Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Back to the Second City

I'm diving back into the squishy center of the country tomorrow. It's going to be hectic for a few days, er weeks, er months really, but just like Mary, I think I'll make it after all. Stay tuned...

Monday, August 30, 2004

The New and Not-So-Improved Suburbia

Because I am currently unable to run, I've had to find other alternatives to burn off the excess energy that I usually reserve for my workouts. I biked for several days last week, but now I'm sans velo so my only real option is to walk.

This morning, as I set out, I remembered that I like walking almost as much as running. True, you miss out on the runner's high (to which I'm quite addicted) but the tradeoff is that you find yourself with much more time and energy to devote to checking out your surroundings.

So as I began to wind through the streets of my hometown, I began to realize that it's not at all- anymore- the town I grew up in. The built or constructed town that I grew up in no longer exists. Whereas several years ago, a few radical millionaires began to level some of the town's older houses and replace them with McMansions, these days the modern castle is the norm.

I counted maybe a handful of the old relics of days past: modest, split-level ranches or Colonial style three-bedroom houses nestled in a patch of shrubbery with wide expanses of lawn rolling down to the street. Today, most of the houses in town are gigantic, hulking things, surrounded by scrawny, overly perfect landscaping and a tiny strip of newly-laid sod. Plots of land that once looked generous are now overflowing with house, house, three-car garage, and more house.

Of course I realize this is not a revelation. Like any cultural phenomenon, this movement toward bigger = better has been rolling along for years now. But I can't help but shake my head at the ridiculousness of it sometimes...

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Two Hitchcocks in Two Days

Last night and this afternoon Baker and I watched both Rope and Suspicion, two Hitchcock films I hadn't seen before. Rope stars Jimmy Stewart and takes place over the course of one evening in essentially only two rooms in an apartment. The movie is filmed to look like one long take, which, according to the Turner Classic Movies guy, wasn't technically possible in those days because the camera could only hold reels of 10 minutes worth of film. Hitchcock had someone walk in front of the camera every time the reel ran out so that the blackout between reels appeared "seamless." In fact, it's a pretty obvious ploy.

Suspicion stars Cary Grant and was nowhere near as suspenseful. Rope had me chewing my fingernails at several points but I never really believed Cary was going to kill his wife, which is what we were supposed to suspect him of plotting to do in Suspicion. So while I enjoyed both, I'd say they pale in comparison to Vertigo. There's nothing like a movie about falling from great heights to send chills down my spine.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Chondromalacia of the patella

Er, runner's knee. Yup, I'm pretty sure that's what I have. I've examined several diagrams of the human knee on the internet (though I've steered well clear of the photographs of what appear to be dissected cadavers) and it seems that there are just so many darn tendons surrounding the joint that this diagnosis is sort of the catch-all way of saying you could have strained or pulled any one of them.

Unfortunately, I'm not so good at accepting the fact that I'm injured and being patient about it. Luckily I've gotten help in the form of an encouraging email from a fellow marathoner-in-training, but it's still going to be a frustrating week for me.

So any additional words of support and commiseration are more than welcome. In fact, I'm begging for them. I'm also hoping to have help keeping things in perspective. So feel free to remind me of the much bigger problems wreaking havoc in the world right now. I'll just sit here and continue to play melancholy dirges on my violin and sigh loudly every few minutes.

Monday, August 23, 2004

It's a Bermuda-ful Life

My mom told me to expect the most beautiful beaches I'd ever seen, but I was still blown away by one Bermudian beach in particular: Horeshoe Bay. The sandy bottom was flat, soft, and white. And you could not only feel it but see it as well because the water was perfectly transparent with an aquamarine tint. The size of the waves varied on different days; the first time I went, they were small, a regular back and forth swaying on which you could drift for a while. On my second visit, they were larger, good for riding if you felt like it or bobbing on top of if you didn't.

Of course the most unexpected treat (and therefore the best I think) was the moped experience. Like anything that turns out to be great, the idea of the mopeds was met with some trepidation on our part. They were dangerous. People wound up in casts after slipping on sand or riding up and over curbs. But we went for them anyway, and I can't think of a better way to explore the island. They weren't just transportation, I said to the other members of my family at dinner on our last night, they were entertainment in and of themselves.

Tropical (or, excuse me, semi-tropical) islands are strange. I loved living in that environment for a week, but I'm not sure now that the Caribbean or the coast of Mexico holds as much allure for me as it once did. Even "paradise" isn't always paradise: lizards, heat, and even tropical foliage sometimes make you even more keen for dry air, autumn leaves, and good old chipmunks, which you can watch being chased around your backyard by your cat.

It's amazing though that a place like Bermuda exists only 2 hours by plane from New York. There's nothing- and I mean nothing- else out there in the middle of the Atlantic but this curvy strip of coral piled with pastel colored cottages and tourists buzzing around on little bikes. I'm glad I had a chance to see it.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Back in the States

I have safely returned from the land of pink sand, crystal blue waters, and reversed traffic flow. Bermuda was beautiful and I will write much more about it once I have had a good night's sleep or two...

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


"Who would want to live here?" Baker growled as we sat at a standstill on Route 290 South in Worcester. The entire city was in a state of catastrophic construction today as it always seems to be.

Not that drilling into, widening, or repaving those roads is going to somehow transform them into anything that even remotely makes sense. We spent what seemed like hours attempting to navigate our way along routes that switched back, hooked, and then met up with other roads without signage of any kind. It was a blast.

What is nice, surprisingly, is the area around Worcester, namely Grafton, where Anne's school is and where she took us for lunch today. I even could warm up to rowing out of Holy Cross's boathouse on Lake Quinsigamond. But jeez, someone needs to do something about the traffic conditions.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Marriage on a Mountaintop

East Madison, NH didn't look that far away on the map. But it took most of yesterday to get there and most of today to get back. Baker, Chase, and I pulled into our motel at 4:05, 55 minutes before the scheduled start of the ceremony which was to take place on the top of a mountain. We checked in, yanked on our wedding clothes and took off again for Purity Springs Resort, the location of the sacred event.

It turned out we weren't late at all, and we boarded a somewhat questionable old school bus that huffed and puffed its way up the mountain's hairpin turns and deposited us at the top a good 15 minutes before the bride and her family arrived in a horse drawn carriage.

Fortunately, the rain held off until after the ceremony, which was set up so that the bride walked (barefoot) down a carpeted aisle to meet the groom and minister, who stood at the top of a double black diamond trail ("Experts Only") making for a pretty cool backdrop.

Overall, the wedding experience was pretty good. There were many more young children and much less dancing than I'd expected. It was good to see the young Berkshire faculty contingent one last time before I move out to Chicago, though. And it was fantastic to see two people look as happy and content as Clay and Kristina did.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Taft Farms

Yesterday, after my extremely successful trip to the Lee Outlets, where I scored - for $50- an outfit to wear to the wedding I'm going to this weekend, Baker and I met up at Taft Farms, a 200-acre farm in Great Barrington. No, we didn't spend the remainder of the afternoon milking cows or harvesting corn. Instead we patronized the small store the owners have set up there, where they sell fruit, vegetables, and apparently some pretty special chicken.

We bought a couple enormous tomatoes, an onion, a few apples, some fresh mozzerella, and a homemade ginger molasses cookie. Baker bought the cookie, but I had a taste and I must say it was delicious, probably because it was baked there that morning. The tomatoes may have come from New Jersey, though.

Anyway, the atmosphere was very rustic and farm-like. The experience of shopping there was reminiscent of the old Four Seasons, that great store we used to have in Darien. Or Morning Glory Farm on Martha's Vineyard. So even if the produce is shipped in from Mexico or New Jersey or wherever, it makes you feel like what you're buying is so much more fresh than what'd you get in the grocery store. And that makes it all worth it.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Dining Adventures

Last night, Baker and I + soon-to-be-newlyweds Clay and Kristina + their two friends, ate out at one of Great Barrington's newest restaurants (name available upon request). I was expecting sheer bare bones bar fare, but instead JSG (<-- name teaser) was full of surprises, both good and bad.

First of all, we were seated on the deck, clean and newly constructed of new age, fake wood composite material. It wasn't too hot and the atmosphere was very pleasant. The only problem was the proximity to Route 7, as in the deck was about 10 feet from the road. So noise became an issue.

Now for a review of the food. The menu was very promising, featuring portabello mushrooms, brie, and pesto (three cheers for basil!) I guess it has to be acknolwedged, however, that almost every dish featured some combination of the above three ingredients: on top of pasta, chicken, a hamburger, or "field greens." I was not worried though. Those are good ingredients!

So I decided on the tortellini and scallops topped with pesto. The portions were refreshingly small, as in the waitress did not set before me a trough of pasta. The pesto was mostly oil with very few herbs however, and I think I counted three scallops on my plate.

And speaking of the wait staff... I'd bet a lot of money that half of them didn't want to be waiting tables but happened to be conscripted into duty by virtue of their relationship to the owner of the place, which would account for our waitress's surly attitude. My only other complaint is the size of the beverages. I think I had to ask for water three times, and I had quite a little row of empty glasses in front of me by the end of the meal.

So, would I go back? Absolutely! I have to try something with portabello and brie in it...

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Ye Olde Alma Mater

Lounging in Bill's backyard at Amherst was exactly what I wanted to do after yesterday morning's 17-mile run. Greta was cute and charming until the afternoon turned into the evening and sitting around was no longer amusing enough for her. She tried to make things more fun by dumping her little bowl of salad onto the seat of one of the green, plastic lawn chairs and mushing it around, but this stunt didn't attract enough attention, so she decided to whip out the toddler's secret weapon: her lungs. Still, her little cries and yelps were nowhere near as grating as the ones let loose by the screaming children at the Holyoke Mall earlier that afternoon.

We ordered food from various Amherst take-out establishments, which was mediocre, but it didn't really matter. (No offense to those who remain loyal to Fresh Side, but I should've stuck with Bueno...) Before leaving town, we made the obligatory stop at Rao's, which has now swallowed up the Indian restaurant that used to be next door, and then took a quick driving tour of campus.

Let me just say that the term "under construction" vastly understates the situation right now at the fairest college. The two new dorms located where Milliken used to be are almost finished and look pretty nice, hulking though they may be; a foundation for a new building of some sort was plopped right on the hillside between Fayerweather and A and B dorms; and, most shocking of all, James and Stearns are... gone!

I feel as if all of my freshman year memories have been erased. No more will eager young 18-year-olds haul kegs up four flights of stairs, yelling, "Fourth floor Stearns is the paw-tee floor!" In place of those two much-revered "cooler" freshman dorms is nothing but a pile of dirt. It's enough to bring a tear to my eye...