smoke from the James Bay wildfires). Got up lateish and started breakfast, and Rebekah started rubbing at her eyes and complaining they itched. Soon she started to get swollen up and it was clear she was having an allergic reaction to something, and she was getting panicky and hysterical. Lee got her into the tent and tried to calm her down, we gave her some Benadryl, but the reaction was getting stronger and her eyes were swelling shut. We had an epi pen for this, but had never used it, and I was honestly afraid of what might happen if I gave it to her. We decided it was time for EMTs, so I went to find the emergency number. I got it but couldn’t get a good cell connection and didn’t have a quarter handy at the payphone, so I decided we’d get her to help just as quick by driving her into town. Lee sat with her and tried to keep her talking. Got her into town, found the hospital, Lee carried her in and they gave her an epi shot and albuterol and she started to bounce right back. Likely prognosis: black fly bite.
In another time, or further from civilization, or if we didn’t already know she was prone to extreme reactions, she might have died. I save my terror for after such things happen, and now I’ve got it in spades. This little one is the light and the spirit in our family, the whirling dervish, the charm and energy and wildness, and I can’t bear to think of life without her. We would never have guessed she could have such an extreme reaction to an insect bite, and in fact I had dismissed the need to be so careful about having the epi pen right nearby at all times because she wasn’t likely to come into contact with latex, which is her big allergic issue. So, I was wrong, and will from now on stick by my old Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” (There was also a credo; what the hell was it?)
Also, screw the risks, there’s a lot more DEET in our future.

Beisbol been berry berry good to me

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Me, too, though I haven’t actually seen a game in years. We were in Cooperstown last weekend, and in Doubleday Stadium there was game going on, what looked like a fantasy camp, and even at that level (or especially at that level), it was tremendous fun to watch. Just some grown (some way past grown) men getting out into the burning late June sun to play a boy’s game. It was a delight to try to explain the game to my girls — the rules, the scoring, the insults. I don’t know if I’ve ever spent a more pleasant hour on a summer afternoon.
We had just come through the Hall of Fame, which is wonderful. We didn’t get to take much in, just a quick whip through the displays and a multi-media impression of baseball that actually choked me up, remembering summer evenings when we played in the schoolyard until the fireflies were out, and then even a little later if we could get away with it. Screaming down the street to our parents that we couldn’t come home yet, we were up next. Or playing in the street right in front of our houses, or just down on the corner, where the four storm sewers and the manhole cover in the middle made a neat if very little diamond. The little show in the Hall actually captured that and for a second I was swept away with it.
And so now my girls and I play a little baseball, and it’s a wonderful time.