Monday, March 25, 2013

First, second, turd

Paul and I were accompanied on our walk today by Jasper the Wonderdog, who is the one constant of a slightly complicated visit by the Concordians. A was here, but left yesterday afternoon. H hasn’t been here, but will be this evening. And sweet B has sort of been here the whole time, but is out today charming the denizens of her grandmother’s workplace.

Getting suited up this morning, I felt in my jacket pockets to be sure I had a few of those plastic bags our paper-delivery person uses to keep the news dry. Jasper did his business early on. I handled it with my usual aplomb de merde, and being fortunate in our location, tossed the package into the Elementary School dumpster. Paul and I immediately got back to solving the world’s problems, and were surprised a few minutes later by Jasper making another stop for cause. I reached for another plastic bag, and came up…empty. Whatever I’d felt in there, it hadn’t been another bag. Even in the semi-countryside of our walk, I don’t like people who let their dogs leave samples, so I scrounged out a couple of old paper napkins and daintily transferred the gently steaming pile to a little hole I kicked in the not-quite-frozen turf behind a tree. Then I folded the paper as cleverly as an origami and carted it along until the next trash bin. My fault, for not checking carefully enough for multiple bags, but all set.

Mais non. As we turned the corner and headed down Main Street for home, Jasper decided his previous deposits were insufficient. On the lawn of a house one of my high school classmates used to live in, he assumed, for the third time, that weirdly furtive position, turning his head and looking over his shoulder.

I’d used the only bag I had. I’d used the scrunched up paper napkins I’d found. Now what? Paul dug deep and came up with an old paper towel. And I walked the rest of the way home with a handful of dogshit.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Paint me green

Looked out my window yesterday to see someone gliding beautifully down the sidewalk with that perfect runner's swing. And flying. My teeth still hurt from the grinding. I’ve never cared if people were smarter or richer or better looking (good thing, huh?), but seeing a good runner running well really flips the switch.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Phew, glad that’s over with

I’m cleaning out my closet. Among the dustballs, I scrabbled up a small blue duffel. At one time, it held my competition kit—racing shoes and a few things to handle the usual pre- and post-race issues. Over the years, it’s become running-related dead storage: My college singlet; the heavy, old fashioned (even in 1969), and unattractive sweats they let me keep because they’d finally gotten new ones during my senior year; a singlet from the Charlottesville Track Club, which I wore in most of my post-college racing; no fewer than three pairs of SportHills of much later date; one of those ancient, scratchy Helly-Hansen polypro turtlenecks, red with the dashes up the arms, certainly older than my daughter; a pair of folding scissors; a cotton “good luck” turtleneck, now more holes than fabric, that I remember buying at The Indian Shop in Hanover in 1965; a give-away visor from an event long, long ago, and some partial rolls of adhesive tape.

I’m sentimentally attached to the uniform stuff. The folding scissors still cut. Good luck is hard to find. I think H and/or A might be able to use the SportHills. The Helly-Hanson goes in the local clothes box. I can’t make up my mind about the visor. But I’m ruthlessly disposing of the 30-year-old tape.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Check that, will you?

H and I had a brief chat the other day about getting back into the mountains this year and polishing off at least my remaining New Hampshire 4,000-footers. Maybe hers and A’s, too, though they’ve got more to go than I have. On the other hand, they’re vastly fitter.

I’ve got 10 to go, and seven of them fall into two natural groups. Cabot, the northernmost of all 48, is tucked off by itself in the Kilkenny Range, and Isolation is—not surprisingly—isolated, deep in the Dry River Wilderness, but Moriah and the Carters are a natural single walk, as are North Twin and the Bonds. Carrigain I’m saving for last, because it has a spectacular view that takes in most of the other 47. So a good clear day is mandatory. And bubbly, of course.

We want to fit in as many of H and A’s unclimbed 4,000s as we can, too, so these natural groupings may be stretched or uncoupled. And B will be 5 in July, old enough to more independently handle some easy walks to huts or special spots. That will certainly figure into our planning. Fun, funner, and funnest.

Completing this list never interested me until about 10 years ago. Checking off peaks had always seemed like exactly the wrong approach to the hills. But then I realized that I was really missing wandering around with H and that having some goal would be likely to get the three of us out there together more often. Some years it has, some years it hasn’t. But—I can’t figure out if this is counter-intuitive or not—the creakier I get (and I’ve gotten very creaky indeed), the more I want to do it.

The mountains here are quite different from the Lakes, or Scotland, or California’s Sierra, or the Pyrenees, or the Alps. Not high by international standards, they are serious all the same. The trails are rocky, rough, and steep, generally straight up the fall line. The peaks and ridges can be dangerous, because bad weather can brew up  in a flash, even in high summer. (Nineties in the valleys? You can be operating below freezing on the Presidential Traverse. With wind. I’ve been blown over up there.) On the other hand, you don’t need to develop good navigational skills (and I, to my chagrin, haven’t) because signage is good, and in most areas you’re either on the obvious trail or deep in the puckerbrush. You do need to defer gratification (pretty New Englandy in that sense, actually), because on most of these mountains you won’t see a view until you get close to the top. Maybe not even then. Frankly, there are lots of places I’d rather walk. But these are my home mountains. And I’m checking off a list.

Here’s a good site on walking the bigger Whites.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Snow day

Dad still affects to hate going to his daycare. I think he actually is fine while he’s there. The folks there certainly think he is. He’s sociable, reasonably active, chats up the ladies.... I think it’s more the idea of it than the fact of it that has him stomping in here for tea at 4:00, grumbling and complaining about his never-ending trip home on the brutal roads of rural-suburban Connecticut. This morning I got a call from the center, saying they were not opening because of the weather. When I went across to tell him, he reacted exactly as I used to when they called off school: relief and utter joy at the fact that I’d be in control of my own life for an unexpected day. Dad still wants the same thing, but these days he can only have the best illusion I can provide. My mom had early-onset Alzheimer’s, and dad retired and spent years doing the same thing for her. But he’s forgotten that now. The other day he asked me what her name was.

January 14, 2012, 88th birthday.

Monday, March 4, 2013

And fat, too

Collected my mail at the Post Office the other day, and on the way out bumped into a woman I’ve known for decades. We’ve been frequent allies in politics, and from my mid-20s to my late-50s she worked hard for me during various campaigns. I’ve had the chance to return the favor a time or two. Socially, we’ve attended dozens of parties and picnics together. We’re not bosom buddies, but we’re friends. So I gave her a smiling greeting at the PO door, and asked how she was doing. She looked at me, said “I think I recognize you,” and stared quizzically. I introduced myself—a bizarre feeling in the circumstances. She started back, gave me a shocked look, and said, “Oh, my God, you look so old.”

Exactly my reaction every morning in the mirror.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Out of the mouths of babes

We made an impromptu trip last night from Concord to Hanover to watch the Dartmouth women play Princeton in basketball. There was a big men’s hockey game going on across the street, so the college laid on shuttle busses to the med school lot (last time I parked there: 1969, in a very-used, not very reliable Karmann-Ghia convertible that always seemed to be buried in snowdrifts). After the game (league-leading Princeton won, but our girls kept it close), we all hopped on the coach and were dropped off near our car. To get out of town, we had to retrace our route, and I soon pointed out to sweet B that there, picking up another load of fans, was the very same bus that had driven us out to the parking lot. Her comment: “That was very kind of them.” She knocks me out. But you knew that.