there is water underground.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Damn, I'm Old - Redux

My aunt just sent me a photo via email, and the tone of the message conveyed that she was excited. Opening the message, I saw my cousin Sam standing next to some dude. The last time such photo-sharing occurred, the "dude" was John McCain. This dude was younger (not saying much, I know), probably in his twenties, kinda scruffy and dressed in hipster clothing. I figured that he was someone famous, but I couldn't tell who he was. I asked two colleagues here to look at the photo and if they knew who he was. Both colleagues - intelligent women in their late 20s or early 30s - didn't know either. Sheepishly (yet emboldened by my colleagues' consensus), I asked my aunt who the dude was.

Turns out it was David Cook, recent American Idol champion and heartbreaker extrordinaire. Just goes to show you how far removed from that scene I am.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Trolling Atlantis

One of my earliest complete memories has to do with my grandfather and his fishing boat. The boat was not docked at a pier; rather, it was tethered to a buoy in the harbor with dozens of other boats. In order to get to the boat, we had to ride on a small dinghy operated by the harbor patrol. To me, this was fascinating – riding on a boat to get to another boat! – and I always loved hopping from the dinghy to my grandfather’s boat. Such an adventure. Everything was much larger then; my grandfather’s boat was probably no more than twenty feet long, but to my five-year-old eyes it was enormous. There was a little space out front with cushions and handrails where I would ride as my father and his father drove the boat out of the harbor and into the sound. For about ten minutes we crawled at the minimum speed allowed by the harbor, gasoline fumes circling the boat until we reached the red & white buoy… and that was my signal. I remember looking back at my grandfather upon reaching that buoy; he would smile back at me and then throttle the powerful engine forward. The early morning water was a flat sheet of glass as it slipped underneath the hull.

We’d fish, sometimes catching bluefish and bass, more often catching nothing at all. We’d eat sandwiches and drink cold soda, and my grandfather would smoke his cigar. I have few memories of him without a cigar, and to this day I think of him whenever I smell cigar smoke. Once, when I was eight and my brother four, we snuck down to the basement in his house and found his cigar box… and proceeded to break all of his cigars into little pieces. Gramps was livid. However, my brother and I were treated to ice cream on the way home courtesy of our father, who was happy that we were concerned for Gramps’ health. Anyway, he would be smoking, and the smell of salty sea air and cigar smoke is a very pleasant memory. Inevitably we would turn off the engine while we ate lunch in order to enjoy the sounds of the sea, and inevitably the engine would fail to start when we were ready to return home. Thankfully the radio was more reliable, and every memory of fishing with my grandfather involves being towed back by the harbor patrol or even the Coast Guard on occasion. It never seemed to bother my grandfather much; he just accepted it and tried to make the best of the situation. Dad would try to fix the damn engine and would always become frustrated when nothing could be done to improve the situation. In any event, we always made our way back to the buoy in the harbor and the little dinghy.

I was recently on a ferry in Long Island Sound and with the wind in my face and the smell of the ocean all around, that memory came rushing back suddenly. I don’t know how these things get etched into the brain and stay there for years and years. I have earlier memories, but they’re mostly brief snapshots and moments in time, vivid though they may be. Perhaps the earliest memory of all is a brief glimpse of my father’s friend’s house; I was apparently playing in the grass and I can still see the white garage door and smell the lush green springtime. But that’s a brief glimpse, not a complete story. The brain is truly amazing – there are people out there who can recall every day of their lives and what they were wearing, what they ate… and then there are people like me, who forget what day it is right now (I think it’s Thursday, but I’m not sure).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Damn, I'm Old

My cousin Samantha is about to graduate high school; she’ll be attending Duke in the fall. Clearly she’s an idiot. Kidding. But she’s going to college in September. This is mind-blowing to think about. She’s become a real person now, eighteen going on 30, and brighter than many of the people I interview. I remember visiting the hospital the day after she was born and holding her. I remember my aunt bringing her to Schreiber to see the musicals, and for months all she would talk about was Jen or Jason or Michele or Howland (bassists are usually invisible to four-year-olds… come to think of it, we’re pretty invisible to most people). These days, when I visit them in NY, Sam and I have real conversations and real drinks. I met her boyfriend last month. Of course his name is Andrew. Nice kid.

Eighteen years. That’s a long time. I remember babysitting and changing her diapers. I remember playing with her in a swimming pool in Florida during a family vacation, teaching her how to swim. And if she has her way (which she probably will), she’s going to come to Boston this summer for a few weeks and I’m going to teach her how to drive. I won’t do to her what my dad did to me the first time I was behind the wheel (tickling). It’s hard for me to think of her as a college kid, but what’s harder is thinking that I (and chances are from the people who read this, we) were that young and naïve and invincible and so ready for college life.

Putting it in context, when Sam was born, the number one song was “I Can’t Live Without Your Love and Affection” by Nelson. That was also the year of “Vogue”, “Opposites Attract”, and “Ice Ice Baby.” Look how far we’ve come. I enjoyed seeing her go through her music phases; there was the New Kids on the Block-esque phase of Backstreet Boys, N-Sync, and a half dozen other groups who have gone the way of the dodo (but I guarantee that the Backstreet Boys will reunite in ten years, just like NKOTB is doing now). There was the rocker phase… one of my favorite memories is of walking into their apartment and seeing Sam in a Clash t-shirt holding a guitar, trying to wrap her mind and fingers around the chords of a Who song. Hmm… that appears to have been a tangent.

So – to Sam, in your final few weeks of high school, I want to say that I love you, that I’m awfully proud of everything you’ve accomplished, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds. I don’t know how much wisdom I can share with you (I wasn’t all that bright in college, and it’s been a steady downhill ever since), but I’ll try. Make sure you pour your own drinks at the parties. You can skip a class now and then. Always use fake names when filling out credit applications so you can get free t-shirts. Don’t worry about grades too much – if you enjoy what you’re studying, you’ll do fine. Just don’t get arrested or pregnant, and you’ll be okay. And whatever you do, if you find yourself alone with a lacrosse player… run. And if you’re actually reading this, then you need to get out more.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

McCain Farms Beets

Despite a general dislike for our nation's Republican Party, I do respect John McCain. He's been through a lot, he's a much less conservative than Dubya, he's relatively intelligent for a politician, and he's able to crack a joke or two. Now don't get me wrong, I'll vote for Obama when (not if) the time comes, but McCain doesn't seem like that bad of a guy. The other night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart asked him who his choice for running mate would be, and McCain answered with "Dwight Schrute."

Schrute is the consummate kiss-ass assistant to the regional manager on the only serial TV show I watch regularly, The Office. Awesome show, and being that I'm the only male in my office, I feel like I am different characters on different days. I'd like to say that I'm most like Jim, but his major purpose in the show is to fawn over Pam, and I'm not dating anyone in my office. Stanley is a great character, but I'm not THAT bitter about my job, nor am I black. I'm not as pathetic as Toby, and I'm not as sleazy as Andy. This leaves me with one conclusion: I must be more like Michael Scott. Good intentions, blundering idiot, yet they keep me around. That about sums me up.

Black cat crossed in front of me right as I left home this morning. Hmm. If this is my last post, Aubrey gets custody of the site.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Party of One

There's something to be said for being stuck in traffic when you're not in any particular rush to be anywhere. It's a kind of helpless ennui, but not altogether unpleasant (unless you really have to pee) and it allows your mind to wander. This happened to me in Boston recently; I was traversing the city during rush hour in a rainstorm and found myself in several standstills. My mind wandered from topic to topic, mostly disregarding the radio - that is, until those timeless words were uttered: "Oh... my... God. Becky, look at her butt."

That phrase brought me right out of the mind-wandering; I turned the volume up and rapped along with Sir Mix-a-lot all the way through. Being stuck in traffic, however, my mind did start to roam again during the song, and I realized a few things: First, there were probably several hundred cars in the traffic jam. Second, being that there are actually very few decent radio stations in Boston, there were bound to be a bunch of people rapping along with me and Mix-a-lot. Therefore, there came a point the other night when, through no particular coincidence or cosmic event, a few dozen people in my immediate vicinity enthusiastically and unbeknownst to each other sang the line "My anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hon!" That thought (not to mention that we all more than likely did the whipcrack after saying that line) got me laughing. Hard.

...there's really no point to this.