Monthly Archives: April 2009

Chase Waterfalls

With the warm air in New England this week I spent some time out in nature. The other day I woke up early and ran six miles, before the temperature soared into the nineties. As I was cooling down and catching my breath, back in Harvard Sq. at the end of my run, I walked past David Gergen and his wife. He stood tall in a dark suit and she was fussing over him, squawking about studio appearances. This is not the first time the Gergen’s have entered my bubble. In fact, my life in Cambridge is being lived out largely in David Gergen’s shadow.

Two trees by the Charles River

At high noon the same day, I picked up a friend and we went to Blue Ribbon for barbeque. I got the spicy pork sausage. After an hour of digestion, I had the Center for Disease Control on speed dial. I thought I had the swine flu but luckily, it was just the meat sweats.

Standing by a small waterfall in Watertown

That evening I rode my bike to Alewife Station and picked up the Minuteman Trail. From there it was eleven well-paved miles out to Arlington, Lexington and Bedford. The return trip I got smart and drafted in a peloton of Lance Armstrong types. The eleven miles back had to be fast ones… Celtics game 5 was not to be missed. Rajon Rondo punched Brad Miller in the mouth… for the win!

Eliot beside the frothy Charles

Today, I got the longest and most entertaining haircut of my life. Peter at the Hair Connection was meticulous and left my hair the best its ever been. I feel like he took the time to really listen to my whorl and jibed with my hair’s asymmetry. Plus I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. After a two hour hair cut some people would have thrown in the towel. Truth is, the Minuteman Trail only whetted my appetite for more riding. I called up Eliot and we hit the seventeen mile Paul Dudley White Charles River trail.

Bird versus the current

That picture is a bird on a stone facing a small waterfall. The breakwater is up the Charles River near Watertown. Actually, if you look carefully at the pictures of Eliot and I, you will see the same bird is in both pictures. That bird is resolute. Even when the whitewater surged, knocking bird off perch, the bird was able to catch itself in the air and land right back on the stone. Eliot and I rode from the Museum of Science out to the end of the P.D.W. and ate dinner at the dark, Greek watering hole that is Demo’s. We each had bottled water, gingerale, salad, Syrian bread, kabobs (of lamb and chicken), and baklava.

Cantabrigian spring sunset over the Charles

Sometime during my two hour haircut, I asked Peter his favorite part about living in Cambridge. With a very dry sense of humor, he told me its that he lives close to his business. I haven’t been living and working in this city for 29 years like he has, but I do love living in the city. A friend asked me earlier in the week what would be the best way to spend my days off, and I replied that I would like to be out in nature. Perhaps a hike. Well I didn’t quite make it to the mountains, but I did run and bike over 45 miles in two days, and saw parts of my city that I hadn’t seen before.

I am not a Baby Duck

…and I don’t have a rusty chain. It was seventy degrees (in the shade) today in Cambridge. I oiled up the chain of my fixed gear bike and hit the streets.

Im a big duck with a beard

My friend and I had Saturday brunch at the S & S (a taste of my brunch nemesis). Bravely, like a big duck, I ordered the eggs benedict, smothered in hollandaise sauce. Jess told me that back in the day we served black pepper smoked salmon on a bagel at our brunch (East Coast Grill) and I thought that sounded real good, especially cause she was sharing her lox with me at the time. The S & S hollandaise sauce turned out to be totally kosher.

I am the branch tangled in the power lines

In her car, stopped at a red light in Union Square, a beat up Rav 4 pulled alongside us. A German shepherd lunged out the window and barked at me loud and vicious. I screamed in panic. The driver, on his phone, chuckled at my reaction. I calmed down as soon as I realized the dog was not going to leap through the passenger side window to bite at my face and head. As my beating heart began to slow, another German shepherd suddenly appeared next to the first and began the barking all over again! This time I laughed. It was absurd.

I am the big dog

Twenty One Tropical Miles

Sunset at Fort Zachary Taylor

I am coming home from Key West with peace of mind that hopefully outlasts my fading sun tan. The lists that I made before setting out, and the agenda my attorney made at the beginning of the journey, are not totally checked off. My lists never are. But I do feel like the journey itself has been worth more than any laundry list of activities and / or duties. A couple nights ago, I stopped having work stress dreams.

I read three books… Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, The Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman, and the excellent food memoir, Fried Butter, by Abe Opincar (thanks Els!) That last book had me so captivated, reading on the beach, that I did not even notice I was getting horribly sunburnt. Now I have The Log from the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck, to read on the plane while I suffer the sunburn chills.

I am the pidgeon and Bull is the rooster 3rdarm

Every day this week I woke up early and ran three miles. That makes twenty one tropical miles total. Its actually way off the pace I will need to follow to be ready for the half marathon in late May, but just right for the heat and humidity down here. Each night I have been asleep in bed before midnight. Like what happens when dried clay and water are shaken up in a ziplock bag, this week has rejuvenated my soul.

I recommend everyone takes a tropical vacation with their trusted attorney. Big thank you to Bull for graciously letting me sleep on his couch, acting as 24/7 tour guide, doing my taxes, and everything else. Big thank you to Ruth as well, for being a phonecall away whenever there was trouble. All my love to you both!

Smirk

Horse conchs were featured in a late 70’s era documentary I saw today called, “The Key West Picture Show.” The species is the largest snail in the Americas, and one of the largest univalves in the world. The horse conch may not be a true conch (what Key Westerners calls themselves), but neither is my attorney. He is originally from Windsor, Connecticut, and he moves at the speed of bidness (mo’ quicker than a Florida snail.)

The end of the road

Bull (my attorney) is like a walking one-man Facebook. The first thing he does is learn the names of everyone in the room with him. Then he asks them the most direct questions possible to flesh out their situation. Example; what’s the deal with your bad leg? He uses this information to press his advantage. It happens so fast that most people don’t know what hit them. This week in Key West, I am Bull’s wingman. I try to get ahead of the game to prevent brawls.

Bull and his bros at Sloppy Joes

The two of us are working off an agenda that Bull surprised me the first minute of the first hour of the first day of the vacation. Because I work in a restaurant, I had mentioned that I’d like to eat a lot while down here. The agenda is basically a spreadsheet divided into seven meals a day (breakfast, mid-day, lunch, happy hour, dinner, late-night, and late munchies), with a different restaurant for each time slot. Occasionally he listed an activity such as “yoga on the beach,” or “African drumming,” instead.

Dominiques house on Stock Island

The agenda is a rough sketch of the day ahead, at best. It was getting a little willy nilly, so I thought it would be a good idea for both of us to clarify the agenda by listing our top priorities. Bull’s priorities are… #1 African drumming, #2 sailing, #3 drag show, and #4 Church on Sunday (but not if it interferes with African drumming.) For the record, he has never drummed before, and we only have one African drum between us, so we’ll have to take turns. My priorities are… #1 beach, #2 running, #3 NBA Playoffs but ONLY ON HDTV.

God is just an acronym for growing old disgracefully

Today we took the motor scooters up Route 1 to Stock Island to see Dominique’s house. Dominique would have been my grandfather-in-law had my dad remarried. He is a French chef who owned famous restaurants in Washington, D.C., and Miami Beach and authored cookbooks. Dominique was very kind to me back in the day; he told my dad and I great stories, generously took us out to eat and gave me gifts. He was also the first person to plant the seed of restaurant work into the soil bed of my mind.

Dom passed away about five years ago. Even though I hadn’t visited him in at least a decade, I was able to pick out his former home from all the other residences on Stock Island. Despite changes to the neighborhood, Dom’s house had an aura around it, and it called out to me. The neighbors confirmed that he used to live there. Perhaps Dominique is the ghost chef to my Ratatouille; a guardian angel over my shoulder in the kitchens and dining rooms I’ve occupied.

Smirking in the Green Parrot

This is a provocative painting titled, “Smirk,” that hangs in the Green Parrot, above the electricity machine.

Running in the Keys

Key West Loop

So far, my running route has been to go around the Old Town of Key West. This puts me in direct contention with mobs of tourists sometimes, as well as in the path of cars, trucks, bicycles, motor scooters, rickshaws, etc and past the Southernmost point of the continental U.S. Its fun to wake up in the morning and see the busiest areas getting ready for another day. I’m staying in the middle of the map, at the intersection of Virginia and Margeret. The route is a little longer than 3 miles.

Bull has printed out a spreadsheet itinerary that has kept me running as well. The list of places I have eaten at so far includes the great Cuban restaurant El Siboney (had a pork sandwich, tostones and 2 fried eggs,) Kyushu Sushi (excellent sushi with extra treats from the chef), the Conch Farm (conch fritters with mustard sauce, a dozen oysters), and the Upper Crust Key West (right next to American Apparel, just like in Harvard Square.)

Yesterday I chilled out by myself at the beach and then wandered into the Key West Garden Club. It was originally a Civil War era fort built by the Union. An entry way was crafted into a 150 year old tree trunk and it leads to a shaded room where many, many orchids are hanging in the humid air. Orchids have been placed on trees throughout as well. It was awesome to see so many in a natural, outdoor environment. I thought of my orchid Mothra, home alone in the basement. Its the last days of Sculpture Key West, and I got to see some neat art in the Garden Club as well.

Each night I follow Bull around to his bar haunts. Yesterday we had drinks with his neighbors at Louie’s Backyard while the sun set, then moved on to Sloppy Joe’s. Today we took the motor scooters out and saw a tropical matinee of “Adventureland,” then cruised over to Florida’s oldest bar, the Green Parrot. This evening we saw the very talented Raven Cooper play at the Bottle Cap. This woman was singing in Spanish and English and tearing it up. Bull reached his T&T limit so we made power moves to Dion’s gas station, for the best fried chicken on the island.

The fried chicken needed to cook another ten minutes and Bull was impatient. He kept yelling at the cook, “We could use some FUCKING FRIED CHICKEN over here!” Over and over. I began to get a little anxious. The man at the cash register was not amused and threatened to call the cops. Some customers got scared and left. One customer, a red-eyed drunk older gentleman, churlishly told me how fifteen minutes was too long to cook fried chicken; how a former cook only fried it for twelve minutes, and yeah maybe that was illegal, but it was delicious.

There are a lot of old hippies down here. Bull and I briefly spectated a hundred person bocce ball tournament this afternoon and just about everyone was drinking, pony-tailed and named Ron. At an ocean-side bar, caught up in the moment (and a dozen oysters) I even requested a Jimmy Buffet song from two acoustic guitarists, a man and woman. The song I requested was “Volcano,” but they cleverly twisted the lyrics into, “I don’t know where I’m a gonna go when the hurricane blow.” They got a woman from the bar to join in on tambourine; I talked to her later and she is the manager at Chris Schlesinger’s gym.

Its a crazy world and we are one human family.

Between space

The Sculpture Key West brochure describes the above statue, “Between Space,” by Jamey Grimes with the following paragraph: Jamey Grimes’ work uses a utilitarian material commonly found in political or real estate signs to express a love of natural forms and experiences. He seeks to juxtapose the synthetic manmade material with the biomorphic or cloudlike forms. Light becomes extremely important as these pieces move from the gallery to the outdoors.

Leaving New England

Here I am in my zig zag shirt, courtesy of Goodwill. This Wednesday I am flying down to Key West. I am the Zig Zag Wanderer… A friend told me that in this picture I look like I’m in a good kind of pain.

Zig zag wanderer

“Zig zag wanderer, zig zag wanderer
You can huff, you can puff
You’ll never blow my house down
You can zig, you can zag
Whoa I’m gonna stay, gonna stay around”

I will be running up Route 1 from the southernmost point on the continental United States, heading north through the keys… the gravity of the sunset will pull me back to Cayo Hueso.

Hasta en Cayo Hueso amigos

“You can dance, you can prance
Freeze those timbers, drop some beams
Hide my shield, throw away my lance
Zig zag child, mercy mile
Zig zag dream, zig zag dream
Zig zag”

Moth Orchid

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to take home an orchid. A group (flock, school, gaggle?) of orchids had been in the restaurant since the owner won them all in a presumed Super Bowl bet, but they haven’t fared well in the smoky old building. I took home the last one. By studying its leaves and dried flowers, I identified my orchid as from the genus “phalaenopsis,” and I shall refer to her by the nickname of that type of orchid: the moth orchid.

I bought some orchid food and a stones and a water bowl

Its like having a dog. I was reluctant to take her home because of the trouble I’ve had taking care of myself in life, never mind a pet. Recently however, I feel as though I’ve turned things around and I feel ready to take on additional care-taking responsibilities. My basement is hot and dry so I bought a water bowl with polished stones. The water in the bowl will slowly evaporate and increase the humidity for the moth orchid, which it will like. I also bought some orchid feed.

Taking care of my moth orchid

When the moth orchid next blooms, I may be able to identify her species by the markings on her flowers. It could be six months to a year until that happens, and I’m not worried about it. For now my goals for her are to get her leaves to stop splitting. My short term goal is to get myself more education for the best path forward. There are twice as many orchid types on earth as birds, and they have been around since birds were dinosaurs. Respect.

Shes only going to get healthier from here on out

French Cowpoke

This was the perfect shirt for tonight. Its an all cotton powder blue, salmon-orange and cream colored button down. Hecho en Turquía, which is Spanish for “made in Turkey.” The label says its, “the French Connection.”

The French Connection size L

My sister saw me try it on in the dressing room. We both knew we had a winner on our hands. This is the kind of shirt whose style warps people’s perspective of reality. This works in a similar way that light seems to bend around a black hole. The only proof that the object exists is in how other particles react to it. The shirt tossed folks into the salad, and I crushed them up like croutons.

I think its going really well

20% Matter, 80% is Energy.

Charles River Loop

Charles River loop looks like a saxophone

This is the route that I ran on Wednesday. A friend of mine recently referred to this week as, “slightly apocalyptic.” Although that probably describes her week more accurately than my own (she’s moving,) the Charles River loop I ran on Wednesday was definitely apocalyptic as well, if only slightly. After three solid weeks of two and a half mile runs every Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I decided to up it this week to two 2.4’s and one 6.0 miler. Needless to say, the six miles of the Charles River loop kicked my ass.

The first half of the run was on the Cambridge side of the Charles River, and the wind was wild. It was blowing straight against me, bringing cold air off the river. The sky was overcast. Tons of runners were passing me with ease, and I passed no runners. I was unsure how to pace myself, because it was my first time running this route solo. By the time I crept towards Massachusetts Avenue, my legs were wobbly and I was light-headed. This was in the third mile, and all kinds of doubts about whether it had been wise to attempt six miles crowded my mind like a peculiarly informative episode of Pop-Up Video.

As I turned toward the city of Boston, and jumped onto the Mass. Ave. bridge, my perspective changed radically. The wind was now blowing perpendicular to my body, and I could see the river churning hundreds of feet below my feet. A sea change in my head was underway, the river was underfoot, and the wind created the illusion that I was flying over the water! I suddenly felt confident that I could finish what I had started. The Boston side of the Charles River loop was protected from the elements. The air during the second half of the run was motionless, except for my wake.

There are many reasons why I love to run. The repetitive motion, especially after the first mile or so, becomes a source of calm for me. All the little bits of information I try to hold onto so tight throughout the day are loosed and lost. Sometimes all I think about is my breath. Its a kind of magic to reduce reality down to breathing. The six miles left me aching, in a blanket burrito with a book and lots of water, for days; nevertheless, I want more.

Watermelon Dome

Eliot and I got a chance to hang out today. After going for a run with his sister Ars and her dog, Ruby (it was more of a swim for Ruby, who played catch in the pond) we got the necessary cables to hook up the Nintendo Wii and the IMac. This configuration takes full advantage of the IMac’s 24 inch screen; the Wii looks great. I bought a new game to celebrate… Bonsai Barber, perhaps the world’s first barber game. Its a first person groomer. In this game, you give haircuts to plants.

Every day five new plants come to the barbershop for a haircut. On the first day, our customers included the Reg Wedge (an extreme carrot, self-described “veg on the edge”) and the Cherry Twins. The twins got the best haircut of the day, for sure. They had come in requesting a shape called the “dome,” and with deft scissors and some paint, Eliot and I crafted the Cherry Twins an exquisite watermelon dome. The cut earned us our first five star rating.

The Cherry Twins loved their dome cut

To end a haircut in Bonsai Barber, one player must bang the gong. Sad to say, just after the photo was taken, I swung the Wii-mote to bang the gong, and Eliot did the same. But his Wii-mote was acting as the blowout comb, and it ruffled the haircut irreparably. We lost three of our five stars. No worries. In Bonsai Barber, there is always tomorrow’s promise of five more shaggy-leafed customers.

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