All the Right Moves

As a kid I channeled my love of movement into gymnastics, a sport I love to this day.  As an adult, I always feel like I want to infuse my photographs with a sense of movement, like I just caught the person mid jump or mid move.

I hope I have all the right moves (in the photos that is):

boston comicon 2018 kissrevere beach people on the beach 1revere beach people on the beach 2revere beach people on the beach 3revere beach people on the beach 4revere beach woman in bikinirevere beach woman on beach umbrella

As You Wish

A couple of days ago, I was scrolling through social media, as you do.  I spotted a photo of a friend with Cary Elwes, none other than Wesley/Dread Pirate Roberts of Princess Bride fame.  I did what most mature adults do.  I went into a jealous rage.  Nah, I’m kidding.  But of course I also wanted to meet Cary Elwes.  A few minutes later, another friend chimed in that Cary Elwes would be at Comicon, which I had already bought a ticket to attend.

The Princess Bride is a seminal movie for people my age.  I was ten years old when it came out and it was the first movie I was allowed to watch that wasn’t a cartoon.  Naturally, I was obsessed with this movie, as most people in my generation are.  I remember a very long conversation with one of my cousins about how she preferred the evil Chris Sarandon as King Humperdinck to Wesley.  I argued that I preferred Wesley because he was cute as a button.

As the years have gone on, I have further fallen in love with the movie.  There’s the incomparable Andre the Giant, whose size is legendary but warm side was less well known.  Robin Wright told this sweet story about how he used to protect her from the rain by putting his hand over her head.  I also always love Miracle Max, the bitter miracle maker and his shrewish wife.  I spent most of my junior high school years yelling Miracle Max’s lines at random people in my school.  Completely unrelated is the fact that I wasn’t terribly popular and I got in trouble for being too loud a lot.

And Vicinni.  Oh Vicinni.  The annoying know it all!!!!!!  The leader of the rag tag group of sword fighter and giant.  Into adulthood, I have continually repeated his character’s quotes.  I have a former professor who I actually refer to as Vicinni because he’s Sicilian.  And I challenged him when death was on the line and he was not about to die!!!!!  My former professor as far as I know has never tried to start a land war in Asia, although there is still time!!!!!!  I cannot count the number of times I have randomly yelled out “INCONCEIVABLE” when something really obvious has happened.  Lastly, a magnet featuring Vicinni’s smiling face has graced my refrigerator for the past eight years.  Oh and when I go to New York, my favorite Sicilian pizza has Vicinni’s face on it.  So yeah, the man might be kind of an obsession for me.

Anyway, we’re already at paragraph five and I haven’t even started saying why I’m telling you all of this.  So I did in fact attend Comicon and I did get to see the one and only Cary Elwes at the event today.  Did a middle aged Boston school teacher yell out “I Love You” when he took the stage??  I don’t know.  Maybe?

Cary Elwes kindly sat and told wonderful stories about his career.  He described being chided by Al Pacino early in his career for not acting enough and not keeping his career momentum going.  Of course he had his own anecdote about working with Andre the Giant.  It involved Andre the Giant cracking off a fart that probably registered on the Richter scale.  I don’t usually laugh too hard at fart jokes because I generally do not find them funny but when Cary Elwes tells a joke about Andre the Giant farting I mean you kind of have to laugh, so I laughed.  OK because this time it was funny.

Here’s some shots of the man himself at the Q&A:


Cary Elwes also told very charming stories about such INCONCEIVABLE things like learning how to sword fight from the same people who taught Errol Flynn how to sword fight.  And then the session ended with Cary Elwes going off to his next destination.  I would have to live without a selfie with a member of the cast of the Princess Bride.  Or would I?

So my friends and I went off to get lunch and relax.  We walked around a bit afterwards.  We spotted some actors from Back to the Future and other movies.  Some actors had crowds next to them, others not.

AND THEN I SPOTTED NONE OTHER THAN WALLACE SHAWN.  Neither of my friends were as obsessed with the Princess Bride or the man himself.  So, I approached Mr. Shawn calmly and told him how much I love his work.  Nah, I totally turned into a teenage fangirl and told him I’d been a fan since Annie Hall!!!!!  (Actually it was Manhattan).  He goes “Annie Hall, you weren’t even alive then!!!!!  Then I did tell him about how I had a magnet with his picture on it on my fridge, about nicknaming a professor after him and how much I loved his character on Young Sheldon.  OK I mean I might have overwhelmed the guy a bit.

Then we started talking about what I did and I told him I was an ESL professor and that I worked at different colleges around Boston.  We had a quite enjoyable conversation about that and then we took our photo.  Per usual I would have just taken a formal, well composed picture of him from far away, but the meeting was so much fun that I decided to put in our picture together.  I know.  I look like Andre the Giant standing next to him:


Another picture of me up here in the 11 years I’ve had this blog???  INCONCEIVABLE!!!!!!!!

And Then The Fireworks Started

So yes, America’s birthday just passed yesterday.  I’ve spent the past ten July 4ths in Massachusetts, celebrating the holiday like it was some kind of mid summer Christmas.  Yesterday was no exception.  The early part of the day was spent eating hamburgers while wearing one of my American flag t-shirts.  The latter part of the day I went to watch the fireworks in Winthrop.

Every July 4th, I think about my journey to becoming an American and how that’s not really how it was supposed to be.  I was born in Poland and at best, what life had set out for me was to speak English relatively well, not to adopt an entirely new identity unto myself.

Becoming an American full on was also a slow process.  I got my green card when I was ten and could have become an American citizen when I was 15, but I steadfastly refused.  I went to a high school where the principal, Frank Ehrhart mispronounced and laughed at my last name every time he had to present me with my honor roll certificate.  I certainly did not want to be a part of a place that thought my name was funny and that my achievements didn’t even deserve the proper mention.

Twenty years passed before I became an American citizen.  Becoming an American citizen is still one of the proudest moments of my life and one of the funniest episodes ever.  There was this really young man, maybe 16, next to me from the Dominican Republic getting his citizenship the same time as me.  He turned to me and said he didn’t know the words to the Star Spangled Banner.  I told him they were up on the big screen in front of us.  Then he asked me for my phone number.  Oh and we got this video with George W. Bush, looking young and ready for the presidency.  It looked like the video had been made on his first day on the job, before his energy had been sapped and the stresses of the job had really gotten to him.

Not too long after becoming a citizen, two interesting things happened.  I moved to Massachusetts, the most American place out there and I started working with international students.  Both of these things made me more American.  When I tell the international students about history, I say “we” fought a war against the British.  Nobody thought “we” would win.  “We” had a weaker army.  Technically its not “we” because my forebears weren’t British or American, rather probably in Germany or Russia, or even Poland, which would disappear from the map not too soon after the American revolution.

This year though, the thinking about being an American has particular poignancy.  Here we are two years into a Trump presidency.  Just writing that makes me feel like I’m living in a Simpson’s episode.  I don’t want to set off some kind of firestorm here or get hate mail but we’re now a country with child internment camps with quotes from the Art of the Deal on the walls.  Trump picked a fight with Canada.  CANADA.  With the adorable prime minister with the tattoos and the progressive politics.  Every news story shows a country that is getting uglier by the minute.

Yet somehow I see a bright spot in here.  I know, but stay with me.  I recently started teaching a law student about the American legal system, which is really just an excuse for me to go on about how much I love Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  I know this is cool these days, but hey, count me in.

I’m relatively late to the Ruth Bader Ginsburg love fest, but I’m now firmly part of it.  It all started over at my wonderful feminist gym, where they advertise a class where you can do the same work out that Ruth Bader Ginsburg does.  I thought this was great, because I knew she was a feminist icon, but I didn’t realize how much of an icon.  Oh and that she can do 20 pushups at 85 years old.  I’m nearly half her age and I can’t even do one push up.

I thought I knew a fair amount about Justice Ginsburg, but lately I’ve delved more into her background.  There’s a fabulous interview she did with CNN, where she walks into the room and they play “Notorious” by the Notorious BIG.  Her internet moniker is the Notorious RBG and she embraces the title and loves the comparisons to the late rapper.  There’s one part in particular where she is asked if she always wanted to be a justice on the Supreme Court or even a judge.  She says that when she was growing up, even aspiring to be a lawyer as a woman was outside of the realm of possibility.  She was one of nine women in a law school class of 500 men when she graduated.  The odds were not in her favor.

I also particularly love her friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia.  You couldn’t find two people who were more opposite.  The Notorious RBG is all about the constitution as a living document.  Scalia thought you should follow the constitution word for word.  But there are a lot of videos of her and “Nino” just being great friends and getting along really well, which is so admirable in a time when bipartisanship doesn’t exist anymore.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg says its important for the court to be collegial and for the most part they get along because that makes it easier for them to reach decisions.

So as I got to thinking about what America is, I decided to look at the example of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  How much more of an American story can you have?  The daughter of immigrants, who was Jewish, a woman, a mother who became a Supreme Court justice?  And not just any Supreme Court justice but one with her own theme songs and memes about her???  Its not just a story about perseverance but also of realizing the possibilities from a potentiality.  Vartan Gregorian said that America is a potentiality and I completely believe that.

Anyway, enough talk.  Let’s see some photos.  This year I broke tradition and I went to the fireworks in Winthrop, which is this lovely seaside community where a good friend of mine lives.  A good friend who just became an American herself.

Winthrop and the Fireworks:


Yes.  A feature from a while ago is returning to the blog, but I’m also going to talk a bit about the types of people I’m friends with.  So expect friends stuff and then museum related stuff.  Skip to whatever part you feel like reading first.

So its summer and that means I go on one of my crazy, whirlwind 24 to 48 hour trips to New York.  I gotta admit, I kinda love doing this.  I usually go on the super cheap, the cheapest ride and then I get to eat my favorite cheap eats while I’m there.  I’m lucky enough not only to have good friends whose house I can bunk at while I’m there but one of them works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — so I get to go for free!!!!!

Anyway, on Friday I departed for my trip.  My friends group here was asking what I was going to be doing in New York.  I told them I was going to New York to talk about dresses.  Well, look at dresses.  And yeah, talk about them.

James and Marci, my friends in New York are a very unique pair.  Marci works in the costume institute at the Metropolitan and is an encyclopedia of fashion.  She knows every time period, every fabric, every seam, every button of any garment you are talking about.  James is equally unique.  He grew up in Pensacola, Florida or as he calls it, the Redneck Riviera (I have always wanted to write that) as the only person who liked to read Charles Dickens.  He’s a playwright, writer, literary critic and possessor of a great sardonic wit.

Visiting them this weekend I started to think about ALL the friends I have.  I have friends who are like family to me, like the Riot in Philadelphia.  I have my Bostonian friends.  I have my Washington friends that I can tell political jokes and observations to.  I guess all of them represent different sides of me, different interests I have.  And anyway, life would be pretty boring if we had friends who were all exactly like us.

So most of the weekend was spent seeing the unbelievably gorgeous Heavenly Bodies exhibit at the Met’s main location and at the Cloisters, the Met’s second location.  Now I’ve been going to Met since I was five years old and practically grew up there.  My parents love museums and as a kid, I did what they did.

Many items in the Heavenly Bodies exhibit were in the Gothic part of the museum, which I have been walking through for let’s say the past 30 or so years.  On the walk through the Heavenly Bodies exhibit, the whole feeling changed.  The clothes were all garments inspired by the Catholic church.  In the Gothic cathedral, there was this somber, dramatic music playing, creating this movie kind of moment, kind of like when you put music on in your headphones and the whole atmosphere of the place you are in completely changes.  I was mesmerized.

Whoever is running things at the Met, I salute you.  The museum is really upping its game exhibitions wise.  I think they know they are competing against smartphones and the internet and they are winning.  The exhibitions are so much more immersive than they have ever been.  It really lends itself to a unique experience when you go into the museum.

For me, the best addition is Marci’s commentary on the items.  She tells me the history of each and why and how it was placed in a certain area of the museum.  She also has tons of knowledge about the way the garments are constructed and who constructed them.  Do I eat this all up?  Of course I do.

Oh and not pictured — the original garments from the Vatican that inspired the ones they have on view.  The modern parts of the exhibit were in the upstairs part of the museum, while the Vatican garments are downstairs.  No photography, by Vatican decree.  There were papal vestments worn by John Paul II, including his shoes.  I told James that you could tell that a Polish guy owned these shoes because they looked brand new.  A couple was next to us and they started laughing.  I said “I’m Polish.  I can confirm to you that no Polish person would be caught dead in shoes that were scuffed or otherwise unkept.”

James and I had a hilarious conversation in the exhibit’s other objects.  I’ve recently joined a church but I still refer to John Paul II’s clothes as “his pope suit.”  I referred to the head covering of a bishop as a “bishop hat” and James corrected me and told me it was a called a miter, which is a word I had not even known until last Saturday.  I was also about to call something a “church glass” when I remembered it was a goblet, but then James explained to me that the actual object was called a chalice.  Work out for the brain for sure.

Anyway, enough with the prose already.  Let’s see some photos!!!!!!!!!



The Riot Takes Philly!!!!!!

Yes dear blog reading audience, it is that time of year when I visit the The Riot clan and write a very long blog entry about the whole HILARIOUS experience.

So after many years of patiently waiting, the riot’s mom finally gave in to my pleas to go to Philadelphia.  I told her my years of dealing with hordes of unruly teenagers would serve me well during our sojourn to Philadelphia.  The Riot Mom looked at me with doubt but I stuck to my guns.

Let me introduce our cast of characters.  There’s Riot Mom and her brood of four boys, Riot Teen, Riot 6, Riot 8 and Riot Baby.  Riot Baby will be kind of a silent player in today’s fire side chat.

The six of us boarded the SEPTA train.  The riot mom and I had a very long conversation about how SEPTA refuses to have apps or magnetic cards in their trains.  They use PAPER TICKETS as their form of entry into the trains.  I don’t even understand how this is possible in a modern big city and I’m not speaking here as a person who lives in a city with its own modern, up to date public transportation system.  I live in a city with a weird kind of trolley system that is really a bus that uses relays from a century ago.  But somehow Mr. Bulger’s Transportation Authority has magnetic cards.  Anyway, after a long conversation, Riot Mom told me to drop it.  And I did.  FOR NOW.

So while Riot Mom and I had our extensive conversation about magnetic cards and ancient relay systems, the Riot Kids asked us questions about different things.  Most of them revolved around why it was taking so long to get to wherever we were going.

We finally reached Philadelphia.  It was at this point that I realized how interesting this whole thing was to at least some part of the Riot kids.  We got off the train and we saw all sorts of people.  We heard foreign languages.  I live in a big city and Riot Mom grew up in a big city, but I knew then that this whole thing must be a real revelation to at least some of the riot kids.

We got to Independence Hall, just in time to find out that all the tickets for the inside of the hall were completely gone for the day.  CLASSIC.  But the park ranger (#altparkservice) had some good news.  First, the riot kids could, after completing some booklets become junior rangers with badges and everything.  Riot Baby had already begun his day of slumber and Riot Teen rolled his eyes at the whole thing, but Riot 8 and Riot 6 seemed somewhere enthusiastic, although not as enthusiastic as your fair blog author.

The other piece of good news is that we could go on an express tour of Independence Hall at 5pm.  I thought Riot Mom wouldn’t want to stay that long, but she did and off we went.

After a spot of lunch, we started exploring.  Our first stop was Congress Hall, next to Independence Hall.  It was this really lovely historical place where discussions took place that lead to the creation of this great nation of ours.  Like you know, no biggie.

Riot Mom, Riot 6 and teen Riot all sat next to me.  We got to hear from a very colorful Park Ranger.  He started asking American history questions.  I guess I’m kind of a bit evil, but to rile up Riot Teen, I started yelling out the answers.  First Treasury Secretary — Alexander Hamilton!!!!!  Second President — John Adams!!!!  And so on.  Teen Riot pretended like he didn’t even know me and Riot Mom may or may not have reconsidered our 23 year friendship….

We also went to see a very intact copy of the Constitution.  I had wanted to ask the park ranger next to the Constitution about the types of ink that had been used in the printing of the Constitution because I knew that they were metal based inks and that the age of the documents could be determined by looking at their composition.  I kept the question to myself after the looks I got from Riot Mom and Riot Teen!!!!

Our next stop was the United States Mint.  I knew this was in Philadelphia and I had always wanted to visit it and here was my chance.  There were going to be tons of photos of money printing machines and coin dies!!!!  I couldn’t wait.

When we got into the building, I was greeted by the horrible sight of Donald Trump’s picture on the wall, next to ex-Goldmanite Steven Mnuchin, he of the Instagramming design label hashtagging wife.  So I took our my phone to snap a photo of this, because I wanted to document for future generations what it was like to live in a live action episode of the Simpsons, but the photo was not to be.  A policeman ran over to me and yelled NO PHOTOGRAPHY IN HERE.  ANYWHERE.

Riot Mom wondered if I was going to be all right not being able to photograph everything.  The Mint itself was interesting.  There was a lot of information about how coins were made and are made and how paper money is printed.  All fascinating.  FOR ME.

Near the end, I ducked into a movie theater to watch a little production about the history of the US monetary system.  I turned to the baby and I said “let’s learn about the formation of a unified monetary system in the United States and the gold standard!!!!!”  Baby Riot smiled.  I knew I had found the best audience for all of this.

Riot Teen rolled his eyes at all of this.  In the mean time, I got excited about a t-shirt they were selling with Honest Abe and Colonial George fist pumping.  I’m wearing this t-shirt while I write this blog entry.

Where did we go next????  Obviously to the Mr. Softee truck.  Next to the Mister Softee truck, serving enchanting, pop art like Soft Serve, there was a silver sandwich wagon.  In front of the silver sandwich wagon, there was a guy covered in silver paint.  I went right into photography mode and tried to get silver man and silver truck aligned to capture their silveriness.  Silver Man got wind of this immediately and put his hand up and demanded money.  OK.  So I handed over a single and got some nice shots of this interesting fellow.

And then something really funny happened.  We moved down the street so Riot 6 and Riot 8 could complete their booklets with a few answers from a very well informed adult.  Suddenly, I see a group of men holding unicorn guns that blow bubbles, rainbows and a pool floaty that was also a unicorn.  I immediately took a picture, at which point they asked me to take a picture, under a sign that said that the nation’s first gay protests had taken place at the spot we were standing at.  After I took their photos, the gents were kind enough to give their unicorn guns to Riot 6 and Riot 8.  Riot Mom wasn’t too thrilled about this because the bubble guns played this really annoying song.

Here we arrive at 5pm.  Into Independence hall we went.  After the eye rolling from Riot Mom and Riot Teen, I didn’t yell out any US history facts but I did ask a question.  Riot Teen responded with his customary eye rolling.

Then the SEPTA whisked us away.

It was kind of great to see a big city through the eyes of those kids.  As a city dweller, I get accustomed to all sorts of things, but being with people who got to see it for the first time was really great.  Riot Mom told me that Riot 6 refused to leave for school the next day without his junior ranger badge.  I felt mildly vindicated in my role as embarrassing adults.  I mean the Lincoln-Douglas debates.  Can I get an amen????

Photos.  Yeah.  There are some:


Grief Is The Price We Pay For Love

This is going to a sad entry and a very long one as well.  I’m just warning everyone.

I’m starting this entry with a quote from Queen Elizabeth, which I guess is appropriate given the excitement about Prince Harry getting married recently.  Its also not appropriate because this is an entry about a person who disliked royalty!!!!

I’m here to write about my friend Allan Martinsen, who passed away a couple of weeks ago.  Even writing that is still a bit surreal for me.  Allan had cancer for a long time and passed away from it, but this entry is going to be about his life, not his death.

In August 2017, I wrote about the 20th anniversary of my time in Denmark and that’s when I first wrote about Allan.  Here I’m going to talk about how we got to know each other and how our friendship progressed.  I’m also going to talk about what he meant to me.

So with many friendships, people meet and its like love and first sight.  Psychologists even talk about how you have friendship at first sight and I’ve definitely experienced that, but that wasn’t the case with Allan.  That part always made me laugh.

In 2017, I talked about the incredibly terrifying experience of going to Denmark and how it all affected me.  In the first few weeks of being in Denmark, I met the people I would live with in the dormitory.  Then there was a group of people that just didn’t speak to me.  One of those people was Allan.  If someone had told me that I’d still be talking about Allan over twenty years after we’d met, I would have said you were crazy.

In the first two months of living in Denmark, in the famous Albertslund, in the equally famous 7V bloc, I became friends with many people in the dorm.  Well, more accurately I left my room long enough to stop crying to talk to the residents.

The interactions with Allan during this time were minimal and in retrospect very funny.  One time Allan asked me to give him the remote in the TV room.  I gave him the remote and the conversation was closed.  I honestly can’t remember another conversation besides that one.

Then at the end of October, something happened.  Allan suddenly started talking to me.  The something that happened was a kind of romantic drama I was involved in at the dorm.

This is the part where I should address that romantic entanglement.  Here its going to be addressed quickly because this entry is not about that, but it really wasn’t that way.  I’m not going to go into exactly what happened, but I’ll just put in here that normal people don’t go around destroying other people.

So here I am in this deeply emotional situation with no one to turn to and there was Allan, who had seemingly watching everything that was going on.  Then suddenly, Allan started talking to me.  I didn’t understand what was happening to me with this “relationship” and Allan helped me.  I remember one of the first things he ever said to me was “we always hurt the one we love,” and somehow that gave me comfort.

It also turned out that Allan was in his own complex romantic entanglement at the time, so in a way we were there comforting each other.  We started talking and spending time together.  One night we were sitting around having some warm beer.  I was the only person in the group who wasn’t Danish.  I was surrounded by people speaking a language I didn’t understand or speak.  I turned to Allan and remarked on this and he said “you aren’t one of them.  You are one of us.”

I wish I had told Allan how much this meant to me.  He had no way or knowing or maybe it was obvious, but I had never been part of anything, one of anything.  I was always on the outside.  I’m an immigrant and when I was 12, I went to the single worst place on planet earth.  Its called Valhalla, New York, a place that education and knowledge of the outside world had forgotten.  Allan didn’t know that either, but it was probably obvious.  I obviously did not belong in Valhalla.  I was definitely not one of them, but here, thousands of miles away from that horrible place, I was finally one of something.  The impact of that was hard to overstate.

The growth in our friendship coincided with the Christmas holidays.  One day I walk into the TV room and everyone is gathered around watching some kind of Christmas special featuring the Muppets.  To my great surprise, Fozzie bear, Miss Piggy and Kermit were speaking Danish.  Now I did not know that the muppets spoke Danish.  Allan explained to me that in fact the Muppets were Danish and their voices were dubbed over in English for the rest of the world, but their native language was actually Danish.  Twenty years later this whole thing still makes me laugh.  But Allan hadn’t even told me the real secret yet.

It turned out that Santa Claus was actually Danish as well.  I laugh just writing this.  Allan, along with the rest of the weirdos in the kollegium, were firm in their belief that the jolly Jule Man (his Danish man) was one of their countrymen.  I told them that I had always known that Santa lived in the North Pole, but Allan told me that the North Pole was much too cold for him and that he in fact resided in Greenland, where the climate was less intense.

Needless to say, I have repeated these stories about Santa and the Muppets to anyone who will listen for the past twenty years or so.  And I will continue to do so.

A few days before Christmas I had to go back to the United States.  This was also very difficult for me.  Allan gave me his email address when I left and this started the next phase of our friendship.

I’d not really used email up until this point.  Communicating with Allan was really fun.  Allan would fill me on life in the block.  Who was dating who.  That the television was broken and how upset the residents were about that.  The correspondence was really funny.  I read a book by Bill Bryson a while ago about a kind of pen pal relationship he had with a friend in Australia and how fascinated he was with her life.  This was kind of like the correspondence with Allan.  I could still be part of the life of the block, even though I wasn’t there anymore.

The correspondence with Allan continued until I had moved to Washington DC and started my first job.  Then I went to graduate school in Washington DC and I had this professor from Sweden.  I used to describe this person for Allan and he thought this person looked like:


Yes, that is the Swedish chef of the Muppet show fame.  And for those who don’t know, the Danes and Swedes have a long standing insane rivalry.  Its not a hatred.  Its more like siblings that really know each other who know exactly how to tease each other.  I also realized at that moment that Allan and I were mutual fans of the muppet show.  He told me his favorite characters were those guys who sat in the audience and made fun of everything.  Here they are, in case you don’t know who they are:


I can see how Allan would like these guys.  He was really good at making really witty comments while things happened in front of him.

This was demonstrated for me on a trip I took to Denmark before I started graduate school in 2003.  I went to see Allan and we went for a walk around Assistens, a very Danish place.  Assistens is a full functional cemetery that is also a park.  I had wanted to see the graves of Niels Bohr and Hans Christian Andersen.  Allan wanted me to see something different.

We walked around Assistens and we saw the grave of a very young Danish Hell’s Angel.  He told me the story about the fellow who was buried there, who had either been murdered or had fallen off his bike.  This guy’s grave was a black, vertically placed rune stone that the Hell’s Angel had specially asked for.  We stood there looking at this grave and Allan turns to me and says “yes.  It is meant to be phallic.”  I had thought this and I hadn’t wanted to say it.  Laughing at the cemetery would have been really unseemly.  I think we both laughed at that moment.

The next year, Allan got some life changing news.  He was going to become a father.  The correspondence continued, with his typical humor surrounding it.  He sent me suggestions for his new child’s name.  Most of them including Icelandic thorns and were hilarious.  I was glad when his daughter was born with the relatively normal name of Joanna!!!!

I saw Joanna when she was newly born.  Here’s a picture of that:


You can see from Allan’s face how in love he was with this new arrival.  This was a new chapter for him.  A son arrived a few years later to complete the family.

Our correspondence went through a period when we didn’t speak that much but Facebook came along and our correspondence picked up again.  Allan started a new chapter for him and for me, it was also a time for me to start a new chapter of my own.

Interestingly, Allan and I both became teachers.  In one of the early messages he sent me, he revealed to me his cancer diagnosis.  I remember just saying to myself that he was going to be OK, that he just had to be OK.

To be completely honest, I did not know how to talk to him about the cancer.  I felt like I couldn’t do anything for him and that I had to rely on him to let me know how he was doing.

In 2012, on a whim, I signed up for the Jimmy Fund Marathon Walk.  Jimmy Fund is an organization in Boston that raises money for cancer research.  I knew this was something I had to do for Allan.  I walked 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, thinking of Allan the whole way.  I felt like this was something I had to do for him.  Since then, I’ve done the half marathon every year, raising a couple of hundred dollars for Allan.

About a month ago, Allan let everyone know that his health had taken a turn for the worse.  He messaged me and let me know that things were not great.  I told him that I was going to pray for him and that my friends at my church were also going to pray for him.  We had a little back and forth about God and beliefs.  Allan told me not to give the people in the church any money and that studying religion had ruined it for him!!!!!  It was vintage Allan, sitting in the audience, laughing as the world goes by.

And then a few weeks ago, came the news I was dreading.  Allan had passed.  To be honest, I’m still processing all of this.

What I can say is that going to Denmark and meeting Allan, helped me find the job that was right for me and to find what I really loved to do in life.  I work with international students, just like I was in Denmark, making people who feel like they are on the outside to become a part of something.

This entry is long and there are a lot of details in here.  I wrote it because I want his daughter Joanna and his son Elias to know that their father was a very special person who was loved by many people.  Part of me wishes I had told Allan just how much of an impact he had on me.  For someone who probably felt like he also didn’t fit in and probably sometimes felt unloved, a lot of people did love him.

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How Crazy Was This Marathon????

I always made fun of people who started sentences with “how crazy” as if it were insane that we’d run into each other at the supermarket and how crazy that was.

Well, now I’m using this line because this marathon was actually crazy.  It was an entire day of gale force winds and driving rain like running through a hurricane.  A freezing hurricane.  I knew that the winners were going to be big surprises.

And they were.  An American woman named Desiree Linden won, as did a journeyman marathoner from Japan named Yuki Kawauchi.  Kawauchi has a day job and does marathons on the side.  WOW.

The race was insane.  One of the top marathoners just stopped, probably suffering from hypothermia.  There was a lot of people like that today.

I had my own marathon today too.  For some reason that I can’t really figure out I walked from Kenmore Square to Cleveland Circle.  I thought I was going to walk and get some great photos along the way.  I did get some great photos but the focus on my camera, which got completely soaked, just stopped working after a while.  I was also absolutely soaked when I finally got to Cleveland Circle.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the geography of Boston, that’s a three mile walk.  ANYTHING for a good photo, I always say.

I walked down Beacon street and there was this drum beat of these sneakers on pavement.  Well, soaked sneakers on pavement.  Those brave people.  God love you.

Congratulations to these marathon warriors.  You guys are extraordinary, especially this marathon Monday: