Friday, December 30, 2011

If you crawl before you walk, do you swim before you crawl?

Paul and I are still walking our three miles almost every morning, a very good thing, as confirmed by this YouTube, which I posted on my Facebook account a couple of weeks ago. So right now, I would say, I’m fit for someone my age. Which is a pathetic standard in the age of obese, you’ll agree, and not a satisfactory one to somebody who actually wants to do stuff.

But this past November (always, always, and this year especially, my least favorite month, the bastard) broke off a good curveball, which didn’t strike me out, but which did make me flinch. I’ve had to step out of the batter’s box, tap my spikes with my Louisville Slugger, and try to reestablish the psychic order of my own personal universe. For me that means regaining a sort of physical self-respect.

So I’ve decided to learn how to swim.

I mean really swim. I can paddle around OK, and float on my back, and tread water for a while. But I want to get more comfortable in the water, learn an efficient crawl, and eventually be able to natate a full mile. H is floating the idea of triathlons (wouldn’t that be cool?) but right now, my goal is just to nail that mile. (I have a friend who regularly swims a kilometer, but I think he might be French.)

I’m also re-committing to my old strength and flexibility program, a really good thing for creaky old guys, and possibly a way to regain some of the lost leg power that has me crawling up hills.

And I’m working my way back on the roads. Here, obviously, a mile is no big deal, but right now a slow and ponderous one every other morning is my limit, though there seems to be no reason I can’t work my way back up to something useful. Yesterday’s shuffle was actually pretty good

What this means is that, along with the prize-winning reports on the sweet B, you happy few will have to put up with frequent and somewhat less scintillating complaints of sore muscles and endless lists of times, distances, and weights.

But it will be worth it. Next November I’m going to show that SOB who’s boss. Maybe we can fill a few lanes with people swimming a mile. Or a kilometer, if you’re French.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


The Mammut Stratus I wrote about back in March, 2009, has died.

It was getting pretty ratty anyway, but “Massive zipper failure” is what the doctor wrote on the certificate. (This was always the worst part of this unattractive but excellent jacket.) Naturally, I went looking for another, preferably on sale. Gone, gone, gone. In the U.S., anyway. Still apparently available, in a variety of slightly different versions, mostly hooded, in the U.K. and on the continent.

So I went looking for a duplicate. Here’s what I came up with: The Mountain Hardware Compressor.

Very similar: windproof/water repellent shell (which I can confirm is exactly that and no more), synthetic fill, high collar, no hood, handwarmer pockets and a napoleon, very light, easily stuffable. But no thumb loops. And I loved my thumb loops. And not on sale, though I applied my substantial REI dividend, which comes to the same thing, I suppose.

It does have a much better zipper — right handed, unlike the goofball Stratus thing, and smooth-working without a lot of fiddling, also unlike the goofball Stratus thing.

And it’s black, so I look dashing and fashionable, with a whiff of mystery and a soupçon of danger, both lumbering through the hills and staggering out the back doors of selected dives in town.

So far, so good.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas!

Christmas Eve, and the Concordians should be just about starting their trek south to us. We hope to see them before midnight.

This is the first Christmas sweet B at least partially understands. Considerable excitement — mostly, it seems, less to do with gifts than with standing in her learning tower baking holiday goodies with mommy and daddy.

“Let’s make cookies!,” she exclaimed to H the other day. “I haven’t picked my nose today!” (Sent off to  soap and water despite admirable naso-digital restraint.)

And she’s apparently looking forward to more of the same (baking, not nose-picking) this weekend. “I’m going to make gingerbread with Deen, maybe,” she told her mom. “I hope she has all the ingredients.”

I think she does, Sweetness, but there might not be time between the hugs.

Peace, kindness, generosity, and understanding to all.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

That’s all

Some decades ago, one of us attended a fashion show at a no-longer-extant, moderately fancy department store. The ludicrously pretentious presenter insisted on introducing items and accessories as being perfect “for that of spring.” We, of course, stole the locution. Surfing, for example, is the perfect sport for that of summer.

And expanded upon it. A good session bitter is all I really want for that of England.

All this to explain how I can be looking so happily forward to the deep snows, frigid temps, and blustery gales of a New England winter. It’s because I am so profoundly glad to be done with that of fall.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reserve? What Reserve?

Sweet B’s precocious language use and the various manifestations of her outgoing personality (anything but the norm in this family) make us laugh and smile whenever we see her. They also make us wonder where all this came from.

Just after her third birthday during the summer, she initiated a conversation with a town crew replacing some drainage at the end of her street. Big trucks, a backhoe (Nirvana!), all sorts of deep holes, and piles of dirt.

“Why you dig hole?” “Why you turn back hoe around?” And many other queries and comments, utterly open and unconcerned she might be rebuffed. (H never would have done this. Neither would H’s parents.) The guys were great, answering her questions (and calling her—short-haired and not dressed in pink —“Little Buddy.”)

A few weekends ago, she shouted from her porch in her now improved English, “I had a lovely time with you,” as we began to drive away. Needless to say, we felt the same.

This past weekend, she was present for a preconstruction meeting with a local New Hampshire contractor we'll call ... Fred. Lots of talk about moving walls, raising roofs, proper insulation, plumbing and electrical, cost comparisons, and all the usual. B was present with her mommy and daddy, dancing around the chilly rooms and pointing out favorite (and not-so-favorite) areas. And as we wound it up and the contractor started down the stairs, she waved, gave a big smile, and said without prompting, “Good-bye Mr. Fred!” Charmed him, I think. Charmed me, anyway (though that’s pretty easy, I must say).

We’ll have them all here in Connecticut for Christmas this year. I think we’ll let her speak for us at the festivities.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What was that?

I've been seeing delightfully more of a great good friend lately, and that’s inevitably reminded me of a trip he and I took into the Sierra in, I think, the late ’80s. I have no idea all these years later exactly where we were, but we’d stopped in a small town to buy some food, then driven to a trailhead and climbed into the those gorgeous mountains for a few hours to a granite ringed lake we had all to ourselves. Nothing to do but alternately splash in the frigid water and lounge on the warm rock. This remains my personal version of California Dreamin’.

After dinner and a long twilight, we tossed our bags down onto ensolite pads and turned in on a clear spot between the lake and the brush. Clear sky, a million stars, predictable profundities, drowsiness, sleep.


My eyes snap open. P struggles to sit up. I just lie, eyes wide, frozen. Tremendous noises behind us. Brush being shoved aside, branches snapping, heavy movement.

My first befuddled thought was: Moose. Then, atavistically: Bear. Then, within seconds, as the brain actually started to process what my ears were hearing: Horse. Hoof-like thuds back in the undergrowth. More crashing. More snapping, more loud rhythmic beats. Gradually, over a minute or two, the cacophony moved away and faded out of hearing.

What the HELL was that? Yes, possibly a horse or mule, but how and why loose out here in the middle of the night? Possibly, we decided, a big ruminant. They might make hoof sounds like that. We were clearly under no real threat. Our guesses degenerated. Wolf wearing hiking boots. Cougar in tap shoes. Escaped convict. Yeti. And so to sleep.

In the morning, nothing. We could find no evidence whatsoever of anything crashing around in the bushes. We still debate what woke us up. These days I lean toward Boris Karloff on walking holiday.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I agree, so Outside must be right

Many decades ago, when I was, I suppose, a senior in high school, a slightly younger boy came up to me one day and asked, “How can I get to be a good runner?”

“Well, you could hop in with us and see how it goes,” I said.

“No, no, I mean I want to try it on my own.”

“Well, then I guess you could start running a few miles, gradually try to increase your speed, and see how that goes.”

Long pause.

“But don’t you think I could just walk on weekends?”

This came to mind when I saw that Outside is running a feature entitled “The 10 Biggest Fitness Myths”.

Myth # 8 is “Long and slow is the best way to burn calories.” This idea has always driven me nuts. It flies in the face of experience, common sense, and science. A slow 10 will burn more than a quick set of quarters, maybe, but won’t even come close to a strong 10. Over time, you can simply feel it. And if you track your training and your weight, your training diary will tell the tale. (Of course, if you’re old and creaky and stupid, you will hurt yourself trying to run hard. But we don’t know anybody like that.)

I’ve also got strong feelings about Myth # 1 (Stretching prevents injuries and improves performance) and Myth #2 (Running barefoot is better for the body), and from a runner’s perspective agree absolutely with Outside that we need to toss these dopey concepts into the trash.

Stretching a cold body is a terrible idea. Want to get warm for a race or strong workout? Just run. Start easy, build up, get sweaty. You’re warm. Stretching? Maybe. But afterward. When you’re warm.

Running barefoot I’ve already ranted about. Twice. Which will suffice. (Well, maybe not. Strained achilles! Strained achilles! Strained achilles! There. That will suffice.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

But where’s the tractor?

Sweet B helped set up a little crèche yesterday.

She calls it “the Jesus farm.”

Saturday, December 17, 2011

R.I.P. Césaria Évora

She died today, at home in Mindelo, on her native Cape Verde island of Sao Vicente.  I wrote a little about her here a few years ago. What a singer.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Snow way to run an electric company

New England was hammered by a freak snowstorm last week. Connecticut was particularly hard-hit. Very wet, very heavy snow weighed down tree branches, snapped them, damaged houses, cut off whole areas from emergency services, and knocked out power. Intense, ferocious anger at seemingly unprepared Connecticut Light and Power, which at least gave the impression of being way too laid back about the whole situation. Ninety percent of Woodbury households lost power, many until this weekend. We were among the lucky 10 percent. M and B, not so fortunate, came to stay, and we had what for me, at least, was a rolling party all week, which included lots of good cooking by them.

Today, we’re having a more formal do. Not actually formal, mind you. Just formal in the sense that it was, you know, planned.

I’ve put the remaining snow to good use. Will will not be toasting the CL&P.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Play ball!

Somebody named Zooey Deschanel sang the U.S. National Anthem before the fourth game of the World Series the other day. (Great Series, by the way.) Many people were angered that she went for a softer, dare I say gentler, version than the jingoistic bombastia usually presented at these moments. Zooey, according to her critics, must be deeply unpatriotic. (Her version, unfortunately and bizarrely, has been pulled from YouTube and every other source I can think of.)

The dispute reminded me of the greatest triumphalist performance of a National Anthem I’ve ever heard.

Of course, Mireille had much better material to work with. Truly blood-thirsty stuff. The real deal. And it was the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, not the opening of a baseball game.

At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve always wished our anthem was “America the Beautiful.”

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! 

It’s a tune a normal person can sing. (I’ve always especially loved “purple mountains majesty.”) But I suppose it is sort of unpatriotic in its emphasis on beauty and grace. No rockets. And that very suspicious brotherhood stuff. All the same, let’s hand it off to Keb’ Mo’.

Friday, October 21, 2011

When I was studying English and American Lit eons ago, we could trace over eras shifting tastes for Fielding v. Richardson. Or Fitzgerald v. Hemingway. Or name your two favorite natural rivals.

My own taste has lately shifted strongly toward Billie Holiday v. her only real competition. But Ta-Nehisi Coates posted this on his blog yesterday. Isn’t Ella, here with a Duke Ellington-led trio, about as good as it gets?

Monday, October 17, 2011

A truth fundamental

Sweet B, crunching away in the back seat as we drive along: “Out and about is good for apples.”

Here we go

New York Times:

Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Poster boy results

I forgot to note that this event, superbly organized by committed volunteers, went off like clockwork, and despite very heavy rains early in the morning, made a fair amount of money for its cause. I had been planning to do my duty and shuffle through it, but had managed to step in a hole dodging a car on a morning run. I strained a ligament or tendon or something having to do with my left great toe. (And it is a great toe—handsome, intelligent, good-humored, and almost always trustworthy. Not like that skiving,  paunchy and intellectually dishonest right one.) That got me on the gimp and off the hook. H and A, however, were in town, and they each won their age groups. Next year, with someone else’s phiz on the poster, maybe I can stay healthy we’ll attempt a trifecta.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We’ll try to remember, lovey

Sweet B, saying goodbye to grandparents Sunday afternoon: “Drive safely. And don’t spit in the car ... Ever!”

Le Chemin de la Mâture

Still thoroughly dysfunctional, I grabbed onto A’s ice-axe loop and he pulled me up the remarkable Chemin de la Mâture (usually translated “way of the masts,” though I think “mast path” or “mast road” is more idiomatic). This is a trail essentially blown and carved out of a cliff face so the 18th century French navy could roll masts for King Louis' navy down from high forests. That’s the Chemin, about a fifth of the way down from the top of the photo. Hardly looks like something you could walk across, does it? The chasm off to the right is known as les Gorges d’Enfer, (gorge or gorges of Hell).

It’s not quite so bad once you’re on it.

But, partly due to my whimpering and whining, we got a late start, and hit the cliff in full, direct sun. Dragging and moaning, I steamed my way slowly up. I don’t remember ever feeling so awful in the hills.

We were, in fact, about 90 percent of the way along the Chemin proper. Afterward, things got cooler and easier as we carried on to complete a loop back to the road.

This is a view of the ridge A had walked over the day before.

The Chemin de la Mâture is a famous and interesting walk and we enjoyed it—A thoroughly and I provisionally. As usual, and despite my turtle’s pace up, we were much faster than the books and signs suggested, so we were sitting in the local cafe when our chauffeur drove by on her way to collect us at the trailhead, and we waved her in for a beer. It was good.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Un. Seulement.

The cold that had begun to take hold of my breathing apparatus during the walk up to the Col de Pétragème really knocked me for a loop, and I spent most of the next day dozing, blowing my nose, and moaning loudly for sympathy. The sleek and healthy A headed over the ridge on the GR10 and had a great and eventful solo walk to Borce. We all drove over late in the day to pick him up “near the bridge” to Estaut, across the N134 and the Gave d'Aspe. In Borce, we parked and I staggered dopily around looking for same. I finally came upon a local and asked where the bridge was. He directed me  back to the one at the turn-off from the main road.

This didn't seem right to me. The map clearly showed a bridge from roughly the center of the the village. “C’est là peut-être un autre pont?

“Non,” he declared, holding up his right thumb. “Un.” Thumb wave. “Seulement.”

Well, at least he’d understood what I was trying to say. And he seemed pretty sure. But I wasn’t convinced. Maybe it was just a pedestrian bridge?

“Pour marcher à Etsaut....”

“Non, non.” Shaking the thumb at me. “Un. Seulement.”

“Pas un autre?” Moving two fingers to indicate walking. “Peut être....”

NON, NON, NON.” Fed up with this cloddish, mouth-breathing American and his execrable French. “UN.” Thumb thrust in my face. “SEULEMENT.”

We moved haltingly to a plan B, eventually found A strolling toward the café in Estaut for a well-deserved beer, and discovered, naturally, that there is, indeed, a second bridge across road and river.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Col de Pétragème

This was an odd one, in a way. We had planned to walk to the Cabane d’Ansabère, then head south and east past the Lac d’Ansabère, and up and over the ridge into Spain. Then we’d head down to the lake of Ibón de Acherito for lunch. But we’d gotten a ride from one of our party to the trailhead (a good thing—I’m not complaining!) and I had miscalculated the time I told the driver when to return for us. “Miscalculated” is an understatement. I had somehow applied my arithmetical genius so precisely that the car would have been waiting two hours for us to return. This had partly sunk in when I made this first video, so I talk about just getting to the ridge. But I still thought we’d at least be heading toward the Ibón de Acherito.

Which, in the event, we didn’t.

At this stage, I was still thinking east. But no matter your ultimate destination, it is a lovely walk.

By the time we reached the Cabane, I’d not only decided that we should head toward the Col de Pétragème to the west, but that we should probably not shoot for anything beyond the col and the Spanish border.

 I, in fact, wasn’t sure I’d even get that far. I’d developed a bear of a cold (this must have cause the problem with my arithmetic, don’t you think? Why not!?). I wasn’t moving especially well and we agreed A, young and very fit ...

... should move on ahead, as I staggered along behind, trying to keep him in sight.

But I did make it. This is the col, with the trail continuing down to Spain’s Hecho Valley.

In celebration, I savored an elegant meal. As all hillwalkers know, nothing beats a profoundly melted Nestle’s Crunch bar.

We eased our way back down to the Cabane, now confident that we had a little time in hand.


We even had a few minutes to cool off in a pool of the stream back at the Pont Massousa. I was fried.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

“Ah-choo” ...

... expressed one of sweet B’s grandmothers.

B, playing on the kitchen floor: Bless you, Deen.

Grandmother, gratified: Thank you, B.

B, reabsorbed in play: You’re welcome, Sweetie.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Rescue on Yosemite’s El Capitan

If you haven’t seen them already, take a look at these amazing photos by Tom Evans.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

News flash!

According to the New York Times, a study has just demonstrated the obvious ...  that the “talk test” is not for people who are training, as opposed to out-of-shape people looking for basic fitness (like me). The talk test is fine for warming up, cooling down, or a long, slow recovery run after a tough race, but it’s not going to get anyone into good shape or keep anyone there. This is a concept known to every runner. To get better and stay good, you have to work up against your lactate threshold, which happens to be pretty much the same thing as Arthur Lydiard’s aerobic threshold. Very old news. Why does the Times treat it as a surprise, a turning over of established beliefs?

Of course, these days, I do try to shuffle along with the talk test in mind because I want to complete my tours of the cemetery without actually requiring space there. But I run alone, so I wind up gasping my little mantra over and over: “Jeez. How did you. Ever. Get so fat and. Slow.”

It was probably because I stopped running at my lactate threshold.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lac de Lhurs

Counting the little Belvédère ramble, I had five walks in mind when I arrived in Lescun, thanks to my readings in Andy Howell’s blog and Kev Reynolds’ Cicerone guidebook. None of them looked like a terrible slog. All looked like attractive and moderately challenging day walks. Reynolds calls this one “quite strenuous, but ... an entertaining day out.”

And away we go...!

The weather still hadn’t cleared up on this Sunday morning, but we were confronted by a misty moodiness we found quite attractive.

I always fuss and fiddle with my gear for a while after a start. You’d think I’d remember those little comfort and efficiency factors, but I never do, even day to day. Here, I’m deciding whether to buckle the pack’s waist belt above or beneath the reversed bumbag I’m wearing (bellybag?). (Below, of course.) I think I’m also considering trying the tube of the water bladder under my arm instead of over my shoulder. (Wrong, wrong, wrong.) P, meanwhile, just gets on with it.

Soon after the start, we got this great view back into the pastures near Lescun. Hobbiton? What are the right words? Pastoral? Verdant? Something along those lines. A gentle and homely beauty.

Gaining some altitude, we came to this notable feature. It’s a bit of a transitional area between forest walking and more open and mountainous terrain.

A little farther along, on rougher ground. You may be able to see my red shorts doddering toward the camera. (A took most of these photos.)

Along this stretch, I shot this video. I did a lot of this (you’ll see more), entirely with my iPhone, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

The path toward the notch. (Col, I suppose, would be more correct, but I do most of my walking in New Hampshire. So notch.) This stretch is quite attractive, with green, green grass and shrubs in contrast with rough gray rock.

Odd rough gray rock.

And finally we arrive.  Unfortunately underwhelming. Two of us have walked together in California’s Sierra, where mountain lakes invariably are are swimmingly freezingly gorgeous. Lac de Lhurs? Not so much.

But P did make a new friend.

We descended and finished happy, nonetheless. Portrait of triathloner and two chubs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A little on Lescun

Five of us arrived at the Maison Willert on a Saturday. It’s a lovely place in a great location, just on the outskirts of the village of Lescun. It’s the second house along the distant row.

Three floors: one is essentially a great room, combining a kitchen with a sitting area and the desk with the stereo and internet modem (there’s wifi!). One flight up is another sitting area in front of a big fireplace; two bedrooms, and a bath. The top floor had room for two more bedrooms and another bath. Outside, the patio that lots of sun during the day, and terrific view. Of course, there are terrific views from all over Lescun. This, from just up the road a few yards, is the church.

 Two of us were here primarily to walk. One more was willing. I really wanted to start the proceedings with a short jaunt around le Belvédère, a walk that starts a few yards from the Maison Willert’s doorstep and takes you on a high loop behind and above the village, yielding terrific views for a moderate effort. It sounded like a great intro walk.

And, despite uncooperative weather, it was. From early along the path, you get this view of the village. Maison Willert is the farthest house to the right..

We strolled along.

The mist was hanging low, but we still got a good idea of the local topography: valleys, high meadows, and higher mountains.

Le Belvédère is easy walking, much of it through forest, and the dark and misty weather lent the wooded areas a feeling of enchantment ... or, I suppose, apprehension, depending on your personality.

The grand view from the top was entirely obscured, but we were perfectly happy. It’s a very pleasant walk. As the path completed its circuit and we came back down, we got another good view of the village.

And we had a week’s walking before us.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I’m back, and will be posting on wonderful Pyrenean walking soon, but while I was in Europe I got some interesting news. An article in USA Today has named the project I’ve been working on one of the 10 coolest book apps for fall. Despite the technical fact that it’s a book, not a book app, my partners and I are chuffed.

Twenty-some years ago, I had a little imprint that published Yo, Millard Fillmore!, a children’s book based on a friend’s idea to teach kids all the American presidents, using funny (okay, silly) mnemonics. He did the memorable hints, another partner did the art, and I did the more-or-less straight bios and most of the incidental writing meant to create a light tone. (I always write with a smart 10-year-old in mind ... a fairly tough audience, actually, but I have an ace up my sleeve: I have the instincts and sense of humor of a smart 10-year-old.)

Over the years, Millard was updated several times and sold a quarter-million copies. A second book, Yo, Sacramento!, using the same techniques to help kids remember all the states and capitals, sold another 150,000 or so (and we’re currently working on its iBook, version). 

Over the last few months, we’ve taken on a fourth partner to tackle the Apple iBook market. It’s been fascinating experience, and since Millard lends itself to an electronic treatment (and Sacramento even more so), we’ve created something actually better than a set of pages. Movement, sound, video.... In five years this may seem old hat, or even old-fashioned, but right now it’s near the cutting edge of iBook concept and production.

The books are both targeted toward late elementary-school children, but of course, are marketed to the parents and grandparents of these young geniuses. We’ve also found that teachers in droves buy both titles, and we’re hoping that electronic availability will make it easier for more of them to use.

It will be available at $7.99 from Apple’s iBookstore soon ... probably next week. And, of course, it comes with our no-nonsense iron-clad guarantee:
Watch the videos, read the book, and you'll soon be able to AMAZE your friends, DAZZLE your teachers, and GUARANTEE yourself a life of SUCCESS and HAPPINESS!
And now, having tooted the horn of the Yo! iBooks in the hopes that my dozens of readers around the world will buy it and make my fortune,  I slide gently back into my standard occupation of struggling to get a decent page a day of plain, old-fashioned, paper-based prose. Not for 10-year-olds. Which may be the problem.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lescun, Day 2

Trouble posting. Here's a placeholder.

YouTube Video

- Mobile posting.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cirque de Soliel, take a back seat to the Cirque de Lescun

So we're here in Lescun, in the French Pyrenees. Got here late Saturday afternoon, but didn't get out for a walk until Sunday -- the Belvedere, a stroll around behind the village that took us from Lescun's 1,000 or so meters to about 1,200 and back down again over a pretty leisurely two hours. Sensational views at first, eventually subsumed in the mist. Good wine and great food, followed, of course.

Today, three of us wandered up to Lac de Lhurs, which we found underwhelming, though we did have a good chat with the cabane's resident(the shepard?).

YouTube Video

The other views, both up toward the peaks and back down to the green and bucolic pastures of Lescun, were wonderful. And the walk, as a walk, lived up to its billing as strenuous but an entertaining day out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Who is this guy?

I went out to breakfast with my father this morning, briefly escaping the depressingly dark and powerless house, and a woman I'd never seen before stopped briefly next to his chair to say "Hi, Henry." I was surprised, because his name is Dick.

"She calls me Henry Fonda," he said, taking this as his due, and continuing to peruse his menu.

My mother told me the girls used to call him Robert Taylor, so he's morphed.

- Mobile posting.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Manitas de Plata

I was looking for a particular Django Reinhardt piece on YouTube yesterday. (Found it.) And got sidetracked. To this:

Bios always say that Manitas first played in the United States at Carnegie Hall in December of 1965. But I attended his true first American performance—at Spalding Auditorium at Dartmouth, the night before. I think his agents or handlers or whatever wanted to let him warm up for what was likely to be the biggest moment of his young career. The place was packed, 800 or so strong, and we went nuts for the next hour plus. And when he was done, we wouldn't let him go. I have no idea how many encores he took, but it wasn’t enough. It remains perhaps the greatest concert performance I’ve ever attended.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

If West Virgina is almost heaven, what’s this going to be?

Thanks to a mention in Andy Howell’s blog, I’ll soon be spending time here... the Maison Willert, in Lescun, on the French side of the Pyrenees. I’ve got my Kev Reynolds. I’ve got my Carte de Randonnées. I’ve got my little, light rucksack in training here on the floor of my office. (I find that a well-exercised and at least moderately fit pack complains less than a flabby one.)

I am, in short, ready to roll. Not everyone on this trip is a walker, which is too bad for them, but otherwise pretty handy. A and I, and sometimes P, can stroll off in the morning, wander along our route, appreciating gorgeous lakes, impressive summits, and stunning views, fighting off bears and marmots, then return to elegantly prepared repasts and flagons of local wines carefully chosen. A Floc de Gascogne, of course, either to start or finish. Or both. We can do this, if we like, every day for a week. I’m pretty sure we’re not going to want to come back.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Divine Jane

 Thanks to MR for letting me know about this:

 More here about  A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy at the Morgan Library.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I’ve been wasting time (and nearly missing a business call), playing with Xtranormal, a site that lets you make your own “movies.”

Yesterday, I finished Randall Fuller’s superb From Battlefields Rising: How The Civil War Transformed American Literature. There is a lot of Emily Dickinson in it. Oddly, Fuller never mentions her interest in Ferlinghetti.

iPad “sheet” music

How cool is this? Cheap, yes. Easy to carry around, yes. But it’s the access, stupid.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Silver linings

No walking this past weekend. My broken toe was pretty good, but H decided to emulate her father (historically unwise), and she matched me with a tender tootsie of her own. As far as we can remember, these are the first broken bones either of us has suffered. Togetherness is nice...

... but we can think of better iterations.

My lower back had also started acting up ... increasingly common, and probably a defense mechanism to the pile on the floor featured in the previous post.

So my checklist remains the same and we merely had a great weekend.

A minor league baseball game got things rolling Saturday night. The home team Manchester (New Hampshire) FisherCats beat the Akron (Ohio) Aeros, 5-3, surviving a late-innings scare after shutting the visitors out for seven. We were all there, including sweet B’s best friend, K, and her dad, P. B was very interested in why people were swinging and missing, and urgently needed to know why number 7 threw his bat. Deep discussion of frustration and sportsmanship.

Sunday was damp, but there was a bit of riding on the pushbike, and a rather elegant tea party, also with K and P, and some favorite dollies.

Monday morning was pouring, but there was time for a little engineering ...

... before heading out, not forgetting the dragon wellies and tiaras that a fashionable young person just doesn’t leave home without.

A crew of us leaves for Lescun in less than two weeks, so there will be plenty of mountain blogging soon.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beauty and grace

The other thing, beside making music, that I most regret not being able to do. Marginally less impossible to manage in the time available, I suppose. Then again, I get seasick.

A shot from our glorious days in Maine.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

High (mountain) hopes

I’ll be heading north this weekend for what I hope will be a couple of days on this route, which weather kept me off three years ago. This time I won’t be solo, but one of a trio, with H and A on hand to drag me up the steep bits. Of course, the weather report is iffy again, but it looks like standard-issue rain, not thunder, lighting, and hail. Views might be limited on what many consider this most beautiful of White Mountain walks, but that will just give us motivation to return.

It’s been so long since I was out for more than a day that my floor looks to me as if I’m preparing for an expedition to deepest Nobedestan. Sleeping mat? Tent? Stove? What is this stuff? Maybe I should take a satellite phone and a machete if I’m going this extreme.

I’m making some adjustments to my McHale pack, based on how things worked out in New Zealand. Different hipbelt pockets. A little pocket on my left shoulder strap for my glasses. A new arrangement for the water bladders. A different top flap. Just dinks, really. This pack, once called a 0-SARC and now apparently called an LBP (Little Big Pack), is old-fashioned in its ruggedness. (It’s now available in new-fangled, much lighter and maybe even tougher Dyneema.) But it’s still notably lighter than most commercial 50L packs, and carries exceptionally well. It’s also flexibly sized, with Dan’s excellent P&G Bayonet frame extension system. I doubt I’ll ever need anything larger. Even with that big box of rescue flares.

I was in New Hampshire for 10 days or so until last Sunday, and while I was there, we went out a few times with sweet B on her little pushbike. She’s beginning to get the hang of this balance thing.

We took her to the local park for a swim, too ...

... and while we were drying her off afterward and changing her out of wet and into dry, she effected an escape. A little naked person in tiny Keen water sandals running around trees and through the playground. We were laughing too hard to be especially effective in pursuit. Fortunately, she took a gentle spill and her mommy was able to grab her up, wrap her up, and kiss her up.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Big day in Boston

I’ve been in Concord for a week or so, shuttling sweet B and coddling a broken toe. (Dramatic and sensational circumstances ... a Pyrex container fell out of the fridge and zeroed on on the unoffending appendage, turning its elegant, slender, yet macho pinkness into the purple piggie of pain. I can confirm that my command of basic Anglo Saxon remains fluent. So can the neighbors.)

Yesterday H, B, and I headed for Boston to meet some family and friends and take in the Chihuly exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. We had a high old time. B loves the T,

and we wandered through the Public Garden to check out the ducklings. We even had a ride on the Swan Boats. Lovably familiar material to three generations of Robert McCloskey fans.

B squealingly enjoyed the carousel on the Common with her Aunt D ...

She and mommy tested the waters in the Frog Pond ...

and a slightly manic B showed herself to be a surprisingly agile and aggressive climber at the Tadpole Playground.

The whole crew enjoyed a great outdoor dinner.

Then the three of us went off to the Chihuly exhibit. Which we couldn’t get into. Sold out.