Posted on May 31, 2017
Hold on to your hats, my blog reading public. This is going to be a long post where I will reveal many things about myself. Be patient. If you aren’t patient, you can scroll down and just see the photos without reading all of this stuff.
Recently, the blog celebrated its tenth birthday. We’re nearly in the teen years!!!!!! I always thought I shouldn’t ever reveal anything about myself on this blog but I have over the years, revealed things here and there about myself and the world hasn’t stopped spinning and the sky has not caved in so I guess its safe.
So here I’m going to unfurl the story of the Riot family, actually they have another name but I’ll just keep that to myself. The Riot family is my second family and I will talk about how they came to have that great title.
Let’s go back. The year is 1994. There’s this teenager and she goes to high school in the suburbs of New York and an unhappier creature you have never seen in your life. She’s counting down the days until school ends and she can be free. Who was that teenager??? Me. And the place was Valhalla, New York, a place best seen in the rear view mirror of your car.
High school was a self contained ecosystem, to which someone had created the rules when I wasn’t around. I was left to spend the next few years trying to figure them out, while they kept getting changed on me. Oh you wear blue jeans? We prefer stone washed. You listen to rock?? No, we only listen to pop. And so on and so on and so on.
I lived with the hope that one day I would exit this ecosystem forever and be with people who were like me. People who liked to study. People who studied because they were actually interested in the world. I had hoped college would be the place for that.
I studied really hard in high school. Most teenagers fight with their parents about doing their homework. My main fights with my parents revolved around their insistence that I take classes like physics and chemistry that I knew I would get bad grades in and by bad grades, I mean anything under 90 percent. One social studies teacher gave me a 93 on a paper I wrote and told me to do better the next week. Yeah, this sounds border line nerdy, which it really was, but I studied hard for two reasons. First, because I am actually naturally curious about the world and second because good grades would get me into the college of my choice and out of the godforsaken Valhalla.
When it came for college choosing time, I visited a lot of schools and none of them really struck me as the place I wanted to study. I wasn’t even really sure of what I wanted to study. I thought something politics or historic or something along those lines, but I wasn’t even sure.
I visited a lot of colleges in New York state with my parents, as we lived there at the time. If there was a school I wanted to go to, it was New York University. There was the University at Albany, the last school on earth I’d ever want to go to. I kinda even hated visiting there. I’m sure you can see where this story is going at this point.
So when it came to college selection time, I got into almost every school I applied to, even NYU. My GPA was really good, above 3.7 but my SAT scores were lackluster. I still got into the schools that were in the top hundred in the United States. Now here’s the thing. My parents made too much money for me to get a scholarship and my SAT scores weren’t good enough to be offered one, so while I got into all of the schools I applied to, my father made the decision where I would go to school and that school was Albany.
I graciously accepted the decision and thanked my father for his foresight into the treacherous world of student loan debt. NO WAY. No, I was extremely angry at my father for choosing this school for me. I yelled at him, we had really bad fights at the time and the college selection process turned into a war between my father and I that went on for years after I had actually gone to college. Inside though, it felt like all of my hard work of maintaining my GPA and being a good student was for nothing if I was to go to this school that was so low on the academic scale.
So off I went in the fall of 1995 to college. This scene, I remember like it was yesterday. First, I had been expecting for years to go to a school with a brick campus covered in ivy. Instead, I went to a concrete campus that it was rumored had originally been intended to be a prison in Arizona!!!!! I was to live in something called Indian Quad in the high rise Mohawk Tower on the 16th floor. I remember all of this so clearly. We arrived with my loads of stuff, just to be told that we’d have to wait about four hours to have my stuff loaded onto a cart and taken in an elevator up to my new room.
The time finally came and I went up and met my first direct roommate, a girl named Oda. We were to be living in a suite with seven girls sharing three rooms. I’m not going to smear Oda up here, but we were very different. Oda and I were to share the smallest of the three rooms. Oda listened to Mariah Carey and I listened to Nirvana. When you are 18, that makes a huge difference. Now I’m friends with people and I have absolutely no idea what kind of music they like at all, but back then, meeting someone who listened to Mariah Carey meant an automatic negative in that category. Oda also used to log on to the internet all day and all night and type on her computer keyboard, all day and all night. Needless to say, there were a lot of sleepless nights to go around.
There were five other girls who shared the living space with us. Among then was one girl named Jenn and another one named Rupali. I kind of sat and talked to all of the girls there and for a while, we did get along, until all the personalities came out. Rupali and I butted heads a lot over different things. Jenn, I felt like there could be a friendship with but I had to tread carefully.
We all shared that living space from September until May of 1996, when we all dispersed to our separate corners of the world, or in that case, New York state. I went to visit Jenn and her family in Queens over Christmas vacation and that’s when I got to know the rest of the Riot Family. Her father, whose name is Bill, but who is always known as Bilbo, was this sarcastic, funnier version of David Letterman. His idea of fun was talking to his dog and saying that the dog loves him more than his family. Jenn’s mother was always sweet, just like my mother.
The friendship went through its bumps. Jenn and I were and still are on opposite sides politically. That led to a lot of clashes. Jenn and I have known each other for 22 years and there were plenty of times when I thought that the friendship was as good as dead. We sometimes went years without speaking to each other.
Then this funny thing happened. Jenn moved to Pennsylvania to be closer to her family and she started a family. Her sons took a liking to me. I’m the adult that loves to play with them. I take them skiing. They love quizzing me on what languages are spoken in different countries and I’ve kind of become a bit of a star attraction over there!!!!!!
Now there’s a new baby in the Riot family, a little dark haired sweetheart who is adored by his brothers. The baby has 62 babysitters at any time, meaning he is held and played with constantly. While I played with him, I decided to read Zbigniew Brzezinski’s obituary to him from the New York Times. I thought it was time that the baby learned a bit about Cold War politics. I’m sure the baby appreciated it.
Well and the friendship with Bilbo and Jenn’s mom has also deepened. Bilbo has become someone I can go to for life advice. My own family is always great and I will always love them, but sometimes its good to just let someone else know about your problems, concerns or ideas and to have another sounding board.
Bilbo’s sarcasm knows absolutely no end. He came over and cooed over the baby, while commenting on how fat his legs were. On another visit, I heard a story about how he injected watermelons with vodka or tequila. I told him I wanted to start a Twitter page for all of his sayings, but Bilbo turned me down flat. He wants to deny the world access to his premium content!!!!!!!!
I guess what I can say here in conclusion is that sometimes it isn’t immediately obvious that a long standing friendship would form with someone. At this point I’ve known Jenn for longer than I didn’t know her and we’re kind of like sisters as I don’t have any siblings of my own.
Well, anyway, if you read down this far, you deserve some photos. Here’s the Riot gang on full blast:
Posted on May 1, 2017
You only turn 15+5+5+10+5 once in your life so of course you have to go to see some beautiful flowers that weekend to celebrate:
Posted on May 1, 2017
Ah, adulthood. The art of doing your taxes while trying to put a fitted sheet on a bed. If you are over 25 and reading this, you know what I mean. If you are under 25 and reading this, you will know what I mean soon enough.
I’m an only child so I grew up around adults and as a kids, you do as the people around you do. The adults around me were into all kinds of grown up things, like classical music so as a kid I was into those things too. It took until I reached adulthood to figure out why all the kids said I was weird. Mostly it was because I spoke like an adult in a sea of kids.
Now I’m in a sea of kids every day and I behave like a child. I like Snapchat. I like to end my Facebook posts with “AF.” I update social media when I drink a unicorn frappuccino. TLDR, it was a disappointment.
Anyway, last weekend I was with a friend of mine and her son and husband at the Children’s museum in Boston, one of the only museums in Boston that I haven’t visited 172 times. Its a fun little place with a cute exhibits and general fun.
Afterwards I went to eat lunch with my friends and we gossiped about people we know and we talked about how behind we felt with respect to everyone else. It struck me at that moment that my friend’s son must be thinking that we’re talking about all sorts of complex topics, when we were child idle chitchatting and gossiping.
Either way, adulting I guess is just living.
Posted on April 18, 2017
I like to joke I decided to live in Boston after a guy wearing a red cup ran by me after the Boston Marathon in 2009 and I decided to stay here permanently. Its not exactly true, but the marathon is a big reason for why I live here.
The marathon to me is like ski season. Every year is my favorite year. I guess I’m easy to please.
The marathon though is extra poignant. Boston persevered after the bombing in 2013 in the most beautiful way. Every marathon since that awful April day is more precious and more valuable.
This marathon of course was full of poignant moments. Boston favoriteMeb Keflezighi in his last marathon stopped to embrace the family of little Martin Richard, who died in the marathon bombing in 2013. In 2014, I watched Meb win the whole thing, proudly. He’s my sentimental favorite and a kind of adopted Boston native son. I saw this image (that I did not take) yesterday after the marathon and I burst into tears:
Its such a telling image of a city with a huge beating heart. That’s why I love this city so much. I hate when people say stupid things about this place, like about the restaurants or the bars closing early or whatever. This place has a huge heart and that heart is open to everyone. I never lived in a place with as big of a heart as Boston.
Yesterday saw a lot of big heart moments. Marine Jose Sanchez (photo TK) ran the whole thing hoisting a giant American flag, pole and all. Sanchez lost one limb in Afghanistan and had the other severely damaged. Team Hoyt, now just son, were out on the field. Dick Hoyt after thirty some odd marathons is now happily retired with son Rick in the marathon with a new friend.
The whole thing is a show of the humanity and spirit of my hometown. You see how I left out adopted. Boston you’re my home:
Posted on April 12, 2017
Somehow ski season always parallels my life. I mean I guess it should but the way it goes, it does always parallel what’s going on in my life. I had a few very turbulent months in regular world, so skiing world was also affected.
The season started with me skiing three times on unwaxed skis which made movement on them kind of difficult. A lesson for next year, when I will definitely take my skis to get waxed before I get started with the season.
The early part of the season featured a few injuries. I got hit by a guy so hard that I saw stars and hit the ground. The guy was on a kind of an easy, but icy trail in Killington called Great Northern. He was obviously skiing above his ability because he didn’t know what he was doing and was on some crappy loaners. I woke up the next morning pretty sore and bruised up but fine.
The season did feature a couple of absolutely perfect days and one day when I thought the cold was actually going to kill me. I was actually knocked down by a gust of wind. Insane.
This season also brought back something that I hadn’t done for a while — falling. This season though, I decided to record my falls proudly. Usually though they came when I was trying to get into a lift line or at the very bottom of a ski trail. I kind of became proud of my falls.
It was also a good season because I skied a World Cup trail and a Nor-am trail. The World Cup of skiing passed through fair Killington in November and the race took place on Superstar, a trail I skied in a straight line in 2014. This year I turned a lot more. I made a wonderful new discovery this season at Stowe, when I started skiing the Main Street race course on the Sensation quad. That’s a Nor-am trail, a skiing circuit that is one step below the World Cup. I had long wanted to ski that trail and I finally got the chance to do it this season. I zoomed up and down in, usually at 3pm a bunch of times and loved every minute of it. Its groomed and steep, a black diamond of the best kind. My favorite.
At one point during ski season, I saw a photo taken by a high school nemesis of mine at a ski resort on Instagram. She said she was a beginner at best. I nearly wanted to write to her about how many runs I had done on that Nor-am trail that past weekend but I didn’t do it. Maturity. Nah, a friend talked me out of it and told me to “Let it Go.” Well, she told me to listen to that song, but yeah basically, let it go. Oh well. Next time!!!!
As usual I learned a bunch of things during this season. People always asked me what I do on the weekends and I say I go skiing and they assume its kind of a fun activity, which it is, but I started to approach it more like a professional athlete. I’d keep track of my times, see how many runs I did, how many turns I had taken. I got more analytical about it.
Soon after I started skiing I realized it was something I could do relentlessly and get good at. I did gymnastics as a kid and I thought nothing would ever make me as happy as gymnastics had, but skiing fills that spot and then some. I knew I’d have to have a goal when I started skiing and I decided to become a really good technical skier. I wanted to go fast but I also wanted to have good form and technique while I was doing it. I like the fact that this is something that has to be worked at, perfected over time and is never really perfected. There’s always next season.
Ski season, goes out softly at Wachusett or as a friend of mine once called “Watch-you-tits.”
Posted on April 3, 2017
Recently I published my unbreakable rules for life on Facebook and I’m going to republish them here:
1. Never mess with the people that touch your food or medicines.
2. Ski season is holy.
3. No riding the green line after 10pm.
4. Haagen Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond is the greatest ice cream flavor in the world.
5. If you eat my ice cream, you get the sword.
6. Prince George is the cutest baby/toddler/future monarch in the world.
7. There’s only one acceptable baseball team to root for. They are named the Boston Red Sox.
8. You can never have enough dry erase markers.
9. The same applies for Under Armour shirts.
10. When I say we are meeting at 6pm and you arrive at 6pm, you are, in my mind, late. Being on time means being early. Actually being on time is late.
11. Never hit the snooze button.
12. People who don’t like dogs are inherently untrustworthy. There are notable exceptions to this rule.
13. I operate like baseball. Three strikes and you are out.
14: Outside > inside
Notice rule #2 — Ski season is holy. Oh and ski season is holy. Now ever since I instituted that rule, my life had become a lot better. By the first weekend in January, the ski season schedule has been set until the end of February.
Thus far never letting anything or anyone mess with ski season has worked out quite well. I never started Pepi’s famous massive papers until ski season was over. In 2014, when I had to author my second one, I told Pepi that ski season was over and that I could start working on his paper. His response was “I’m glad to see you have your priorities straight in life.” You are damn right.
I choose to take my ending exam for my masters degree in the fall rather than the spring not to interfere with ski season. Recently I had an employer who threatened to interfere with ski season, but I quit that job, following through on my rules.
Skiing has done no end of good for me. I go to the gym because of it but most of all, it had established boundaries in my life. I have an elaborate set of rules that I follow connected to ski season. I work out, I keep my equipment in good shape. I’m careful when I ski those demonic hills of snow called moguls. I even pack an entire change of clothes for a little thing I like to call apres ski. A particular favorite is an alpine themed onesie.
Last weekend I went to Stowe where I experienced a dream like ski day that goes into the top five ever in ski trips. The conditions were perfect. The wind wasn’t blowing on me. Today I went to Sunday River, where the weather was perfect but my skis are starting to feel a bit of the end of season wax loss.
Its funny how when I have a so so ski day I still think about how next week will be. Will it be a good day, or a bad day or what it will be. Ski season 2017 will be over soon and I will shed a tear!!!!
Today I looked around at the Maine countryside when we were leaving Sunday River and I thought about all the happy weekends I’ve spent skiing.
Ski season is indeed holy:
Posted on April 1, 2017
I said that one day to one of my students and he thought it was so funny. I told him I’d heard a guy say it in a movie and I thought it was clever so I took it for myself.
I didn’t just hear any guy say that. I heard Bill Cunningham, a demigod around these parts say it.
A couple days ago Bill came to mind when I was in downtown in the rain. I was watching all the people go by and seeing them kind of trying to get out of the rain and just moving around naturally that made me think of him taking pictures of people in the rain. It made me miss the boss, I mean my photographic boss. There’s the most adorable Instagram page by John Kurdewan, who used to work for Bill called “Work for Bill C” with pictures of “the boss” as he called him. Its nice to see how good their relationship was, even if obviously he had driven John crazy!!!!!
Bill is in heaven now, undoubtedly talking to Brassai, Weegee and Ansel Adams. I hope they are listening carefully to him.