Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, B!

I haven’t been able to run with H because of TABBS (Temporary Ancient Body Breakdown Syndrome), but we’ve had some good walks together. My primary walking partner, however, continues to be sweet B, with whom I carry on mostly one-sided chats as we stroll along. She does seem to agree with most of what I have to say and adds frequent chirps of appreciation. She’s not just a yes-baby, though, and I admit she also emits the occasional belch of disdain.

B was two months old today (and tomorrow—September doesn’t have a 31st), and we toasted her in Belgian Fraboise Lambic beer, which A had experienced before and recommended as something festive that H would really like. (Lambic is explained concisely and well here.) I’d avoided the stuff on the principle that flavoring things like beer and coffee creates a result less satisfactory than either the beer, the coffee, or the original donor of the flavor. But I’m a sucker for raspberry, and secretly have always wanted at least a sip of this famous brew. I was knocked out. Not a daily quaff, but mighty fine for a special event. Good thing we have another bottle for tomorrow’s celebration of the same event!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Messing with Ike

This sort of thing really rattles my cage. In last night’s debate, McCain stated that Dwight Eisenhower had prepared a message to be issued in case of the failure of the Normandy invasion, accepting personal responsibility. A well-known fact. But McCain, trying to make a point, claimed that it was a message of resignation. It wasn’t, and anyone with even a passing knowledge of WWII or the invasion or Eisenhower or the chain of command—all of which we might expect from McCain—knows it wasn’t. Not to mention the concepts of fact-checking and research.

Using the magic Googler machine, it took me just over two minutes on line to confirm my memory and find this:

Here’s Eisenhower’s manuscript.

Here’s the text:
“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

The facts are so easily verified that it would have been painless to get them right. From anyone else, this would have been laziness or stupidity. But with McCain it’s more likely a form of certainty. He has been demonstrating for months now that facts are beneath him. He’s busy emulating Dick Cheney, creating his own reality, which has nothing whatsoever to do with accuracy. He sneers at mere truth.

Friday, September 26, 2008

An Aaron Neville moment

I don’t believe there has ever before been an American president about whom this could plausibly have been said.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Baby system

My girls

B and I are easing into a schedule that you could roughly characterize as Snooze, Snack, and Stroll. In the morning I let her sleep off her morning feeding, then top her up a bit, take her out for a walk, offer lunch, recommend a nap, top her up again, then head out for another tour of Rochester’s fantastic trail system. Mom and dad take over evening duties.

Of course, we note the occasional Unfortunate Regurgitation Experience and the inevitable Odious Diaper Situation, and I’ve so far been treated to one Unbelievably Loud Shrieking Event. As a result, taking care of B inevitably reminds me of many past employers. But, as a baby, she has an excuse. Besides, she is way smarter—not to mention sweet and lovable. I don’t think I’ll go freelance.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I got to Minnesota late yesterday afternoon, and have settled comfortably in to H and A’s guest room. A was off to work and H was off to her endocrinology rotation this morning, and I had sweet little B all to myself most of the day, though H did have a chance to come home for lunch. Mostly she slept. I gave her a bottle twice, before and after mom’s lunchtime feeding, and we read Hiawatha together at one point. We also went for a good long walk. It’s been a long time since I’ve pushed a stroller. I’m good at it. H and I — and Jasper the Wonder Dog had a run after she got home. We both felt pretty ratty, but we enjoy the chance to chat and spend this particular sort of time together. It turned out that B had been waiting for mommy to get home to get serious about feeding. She demanded sustenance all evening. It made me feel as if I’d been starving her all day. H says babies sometimes do this sort of cluster feeding and that they often wait for the true source rather than demanding bottles. Maybe I should offer her some candy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fall’s coming. I’m going.

How much we love iChat! B’s just beginning to smile,
so H pinged us and we got this snapshot.

Today was our first really chilly morning walk. It was just under 40°F (4°C) at about 7 AM, and although I stuck with shorts, of course, I went to a light turtleneck under my TGOC fleece. And I kept my wimpy hands in my pockets. September and October in New England can be as beautiful as anyplace anywhere ever gets. Today will climb into the high 60s, with blue skies and dry air. Right now, at about 11, it’s about 62 (16-17°C). Leaves have only just begun turning, and won’t be at their peak for 3-5 weeks. In the States, we run cross-country in the fall, so for me this always smells (and, oddly, tastes) like cross-country weather.

Despite the local meteorological perfection, I’m off to Minnesota on Sunday for about two weeks. H goes back to rotations and A doesn’t start his paternity leave until the first full week of October. I volunteered for nanny duties, which I picture as strolling, snuggling and cosseting, though I’m informed there are a few other functions I’m expected to handle.

The whole crew—H, A, sweet baby B, much of A’s family, many of our friends, and what seemed like half the town, spent time at our house over the last weekend, primarily to meet and greet our precious new addition. We had people sleeping all over the place, and I’m still finding used wine glasses in odd corners. It was glorious.

A’s mom, D, had a chance to spend some quality time with her granddaughter...

...as did my father with his great-granddaughter, assuring her as they danced that they were both, in fact, great.

I even stole the occasional moment with the main attraction. Here I am with her (deeply interested, as you can see) in front of a papier-mâché representation of Fred the Cat, once a library resident, and now its totem and symbol.

H and I got in some great runs together while she was here, and she tells me that she and Jasper the Wonder Dog are really cruising back in Rochester. So she’s well recovered from the rigors of childbirth and well established in her next phase of life, which she describes succinctly: MOOO!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Avert your eyes

Classy lefthander John Lester (see post below) won again yesterday, pitching 8 innings and giving up only 1 run. Great situational hitting against the very tough Roy Halladay, moving runners over then driving them in from scoring position; and really good defense. (Not one of these attributes would be believed by an old Red Sox fan come back to life in the 21st Century.) Papelbon had another shaky inning in relief. He’s leaving his fastball up, and hitters are tagging it. I think he needs a few days rest.

Tonight, Boston is ahead, 13-3, in the seventh. A win will tie them for the division lead.

Over the same two days, the U.S. economy has gone from bad to catastrophic; McCain’s campaign continues to deploy blatant, defiant, undisguised, and universally recognized lying as its central campaign strategy—without paying a penalty; and there is shit flowing in the streets of an utterly destroyed Galveston.

Go Sox!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bob and Ethel

The day before yesterday I got this great postcard from Bob and Ethel Wilson, who I met in Braemar, then again in Montrose. They’d been backpacking in the Canadian Rockies, and dipped below the border to take in Yellowstone and these spectacular Tetons. They seem to have walked almost everywhere I want to walk, including many more places here in my own country than I’ve ever gotten to. I’m very touched that they thought of me. I can’t even begin to count how many kind, friendly, fascinating people I met during the 2008 Challenge, but if I did, Bob and Ethel would be near the top of the list. I hope they’ll come walk with me sometime in the less spectacular East, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up.

I had a friend who lived in Jackson Hole, where he could look up from his door and see something very like the Grand Teton view above. He used to tell a killer story about having skunks living under the cabin. Removing them took months of guile, wile, and stink, and he was only successful when he resorted to peanut butter, a long 2x4, and a shotgun. He laid all this out at great hysterical length for a group of us sitting around the terrace at (I think) La Fonda in Santa Fe in the early ’80s. This business of rolling around on the ground and holding your sides? It can happen. Oh, I’d sell my soul, or at least my Nellie Fox Louisville Slugger, to be able to tell a story as well as Bill.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Grouchy old man interlude

Yesterday I had to call the power company to transfer service on a small rental property in our back yard. I was put on hold. No problem.

But the message, repeated every minute for nine minutes, included the standard American language for this situation: “Your call will be answered in the order it was received.” Everybody knows what this means, of course, but it’s ugly and ungrammatical English. I hear and use ugly and ungrammatical English every day, so what’s the big deal? Well, this is institutionalized ugly and ungrammatical English. Someone in charge of the interface between a big company and its customers was so ignorant that this sounded fine to him, or—worse—decided that the correct form sounded too prissy, and was too lazy to come up with another formulation altogether.

This language transgression alone is always enough to get my grumpies going, but the power company also favors those waiting to have our call answered in the order it was received with a musical interlude. I am known in the family for a killer rendition of the national anthem in which I quack it like a duck, so a musical aesthete I’m not. But the sounds coming over the phone were so execrable, so soulless, so putrid, so insulting to real music and musicians and disdainful of listeners, that it can only have been chosen by the same melon-head who’s in charge of corporate electronic medium messaging strategies. By the time a nice lady named Lorraine came on the line to answer my call in the order it was received, I was quacking so loud I almost didn’t hear her.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In the bag

The Sox came from behind last night to take the lead in the eighth inning, and handed the ball to Papelbon to close Tampa out: the closest thing to a done deal in baseball. But...home run, double, double, and the Rays wrenched the lead back, while Boston couldn’t score in the bottom of the ninth. 5-4, Tampa.

When a team’s been playing as well as the Red Sox have been, fans expect either dominance or near miracles every night. We were all welcomed back to earth yesterday. Still, our team took two of three, and is only 1-1/2 games back, with three more games against Tampa next week.

Although before 2004, disaster would have be assured, since that amazing World Series win Red Sox Nation has been experiencing the historical oddity of confidence. It’s in the bag.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rural Doctoring

H, who has wanted to be a rural family practice doctor since she was a young girl, has been reading a blog recommended to her by A’s father (also an A—but with different letters following). It is written by a young, female, rural primary care doctor who is also a terrific writer.

For a good, personal, up-close picture of this segment of the U.S. health-care system (if by “system” you mean “the deplorable situation we’ve gotten ourselves into”), I’d say a few hours reading these posts would be hard to beat.

The blog isn’t a comedy routine, by any means (I suppose this is one of those situations where the term “deadly serious” could sometimes be literally true), but this post, about a rough start to a hospital day in the place she calls Rural, California, had me both cringing and cracking up.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Closing in

The Sox shut out Tampa, 3-0, tonight, and are now only 1/2 game back.

The winning pitcher was John Lester, a great young lefthanded pitcher. Lefties, even mediocre ones, are a valuable commodity in baseball, partly for the simple reason that batters are less used to facing them. A great young lefty is a prize beyond value for any team.

Lefthanders in the U.S. are called “southpaws,” because years ago most ballparks were built so that batters hitting in the afternoon would be looking east—away from the sun. The result of this configuration was that the lefty’s throwing arm was to the south. (Almost all games are at night now, so it doesn’t really matter any more.) Within the universe of southpaws, there were two basic types in the kind of sportscaster-speak that has now been largely killed off by TV. “Crafty portsiders” tended to be smaller, less physically gifted, but smart and technically superior. When I was a boy, Whitey Ford was the classic crafty. “Classy lefthanders” were bigger, throw harder, and looked smoother. In my youth, Warren Spahn was the classic classy, though many would argue for Sandy Koufax.

Lester fits into the “classy” mold, and even though this is his first full season, he’ll never have to buy a drink in Boston again.

Personal inventory

My college track coach used to call time trials “personal inventories.” I had an unplanned one a few of days ago, on a beautiful runner’s morning. Out about a mile, I realized I was feeling especially good, and just let it go. It was great. Cool day, enough of a push to get into that rhythm which is one of the joys of non-competitive running, and just enough sense not to take it too hard or too far.

Of course, over the weekend I was dragging myself around groaning and drooling, and staggered home barely alive.

Personal inventories aren’t just for running, of course, which was certainly one of the points Ellie was trying to make in his gently quirky way. I live in the hope that at least an occasional future assessment comes up cool and rhythmic, like that beautiful morning last week.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Editing and editors

Two famous magazine fiction editors, Ted Solotaroff and Rust Hills, died a few of weeks ago, and I meant to post a little while back on this appreciation by Thomas Beller in Slate. He had some interesting insights about editors and editing:

“There is something both exhilarating and vexing about seeing writing in manuscript form (even if the manuscript is on the screen). Editing is really about deciding—you have to decide whether you like the overall voice and content of what you are reading, and if you do, you have to make certain decisions about the internal life of the piece. Editing can be at its most profound when it involves making a vague, almost aphoristic remark that might change a writer's entire focus, and it can be most profound when it entails wrestling with minutia, adding commas or subtracting them and, in this tiny way, changing the whole style and feel of a piece of writing. The malleability of a piece of writing as it is experienced by the reader in draft form makes reading more taxing than it would be on the printed page. But it also brings with it a bump of excitement. It lends a feeling of power and adventure to the reading experience.”

I was never a famous magazine fiction editor, but I’ve spent a good bit of my working life making vague, if not aphoristic, remarks to writers, and wrestling with minutia—which can, indeed, change the whole style and feel of a piece of writing. When I’m editing, of course, I always think I’m urging a positive, even vital, change. When I’m writing, on the other hand, I always feel I’m dealing with insensitive dullards who don’t recognize perfection when they see it and just want to get their fingerprints on my masterpiece. That bump of excitement can work both ways.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Deep breaths

Well, with a little help from the Yankees and some great play of their own, the Sox are now just 2-1/2 games behind Tampa. Over the next few weeks, the two teams play six games. If Boston can’t overcome the Rays’ lead I’ll be surprised.

It may sound as if I’m fixated on baseball these days, but I have to admit it’s just a diversionary front. I’m actually fixated two other things: our new granddaughter, and the Presidential campaign.

On the first, I’ll be posting plenty on sweet little B over the next few months, but I know how trying that sort of ecstatic-grandparent/perfect-and-unique-baby thing can be to others.*

On the second, I see this as a do-or-die election for this country, whose principles and regard for law have been so cynically eroded over the past eight years by an administration and a party I see as an ongoing criminal conspiracy. This isn’t, in any sense, politics as usual, and I’m being driven insane by the infantile media that continue to trivialize everything. I don’t, however, wish to inflict my obsession on innocent victims who may visit this site to hear about walking shoes or mountain idylls. Or even town clock winding.

So I take a deep breath and turn to baseball, fully understanding that most of my regular readers couldn’t care less about that, either. But it has the merit of being just a game. (WHICH POLITICS ISN’T, YOU LAZY, STUPID, MUSH-BRAINED, OVERPAID, BLOW-DRIED, TRUTH-AVOIDING TWITS!)

Ahh, thinking about baseball keeps me perfectly calm.

*(B, of course, is perfect and unique.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Go Yankees!

Not my normal sentiment, nor that of any decent New Englander, but New York beating Tampa Bay tonight and tomorrow night would be a big help to our Red Sox.

Then we can go back to hating the SOBs.