Saturday, July 30, 2011

Not quite Down East

Maine was spectacular and the visit too short. Terrific friends. Gorgeous weather. Boothbay Harbor dancing in the sun. Top-notch boat-watching for this frustrated sailor. Lobstah! And a rockbound reading picnic. Wicked good.

Now we’re in New Hampshire with sweet B and her family. B, who, it has been noticed, can be a bit, mmm, other-directive, was just looking through some photos with one of us, who apparently wasn’t making quick enough progress. “Let’s move along,” she said. Well, it’s a phrase I’ve uttered at innumerable meetings, and it’s almost always excellent advice—even when uttered by a near-three-year-old. I’ll take it personally, and close out now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rounding into form

I had a difficult time settling back in after the New Zealand trip back in February and early March. Great holidays always want to keep on rolling (Newton has a law about this, I think), and this was one of the very greatest. Combine that with my lifelong disinclination to get in the groove, and my aging brain’s ongoing wrestling match with the word-pile, and you get a kind of petulant dissatisfaction.

But there were bright spots.

Among other places, I’ve spent time in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Charlottesville, Virginia. Of course, plenty of time up north in New Hampshire.  And soon, off to Boothbay Harbor, Maine. 

I was in Charlottesville as a hanger-on during a reunion. I spent a lot of time there in an earlier life, and I’ve never liked it. (It’s the world center of Thomas Jefferson worship, a religion of which I’m not a communicant.) But it’s undeniably beautiful, and it was beautiful during the visit, clear, warm, and sunny, with views as long as the curvature of the earth allows. Jefferson’s Monticello overlooks the city. I’d been here often, and twice had a chance to see parts of the house that aren’t on the regular tours. I was astonished to see how vastly the presentation of the house has changed. Less Saint Thomas and more real history, including a long overdue coming to grips with the writer of the Declaration of Independence as slaveholder, including keeping as slaves some of his own children.

Here’s the “nickel” view.

In Coeur d’Alene, I wandered over Tubbs Hill a bit and had a wonderful chance encounter with a very cool man, probably in his 80s, originally from Switzerland. He was looking fit as a fiddle in his triathlon T-shirt and we talked a bit about the Alps and other mountainous parts of the world. He’d obviously spent time in some beautiful high places. We only chatted for 20 minutes or so, but it was one of those memorable passings.

Of course, there was sweet B. We’ll all celebrate her third birthday this weekend, and I'll be in Concord for a week and a bit afterward to fill in some blank spots in the parental schedule. Here are a few more shots from our walk up Waumbek.

Ritual imparting of flawed wisdom at the trailhead.

“These Pacer Poles are a trip!”

At luncheon just off the summit. Change of clothes necessitated by the usual. It’s harder in the woods.

On the summit cairn. Jasper the Wonderdog occupies the shadow between H and me.

Personal Sherpa gently carries relaxed client back down the hill.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Happy mountain time

Last weekend, almost the whole brigade— H, A, sweet B, Jasper the Wonderdog, and I — wandered up  Mt. Waumbek, the third-lowest of the 48 New Hampshire 4,000-footers, at 4,006 feet. It’s an inclined walk in the woods, with little of the rock-scrambling so common in the Whites. A great day for B to have a real go at a mountain. She walked a good bit of the 3.6-mile ascent, defaulting to the Kelty on daddy’s back when she needed a break. She maintained high spirits until she conked out after lunch at the summit and slept for most of the ride down.

 It was very hot, very humid, and, with the entire crew, a long round-trip from Concord (almost two hours each way up and back, a little over six hours on the trail). Even the very fit H and A were fatigued by the time we got back to the car. I was several notches beyond fatigued, lost a borrowed water bottle, broke a strap on my not-great old Stratos 32, and even with a jar-opener couldn’t unscrew and collapse my walking poles. (The trick: two jar openers!)

None of that mattered. It was spectacular to be out together, laughing and playing with B, and watching her lead out, marching uphill and turning to us every few seconds to say, “I take you right to the top of the mountain.”

I still feel like a silly ass, checking off mountains, but It’s one of those geriatric compulsions and I’m committed now, with only 10 to go. An overnight Bonds traverse in a few weeks with with H and A (north-south, over the Twins, reasonable Google Earth Illustration here) will let me tick off four more summits. I may get one or two more later in the fall, but completion will probably have to wait until 2012.

After all, it’s the Pyrenees in September!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fine and Mellow

I’ve winnowed my “Now” playlist gradually down over the last few months, tossing almost everything that isn’t Billie Holiday. (A little Count Basie remains.) Billie’s pretty much telling me all I need to hear these days.

This clip, posted in multiple forms on YouTube, is from 1957, very late in her career. You can see that she is frail in body and spirit, and to me she seems to sing this blues, which she wrote in the late ’30s, with both yearning and acceptance.

The musicians supporting her are, like the clip itself, famously famous. You can check their names on YouTube if you're interested, but maybe the best indication of their greatness is that the first two solos are Ben Webster handing off to Lester Young. You can see Billie, in close-up, receive Lester’s communication, and even if you don't know the back story (radio piece below), it goes straight to the heart.

 Here’s an old but excellent NPR segment on this performance:

Friday, July 22, 2011

The blueberries are coming in... breakfast is more berries than Wheaties. A good time of year.

On the other hand, it’s 92°F (34°C) out there, headed to 96° (36°), with humidity due to push the heat index to 105° (41°). But I can take it. All I have to do is remember this past !@#$% winter.

Update: At 2:30pm, it’s 97° with a heat index of 106°. I imagine it will be all downhill from there, and we’ll have a nice balmy 80° evening.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Make your kid a writer

I enjoyed this. Of course, the post isn’t really about making your kid a writer—that would have given me the willies. It’s more about getting out of the way if she’s so inclined.

I think you know pretty fast. If she hasn’t got her nose permanently stuck in a book at a pretty early age, she won’t be a writer. There’s more to it than that, of course. Reading is necessary but not sufficient. She might, for example, prefer to make a decent living.

Thanks to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s great blog, in my book the finest one on the web. Best writing. Most thoughtful. Most interesting community. And a fascinating, ongoing personal journey.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Poster boy, senescent chubboid division

The last time anyone in Woodbury cared about my running was in 1965. But then I think they were serious. This is clearly some sort of joke. (Not the cause, which is vital—just the come-on.)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Busy B

The B and her parents have been in Woodbury for a few days, to celebrate H’s birthday, and the nation’s. B has had a busy time.

We’ve done doctoring,

a picnic at the beach,

a new tutu (much coveted),

horseback riding,

and all sorts of other fun things. Yesterday, fatigue resulted in a brief but spectacular meltdown,

and we all wanted very much to avoid the same thing today.

A little over an hour ago, sweet B agreed to a much-needed nap. “I will sleep,” she told me as I snuggled her down, “for eight minutes.” Fortunately, her internal clock is malfunctioning, and she still slumbers. This evening is a party for her mama, and the fascinating conversation and witty ripostes demanded of all who attend events here require quick wits.

What Books Will Become

What do you think of this?

It’s easy to see, or perhaps more accurately feel, that the traditional book will in many cases be supplemented or superseded in the not too distant future. Amazon is now selling more Kindle books than traditional ones. Even I—ancient and doddering—have been working lately on a group project that involves the integration of traditional books, a website, and Apple iBooks.

I’ve been straining away on other ideas, too, for a long time, and despite my love for paper, ink, and local bookshops, I’m intrigued and excited about the possibilities of what books might become. Or what they might be made to become. But despite my love affair with my Kindle, my usual thinking on all this is as a book creator. Here is a particular idea from the linked article that excites me as a book reader:
... We can share not just the titles of books we are reading, but our reactions and notes as we read them ... we will be able to link passages. We can add a link from a phrase in the book we are reading to a contrasting phrase in another book we’ve read; from a word in a passage to an obscure dictionary, from a scene in a book to a similar scene in a movie. We might subscribe to the marginalia feed from someone we respect, so we get not only their reading list, but their marginalia—highlights, notes, questions, musings.
... dense hyperlinking among books would make every book a networked event ... when we can link deeply into documents at the resolution of a sentence, and have those links go two ways, we'll have networked books.
Most of this, of course, would be drivel. But imagine being able to read and integrate the notes of people you know to be interesting, expert, perceptive, or witty. Scrumptious.

Not for you? Fine. But it’s coming. And lots more, besides.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The ump’s hot corner: not third, but first

This article from the New York Times sports page about the difficulty big league umps have with making the call at first base reminded of something I hadn’t thought of in years...decades.

I was probably in my early 30s, out for a spring-time run. An old schoolmate of mine was coaching junior high school baseball, and the assigned umpires hadn’t shown up. So he snagged me off the road and asked me to do the honors. For seven innings, I stationed myself behind the pitcher’s mound and called both balls and strikes and all the plays on the bases. Real umpires use a special little counter called an “indicator” to keep track of balls, strikes, and outs. I just scratched lines in the dirt with my shoe. Really pro.

The last out of the game was a dribbler up the first base line by one of the visiting team’s batters. The pitcher came off the mound to field it, bobbled it slightly, then flipped it to first, where it arrived at roughly the same time as the runner. Bang-bang. My arm went up. “Out.” Game over. Home team wins. But I knew immediately that I had blown the call, and I think everybody else did, too.

No arguments, though. I think the visiting coach figured it was about what he could expect from an ump in a ratty crop-top and bright red nylon short-shorts.

Besides, I just would have run away.