Saturday, October 31, 2020

Just A Bit Unpleasant


Pills are funny.  I have these ketones one takes during fasting.  Gelatin capsules, they aren’t too big, but they’re big enough.  A few months back I got one stuck on the way down and it was most uncomfortable.  So I pulled them open and poured them into a spoon and downed them that way.  Some such tastes are completely intolerable, but these were just a bit unpleasant.  Still one didn’t relish ingesting them. 

A month or so ago I took to just swallowing them again.  I’d mastered the process, it seemed.  But today, much of my afternoon was compromised as one of these sticky little things seemed to adhere itself to my esophagus.  Fasting, there was nothing in there to come up and push it out from within.  Water got clogged.  But it was almost tolerable.  You could almost ignore it.  And then you’d want to try to resolve the fist in your chest and it became clear that nothing had been disloged. 


A Winged Elm, a BigTooth Aspen, a Dogwood, a Sassafras, a Mapleaf Viburnum, an Oriental Bittersweet, a Norway Maple, a Common Hackberry, some Autumn Olive and an American Elm:  these ten species all still had leaves on them, during today’s bike ride.  I went south, towards Gardiner, leaving at 5:30PM when there was only another thirty-minutes of light to go.  I kept passing trees that looked so remarkable, with their late fall plumage.  On the ride back I decided I’d stop and identify the first ten I saw that merited a look. 

I haven’t used my Seek app so much this last month.  I used to search out new things each ride, and even if most of the attempts were things I’d already identified it was a good reminder and generally you’d find at least one or two new species.  The first two listed above were new sitings  This surprised me.  Trees I would have otherwise passed by assumed a new significance covered in leaves when most of the other trees had already shed theirs.  The massive oaks in front of our house, Northern Red, Southern Red, Black Oak and Pin, they all still have big brown leaves.  I’ll give them a few more days before I go and rent a leaf blower.

Wednesday, 10/28/20

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Indeed, Crying Softshell Turtle

It started out wet this morning, but it looks nice now.  My older one reminded me around 10:00AM, that we’d decided that today would be the day we voted.  She was up “early” for the event.  My dad had reported that the early polling place in our town had intolerably long line there on Saturday, the first day things began.  I checked and the voting didn’t start till noon today, so we waited till a call I was on was done and we drove over.  There, ten minutes before the voting would begin, the line was probably a quarter mile long, and even with social distancing making the snake of people longer, you could tell that this would be a long slog.  Some people were sitting in chairs.  Others were reading.  I had a book.  But I did not have a coat and with my daughter’s class starting in an hour, I was highly suspicious that we’d make it time.  We will return, certainly. 


Four squirrels and a blue jay out on the lawn, eating up all the sunflower seeds I’d tossed out this morning.  They eat, gaze around, eat some more and if anyone gets too close to anyone else, they chase each other off, but it never last for more than a moment.  No one ever seems to learn a thing concerning territorial claims.  The suet feeder was ransacked last night by the raccoons.  I was lulled into complacency when, by 11:00PM last night, they hadn’t shown up.  You gotta wonder what two pounds of suet does to a raccoons belly.  I’m sure it tastes great going down, but . . . that’s gotta leave you feeling unsettled the next day.

I’m bogged down in my novel “Warlock” by Oakley Hall.  The miners had one of their own killed and they are running roughshod through the town, demanding a lynching.  The deputies struggle with self-preservation and upholding the law.  Some two-hundred and fifty pages in though, I’m not really invested in any of the characters, save the sheriff, Blaisedell, and he’s gone quiet, though he surely will return.  Flopping around early in the morning, I turned instead to my third collection of ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’, which is essentially a Tokugawa-era “western,” and considered two episodes of the assassin’s hard, unforgiving code, not so dissimilar to that of Wyatt Earp.

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich was born in Florida.  Born in 1939, she’s next up on my chronological progression through the wiki list of American composers.  I have on “Rituals 1” an orchestral piece of hers that seems to have incorporated the Chinese chao gong cymbal.  Enjoying her style which has been described as neo-romantic.  But I have enjoyed listening to some of her experimental peers, Gloria Coates or Jon Appleton more.  It was sunny when I started writing this entry, not long ago.  Come to look up and find it's all clouded over now and suddenly her music sounds different. 


I’ve become distracted and have looked up a song I heard on WFMU the other morning, returning from having dropped my daughter off, which I surmised must be Korean but was notably, wonderfully odd.  Indeed “Crying Softshell Turtle” is by Leenalchi and they are a phenomenon whose album is already up on Spotify.  I suspect I’m gonna crank this tomorrow in the car, when it’s my turn on the ride to school. 





Tuesday, 10/27/20


Unstoppable, Equine-Powered Progression

Rainy day Monday.  Rainy day, all day.  I could hear it out there in the wee hours before the sun.  This is the time of year, right before day light savings when the sun rises very late in the morning.  It’s nearly seven AM and I can’t see a thing.  This is what must have driven people to demand day light savings, which I was always told was done for the farmers.  But once that change comes, we will enjoy more day light in the morning, but the poor evening will descend upon us so quickly after November 1st.  I will be getting up even earlier for my morning calls and deciding it’s too late to ride a bike after 4:30PM or so. 

We talked Mongols this morning.  I tried to prepare for our drive by looking over the Korean history by maps book we’ve been using on these rides, but . . . they basically skipped the Mongol period. After fighting off Khitan and later the Jurchen as the Chinese too had to do, Korea was, like the rest of Eurasia, swarmed by the invading Mongols.   1231 the Mongols first invade Goryeo and by 1270, after China has already fallen and Kublai Khan established his Yuan Dynasty in Dadu, (Beijing), Goryeo surrenders to the Mongols and becomes a subject state, to the Yuan. 


I hadn’t realized that it was also at this time, and not later, during the Ming, when the Neo Confucian ideas of the Song official Zhu Xi, become broadly promoted in Korea.  It was also the time when the landlubber Mongols leaned on the seafaring Koreans to help them build an armada to continue their unstoppable equine-powered progression, across the sea and over to Honshu in Japan.  Presumably a Korean boatswain or two raised the point about not sailing armadas during typhoon season but were told to shut up.  The Mongol fleet was destroyed not once, but twice during two different years they attempted to invade Japan.  Believing the divine wind, kamakazi protected them from attack, Japan remained inviolable until the U.S. fleet accepted Imperial Japan’s surrender in Tokyo Bay, in 1945.

I think our oven is an under-performer. I had that chicken in there for well over an hour at three-fifty-degrees.  Used a sort of fig sauce as glaze.  Had some small potatoes in there with it.  But it just wasn’t done by the time the rest of the food was on the table.  My older daughter had a class that was starting at six so the show must go on.  I cut some pieces off that were ready to serve and left the rest of the bird to cook, but, as one does, I forgot all about it until later after my call, and it was now very, well done. 

Monday, 10/26/20

To Other Electric-Jurisdictions

It’s too cold to sit outside. The porch has an amazing view that is tempting.  We’re having a guest, and it is the proper place to sit, if you can.  But it’s hard to imagine it being comfortable as the sun makes its way down behind the hills.  In the garage I noticed an outdoor patio heater that my wife used to use in her studio in China.  The plug is a three pronged angular Chinese style that won’t fit the outdoor outlets.  I search the house and even though we should have many such physical adaptors, I can’t find any in our home or down with the stored items. 

Lowes should have it.  They seem to online.  I head over and grab some of my bird seed first and then ask a young man who tentatively suggests aisle eleven.  There are over a hundred ways to switch the outlet from one sort of American plug to another.  But there doesn’t seem to be any way to accommodate international prongs.  I asked another young man, who led me to an older man, and he confirmed, “I’m gonna say no.  I’ve been here a long time.  I don’t think we have that.”  It would appear there isn’t a great demand from people coming and going to other electric-jurisdictions in these parts. 


I took one last look back in aisle eleven.  I looked over the power strips as well to see if any had accommodating receptacles that might allow for the plug I have.  It’s all strictly American plugs, for American folks.  And with that I push my bird seed and box of woodpecker suet over to the self-serve check out area.  There is no way we’re going to be using that patio heater this evening. 


I move the heater off the porch and into the garage and then sweep all the leaves off the deck when I arrive back home.  My wife clears the path of leaves out front on the walkway between our front door and the driveway.  We never use the front door, but my wife wants the guests to enter that way. There, beneath the large, Southern Red Oak in the front yard, the ground is carpeted in big brown leaves.  We discussed getting a leaf blower but looking up at the thousands of leaves that have yet to fall we agreed it would just be a wasted effort.


Later, when the voices call out, that the guests have arrived, I head out to join everyone on the back porch.  My younger one and her friend head upstairs and we enjoy the view and a drink and then move inside for dinner.




Sunday, 10/25/20 

Not Climbing Over It!


How many times have I ridden passed Storm King, considered its summertime bald head, its wintertime blank stone face, the slash of the road cut through it?   Today though, was not a ride down metro north on the Hudson line.  Today I was up and on the face of the Storm on the west side of the river.  My sister and my brother and our families had decided to meet there today and hike a hill.  We’d also wanted to see the Storm King Art Center.  On-line, it became clear that visiting the Art Center was not to be pursued off-the-cuff.  This weekend, next weekend and all the days in between had been reserved.  We were not allowed to spontaneously visit the outdoor sculpture park.

The place I suggested to meet had no parking and my sister advised she’d been directed to the proper parking place in Cornwall-on-Hudson, at the foot of the mountain.  This was, a bit different than what I’d expected.  Pedestrian at the foot of the 1339-foot mountain I quietly considered that this would be a significant climb.  A four-year-old, a thirteen year-old, a sixteen year-old, a nineteen year-old and a bunch of oldsters then, marched across the field as the drizzle petered out.


Wet, slippery, beautiful the hill was manageable if commanding, as we made our way along.  The online news had suggested we just park our cars and command the summit but clearly there was more to the ascent than was anticipated  One cross-back and then another switch back.  The kids started to complain, early on.  “It’s too far.”  “How much longer?”  We kept going passed one and then another obvious point of turn around.  Finally, there was a cliff face that looked definitive.  Surmount that and we’ll be home free. 

But just as I reached what I thought was the final bluff, we met some folks on their way down who said, “oh yeah, you’ve got a ways to go,” which felt longer, certainly, then what I’d been promising the folks who were down further on the trail.  A wooden bridge:  My little one said she was not climbing over it!  She did.  A slippery rock face with wet leaves:  "we can’t cross this."  They did.  Now at last there was a long flat shelf that certainly looked like the final stretch.  Downward hikers confirmed, “You’re only fifteen more minutes to go.  No.  It isn’t steep.”  Encouraging!  But from down below I received a phone call:  Mutiny on the Bounty.  People were heading back down.  The progression was over.  We found some rocks near a cliff face and ate the deli sandwiches I'd been carrying in my backpack.  




Saturday, 10/24/20


Monday, October 26, 2020

Immigrants to the Park

Walked around the lake at Minnewaska this morning.  Clouds covered the Gunks.  I sped up trying to catch my father and stepmother in their car.  My father was concerned that we get there as early as possible, before the crowds.  The last time we’d tried the road to the parking up at the lake was closed.  This is, one of the major sites of the region and for some reason, even though I lived not far from here as a teen, I’ve never seen it. 


I have WQXR on and there is a piano sonata on that sounds Chopin.  The unfathomable autumn canopy pulsates with the angular flourishes that always seem to return to something safe.  The DJ, I suppose one ought to call him the “host” as its WQXR, has an understated mastery of the material, and a rich vocabulary he uses judiciously and I’m enjoying his company.  Then he plays something by Jacques Offenbach, which I try to enjoy but don’t.   I’m distracted from the canopy.  I turn the dial to WFMU but there is no reception.  I slow the car now, as I’ve come up against a car followed by another who is obeying the speed limit. 

I rendezvous with my folks and we go into the slick new welcome center over the lake.  It no doubt commands remarkable views, standing on the site of the old enormous guest schloss that used to stand here, but there is nothing but fog outside.  We all need to pee.  And there is a very earnest and intelligent young man behind the counter who suggests a walk up to Beacon Point, which most people overlook.  There is a pamphlet there on the counter describing the great danger of East Asian immigrants to the park.  The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid who hails from the Far East, sucks on the sap of the stately hemlocks in the park and kills them in the process.  Is that the same hemlock juice that took-out Socrates?

The lake itself is covered in mist.  It’s perfect.  I keep thinking of Schloss Fuschl, near Salzburg where we splurged and took the kids one evening during our drive across Austria.  I explain to my stepmom as we plotz around carriage road, catching glimpses of the water beneath the swirls, that my older one in particular had been so enchanted with the place.  “I think this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.”  I seem to remember her saying, dryly. And I’m thinking about all the New Yorkers from the turn of the century or the nineteen twenties who would have made the trek up here to escape the loud, dirty city, to reconnect with something almost European. And we all agree that we're very glad this wasn't turned into a Marriott property the way Schloss Fuschl was, as the hotel chain was reportedly interested in procuring this pristine site.  I’m fixated on all the lovely striped maples I see up here, the big leaves of which have all turned yellow. 

Friday, 10/23/20

Bilious, Bedeviled, Bitchhopper, Begone!


My meanderings through the chronological Wiki list of American composers, has unearthed many wonderful discoveries and not a small number of works that stru unmemorable.  Typing here tonight, trying to keep Wechat messages and Whatsapp messages and Telegram messages and Slack message and text messages, and email whilst I listen to “Four Fantasies for Synclavier,” by Jon Appleton, odd, analog sounds and then I give in and answer the phone. 

My dear old friend.  He’d called last weekend when I was driving with the family and I texted: “mon frere, I’m driving,” which I probably shouldn’t have texted but it did.  Well we just had a good long talk. I can forgive my rigor around writing for a properly interesting conversation.  And my friend who is an iconoclast suggested his favorite president was Calvin Coolidge, whom he described in Daoist terms as a leader who was so good you didn’t even know he was there. 


I had to get off that call though.  And I won’t be doing any more writing for the next 90 minutes.  I’m about to go off into the other room and tune in for this last debate between our wretched president and the former Joe Biden.  The first encounter was so unerringly awful, my expectations, like those of everyone are low.  At first, I was glad to hear that they will have a mute function this evening.  And at the same time perhaps the best thing would be to just let the President go on and on and dig his own grave.  I shall arise now and go watch with the family in the other room.  I suppose I’ll close the loop with you all, after it’s done.


What a strange, wretched force Trump is.  You can almost marvel at how hard he spins his horse shit and dodges responsibility and yells new things and tries to make them stick the way we all did when we were in middle school.  And usually some teacher, some higher authority would come intervene and restore some form of normalcy.  Not here.  Braggart, bully, bullshitter, buffoon, bastard, bilious, bedeviled, bitchhopper.  Begone! 

There are many things that Joe is not.  But his basic qualities: his unaffected decency, his elemental empathy, his fatigue with immaturity, radiate aglow like the Lighthouse of Alexandria.  Trump did his best to tar Joe as a career politician.  Bring it.  Let’s have someone who’d made policy for forty-six years instead of four more years of Armature Night at the Apollo.  I would have enjoyed watching Joe land a knockout blow.  I would have been happy if Trump self-immolated with another unthinkable gaff.  As is, we’re left with the dull hope that that light I saw brightly found warm reflection in some of those who still can’t make up their mind. 

Thursday, 10/22/20

As Other and Enemy


Ever heard of Balhae?  It was new to me.  After Silla takes over the Korean peninsula during the Tang Dynasty period the remnants of Goguryeo kingdom recoup in what is today, northern North Korea and Jilin and Changchun provinces claiming territory all the way to Vladivostok.  The word triggers an irrational association with the word “ballyhoo” and I’m suddenly off consider “The Lullaby of Broadway.”  I do my best to recall more of their proper distinction as we drive along, for the period of our drive when Korean history discussions are permitted.


I’m now nine books into “Attack on Titan”, my daughter’s manga series.  My little one is sixteen.  If I hope to be able to move beyond monosyllabic exchanges, I’ve got to take a few steps in her direction.  The story is gruesome and implausible.  Bits of revealing information are dangled out there.  But for the most part a neophyte like me who is only still stumbling around in book eight, is necessarily lost.  My daughter is not inclined to explain much.  “You don’t want me to ruin it?  You need to find out for yourself.”


I called an old friend in Hong Kong on the way home.  He’d written and shared a clip that tried to analyze the mounting tension in the Taiwan Straits.  He knows China very well.  But our opinions on basic matters seem to be veering apart.  He seem to me to have lost a sense of nuance as he views what’s happening in the region.  He seems to think China’s current bellicose posture is unprecedented, which seems absurd.  I remind him of Matsu and Quemoy island bombings, for example.  But it’s never satisfying to text message about these matters.  You score quick points instead of listening or thinking deeply. 

And it’s good to talk.  We don’t agree, but I respect the journey he’s made and he does the same for me.  Just the other night my daughters and my wife were speaking with my mother-in-law in Shandong, a lovely, intelligent woman, and she cried when they called and she spoke about how she wanted to see them, after the current conflict period, for as you know, she told my daughters, China and America are currently at war.  The US is surrounding China, preparing to attack.  This made me feel particularly melancholy.  My friends distance and dismal resignation concerning China all crescendos into something very somber this morning.  I try to talk to my wife about it.  It is good to hear her ideas.  Good to be reminded of the immediate humanity of a people who are being rebranded, repositioned as other and enemy. 


A tonic, presumably, my friend in Hong Kong sent me a clip of the Stones playing at their infamous Rock and Roll Circus performance.   I sent him the clip of John Lennon playing “Yer Blues” there that day with Mitch Mitchell and Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.  And then I pulled up the magisterial clip of “A Quick One While She’s Away” by the Who.  And soon I was revisiting Hendrix rock-porn I’ve feasted on hundreds of times before.  A tonic, indeed.  “Something to make us all happy.”  

Wednesday, 10/21/20


Along Pancake Hollow Road

Dropped my little one off at school and told her to “show em’ what you got.”  There is the same wainscoting on the walls that was there when I attended school here.  I can see my high school mates in my mind, bouncing around that room, cutting out from class to escape back up to their dorm rooms.  A strange setting then, we share, separated by nearly forty years. 

Left at the stop light, down towards Kingwood park, past a remarkable row of silver maples that must be two hundred years old each. The leaves don’t turn as early or as remarkably as sugar maples or red maples, but they are now a lovely canopy of yellow that have finally begun dropping their covering.  Fiddling with the radio I default to WFMU.  The Clay Pigeon is on, with his program: “Wake and Bake.”  He’s wonderful.  I don’t necessarily like every song he throws on, but its as if someone where culling from my old record collection and pulling out things like The Fall and The Misfits and things I never would have claimed like what he’s just thrown on now from Black Sabbath. 

And it doesn’t sound so bad, forty years on from when I would have died before before suggesting I enjoyed such a song.  He treats the remembrance of each member of the band so thoughtfully and genuinely, that he softens my heart to this plodding rock dirge with its long reptilian tail.  And he plays a little Covid alert update, and once again, his concern for people is genuine and his advice poignant and appropriate. 


Later driving along Pancake Hollow Road, the long way home from 44/55 back over towards 299, there are trees that are ablaze with impossible color.  These iridescent reds and electric oranges are some common that we become anesthetized to their marvel.  There are trees along this road that stand out even among all the shocking colors.  The Pidge has thrown on The Stranglers.  I don’t know the song but it sure sounds like the Stranglers, it's that same aggressive base and whirling organ.  Strange to be reminded of the time, when I was my daughters age, trying to figure out who they were and how they fit in to the Punk Rock pantheon.




Tuesday, 10/20/20 

Large, Gaya Looks Significant


I had no idea what Gaya was.  But there it lay, between Backjae and Silla on the map of Three Kingdoms Korea.  A fourth kingdom then, there in the south of the peninsula, right between the two other larger south eastern and south western kingdoms.  The Japanese historical texts from the eighth century Nihon Shoki suggest that Empress Jingu, in the fourth century established a Japanese colony there in southern Korea.  When Imperial Japan annexed Korea in 1910, they used this claim to suggest they were restoring the ancient unity of the two lands.  The validity of the Empress Jingu’s claim is historically suspect and indeed there is a parallel theory that “horse riders” first entered Japan from Korea in the fourth century, conquering that land, evidenced by the sudden introduction of weapons, armor  and tomb decorations akin to what had been in Korea.  Suffice to say, it appears that Gaya was a bi-directional trading hub and a critical point of contact between Korea and Japan. 

I tried to introduce the place today.  This, during the brief allotment of time we have riding along New Paltz Road, off 299 heading to 44.  I bring the book “Korean History in Maps” and ask her to flip past the last chapter we looked at on Silla.  Blown up large, Gaya looks significant.  I ask my little one if she can think of any contemporary Korean cities currently in that territory.  Neither of us can name a single place.  I ask, which of the BTS members is from neighboring Baekje?  “I don’t know.”  “But didn’t you say someone was from Gwangju?”  “Oh, that’s Jay Hope.” “Yeah?  The stereotype is they’re supposed to be hot tempered but Jay Hope seems to be among the most perky in the band.”   


There are two duck-shaped pottery vessels from Gaya on the page beside the map.  “Ya” signifies duck in Chinese and I’m tempted to draw the reference, but it is irrelevant.  The Koreans don’t call ducks “yazi”  Gaya has nothing to do with ducks. (Google translate suggest the pronunciation is “oli” in Korean which is certainly cute.)  I draw her attention to the iron breast plate from Gaya at the bottom of the page.  In fact, I’m running out of things to say about Gaya.  On the following page are maps that explain the trade routes between the four kingdom and the neighboring countries.  But now we’ve passed through Highland and are waiting at the light, to turn on to 44.  It’s understood that the lesson ends here.

And shortly thereafter, around the entrance to the Mid Hudson Bridge, I get to ask her to queue up a song of my choice.  I want to suggest The Kinks album “Face to Face,” but I can’t think of the name of it.  We listened to a few songs a day form “Something Else” when it was “my turn” last week.  I can see the cover in my mind with the butterflies and the strange cartooned man.  But it won’t come and I just suggest she throw on “Brainwashed” from Arthur, instead.




Monday, 10/19/20

Around Him to See


Cold this morning.  You could look down and see the grass where I hadn’t cut it was frosted over.  The weather report confirmed as much.  “frost warning.”  The sky has a thin cloud cover that can’t quite remove the hope of blue.  And for hours now big fluffy cumulous clouds soar along like a great armada.  I throw the seed on the lawn down below my window.  Grackles and squirrels and mourning doves as usual.  Two blue jays just fought each other, squaring off, squaring up in flight intent on deciding who gets to decide. 

Jim Hall all morning.  Was looking for sessions where he was a sideman.  There are probably well over one hundred such recordings, in addition to his own. He must have been recording something every month of his life for decades.  Just now is a session with John Lewis, the pianist from the MJQ.  Hall’s solo on Body and Soul immediately brings to mind his session with Sonny Rollins on “The Bridge.  Before this I listened to the four albums he recorded with Bill Evans, one after the other “Interplay,” “Loose Blues,” “Undercurrent,” and “Intermodulation.”  I suspect I’ll be poking around in here for a while.


And with this blog I have caught myself back up with myself.   I’d let a whole week slip by from the last properly complete entry the previous Saturday.   Friday was to have been the day.  Yesterday, early, before everyone was up, was plan B.  None of these were successful and I knew from experience that I’d be moody all week if yet another series of days slipped by without their memorialization.  Done then, save for the next paragraph and the publishing of all these accounts. 

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve seen the fox out there.  A lone squirrel is down on the lawn rooting up all the seed I’ve thrown down there this morning.  He’s go to eat all he can.  He’s well aware that the seasons are changing swiftly. And he eats with such care.  Never searching or more than a few second before he stops, and looks around him to see if the coast is clear.  I wonder if the fox moved on or simply expired.   My yard seems suspiciously safe, for now. 

Sunday, 10/18/20

Turquoise Trim, Jet Black

Boston, you’re closer than we think.  For the second weekend in a row we motivated a road trip to bring my older one someplace where she could meet a friend.  Neither of my daughters have their driver’s license.  Neither will take a bus, or a train or an Uber.  And where I would normally feel put-upon I think we all appreciate this is temporal and that we should enjoy the time we have together, even as a chauffeur. 


The little one asked me the other day if Boston were in the “Tri State Area” to which I replied it was not and launched into an unsolicited segue into why New England was called New England when she interrupted me to say:  “I’m not allowed to leave the Tri State Area, and if I do I have to quarantine.”  I wrote the school to clarify and it would appear we have a bit of lee way.  They were more interested if she were heading to Wisconsin or North Dakota.  I’d written the university I teach at to see about a meeting but everyone preferred to do it on zoom.  And so it goes.


Splendid talk with the older one as we headed out this morning.  She has such a mature mapping in her mind of what she wants to study, where she wants to head.  I’m grateful she is so much more focused than I was at that age.  I have an Art Farmer album on with Jim Hall, a live session in Sweden.  I’ve been playing it over and over the last few days and it’s wonderful.  The Catskills are breathtaking, the Berkshires are astounding in their garish fall death swoon.  And it isn’t long before we’ve dropped the older one off at her friends. 


My wife and I want to show the little one Tufts, where I went to grad school.  We can show her the house we both lived in when we were first married.  My wife thinks its important that she also seems MIT and I decode the acronym for the little one when she asks.  But the Charles River and memorial drive make up one boundary and driving around there is no way to see the campus from inside a car.  The little one is studying the Revolutionary War and I’m tired of virtually driving through campuses.  Let’s go to the North End. 

Soon we’ve parked the car and are following the Freedom Trail up past Cops Hill Graveyard and on towards the Old North Church.  I explain to these ladies that we are in the Italian section of town and if we’re eating here we’re having Italian or seafood.  We walk along the hubbub of Hannover Street.  I have a restaurant in mind, from when I was last here twenty years ago and sure enough “The Daily Catch” is still there, turquoise trim, jet black ceilings which seem to reflect the inky aglio olio, garlic and olive oil black squid ink pasta that is so good I can’t stop eating it, even though I am getting decidedly full.   Later we pass a pastry shop where we don’t mind standing in line to ogle at the seductive pastries they have.  Later in the car, when the older one has rejoined we take bites of each one and moan like anyone reveling in sin. 

Saturday, 10/17/20

Many Things Mailed Overseas


My dad’s a good lad or hiking, unless it rains.  Then he pulls the plug.  He told me yesterday, he’d seen the forecast.  He was no longer interested.  Let’s pick it up next week.  I’ve been up since a call I had at two in the morning.  Another call began at four thirty.   Before the third, decidedly less stressful call was to begin at seven I noticed it wasn’t raining.  There were clouds, the forecast was certainly wet, but as soon as I got in the car to take my daughter to school I asked him and he offered to meet me on the west side of the Walkway Over the Hudson, which would be on my way home. 


We got very lucky this morning.  Menacing clouds for as far we could see but not a drop of rain as we promenaded across the mighty Hudson and over to Poughkeepsie.  Something peculiar happens with shale slabs on the west anchor of the trail.  They seem to have shed scales and created an inexplicable reptilian surface.  I see one and then a few chestnut oaks with their long, saw-toothed leaves and I pointed them out to my dad, as we’d only just been talking about how we’d only otherwise seen this tree way up at the top of the ridge in the traps.  Some time I’m going to transplant a sapling to my yard. 

The colors were extraordinary.  Impossible pairings of green and yellow and orange off into the hills that make up Fanny Reece Park.  We admire the houses down below that have such fine views of the fjord and then we laugh as my wife, for one, would want every shutter drawn with so many people walking by all the time.  I’ve lived for more than a few years of my life within a pedestrian view of a major bridge.  I didn’t mind at the time.  Looking down at the old Italian section of Poughkeepsie I considered my maternal grandmother once again, who had to walk to school through that section of town.  And she apparently held her nose, repulsed by the smell of garlic, when she did.

Later in the day I try to get some chores done in town.  I need to mail a letter to Hong Kong.  One gets the impression that there aren’t many things mailed overseas from our local post office.  The lady is well intentioned, but she seems to be regularly overruled by the gent beside her who contradicts her and suggests, for example that tracking numbers are indeed still available, when a package goes overseas.  I return my cross-country skis and request a new, easier type of binding for this year’s rental.  But they have no other binding and I’m made to feel that the problem is all mine.  I rent them nonetheless.  At the dry cleaner, where I am taking two coats, and two sweaters I learn that it is a cool thirty-five dollars a-piece to dry clean a coat.  I headed out to buy a whole chicken to bake and a sweet and sour sauce to concoct at home but Tops didn’t have any whole chickens.  They guy even checked in the back.  And I impulse bought a jar of Jamaican Jerk Chicken sauce and bought three breasts to bake back home instead. 

Friday, 10/16/20

How They Ruled Most


The little one and I have a good morning routine.  At least it is for now.  Music sharing routines are already well-established.  These days we discuss her favorite Manga series “Attack on Titan” for the first segment of the ride.  Her tunes are on the set.  And I try to ask reasonably informed and genuine inquiries about what it was I read in the last episode and why it is people behave the way they do, and why is it some titans are different from others. 


There’s a light on 299 where New Paltz Road veers off to the right.  Once we make that turn, I pull out “Korean History in Maps.”  Normally she will swat me away if I ask her to consider a book in the car.  “Don’t you remember?  I get car sick.”  But this is a large, eight-and-a-half-by-eleven size book which, as the title suggests is largely pictorial.  Today we learn about the mighty Guguryeo and how they ruled most of what is now China’s Dongbei and North Korea, before the Liao and the Jin, long before the Manchurians.  And when China was broken apart they flourished until attacks from the Sui and then later the Tang buffeted them.  Neither were successful in toppling them, until as always happens with Three Kingdoms to worry about, the the other Kingdom, in this case Silla, joins with your enemy and you’ve a war on two fronts. 


The unwritten law is that I’m to wrap it all up by the time we merge back on to 9W.  I’d never taken this New Paltz Road before.  I’ve never been known to drive through the hamlet of Highland before this routine either.  Now, for the rest of my years it will always evoke medieval Korea to me and perhaps to her, as well.  Once we’re on the approach to the bridge, it’s my turn and I ask her to play “Victoria” from the “Arthur” album by the Kinks.  And I dutifully avoid turning it into another lesson. And just ask her about what classes she has today for school.

Shared a nice coffee with my mom and my stepdad.  We sat around the table a bit more cautious than usual.  The cases seem to be rising across the country as the temperature falls.  On the way home I call one pal and then another.   This second gent is also back in the States for the first time in decades, re-acclimating.  And we talk about work and the election and of a friend I’d like to connect him with.  Neither of us can easily view a map, but we reckon we’ll pick a place between he and me and drive to meet there one day.  One day soon.

Thursday, 10/15/20 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

To Flick That Thing


Just sat and worked from early till late.  A dull sense of accomplishment as the cabal of to-dos assembled before you are laid low, one by one.  But there are reinforcements and just as your day is ending those folks on the other side of the planet are suddenly responding to all the things you tossed them earlier in your day. 


I was glad, therefore to welcome Ryan to the house.  In the middle of a long slog it was my wife who notified me that someone was at the door.  Portly, bald with a beard and benighted with confidence and some ability to gab, Ryan introduced himself, said “no thank you” to coffee twice and lead the way with me in-tow down to basement.  Once again I was there, confronting the array of copper tubes that resembled the subway map of a large metropolis. 

Ryan looked around.  Felt different pipes.  Asked me a few questions, some of which I could answer.  He asked if our water had a lot of calcium.  I knew our water had stuff and that we had things to try to adjust this.  He flicked a the lever on a little diamond shaped hub and flicked it again.  “There you go.  You hear that?  The warm water’s flowing.  That ought to trip the boiler.”  Sure enough, the furnace kicked on.  “Yeah.  That’s the water feeder.  You just have to flick that thing to loosen the calcium build-up.”  Huh.  Cool. 


Certainly, one and then another pipe seemed to be getting warmer.  He also counseled me schedule an annual cleaning wherein they’d replace my low-water-cut-off device which was dripping.  But this was a not a pressing emergency.  I also needed to cut out and install a “T” to purge the system of the errant air that was in there, confusing the system into thinking all was sufficiently warm. 


Learned a lot from Ryan.  Including where it was he lived, which is up in the Catskills.  Raised in Hyde Park, he’d moved up and out to the Catskill Mountains.  He kept referring to where we were as “down here” and I began to consider it from his perspective.   “You know where the Neversink Reservoir is?”  I hadn’t.  He names a few other towns that I cannot place and my mind’s map can only extend from 55 out towards Ashokan Reservoir and he is describing something in between which I can only generally surmise.  But he speaks about them all with brio and he makes me curious as to why I don’t already know about these places.   Ryan keeps talking out in our driveway.  He doesn’t seem to want to go.  We learn about his high school experience.  And I sort of don’t mind as I know what’s waiting for me once he’s off and on his way.




Wednesday, 10/14/20