A little update

B, of course, remains one of the great joys of life. We still see her often, though  we’d like to see her more.

She is 8 now, just beginning third grade. Reading, which we were afraid was coming slowly, has now kicked in strongly, and she’s often burying her head in the familiar family pose. She may yet become as booky as the rest of us—or whatever the equivalent is in the digital age (she is, of course, like many of her contemporaries, a whiz on electronic media of all types).

B and teeth

Sweet B, with silly Auntie Kate and Mommy in the background. You can see it’s a teeth-optional gathering

She still lets me snuggle her at bedtime and tell her Little Peach stories, some of which occasionally morph into tales of her mother’s riding triumphs. She’s about to participate in her own first horse show.


We’ll be there!



I was standing in Bradley Airport
not long ago
on a solo trip to Chicago

Just standing there
having the usual quick panicked look for my ticket
when toward me came a familiar form

It was Craig Trask
Old friend
And years far gone beyond the waning moon

He smiled his Craig Trask smile
Held out his hand and said
Long time no see pal

And an arm next to mine
thanks to the god of the muddled
and befuddled
Took it shook it and said
Hey Bob
How are things in Tampa

Lucky me

I’ve driven up and down I-91 hundreds of times since the late 1960s when I was at college in New Hampshire and the whole length of the then-new Interstate finally opened up. I was doing it again yesterday, daydreaming along about nothing special, heading south, and I remembered, as I often do on that stretch of road, one of the sweet, sweet moments of my life.

I’m a senior in college, so it has to be the spring of 1969. Late May or early June, before graduation but after I’ve finished up everything important. I’m cruising along solo in my old green two-seater, with the top down. The sun is low, but there is plenty of soft light left in the day. There’s a spot not too far south of Windsor where the southbound roadway runs high along a ridge with a long view over the winding Connecticut River and into Vermont. Everything—the water, the fields, the trees, the hills in the distance—is gold or green and fresh and perfect. And here am I, finished in style with studies I’d once thought were beyond me, sailing off with the wind in my hair to see my sweetheart, feeling higher than a kite on nothing but a kind of innocent pride, the beauty of nature, effortless youth, and true, true love.

My, it was fine.

Ponies and turtles

B just turned 8 a couple of weeks ago. She and I are having a morning chat about yesterday evening’s riding lesson. I’m saying how good she looked and how well she rode. I’m interested to know if she likes riding well enough to stick with it. Mock-seriously, I say, “So do you think you’ll keep riding, like your mommy, or do you think you’re more likely to study the lives of turtles?”

Brief pause, and then she turns to me and says, mock-seriously, “Are those my only options?”

I’d probably love her anyway, but this is pure delight.

Take your marks…

2014-11-13-23-50-17.pdf000The cleanup continues and the hits just keep on coming. It’s the early ‘70s, and this has to be the final event—the 880 relay—of a dual meet, because there are only two runners. That’s me with the gun (those shoes are Lydiards, pretty good for the era). I hope the observer was cheering, not yawning. The runner in the outside lane is the extraordinary Vin Kobylenski, at the time the best sprinter and longest jumper in the league. In 1972, he injured his right leg—his jumping leg—and won the league championship using his left.


The shot below—I’m the supercool dude in the gray tee and shades, with my hand on my knee—is probably from the same meet. I loved coaching, and—in my memory at least—I wasn’t too bad at it.



We were at an event back in May where the the Gin & Tonic was the drink on offer. I don’t think I’d had one in 25 or 30 years. Maybe longer. I liked it. Them.

Now I make up a couple several evenings a week. (One is not for me.)

After years of beer and inexpensive wine (well, cheap would be a more precise description), I’m shooting for the classic New England old-guy, blue-blazer, yacht-club version of the G&T. Here are the lessons I’ve gleaned from my sources:

Tanqueray. Keep it in the freezer.
Schweppes. Never Canada Dry.
Ice cubes. Never chipped ice.
Lime wedges. Lemon only in extremis.
Try 2-½ to 1, tonic to gin, and adjust to taste.

Pretty much the simplest cocktail around. And as I’ve rediscovered, pretty much perfect for hot summer evenings. But dangerous. I learned fast that my limit is one. Gin ain’t Pinot Grigio.


My father was an assignment foreman in the telephone company. It was an open office, and pretty informal. One day, one of the women who worked for him came to complain that someone else had misled her about some aspect of a job she was working on. She pronounced the word my’zld. Once the issue itself was dealt with, Dad said to her quietly, “Mary, it’s pronounced miss-led’.”

“No it’s not.”

“It is, Mary.”

She turned and called across the room. “Freddy, how do you pronounce

Freddy wrote it down on a piece of scrap paper, looked at it, and called back, “My’zld. Why?”

So guess how we pronounce it in the big linguistic in-joke that is our family.

Reflected gory

There’s a well-known passage in Franny and Zooey that has Zooey shaving in a mirror but trying not to look at his face in the process. When I read it—once only, I think—in 1965 or so, I took it as a interesting Zen exercise, and even though I was still probably shaving only once a week, I attempted to emulate his approach. Unlike Zooey, I wasn’t a handsome man battling vanity. I was just an uncertain boy who wanted some control over his body and mind and a little self-discipline. I’m still at it, though now it’s mere habit.

All this is to say I’m practiced in not looking at myself. But I still get surprised at the gym, where every move is thrown back at you. The weights I’m trying to lift, the exercises I’m trying to master, and the techniques I’m trying to learn are a real effort, so I usually focus hard on a spot on the floor out ahead of me or the ceiling above. Sometimes, overmatched by weight or sideswiped by fatigue, I give in to a grimace, which has the effect of closing my eyes altogether. But once in a while, I inadvertently but inevitably catch a horrifying view of a fat old man gasping and sagging on a bench or bent heavily forward with hands on knees. I recognize the guy, and I give him credit for what he’s doing, but when the synapses fully close and I realize that he is me, I think, “Where did I go?”

And then I think, “Effing mirrors.”

Wedding words

If you’re over 30 and have attended the usual number of weddings, you’ve heard this many times:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

It’s 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, in the Revised Standard Version, and it’s the only version I remember having heard. But I recently went to another wedding and heard this:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This is from the New International Version, and I have to admit I like it, though in general there’s much about the New International’s breeziness (and can I say occasional superficiality?) I don’t like.

For well-known, traditional verses, I almost always prefer the King James to its newer competitors. I don’t know the Bible well, though once long ago (it was my Carlos Kleiber summer) I worked my way through the King James with a Revised Standard open at my elbow. Once you have managed to work out the meanings of the arcane language, its power and beauty shine out.

Here’s the King James version of this verse:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

The first thing you notice is the use of “charity” rather than “love,” which probably explains why is doesn’t show up in modern marriage services. And it’s undeniably awkward and long-winded to modern ears. (Well, to my modern ears,anyway.)

So I’ve decided the next time I get married, it’s the New International for me.


Not surprisingly, it’s 2 Timothy 4:7 that I actually think of most these days. As both the Revised Standard and the New International have it:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

(The King James goes with “a” good fight.)

I recognize that Timothy is writing about Paul, who is in a tragic, frightening altogether horrible situation, and is confronting it with the power of his beliefs, and I don’t mean to trivialize that, but the language undeniably speaks to everyone feeling creaky with age, regardless of health or threat. To me, an unbeliever, it’s a metaphor for something like, “I worked hard to be good and do good, I’m pretty much done now, I tried my best.”

Two-time loser

Whoa, here’s another one of those clippings my aunt Bev kept and my cousin Kate passed along.  It’s about a track meet in the late ’60s, in which I was apparently thrashed in the two-mile, defeated in the mile “via a brisk stretch run” by the winner, and won the half-mile “after having enjoyed a helpful rest period.”

I think I might remember the two-mile (embarrassing defeats tend to stick in the mind), but I have no memory of the rest. Mostly, though, I want to retrospectively congratulate the reporter for making the evening sound like something that might have taken place at a rather genteel nineteenth-century athletics meeting rather than the scruffy events that I took part in during my college summers.