Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pleasant plans

H and I are planning a walk next week to bag a couple more 4,000 footers, this time Whiteface and Passaconaway. We may be joined by old friend, BB. Unlike the uninteresting in-and-outs I’ve been doing, this walk will describe two loops, a big one and a little one—a badly misshapen figure-8—with very little backtracking. It’s a little over 12 miles, and gains a total of about 4,500 feet.

Assuming a successful day, I’ll have 11 of the 48 peaks remaining to summit, but this will have been the last of the low-hanging fruit—4,000s I haven’t climbed over the last 40 years that are less than an hour-and-a-half from my bivouac at H and A’s house in Concord. I might just squeeze in four more on an overnight in mid September or October, but the zowie finish will have to wait until next year—on Carrigain, I think, as recommended by many because of its view of most of the others.

I’ve been alternating trailrunners and mid-weight boots (Keen Targhees) on these jaunts. Frankly, they’ve both been fine, though I slightly favor the sneaks. The Salomons I’m using right now (XA Pro 3D Ultra—where do they get these names?) are a little lacking in underfoot padding and protection for the rocky Whites (the same complaint I had with my earlier Montane Vitesses and Hardrocks), but they don’t make my feet sweat (blister alert!) as much as the GoreTex-lined Keens.

I think on this walk I’m also going to try out my newish iPhone 4 as camera and, especially, videocam. I’m a little concerned about dropping the thing out of my sweaty paws, and I haven’t yet figured a workable way to give it a wrist loop,* but I think I’ll give it a whirl. Not literally.

* Maybe I have. Danglet, anyone?)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Onward to the Zealands

My winter’s trip to New Zealand’s summer gets more and more real. Tickets have been booked, reservations have been made, and our leaders, J and C, have scheduled a “pre-hike” for late October in the White Mountains. The 15 of us will be meeting at Crawford’s and walking in to spend the night at (naturally!) Zealand Hut, where we’ll cook a group meal together and begin to get to know each other. We’ll walk back out on Sunday by way of the Ethan Pond Trail (read this description in reverse).

We’re going to have a gear check on Saturday morning before starting out. I don’t think I’ve turned out my pack for someone since Boy Scouts. But the posted list is similar to mine, and one of the requirements for Head & Hands is “Smile,” so I think all will be well. Because it’s late October and the Whites often get an early snowfall, we're being asked to bring along traction devices, which will finally force my hand on buying some Kahtoolas. Snowshoes (mine are old, seldom worn, but excellent Heilmans) are being called for, too, though I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to leave them at the trailhead.

I’m ultra excited about this whole experience. I think it’s great karma to be starting it at a hut I associate with many good times, and I’m really looking forward to meeting my fellow trampers. Fifteen’s a great number for a haka.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wilde running

After a few pleasantly chill and damp days, this morning seemed tropical, partly because I went lazily out at 7:30 instead of in the relative coolth of 6:30. By the time I’d shuffled to the mile mark, I was sweating steam, so turning into the cemetery, I flipped my shirt up over the back of my neck to get a little air for half a mile. I could do this in New North, because I’m pretty sure those resting there don’t mind. When I got back to Washington Avenue, however, I flipped it back down so as not to scare anyone. Dorian Gray might have had that picture in the attic, but my otherwise unearthly handsome youthfulness is belied by the truth I conceal beneath my tee. The truth is appalling to look upon. 

Flab notwithstanding, I’m back up to 4 miles. I’ve been trying to emulate the ladies and just ease along. I find this sort of vertical running (it feels more up and down than striding along) much more difficult than my usual shuffle. It really takes all the fun out of it, too, but at least so far it’s left me tweak free. 

I’ve also been getting a myofascial release treatment (fascial, not facial!) once a week from T the massage therapist. This takes about five minutes, consists of a particular stretch and some manipulation, and seems to unlock or ease a chronic issue in my right hip. Although I don’t understand exactly what it might have to do with a strained achilles, it seems to be doing me some good. It feels good, anyway.

But I still really need to dig out an airier shirt.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wordy B

We’re missing sweet B, A, and H very much right now, and blessing iChat as usual. We’re noticing a tremendous and fascinating spurt of language from B.

During a long-distance chat late last week, she at one point put her finger to her ear (“I hear something”), and then said, “I hear beep-beep coming back.” (A firetruck was returning to its station beyond the back fence.) This is fairly sophisticated word use for 25 months.

But sophisticated, schmisticated. A few nights ago, we were watching and chatting as H gave B her bath. It was a jolly, splashing, bubbly background for a rare chance to catch up with H, who is recovered from her gallbladder surgery but has been really kept hopping as a second year resident, now with supervisory responsibilities.

When bath time was over, H stood B up to rinse off all the bubbles, and poured a container of water down her side. B hunched a bit, looked at us and exclaimed, “Code water!” And then, “Weird!” Surprised, we laughed. She laughed back, and when the second stream of water hit her, she shouted “Weird!” again. Then again, of course, and again, as we continued to react and laugh. A comedian who’d discovered a great joke.

Later, in her bedroom, she took an illicit jump on her couch and wound up doing an unintentional back flip, fortunately landing on the soft pillow. “I’m all right!” she shouted—another phrase we’d not heard from her before—nonetheless not avoiding a gentle motherly rebuke, not to mention a cluck or two from this side of the screen. No doubt she’ll come up with something more effective next time. She seems to be creeping closer to an understanding that words have an effect beyond the descriptive. Soon, it will be on to the manipulative. Isn’t that weird?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Weather and lawns

We walk most mornings past these new tennis courts, close to the Middle School. They've been busily in use early in the day all summer, but yesterday they were damp and forlorn.

We’ve gotten a lot of rainover the last couple of days, which we badly need. And Sunday! Almost autumnal—that dry air, that piercing golden light. Wonderful. But it’s been a very oppressive summer (for this old guy, it’s been early exercise or none at all). Grass everywhere is splotchy brown, and the water company has been making robo calls telling people not to water their lawns.

Woodbury is the home of many lawns I think of as “Republican.” Sown and tended with a solicitude seldom extended to humans;  chemically enhanced to Barry-Bondian proportions; obsessively clipped, trimmed, and cosseted; magnificent in their carpet-like perfection—and, of course, watered regardless of conditions. In my youth, there was only one of these in town, and when I went by it, I gazed in astonished admiration. Now they front every McMansion, and even little old bungalows. Chem-lawn vans clutter the streets.

Still, most Woodburians—even the majority Republican population, along with most of our dozen brave Democrats—just cut what lawn they’ve got, water with rainfall, and live with the usually adequate results. I, on the other hand, don’t actually have a lawn. I just have grass—several kinds of grass, actually, ranging from “big weed” to “crab”. I hack away at it periodically, a week or two after it needs it (sort of like haircuts). Neither Republican nor Democratic, my grass is simply a disgrace. I feel terrible about it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tony Judt: R.I.P.

The great Tony Judt got the obituary he deserved in the New York Times last week: exemplary. Its writer, William Grimes, described Judt as “a ‘universalist social democrat’ with a deep suspicion of left-wing ideologues, identity politics and the emerging role of the United States as the world’s sole superpower.” He also noted that Judt, after an ideological left-wing youth, had “turned his attention to a problem he regarded as acute: the loss of faith in social democracy, and the power of the state to do good, that had brought prosperity to so many European countries after World War II,” and that he had cast “his lot with the nonideological liberals, like Raymond Aron and Albert Camus.

Judt is probably best known for his brilliant, riveting, unsettling Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, but he wrote and spoke often on issues he considered important. He was clear, incisive, forceful, and powerfully rational. Sentiment, prejudice, and received wisdom had no chance with him. He made many people uncomfortable, and often angry. In an article published yesterday, primarily about the illness of fellow Brit Christopher Hitchens, Liesl Schillinger used the term, “the fearless Tony Judt.”

What an utterly admirable public man.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Way Tow and the Osceolas

I was in New Hampshire earlier in the week, bridging a scheduling gap in sweet B’s network of love and adoration. She and I had a terrific time making rude noises and singing “Twinkle-Twinkle”. We took a walk, hung out at a cafĂ©, and spent a lot of time watching various Sesame Street versions of the ABC Song. I can report that she can now shout, “Ray Charles!” (or “Way Tow!”) when the Genius appears and begins his alphabet riffs.

On Tuesday, schedule resolved, I headed north to tackle another pair of the New Hampshire 4,000-footers, this time the Osceolas. The day was warm and humid, but much less oppressive than for the Hancocks a few weeks ago. The walk up Mt. Osceola itself is woodsy, rugged, and rocky, but easy—notably less steep than the paths up most other 4,000s. It was a bit hazy at the top, and though the views from the two ledges were expansive (you can see most of the other big White Mountain peaks), they weren’t snappy or especially photo-worthy (a good thing, because I was using H’s camera, and neglected to upload my photos before coming home). I made the 3.2 miles from the parking area to the peak in just under two hours, chatted with two couples I met there, and headed down into the notch toward East Osceola. This mile of the trail is rougher and tougher, with several scrambles, including one chimney serious enough to give inexperienced walkers second thoughts. After bottoming out and heading upwards again, I walked right past the summit, marked by an unprepossessing cairn in the woods north of the trail. I turned back to find it only after realizing I was headed downhill again. With a spotted car on the Kancamagus Highway, I could have continued down toward Greeley Ponds—a stiffer route altogether—but I was solo and simply retraced my steps to Osceola for a little lunch. (Those rough spots are much easier to climb than descend—at least for us stiff and creaky old guys.) The downward trail was, as always for me in these situations, a bit of a trial. It’s not that interesting or attractive, and I’d just walked up it. I was pleased to pop out of the woods at just before 3 pm, for an easy and mostly very pleasant round trip of just shy of five hours.

Later that evening, I accompanied H, B, and Jasper the Wonderdog to the local pool, where Jasper and I watched as mother and daughter waded in. B gradually got comfortable playing with her mom in water well above her waist, and when she emerged, she proudly proclaimed, “In BIG wawer!” Then home for a laugh-filled bubblebath before bed.

Cruising the hills is great, but if there’s anything more purely joyful than being a grandfather, I don’t know what it is.

Friday, August 6, 2010

1938: Wow, what an evening in New York

I’ve been working for a long time on a project that involves knowing a lot about the world of jazz and swing during the ’30s. I found this in a loose clipping that was probably from one of the black newspapers of the time, possibly the Amsterdam News.

The Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall concert mentioned was one of the signal events of the Swing Era, but if I could have attended only one venue that night, it would have been in Harlem

Webb “Cuts” Basie in Swing Battle

New York, N. Y.—The much heralded Battle of Swing between Chick Webb’s and Count Basie’s bands took place Sunday night, Jan. 16, at the Savoy Ballroom. The affair drew a record attendance and hundreds were turned away at the box office, with the crowds tying up traffic for several blocks in that vicinity. Applause for both bands was tremendous and it was difficult to determine which band was the more popular.

Nevertheless, the ballot taken showed Chick Webb’s band well in the lead over Basie’s and Ella Fitzgerald well out in front over Billie Holliday [sic] and James Rushing. The battle took place after Benny Goodman’s concert at Carnegie Hall, and many of Benny Goodman’s band, including Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton, Jimmie Mundy, Hymie Scherzer [sic] and others were present. Mildred Bailey, Red Norvo, Teddy Hill, Willie Bryant, Eddie Duchin, Duke Ellington and Ivie Anderson were also on hand.

Basie Sends Dancers While Webb Steals Show on Drums
Feeling ran very high between the supporters of the two bands, and it was a fight to the finish. Both bands played magnificently, with Basie having a particular appeal for the dancers, and Webb consistently stealing the show on the drums. Ella Fitzgerald caused a sensation with her rendition of “Loch Lomond,” and Billie Holliday [sic] thrilled her fans with “My Man.” When Ella sang she had the whole crowd rocking with her. James Rushing had everybody shouting the blues right along with him. Handkerchiefs were waving, people were shouting and stomping, the excitement was intense.

Basie Swings In on Dukes Ivories Solo
A highlight of the evening was reached when Duke Ellington was persuaded to play some piano and sounded so good that Basie’s band picked it up and swung right along with him. General consensus of opinion agreed that both bands played magnificently making the decision a close one. There was good feeling all round, and it was determined that there would be a return battle in the near future.

I just love the mental picture of all those Goodman guys, along with much of their musician audience, piling into cabs after their triumph downtown the home of classical music, and heading uptown to the Savoy, the home of real-jazz swing. The Savoy was Chick Webb’s house, so it’s no surprise his band won the ballot. And although we have relatively few recordings, it’s clear he swung hard. But Count Basie in 1938, at the height of his superbitude? Oh, my.

Exhibit A: “One O’Clock Jump” (AKA “Blue Balls”)

Exhibit B: Jumpin’ at the Woodside


Thursday, August 5, 2010

New England shuffle

We’ve had an interesting few weeks in northern New England. I went up to New Hampshire in mid-July to walk in the Whites, and stayed with H, A, and sweet B in Concord for a few days, then returned for our good times in Burlington before returning home, I thought, for a week.

But that Friday night H, who had been doing a rotation in the Emergency Room, returned home late in the evening, only to return by a patient. She had suddenly begun to suffer excruciating abdominal pain, which one of her colleagues quickly diagnosed in technical doctor talk as “a great honking gallstone.” She underwent a laparoscopic cholecystectomy on Saturday, during which her gall bladder was removed through her belly button using multiple small incisions and a camera. But the GI people discovered more stones, and on the Sunday she had ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) to remove at least one stone remaining in her biliary duct. I headed north to ferry the baby around as needed, and to be with H as she recovered. Which she did, quickly and smoothly—she was back at work this past Monday. The side benefit of all this pain and treatment was that I had more of a chance to hang out and chat with her than I’d had in ages. I’d like to find a way short of a medical emergency to allow that to happen.

Late last week, dear friends became a grandparents when their eldest daughter gave birth to a beautiful and healthy little girl, while dear friends of a younger generation welcomed an equally beautiful and healthy son. Much joy all around.

And last Saturday was sweet B’s second birthday. A splendid time was had by all. Singing, funny hats,  Elmo cake, blowing out candles, gifts, friends, and all sorts of gaietĂ© de coeur.

B loves fire trucks and garbage trucks (big, complex, and noisy), but she’s utterly fixated on backhoes. This is our current video fave.

As befits a future heavy-equipment operator, she’s doing very well on her colors, letters, and numbers—though she’s still skipping directly from five to eight on her way to 10. Her manners are coming along nicely, too. She often (not usually, mind you) says, “peetz” on her own when she asks for something. We occasionally get a unsolicited “tenkoo,” too, and I’ve been fooling around in a call-and-response sort of way that she seems to enjoy to elicit a jolly “youekun.”

Now actually at home, I’ve been scrambling to get my phone system’s answering machine/service to function properly. The cable people who now supply service claim the problem is with the phones themselves. The phone people...well, you know.  I’ve run out of ideas and have begun thinking seriously about getting rid of the land line altogether.

Finally, I’m looking forward to welcoming the Concordites to Woodbury for the upcoming weekend. A is running another triathlon up the road (too soon after surgery for H), old friends far too infrequently seen are coming for dinner Saturday evening, and more old friends will help consume mimosas and brunch Sunday.

Next week? Perhaps a couple of 4,000s. Watch this space.

Tenkoo for reading.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bucolic Hinton Waldrist

The previous post was encouraged by the coolness described and fascinatingly displayed in this piece on HuffPo.

A Village Lost and Found.

Sweet B’s favorite song

 We wo, we wo, rot you!!

After Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, of course.