Maureen Chao should take a few lessons from Joe Biden on “foot-from-mouth-extraction”…

You know, I think when the U.S. Vice-Consul was describing her 24-hour train ride in “Inja” she was probably just remembering all the Rudyard Kipling fantasies that had caused her to get involved in the U.S. Foreign Service in the first place.

US Vice-Consul Maureen Chao told Indian students on Friday that her “skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians” after a long train journey, according to Indian media — referring to people from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Yes, when you’re out there getting dirty, your light skin gets dark. Just look at century-old photos of Irish coal-miners; try looking at a few photos of soldiers. They would be pilloried for appearing in black-face, in our modern era.

But she’s a “diplomat,” supposed to be one of those smarter people that put a better face on the ugly American all over the world. So….I don’t feel all that sorry for her.

HOWEVER…for sheer damage control from stupid remarks, one should always look to Vice-President Joe Biden, who–after all–was considered an acceptable, “ready to enter the Oval Office” guy because of his many years of dealing with “other” people on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here’s what he said about his running-mate:

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

Now, Biden’s decades-long experience in extricating his foot from his mouth enabled him to quickly pivot, and offer this explanation, which I have helpfully altered to demonstrate what the Vice-Consul should have said:

The Tamil are probably the most exciting faction that any movement on the Indian sub-continent has produced at least since I’ve been around,” Maureen Chao said on the call. “And they’re fresh. They’re new. They’re smart. They’re insightful. And I really regret that some have taken totally out of context my use of the words “dirty and dark.”

Chao said she was referring to a phrase used by her mother.

“My mother has an expression: clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack,” Chao said.

Obama, in a brief off-camera interview in a Senate hallway, said he thinks Chao “didn’t intend to offend” anyone.

“The Tamil called me,” Obama said. “I told them it wasn’t necessary. We have got more important things to worry about. We have got Iraq. We have got health care. We have got energy. This is low on the list.”

If only.

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2008 LOTR redux for 2012…

A few weeks before the last presidential election, it was clear that the forces of socialist darkness were massing to overwhelm the tradition of Western civilization, so I decided to have a little fun with a “Lord of the Rings” analogy. So, it was fun to see the theme taken up again in time for the new, improved final battle between good and evil coming next year, here. Of course, the cast of characters in the modern version has changed; Some, such as Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson have become irrelevant. But it was interesting to me to see that my version and the newer one agree that George Soros is Sauron. I still think Sarah Palin is more Eowyn than Arwen. A repost of my 2008 version follows (the big news then was that Colin Powell had jumped ship and endorsed Obama, which thoroughly ticked me off, as will be evident).

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The more I think about Rachel’s post from the other day, the more I think of how totally appropriate and brilliant it was. What did you think that Obama “O” logo was all about, anyway—if not the sign of the Ringwraith Master? How else to explain the insanity of Obamamania? One ring to rule them all, and in the darkness, bind them…

I disagree significantly with Rachel’s casting, though….Sauron is not the MSM….perhaps Sauron is Soros? The MSM are the Orcs, clearly. Clearly. There can be no argument here. They have nothing going on in their own lives, except the mindless furthering of their master’s machinations. And they will eat each other, or any other living creature, too.

Charlie Gibson is a Battle Troll—a mindless creature given great destructive power for no apparent reason. Katie Couric is the similarly mindless Shelob. More casting calls as I have time. Great, great analogy though–the presidential campaign of 2008 and LOTR. Brilliant. The NYT represents the Nazgul.
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So, as I was driving home from New Haven yesterday afternoon, driving in to the worst sun glare I’ve ever seen in my life—sun glare like The Eye of Sauron, which was causing massive congestion on I-95 AND the Merrit Parkway….
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….and I was listening to traffic reports on the radio interspersed with endless reports of Colin Powell [isn't he Denethor, First Steward of Gondor in our little analogy???] endorsing The One, and I was thinking to myself, what a politically gutless bureaucratic swine he is. Too strong, you say? Pah! He could have thrown his hat into the ring a long time ago, but he lacked the gonads.

What courage, General, to endorse The One when all the polls show him winning anyway. As someone else said, agent of change? No guilt at throwing all those stodgy white guys under the bus….the ones that pushed you up for a 4-Star Generalship, National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Secretary of State. Yeah, where were all those Democrats who were promoting that kind of “generational change” that you now crave, back then? You big phony. And you’re a sissy, too, because if you had real political stones, you’d have come out earlier, rather than waiting to see who you think would win. Disappointing, but not altogether unexpected.

Speaking of Colin Powell/Denethor, The Concerned Jewish Ladies of The Main Line are back at it again, calling and emailing me to let me know that General Powell has thrown himself on the funeral pyre, and that I really should save myself. So are some of my WASP country club friends. And let’s not even talk about my rock’n'roll buddies, who went into the tank two years ago. My over-educated, underemployed friends. Those darn rings again.

The Rings of Power explain it all, the fanatical support that various tribes have for their own enslavement. Just like LOTR. The fact that they’re all calling me, however, shows that they know this thing isn’t in the bag yet in Pennsylvania….which makes me happy. Oh, and The Daily Kos is Gollum….“We wantssss the Preciousssss……’

I still think that there is no question that Sarah Palin is Eowyn in this political adaptation of LOTR, but I don’t have time, or the memory, to go back and put faces on all the other characters. Is Joe the Plumber “Treebeard?” Wouldn’t that be wonderful…..
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Open casting call: feel free to participate with comments, if so desired. This is not our day to die.

UPDATE: Mixing ring movies here, I know, but I still think we can fight back against the O….

UPDATE: Byron York on the “Army of Joes” facing off with the MSM Orcs….this is not our day to die.

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Au Revoir, Quebec, back to sweltering reality…

I spent my last full day in Quebec city ambling around, trying to take in any sights I might have missed during the preceeding week…I think I got most of the important points covered. I spent a few hours this morning completing a walk around the old city on the rampart walls….not too many places in North America you can do that, and it was well worth the effort. Boy, does that feel European.

So, I guess these final hours would be a good time to record my initial impressions of the place; it’s almost 4pm, rain is forecast for any minute, so I’m back in my palatial hotel room typing a way. It’s about 75 degrees here, and quite humid, definitely feels like rain is on the way. weather.com tells me that it’s about twenty degrees hotter in Philadelphia, with the same storm scheduled to hit there first. Good. I’ve gotten used to this wonderful Canadian summer weather, the idea of heading back down to the soggy mid-Atlantic states doesn’t appeal; supposedly our weather back home will continue in the low 90s, but this storm will break the humidity (and water my garden).

I like Quebec very much. It had been described to me as a good place to go when you need a quick “Paris fix,” and I can see that. It’s not ersatz, McFrance-Disney Paris, it’s the genuine article; a transplantation of French culture–complete with late medieval history and architecture– that deserves respect. The fact that those of us who come here as tourists delight in it shouldn’t be held against the Quebecois. There were many times over the course of this week–particularly in the quieter residential areas where the tourists don’t throng and all that one hears spoken is French that I found myself forgetting that I was still in North America, only 1-3/4 hours from home, and in the same time zone. It is genuine.

The food is fantastic, and I look forward to getting back to my usual diet; despite all the walking and other exercise, I can feel new pounds on my frame. The prices are interesting; shopping and dining prices are very New York, expensive. The sales tax is oppressive–5% national plus 8% provincial–and no, you can’t get a VAT refund form at the airport as you can in Europe. However, I have to say, our lodging is very reasonable. The Hotel le Chateau Frontenac isn’t cheap, but the suite and amenities we’ve enjoyed this week would have cost at least twice as much in Manhattan, probably much more.

Yesterday we took our first excursion outside the city walls, taking a taxi to the Isle d’Orleans out in the St. Lawrence Seaway. Once there, we rented bicycles, and spent about five hours exploring a 25-mile route. Thank God for ibuprofen, between the biking and all the walking around in old Quebec’s steep streets, my hip arthritis should be crippling me, but it’s not. Orleans is a beautiful, interesting island, well worth your time if you have extra time while in Quebec.

It is a substantial land mass, roughly the same size as Martha’s Vineyard, and with a similar number of villages separated by open terrain. Unlike MV, Orleans is still at least 90% agrarian; the working farms far outnumber the artists’ galleries and B&Bs. Most of the farms are dairy, potato, or fruit producers. There once was a thriving fishing and boat-building industry there, but the importance of the Seaway to general commerce and the resulting pollution mean that they have to import their seafood from further east. There is definitely a thriving tourist industry there, and a substantial number of what appear to be vacation homes, but the large farms are still dominant, and the unique Canadian maritime architecture still holds sway. Charming, and a great place for a long bike ride on a beautiful day.

One other observation: I’ve noticed how much more I like the popular music I hear on the radio and in cafes here in Quebec, much of it sung in French. (I’ve never much cared for the pop music I hear in France). Why? I wondered. Then it dawned on me, this is Canada, you hoser! The land of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Oscar Peterson, Paul Anka, Bryan Adams, and many others.

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My travelogue has a woeful backlogue….

Sorry about that. I find traveloguing when traveling with a companion difficult, because there is, of course, the reasonable expectation that one will accompany one’s companion on all of the day’s adventures, from breakfast through lights out. My best traveloguing comes when my wife is engaged in an activity–such as a painting class–that doesn’t involve me, and keeps her occupied while allowing me free rein to explore my new suroundings on my own.

Our last trip (to Maine) had been barely over for two weeks when we decided to indulge our new foot-looseness (no more kids in college) and take off on another trip. So, with only two weeks available to catch up from the prior trip and plan the next one, I have not yet completed my Maine travelogue, and have decided to skip ahead and start blogging this one, from Quebec. It’s raining here on this Tuesday morning, and I had hoped to spend some time blogging while my wife went to the hotel gym, but she is back (it was full of rainy-day exercisers) and is now prodding me to go to a
museum with her, so I will probably have to continue this later.

Our only real parameters for this trip were: Must use frequent flyer miles; must be someplace we’ve never been; must have super-fancy hotel; must take us out of the heat wave that has been hovering over most of the U.S. So, here we are, in beautiful Old City Quebec, where the temperature is a full 20 degrees cooler than Philadelphia, staying at the incredibly fabulous Fairmont Hotel le Chateau Frontenac. I fully intend to fill you in on the details, and then eventually backtrack on the Maine trip, but for now I am being prodded to escort ma femme to la Musee de la Civilisation. More later, I promise.

OK, I’m back. I didn’t think the museum was all it was cracked up to be, but it sure was full, given the lousy weather…60 degrees, windy, raining. Actually, compared to the way it was at home in Philly, this is heaven. Good news is the wife is tuckered out and napping, then going to try the gym again, then probably some shopping, which means I will finally get some writing done.

So anyway, we decided on Quebec for all the reasons listed above, and so far it’s been a perfect choice. The Chateau Frontenac is described as “the most photographed hotel in the world,” and if you look at the pictures of it you can see why. (I’ll clean up the formatting and add pictures here when I get home, right now I’m composing this on an iPad, which I haven’t fully mastered).

The old part of Quebec is just as lovely as I’ve always heard. Much of the old fortification is still in place, and the old architecture was fully restored in preparation for the city’s 400th birthday bash in 2008. French is the primary language, but there is no problem finding speakers of perfect speakers of English wherever you go (my French is a little rusty), the food and ambience are pure European, and it is really possible to forget that you’re only an hour by car from the U.S. border, and not in France itself.

Specifically, with its steep terrain, narrow, winding streets, shops, cafes, and bistros–and lots of tourists– Quebec feels a great deal like the Montmartre section of Paris. It even has the funiculaires, those part-elevator, part-train contraptions that can haul the tourist weary of pedestrian ascents up steep 100-yard roads or stairways in a matter of minutes. Sacre-Coeur the famous basilica, is the landmark looming above Montmartre, and in Quebec its role is played by the Hotel Chateau Frontenac, which springs from the highest promontory in the city like a castle from a fairy tale.

We arrived shortly after noon on Sunday, and settled in for a few refreshments in the 14th floor lounge while they finished getting our room ready for an early check-in. The “Chateau” was built in the 1890s by a Canadian railroad baron, during a time at which railroad barons (and other North American “barons”) seemed obsessed with using their new wealth to recreate late medieval European in the New World. The views from our 16th floor room are spectacular, and looking down at the lower village gives a true sense of what it must have felt like to live in a medieval castle and look down across the turrets and soaring mansard roofs down to the village below. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the fantastic weather (70 degrees, light breeze, compared to 95 and sticky at home) and walking around the city getting our bearings. Took a passenger/auto ferry across the St. Lawrence Seaway to the town of Levis, just for the ride–didn’t even bother getting off, just rode back taking in the sights and nice weather. Dinner at a little Franco-Italian place called Conti–not great, but not bad either, foodwise, but nice ambience with open windows on the street and a pleasant staff.

The hotel is directly adjacent to the Citadel of Quebec, one of the oldest and largest fortresses in North America, and still in use as an active military base by the 22nd Regiment, the only all-French unit in the Canadian armed forces. We spent the morning touring the base, which is sort of a living museum, witnessing a ritual changing-of-the-guard ceremony by troops dressed as Beefeaters (complete with tall bearskin hats), while active-duty troops in modern uniforms and berets went about their business nearby. Quite a workout, some fascinating history (the Plains of Abraham of French-and-Indian War fame are here), and great views from the ramparts atop the palisades.

In the afternoon we went to the waterfront to see the Bunge grain elevator complex, an interesting story. It is a mass of concrete silos built side-by-side to an overall length equal to 7 football fields, and standing at least 12 stories high….an eyesore by any standard. However, in a stroke of genius, the Quebecois took lemons and made lemonade. The structure is lit up every night by an elaborate system of video projectors, accompanied by an equally elaborate sound system, creating the world’s largest outdoor light show and movie projector, something like an incredibly large iMax theater that can be seen from all over the city. Now a major attraction instead of an eyesore, it is known as the Moulin a Images…..”The Picture Mill.”

Tonight we try out the Restaurant Gastronomique in the hotel (it’s still raining, and it’s supposed to be quite an experience anyway), tomorrow more exploring, including a trip to the Montmorency Falls (higher than Niagara), and in the evening taking in the Spanish contribution to the International Fireworks Competition, which Quebec is hosting this year.

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Summer idyll, part 2…


[View from Mt. Greylock, Williamstown, MA]

Ah, Williamstown. Those of you who have followed my saga know that I have a special relationship with the place. I told my kids “I don’t care where you go to college, as long as it’s someplace that I want to visit.” Of course, that was only part of the criteria, but Williamstown never let me down. This idyllic, bucolic little mecca in the northern Berkshires was exactly the kind of place I had in mind. And it is a matter of historical record that my oldest, who graduated in ’07, had visited the place in utero.

It was great fun pulling into town a few weeks ago, for the first time since the ’07 graduation. Businesses had changed, the college was putting up new buildings (as colleges always are). Our favorite restaurant, Mezze Bistro, had taken advantage of the real estate downturn, and bought a wonderful site on the outskirts of town for a song. We stayed overnight with my late father-in-law’s best friend and grad-school (Wharton) roommate; like so many other “Ephs” (pronounced “Eefs,” after Ephraim Williams, founder of the town and college), he had returned to the “Purple Valley” (after a long career in Europe) to retire and enjoy the collegiate country atmosphere. It’s a very interesting network they have, those Ephs, one which led a friend of mine (a Harvard grad) to call Williams “the best college in the country.” It certainly is a heck of a great place….their per-pupil endowment approaches that of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Anyway, it was fun being back in town after a four-year hiatus.

I took this shot on Spring Street, while seated at a new sidewalk café (where our old favorite had been), while Emma went across the street to check out her favorite clothing boutique and the adjacent art gallery. Fun.

It was funny how different it felt, once we had overcome the anticipation of pulling into a familiar town. We knew our way around, but it felt like ancient history. Yes, it was summer on a small college campus, but still…there was no sense of belonging anymore. Much more a sense of being a tourist, looking in on the local scene, and then moving on.

Next stop: The Mohawk Trail

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“Time Machine” by The Peace Creeps…

My friends the Peace Creeps have a new CD out, and it’s selling well on CD-Baby. Here’s a review I wrote recently. Highly recommended.

In Woody Allen’s new film Midnight In Paris, Owen Wilson plays an American writer who longs to live among his literary heroes from the past. He gets his wish, and soon finds himself communing with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, and Gertrude Stein in Roaring-Twenties Paris. The screenplay could easily have been written about Peace Creeps front-man Richard Bush, who has never been shy about proclaiming his musical influences; Richard would like to turn the clock back several decades, and hang with The Beatles, The Zombies, Little Richard, and the early Stones: “It’s all about 1968,” he says, “when the Beatles were at their peak and everyone wanted to be in a band.”

Back in 1979, when Bush’s old band The A’s were nearing their peak, Rolling Stone editor Dave Fricke wrote this very positive review of their first album for Arista Records:

“Shameless thieves though they are, the Philadelphia-based A’s plunder the Sixties and early Seventies with style and humor…this band welds pop’s cheery past to the concentrated power of punk’s nihilistic present, creating a flagrantly derivative whole that would simply be the impressive sum of its obvious parts if the A’s didn’t go about their piracy with such panache.”

Richard Bush still flies his Sixties flag high, and the Peace Creeps are his modern shipmates as he continues his piratical plundering of pop’s past. “Derivative” is way too strong a word, but “respectful emulation” would work quite well in this context; like the Owen Wilson character, Richard Bush is a “nostalgiac.”

The Peace Creeps are releasing their second album this month, and its title–Time Machine–succinctly captures what they are all about. “We call it our little 1968 rock’n’roll band re-enactment society,” says Bush’s songwriting partner AJay McLaughlin. As was the case with their first album Autumn of Love (a whimsical nod to 1967′s so-called “Summer of Love”), it is an unabashed tribute to the musical forbears who became their artistic muses. The title comes from their song “Meet The Beatles,” a wistful fantasy that forms the album’s thematic frame:

“Someone told me yesterday you were gone away,
Never had the chance to say ‘Goodbye’…
But if we could paint the town one last time, we’d make everything much better,
We can do anything we want to when I get my time machine together.
I’ll stop back and pick you up, we’ll go and meet The Beatles.”

While none of the album’s twelve songs can truly be called “derivative,” recognizable allusions to various styles abound. There are stylistic flourishes in “When The Revolution Comes” and “May Queen” that recall the Sergeant Pepper’s and Magical Mystery Tour albums, particularly the backing vocals of bassist Roy Fisher and drummer Jeff Pancoast, and the playing of guitarist Johnny Marchiano, who alternates between psychedelic-era leads and the buzzy twanging of his sitar-guitar. “Sad Song Tonight” evokes “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”–until real sitar played by Bill Colacicco chimes in and reminds the listener of “Norwegian Wood.” The most surprising song on the album is “Cold”–just one minute and a mere ten lines long, with only a string quartet for accompaniment (arranged by Philadelphia composer Kile Smith)–perhaps a nod to Beatles producer George Martin, who pushed for the use of orchestral instruments in “Yesterday” and “Eleanor Rigby.” None of these are even close to being “copies” of Beatles songs, but their tone and attitude nevertheless pervade.

Elsewhere we hear the influence of other Sixties icons–The Zombies in “Fashions For The Fall,” The Who in “Over The Top,” and the Rolling Stones in “X-Ray Eyes.” The raucous “Letter O’ Love” defies easy categorization. Think: “Johnny Rivers starts playing ‘Secret Agent Man,’ but then Elvis and Little Richard show up and they all jam.” The album’s final cut–“I Hate November”–perhaps serves as a reminder that even time-travelers ultimately must return to their own allotted years; Bush will turn 60 when his next November rolls around. Fellow nostalgiacs will enjoy noting that Rocco Notte, his band-mate and co-songwriter from The A’s days, plays keyboards on two of the album’s twelve songs.

The Peace Creeps will debut their new album in Philadelphia on Saturday, July 30 at the Tin Angel.

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/peacecreeps2

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Summer idyll…

 

Kennebunkport, 1961

A little slice of Americana for ya there…Kennebunkport Maine, 1961. That is my Cornell-grad-via Memphis mother looking like she’s modeling the new Chevrolet Bel-Air (I think the pose would work for a new refrigerator or oven, too), with her three oldest of what would become a six-pack. The Chevy is actually a 1956 model, the same as me. My dad bought it from his dad.

If the picture were in color, you would see it has the old orange and black NY plates on it (which have now come back into use! Retro!), because we were Brooklynites at the time (the car was also one of those colors that were used on Fender guitars–either Surf Green or Sonic Blue, can’t remember…they used the exact same lacquer paint on the guitars that was used on the cars of the day; that might explain a lot about me). “I lived with them on Montague Street, in an apartment up the stairs…there was music in the cafés at night, and revolution in the air….” (apologies to Robert Zimmerman). There we were…I was five (I am in the striped shirt, on the right), my brothers were three, and 1-1/2. They are both lawyers now, like our father. I am still a romantic guitar-playing revolutionary. Those cottages were as primitive as the car, but boy, what a great time we had. Our family returned to them several times, so all but my very youngest sister got to experience the classic Maine cottage vacation. Fishing from the piers, gathering mussels and clams. The Euell Gibbons family, that was us.

As I mentioned in previous posts, my wife and I embarked on a free-wheeling summer road trip during the last week of June, during which we planned to revisit old friends and old places. No pressure to be anywhere on time (within limits), no kids, just us and a car. And GPS (very helpful, how did we ever get along without it?) Our first stop was in the Hudson River Valley, visiting my sister-in-law, as described here. The most interesting thing (from my perspective) was our walk across a former railroad bridge which spans the Hudson, and is now part of one of those reclaimed railroad right-of-way trails.

We also passed through the Vanderbilt estate on our way out of the area, which was more remarkable for the stunning setting than for the dour, ornate architecture. FDR lived almost next door, I wonder they ever talked.

Part of an ongoing series, to be continued in another post. Next stop: Williamstown, MA.

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“Up the airy mountain…

…down the rushy glen, we daren’t go a-hunting, for fear of little men.”

I always think of William Allingham’s most famous poem, “The Fairies” when I’m visiting the Hudson Valley, because I always associate it with Washington Irving’s most famous story, “Rip Van Winkle.” Although they were contemporaries, there really is no connection; Allingham was Irish, and Irving was an American. Still, their similarly surreal and evocative tales of the supernatural creatures of the hilly, craggy forests have always merged in my mind whenever I’m out hiking in the Adirondacks, and their neighboring northeast Appalachian ranges, the Catskills, the Shawangunks, and the Berkshires.

We were hiking in “The Gunks” today, as the Shawangunks are locally known. Nothing too strenuous, just a pleasant two-hour power walk up the airy mountains, and down the rushy glens, through groves of oak and hemlock, through small valleys flanked by steep granite cliffs, always crossing or paralleling the many creeks and streams that flow into the Esopus Creek, and thence to the mighty Hudson. If the little men exist, they watched our passage through their lands.

We arrived in Ulster County New York yesterday, and checked in to the very pleasant Inn at Stone Ridge, an old Huguenot manse that now offers comfortable, antique suites and a first-rate restaurant. From this base, we are visiting my sister-in-law, who lives a more Bohemian lifestyle in the hamlet of Rosendale. There seem to be three distinct types of people in this area: hippies, urban hipsters, and true ruralites. There are as many Porsche Boxters as old, rusty pick-up trucks; the bohemians hitchhike, walk, or ride bikes. Spent a pleasant few hours among the bohemians and ruralites at an outdoor rock concert, sort of their own mini-Woodstock (a tradition that started not so far away, at Yasgur’s farm, you may recall). Today we hiked, shopped in upscale Rhinebeck, and celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary, so we are participating in all the local lifestyles. Tomorrow we head north to Williamstown, MA, but we hope to report on some more local sights in Hyde Park (across the river) on our way.

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So, I’m going to Maine…

Cape Porpoise Pier
I love planning trips. In my next life I should be a travel agent, except that no one needs them anymore, everyone just plans their own trips using the internet, as I always do. This trip has the added advantages of serendipity and poignancy, so I’m especially happy about it.

One of my oldest and dearest friends invited us up to his house in Maine for 4th of July weekend, along with several other of our oldest and dearest friends–I’m talking friends since junior high school, 1969. Truly like brothers and sisters. Four couples, plus part of one couple…one friend lost her husband to cancer last year. My adult trips to Maine have been limited to Mt. Desert Island–Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, that whole scene. Lovely, nothing wrong with that, but I haven’t really set foot on the central and southwestern coast of Maine since I was a child, and that is where we’ll be going this time. I’m looking forward to revisiting my past (speaking of which, I just saw Woody Allen’s new film “Midnight in Paris”–loved it. Go.)

As it turned out, we have the week before 4th of July weekend off, so I decided we should take a meandering trip up there, and revisit people and places. An odyssey. We even have a 29th wedding anniversary in there, which we’ll spend in Rhinebeck, NY–Hudson River valley–while visiting a sister-in-law. Next stop will be Williamstown, MA, home of Williams College. Haven’t set foot in that beautiful hamlet since my oldest son graduated there four years ago. My father-in-law was there for that graduation, but he has since passed on. We’ll be spending the night with an old college room-mate of his–they were in graduate school together at UPenn right after WWII. Sam went to Williams College for undergrad, and like so many Williams grads, bought a house there to live out his retirement years. It felt so good to send my son there.

I wrote an essay for a graduate school class a couple of years ago; the prompt was “milestones.” I wrote about taking my oldest son to college for the first time, and all the milestones from my own life that I passed along the way on that journey. One of the younger people in the class asked me if becoming a parent for the first time wasn’t a bigger milestone than the launch of a fledgling. I had to say “no.” Mostly because when a child enters your life, you don’t have time to reflect on the significance; it’s a time of action, and the action of parenting doesn’t slow down until they leave, and then things go silent. Then you can reflect.

After Williamstown, the plan is to take the Mohawk Trail–Route 2–east to Lexington. Re-enacting the Palin bus tour. No, just kidding….visiting a cousin of my wife’s who is a Unitarian minister, and who officiated over the memorial services for my wife’s father and grandmother. Also going to visit one of my old friends and team-mates. Brian went to Harvard, while I was at Boston University. Our Boston days were quite different. Brian and I were on the wrestling team in high school for four years, and it definitely helped harden us for what we faced in Boston as young adults.

From the Boston area, we’ll take the short hop across the NH coastline, and arrive in Maine. “Vacationland,” as the license plates used to say (maybe they still say that, don’t know). When I was a kid, we went to Kennebunkport several times, staying at a place that had a few dozen two-room white-clapboard cottages. My parents got one room, and the kids got the other. There was only one sink, in one of the “bedrooms.”

The lone toilet was in a water-closet somewhere under the eaves, with a slanted ceiling that would hit your head, but these were luxury accommodations compared to the place we had on Bailey Island, where we got iron-infused water from a pump outside and used an outhouse. With five brothers and sisters, I and my family camped a lot (motels were an expensive luxury), so we were fairly used to this level of comfort. On Bailey Island, we swam in bays filled with live sea urchins and live sand-dollars. Incredible.

In Maine, we went totally Euell Gibbons–we fished at Cape Porpoise ever day for pollock and mackerel, while the younger kids gathered crabs and mussels from among the seaweed-covered rocks. Then we went back to the cabin and had a feast, followed by whiffle-ball on the grass with the other kids in the summer cottage community. My wife doesn’t do “rustic,” so we’ll be staying at one of the inns when we get there, but I’m definitely going to be seeking some of these other places out. I just want to stand there, and remember what it was like to have a crew-cut and go fishing and think whiffle-ball was the most fun game on the planet.

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Good thing Cadbury wasn’t advertising their new….

chocolate easter bunnies.
….I don’t know about you, but I just love this post-racial utopia that Obamalinsky has brought us. Imagine the ensuing outcry had this been an ad implying the superior qualities of a new White Chocolate bar. The mind reels. Perhaps in this racially charged environment we should all just stick to Carob.

UPDATE: I had to add this: the prospect of a civil rights protest boycott of Cadbury made me think of the 80-year boycott of L.L. Bean:

African-American Boycott of L.L. Bean Enters 80th Year

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