Posted on January 23, 2018
Ski season is well underway now and the word “barty” has finally made it to my blog!!!!
Well anyway, here goes another one of my long blog entries about how much I love to ski. Skip the prose and go straight to the photography if you find that boring.
Yesterday I went to Cannon Mountain in Franconia, New Hampshire. That place should be called “Beginners Stay Home.” What an insane mountain.
I skied Cannon Mountain once before but I took a kind of hard spill on one of their piles of snow or “whales” as they call them. I knew it demanded a second shot.
So yesterday as I do every weekend in winter, I arrived at Back Bay station at 5:30am to board a bus to New Hampshire with something like three hours of sleep. Usually I get on the bus and fall blissfully asleep, awakening to snow capped mountains.
Yesterday, no such luck. Two guys behind me spent the ENTIRE three hour ride discussing jobs in IT and trips to Canada while I blocked my ears and shot them dirty looks. I thought it was going to be a ruined ski day.
I grabbed some breakfast and headed out to explore Cannon Mountain. Now most ski resorts have little base areas for beginners with little green runs for everyone. I usually do one or two runs on those to warm up and to see what the days conditions are like. No such luck yesterday. The bottom of the mountain is crowded and narrow and only has blues. I mean I do fine on blue trails too. The ones I skied though yesterday at the bottom were pretty narrow. I kinda felt like if I just took one wrong step, I’d be off that mountain.
So I searched for better places to ski. I took the lift up higher in the mountain and found what I was looking for. Near the Mittersell Peak (featured below) I found some really nice blue and black trails. I saw a trail that looks all right and I went down it, realizing about halfway down that it was MUCH steeper than I had suspected it would be. But as always it was fine.
A ski day is always good. I talk to the people on the lifts, which is great fun. Everyone is in a good mood, full of endorphins and fun. One new thing I’ve started doing is praying on the ski lift. I’ve recently taken a more spiritual outlook into my life and I use the lift time I say a few prayer, privately. It feels really good.
As I always say, skiing has taught me more than anything else I have ever done. It has taught me discipline, fight, how to be humble and so much more. Sometimes when I ski, I think of a person I used to work with who told me that he went skiing in Montana and he skied a black trail his first time on skis. I told him that he was full of crap and that he was lucky he was alive because he was skiing on loaner, unsharpened skis that were probably too short to be on that terrain anyway. Yeah. I’m savage. Ok little dude. If you are so good at skiing, come ski on Cannon Mountain with me sometime.
Anyway, here are some photos from Cannon and a bunch of other places I went this season. Missing from these photos — my first ski trip of the season with one patch of snow, 30 ski patrol and DIRT. I love you Wachusett!!!!
Enough talking. Time for some ski photos:
Posted on January 11, 2018
While in Florida, I went to the Downton Abbey exhibit at the Lightener museum in St. Augustine. The exhibit, which I will write about in this entry was beautiful, but it also got me thinking about how my family kinda resembled the Crawleys of Downton Abbey.
Obviously, no, I’m not descended from landed English aristocracy. Actually many Poles believe themselves to be related to some long ago lost aristocracy. My uncle did a genealogy on at least his side of the family and we’re definitely not aristocratic, which doesn’t bother me one bit.
Anyway, so I wanted to write a bit about my mother’s side of the family, the Badzian/Pietraszkiewicz/Kobos side. If I missed a letter in the alphabet, let me know.
Here’s my grandmother Zosia with her sister, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (more on her in a little while):
My grandmother is the one in the ruffled shirt. Her sister, Krysia (the aforementioned Dowager Countess) is there looking chic in her sweater and skirt.
My mother and I like to say that my grandmother’s life story kinda follows that of Lady Sybil and Branson, the politically agitating chauffeur. My grandfather Ferdinand (or Fema as he was known his entire life) was a chauffeur for a wealthy Jewish family in my and my grandparents home city of Lodz in between the wars. My grandfather Fema had emigrated to Poland when he was 12 from Siberia. His first language was Russian and he learned Polish when he came to Poland. He told me stories about life in Lodz with open sewers and when the tram cost one grosz (a cent).
My grandparents met when my grandmother was 12 and my grandfather was 18. By all accounts, it was love at first sight, but an interesting match to say the least. My grandmother wasn’t aristocratic but she came from an intellectual family. She’d been educated in French and finished high school, which wasn’t as common as it is now. I’m not even sure how much schooling my grandfather had, but I do know that when he was in his 40s, he went back to finish elementary school.
I see a lot of parallels between my grandparents and Sybil and Branson. I’m sure my grandparents faced a lot of opposition to their match. My grandmother worked in a bank for her career. She was a liberated kind of a career woman, when this wasn’t as accepted as it is now. My grandfather moved from chauffeur to auto mechanic. I still remember his collection of spare auto parts. He had a crazy boxer dog that had to be chained up in the house. To keep the animal from jumping on people, he fashioned a kind of indoor leash that was attached to the door to the balcony. The indoor leash was from a brake line he had saved. I always remember the sheer hilarity of the dog getting tangled up in the drapes all the time.
Here’s my grandfather with his two favorite things in the world — his granddaughter and his boxer:
My grandfather was a simple man. He loved his pipe, his boxer, his sports, his job and his darling grandchild!!!! I spent a lot of time with him when I was a small child. One day I’ll write a blog entry about our relationship.
In this blog entry though, I wanted to focus on how the family kind of followed the way the of the Crawley clan. From my mother’s telling, there was always a tension in the family between my educated grandmother and my simpler grandfather. Downstairs and upstairs had mixed, like Lady Sybil and Branson and like on the show, it wasn’t the easiest of matches.
Then there was the Dowager Countess of Grantham, my great aunt Krysia. Maggie Smith and her sarcastic quips always reminded my mother of her aunt Krysia. For my part, I was also on the receiving end of some quips from my great aunt Krysia. For some reason, she didn’t enjoy the fact that I wanted to show all of my cousins how to do cartwheels and handstands. I was kind of a wild kid with a lot of energy and this didn’t exactly sit well with the Dowager Countess…
Well going back to the Downton exhibit, as I walked through it, I thought of my grandmother. The exhibit featured all the famous outfits from the show. I saw the beautiful coat with the fur collar that Mrs. Levinson wore on her visit to Highclere. There was the Dowager Countess’s suit with the bustle on it and Lord Grantham’s army uniform. There was Branson’s chauffeur outfit and many of the stunning evening gowns worn by the Crawley sisters.
As I walked through the exhibit, I could not believe the workmanship on the clothes. They were made to measure and perfect for all the characters. These did not seem like outfits anyone had bought at a local GAP.
You could see the differences in social class in the clothes that the characters wore. Lord and Lady Grantham wore things that were made of the finest fabrics and made to measure. Branson’s chauffeur’s outfit was made from twill, a fairly common fabric now but back them most definitely not something worn by an English lord. There was a section in the exhibit with military uniforms made from fabrics that are very commonly used now to make cargo pants. In the exhibit, its even pointed out that military uniforms were some of the first mass produced garments and that the production methods used to make them are still in use now.
My grandmother was too young to be part of the generation of young people on Downton Abbey but her attitudes were of that time. I remember how horrified she was when I showed up to visit her wearing my t-shirt from my summer YMCA gymnastics camp along with my jeans. Here I was wearing something made from men’s undershirt material, paired with pants that were made of the fabric used to make farmer’s clothing. I didn’t really understand why my grandmother was so taken aback by what I was wearing but looking at the Downton clothes, I fully understand. I think to my grandmother, I was wearing downstairs clothes when she fully believed herself to be upstairs. I wonder sometimes what she would make of people like Jeff Bezos, who is worth approximately a gazillion and a half dollars wearing jeans and a fleece all the time, not to mention her granddaughter who wears ski pants and leggings!!!
Anyway, let’s see what the Downton people wore, upstairs and downstairs:
Posted on January 6, 2018
So I made my annual southern migration during the holidays to enjoy the Floridian delights. Heat, weird animals, Waffle Houses and Florida fun to be had. What could possibly go wrong???
OK so yeah. EVERYTHING. But worry not dear blog reading public. It was all OK in the end.
Let’s get into the time machine and go way back. Way way way way back to December 27th 2017. I know. It feels like two years ago at this point. So I depart the relative comfort of Massachusetts for the yet many splendored comfort of Florida. Get to Orlando, drive to St. Augustine and luxuriate in a condo for seven days. Heaven.
Except we get to Florida and…. it starts raining buckets. And then it got bad. We arrived at the La Terra Condo complex, located at 955 Registry Blvd in St. Augustine, FL to find…. nobody. Nobody at all. I mean there was a kind security guard at the gate to the whole thing and inside there was NOBODY. It was dark and rainy and we were instructed to go to some kind of lock boxes where there were supposed to be instructions. Spoiler alert — there were no instructions. NOTHING.
We sat in the car. We made phone calls. We called every number available and NOBODY picked up the phone. The hours wore on and it became clear that NOBODY was going to help us. We called Expedia, who kinda helped us, but really should not have listed this non-sense condo on their website in the first place. Finally at about 3am, we checked into a hotel.
The next day we went to some kind of a store front where there was supposed to be a planter with keys in it and THERE WERE NO KEYS. NOBODY WAS THERE. We went back to the La Terra to see if anyone was over there to help us. Turns out the staff at the complex actually refers to them as “La Terrible.” WOW. This was not getting off to the best start.
Expedia finally rebooked us into the next available option — a Days Inn next to not one but two sex shops and an outlet mall complex. All right.
Honestly, I hope people find this entry if they search La Terra St. Augustine. What a scam that is. What a scummy scam that is.
Anyway, the visit though continued in pretty nice fashion after the accommodation fiasco.
St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest city in America and has this sort of Florida/Southern charm about it. It looked like New Orleans, where I haven’t been yet. It had some Florida oddities which I will detail in an upcoming entry, but most of all it had this colonial, historical charm.
I thought it was going to be really Spanish, like a little Spain but it was just kinda Spain-ish. Cute, charming but not the odd, animal filled Florida I was accustomed to.
Let’s have a look see at the town itself:
Posted on January 5, 2018
Warning. I’m going to mention things that usually don’t make it onto this blog. First, politics. Second, Jersey Shore. Oh and also the bible and God, but that’s gotten more and more popular around these parts lately.
A few days ago I was in relatively less arctic Florida. I say relatively less arctic because it was still kind of cold over there but like an early summer, June kind of cold in New England. It wasn’t the sunny, wonderful Florida I’d become accustomed to but it also wasn’t the North Pole. Well, until my last day there Jacksonville was actually colder than Alaska. LOLOLOL!!!!! I saw a news story today that iguanas are falling out of trees because its so cold in Florida right now. Considering the bomb cyclone we got hit with today in Boston, those problems are kind of cute.
Of course people are asking where all of this is coming from. Al Gore, noted inventor of the internet started sounding off on all of this years ago, even before he was the Vice President. I saw an interview with him recently and he said that the evening news is starting look like a nature hike through the Book of Revelations. I didn’t exactly what that was and rather than Google it, I asked my friend who I consult on ecumenical matters he told me referring to the Book of Revelations was nothing good. Nice. Is there a bomb cyclone in there somewhere?
Anyway, people seek answers from their leaders for all of this and our leader sure provided it:
…and shit like that. Yeah. We’re living in a live action version of The Simpsons now.
Well, anyway, we can’t actually blame that orange toddler for this latest crap. He didn’t cause it but he’s also not doing anything to make the situation better.
Oh and today. A bomb cyclone of snow that brought bombogenesis with it. Yesterday I didn’t know any of those words. I mean I had never heard of a bomb cyclone until today and I didn’t know what bombogenesis is. I’m still not exactly sure what it is, but it doesn’t sound friendly.
I elected to stay inside today. Now I’m not afraid of snow and storms being that I’m out of door with enthusiasm when it comes to skiing in temperatures that would drive a normal person insane but for me today was too cold and kind of scary so I got some photos from the safety of my parents house. No pictures of Kelton today. Bombogenesis:
Posted on January 4, 2018
Every time I travel I think about the other times I’ve traveled. I also think in particular about airports and all the ones I’ve visited over the years.
Of course I’m always reminded of the first flight I ever took in my entire life which is in fact the first memory I have of my entire life. My mom and I boarded a plane from Warsaw bound for New York and subsequently Chicago where my father was at the time. It was my mother’s first time on an airplane and her first time out of Poland. The whole thing was packed with anxiety. My mother had to wait for ages to be given a passport to even leave. We had our passport together then. I don’t even think they do that anymore. My mother thought they would invalidate our tickets at any moment. The political situation in Poland was awful at the time. My mother was told she wouldn’t be allowed to leave the country with her child, to leave me with my grandmother. To say she was worried was an understatement.
I was a little kid so I don’t remember any of this. My mother told me I told my grandfather that I’d see him on Thursday, which had made my grandfather cry. We were eventually reunited with my father. We were supposed to stay in the United States for two years and go back to Poland but that obviously didn’t end up happening.
After that there were a lot of memorable airports. The first one that comes to mind is our return to Poland seven years after we left. We landed in Warsaw to steps being attached to the airplane and an armed soldier with a dog greeting us. The airport was sort of gray and depressing looking. We got off the plane to be greeted by seemingly our entire family including my grandmother who kissed me on the cheek when I arrived. I didn’t even recognize her and I’m sure that made my grandmother very sad.
That first trip back to Poland proved to be eventful for us airport wise. Our flight was through London, which was super exotic to me at the time. On our return flight we flew a Tupolev which was a kind of soviet copy of a Boeing. It was also an airplane that had been in a terrible plane crash a few months before. I knew this even as an eleven year old and I started to cry when I saw the plane. My mother had to convince me to get on the plane.
We ended up missing our connection to New York through London. We had to find a pay phone to wake my sleeping father to alert him that we would be in Heathrow for an extra seven hours. We made the best of it. I got a British version of monopoly to play and some magazines that I kept for a long time because they were exotic and British.
The next memorable airport was the one in Copenhagen where I knew I would some day return. My father and I flew to Warsaw from Copenhagen in an aircraft that I think had been repurposed from World War Two. When we flew through the clouds, droplets of water entered the plane. It was chock full of drunks. Forget turbulence. I wasn’t even sure if this aircraft would make it the hour to Copenhagen in one piece.
The next memorable flight didn’t come for a while. Interestingly that was to Copenhagen again but this time I was flying alone for a four month student exchange in Copenhagen. I’ve detailed the entirety of that experience in another blog entry. The flight was memorable too in both directions. Just going down the sleeve to the airplane was memorable. I wanted to turn around and go back to my parents as I passed down the sleeve. I couldn’t go back obviously because I wouldn’t be able to do the whole thing.
On the way to Denmark, I carried my stuffed animal with me and spoke to a Kenyan student who would be with me for the whole exchange. I must have fallen asleep at some point because when I woke up we were in Copenhagen. I was exhausted. Landing I realized we were in Scandinavia and that everyone spoke perfect English. Oh and that I was stuck there and couldn’t leave.
Two months after that I boarded a plane to Moscow from Copenhagen, flying the infamous Aeroflot or scaro-flot or aero-snot as my classmates named it. We had received assurances from our study abroad program that flights in and out of Russia were fine, just internal travel was dicey. Hilarious I guess. The flight to Moscow wasn’t memorable and the flight back out of St. Petersburg wasn’t memorable either, save for the fact that a classmate of mine climbed the boarding steps to the airplane and started acting like an American president arriving in Russia, promising good relations between the countries. He was really convincing. All he needed was some politburo flunkies to escort him off of the airplane and he would have been fine.
The return flight four months later was equally interesting. I realized that I didn’t want to go back. The flight was calm but I wasn’t. A day before I left, my life had been turned upside down but that had nothing to do with the flight. We were flying over Christmas, December 20th 1997 to be exact. The captain got on the PA when we were flying over Greenland joyously announced that if we looked out of the left side of the airplane we would see Santa Claus and eight tiny reindeer. The Danes believe Santa Claus is Danish and that he lives in Greenland. I told them that Santa lives in the North Pole but they told me that was wrong because the North Pole was extremely inhospitable and that Greenland was the place to be for the Juleman (Christmas man). So hence his pre Christmas departure from Greenland.
The next memorable flight was again to Copenhagen but it was memorable for all the wrong reasons. I was heading back to Copenhagen to see the person who had brought all the change to my life or destroyed it, depending on what account you believe. I’ll never forget waking in Copenhagen to the feeling that a million loud alarm clocks were around me were going off at the same time. I had this awful pit of my stomach feeling that something awful was about to happen and I wasn’t wrong. The person I went to see ended up be the cause of all of that. That airport trip showed me that you should never ignore your intuition.
There were tons more flights in between which weren’t nearly as memorable or meaningful as the ones I first described. Seattle through Detroit. Stockholm through Copenhagen. Boston through Düsseldorf.
One flight though lingers in my memory for the sheer comedy of it. I was going to Stockholm through Philadelphia originating in New York. The flight from New York to Philadelphia was the single worst flight I had ever experienced. We flew on an 18 seater commuter airplane for something like 45 minutes, the 45 worst minutes of my entire life and I’ve had stitches in my head and completed a marathon. That was the worst flight of my life. The entire airplane stunk of gasoline and it shook for the entire time, or maybe careened uncontrollably would be a more apt description. I was convinced we were all going to die. The plane pitched left, right, up, down. I was Ritchie Valens in La Bamba and we were going to die. Somehow we landed. I mean obviously we didn’t die because I’m writing this but it was an awful flight.
I noticed after a while that air travel has this sameness about it. Delta, United, Northwest, they were all the same. Just a flying bus. Airports too have a cookie cutter sameness about them. Some are a bit different like the one in Copenhagen, which I obviously saw quite often was different, very nice. Generally though traveling seemed less than memorable. Cayman through Miami. Boston through Reykjavik. Brussels from New York. Copenhagen through Brussels. New York to Warsaw through Paris. Paris to New York. Different destinations but the same feeling. Here we go. There it all went.
I flew to Bologna from Boston through Paris and then repeated the whole thing through Venice. The memorable thing there was that you had to take a boat to get to the airport, which was kind of cute and fun. The Italians on the boat were really happy and amiable at 5am. I would be too if I consumed as much espresso as they did.
I have though had some incredibly memorable flights after that one. One came in 2013, Cayman through New York to Boston. The flight was delayed and there was the real danger that the connector out of Newark would leave without us. I raced through the airport with the intent of explaining that we needed to get on the flight. We get there and the flight was closed. We were told by the incredibly unfriendly continental airlines staff (this I remember) that if we had gotten there mere seconds before we would have made it. It was so infuriating. As we were leaving to rebook they told us we had to run down the sleeve to the airplane and bang on the door to the airplane that was closed to get on. Turned out a family had strollers checked on the flight and having everyone disembark and take the strollers off would have caused untold chaos.
In 2015 came one of the most sublime flights of my life, Boston to Santiago, Chile through Atlanta. I had planned this trip for months and when the big day came I was extremely nervous. I didn’t even tell anyone I was going for fear something would go wrong.
The flight to Atlanta from Logan was uneventful. No food, over crowded and generally uncomfortable.
Atlanta to Santiago was another story entirely. First the plane was empty practically, save for the flight crew and the small number of us flying. There were tons of channels of entertainment. The food was somewhat edible and oh and the plane was basically new. It looked like it had been purchased the day before. All good things. I fell asleep over the southern United States and I awoke to us flying over Peru and Brazil, countries I had only seen on maps before. I awoke to the Andes mountains out the window covered in a light morning mist. The word beautiful doesn’t even do justice to what I saw.
A couple days later I was back to the United States after another journey that basically redefined my life in the best way possible. Before the flight back I was in tears from what had happened but they were happy, cleansing tears.
The flight back was less comfortable. We were overcrowded and when I reached Atlanta I kept walking around the airport to not fall asleep and miss my flight. My flight to Boston was full of guys in khakis and polo shirts and Bluetooth headsets. I slept through my connecting flight to Boston and woke up when we hit the ground, home once again.
I’ve flown a lot in my life and I can’t say I’m a fan of it. Flying in the United States is about as much fun as taking a school bus a long distance. I’ve never flown in first class. I flew business class once with my mom from Warsaw to New York on Pan Am, which went out of business the next year. I dislike turbulence and went through a period of time when I was really afraid to fly. It didn’t keep from flying but it definitely made the whole process unpleasant. I may have needed an Ativan or two to get through the whole thing.
There’s a wonderful video on the internet of a plane landing in Canada of Syrian refugees. Just the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. The Syrians get off the airplane to be greeted by none other than the sexiest prime minister ever, Justin Trudeau. They are greeted so warmly by Trudeau and the people in the airport. It always reminds me of us coming to America. Obviously president Reagan didn’t greet us when we came to the airport but I could relate to being in an airport, starting a new life.
Growing up as an immigrant, plane travel is a part of life. I’ve taken multiple trips to Poland over the years because it was a necessity. My whole family is Polish. I’m some weird hybrid pseudo-Scandinavian New Englander East coaster who had no home for a long time. I used to think my home was on an airplane but as I’ve matured I realize I do ok on solid ground too.
And some photos from the newest airport I have visited, the Worcester County Airport:
Posted on December 10, 2017
Today there was the annual running of the mostly nude Santa Clauses through Back Bay. What?? You missed this? You weren’t aware that something so weird, delightful and downright insane was going on? Well, it was.
Every year a ragtag bunch of people gets liquored up at a bar in Back Bay and then runs out into the street, where a bunch of people with camera wait for them. Then they do a circuit around Back Bay and run back to the bar. I even thought about doing this a couple of years ago, but I didn’t want to get hypothermia. I prefer to get frost bite and hypothermia when I go skiing, like you know, a normal person.
I guess this is the spot to get slightly philosophical and give me minute while I do. The Santa Speedo run signifies the beginning of the holiday season, where one hopes for good gifts and thinks about what the new year will bring. I think of the same.
As a kid, like most kids, I loved Christmas. When I was a teenager, I started hating it, but then again, most things went dark at that age. When I was 14, we went to spend some kind of post Christmas time with my uncle. Now this was kinda revolutionary, considering all of my family lives in Poland. My uncle was here with his family temporarily. I had really wanted some Guess Jeans that year. That was kind of the rage that year of course and my uncle said he had some Christmas presents for us. It turned out to be markers and different types of highlighters, with the price tags still on them. I learned at that moment to never rely on Christmas to make me happy.
Somehow in the past few years, Christmas has become a very happy time for me after a long time of it not exactly being that way. Christmas was for me for a long time an excuse to go home for a few days and not generally be too happy for too long but that all changed a couple of years ago. I started to participate a lot more in the planning and just celebrate the holiday a lot more. I also realized that giving gifts is a lot better than receiving them.
Anyway, enough Christmas. Let’s look at some pictures of some mostly unclothed crazy people running through a snowstorm, shall we?
Posted on November 13, 2017
November gets me contemplative because it is so close to the end of the year. Here I am trying to decide what I’m going to do for the next few months and planning what I’m going to do for the next phase of my life.
Honkfest is an annual Boston event that I love. These photos might be coming up here a bit late, but whatever. The message of the fest and the whole thing is to do things with joy. In fact, I ran into a student of mine watching the Honkfesters and she remarked as much. I guess I need to take that into my next chapter, whatever that may be. Always do everything with joy, like my beloved Honkfesters: