A Little Snow Changes Everything

All you need is a little snow to change everything.  Sometimes just a little thing changes everything.  Boston covered in snow is really delightful.

This was from a couple of days ago.  I had a lot of things to do but I still ran home to get my camera to go out and photograph the snow.  I love how the snow changes the city and makes it all so silent.  Its not just pretty but it changes the mood.  The night time also adds to it and makes it look kind of surrealistic.

The Boston snow globe:

The Coolest High School You Never Went To

So I wore my Patriots hat and my Gronkowski Polish for Touchdown sweatshirt.  I went skiing on Super Bowl Sunday and I didn’t watch the game.  Of course the Patriots won.  It was because of me.  I know.

Well of course not, but I feel like I played a part in it and living in Boston, it feels like we all play a part in it.  A friend asked me what it is about the Patriots that makes them so appealing.  Of course you have the QB that keeps getting better, the Gronky man child Golden retriever who reads from his own erotic fan fiction, the curmudgeon of a coach and the owner, who intentions and instincts are good but whose friends could stand to be a bit less…. orange?

But these are all characters?  What makes the Patriots so appealing?

I was not a football fan until I moved to Boston.  I could name maybe five football players and I absolutely did not care about football, even a little bit.  People would tell me when the Super Bowl was and who was playing and I couldn’t have cared less.

When I moved here, I became a Pats fan.  Slowly.  Very very very slowly.  Of course there’s Tom Brady, who everyone knows.  He’s handsome and humble and good natured.  I knew about him.  Then I got introduced to the man child, Rob Gronkowski.  I was watching an episode of Top Chef and he gets there and demands a Polish sausage because he’s Polish.  I bought my sweatshirt and I was in love.

A couple of years ago I bought a Patriots hat that I wear for the entirety of winter.  Its kind of funny because I see everyone in the city of Boston wearing the same hat or similar hats.  I realized over time that the Pats are like our high school team.  Robert Kraft is like the principal of this mythical high school and the Pats are our football team.  We all proudly wear our Pats gear because we all want to show our allegiance to our team.

This has particular resonance for me as a proud high school hater.  I wasn’t part of the popular crowd and far away from the football team and that whole thing.  But secretly I always wanted to be part of it.  I didn’t understand why I wasn’t.  Those people always looked a lot happier than me.

So now I have my high school football team, even if I graduated from high school oh well, let’s say MANY years ago.  And Tom Brady is much more attractive than the quarterback at my high school anyway!!!!!!

Our high school football team, but with more bling:

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On Being A Non-conformist conformist. And skiing. Of course.

Buckle your seat belts in my blog reading public.  It’s going to be a long read tonight for our fireside chat.  Scroll down and skip the prose for the pictures.

So I promise this will circle back to skiing eventually, but right here we’re going to discuss the aforementioned non-conforming conformity.  Or the conforming non-conformity.  I can’t remember which way it went. Oh well.  Let’s just start.

So up until 8th grade I was major league, out of control obsessed with the Beatles.  I could tell you every song, every album, everything about the band.  I could tell you their history, about their time playing the Reeperbahn in Hamburg.  I mean i took it upon myself to learn what the Reeperbahn even is or was in the days when the Beatles played it.  I loved that band.

When I got to junior high school in the god forsaken hell hole we moved to when I was 12, I found out quickly that liking the Beatles was profoundly uncool.  Not only had I made the mistake of having spent the first four years of my life in the wrong country, but now I was listening to the wrong music.  I was still in my Beatles t-shirt in a sea of New Kids on the Block t-shirts.  But I stuck to my guns through it all.

Well in ninth grade, the New Kids on the Block t-shirts got turned inside out and became Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirts.  I stuck steadfastly to my Beatles until a friend made me a mix tape with a few heavy metal songs on it.  Among them was Unforgiven by Metallica.  I really thought this was a great song and they were very musical.  The guys in the band seemed to have some kind of integrity and their drummer was from Denmark, geographically close to Poland.

Music in general in that time period changed.  Pop went quiet for a while and grunge sort of took over.  Music became serious.  Everyone was angry.  At what I have no idea.

A lot of bands suddenly became famous during the time period like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam and Nirvana.  Still others got more famous like Metallica and Guns and Roses.

As soon as I kind of declared myself to be a fan of this music, I was labeled a poseur.  No where was this more evident than the song “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  To this day I consider this to be one of the most perfectly created pieces of music ever created.  I remember sitting in my teenage bedroom just listening to this song.  It made an impact that’s for sure.

But here was the thing.  You couldn’t just like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  One does not simply like the Chili Peppers FOR ONE SONG.  So I found out at the age of 16.  You weren’t a Chili Peppers fan if you just liked that one song.  You were only a fan if you were a Chili Peppers fan before Under the Bridge.

The same went for Metallica.  “Unforgiven” was very popular at the time, but again, you weren’t a REAL Metallica fan if you only liked that one song.  You could only call yourself a fan if you had listened to Master of Puppets and Kill ‘Em All.  The fact that these albums came out when most of my peers were still carrying Flintstones Lunch Boxes to their fourth grade classes seemed immaterial.

There was this one kid who was a fan of Green Day, before they were really popular, before their songs were played at every single prom and college graduation in the Western Hemisphere, including mine.  He was crazy about Green Day and they were poised for fame.  The band was just there on the edge of it.  I knew that once we all started listening to “his” band, he would let us have it because “he liked them first.”

For what its worth, one of the most memorable moments from my college graduation was hearing Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”  Somehow it felt like exactly the right thing to hear at exactly the right time.

When I went to college, the whole thing got even worse.  In my freshman year, I fell in with some people who were into hard core music.  Well more specifically, my college roommate, who is still my best friend, her boyfriend at the time was a fan of this music.  At the time I would have called him a friend but now I’d call him an age equal peer whose interests dovetailed with mine.  Slightly.

There wasn’t much to do at our upstate college so we went to a lot of “shows.”  This is how the shows went.  We’d be gathered in a room the size of your average finished basement.  Then a heavily tattooed young man sporting many piercings would take the stage.  He’d make a call out to the spirits and begin to yell into the microphone.  This was the “show.”

After the show, everyone would gather back together.  Usually there was a discussion afterwards about music.  But not one where a person could freely express what they actually thought.  It was more a discussion of which bands had “sold out.”  If you think that means that they sold out every ticket at their show, you’d be wrong.  No, it meant that this band had gone corporate.  They had sold out to “the man.”  Even then I found this talk tiresome and boring.  The conversations would go something like this.  A random group member would name a band.  Inevitably, there would be a chorus of “they sold out.”  OMG, their video was on 120 minutes!!!!!!  (A show at the time on MTV that highlighted lesser known rock acts).  (Deepest eye roll).

I think I might have said at some point that I liked Metallica, which was meant with a chorus of “OMG, they SO sold out.”  They were actually popular and popular things were to be derided.  “Popular” things were only liked by the sheeple.  Being a “nonconformist” meant you didn’t follow the sheeple.

I know if you’ve read all the way down to here, you are very tired of all of this.  Don’t worry.  We’re getting there.

I remember even at the time thinking that all of this talk was downright stupid.  It is the dream of every professional musician to make a living playing music.  Only a small percentage of even professional musicians make enough money to live on from their music.  I guess once they did, there would be a bunch of haters nearby to judge them.

After all of this, my taste in music basically became a state secret.  I NEVER shared this with anyone.  I mean why would I after being so harshly judged for it, right?

Then something kind of interesting happened and its connected to skiing.  Thank you for patiently waiting for this all of reach a conclusion.  The ski resorts blast music a lot of times on the slopes.  It adds to the general atmosphere and hey, it makes people feel good.

I was at Wachusett recently and they were playing Good Vibrations by Marky Mark.  Another time I was at Sunday River and they were playing Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison.  At the same resort, I remember there was a band playing Billy Joel covers in front of the lodge.  The music just adds to the great atmosphere at the resort.

For quite a few years, I would tell myself that it was wrong for me to like this mass market, conformist kind of music.  I was a “sell out” for liking these songs, even if I did actually like them.

Last Saturday I was up at Loon, in New Hampshire.  It was one of the top ten skiing days I have ever had in my entire life.  Everything was perfect.  Perfect conditions, perfect temperature.  It just all lined up.

In the lift line, they were playing classic rock, which is usually going in these places.  The Lenny Kravitz song “It Ain’t Over, Til Its Over” started playing at the base lift area.  Everyone was in a really good mood and people started singing along to the song.  I was singing and kind of moving around, as were many of my skiing compatriots.  It was one of those types of beautiful moments you only see in skiing.

I realized at that moment that music should unite us, not divide us.  I know I took too many paragraphs to say this very simple statement, but its true.  I certainly did not stop my fellow skiers and quiz them on when they started liking Lenny Kravitz or if they thought he was a “sell out.”  We just enjoyed the moment all together.

Photos go here.  If you have just scrolled down here, you missed a spirited discussion about musical preferences.  But again, photos go here:




First Winter Photo Extravaganza!!!!!

Let me give you an update of the past few days.  On Thursday, I received an email from my trusty activities guide at my ski club.  He was sorry from the bottom of his heart that the scheduled trip to Killington Mountain for this coming Sunday was cancelled.  My heart was broken.

So on Saturday I went to Wachusett Mountain, my kind of back up mountain where I go to get the weekend’s skiing in.  It was a normal sort of a day until about 3:30pm when they kicked us regular people off the mountain for some kind of mountain enforced break.  I don’t understand this but they did run the grooming machines on the slopes.

Then the skied the freshly groomed snow right from the top of the hill to the lodge, basically in a straight line.  It was one of the best runs I’ve had in these 100 or so ski trips I’ve taken over the years.

It is not the winter of my discontent, that is for sure.

Today I took a constitutional around Beacon street to survey the snow and of course to photograph it.  Beacon street is particularly Boston but covered in snow, it becomes SUPER Boston.  Yeah.  That’s the best name for these pictures:

Watch Your Planes. Know Your Rectangles.

During the Christmas hiatus, I hung out with my family and did what I always do.  I took a lot of pictures.

One night I was explaining to my dad how I take pictures with my 50mm lens, because he has a similar one.  You always know the planes of your photograph and you just compose within that plane.  You have to have a line in your photograph that is either horizontal or vertical and if you have a curve, well, that’s magic.  That’s photography distilled down to its basest elements.

We’re sitting in a restaurant while I’m explaining this and I start flailing my arms around like a flight attendant showing where the emergency exits are.  The people I had just photographed kinda noticed but they didn’t say anything.

Wow, I’m embarrassing.

Anyway, I got some good photos.  I hope!!!!!

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Stories We Tell Ourselves

Well, it’s 2019 and still no flying cars but I can access all the information mankind has ever produced from thin air.  The future is, um, interesting.

Anyway, that’s not what the fireside chat is about this evening (morning, afternoon depending on your time zone).  I spend the part of the holiday hiatus in old New York.  I was going to entitle this entry “sometimes I don’t hate New York, part the second,” but then I couldn’t get a narrative thread around that and the pictures I took so I chose the title up there.

Of course part of my time in New York was spent at the Metropolitan museum.  I’ve always wondered if I actually like going to museums or if it’s just kind of become part of my life.

But the Met is different.  I kind of grew up there and I do love the place.  And whenever I go to the Temple of Dendur, I say “Joan Rivers carved her initials into that when she was a little girl.”  No, that’s not original.  I got that from Chris March on Project Runway.

Anyway, on this visit I went to the Petrie sculpture garden, to see the Faberge eggs and to a Delacroix exhibit.  I know.  It sounds like the itinerary of a louche aristocrat.

First the Faberge eggs.  We’re about to go off on a long tangent about the Romanovs here so keep scrolling if this doesn’t interest you.

So you decided to keep reading.  I’m very happy.  So the Romanovs.  I blame YouTube for this particular obsession.  I watched a documentary about King Christian IX of Denmark.  I know.  A normal sort of thing to do I guess.  He was a Danish King so this was two obsessions of mine united.  Then YouTube decided that I should watch a documentary about the Romanovs.  And then another.  And another.  I had no choice.  YouTube decided for me.

So I had heard about the Romanovs over the years.  Czar Nicolas was first cousins with King George V of England.  Czar Nicolas’s children were related to Prince Philip in some kind of crazy, circuitous manner.  Somehow someone with the colorful name Marchioness of Milford Haven is involved and related here too.

I always wondered why the Russian czar was related to the King of England and at the same time Prince Philip and my favorite royal rascal and First Sea Lord (best job title ever) Louis Mountbatten.

Here’s a picture I’ve always found to be really haunting:


The kings look like twins.  That’s the young Edward VIII, who would leave behind the trappings of monarchy, into a life of exile with Wallis of Baltimore.  And poor tragic little Alexei.

Anyway so off I went into this deep dive into (kind of) contemporary Russian history.  So Czar Nicolas’s mother was Danish (a daughter of Christian IX) and his dad was Russian but really he was German and Prussian and probably a mix of other things.  Czar Nicolas spoke Russian with a German accent and communicated with his (kind of) German wife in English.  How could you have a monarch of a country that didn’t have a drop of the country’s blood in him?

It seemed like Queen Victoria and Christian IX ran a kind of royal intermarriage study abroad system where the various royals were married into the thrones of Europe, interconnecting them.  What could possibly go wrong???

The deeper I got into my investigating, the stranger it all seemed.  Czar Nicolas’s children, about whom much has been written, were the first cousins of all the major thrones of Europe.  There’s even a story of how the great Sea Lord (again, best job title ever) had a school boy crush on Grand Duchess Maria.  Oh how history could have been different if that match had come to pass.  Here they are, Maria forever young and the fresh faced Sea Lord:


Welcome Sea Lord to my blog.  Hope you find your stay welcoming and comfortable.

As everyone knows, the end of the Romanovs story is shocking and incredibly sad.  Again, connected to my new obsession, I’ve been looking at photos of the young family.  They look like 19th century figures trapped in a 20th century world.

Ok ok ok back to the Met.  If you’re here and you avoided the Romanov tangent, there will be photos upcoming.

So at the Met there is a small collection of Faberge eggs.  Peter Faberge produced jewel encrusted eggs and knick knacks for the royal family.  In one, there is a picture of Grand Duchess Tatiana.  What I find to be so remarkable is that these relics of Imperial Russia are just in a corner.  They are on the way to the elevator to the roof garden.  Until my obsession with the Romanovs was in full swing, I must have passed them a million times.

What strikes me as even more remarkable is that my mother, in the midst of my spelunking into the Romanovs told me that my grandfather’s family, her father had had to flee Russia because of the Revolution.  My great grandfather was a customs officer in the Czarist government and when the Czar fell, the family had to flee.  I had never known this and I’m pretty sure I would have spent a lot of time quizzing my grandfather about what life was like under Czarist rule.

I bet Grand Duchess Tatiana never imagined that a person whose grandfather had had to flee Russia because of the abdication of her father would be looking at her picture on a Faberge egg in a corner of a museum in New York, of all places.

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I purposely avoided the bit in the Romanovs’ story about the entanglement with Rasputin.  There was though a picture of Princess Irina Yusupov in a separate jewelry exhibit.  The name Yusupov also figures into the Romanov story as the assassin of  Rasputin was Prince Felix Yusupov.  I wish I had more time to delve into him.  That was a baller before the word baller was even used.  This was a guy whose father gave his mother the tallest peak in Armenia as a birthday gift.  Yusupov went to Cambridge with a retinue of servants and a French couple to cook all of his meals.

What struck me as well was how small and insignificant these two individuals were, how they were footnotes in history.  How very very very sad.

Ok, history lesson over.  This part will be more pictographically centered.

First, Petrie Court and the Greek and Roman statues.  The place where I play this game where I try to find people to “react” to the statues.  Was I successful?  You be the judge:

Then my other favorite game.  The exhibits are full of people and I prefer to focus on them when I photograph the exhibits.  Sure the Delacroix exhibit was lovely and the Armenian exhibit was interesting, but for me, people watching is much better:

And let me throw this last one in there because — THIS GUY IS SO HANDSOME!!!!!!!  Yeah.  We started with a deep dive into Russian history and at the end we’re here gawking at a guy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Well, you made it to the end.  Congratulations, although there will be a history quiz soon!!!!!!!

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Thickest New England

So warm up Christmas is upon us and by that I mean, Thanksgiving.  Uh, that holiday could not come soon enough.  I am very tired and I haven’t had any vacation in nearly a year.  Five days off.  Five days when I don’t have to work or lesson plan or worry if I’m going to make it to my next job on time.  HEAVEN.

Usually during an extended holiday with the family, we go on a little road trip, usually to some thickly New England destination.  Salem, Gloucester or Newburyport.  Now let me back track here for just a second.  My parents are the most New England Yankee Brahmin Polish people on the planet.  Sometimes I truly believe that they are both the reincarnations of some long lost Lowells or Cabot Lodges.  More on those folks in a bit.

Anyway, we’ve made this road trip many a time to Newburyport and hey I like it.  I’m pretty thickly New England at this point as well.  I proudly wear my New England Patriots hat now and I occasionally even drop an R here and there.

We visited our usual haunts.  The bookstore with the cafe in it.  The British store with the insane Cadbury selection.  The olive oil store.  This time though we added another stop.  We went to the Maritime Museum in Newburyport.  Of course there were remnants and reminders of Newburyport’s glorious past as a global whaling power, but there was also a room dedicated to son of Newburyport John Marquand.  Who was he?  Well read on.

John Marquand is a novelist who I learned about in the early 2000s when I was still living in Washington DC.  On my way to work in the morning, every morning, I would read the Washington Post.  One day there was an article about forgotten novelists.  John Marquand was on the list, so I purchased one of his books called HM Pulham Esquire about this Brahmin who suffers in quiet desperation.  Like they all do.  Anyway, it was a rip roaring yarn.

I knew there would be things about John Marquand when they mentioned novelists.  His at home library had been reconstructed in the maritime museum.  I knew some about his background but I decided to look up his biography on wikipedia and boy, was I not disappointed.  Oh, I was not.  I can’t even paraphrase it.  It is THAT GOOD.  I’m going to copy and paste it below and copiously credit wikipedia for providing me with this bio:

Marquand was the son of Philip Marquand and his wife Margaret née Fuller, he was a scion of an old Newburyport, Massachusetts, family. He was a great-nephew of 19th-century writer Margaret Fuller and a cousin of Buckminster Fuller, who gained fame in the 20th century as the inventor of the geodesic dome. Marquand was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and grew up in the New York suburbs. When financial reverses broke up the family’s comfortable household, he was sent to Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he was raised by his eccentric aunts, who lived in a crumbling Federal Period mansion surrounded by remnants of the family’s vanished glory. (Marquand’s ancestors had been successful merchants in the Revolutionary period; Margaret Fuller and other aunts had been actively involved with the Transcendentalist and abolitionist movements.)

Marquand attended Newburyport High School, where he won a scholarship that enabled him to attend Harvard College. As an impecunious public school graduate in the heyday of Harvard’s Gold Coast, he was an unclubbable outsider.

Thanks wikipedia. Thank you very much.  I mean that first paragraph is normal, normal.  Yeah, he was born.  Financial reversals.  Not great.  Eccentric aunts.

But that second paragraph and we are off to the races so to speak.  “Impecunious public school graduate” — you mean he’s poor.  I mean he was poor.  “An unclubbable outsider” — OK did someone’s tea sipping sarcastic Brahmin grandmother write that?  That got more than a chuckle from me, let’s just put it that way.

So yeah, so translation Wikipedia to English is that dude, dude did the work and got himself a scholarship to the Harvard and zoomed back into the elite.  What made Marquand different though was that he choose to satirize the group from which he had come.  A blue blood satirist who had been in the club but had become impecuniously unclubbable but was back in the club to make fun of the club.  Delicious.

I was trying to describe him to my mother and I finally said — he’s like Truman Capote but with less venom, not in need of the venom transplant midway into writing a novel.  Now even I’m tempted to read another Marquand novel.

Anyway, there are photos because there are always photos, that are what else?  Thickly New England.  I wonder what the Brahmin grandmother would say about me.  A foreigner who picked themselves up by their bootstraps?  I mean how unclubbable!!!!!