Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy birthday, B !

Yes, we do week birthdays and month birthdays, all in the belief that celebrating delight is never a bad thing, but this one is the real deal: Sweet B is a year old today, a busy, walking little person with TWO teeth!

A’s parents visited B last weekend, and by all accounts had a splendid time, and the rest of us will all be together in Concord by late this afternoon. Big celebrations, bubbly, cake (actually, cupcakes, which will be easier to dissect for the birthday girl), and all sorts of hugs and snuggles and happiness. O joy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A bitter man am I

I’ll be in Oxford the second week in August, participating in one of those old-folks summer courses, at Merton College, and I expect to learn a bit about British art and archetecture of the late 18th Century, meet some interesting people, and have an altogether glorious time.

We’ve got a reading list for the course, naturally, but in truth, the volume I’ll be studying most is The Good Beer Guide, because what I’m looking forward to more than anything else is good English beer.

Over the last few decades, there has been a flourishing of micro-breweries here in the States, and they almost always offer “English style” brews, but they usually turn out to be over-hopped light ales served too cold. They’re especially enamored, for some reason, of (over-hopped) India Pale Ale (served too cold). Sometimes there’s an ESB—Extra Special Bitter—which is, you guessed it, over-hopped and served too cold.

I don’t want an IPA, or an ESB, or a “Best,” or, God forbid, a Bud. I just want a comfortable seat in a pub that keeps good beer well, and a pint of ordinary Bitter—not over-hopped and not served too cold. “A pint” is, of course, a term of art. I’m sure teacher will be proud.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Milwaukee is the home of Harley-Davidson, and last week I attended an event at the Harley museum, where they have a line-up of hogs visitors can pose on. This comically unattractive scooter, a veritable motorized icon of irony, was more my style.

My dream machine is a 1964 Vespa 90 cc. Bright red. (They all were, at least in the States.) But I’m more likely to go straight for the motorized wheelchair.

The High Line

Paul was telling me the other day about this urban park created from an elevated railway. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I.V. League

At the end of my junior year in high school, I was presented with something called the Harvard Book Award, a volume gorgeously bound in crimson, unfortunately containing the collected works of Nathan Pusey, that university’s president. Even then I thought that only massively self-regarding Harvard would consider this a suitable student prize.

I may have started disliking Harvard because of my youthful reading of the already ancient Frank Merriwell books, in which the heroic Yalie invariably defeated caddish Harvard athletes in a range of college sports.

It was my duty, later, to dislike Harvard when I competed against them for Dartmouth (a place about as unlike H in most ways as can be imagined), though I admit there was nary a cad in sight.

But the place is a great and important university, and this stupendous financial disaster is way too horrible for me to feel anything but dismay and concern, even if that old Harvard arrogance—and maybe a touch of that old-time caddishness, too—is clearly part of the cause.

She comes in for some licks in this article, but I must say that I deeply admire current Harvard president, Drew Faust, as a historian, and would be proud to be awarded her collected works.

[Speaking of presidents, Dartmouth has just named a new one. His name is Jim Kim, and he’s going to be wicked good. Superb. Transformative. He comes from Harvard.]

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Random bits

I’m briefly back in the upper Midwest: Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • This is a beer town, and yesterday I had a good lunch and a good pint at a well-known brew pub on the river. They were playing music over their sound system, and I noticed an odd thing. The men on the playlist sang good—sometimes very good—blues. The women? That awful pap that these days passes for country music. Surely they’ve heard of, say, Bonnie Riatt. How strange.
  • Tuesday morning’s run was, if not Charlie Barnet, at least a pretty good wedding band, and this morning’s here was okay. Stick-in-the-mud that I am, it always takes me a while to get comfortable running in new places, but there is a nice Lake Michigan-side park about a mile from the hotel, and I managed to get to it and back without being hit by a bus.
  • The hotel room overlooks the Milwaukee County Historical Center, an imposing pile that I understand was used as one of the banks robbed by John Dillinger/Johnny Depp in Public Enemies.
  • It also overlooks a big sign for Usinger’s Famous Sausage, which I’d never heard of before.
  • The Great Lakes contain 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water.
Big news from New Hampshire!
  • Sweet B is not just walking, she has a tooth!
  • H has a new car. Sort of. She had been driving a blue 1994 Subaru station wagon. Now she’s driving a blue 1995 Subaru station wagon.
From the International Desk:
  • I’ve just ordered a pair of Pacer Poles. I still have hopes I’ll be using them in New Zealand in February, but I’ll be giving them a try and posting some thoughts much sooner.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Take that, Virgina Woolf!

The writers of this post amusingly recommend ten books that should be “fired from the canon.” I must admit that I hadn’t even heard of all of them, and that I’ve read a bare majority (and most of those so long ago that I couldn’t offer a cogent synopsis).

My favorite line, on A Tale of Two Cities: “If it were written by Camus, that might be OK. But it wasn’t, and it’s not.”

But this, on One Hundred Years of Solitude, isn’t bad, either: “Magical realism wasn’t much of a trick to begin with – Gabriel García Márquez riding round in circles on a smallish tricycle, cigarillo clamped between teeth, occasionally raising his panama for people to throw coins – and is now thoroughly clapped out.”

Others whose particular work is savaged include Virginia Woolf (“Changed the Course of Literature by doing away with plot, not to mention any real reading enjoyment or insight, when she published Jacob’s Room...”), Faulkner, Dos Passos, D.H. Lawrence, and Kerouac.

Suits me. Once you’ve read Tristram Shandy you’ve read it all.

Monday, July 13, 2009

If it ain’t got that swing... shufflin’s a stinkin’ thing.

Feeling the way the great Emil Zatopek often looked—

—(our only similarity), I staggered through a truly rotten run yesterday morning, just when I was thinking of stretching it out a little. I had the tune, but the body parts on harmony must have had a rougher Saturday night than the rest of me, and the rhythm section just never showed up.

There are basically three choices when something like this happens: quit and walk it in (wussy but not always a bad idea); push it to see if you can force something to click (hasn’t worked for me in a long, long time); or just grind it out (who said this was supposed to be fun?). As most runners do, I just ground it out—but I didn’t add that extra mile or two.

I’m hoping a decent band appears on Tuesday morning. Hear me, body parts? We’re aspiring to Charlie Barnet. And just for fun, let’s go with “Caravan,” not “Cherokee.”

I know, I know. I’ll settle for a moderately well-played tom-tom.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Capilene, a video, and a catalogue

For those interested in kit, I’ve just come across a useful video on the Patagonia site. If you go here, and click on the video camera icon beneath the illustration of the pullover, you’ll get a short rundown on the testing and development of Capilene fabrics and garments. The discussion of balancing attributes is especially fascinating.

I have no financial interest in Patagonia—except to the extent that I frequently send them large chunks of money—but I do still have my original copy of the landmark 1972 Chouinard catalogue.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

That het’rogeneous thing

In a local paper this past week, an area businessman was called, “[a] true Englishman in the best sense.”

God knows what the reporter meant (“not a football hooligan” is probably insufficiently precise), but it made me chuckle, because I thought immediately of college boys in dress-up, singing Gilbert and Sullivan:

In spite of all temptations
To belong to other nations,
He remains an Englishman!
He remains an Englishman!

Then of Daniel Defoe’s, “The True-Born Englishman: A Satyr.” A quick trip via Google yielded the exact wonderfulness of this:

Thus from a mixture of all kinds began,
That hetrogeneous thing, an Englishman:
In eager rapes, and furious lust begot,
Betwixt a painted Britain and a Scot.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Our 4th

Didn’t we have a fine time Saturday—classically pleasant for us this year. Great weather—a real rarity this spring and summer. Good friends—the same we’ve spent this holiday with for years. Our annual reading of the Declaration, which sounded much better this year than last. And, of course, B’s first Independence Day.

There was much lolling about and inter-generation communing in the beautiful backyard where we gathered...

...along with the traditional imparting of ancient wisdom, unasked for, outdated, and utterly unneeded, yet politely received.

All this, plus good food, good drink, and good conversation. An afternoon like a deep breath of sweet fresh air.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy birthdays, my girls

A lovely cool and damp early morning for one of those easy-going smooth and rhythmic runs that happen so much less often than they used to. Better yet, it was followed by a terrific little mid-morning iChat with H and sweet B. Yesterday was B’s 11-month birthday, and today is H’s 20-somethingish. H, B, and A are all coming down out of the hills tomorrow to spend part of the Fourth of July weekend with us. It’s likely the bubbly will flow.

Sweet B

I was in the delivery room when H was born, and when the nurse looked up and said, “It’s a girl,” I thought, “Oh, my god, now what am I going to do?” I had a rough idea of how to approach raising a boy (hand him a baseball), but a girl? No clue.

I learned (I handed her a baseball). And it was good.