Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Next Great Adventure

About a month ago, the company I work for announced they're closing our office, effective September 22nd. They offered all of us transfers to the main office. In Washington DC.

Let the shock of that sink in for a minute. You might be surprised in reading that. Hell, every single one of us in the room was stunned upon this news, and all immediately began to process the "what the hell" and the "what am I going to do" portions of life.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

It's not about what's supposed to be. It's about what is.

Note: I wrote a version of this for our church newsletter. I've edited it for the blog, and included the photos. My friend Greg edited it for me, and said "this is so wonderfully written, and your words are so kind, I wish it had a bigger audience." So, to that end, I'm sharing it here with all five of my readers to expand said audience.

Some of you don't believe in God or Jesus or anything like that, but perhaps you can take something away from what I'm trying to get at here that is true to your own heart and place.


On Saturday afternoon, I was having a long talk with my mom. She turns 74 next week. She was commenting on the loss of one of my sister’s high school friends who died that morning.

“It isn’t supposed to be like this,” my mom said. “You kids shouldn’t be dying before me. I’m supposed to be gone before all of you.”  The sense of the unfairness of this fact was deeply reflected by the sadness and disappointment in her voice.

Thinking on that a little bit I offered the only consolation I could come up with. “Mom, it’s not about what’s supposed to be. It’s about what is.” She agreed sadly.

This time of year, thoughts turn to resurrection and rebirth: flowers escape their winter prisons; birds commute back from far off places; flip-flops escape from closets.

But this time of year I’m also reminded of death.
Chris P (aka Chrispy) on the left. Wayne on the right.
Conquered the "mountain" above Gloucester one fine late spring day
and shone victorious.
The death that is on my mind most this year is that of Wayne Hyde. Wayne died unexpectedly on April 13, 2015. Unlike my sister’s friend, he made it to the other side of 50. He left behind six fantastic children and a wife who showed more strength and grace in that private moment than I think I could ever imagine.

Several college friends were having a big discussion about our giant shared loss a few days after his passing. One friend said something to the effect of “Why are we sad? We know Wayne loved Jesus, lived his life for Jesus, and raised his children to love Jesus. We shouldn’t weep, but instead rejoice!”

Oh, but we did weep. And rejoicing was very hard, and still is very hard. I’m sure if you’ve lost someone whose life was so intertwined with yours, you understand that.

The discussion continued, and some were hurt by this sentiment that because we believe in the Resurrection and the Life that we should just turn our frowns upside down! But I think I understood where he was coming from. I explained that we weep for what he will miss, and will miss doing with us.

We weep for the “supposed tos” that are suddenly not going to be “it is.”

We’re arriving at one of those “it is” moments in this circle of friends. A few short weeks from now Wayne’s daughter Natalie will marry her college sweetheart, Caleb. Everyone looking at her, and I’m sure she will feel the same, will be aware of that twinge of the “supposed to” that my mom hearkened to this morning.

Wayne was “supposed to” be there to walk Natalie down the aisle. But instead there is the “it is” of her mom Marcia filling in, fancy dress and all.

When someone dies, all of those “supposed tos” are lost. We know we’ll be together again in glory when we meet our own homegoing, but the absence of the friend, father, husband is felt most powerfully. For some it is every day, for others it is in a church where a wedding is taking place.

This fact, this human fact, keeps us in mourning. No platitudes, self-help books, or good-hearted Christian friend telling you that you should rejoice will help you with this.

I look at the memorial garden that our church just dedicated to Steve Cunningham, and realize that if he had never passed, that would never be. It is a beautiful manifestation of the new reality of life without Steve.

The efforts of the congregation to dig in the dirt, lay wonderfully level stones, place the beautiful cross and welcoming bench in this spring garden remind us not just of our Steve, but of Jesus and His presence in our lives.

We look at the escaped daffodils and tulips springing from gardens. We look at those flip-flops contemplating pedicures going into the summer months. We hear the bird songs in the morning. We are reminded that there is life, life goes on, life returns, and life wins.  Things always happen in the wake of what was supposed to be, and those things become what is.

If you find yourself this spring feeling deep loss, and the veil of the sadness of memory of what was supposed to be, I wish you love and strength in connecting with the “it is” that is now with you.  I will not tell you to turn your frown upside down and cease your weeping or mourning. You will do what you need to do. You will handle your “it is” the way you see fit. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in that journey. Go sit on the memorial bench, take a walk in the woods, volunteer, and smile at a wedding.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Train Journey

I'm sitting on an Amtrak train.

I haven't ridden one since college, when I thought myself fancy to be doing the Boston to NY thing in the years before the Acela train.

In 2002, I recounted an adventure that I had on one trip, where yours truly was a young and wide eyed darling who had a man sit beside her and chat her up, only to whip out a naked man magazine to enjoy, and leave in the seat back when he departed. Additionally, I told tale of a man masturbating while reading Shakespeare.

If you would like to read that post, which I think is still one of the funniest things I've ever written, go right ahead and click here. Then come back.

I was 18 when those adventures happened. Shortly after I got a car, and would drive back and forth with friends or Douglas, and life was so much better. I've had plenty of car adventures but holy cow those two train adventures took the cake for young me.

Now me would probably speak up. I'd ask the first guy what his deal was. I'd ask the other guy to go sit somewhere else, that I didn't really want to watch him climax to Shakespeare. I find I have a lot less patience for shit while traveling.

I just want to get from point A to point B safely and happily.

So here I am on the train. Headed to see my sister. Nothing adventurous happening. Everyone on their phones. I thought this was a quiet car but I guess not due to all the people around me making lots of noise. I canceled two calls this afternoon because I didn't want to disturb anyone. But so far, every talking person is well behaved and nice. It's all business, and no penises.

There are little victories.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

"laissez le bon temps rouler" - Doug and Chris in New Orleans

Doug and I recently took a trip to New Orleans. I am semi-regretting the cost right now due to the fact we did our taxes today and owe a lot more than I thought we would. Oops. Anyway, you can't change the past and we have enough to cover the taxes overall. It just kind of sucks to see so much money swooping out of the account all at once.

I won't do a full roundup of the day by day events because a lot of it is a blur. Instead, I offer observations. And as always, pictures are here: I need to move my cell phone pictures into that collection. There are some good ones.

First, flying home in a blizzard sucks. Especially when you get on the plane and you have to pee, and then the pilot tells everyone they won't be allowed out of their seats for the entire flight due to the turbulence.

Even worse is driving home from the airport in said blizzard. When your 40 minute drive from the airport turns into a longer trip than it is to fly up from Baltimore to NH you know it's not good.

I'm way too old for Bourbon Street.

However, we enjoyed Frenchman Street much more as it was a little more grown-up, even if it was drunk.

Nothing fires white people up like a 10 piece horn and drum band playing "Seven Nation Army."

White people are also really cheap. Tip the fucking band, tourist dip-shits. They're working hard for you. Cough up a 5.

New Orleans is not a place to live if you're an alcoholic. Bars are open 24 hours a day, and I think the temptation to drink on the way to the office would be rather great.

We drank a lot more than we usually do. Day drinking on a patio at 85 degrees and 80% humidity is mandatory, to help assuage the heat. After coming straight from 20 degree temps to the "tropics" I thought I may wither and die like a hot house flower.

Bartenders are pretty friendly.

If we walk into your bar, and it is empty, and you don't acknowledge or welcome us, chances are we'll walk out. If we walk in and you say "hey guys! Welcome! Whattaya havin'?" you've got a customer. It's easy. Try it. We tip ridiculously well. Yeah, we're tourists, you don't really care where we're from. But just make pretend for a few minutes and ask me if I want a second drink.

Stumbling upon a very real Mississippi river funeral with a brass band playing hymns like "I'll Fly Away" is very moving. Finding out the funeral was for a 14 year old boy who was a member of that band is even more moving. Especially when it was a suicide. You may find yourself standing on the sidewalk crying your heart out for someone you never knew, and a family you want to console but you know it isn't really the right thing to do, and you should just move along after the band shuffles across to Jackson Square.

Knowing that these people are sharing an intensely personal moment in a very public venue that makes them look like they are simply entertainers like any other jazz group playing hymns in New Orleans is mind blowing. I thank them for being there at that time. And will not forget the roses flowing down towards the giant container ships and riverboats rolling out of the city.

Streetcars are for tourists. Knowing the streetcar routes will prevent you from a 90 minute bus ride all over the place. But that 90 minute bus ride all over the place will show you a lot of a city that you may never see.

Trust the Tulane student who tells you where to get off the bus instead of the bus driver who tells you where to get off.

Pay attention to your social media. When you realize a friend is there at the same time as you, overlapping vacations, hit them up. You may see amazing things together and have big laughs and walk arm in arm like 30 plus years never passed since you last snarled at one another in high school.

People and musician watching with a giant iced coffee in hand is an art I'm perfecting.

We never made it to Treme. The French Quarter is far bigger than you think. Especially coming from Boston where the area around Fanieul Hall is kind of what you expected for the size and scope of the area.

There need to be more benches for people.

The WWII museum is a fantastic place to visit. We spent 6 hours there. Could have spent more. And Tom Hanks is a national treasure. God bless that man and the work he does.

Don't be these guys:

Voodoo Kid on Spring Break
Oh look at you. Guy in the airport wearing all kinds of beads and holding some sort of voodoo statue picked up at a tourist trap, droning on and on to some girls about how much you know about Marie Laveau and ritual and how meaningful and beautiful it is. Shut up. You were on spring break and now what, you're so "woke" about this? No one is impressed, and put that stupid statue back in your backpack as you go back to your Maryland College life.

Jazz Sax Guy
You're in a band. A five piece band. Act like you're part of the team. When your solo is over, don't walk off to the right and check your phone while the guitarist or keyboard player "takes it away." Appreciate what they are doing. Groove on it. If you look into it, we'll look into it. You have 20 people on a little patio all to yourself. Quit making "Oh I fucked up that note" noises when you fuck up that note, because you know what? It's jazz. None of us noticed. We were enjoying it until you groaned like a rabid boar.

I'm sure I have some more observations. And it only took me four days of being back at work before I realized how much I wanted to go away again. I think that's a record.

Enjoy the photos.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Oil Tank, Steven Page, Canadian Barcelona Restaurant - all in my dreams

This morning, I woke up to go to the bathroom around 2:30am. Upon return to bed, I thought it was kind of cold in the room, and whipped the blankets back up around me before settling back to sleep.


In the dream that came after, Doug and I were getting ready to go to Canada for the weekend (you can tell I need a vacation if I'm dreaming about going to Canada in February). I was telling Geoff to keep the wood stove going, we were out of oil and the oil guy wouldn't be arriving for a couple of days. He should sleep on the couch, and bring the blankets downstairs that the dog sleeps on, or, if she decides to sleep on our bed make sure the fleece blanket she likes. He was in agreement and understood, and began bringing wood in from the yard.

Flash forward to wherever we are in Canada. We end up at a book tour stop where Martellus Bennett from the New England Patriots is signing copies of his book "Hey A.J., It's Saturday!" He was surrounded by little kids, and one of them I presumed was the official A.J., his daughter. So I said, "Hey! A.J.!" like you do.

"Oh, that's not the real A.J.," says Marty. "That's an actress I hired to play her on the book tour, because A.J. is in school and that's very important." Truth. So I realized I was talking to a grown woman who looked and was the size of a child. It seemed a little surreal. "Also," Marty continued, "it gets weird with her being on the tour because people act like they know her and they get really pushy and grabby. I have to protect my daughter and keep her safe. That's very important too." Agreed.

At the book signing, Doug and I managed to get split up, and I was in a town similar to Marblehead Massachusetts. Word on the street was Steven Page had opened up a Barcelonian restaurant and would be performing kind of a torch-song, lounge singer set nightly. That sounded pretty awesome to me.

I had no ride to get there, so a blonde woman in an SUV with Texas plates offered to drive me. She was drop dead funny, and she told me that people treated her weird. "Oh honey, that's cause you're from Texas and this is Canada. They think you're amusing." So we laughed and laughed as we drove through the small town. We got pulled over by a police officer who said she was "suspicious," and I told her it was because of the Texas plates. He then danced all around the vehicle and gave us directions on where to park around the bend for Steven's restaurant.

Pulling up into the parking garage, there were little terraces overlooking the restaurant, and the performance spaces. We parked the vehicle and she promptly disappeared, but Steven Page was hiding in one of the overlooks. Women were searching for him, screaming for him, and he was hiding. So I asked him what was wrong and he said he hated this, it was an awful idea, that these women were just insane and wouldn't leave him alone. Night after night they were grabbing him and groping him. He was humiliated and ashamed and didn't want to go on stage.

I was disappointed because I wanted to see his performance, and because I was kind of disappointed because these fans were such epic assholes. I encouraged him to maybe do his stage show from a higher platform. We looked at the restaurant and all the places he could be where people couldn't grab him. He cheered up and went to get ready.

Going down to the restaurant, the place was gorgeous. It looked like he put so much effort into the design, the lighting, the open restaurant where flames were shooting up out of grills as they made food. It was truly impressive. I found a seat at a small table near where we decided that he'd be safer, and I was ready to run interference to protect him if I had to. I took out my camera and took all kinds of pictures. The lighting changed shades and these beautiful balls of colored lighting were pulsing and changing levels of brightness. Every picture was different - all because of how the lights worked. It was delightful. I couldn't wait to find Steven Page later and tell him how great I thought the place was, whether or not he was the nightly singer - this was an outstanding presentation.

People began to push tables closer together to make a big table around mine, and I was kind of angry. I wanted to sit alone, but there I found myself surrounded by a dozen strangers. None of them Doug, and none of them the crazy Texan lady.

The waitress came and began pouring drinks. I asked for my own tab, because I don't know these people. She didn't speak English, and ignored my request. A giant, and I mean giant, margarita-type drink was placed in the center of the table and everyone started drinking through these giant straws. There was a man next to me who put his arm over my shoulder and tried to get me to share his straw, which completely grossed me out.

The waitress returned with three other women and began pouring giant bottles of what looked like Tequila, but because I was in Spain I figured it couldn't be, all over the place. They covered over the tables and the chairs, and us. The people at the table thought it was outstanding and wonderful, and they were laughing and opening their mouths. Everyone was cheering this spectacle, and I looked around the restaurant and saw the same scene unfolding at every single table.

I had to keep my camera away and safe from this process, and they wouldn't stop when I asked them to stop. They told me they couldn't stop. This was a special ritual of blessing that needed to be done.

Most of all, I thought I was completely disgusted by how much the cost must have been for these giant bottles of booze.

Steven came out on stage to perform, and he was amazing. What a voice, what a stage presence! He looked at me and I gave him a thumbs up because I knew he was in a safe position, and could sing and perform without being molested.

But then all these women started climbing on our table, kicking over the giant margarita thing, slipping in the "blessing" of booze on the surface. That kept them from getting any closer to him. I realized maybe this was his bright idea to make the surfaces slippery and unstable and prevent anyone from succeeding in climbing up.

I never got to try the food.  I'm sure it was great.

I left after the first song, the crushing crowd, the smell of alcohol, the chance my camera was going to be destroyed... all of these were too much for me to cope with. I went back up to the parking garage. People were lined up in the terraces watching the show. Doug was there. And it was a perfect vantage point for some great photos.



The plan was to get up really early this morning and head to New York City for the holiday weekend. Doug came upstairs at about 10 am to wake me up and let me know that we had run out of oil.

So we had to wait for the oil guy to come, which he just did. I just saw a report on the morning news shows about Martellus Bennett and his daughter.

And unfortunately, no Steven Page sightings or Spanish cuisine have crossed my path today but ... I'm hopeful.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

"I am hopeful, should I be hopeful?"

I think for the past couple of years, I start the new year saying that I will write more...

I will write more.

Aaron and I talk about writing the great American novel, and we chat about it on the phone and have our storyline. But we have no ending.

It's hard, that.   Coming up with a good ending. Maybe it is best if you start with your ending and work your way backwards from there. That's the way to write a solid narrative. But I always feel like our story has to end when we have no stories left to tell, which means, in death. Sadly as that is. I somehow don't have a concept of ending a narrative while the characters still live. Because of "what happens next?"

If you know how it ends, even if it ends with death, you can build up to it. That just feels more natural, and complete to me.

It always reminds me of the line from Guster's "Hang On" where Ryan sings that we're inside a novel waiting for an end, but we don't know the authors of the book...It's probably a good thing we don't know the end. Or, at least I hope.

Watch if you want to. This is a lovely live in-studio version that I'm very fond of.

So here we are at the end of 2016. I haven't written much. Not here, and not in my great American novel.

Resolution busted.

I know 2016 has been exceptionally rough for a lot of people, not just because musicians and actors have died.

Sidenote: My friend Barb wrote a very good summation of why the death of celebrity icons matters to so many and I'd suggest you go read it.

While it hurts so much that we lost so many pretty things this year, it also hurts horribly as I watch from the sidelines as many friends lost parents this year.  Many more friends are on the verge of losing parents next year. In my wider circle of friends, two children of the extended circle died from opiate overdoses, two friends lost their spouses to cancer.

Thing is, I don't think 2016 is more awful or more horrifying than any other year that has gone by, or will come around. I'm just hoping that we catch a break for a little while at the beginning of  2017 so we can catch our collective societal breath.

Having just turned 50 (oh, and SO full of knowledge and experience, wit and wisdom obviously) I guess we're all just at "that age." The age when people start dying around us. The age where people we admire and love start dying. Our parents are not the 50 year olds we think they are - we are those 50 year olds.

When Doug and I were in Arizona, I hugged my aunt goodbye. At age 84, you wouldn't know it except for how she looks. I told her I feel like she's in her 50s and I'm still 17. That's honestly how I feel.

I think a lot of times we all feel that way - we feel far younger than the calendar says we are, so when someone dies we find it just unbelievable that something like this can happen in our lives. But it's true.

This is to be expected, and it isn't going to get better or easier. And craptastically, we can actually expect more of this.

We should brace ourselves and be ready for the starlets, the singers, the parents and sadly yes, the children, to fade around us.

Holy cow, that's some maudlin shit right there.

Sorry.  I'll get to the point I'm trying to make.

In "Game of Thrones," there are two sayings of the Braavosi slaves in the language of High Valerian (nerd!) that carry a lot of meaning. Valar Morghulis and Valar Dohaeris. The first is all men must die, the second is all men must serve.

Flip sides of the same coin. All men must die, all men must serve.  If you want to go off on a tangent, this Quora article is particularly good. You can go and come back, or go later. Your choice.

It doesn't say that the flip side of all men must die is that all men must live. Serve is what the flip side of death is.

I always found that interesting.  The phrases are taken from people of slavery in the books and not free people. It's rather fatalistic that your two lots in life are servitude and death. Work your ass off and then be done with it and gone and forgotten. Just like that. Servitude is mandatory, and at times brutal, unwanted, unpleasant, and if not done correctly can result in the Morghulis side of the coin.

One can put a nice tidy Christian spin on it.  Our lives are indeed meant for servitude to one another and that a life of service ends in death yes, but also there's the follow up reward for the "good and faithful servant."

We have the option to pick and choose what our service is. And I know a fair amount of Christians who talk a good game of service but do nothing. I know I personally fall short. Spirit willing/flesh weak, or bored or distracted kind of thing.

And I think on friends who aren't in the faith, who work their asses off serving others, through their jobs or volunteer work or however they do their flip side of the death coin, and think about the concepts of "Service is its own reward" as I've heard some say to me in the past.  Service in and of itself is life.

As a "free" person, not a Braavosi slave, I guess I have the luxury of determining what Service is. When I apply it, when I shirk from it. And in the end, that is my life. All men must serve, and all men must die.

We don't have a choice in the latter, but how we get to do the former is entirely up to us.

Whatever we're doing on this walk together, whether we walk with God, a god, a concept of some deity, or none whatsoever, we are indeed walking it together. And I like to think that to one another there is service of love.

I know that's not true for a lot of people out there these days, and for me, that's been the hardest part of 2016. I think that while there is obvious violence and hatred towards one another happening around the world (Hello, Aleppo) in the United States there has been a lot of verbal and social dickery happening that just builds and builds. And hopefully, we don't become the beasts that we are behind our keyboards in person to one another.

I suppose thinking about death happens each year at this time. It's only natural. I've gone off on one hell of a tangent here though so I should wrap my sermon up.

Again, not knowing how to end things is my problem. I should sum up with some sort of pithy, witty sentiment. A pink fluffy or a Bible verse that says it's all going to be okay. I don't have any of that right now.

I'm sitting here at the end of a hard year, knowing that good things happened (I can list them at the bottom, I guess) but knowing that years to come are going to suck.

I know that several people have written online that 2016 wasn't the "worst year ever," by listing out  how many people died in the American Civil War (sidenote: how cool I am in recognizing that lots of countries have Civil Wars so I qualified which one I mean, even though if I left off American you would still know what I meant. I'm so bloody enlightened). Or how several Plagues snuffed out so many lives in Europe.

So I think I'll let the Decemberists sing about what I hope for going forward. I encourage any reader (all 3 of you) visiting here today to watch this video and listen to Colin's lovely voice walk through a narrative of what to do in looking forward, hoping for the future, and the uncertainties of it all in only the way he can. I am hopeful, should I be hopeful?

Yes I should. And I will. As I serve with the sunlight, the shadow, the quiet, the word, the beating heart, the ocean, the boys, and you, my sweet love. Oh my love.

Happy new year, my sweet loves.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Court of Honor

Last night I attended a Court of Honor for our Boy Scout Troop. I continue to serve as the Chaplain, although I've scaled back most of my other involvement.

I gave the invocation and talked about the faith journey that each of us are on. I looked at the parents. Two who lost their son, one year older than Geoff, to a heroin overdose. One who is feeling particularly wounded by other people "of faith."

I let them know I'm not just the chaplain for the boys, but for them. God or not - if they need to talk, they can turn to me. I got some really nice smiles and nods.

A boy who just got his Eagle asked me if I'd give his invocation at his ceremony in November and I told him that if he had a sweet bippy he should bet it. Grown ups laughed.

At the end of the ceremony, a first year Scout hugged his dad. And I started crying.

I didn't really realize how very much I missed this community, these people. I just couldn't even stop myself from getting misty, and left the ceremony snack time in a hurry.

For all the value I think my son got out of Scouting, I think I under estimated the value I received. And it stung. Deeply, truly.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

"You're Fired." But not by Donald Trump

It was kind of strange last Thursday afternoon.

I work from home most Thursdays, so I was pounding the keys on the laptop and taking calls and solving problems hard all day.

By the end of the day-ish I needed a break. I peeked into the Facebook and Twitter accounts, and my daughter had posted "Guess who got Fiiiiiired."

Finding you your daughter got fired via Twitter is ... kind of strange. I commented on her tweet and asked her to call me. She promptly did. From the bar at North Station. With her box of things from her desk up in front of her. And she unfolded the tale for me.

A little back story about the company she was working for. Seems they fire people a lot. The running joke with us was that I'd ask her "so, are you fired yet?"

I worked as a contractor there for a while before my current job. When I got sick in 2014 they didn't allow me to keep my contract and work form home - they just let me go.

Then they begged me to come back when I was happily at the next job. So my old boss hired Jessica as a contractor because she needed someone  in as soon as possible.

When Jess needed back surgery in February, they did the same thing to her they did to me - don't let her have a week or so off. Just let her go.

So my old boss became her old boss.

But, that old boss became renewed boss, as she eventually managed to get a full time job created and got Jess back in the job. Not a contractor position, but a full time benefitted job with vacation time.

True Adulting. Baby done made it.

In the period of time since she was hired as a full time employee to now, everyone that I used to work with except 2 people had been fired. For lots of different reasons. She had made some friends, who also got fired. And then we started joking around about her getting fired. She actually had worked her way into a spot where she was incredibly valuable. She took a week off in the Spring and they lost their minds having to do her job. She was learning back-end SEO and Analytics stuff.

A couple weeks ago, she put a sentence on a live page on the production, public-facing website that included the word "shit." Something like "test this shit" or "configure this shit" and then forgot to remove it.

Key phrase there is "a couple weeks ago." Someone finally figured it out, and on Wednesday she got word that it had been discovered. Thursday she went into work knowing that she was in trouble, and most likely fired. She removed the content from the site, and started cleaning out her desk.

They waited until the end of the day to fire her. And she figured it was coming. And she packed up and left. Her boss is on vacation, and won't be back for 10 days.

The thing that she says she's most bummed out about is that she couldn't take her plants, and other people pillaged them, and she'll never get them back. She put a lot of time and effort into rescuing them, repotting them, and taking care of them.

She is happy she got fired. She wouldn't have quit the job. She hated it for the most part but I think she liked certain parts of it, and she learned a lot.

So now the weirdness is over. We got through the holiday weekend and now she's polishing up the resume and applying for jobs.

Cross your fingers for her. Baby's first job may be over, but hopefully Baby's second job will be more awesome.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Oh, Hello Officer

Geoff has been driving for under a year. We are coming up on the one year anniversary of his license achievement. He does really well. Most 19 year old males drive fast, and stay out late, and do crazy things. Geoff goes to work, the gym, the market, and home. He took the dog swimming one day.  

That's about it.

He drives like a grandma, according to some people I know. I had a friend call me one day to let me know that she and about 10,000 other cars were behind Geoff driving through our town and that made her smile. 

It makes me kind of proud really, considering two of Jessica's peer level teens died in car accidents. One took a turn too fast and rolled her jeep. One crashed into a bridge abutment on her way home from trying on prom dresses. 

Today, Geoff came home from the gym and informed me that he had a problem on the way home because horses were crossing the street. He didn't know what to do. He obviously knew to stop and let them cross, and he felt they were sufficiently across the street so he decided to proceed. He pulled over to the right into the shoulder, and one of the horses decided to back up. The rider got incredibly upset that Geoff was driving behind the horse and spooking the horse. She started yelling "stop" but she didn't make it clear that she wanted the horse or him to stop. 

So he took off, came home, and was happy to be back here.

He told me this story, and I basically explained to him that unlike pedestrians, or bicycles, or motorcycles which all seem to be "in control" and moving in an anticipated and logical direction, horses are dumb. 

No offense to horse owners or riders. But face it, anything that big that you never know how it is going to act, come on, man. They're dumb. Should you really be riding them on a major road, even if this is in a small town?  They are easily scared, they do things like back up and walk forward and back up. You never know what a horse is going to do. And riders are incredibly proud of their prowess and skill, but I swear, I never see a motorcycle flip out and take off to the right or left or back up in traffic... unless the biker is having a stroke. 

But, I digress.

We talked about horse safety, and I told him that if he sees horses in the road, crossing the street, wait until everyone is safely across. If some jerk behind him beeps the horn or guns it to pass him - so be it. 

That guy's the jerk in the situation... you be the person in the right. 

If he sees horses on the road traveling the same direction as he is traveling, he should give them a wide berth and if at all able with safety in mind, cross the center lines and go around the horse gently. Don't gun it, don't rev the engine, just carefully pass. He understood completely and went upstairs.

Ten minutes later Officer Friendly was on our porch, knocking at the door. 

The police had gotten a call about a dangerous driver, and they got Geoff's plate number, so dispatch sent out the officer to the house. The officer asked for Geoff's side of the story, and wrote him a warning. I asked if there was a webpage where we could brush up on the rules of driver and horse safety so he told us the law, Massachusetts 90, 14. Readable here if you like to read giant run-on sentences in legalese. We all should brush up a little bit on rules of the road, mayhaps. 

In the meantime, I am kind of waiting for one of these horse people to post something on the town Facebook page, which I'm the admin for.  I will explain that my son had a visit from the police, we had a talk, and if they want to start something, I'll go along with. Perhaps. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Quebec City, Montreal, Chambly and Vermont - the 25th anniversary trip

Note: It took me the better part of a week to build this post. The fonts are all doing something funky, so I'm going to eventually fix them. But for right now - don't sweat the wackiness of the fonts! Just enjoy the read, I guess... 

On a beautiful late spring morning, Doug and I got married. Twenty five years ago. It has been a lot of fun, with some ups and downs, but overall it's been a good time, I'd say. Doug is pretty awesome. And I'm lucky to have stumbled across him by accident. Well, we got set up by Clayton one day in 1987. So it wasn't exactly a stumble across.

That's a whole story in and of itself.

Our honeymoon back in 1991 was spent tootling around Nova Scotia. We stayed in cheap hotels and a couple of Bed and Breakfasts, where our bedroom was very close to other people. On the last night of the trip, we stayed at a seedy little motel in Bar Harbor where the people in the next room were having some sort of "I haven't seen you in YEARS!" reunion. Doug went and SCREAMED at them at one point because I was so tired and couldn't sleep that I was crying.

We did it on the cheap and at times we got what we paid for. Our plans were to camp out for some of the trip, but it was so cold out at night that it really wasn't an option.

Overall, it was a great honeymoon. There are very few things I'd change, like the night we ordered Domino's Pizza in Sydney, NS (and it was vile beyond all imagination, but the only thing in town). We met some amazing people, specifically a store owner named Mike MacKinnon in (I think) Framboise who drove us around to a place he called Mary Joseph Lake, where we could camp if we wanted to because the people who owned the land lived in Germany and were never there. And he took us to a barn/farmhouse/museum where we met a very old gentleman name Dan Alex MacLeod, a local historian. Twenty five years later ... he must be long dead at this point. And we got to hang out with Mike's dog Tattoo by the wood stove in his general store. The dog, by the way, named for the Scottish drums not for the skin and ink. We took some great hikes, and my favorite picture of the two of us was taken on that trip.

For our 25th anniversary, I very much wanted to retrace our steps on the original honeymoon. Doug said to me, "I want to go somewhere that we've never been, and do it up." So he planned the trip.

So we went to Quebec City. I wanted to go to Montreal as well, so we added a day in Montreal. And I have a friend who owns a Bed & Breakfast in Vermont, so I wanted to stop there on the way home.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip. And I wish we had two extra days to tack onto the trip so Montreal would have had more exposure, but we can go back. Anytime.  It is only about 4 hours away. Heck, it is closer than my sister's house.

And we did "do it up" as it were. We spent a lot of money on food, and nice hotels instead of $45 a night flea bag hotels. If you'd like to see all of the pictures, they are here.

Here's the long walk through, if you are interested:

Wednesday morning, on our actual anniversary of June 1st, we got up and were on the road by 8am. Quebec City by 2pm, with a little traffic along the way. No other cars at the border crossing north of Jackman, ME. It was a beautiful ride. We'd been up that way a few other times in life, most recently with Geoff's Boy Scout Troop in 2007 when he went whitewater rafting, and we passed Swedish Fish Island (a great story if you want to take a side trip and read about it here).

(By the way, I am not using any punctuation in French below because... I am too lazy to find the html codes for things).

Checked into our hotel, and unpacked, we headed out to explore. We stayed at a little place called the Chateau Bellevue, which Doug picked because he wanted to stay near the Chateau Frontenac, which is the most famous landmark in the city, but was way out of our "do it up" price range. It was a gorgeous day, so we went down, grabbed a "jambon et fromage" croissant, and walked the boardwalk, took pictures, walked into Old Quebec below the Frontenac. 

The entire vibe in Quartier Petit Champlain is shopping, tourists, tourists, and shopping. And bars. The old town is built into the hill under the Frontenac, so it is all levels and terraces. And it is beautiful. 

We walked all around, visited and spent a great deal of time in the Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica, and then ended up walking about and around to a lovely little place called Pub des Borgia. It sits up on a little ledge, with a nice overview of the action. We relaxed and enjoyed a cheese plate and beer. Normally something this "touristy" would make me cringe, but there wasn't an Old Navy or Gap, or any chain stores like there are in places like South Street Seaport or Fanieul Hall. It looked touristy ... but inviting. Appealing to the visiting crowds without being cheesy. 

I was excited to learn there was an "incline" like they have in Pittsburgh, called the funicular. The hill was no fun to walk down (for my knees, I'm sure people think it is fun) and walking up would be dreadful. 

We went back to the hotel, cleaned up our sweaty selves, and went out to dinner. Our hotel had a deal with a local restaurant for a night out. Aux Anciens Canadiens is housed in the Maison Jacquet, one of the oldest homes in upper-town. We had a lovely meal and drinks, and did the "do it up" thing very well here. 

I was worried about spending too much on the food and Doug yelled out "Don't sully this day with your price taggery!" a la Montgomery Burns. It was funny, but I still couldn't bring myself to spend $48 on bison and wapiti. So I got Salmon sous vide. And it was very, very good. 

The meal was outstanding. The waitress was adorable. Truly a wonderful place to enjoy our official 25th anniversary dinner.

All through Quebec City that day we'd seen busloads of school children running around on their school trips, from all over the US and Canada. So at the table behind us, there were three school boys, probably in 8th or 9th grade. The fanciest restaurant in town, and they have to come in and order in French. 

They debated what to order, and all the meals were four course meals. I was starting to get worried for them, and was ready to say something to the waitress. They were talking about how much things would cost, and tax, and tip, and they were concerned with the totals. Then, the waitress came with their ... dessert. 


My inner mommy relaxed. They split the bill, did the math, and I was proud of them for doing everything they needed to do in French. 

For the rest of the trip, we repeatedly referred to "L'Infant Terrible!" which is probably not how you spell it but whatever. Just yell it with me. Spelled right or wrong, hoards of (overall) horrible rowdy, ill behaved children infested the city. 

Thursday - So Much Quebec...

We got up in the morning on the early side of things (for us, at least) and headed to the battlements that surround Old Quebec. 

We walked along the walls, over the gates, admired the view, and didn't go up to the battle ground and the Citadel. I kind of regret that now thinking about it. 

Doug wanted to head down to the Marche du Vieux-Port, and do some shopping. We filled a backpack with wine, mushroom things for tea, and more wine, and some cheese. 

It's always good when one finds some cheese

Back up to town to lunch at l'Oncle Antoine, another of the oldest places in Quebec City. It began to rain while we were sitting out, and a hoard of elderly people ("pensioners!") rushed the joint. 

45 seats inside and a bus of 55!  We referred to the old people on tours as l'Pensioner Terrible! for the rest of the trip. 

We decided to bail, and walked around the corner to a lovely place with tons of patio seating under a giant awning instead of individual umbrellas. The place was empty, called Q de Sac, (the tour bus people could have all fit in and out easily with room to spare if they just walked around the corner) and we had the patio to ourselves. 

We asked the man behind the bar if we could sit outside and he said that would be fine. We didn't realize at the time he was the owner, Andrew Murphy (adorable as his profile picture on the website). 

We ordered a pitcher of sangria and a cheese plate, and watched people scramble around to get out of the rain. Andrew told us all about the cheeses and the farms in Charlevoix where he sources most of his food. It was so much fun to talk to him, and he was so nice. 

And not fussy at all to have us occupy a table for so long. Heck. We were the only customers there!

Once the weather let up a little, we headed for the Funicular, back up to the hotel, for a monster nap. 

Doug wanted to hear some live music, so the front desk at the hotel recommended the St. Alexandre Pub on St. Jean, near where we had been in the morning. Music didn't start until about 9:30pm, so we entertained ourselves by walking around. 

First, we went by the Anglican Cathedral, where the Jaguar Club of New England had all of their cars parked. A rainy night with shiny pretty cars. The church was closed, but the cars were all there, with people milling about, admiring them. 

Doug wanted to see the Morrin Center Library nearby, and miraculously, it was open. We didn't get to see the jail, but the beautiful library was a lovely space to spend some time and relax. 

Heading down to the St. Alex, we were lucky to get a table. The place was packed, lots and lots of tourists, mostly English and American. We had a nice waiter, ordered their meat sandwich (I thought about the Fish and Chips but the meat sandwich was supposed to be outstanding, and it was. Like the best pastrami you've ever had in your life...) 

Doug was ready to fall back asleep and we were both laughing at how lame we were that at 9:30 at night, we just can't hang like we used to. 

The "blues" musician came out, and played "Folsom River Blues" by Johnny Cash. Excellent guitar work; funny French accent. Not bad, but a little strange. Then, he launched into "Come Together by the Beatles and I don't ever need to hear that again in my life... Doug was disappointed that it wasn't "Blues Blues" as it were. The audience seemed into it, and we realized, we weren't. So we left our table so others could come in and enjoy. 


Back to the Anglican Cathedral, in the sunlight. Beautiful space, just absolutely stunning. And we met some people there from the Jaguar Club. They were all assembled with a tour guide, ready to take the town. 

We walked around by the Ursuline Chapel, and back up into town to grab a coffee by the Frontenac and look at the river, seaway... again. 

Time to pack up and move along. Thank you Quebec City for such a gorgeous and lovely visit.

Near Quebec City, there are waterfalls. Impressive, big waterfalls. I had my doubts when Doug told me that he wanted to go visit one. 

Chute-Montmorency is one such waterfall. Higher than Niagara Falls, it sports a gondola tour, a zip-line (no one was riding it at the time) and a cool bridge. 

We enjoyed a short hike, staircases, a bridge, tons of bus tourists speaking Chinese and more of the aforementioned L'Infants. I didn't really enjoy them.

Then, off to Trois Rivieres. For some reason, my husband has been enjoying Atlas Obscura a lot lately, and there is an old jail there (just like at the Morrin Library) that he wanted to tour. We got there just about 15 minutes after the last tour departed, disappointingly. The girl at the desk said the tour was all in French anyway (she said, in not so great English so Doug barely understood what she was talking about). She shrugged and handed him a brochure. 

We left and walked around the exterior. 

Upon arrival in Montreal at about 4pm, we checked into our hotel and crashed for a nap. We woke up around 7:00 very hungry for dinner. At the front desk, the bellhop who had checked us in, Mark, shared that old port was behind the hotel, and Chinatown was across the way. Doug was keen on Chinatown, so Mark recommended Pho Bang NYC on St. Laurent.  We got there just before closing and ordered a great dinner. Tons of food, incredibly priced. 

We walked up St. Laurent to the Quartier des spectacles, where not a lot was going on.  Walking through St. Catherine Street, they were setting up for the upcoming Grand Prix and the Jazz Fest, and there were tons of people milling around. It was an interesting people watching opportunity: families with kids and puppies and ice-cream; drag queens in full dress handing out flyers for shows; biker gangs hanging out in front of clubs; homeless people sleeping on the stages; and weird dudes walking up to us muttering in French, then English, asking if we wanted to buy drugs. 

Back to the hotel safely, nice and quiet, thinking Montreal is a world of difference from Quebec City. 

Saturday - Montreal Old Port

We slept in a little later than I'd wanted to but it was just so good to sleep. We had a 2pm checkout time which was so nice. We left all our stuff in the hotel room and headed to the Old Port area, stopping by Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal

Holy cannoli. I mean. Wow. What a cathedral. What a space. How beautiful. We spent a ton of time here, enjoying the art work, the side chapels, the stained glass. And there was a small space behind the altar with another smaller chapel, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, which was all wood, stunning, beautiful, amazing. History of the building is here and if you like this kind of stuff - go read. It is a little space, seemingly built for music. 

Where in the large cathedral space, one single voice may be lost. In here? One voice owns the space. It was amazing. I was marveling at all the wood carving and a woman walked in and I heard her gasp, and start crying. Which was amazing to me, after just being in the giant cathedral, full of stained glass and soaring stone... to come into this smaller space and be overwhelmed by it. 

I took her phone from her, and took a picture of her so she didn't have to try and get a selfie with Jesus. 

It was a moving experience. I lit a candle for a very Catholic friend at an altar to Mary and the Rosary, prayed for her because her birthday was coming up and she just was not feeling it, and we left to walk around.

The old section of Montreal is much smaller than that of Quebec City. We didn't eat anywhere (although, looking at some of the restaurants there, I kind of wish we had gone there for dinner the night before). My friend Mark had recommended that we go to the Marche Jean-Talon, but it was 3 miles north of where we were, and we needed to check out and mosey to Vermont. 

We will probably head back to Montreal in the Fall, and enjoy it a little more than just a morning and afternoon. There is so much to see. So much. 

Saturday afternoon - Off to Chambly! 

We've been fans of the artwork for the Unibroue beer company for a long time. And their beer, too. 

This was a must-see for Doug, and he was very looking forward to this. Located about a half hour east-south-east of Montreal, it was on our way to Vermont. We bypassed eating lunch in Montreal, because Doug wanted to do the beer and food thing at the brewery. We were borderline hangry by the time we made it to Chambly. 

Doug had the address for the brewery in his phone, and when we got there, we discovered that they did not have an hospitality suite, or restaurant, so he was grossly misinformed. A quick Google and Yelp search turned up Fourquet Fourchette around the corner. They touted themselves as the unofficial official Unibroue restaurant. 

 It was about 4:00pm, and the restaurant was empty, but a few patio seats were occupied. The waitress set us up out back, and we noticed that a wedding would be taking place. 

The guests began to fill in, and they had a whole portion of the patio set off with a tent and beer all set up for everyone to pre-game before the bride and groom arrived. 

They were an older couple, probably in their early 60s, I'm guessing. They had two small girls with them, and another woman who I figured out was probably the daughter of the bride. And the two small girls were her grandchildren. 

We ordered beers and sat back to watch the wedding. We couldn't hear anything, and it was funny to hear their guests, about 50 in all, giggling and laughing. They exchanged vows and kissed, and everyone cheered. For those of us on the patio, the cycling family of 5, the party of 10 friends who had gathered together for drinks and sunshine, Doug and me... we all raised out glasses and clapped along. 

The entire wedding was over in about 10 minutes. 

We had grilled cheese, apple and sautéed onion sandwiches, and a charcuterie plate that was gigantic and amazing. I don't know half of the meats we ate. The waitress couldn't remember how to say what things were in English. So eventually Doug said "that's okay - we'll still eat it." and we did. 

We crushed. Absolutely crushed. And basked in the deliciousness, sunshine, light humidity, summery feeling by the lake near the fort. Bliss.  

We paid our bill, got some fancy Ephemere beer glasses and some bottles of beer (we didn't go overboard because heck, we can buy it in New Hampshire, five minutes from our house). 

And then off to Vermont! Right? 

But no! The manager asked my husband if he liked beer history as well as beer. Doug said "of course!" He then directed us to Bedondaine & Bedons Ronds nearby. 

Not only is this a beer museum, with decades worth of beer bottles and cans, bar wear, trays and towels from all around the world - they are also brewers. 

And we decided on another round, with chocolates. It would have been rude not to, after all.  We sat and leafed through books on craft brewing in Quebec.  And we enjoyed our visit there very much. 

We could have spent the entire day there, and if we were staying in Chambly, we probably would have. 

Now. Off to Vermont. 

Border crossing was very easy at the customs station in East Franklin VT. The border guard asked a lot of questions about where we'd been and where we were going. Especially why we picked that border crossing instead of coming down through Burlington. We told him it was closer than going to Burlington, as we were just in Chambly and were headed to Montgomery.

"Anything to declare?" he asked.

"Canada is awesome!" I replied.

He seemed unamused. And I was afraid I'd quipped my way into a search. 

Turns out, was familiar with The Inn, and he said he and his wife had eaten there in the past. He said they should go back. I agreed.  I'm glad I kind of really know a lot about Scott and Nick and the history of the place. Because I sounded like an expert. 

Arrival at the Inn was met with hugs and kisses, and we settled in for drinks and an appetizer. I had really wanted to have dinner there, but we were so full from Fourquet that we couldn't really fit anything in. Drinks while Scott tended the bar chatting with us and some friendly time getting to know the local regulars, it was a wonderful place to spend an evening.  

I had my hygge/gemütlichkeit feelings and was full of the happy. 

Scott went down and got his dog, a white german shepherd named Portland. She is darling, and I loved meeting her. We then slept fitfully, deeply and wonderfully. 

Breakfast was between 8 and 9 am, so we went down to eat. Scott made delicious jalapeño corn muffins, and we had eggs and sausage and toast. We hung out with Nick and Scott and talked about the Inn and the town, dogs and business. They told us we didn't need to rush to check out, so we took our time. I took a bath in the clawfoot tub while Doug researched what we could do before heading home. 

Sunday - Almost Home

We departed the Inn with hugs and kisses, and headed towards Burlington, even though it was in the wrong direction. 

Doug had found the Shelburne Museum online and thought it looked interesting. We arrived in the drizzling rain, and realized it was a mostly outdoor museum, with small buildings set apart from each other, and each building was rescued from somewhere else, brought there, and contained specific collections and exhibits. We got a good walking tour, went all the way to the far end of the property, and soaked just about every thing there was to see. 

One of the exhibits was a half-circle shaped building called the Circus Building that you could walk through end-to-end. On one wall was a collection of miniatures of a circus parade, all hand carved in perfect detail. Along the other side was a collection of carousel animals from the Gustav Dentzel carousel company, all meticulously restored. They were all so beautiful and I feel like I took a million pictures of just them. 

There was a riverboat that used to trek from NY to VT and back, sitting in the middle of the grounds. Meeting houses, apothecary and doctor/dentist office, barns and outbuildings, stately manors... it was all very lovely. A great place to visit. I'd love to go back and spend more time. 

We had a quick bite to eat at Al's French Frys, and headed home. 

It was raining in sheets, torrents, and visibility was next to zero at times. We pulled over and waited it out for a little while but it wasn't letting up. Eventually, we got home. In one piece, very tired. Very happy. 

I felt like I needed a vacation from our vacation but it was back to work on Monday. Lots of great fun. We did it up right. And I greatly enjoyed it. 

Can't wait to go back and explore more.