The Most Poignant of Days

I like to joke I decided to live in Boston after a guy wearing a red cup ran by me after the Boston Marathon in 2009 and I decided to stay here permanently.  Its not exactly true, but the marathon is a big reason for why I live here.

The marathon to me is like ski season.  Every year is my favorite year.  I guess I’m easy to please.

The marathon though is extra poignant.  Boston persevered after the bombing in 2013 in the most beautiful way.  Every marathon since that awful April day is more precious and more valuable.

This marathon of course was full of poignant moments.  Boston favoriteMeb Keflezighi in his last marathon stopped to embrace the family of little Martin Richard, who died in the marathon bombing in 2013.  In 2014, I watched Meb win the whole thing, proudly.  He’s my sentimental favorite and a kind of adopted Boston native son.  I saw this image (that I did not take) yesterday after the marathon and I burst into tears:

Meb Keflezighi

Its such a telling image of a city with a huge beating heart.  That’s why I love this city so much.  I hate when people say stupid things about this place, like about the restaurants or the bars closing early or whatever.  This place has a huge heart and that heart is open to everyone.  I never lived in a place with as big of a heart as Boston.

Yesterday saw a lot of big heart moments.  Marine Jose Sanchez (photo TK) ran the whole thing hoisting a giant American flag, pole and all.  Sanchez lost one limb in Afghanistan and had the other severely damaged.  Team Hoyt, now just son, were out on the field.  Dick Hoyt after thirty some odd marathons is now happily retired with son Rick in the marathon with a new friend.

The whole thing is a show of the humanity and spirit of my hometown.  You see how I left out adopted.  Boston you’re my home:

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A Fight to the End

Somehow ski season always parallels my life.  I mean I guess it should but the way it goes, it does always parallel what’s going on in my life.  I had a few very turbulent months in regular world, so skiing world was also affected.

The season started with me skiing three times on unwaxed skis which made movement on them kind of difficult.  A lesson for next year, when I will definitely take my skis to get waxed before I get started with the season.

The early part of the season featured a few injuries.  I got hit by a guy so hard that I saw stars and hit the ground.  The guy was on a kind of an easy, but icy trail in Killington called Great Northern.  He was obviously skiing above his ability because he didn’t know what he was doing and was on some crappy loaners.  I woke up the next morning pretty sore and bruised up but fine.

The season did feature a couple of absolutely perfect days and one day when I thought the cold was actually going to kill me.  I was actually knocked down by a gust of wind.  Insane.

This season also brought back something that I hadn’t done for a while — falling.  This season though, I decided to record my falls proudly.  Usually though they came when I was trying to get into a lift line or at the very bottom of a ski trail.  I kind of became proud of my falls.

It was also a good season because I skied a World Cup trail and a Nor-am trail.  The World Cup of skiing passed through fair Killington in November and the race took place on Superstar, a trail I skied in a straight line in 2014.  This year I turned a lot more.  I made a wonderful new discovery this season at Stowe, when I started skiing the Main Street race course on the Sensation quad.  That’s a Nor-am trail, a skiing circuit that is one step below the World Cup.  I had long wanted to ski that trail and I finally got the chance to do it this season.  I zoomed up and down in, usually at 3pm a bunch of times and loved every minute of it.  Its groomed and steep, a black diamond of the best kind.  My favorite.

At one point during ski season, I saw a photo taken by a high school nemesis of mine at a ski resort on Instagram.  She said she was a beginner at best.  I nearly wanted to write to her about how many runs I had done on that Nor-am trail that past weekend but I didn’t do it.  Maturity.  Nah, a friend talked me out of it and told me to “Let it Go.”  Well, she told me to listen to that song, but yeah basically, let it go.  Oh well.  Next time!!!!

As usual I learned a bunch of things during this season.  People always asked me what I do on the weekends and I say I go skiing and they assume its kind of a fun activity, which it is, but I started to approach it more like a professional athlete.  I’d keep track of my times, see how many runs I did, how many turns I had taken.  I got more analytical about it.

Soon after I started skiing I realized it was something I could do relentlessly and get good at.  I did gymnastics as a kid and I thought nothing would ever make me as happy as gymnastics had, but skiing fills that spot and then some.  I knew I’d have to have a goal when I started skiing and I decided to become a really good technical skier.  I wanted to go fast but I also wanted to have good form and technique while I was doing it.  I like the fact that this is something that has to be worked at, perfected over time and is never really perfected.  There’s always next season.

Ski season, goes out softly at Wachusett or as a friend of mine once called “Watch-you-tits.”

Watch-your-own-tits!!!!!!!:

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Never Mess with Ski Season

Recently I published my unbreakable rules for life on Facebook and I’m going to republish them here:

1. Never mess with the people that touch your food or medicines.
2. Ski season is holy.
3. No riding the green line after 10pm.
4. Haagen Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond is the greatest ice cream flavor in the world.
5. If you eat my ice cream, you get the sword.
6. Prince George is the cutest baby/toddler/future monarch in the world.
7. There’s only one acceptable baseball team to root for. They are named the Boston Red Sox.
8. You can never have enough dry erase markers.
9. The same applies for Under Armour shirts.
10. When I say we are meeting at 6pm and you arrive at 6pm, you are, in my mind, late. Being on time means being early. Actually being on time is late.
11. Never hit the snooze button.
12. People who don’t like dogs are inherently untrustworthy. There are notable exceptions to this rule.
13. I operate like baseball. Three strikes and you are out.
14: Outside > inside

Notice rule #2 — Ski season is holy.  Oh and ski season is holy.  Now ever since I instituted that rule, my life had become a lot better.  By the first weekend in January, the ski season schedule has been set until the end of February.

Thus far never letting anything or anyone mess with ski season has worked out quite well.  I never started Pepi’s famous massive papers until ski season was over.  In 2014, when I had to author my second one, I told Pepi that ski season was over and that I could start working on his paper.  His response was “I’m glad to see you have your priorities straight in life.”  You are damn right.

I choose to take my ending exam for my masters degree in the fall rather than the spring not to interfere with ski season.  Recently I had an employer who threatened to interfere with ski season, but I quit that job, following through on my rules.

Skiing has done no end of good for me.  I go to the gym because of it but most of all, it had established boundaries in my life.  I have an elaborate set of rules that I follow connected to ski season.  I work out, I keep my equipment in good shape.  I’m careful when I ski those demonic hills of snow called moguls.  I even pack an entire change of clothes for a little thing I like to call apres ski.  A particular favorite is an alpine themed onesie.

Last weekend I went to Stowe where I experienced a dream like ski day that goes into the top five ever in ski trips.  The conditions were perfect.  The wind wasn’t blowing on me.  Today I went to Sunday River, where the weather was perfect but my skis are starting to feel a bit of the end of season wax loss.

Its funny how when I have a so so ski day I still think about how next week will be.  Will it be a good day, or a bad day or what it will be.  Ski season 2017 will be over soon and I will shed a tear!!!!

Today I looked around at the Maine countryside when we were leaving Sunday River and I thought about all the happy weekends I’ve spent skiing.

Ski season is indeed holy:

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Let’s Get Snapping and Cracking

I said that one day to one of my students and he thought it was so funny.  I told him I’d heard a guy say it in a movie and I thought it was clever so I took it for myself.

I didn’t just hear any guy say that.  I heard Bill Cunningham, a demigod around these parts say it.

A couple days ago Bill came to mind when I was in downtown in the rain.  I was watching all the people go by and seeing them kind of trying to get out of the rain and just moving around naturally that made me think of him taking pictures of people in the rain.  It made me miss the boss, I mean my photographic boss.  There’s the most adorable Instagram page by John Kurdewan, who used to work for Bill called “Work for Bill C” with pictures of “the boss” as he called him.  Its nice to see how good their relationship was, even if obviously he had driven John crazy!!!!!

Bill is in heaven now, undoubtedly talking to Brassai, Weegee and Ansel Adams.  I hope they are listening carefully to him.

For Bill:

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They Were All Unique In Their Own Way

E.M. Forster wrote those words at the end of A Room With A View, a slender tome that was turned into a wonderful 1980s period piece starring Julian Sands and Helena Bonham Carter.

Its a movie I have loved since I was about nine years old when it came out.  Buttoned up Lucy visits Florence with her yet more buttoned up chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett.  While in Italy, Lucy’s eyes are opened to a new world and her sort of conservative existence is broken up by encountering the independent, worldly (and hot AF) Julian Sands.  Julian Sands, if you ever come up here, email me!!!!  Nah, I’m kidding.

The movie shows a young woman opening herself up to new ideas and different types of people.  One time I was watching Gilmore Girls, a show I generally like and Rory was showing the movie as a way to make fun of the fact that she had gone to Italy with her grandmother and her grandmother was so buttoned up and conservative.  It was bunk.  A Room with A View is totally not about that at all.

Anyway, I’ve seen the movie enough times not only to have it memorized but also to have retraced the steps of the entire thing on a trip to Italy a few years ago.  I just had to go to the places where Lucy and George had fallen in love!!!!!

That line at the end of the movie always stuck in my mind that all the people that Lucy had met at the Pensione Bertollini were all unique in their own way.  It was something I thought of in the past few days.

A few days ago marked the second anniversary of the death of Pepi Leistyna, a professor I had in UMass Boston who passed away on March 26, 2015.  I think about Pepi more now than when he was alive and I talk about him a lot more.  I tell all of my students about the crazy guy who wore a rope as a belt and talked incessantly about his cats.  What’s even more interesting is how much I go back to the ideas that Pepi espoused and I wonder what would he have thought of the recent political turn of events in the United States.

A couple of months after Pepi passed away, I started studying for my comprehensive exam, the last exam I had to take to get my masters in applied linguistics.  Everyday for three months my diligent (and hilarious) Brazilian best friend and study partner poured through our notes from our classes trying to gather and remember every single detail so we could reproduce it on the exam.  I hated Pepi for making me write those 150 page papers when he was alive, but when I was studying, I knew why I had to do them.  Going through every single reading clapped that information into my brain permanently.  My Brazilian study partner and I passed our exam on the first try, thanks in large part to Pepi.

The next year for me was a rough one.  Work became a trying experience and a place where I could see a lot of Pepi’s ideas in play.  Who gets to study English in the United States?  How is that divided up by class and money and not ability.  The more I saw the world in Pepi’s terms, the more I knew I had to leave my job and work in a place that was more hospitable to the ideas of respect and cultural awareness he had espoused.

Recently I’ve started to think of Pepi in different terms.  Whereas before I thought of how sad it was that he wasn’t around to see us graduate and go on to do great things, now I had started to appreciate the fact that he had forced me to be so critical of the world around me.  I’ll never get to talk to him but he will live on in his ideas.

Maybe if they make a movie about Pepi one day (and they should) these would be some of the film stills, perhaps shown at the end of the movie:
boston allston twin donuts sunset

boston brighton sunset
Today I attended a hilarious round table discussion at UMass Boston entitled “Fake News, Alternative Facts and Trump Speak.”  It was a talk given by Professor Charles Meyer, the first professor I ever had in my masters degree.

It was Professor Meyer’s class that I had directly after Pepi’s death had been announced and it was in his class where we all enjoyed one last hilarious Pepi story.  We all went around the room and talked about our experiences with Pepi.  I shared how Pepi had always said that Chuck Meyer wrote a book about the word “the” and he’d rather die than read a book about the word “the.”  It was Pepi’s weird way of showing us that linguistics was pretty multifaceted and that yeah, there were corpus linguists like Professor Meyer but there were also applied linguists like Pepi who looked at language from a political standpoint.

Professor Meyer laughed at this anecdote and said “I never wrote a book about the word ‘the.'” I guess it was Pepi, still ribbing us even after he had passed away.  That story always makes me laugh.

Professor Meyer’s talk was pretty much like fertilizer for any kind of linguistically geared mind.  He had found a linguistic corpora of Trump’s previous speeches and Twitter transmissions and had done frequency searches on Trump’s childish nicknames for Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.  He looked at Trump from a purely linguistic point of view, veering slyly into political commentary.  At one point he goes “I was going to show YouTube clips of Trump, but I choose sound files so we don’t have to look at him.”  Here are some photos I snapped with my crappy phone camera:

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The talk had a work sheet and featured the slide with the alien endorsing Clinton for president.  The whole thing was so much fun and so engaging.

I thought the whole time about the quote from E.M. Forster, about how all of those people in the Pensione Bertollini had been unique in their own way and in equal measure, the people I met at UMass Boston in the Applied Linguistics program were also unique in their own ways.  In their own special ways.  One man who talks about cats, who lies about another man writing a book about the word “the.”  Another person using classical linguistic analysis methods to dissect the language of what is surely a mad man.

Not bad for a place I choose to go to because it was near work and cheap.  That’s another lesson.  High expectations are meant to be dashed but having no expectations mean that they cannot be dashed.

 

 

A man is whatever room he is in right now – Japanese Proverb

As uttered by the incomparable Bertram Cooper, played by the equally incomparable Robert Morse on Mad Men.  Occasionally when I need a little mental reset, I re-watch the entire Mad Men series.  I always liked the Bert Cooper character.  He was a good counter-balance to Roger Sterling and the other rogues on the show.

Let’s consider though the quote from the beginning for a second.  A man is whatever room he is right now.  What does it mean?  Do we assume that the person is who he claims he is when he walks into a room?  Are we to forget the person’s past transgressions?  He is whatever room he is in?  So we are to assume who he say he is is actually who he is.

Don Draper is a broken narcissist played by the real Dick Whitman, who sought to run away from his sad life.  What does drive people to seek a new identity?  Is it sadness, pain or something else?

Come out, come out wherever you are.

Well with the photos for this one, we’re going with some dark ones I took during the last snow storm.  Mistaken identity is kind of dark, as are the photos:

boston allston corner harvard avenueboston aquarium station black whiteboston aquarium station tunnelboston back bay snow darkboston back bay snow dark 2boston boston common black white pathsboston brookline snow darknessboston downtown man walking with child in steamboston downtown man walking with child in steam 2boston downtown man walking with child in steam 3boston fenway snow 1boston fenway snow 2boston fenway snow 3boston fenway snow 5boston fenway snow 6boston fenway snow 7

 

If You Didn’t Struggle, Then You Never Did It

When I tell people I go skiing, I get a variety of reactions.  Some people tell me that they took a ski lesson and on the first day, they skied down the black diamond.  This used to annoy me endlessly because I had gone skiing about 15 times before I even attempted one and I still remember it.  I was at Stratton Mountain and I could feel the steepness of that trail in every movement I took on that trail.  I was in disbelief when I got off of it that I had gotten to the bottom.  I alerted the world about it immediately when I was done.  Of course I’ve skied multiple blacks and double blacks since then but I would have never gone out into the world and claimed that I did that right after I had learned to ski.

A guy I knew once made this claim that he had gone on black on his first day of skiing and I immediately told him his claim was laughable.  First, you get short loaner skis on your first day which do not go that fast.  The key on blacks is making quick turns which you can’t make on short loaner skis.  Those skis aren’t even meant to be used on such terrain and using them on blacks is stupid and careless.  Those skis aren’t regularly waxed or sharpened so its actually dangerous to ski such steep terrain on such skis.  This puts you at risk for a broken leg or something worse.  So even if you did do this, it was sorta stupid anyway and nothing to show off about to people who actually ski.

Another time I was struck by people grandstanding about skiing and abilities in general was when I was watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey.  Now of all the Housewives shows, the New Jersey gals are (I’m sorry) my least favorite.  My favorite group in the franchise is Beverly Hills because of their fabulous homes and attitudes.  Erika Girardi/Erika Jayne — I may be two people but I’m not two faced!!!!!  Extraordinary.  Erika, if you ever come east, please drop me a line so I can find out how to do my makeup as fabulously as you.  Well anyway, the Jersey ones aren’t my favorite because of the continual fighting and the fact that they remind me of the people I knew in New York.

Well anyway, one day I read in some TV guide that an episode of that show was to take place in Stowe, Vermont.  Stowe is a place I know very well and have spent a lot of time in and thoroughly enjoy.  I wanted to see what they were going to do up there and where they were going to go.  There was the continuation of fighting and oh yeah, some skiing.

I was curious to see if they would actually do any skiing in Stowe.  If you went to Stowe and didn’t ski, that would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel tower.  I’m watching the show and Joe Gorga goes “I’m really good at skiing.  I could have gone to the Olympics.”  Funny in the ten or so other times I had watched the show before he had never mentioned how he was this extraordinary skier.  So they finally cut to the scene where they all ski.  I knew the area exactly where they were skiing.  There’s Joe ON CROSS COUNTRY SKIS.  They all were.  Stowe has some fine cross country trails but let’s be real here.  When you say skiing, you mean downhill, alpine, not cross country.  Oh and Joe Gorga trips and falls and gets caught up in some trees when he’s skiing.  Sorry Joe, but not exactly Olympic material.

My entire life I’ve always heard other people saying things about how they never struggled with anything.  Its all easy for them.  Yeah, black diamond on their first day.  But after I started going skiing and doing it a lot, I realized that those people are just all talk.  Those aren’t the people who go skiing all the time.  The people who ski all the time never say things like that.  I had a snowboarder tell me once that he had broken 58 bones in the time since he’d started snowboarding.  Now that’s a real snowboarder.

Lucky for me, I’ve never broken anything but I have had plenty of struggles while skiing.  I’ve skied over to things that were way too difficult for me to ski on with the ability I had at the time.  I’ve been waist deep in powder with my skis off, trying to get out of the situation.  If you haven’t been in that situation, then you’ve never really gone skiing.  Don’t go around making stupid claims about what you did if you never struggled.

Nobody does anything in life without struggling.  Telling people you got straight A’s and high scores with no effort is fine but it rubs most people the wrong way.  Showing that you struggled, admitting that you struggled is human.  We all struggle.  Going around and acting like you always got straight A’s and got high scores on everything means you never did anything.  That you are in all likelihood a liar and a fraud.  Real people struggle with things and have problems.  Only fakes pretend like it all came easily to them and they did no work.

Hows about my latest ski trips?  Oh man Sunday River last weekend, like butter.  Best runs ever!!!!!  The snow was sparkly and wonderful.  On one run, called the Right Stuff on Barker Mountain, as I went down a gust of wind mixed with snow blew on me and I thought “this isn’t good” but down I went on the trail, half iced over.  By the bottom, I was flying and super happy.

Yesterday I went to Stowe, which was in the midst of a crazy storm.  When we got to the mountain, I couldn’t even see it.  It was covered in snow that kept coming down.  Oh and the cold.  Yeah, it was a two face mask kind of a day.  The conditions on the mountain were pretty good but the wind and the cold?  Well, put it this way.  I was at the top of the mountain when a gust of wind nearly knocked me down and when the wind blew, it felt like needles in my eyes.  It was kinda awful.  OK really awful.  I got frostbite too again in my face and fingers.  A guy from ski patrol actually stopped me and told me I had frostbite and to go in and get warm.  I was a little disoriented and a little lightheaded.  Sometimes the elements beat you, but any day when you get to ski, is a good day.  A few photos from recent ski adventures:

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