Author Archives: Carl

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.

How can you lose such simple things from your mind?

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After all these years as an almost unbeatable speller, as someone who just KNOWS how words are spelled without having to struggle or recite or lean on mnemonics or other tricks, I have suddenly been beset by a crisis of confidence in my spelling of “therefore,” meaning “as the result of.” It has been tripping me up and leaving me in a cloud of doubt for weeks. I woke up one day and sat down before the keyboard and just didn’t remember anymore how to whether it was “therefore” or “therefor,” and I have to think it through to choose the correct one. I almost never mean “for, or in return for that;” I mean “for that reason.” The last time I can remember being this troubled was by “guarantee” in the 3rd grade. So now I’ve got it back, but I have to think, “it’s NOT ‘therefor,'” which is an annoying middle step.
So aging means broken heels and lost spellings?

Get up, run, work, play with girls, sleep, repeat….

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It always happens around this time of year, and this year it’s hitting me worse than usual because there’s been so much rain. I feel like I should be enjoying every possible moment of sunlight during these longest days of the year. I’m catching the early part if I get out of bed and run (and it’s amazing, 5:10 and it’s light out), and we’ve been dragging out the evenings a little bit with bike rides around the lake and such, but then it’s really time to get the girls into bed at 8, and by the time all that’s done it’s getting too dark to sit on the porch and read, and I feel like I’ve missed the summer evening. Summer evenings are not to be missed. The Fourth of July will come and I’ll feel like the summer’s half over, the days are shortening, and where have I been? Inside hiding from the rain, mostly, but that’s no comfort. I need to see some fireflies. Cigarettes and Red Vines . . . .

Here’s what’s amazing about the web

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Or, more amazing, Google, which just seems to give me better results than any other search engine I’ve used. I was looking at the map that goes in the back of NYC taxicabs, an almost useless map but one that shows general neighborhoods, and there is Tribeca, which I’ve gotten to know quite a bit better in the wake of 9/11. And I knew that I once knew what Tribeca stood for, but I couldn’t quite put it together — it was 3 street names or something like that. So I went to AskJeeves and asked “what is the meaning of Tribeca?” Got nothing helpful. Put “tribeca meaning” into Google and the first result was titled “The meaning of Tribeca.” (http://luke.tymowski.org/history/1999/19990724.html) It’s just from another weblog, but it had the answer: TRIangle BElow CAnal. Which I may have been able to remember, except the neighborhood on the taxi map isn’t a triangle, and it starts at Houston Street.
I’ve passed entire evenings just putting random names, from pop culture or high school, into Google and seeing what comes out. MY name, unfortunately, brings you a university laboratory, a couple of unknown painters, a New Hampshire state senator (everyone in New Hampshire is required to serve in the State Senate at some point in their lives), and a pro-Scientology website. Well, I’ve always hated my name, anyway.

On your bike, son!

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Beautiful morning. Nice run, although I pulled up lame. Not keeping up my training in any way. Blasted around the hills of town with Hannah last night, then went out and ran an errand on my bike, marking the first time I’ve run a bike errand in at least 16 years. Had a couple of bad accidents, one on the road, way back when I was actually, and by necessity, a bike commuter, and after years of a love affair with bicycling, I lost my enthusiasm for being among cars. Of course, this was back in the days before helmets, and a couple of concussions really made me start to think that being in a car was safer. Plus, I didn’t have anyone else to bike with. Now the girls are into it and I’ve fixed up an old Raleigh 10-speed (I’d like to think it’s retro-cool, like my friends’ dad’s old 1950s black Schwinn was when we were growing up in the ’70s). Got the brakes to stop squeaking, put on a new seat and some new cushions on the handlebars, the derailleur still works fine. If I stick with it, I’ll look at a real bike next year, though what real bikes cost amazes me, and I don’t believe in going cheap. And this bike is from the age of light bikes, it weighs virtually nothing. When I bought it, it seemed like a behemoth compared to what you could get for $500 or $700, but nowadays, it’s a featherweight among SUV’s. I want a bike to be comfortable, too (or at least I assume I do, I’ve never tried that kind), but I don’t want to have to pedal an extra 30 or 40 pounds around. Anyway, I rode up ALL the hills, and when I was done I was barely having a heart attack. Progress!

As I said before,

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Best superhero movie ever. Hands down. Saw it on a semi-big screen for the second time, bad projector, flickering light, sticky floor and all, and I still found myself holding my breath. I don’t know if Tobey Maguire really understood Peter Parker that well or if it’s just dumb luck, but it doesn’t matter. And the movie thought to explain some things that, as far as I know, the comic books never really quite bothered with (like how he could stick to a wall – Marvel always had him take his shoes off, but he could stick through his socks. How? We were never told. We were never told!). It was much easier to watch destruction of NYC sitting in a theater in East Greenbush than it had been when I was sitting in a theater across from Lincoln Center, and I walked out into the twilight glad to see the city was still there, calm and going about its business. A more intense experience than I had expected.
Someone asked the question of when it was going to be The Fantastic Four’s turn. Geez, that’s a tough one. I was an FF fan for years, but I think it was because you HAD to be. It was part of the Marvel universe, you didn’t want to be seen as a DC weenie, and there was enough crossover with other books that you ended up buying FF to complete storylines. I went in and out of it, but never really loved the characters. It was good in the Jack Kirby days, but The Thing was the only remotely interesting character there. Reed Richards – stretches. Big yawn. Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl, such a useless power that they had to give her the ability to create invisibility bubbles that could move objects. Sheesh. Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. Should have been cool. Wasn’t. The sheer physics was just such a pain to figure out. How did he walk on asphalt without melting it? Was he giving off fumes? Carbon monoxide? And all that space in the Baxter Building – how the hell did Richards pay for all that? He never had time to do any research, he wasn’t holding any patents. It was just the opposite of what Spider-man stood for – he was an average guy with average problems who also had a secret identity he could take or leave, and a heavy weight on his conscience. Reed Richards had a few floors of a skyscraper, interdimensional portals (locked, usually), a hot chick 20 years younger than he was (well, she would have been hot, but man was she whiney), a brother-in-law who was mostly out flying around, and a bodyguard made of stone. Please. They can make that movie, I’m not watching it.

If only life came with upgrades

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Well, it does of course, in a way, and I shouldn’t wish that anyway since upgrades are a major pain in the ass. Spent the evening upgrading to Photoshop 7, and then upgrading the scanner plug-in, then finding that the scanner plug-in won’t take my serial number so I can’t use the scanner plug-in, and so on, and so on. If OS X weren’t so very very vastly superior to all that has come before it, I would never have bothered. But it is. Before it came out, many of us were screaming, “But they left out {favorite function here}! How can I possibly {something} without {favorite function}? What is Steve Jobs thinking?” Turns out he was thinking, let’s give them an OS that is almost totally stable, where everything you need to run all your hardware doesn’t conflict with what you need to run all your other hardware, where you can plug and unplug things without rebooting the entire machine, and which will be so advanced in its graphics that working on a Windows machine is like using a magic slate.
Mercifully, Photoshop still works pretty much the same, just a bunch of new features. Started playing with plug-ins to get some new photos together for a new frame I bought. Wacky plug-in fun, but it does make the pictures just a touch more interesting. It’ll be nice when I can scan again (of course, Epson’s support for its own scanner is, shall we say, nonexistent? Well, no, they did give an unsupported beta, which is more than I can say for the large-format inkjet printer now sitting on the scrap pile. Got a new HP Deskjet 990C, and although it only goes up to 8.5×11, it’s a VASTLY SUPERIOR printer. Of course, the Epson was five years old, which caught me by surprise, I thought we had just gotten it.
Came downstairs this morning to hear Hannah singing, “We gotta get out of this place! If it’s the last thing we ever do!” So the old songs do catch on….

Have you ever seen the rain?

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More rain. Enough already. I’ve been a schlub about running this year, only getting out twice a week or so, and rain every morning isn’t helping.
Another night of scanning old photos. Found some very nice pictures of my wife from college, very modelly. A world away. I look at some of these pictures and I’m so thankful that I was so clueless about what things I would have to face in the future, the challenges and the difficulties. If you knew what was coming, I don’t know how you’d ever proceed. The uncertainty, losing jobs, changing careers, going back to school, changing cities . . . it all looks so daunting from a distance. But we forge on, because really we only get to look at it a day at a time, and we just deal with what’s in front of us.
Also found lots of pictures of the girls, some of Hannah as a toddler that I didn’t remember. These pictures are all in their little folders, not in a scrapbook or anything, so most of them I haven’t seen since they were taken. I sometimes beat myself up for not taking enough pictures of their childhood, but I’ve got three or four thousand-photo boxes that say differently. Now I’ve gone digital, so soon there’ll be CDs scattered all over the place. I need a hard drive the size of the moon, so I can just put all my pictures and all my music on it. Then another one to back it all up.
I’ve got the itch to see Spider-man again. Wonder if there’s babysitting available?

Top 10

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10: Sheryl Crow, “Steve McQueen.” Makes you roll down the windows and drive too fast.
9: Sheryl Crow, “Soak Up the Sun.” Another driving song! Makes me wonder why people stopped making them.
8: Richard Ford, Wildlife. “Sometimes you have to do the wrong thing just to know you’re alive.”
7: A walk through the family cemetery in the Glenville hills, among the graves of some I knew and more I didn’t, trying to imagine what their lives were like.
6: Little Orphan Annie, rediscovered. Harold Gray let you know where he stood.
5: Rollerblading along the Mohawk River behind my 9-year-old on her bike, her streamers flying in the breeze, little legs pumping up the hills and coasting down to the canal lock.
4: The Animals. They rock, and don’t say they don’t. And I’ll love Eric Burdon forever for launching into “House of the Rising Sun” with a low mutter: “I hate this fucking song.” JB Scott’s, Albany, way back when.
3: My five-year-old singing, “My intentions are good! Hold on! Please don’t let me be misunderstood!”
2: Rediscovering old slides from college and high school days. Scanning lets me really look at them for the first time. A vaguely remembered other world.
1: Imani Coppola on Sessions at W. 54th stole a riff from Donovan, and listening to her stuck “Sunshine Superman” in my head, which I’m not terribly happy about.