Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Reunion In Columbia Has Me Thinking....

5 years ago some old college friends of Lee's decided to try to get together and hold a reunion in Columbia, Missouri, where they all went to college back in the 60's and 70's. A few people took charge and started searching for everyone, using email, google, and of course, Facebook. Eventually over 50 people were found and contacted, friends, spouses, friends of friends. Over 40 people attended the actual reunion.

This first reunion was wildly successful, so much so that the organizers decided that a repeat was in order. Again many people were contacted and a surprising number showed up. It was a smaller group than last time, which made it a bit more intimate, with more time to visit with individual friends.

For Lee this was a chance to renew friendships that had been neglected for many years. He is now back in contact with people with which he was once very close. Despite all the years and the changes they have brought, they have found that they are still have things in common and enjoy each other's company.

For me of course, these reunions have been a different experience. Only a very few of the people that have attended are actually someone that I used to be friends with too. By the time I met Lee we were out of college and getting ready to leave Columbia so many of his old friends had already left.

It has been fun meeting people that I had only heard about in stories, or met only briefly. For me most of them are actually new friends that I have only started to get to know. The ones that I knew in that past I actually knew in a different context even if I initially met them through Lee.

This time especially it has made me think about my old college friends, the group of hippies that lived on Wilkes Boulevard, and later on a "commune" east of town. Although I have found a few of them on Facebook in the past couple of years, many of them are lost to me.

I am mainly curious about them and what they ended up doing with their lives. Are they still the artists, writers, builders, growers, dreamers and adventurers that they once were? Do they have children? Grandchildren? Partners? Are they happy? Are they alive? Would we still be friends, or was that long ago friendship built on circumstances instead of personal bonds? I just don't know.

The funny thing is that if I really wanted to find them I bet I could. Probably some of the friends I still know in that group would know the whereabouts of the ones I've lost. I could ask them, but I don't. I think I'm a little afraid to find out that I no longer have anything in common with them except our pasts. Maybe I'd rather remember them the way they once were instead of finding out who they have become.

Maybe, I'm not sure if that is really true. If one of those old friends decided to organize a Wilkes Boulevard or Stoneybrook Farm reunion would I attend? Of course I would!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Rockport in the Rain

Lee wants one more cruise on the sailboat before we take it out the water for the winter, so in between our trips to Minneapolis and Missouri we decide to sail up to Rockport Massachusetts, a little tourist town on Cape Ann. Wednesday is a beautiful sunny day. We take our time and get to the boat early in the afternoon, with enough time to load up the boat, motor over to Beverly to fill up on diesel, take the dogs for a walk, and go out to dinner in Salem, Ma. Although Halloween is a month away, the town is already gearing up for their biggest holiday of the year. They milk being the site of the infamous Salem Witch trials for all it's worth, never mind that this occurred over 300 years ago. But we won't be anywhere near Salem on October 31st, so we don't mind the occasional costumed bunny or pirate for now, and the dogs don't notice a thing.

This is our 3rd time going to 62 Wine Bar for dinner and once again we have an excellent meal. This time we try a couple of the starters, fried cauliflower and bruschetta; the arugula salad, and a couple of the specials, a lamb ragu for Lee and lasagna for me. It's so nice to find a consistently good restaurant, and it's only a couple of blocks from the marina too.

Thursday is another beautiful sunny day. After an easy run and breakfast at a nearby coffee shop we're ready to head out. The only problem is there is absolutely no wind AT ALL, so we end up motoring to Rockport. We even put up the sails but it's more for forms sake than anything else and we never bother to turn off the motor.

Rockport's harbor is really, REALLY small. It looks like a miniature harbor, for dolls maybe, and is very picturesque. I would be totally enamored if it wasn't so narrow and shallow, and it didn't happen to be low tide as well. The Harbormaster wants us to tie up to a little floating dock, instead of picking up a mooring ball, so we have to scramble to put up the fenders and the dock lines. I look apprehensively at this bouncing platform that I will now be expected to jump upon to tie up the boat. Suddenly I realize that the Harbormaster is coming to my rescue. He zips over to the dock in his boat, ties up, and nimbly catches the dock line I gratefully hand to him as we near the dock. Saved!

We grab the dogs and head out for a look at the town. Rockport is very cute, and full of tourists, much more so than any other place we have been so far except Plymouth. I wonder if this is the early contingent of the leaf peepers. The leaves are just starting to turn along the New England coast however, so they may be disappointed.

In the morning we wake to still clear skies, but we can see rain clouds moving in. There is plenty of time for a short run, shower and breakfast, however. There is only a 20% chance of rain so we should be fine, right? Uh no. By late morning it is raining hard. We had toyed with the idea of just motoring around in the boat, since there was still no wind, but now we decide to ditch that idea and just hang out in Rockport for the day.

One of the nice things about being stuck on a boat can be the enforced idleness. I read, relax, snack and catch up on my blogging (or try to anyway). My tired marathon muscles don't mind the enforced inactivity at all. My training plan has lots of rest days built in but sometimes I end up spending those days cleaning house or gardening. Here on the boat I'm doing some much needed resting and my body appreciates it.

In the afternoon the rain lets up for a bit and we take a walk to the other end of Rockport. We walk down a little street that leads to some nice views of the harbor. The tides here seem very extreme. From what we've heard this is what the ports in Maine can be like, showing a difference of 10 feet or more between high and low tide. The change here seems to be a good 8 feet. It's kind of astonishing that the water level can change so much over 12 hours.

That evening we leave our guard Westies on the boat and try out a Yelp-recommended restaurant called My Place. Very good, a bit pricey, and kind of French. I have swordfish that is just melt in your mouth, Lee chooses a slightly spicy fisherman's stew. This restaurant is now Nill-recommended as well!

I liked Rockport, but there were an awful lot of tourists there. I imagine mid-summer is very congested, and the chances of getting a transient mooring would be virtually nil. But for an early fall midweek destination it works out just great.

Saturday morning it's time to head back to Salem. The rain has stopped but the ocean looks like glass and there still is absolutely no wind. The one good thing about this is that without the complication of wind I manage to bring the boat up to our mooring ball without incident. It's good to have my last attempt of the year be successful, even though by spring I will probably have to learn how all over again.

We have to take the sails down before we drive home, so that the marina can take the boat out of the water sometime in the next couple of weeks. I thought it was going to be a big hassle but we work pretty well together and get the job done fairly quickly. It's also time to haul the dingy back home on its little trailer. On the way home the leaves seem to have suddenly turned all sorts of colors. Fall is here!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Minneapolis Wedding

I arrive in Minneapolis on Thursday afternoon. My nephew's wedding isn't until Saturday, but Sarah and I have wedding dress shopping plans for Friday, so I have come in a day early. However Sarah has to work on Thursday so I have rented a car and go to see my friend Cyndi. Cyndi used to work for Lee at 3M long ago in Columbia, and she and her family lived in Singapore when we lived in Hong Kong. We catch up on our kids, our lives, and our various running adventures. We sit in Culvers eating ice cream and having a great time chatting away.

Sarah finishes work just as I say goodbye to Cyndi so I drive over to north Minneapolis and meet her at her house. This is my first time there as an overnight guest. I love their stylish colorful guest room. It has one cheery and bright turquoise wall and a red industrial style desk.

I wake to my first ever run in Sarah's neighborhood. Sarah lives on a street that is almost, but not quite, in "the hood", so it is important that I run the correct direction. With Sarah's instructions I head toward the greenway on a warmish, windy morning. It is a hot day for Minnesota with a predicted high of 85 degrees.

Suzanne, Erik mother, and Kris, Erik's sister, are joining us for this bout of dress shopping. Before we head out we take a moment to view the dress Sarah had ordered online. It's pretty but the snaps and buttons up the back are scary and it has some fit issues that would need to be fixed.

The first shop we visit is Che Bella in St. Paul. There another dress is added to the possibilities. The only downside to this shop is this feeling on my part that the girl that helped us, although perfectly nice, was a little too giddy for our tastes. If this dress ends up being "the one" however, that certainly won't stop us!
Lunch is at a place called Wiseacres, charming and delicious, with amazing salads and a pretty mean bratwurst burger! And we all split a bottle of wine too, pretty crazy behavior for me at lunch!

After we eat we head to a place called Joynelle, which is mostly custom dresses, with some samples from other designers too. We find yet another dress we really like, and then the designer comes up with an intriguing possibility. She proposes making a custom dress similar to the sample, but with straps and a low back. This again might be "it", but it's at the top of their budget. I will leave Sarah to ruminate on the possibilities.

I head to hotel and meet up with Lee, who flew in earlier today. We set in to wait for the Beckers and Joanne to arrive. Frequent phone calls monitor their progress, but they manage to hit the flood of Iowans coming to Minneapolis for a football game that evening. We keep having to push our dinner reservation back, but fortunately the restaurant is flexible.

Finally around 8 pm we all meet at Blackbird, a restaurant on Nicollet, south of downtown. We order almost every small plate and appetizer they have and share them all.

I Can't Resist a Picture of Henry and His Mom at the Ceremony!

The wedding day dawns rainy cloudy and windy. Thankfully I have no running planned for today. Instead I manage to meet Cody for pizza and conversation. I'm glad to report the picture with the tattoo on Facebook was a fake. He looks great, sans tattoo....

By wedding time the rain has stopped, but its still cloudy and threatening looking. Out we go to Noerenberg Gardens on the north shore of Lake Minnetonka. Its a beautiful setting for a wedding. The guests sit in chairs overlooking the gardens and the lake beyond. There are four bridesmaids and four groomsmen. The bridesmaid's dresses all belong to the same general color palette, a golden yellow, but each dress is a different style, chosen by the girl wearing the dress. I like this idea because everyone ends up with a dress they like and that flatters them. There are two little flower girls that are supposed to scatter rose petals in front of the bride. They take their job very seriously, and make sure every petal is scattered properly. As Danielle walks down the aisle Sam smiles shyly. Danielle looks like she might burst into tears at any moment. Their vows are meaningful and heartfelt. All too soon it's over. Another wedding.,,,,

We have about an hour between the ceremony and the reception so it's off to a bar in the warehouse district for a before dinner drink. Then we walk over to 514 Studios, a large warehouse space that can be rented for weddings and other parties. The food is really good, tilapia, black beans, salads and rice. They have a GREAT DJ that manages to get everyone out on the dance floor, even Lee and I. It was just a little too loud for my poor deaf ears, but otherwise it was perfect. My favorites were dancing to Twist and Shout, almost winning the "who is married the longest dance", and all the old ladies (including me) dancing to YMCA.  Then the dance floor was given over to the younger set and before too long it was time to return to the hotel.

Sunday morning I go for a run along the Mississippi River, my favorite place to run in Minneapolis. Then its over to Sarah's house to make pies for Suzanne's BBQ that night. This is supposed to be a little engagement celebration for the two families. Sarah is making ice cream, but her ice cream maker seems to be broken. However we improvise with a handheld mixer and the ice cream maker bowl and the ice cream is saved. Nicole comes over while the pies are being constructed. Its great to see her and hear about her plans. 

At Suzanne's house,we sit in her backyard enjoying the beautiful fall evening. Its too bad the only day of bad weather on this trip was the day of the wedding. Someone has brought a box of strange conversation starters by Charles Klosterman. They involve improbable situations concerning desert islands and personal actions that have far-reaching consequences. Its funny to see how each of us reacts to the questions. Sometimes the women have similar reactions and sometimes its the couples that agree, but it varies from one question to another. 

Suzanne serves really good ribs, corn, beans. The pies and ice cream are a hit as well. Its time to say our goodbyes and return to New Hampshire, at least for a little bit. We will be back in Minnesota for Thanksgiving; I can hardly wait.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Long Weekend in San Francisco

Way too early on Thursday we boarded a plane in Boston, and headed to San Francisco, ready to visit with Daniel and Sarah for the weekend, eat some good food, even do a little wedding dress shopping.

We left the house at 6 am, thinking we would have plenty of time to catch our 9:30 flight, but traffic into Boston was already heavy and we made it to the airport with little time to spare. Although we were fine, I hate cutting it so close. But it's very hard to judge what Boston traffic is going to do. We could have left at 5:30 and ended up waiting at the airport for an hour. You just never know.

I spent the flight obsessively reading "Orange is the New Black" the excellent memoir by Piper Keirnan, on which the hit TV show on Netflix is based. I know part of my fascination with this story is because I also have a family member that spent some time in prison. It's a window into what that experience is like. As a white, upper middle class woman, Piper didn't fit the stereotype of your typical prison inmate, but gradually over her stay she comes to the point in her self knowledge that it was her choices and decisions that ended up putting her in jail, and that she had no one to blame but herself. Prison is horrible, but in an awful way it can also be a lifesaver. It's a puzzle and a contradiction to a bleeding heart liberal like myself. Strangely, this theme of contradictory thoughts will be repeated over the course of our weekend.

We took Bart into the city from the airport. Daniel had to work on Thursday, and Sarah, who had flown in the day before, was having lunch with a friend in the city. Taking Bart was very easy, but here's the contradiction. Bart is efficient and took us within a block of our hotel, but the stench of urine as we made our way up the escalator to street level was overpowering. San Francisco is such a beautiful city, but at street level it is often flat out disgusting. The homeless wander about disconsolately, huddle in corners, crouch in doorways, sleep in piles of plastic and rags in the middle of the downtown shopping district. Yeah this liberal girl gets angry at the situation. I dislike the ugliness and the nastiness; but what is the right solution? They need housing, and help, but in San Francisco nobody is going to force them into a shelter. But it also makes me much less inclined to like this city as much as I once did.

A little afternoon shopping with Lee and Sarah and eventually we pick Daniel up at the Caltrain station and see his new apartment. It's really a cool apartment, in Portilla Hills, with views of the city, a nice kitchen, shiny floors. My boy is coming up in the world! California is definitely agreeing with Daniel. Despite working very hard at his job, he still finds time to have a lot of fun too. I'm very happy for him.

Dinner was at Izakaya Sozai , a popular Japanese restaurant in the Sunset neighborhood. We got there early, and since they were very small, they had to push two tables together to make a table for 4 so we had to wait a bit even though we had a reservation. But once we were seated it was very good. It wasn't a sushi restaurant, per se; their specialties trended more toward noodles and yakatori, various grilled meats, veggies and fish, on skewers, with dipping sauces.

Although I was plenty tired I slept rather fitfully that night. Lee and I have a new mattress at home. It's a Temperpedic, and they have a different feel. It took us almost a month to get really used to it, but now we love it and other mattresses just don't feel as good. Spoiled!

Friday morning Sarah and I went off to do a little wedding dress shopping. This was really fun. Sarah and I shop well together, leaving the other person plenty of room to wander through the racks and try on things without trying to make joint decisions. But this of course was a different experience. We went to a little shop called "And Something Blue" (clever title, no?) where Sarah had made an appointment. The shop owner met us there, and explained how things would work, since this was our first experience with wedding dress shopping.

She asked Sarah what she thought she was looking for, what the venue was like, what type of material and style appealed to her. And, of course, her budget! Then we went through the racks, Sarah picking out some dresses, the shop owner suggesting a few others. Only one of the dresses was outside Sarah's budget, but it was so pretty we just couldn't resist.

We had 6 dresses for Sarah to try on in an hour, but Sarah is good at knowing pretty quickly what she likes, and even more importantly, what she does not. And since she is small, it was very easy for her to step in and out of the sample sized dresses, which were all too big. We could get a good approximate idea of how a dress would actually look by the use of large clips fastened in the back! It was kind of funny, but it worked.

My job was to take pictures, and notes. Sarah gave each dress an impromptu grade. Sometimes it was obvious that a particular dress was not for her, sometimes a dress initially seemed right, but then paled beside another dress she subsequently tried on. The rejects were either too prom dressy or too matronly. The winners were more modern and stylish, with some sort of detail that made them a bit romantic, and a bit different.

We ended up with 2, maybe 3 dresses that were contenders. No, you can't see them yet! You'll just have to wait. We have another couple of dress appointments this Friday in Minneapolis. I bet by the end of those we'll have a very good idea of the dress that will be "it".

After dress shopping Daniel and Lee reappeared. It was lunch time so we used Yelp to find a recommendation for Vietnamese food that wasn't too far away. I don't remember the restaurant's name, but it was great, with wonderful Pho, and other very good dishes. I'm always happy when we discover a place with good Vietnamese food!

After lunch we drove down to the marina area near the Golden Gate Bridge to try to watch the America's Cup. I took this opportunity to play with my camera a bit. The day was overcast and cloudy so the light was not the greatest, but I knew if I tried shooting in Raw, I might end up with better pictures.

What is Raw, you ask? Well, I've just learned myself, so this explanation may be a little confused. Most of the time when you take a picture the pictures are saved in a format called JPeg. I don't know what that stands for, but the data is compressed, and although they take up less room on a memory card, the compromise is that you lose some of the pixels that make up the picture. Although much of the time this really doesn't matter, in low light conditions it can make a difference. If you shoot in Raw the pictures aren't compressed and you have more data to work with when you edit your pictures later on. That's the simple explanation.

For awhile, the American boat, sponsored by Oracle, and the New Zealand boat, sponsored by Emerites, meandered around the bay aimlessly. Periodically they would speed up a bit, and then slow back down. Apparently they have to complete their course in a certain amount of time, and if there isn't enough wind they don't race. They were waiting for the wind to pick up.

Suddenly they were off! Sailboats don't just line up and go. I don't entirely understand boat racing. I know there is a course, with marks that the boats have to go around, but often they don't all seem to start in the same place. And these are not ordinary boats. Very large catamarans, with sails made of a material more like airplane wings that cloth sails, these boats are not built for safety. They fly through the water at an astonishing rate of speed, often with only an edge of the hull still connected to the earth.

We watched them until they sped out of sight behind Alcatraz. Filled with a cheery sense of exhilaration we wandered back to the car and decided to rest up a bit before dinner.

That evening we ate at Delfino's in the hip part of the Mission District. It was a fabulous restaurant. This is one of those areas of the city where one block is full of good restaurants and shops, but if you turn the wrong corner you can suddenly be in a very sketchy area. It's not so much that it seems particularly dangerous, but it can go from nice to iffy in a couple 100 yards. I'd rather stay where it's nice, thank you very much!

The next morning it was back to The Hong Kong Lounge for dim sum. We had eaten at this restaurant on our previous trip to San Francisco, back in March. It is the real deal, reminiscent of the best of Asian dim sum, although their dumplings are not quite to the Din Tai Fung standard. The last time we ate here I almost made myself sick, eating a ridiculous amount of dumplings, pot stickers, and congee. This time, with Daniel firmly ensconced in California and more confidence that we would be back here soon enough, I was able to control myself, and only ate a normal amount of dim sum, instead of twice my body weight.

We had lots of fun at Hong Kong Lounge. Our friends Corry and Jeff were able to join us, and so was Tim, my former brother in law. We had a good time catching up with everyone in between bites of dumplings.

It was a rainy afternoon in the city, so Daniel suggested that we try out the Exploratorium, a science museum overlooking the bay, with exhibits that appeal to grown ups as well as children. The exhibits were great, especially the ones involving human perceptions and the brain. I especially enjoyed anything involving optical experiments and illusions.

Sarah, Lee and I all had the same reaction to this museum. At the beginning of the museum exhibits there were a bunch of children, but after about an hour of participatory exhibits, the younger set peters out, and by the time an hour and a half had passed we were ready to go as well. The museum required so much concentration and attention that we couldn't enjoy it much longer than that.

When we left the museum the rain had stopped. We found a Blue Bottle coffee shop in the Ferry building and had some excellent nicely decorated coffee. San Francisco may have some serious problems, but they sure know how to brew coffee in this city.

Lee and I left San Francisco for Carmel Saturday afternoon. He had to prepare for his meeting on Sunday. My plans were to go on a long run Sunday morning and then meet the kids in Carmel By The Sea later that afternoon. We were staying at a nice, unpretentious golf resort. Tired and not very hungry, we ambled through the twilight to their pleasant restaurant, and fell into a dreamless sleep.

My Sunday morning run was only 8 miles. I didn't think I'd have any trouble finding an easy out and back, but it was harder than I thought it would be. We were in Carmel valley, and the space between the two mountain ranges was pretty limited. When I found a trail it would eventually head into an area marked "Private! No Trespassing!" I finally found what seemed to be a good trail, but even it dead ended at a locked gate that required a permit in order to proceed. I guess Carmel isn't that interested in providing good places for visitors to run!

I did have one amazing experience on this run, however. On my way out I passed a newborn baby calf, still wet from its mother's womb, curled up beside her while her mama licked her dry. I could hardly believe my eyes, and silently kicked myself for leaving my phone behind. By the time I passed the pair again on my way back, the little calf was standing and nursing by its mother's side. How cool is that?!

Sarah and Daniel drove down to Carmel for the afternoon. We walked around Carmel by the sea, admired the ocean, browsed through the shops. I found another miniature teapot to add to my collection (I guess now that I have three that makes it a collection!). After lunch we did a couple of wine tastings. Carmel is not ideal for wine by California standards, being too cool and foggy much of the time. They grow mostly Pinot Noirs and Sirahs. They were okay but nothing worth buying and shipping home. Hopefully on our next trip we'll have time to go to Napa again.

After one more excellent Japanese meal in Mountain View that evening (Daniel insists that the best Asian food in the area is found in some of the smaller towns south of the city), we headed to an airport hotel for the night. Back to New Hampshire early Monday morning, with only two days at home before heading to Minneapolis for my nephew's wedding. We are one trip through our three trip fall travel marathon. Will we make it? I hope so!


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