Monthly Archives: September 2009

Down the Giant Slide

Big Timmy C and me

A longish day. I cleaned out the coins from the car, a three year collection in my center console containing twenty five dollars worth, mostly pennies. The money went to pay for a half dozen cupcakes, which I brought to my review at work. The cupcakes were for my general manager Eric, Chris the owner, and the chefs. My strategy was that they couldn’t possibly yell at me with their mouths full of cupcake. It worked, but my guilty conscience denied me a totally smooth review. While they ate the cupcakes I compulsively brought up everything I have done wrong in recent memory. I did their work for them. Chris wrote, in summary, “Arthur is one of our top employees but has to watch his temper and not yell at his bosses, chefs, and owner.”

In the afternoon my friends Jess and Alexa accompanied me to West Springfield. We went to the Big E, the East Coast’s largest fair. I used to go every year with my dad but haven’t been in over a decade. My friend from growing up, Timmy C, was working at the Little Taste of Texas, between the Connecticut and New Hampshire buildings. He lives in St. Thomas most of the year, so its rare that I get to see him. We ate at the Little Taste first, and I caught up with Tim and his amazing hair. It was an awesome start to the fair. The three of us moved on and ate our way through the states’ buildings. Towards the last one, Rhode Island, I commented to Jess and Alexa that I felt like my dad was nearby.

Five minutes, a stuffed quahog and a bizmark later, the three of us are crossing a parade and I see my dad and Aunt Maureen on the steps of the New England Grange. We spent the rest of the day with them, which brought on many flashbacks from my youth. I remembered the year my dad became obsessed with umbrella hats, and ran around buying as many as possible. Or the unusual, years long business relationship I maintained with a Russian who collected memorabilia from the cosmonauts and the Russian space program. Mostly the memories that flooded my brain while spending the day at the Big E with my dad were food-related… the crushing load of calories one intakes on a day long binge.

My dad does not look happy

I am convinced that I ate more than my dad… and more than Jess and Alexa put together. Here is a list of what I ate at the Big E (calorie counts are mostly guesses)…

2 Arnold Palmer 1/2 and 1/2 with Green Tea (300 calories)
Brisket chili (500 calories)
Apple pie with cheddar cheese (500 calories)
2 oz. maple sugar candy (200 calories)
Lobster roll (300 calories)
Finnish pancake (300 calories)
Baked stuffed quahog (300 calories)
Bizmark (500 calories)
Kettle corn popcorn – all day (800 calories)
Fried mushrooms (200 calories)
Perogie (100 calories)
2 foot long mega corn dog (at least 1000 calories)
Fried dough (100 calories)
Cheeseburger from White Hut (500 calories)
Soft serve ice cream (200 calories)

For a grand total, not including the bagel with (reduced fat) cream cheese I had for breakfast, that banana cream cupcake at my review, or the numerous (diet) colas throughout the day, of… 5800 calories. BURRRPPP…

Jess on top of the giant slide

Hotter Than September

Filthy snow

21 miles yesterday. Unbearable, boiling point, agony, boredom, physical breakdown, The Wall. I am taunting the beast and its twisting my body in a vice. But I will not quit until the beast does. In the twentieth mile I almost lost it, started sobbing uncontrollably, because someone had written large words in pink chalk on the sidewalk, spaced about twenty feet apart… NEVER… EVER… GIVE… UP. I’m losing it. An explorer on the edge of endurance, and sometimes dangling over with my legs kicking, scrambling back from the brink of insanity.

Kasabuski snowball

For a cool down today, I ran 3 miles with Jess at Breakheart. Breakheart is in Saugus, next to the Kasabuski Ice Rink. I chose a Jewish delicatessen for lunch, in honor of Yom Kippur weekend. The patty melt, half sour, hash and eggs were so good I think I found my new favorite restaurant… Lendy’s in Saugus. I am smitten with Lendy’s. Even the name I like. They’ve got these murals of Central Park and old school dancehalls in New York. The food is so good. They call their desserts, “Les Desserts.” Everyone wore sweatpants, even me. I don’t know why.

Zamboni turds

From the pictures it would appear that I journeyed up North, or into the near future, but no. This filthy snow pile is actually man made ice waste; Kasabuski leftovers. I plunged into it and rolled about, trying to soothe my sore muscles in the sweet artificial refrigeration. I threw some snowballs, then went to Marshall’s inspired and bought a yellow flannel for winter. I’m ready man. Marathon, beast, see you in two weeks. I’m gonna bring it!

Wild Massachusetts

Alexa and Jess on Eagle Rock

I am beginning to feel like a member of an outdoors club. Every week this month I have hiked a different path through wild Massachusetts. A year ago I was smoking cigarettes and stewing in the basement. Not that I don’t still marinate more than the average lobster, but lately I’ve been climbing out of the pot. This week my friends Jess and Alexa accompanied me to Breakheart Hill in Saugus, MA. I had an idea that there may be a link to marathon running in the inversion of Heartbreak Hill, but found no such connection. Instead we came to a well maintained DCR park with a brand new lodge, excellent marked trails, five miles of paved running trails, a beach for swimming, and spectacular views from atop craggy peaks.

Small hiking stick

The title “Wild Massachusetts” does not only refer to the great outdoors. There was plenty of other kinds of wildness on display in the state this Tuesday. After the hike we attempted to eat at Sonic Burger on Route 1, but ultimately couldn’t stomach the wait. Sonic is the first location of the best-selling national hamburger chain, the waitresses roller skate up to the car with your burgers, frappes, hush puppies, etcetera. The girls wanted to go to the Christmas Tree Shops. The last time I went was probably with my mom more than ten years ago. Crazy junk, more than I remembered. I am convinced that no customer needed any of the tchotchkes in their carts.

Nonetheless, the buying continued.

Flying Kites


We spotted Pope John Paul II Park from I-93. From the highway it looked like a well maintained park ideal for running beside the water. Jess wanted to visit, and tasked me with researching the place, finding directions, etc. I did a pretty bad job. I found it on Google Maps and thought it was alternately a) part of a golf course, b) in Quincy, or Milton, c) not a park. I got us there, but it was not until just now that I found out this park is named after the last pope. Now I’ve discovered that P.J.P. II Park is a real Division of Urban Parks and Recreation (DCR) park, its in Boston, and it used to be a drive-in movie theater and a landfill.

A man controls three kites

This was the best day to visit… it was kite flying Saturday. We figured that out from the highway. I was driven to distraction by the multicolored fish and flags, shapes and streamers, up against the blue sky. I wanted to lay on my back and take pictures and watch the kites fly, but we were there for a run, so we ran, and I took photos while running and wore my black hooded sweatshirt and black Ray Bans aviator sunglasses and resembled a jogging Unabomber. The kite fliers were young and old, mostly Asian, and there were many bulldogs at the park.

American flag flying high

Sofa Wranglers

Throwing the rope

Brian and I moved John’s sofa to his new apartment the cowboy way. We hog tied the couch with nylon rope, then tossed the other ends up to the second story balcony. John and I hauled up the hefty piece of furniture, hand over hand. The rope burns still smart, but it worked.

Letting it fly

I did experience one frightening moment of doubt. The couch was aloft about twelve feet in the air, swaying on the ropes, and my strength started to give. I could feel the nylon slipping between my sweaty hands, my end of the couch sliding lower. I called for help and Brian, who had been guiding us from the first floor, put out his cigarette and joined me at the rope. The three of us together heaved that sofa up onto the railing and over, like a giant metal crab pot.

John and his couch

New Wheel / Up On Fear Rock

Crouching whalehead

The back tire of my bike blew out. I brought it in for repairs. A brusque, butch woman broke the bad news. The whole wheel needed to be replaced. My one request was a C.S.I., or crime scene investigation. The bike lady did not think the wack wheel got wacked; she saw no sign of foul play. This was a relief. I thought maybe my bike was kicked. Not that I have enemies, per se, but maybe, just maybe, I annoyed someone enough to kick my bike. I can think of only about 100 people who I have recently annoyed. My worries were for naught. It was a natural break down, an erosion of sorts. It was all very natural.

The breakdown of the wheel threw off my longstanding confidence in the single speed. I still loved my bike, but the natural deterioration of the wheel caused me to worry about the bike’s integrity. So I called the repair lady over to the side, and in a hushed tone (so the bike couldn’t hear) I asked a very serious question… “Is my bike a nice bike?” She said that it was, well, it wasn’t horrible, that it probably cost $300. new, and that it was a low-end single speed. I like my bike; it suits me just fine. The new wheel is a serious piece of equipment. It may outshine the rest of the bike. I am a new man with a new wheel on a low-end cycle.

Up on fear rock

Jess and I went for another Tuesday hike today. I had a very bad Monday, a very unpleasant Monday, a Monday with too much shouting, with anger and sadness and frustration. I woke up this morning and it was a new morning and I felt better. Jess had a bad day today. I had a climbing day today. I climbed up the rocky sides of the Blue Hills, on the blue blaze trail, and got above the tree line. The city was off in the distance, and the leaves were still green but the change was in the air. The clouds above the city were stained grey on the edges.

I tried to climb atop a rock that was a whale’s head. It required a leap of faith, and I backed down.

Jess and the September skyline

Zapping A Curmudgeon

Rain on Cambridge St

It rained all weekend, which was oddly comforting to me. The muscles in my legs and back were in full revolt after Friday’s long run. The rain afforded me reason to hunker down and watch the internet. On Sunday I even glimpsed several hours of television… the U.S. Open at Eliot’s place. Roger Federer advanced over Novak Djokovic. Darth Fed hit a winner running backward between his legs, and later proclaimed it was the best shot of his career. The announcers suggested it was the equivalent of Roger slam dunking on Novak.

Afterwards we watched 60 Minutes and ate Beauty’s pizza. One of the pizzas (American Cheeseburger) was sauced with mustard, the other (Bombay Beauty) with yellow curry. Barack Obama talked about his health care speech, Ted Kennedy (posthumously) talked about his memoir, and my brain went to sleep during a segment on Guiding Light. Then Andy Rooney came on and yakked about Walter Kronkite. The one salient fact I gleaned from the emotional testimony was that Rooney was once suspended from 60 Minutes for 3 months. In that difficult period, Walter went out to dinner with Andy, in an effort to boost the public opinion of CBS’ banished bĂȘte noire.

Its not hard to imagine Andy zagging across the line of decency. I was quickly able to ascertain exactly what Andy said to get suspended. “Too much alcohol, too much food, drugs, homosexual unions, cigarettes [are] all known to lead… to premature death.” An excellent article in TIME magazine (from which this blog post gets its title) quotes from a follow-up letter Andy wrote to the L.A. Advocate. Homosexuality is a, “behavioral aberration . . . caused when a male is born with an abnormal number of female genes.” For this, Andy was thrown off the air for 90 days. You have to applaud CBS’ action, especially considering this was in 1990.

60 Minutes lost 20% of its viewers during Andy’s suspension.

The Long Run

17 river miles

I am training to run the Hartford Marathon on October 10. Every Friday I go for the long run, designed to push me closer and closer to the 26.2 mile goal. This week I am maxing out the Charles River, Cambridge to Watertown, 17 miles. The night before these runs I have trouble falling asleep… I get nervous, excited, scared. Witnesses say the sea recedes before a tsunami runs into the shore. My thoughts work in reverse before the long run. Waves of doubt wash over my brain as I anticipate the run, but then recede when I go for it. An empty head is the mark of my determination.

Boondoggle of the Century

The Singing Mullens

Sunday night, after a BBQ and beers (and Diet Cokes) we hiked up Sanctuary Road to an overlook called High Ledges. The vista encompassed the Deerfield River valley and mountains all the way out to Mt. Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. The sunset was amazing from up there. I commented to Eliot that the sunset that Sunday was an ending and a beginning.

The groom relaxes

Thank you everybody for the motivating, planning, execution of the weekend. It was an awesome group of people committed to Eliot that carried this journey forward, beginning, middle and end. Eliot sowed his wild oats.

Sunset at High Ledges


The screaming commences

Sunday morning we went white water rafting with Zoar Outdoor. Upon signing in, Jared shook the hand of the woman taking our information, but did not tell her he had slathered sun screen all over his palms. She was disgusted… later she became our river guide. Her name is Amber, and she got over the sun screen handshake. I yelled, “Yes Captain!” at each command she issued… and Brandon just screamed… an insane high pitch caterwaul, as our raft hit the rapids.

on the Deerfield River

Right before the most dangerous Dragon’s Tooth rapid, our raft flew wildly out of control and we domed a 16 year old. Our boat hit him in the head going real fast, and Eliot almost fell into the rushing river. That wasn’t our only scare in the whitewater, either… later we went swimming in the rapids, which lead to near death experiences for almost all of us. Brandon didn’t hear the Zoar people yelling for him to swim to shore, and he barely caught hold of the lifeline they threw to him.

I read about what would have happened to Brandon had he continued floating downstream in the Classic Northeastern Whitewater Guide by Bruce Lessels (founder of Zoar Outdoor)… “After a long fast tongue that pushes onto a submerged snaggletooth, a few small ledge drops lead to the Terminator hole where the entire river drops into a large powerful hydraulic over a 4-foot ledge with a nasty boulder sieve below on the left.” The Terminator hole sounds like curtains to me.