10,000 Men of Fordham

I had a lot of alternate titles in my mind for this entry but this I think captures what I want to say in the best way possible.

Every year I am honored to receive a few invitations to commencements here in Boston and at locations nearby.  I’ve watched students graduate from quite a few great institutions here in the Boston area over the past few years.

This year I received an invitation to attend a commencement at Fordham University.  Despite having grown up around the university, I had never been there.

Going there meant going back to Westchester, a place I have a fraught relationship with.  Westchester I always say is a place best seen in the rear view of your car.  Or better yet — in the dark.  LOL.

This time I used AirBnB to get my accommodation.  I stayed at a house in White Plains, near where I went to high school.  I talked to the host.  I told her I had gone to high school in Valhalla, near White Plains.  Even saying that feels incredibly strange considering I left the area as soon as high school ended.  I almost added — I went to high school in Valhalla in another version of reality on another planet.

Per usual, since I almost nearly never leave the state of Massachusetts anymore, I got culture shock when I went to New York.  I tried to show the Metro North driver my Charlie card.  I thought White Plains was in a zone.  I couldn’t remember what the stops were before White Plains.  I automatically looked for a Dunkin’ Donuts to get my morning caffeine.  I’ll just say it.  I missed my pilgrim hats and my faux England.  New York.  That’s just not my life anymore.

The graduation at Fordham was the grandest affair I have ever attended.  I will describe the grandness of it below and makes slyly sarcastic jokes along the way.  If you aren’t a fan of my borderline socialist humor or references to the Romanov family, skip down to the part where I talk about why I even went to graduation or just to the photography.  Your choice.

Well, thanks for deciding to stay.  So the Fordham graduation.  First there was enough bunting on all the building to hold a political convention.  On this Ivy League looking building, there was a banner that at least two stories high.

It took an hour just to seat all the graduates of each of the constituent colleges of Fordham University.  There was a kind of red carpet runway in the middle of everything, where proud parents could photograph their graduate.  Like they photograph the movie stars at Cannes.

Then there was the entrance of all the university deans, presidents, rectors, chancellors, associate deans, assistant associate deans and associate associate deans.  All the colored robes, I got lost.  Again, I think there might be fewer people in robes present at a papal conclave.  I think one of them was holding a scepter, like you know you’d see your average monarch carrying.

There was also a procession of Fordham alums, outfitted in maroon sashes.  Add to the pageantry of the whole thing I guess.

Finally things got rolling.  We had to sing the anthem and pray.  I almost yelled “play ball” after the anthem.  Praying.  So much praying.  I guess because Fordham is a jesuit institution.  But I say fewer amens at my Sunday church service.  I thought of what Bishop Michael Curry of Royal Wedding fame said.  I could hear those quiet British amens when he did the reading at Prince Harry’s wedding a year ago.  We could have used some quiet British amens at that moment.  Subaru!!!!!!!!!

I was there alone, waiting for my “child” to graduate.  More on that a bit later.  I had a bit of time to soak in all the pageantry.  I nearly stood up during the introduction of every last dean at the papal conclave, I mean graduation ceremony and said — I object!!!!  The graduation ceremony can’t continue until you reveal how much you actually pay your adjuncts!!!!!!!  LOL!!!!!  Nah, I didn’t do that.  I’m socialist but I also don’t want to spoil people’s fun.

I thought with all of this pomp and circumstance and pageantry you should marry off a prince, crown a Russian emperor, nominate a political candidate and of course choose a pope.  It seemed a lot of big deal for just handing a person a paper that says “your diploma is in the mail once we actually figure out if you graduated.  Have a nice day.”

Oh and my “child” I was there to see graduate.  Well, of course not my actual child I birthed but as close as I have to a child.  On the way over to the graduation, a guy asked me what school my child was graduating from.  I didn’t have to time to explain that my child wasn’t graduating, so I said “oh, she’s an undergraduate.”  Funny that.

I was there to see Tami Tu graduate.  Tami was one of the first students I ever taught.  I taught her in 2011, when I was on the job for a year.  I wasn’t even sure at that point if I was going to continue.  Tami was in this funny class with a pregnant lady and a tremendously difficult group of people to teach.  Tami was so little when I taught her.  Just 14 and in the United States alone.  At that point I was still wearing a watch my parents had given for high school graduation.  My watch was 16 at that point and this human in front of me was 14.  I knew immediately she needed an adult in her life.

I was Tami’s adult for the years.  We hung out and went shopping.  She could talk to me like an older sister.  I gave her advice like she needed to find a good mentor to guide her through the next few years.  I even put her in touch with my mentor to help her along the way.

So I was there yelling and cheering loudly and embarrassingly at Tami when she graduated.  Happily.  Because she needed me to be there.

And then one day you watch a person you taught when they were 14 graduate from college.  Just like that, the time passes by so quickly.

Commencement.  The beginning.

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I’m Pretty But Tough Like A Diamond Or Beef Jerky in a Ball Gown

Yes the title is interesting but we will get back to it eventually.

This whole entry is going to be about my love for a show called The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  I will fan girl.  Jon Hamm, aka Donald Draper, will make a cameo.  Mostly I will talk about about my love for Titus Burgess.  Scroll down if none of this appeals to you.

So in 2015, I was cruising through New York Magazine and there was a little post about the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which according to the magazine is the funniest show you are not watching.  So I decided to start watching it.

The show came along at the perfect time.  In case you haven’t seen it, it’s about a woman who escapes from an underground bunker she was trapped in by an insane reverend.  It’s HILARIOUS.  No really.

I watched the first episode, where Kimmy goes on TV after getting out of the bunker and when she meets Titus Andromedon, star on the rise.  She becomes Titus’s roommate and she basically lives in his closet.

What got to me about the show was Kimmy’s unshakeable optimism and positivity.  She stayed positive no matter what.  I needed that at the moment when I started watching the show, when things in my life were kind of difficult.

And then there’s Titus.  He’s full of dreams, disappointments and one liners.  He’s also incredibly talented, with a beautiful singing voice.  He’s the heart of the show too.  He’s very openly gay on the show.  My favorite episode is when he goes to a coach who is supposed to make him act less gay.  He sits at a bar wearing a sports jersey and just looks into the camera and says “sports.”

GOLD.

Anyway, I heard the cast was going to be in Harvard Square on May 9.  Of course I had to go and take 10000 pictures of everyone.  I thought I would just go and they would be paraded through Cambridge.

I get there and the cast is getting on a duck boat but they were kind of mingling with everyone.  I saw Titus and I thought — maybe I can go take a picture with him.  That would be kind of funny.

I went over to him and asked to take a picture with him.  Then I told him how he got me through graduate school.  And I told him I loved him.  And he said it back!!!!!!!!!  Then, in all of my excitement, I kind of backed in a guy …. who turned out to be Jon Hamm!!!!!!!!!!  Not your average day when you step on Don Draper’s feet.

Everyone was yelling “we love you Titus.”  Titus took a video and put it on his Instagram.  I’m on Titus’s Instagram!!!!!!

The cast gets on the duck boat and Jon Hamm is taunting all of us by yelling out that the Red Sox suck.  He yelled out some other pretty funny stuff and was making a lot of faces.  It was ridiculously funny.  And I got to meet Titus and tell him how I felt about him!!!!!!!

Anyway, below are some pics of my little adopted sitcom family!!!!!!

I LOVE YOU TITUS!!!!!!

 

The World Is Coming To Boston

Warning.  There will be a story, then I’ll summarize today’s marathon and then pictures.  If you have no interest in the prose, scroll down now.

Hi, thanks for staying.  Well, here’s the story.  I’m kind of a cheese ball about sports and I remember the exact moment when they set in.  It started with the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.  For some reason, this was the first Olympics I watched.  To say I became obsessed with the Olympics after this is an understatement.

But 1984 has always had a special place in my heart.  We had been in America about three years at that point but I felt this tremendous swell of pride in the nation.  The Los Angeles games showed this at its best.

There’s a three hour documentary about the 1984 Olympics called 16 Days of Glory.  The colors are a bit 80s, the soundtrack is a bit old fashioned but the sentiment remains.  Here we watch the people at their athletic peak on the world’s largest stage.

The narrator at the beginning of 16 Days of Glory says “the world is coming to Los Angeles.”

Well, today the world came to Boston.  The Boston Marathon is the best day of the year here in the fair state of Massachusetts.  There were very dire predictions about the weather but they didn’t come true, thank god.  I might have gotten a bit of a sunburn today.

Even after all of these years I still get chills when I see the timing car coming, with the eventual winner of the marathon behind it.  It reminds me of the first shot in 16 Days of Glory when the torch bearer approaches the Olympic stadium.

This year the women’s winner, Worknesh Degefa had left the field far behind by the time she got to Kenmore Square, where I was.  The men’s side was a bit more of a horse race.  Lawrence Cherono out-sprinted Lelisa Desisa at the finish line.  I saw them when they were neck and neck.

I stick around after the winners run by.  I’m constantly amazed by the number of countries I see represented and how many different abilities I also see in front of me.

It’s always a great day.  It’s the day when the world comes to Boston.

Teacher, Photographer, Giver of Hugs

That used to be my bio on Instagram.  It also says “still pronounce my R’s despite living in Boston for ten years.”  That part I’ll have to change soon because the word “habar” has come out of my mouth recently!!!!!

I recently changed it recently to “skier, photographer, giver of hugs.”  I put skier first now, because I like to brag like that!!!!

But here I’m going to focus on the giver of hugs part.  That part took the longest to develop.  For once, this wasn’t a lesson I got from skiing.  This I got when I started being a teacher and from church.  Empathy or comfort was not natural for me until I started being a teacher and I had to cope with a million emotions a day from the students.  It made me grow patience and empathy.

Well I guess skiing had a little to do with it too.  When I started going skiing, I saw a lot of adaptive skiers at the different places I went.  I remember how shocked I was the first time I saw a guy wearing a sign that said “BLIND” and he’s zigzagging down the hill.  One of the ski instructors told me the blind skiers go faster than the sighted skiers.

I remember another time seeing a skier wearing a special Olympics lanyard.  He was in line with the rest of us and he had about 50 ski tickets attached to his jacket.  There he was, the same as us, in line waiting to zoom down the mountain.  I was even envious of all of his ski tickets!!!!

What also really got my attention were the paraplegic skiers or those in the adaptive sitting skis.  Skiing has been such a psychological life line for me and I can imagine it is very much the same way for a person who has a disability.  I am always happy to see an instructor going up on a chair lift with one of those skiers.  Not only is the person on the adaptive ski getting to learn about an amazing sport but they know that the instructor is going to be there for them for the entire day.

Skiing has given me so much over the years.  Most of all, it has given me a feeling of confidence.  In the pictures below, there is one of a trail at Loon I skied.  It was very steep but I assessed it and handled it.  When I see myself handling the bumps and the steep parts of the mountain, I know I can pretty much handle everything else too.  Because life is full of black diamonds, some easier to handle than others.

I’ve heard within the past few days that Betsy “Ten Yachts” Devos, that empty hairdo in a pant suit, tried to get federal funding cut for the Special Olympics.  I’m going to leave further ridicule of her to the late night talk show hosts.  I try to stay apolitical up here.  What I will say is that it takes a really special kind of a cruel person to deprive people whose abilities are different than ours the chance to experience sports.  For a person like me who is abled and is privileged enough to go skiing, the sport has given me confidence beyond measure.  I’m more accountable and more organized, thanks to skiing.  It has made me care about my own well being and fitness level to an extent I never had before.  I can only imagine what skiing or any other sport can do or mean for a person who has been told their entire life that they will never live the life that we all take for granted.

Thanks Loon for this unbelievable season.  And I got to ride the little train!!!!!  I might be a little excited about that!!!!

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This Never Gets Old

I’m getting crazy nostalgic this year.  This is the year that marks ten years of me living in Boston.  As I write that, it seems unbelievable to me.

My initial plan when I came here was to stay a year, at the most.  I didn’t even think I’d make it the year.  I’d learn to be an English teacher and move to Paris or Rome and just live there.  Falling in love with Boston was a slow process.  The first year, I thought what is there even to do here?  The second year, the skiing thing started and it has happily continued into a crazy all consuming obsession.  I mean I don’t really need to talk about that because a lot of my entries cover that already.

Its funny because I’m almost continually here.  I never really leave, maybe for a week or two weeks at the most.  I realized that not only have I lived here longer than any other place I have lived in my life, but I’m continuously here.  I go to Vermont or New Hampshire for snow related fun but I always return.  I’ve lived in Boston longer than the total time I spent in my life in Poland, longer than the time I spent in high school and college put together and longer than I lived in Manhattan.  Crazy.

I realized too that I’ve also been in so many different buildings here.  I went to college in Albany, New York and there was a concert hall there as part of this concrete complex named after Nelson Rockefeller.  There’s also the state capitol building.  I never went into either, never had any curiosity about those places and really didn’t care about them.  Here I’ve been in the state house upwards for 100 times.  Same with almost every museum in this place.

And somehow it never gets old.  I love my weekends in Vermont, my afternoons in Coolidge Corner.  Ten years.  Is a long time.  But it can also be a good time.

Speaking of things I return to a lot, here are some pictures of Boston covered in snow.  That also never gets old:

The League of Professional Museum Goers

Here I go again.  Yesterday I visited the Museum of Fine Arts, for probably the 400th time.  I’m exaggerating, but maybe not by much.  It was a really fun afternoon with a big group of Japanese high school kids.  I took them around to see what I thought were the funnier parts of the museum, like the sculpture made out of paper cups, the painting in the American wing where all the faces are the same and a little history lesson with the portraits for the first couple presidents of the United States.  One of them even asked me what my favorite painting was in the museum.  It’s a John Singer Sargent of a lady wearing an amazing red dress, but it seems to have been moved.

Walking around though, I realized I hadn’t shot the place using my wide angle lens yet.  It was fun to do, just kind of give the place a new look.

See if you like it:

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This Persistent Vagabondage

Yeah self important title, but stay with me.  It will get good.

So its time for my annual skiing contemplation blog entry.  Scroll down for the photographic magic if you are not a fan of reading.

Good.  You decided to stay.  Well, here’s a bit of what I have been thinking about on the ski lift of late.  The first thing I thought of lately is that skiing is hugely private for me.  We leave in the middle of the night for the trips.  Getting up at 4:15am is normal.  Sometimes its 3:45am.  I get on the bus and I fall asleep IMMEDIATELY.  Then I wake up and we’re magically in Vermont, Maine or New Hampshire.  None of my friends ever see me do this and my family doesn’t either.  I don’t see anyone I know on the mountain.  Sometimes I might run into people from the ski club that I go on the trips with, but mostly I do this solitary.

Maybe this would bother some people but not me.  Skiing is my own private thing that I just do alone.  I also like the fact that I’m mostly silent for the entire day.  I like talking to the people on the lifts, especially ski patrol but sometimes its just me and my fellow skier heading up the mountain, alone in silence.  Sometimes people start conversation with me in the lodge, sometimes not.  But this silence helps me straighten out whatever I need to straighten out for the week or from a long time before.

Ah yes, the vagabondage that is included in the title.  It refers to a line from Philipe Petit, my favorite folk hero, the crazy person who swung a tight rope between the two towers of the World Trade Center.  He said that when other worlds invite us, that we must go.  That’s how I feel about skiing.  He also said that his walk between the towers was an intimate performance between him and the towers, which is also how I feel about skiing.  My persistent vagabondage, testing the laws of gravity with the waxed boards on my feet.

I’m up there hitting my own goals and milestones too.  They aren’t milestones that make sense to most people.  I skied this black six times in a straight line.  I skied it four times and I carved half of the way down.  I need to do that run again because I was turning too much.  I could go faster than I was going before.  I stayed on black until 3:45pm, the end of the ski day.  Perfecting, perfecting, perfecting.  I was talking to my mom recently about skiing and of course I used an analogy from my other favorite sport, gymnastics.  I’m more Morgan Hurd than Olga Korbut.  Morgan is the pint sized, glasses wearing, incredibly poised 17 year old who was world champion in 2017.  Her gymnastics is about perfect execution and beauty.  She’s not a daredevil like Olga Korbut.  Neither am I.  Early on, I realized its a sport about form, not speed.  Then I really fell in love.

Well, anyway, some photography here at the end.  Sorry I didn’t take more pictures.  I was too busy skiing:

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