Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

I close my umbrella as I enter the store. I am surprised to see so many people in my usually quiet bookstore. Black Friday, I think to myself, and smile. I'm glad that even the Brattle Book Store sees an increase in sales today.
After climbing the marble staircase to the second floor I squeeze through some book carts over to the nautical section. Here I am looking for "Patrick O'Brian's Navy", a large-format introduction to Napoleonic naval warfare focuses on Patrick O'Brian's splendid Jack Aubrey saga, which it presents as a major work of English literature. As well it should. However, I am thwarted; the Brattle does not have a copy of this book in stock. I file this title away for future reference. After all, I'll be here again.
Browsing through this section I find some old hardcovers of the Hornblower series. The smell of these old hardcover classics fills my senses and I wonder whose fingers once brushed over these pages as mine do now? I decided that it is time to read the next novel in this masterful series by C.S. Forester - "Hornblower and the Atropos". Chronologically this is the 5th book in the series. However, I am skipping the fourth ("Hornblower During the Crisis") as it was the last book written by the author and was unfinished at the time of his death. Pleased with this literary decision, I walk over to the Mythology/Folklore section. However, nothing catches my eye and I walk downstairs to browse the general fiction and Sci-Fi/Fantasy section.
I begin casually browsing when my eyes widen. There, on the top shelf of the "A" section, is a hardcover copy of "Watership Down". No way! Two very good friends have recently (and unexpectedly) suggested this novel to me and I have been looking for it for two months. I knew it would show up here eventually so I waited. Finally, lo and behold, here it is.
I frantically search for a stepladder and, once in hand, I step up and reach for the book. It's a heavy tome. I page through it carefully, scanning as many of the pages as I can. It's in great condition. The book cover lists it for $40.00 and I will buy it for $10.00.
Book score!
I rapidly descend the ladder and walk briskly over to the sales counter. Once there the young man at the counter asks, "Did you find everything you were looking for today, sir?"
Truth be told, no, I didn't. But I found something unexpected today and that is even more rewarding.
My "Black Friday" is now anything but.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"What is Your Name?" - UPDATED

As you know, "Star Trek" premieres in theatres May 8, 2009.
The movie features the main characters of the original Star Trek series, who are portrayed by a new cast. It follows James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) enrolling at Starfleet Academy, his first meeting with Spock (Zachary Quinto), and their battles with Romulans from the future, who are interfering with history.
UPDATED: What you did NOT know is that there is one extra scene that has been added to the trailer.
Here is the trailer with one extra scene:


Monday, November 17, 2008

25 Years Later

"Under your Q&A I saw that when asked how your friends would describe you that you put down 'unique,' Jack said.
Did I? I thought to myself. Probably...I don't remember liking any of the other options.
"And I thought that 'unique' was the best way to describe you in high school. You were always so put together and so comfortable with yourself.
Andy who? Who the hell is he talking about?
"While the rest of us were trying to figure out who we were there goes Andy with all the answers, just being himself."
Is he serious?"
I always envied that about you."
Holy crap. He is serious.
Later, when I was discussing this conversation with my reunion-wife over dinner, she said, "Oh absolutely. You were just like that. You were also one of the smartest kids around. You knew everything."
At another point during the night while I was marveling at how good some of my female classmates still looked I walked into this conversation:
"...but don't tell him I said that."
So I asked "What are we talking about?"
Laura replied, "Lynn was just saying 'Don't tell Andy how attractive he turned out to be.'"
Unfortunately Lynn had brought the yearbook along to prove her point rather emphatically.
Over the course of the evening I also was told the following:

  • "All this and you can dance, too? Oh my God."
  • "You always were a gentleman and you always treated me very well.
  • "Your classmates picture looks great and it still doesn't do you justice. You need to change that - now."

So, if nothing else, my 25th reunion was an unexpected ego boost. But it was still weird.

I never felt "put-together" during high school - at all. I thought I was a wreck. I was just trying to survive another gym class of not getting picked on for being skinny and really not too athletic or trying not to stutter whenever I talked to any of the attractive girls I went to school with. I thought that each day was a mental fight for survival.

I never really hung out with anyone other than the usual gang of misfits and the extended group that it became. One fateful day,our English teacher, Miss Brackman, had sauntered across the library and announced, "Hey! there's the crew!", with a wink and a smile.

None of us fit into any one clique so we made our own. From that day on we were "The Crew", if only known to ourselves - and Geri Brackman.

I was being myself simply because that's what our clique decided to be - ourselves. I was neither brain nor jock nor burnout but I had friends from all three groups. We all did, it was just the emphasis on which friends we knew from which clique that was different. We each had separate interests but we also had enough interests that overlapped which served to strengthen our bond.

Within this group of friends I was allowed to just be me, the "skinny little nerd boy", as Fox likes to call me, who was able to find strength and security in our group of individuals.

I never knew that we all seemed to suffer our own brands of identity crisis or insecurities but it seems that we all experienced something like that at one time or another during high school. I guess we were pretty good at hiding them from those around us. For me, the one group that knew of and accepted me in spite of these insecurities was "The Crew". If I had any hidden strengths in school then I'm sure that they helped me to find them.

Only one other member of The Crew showed up to this years reunion (Thanks, George!). However, I turned this into a positive event. Without the safety of staying seated with my sizable group of friends I was able to mingle with my fellow classmates and I was afforded the opportunity to talk - really talk- with each of them. I spent the evening chatting with people about their lives, their kids, and how things did or did not turn out for them. I danced a little, talked a lot, and really enjoyed myself.

On the drive home my reunion-wife also pointed out (rather sagely) that "none of us were who the others thought we were. The trick is accepting that they saw things in us that we failed to see in ourselves."

This is very true. And I appreciate her sharing this thought with me. It was a pleasure to spend the evening with my reunion-wife. She is a great friend and she has a wisdom that belies her youth.

I really enjoyed my class reunion. 25 years later, I find that "just being me" paid off with dividends that I never, ever expected. I have found that men and women from the Class of 1983 think of me fondly and well and I find that very rewarding, somehow.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Night Light

As the hot water boiled and churned and bubbles rushed to the surface Jenna and Bridget were having a laugh about something - I don't know what - but the sound of their combined laugh filled the air. I sat back and enjoyed the moment.
We arrived later than originally planned. We had hit traffic - a whole lot of traffic - on Route 3 North so we arrived in Vermont after a long 3.5 hour ride. We unpacked the car quickly and said hello to Jim, Bridget's Dad and our host for the weekend. He's as glad to see us as we are to see him.
I have known Jim almost as long as I have known Bridget. He is a quiet man, with a rich voice and a great laugh. I get the sense that he is always thinking about something, anything, at any given moment. Tonight Jim proudly proclaimed that he was reading the final, complete novel in the Aubrey/Maturin series - "Blue at the Mizzen". I'm only on book 5. He has clearly enjoyed this series that I recommended to him last winter. That makes me happy. Jim loves having house guests and after my first visit here he told me that we were welcome back anytime. I enjoy taking him up on his offer.
Jenna and I prepared a hearty meal of steak, broccoli and roasted potatoes as soon as we arrived. After we ate we soon learned Aaron and Sam(antha) were not going to arrive until mid-morning tomorrow so we were on our own until then. Sleeping arrangements were set up and Riley was put to bed. Meanwhile, I started reading "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer which was recommended to me by my daughter while she was reading "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex" by Nathaniel Philbrick, which I suggested to her.
Soon afterwards we indulged in some rich conversation with Jim. The topics were all over the map and, as usual, pretty stimulating. Its really something to watch Jenna interact with adults. She carries herself very well and can usually explain her thoughts and feeling succinctly and clearly. Finally, a long hard week at work caught up with Jim and he shuffled off to bed. Jenna, Bridget and I decided it was time to enjoy the hot tub. And here we sat.
We had many plans on the morrow. Aaron was going to need some help rebuilding his car and the Young family wanted to visit Jim's dad during the afternoon. During this visit we planned that Jenna and I would take Riley into downtown Randolph for a visit to the local bookstore and the coffee shop. Of course, a game of RISK was expected and required to happen and that takes a good long time to complete. Between games and travels there would be reading and lots of it. Yet, none of the above was considered a chore. Instead, we looked upon all of it as another quiet weekend, shared with friends and family and loved ones.
Now, as I look out over the darkened field that surrounds the house, the only man-made light comes from the low, blue glow of the hot tub. Thanks to the light cloud cover there are no stars in the sky but the scant light from a nearly hidden moon still creates shadows that make the surrounding wood seem even darker. Among the darkness, laughter fills the area with the brightest light.
And I am content.

Monday, November 10, 2008


A conversation at work:
"I may be a bit cranky today."
"Really? Why?"
"I'm going in for an endoscopic exam this afternoon and I haven't been able to eat anything since midnight."
"When was the last time you had anything to eat?"
"Eight o'clock last night."
"And what time is your appointment?"
"Three fifteen this afternoon."
"Oh wow - that sucks."
"It totally does."
"So what are you doing before then?"
"I'm drinking water until noontime and then I have to stop that, too."
"That's quite the challenge."
" really can't get any worse than this."
At this moment, our supervisor -who was oblivious to our conversation-walked over with a big smile on her face.
"Hey. As a 'Thank you' for all of your hard work lately we're ordering pizza for lunch today."
There was much laughter.
I wasn't laughing. I was hungry.
But the irony was truly delicious.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Ghosts of Selma

Without showing the results of the West Coast states I watched in amazed disbelief as the Presidential race was called for Barack Obama at 11 pm. When it finally sunk in what I had just seen - the election of Barack Obama over John McCain - I shouted in triumph, my fist pounding the air over and over again.
And then, I teared up.
Obama is the son of a Kenyan national and an American-born white woman. He lived in Indonesia and Hawaii before returning to the American mainland. With his victory last night America had elected its first truly global president in her history. The world watched as the United States overcame centuries of racial strife and elected an African-American (with Hussein as a middle name) as president.
If the exit polls are accurate than Obama's triumph was built on his overwhelming success with blacks, Hispanics, 18-to-34-year-olds, educated white males and new voters. For these groups to come together behind a single banner means that Obama may be the agent of change that he wanted to be. His time is now, and we will be the better for it.
Today, I am both awed and humbled. Last night, the measure of the man trumped the color of his skin. Last night unity replaced divisiveness and hope triumphed over fear.
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."
- President-elect Barack Obama
Free at last.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Dancing on the Wind

A crackling and tapping sound broke my reverie. A quick glance showed me that the sound came from the dry leaves of a nearby copse of trees that were spurred on by a gentle breeze and falling in a mad dash for the grassy floor. I was reminded of a song (or a poem?) I had heard long ago. I found it online.

by George Cooper

"Come little leaves," said the wind one day
"Come o'er the meadows with me and play;
Put on your dresses of red and gold
For summer is gone and the days grow cold."
Soon as the leaves heard the wind's loud call,
Down they came fluttering, one and all;
Over the brown fields they danced and flew,
Singing the glad little songs they knew.

"Cricket, good-by, we've been friends so long,
Little brook, sing us your farewell song;
Say you are sorry to see us go;
Ah, you will miss us, right well we know.

"Dear little lambs in your fleecy fold,
Mother will keep you from harm and cold;
Fondly we watched you in vale and glade,
Say, will you dream of our loving shade?"

Dancing and whirling, the little leaves went,
Winter had called them, and they were content;
Soon, fast asleep in their earthy beds,
The snow laid a coverlet over their heads.

I'm not sure where I heard the opening lines of this poem before but it is very appropriate. When the warm air of summer turns into the tempered chill of October I await the explosion of color that occurs before the Fall.
Old Man Winter is surely approaching but, for now, he is still a bit further down the trail. For now, the kaleidoscope of color may have faded a bit but leaves still have time to dance and whirl about before they sleep.