Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween vs. trick-or-treat, "witch" is it?

Halloween, generally observed on October 31, has evolved over the years, but today is associated with dressing up in disguise, trick-or-treating, and displaying jack-o'-lanterns during the evening.  Americans are expected to spend more than 5.8 billion dollars on Halloween this year on such things as candy, costumes, and outdoor decorations.  It doesn't seem that long ago, but when we went trick-or-treating, most of us pulled some old clothes out of the dress up bureau, or we made our costumes from a whatever we could scavenge from around the house.

One year, my older brother spent several  days prior to Halloween making a square box that he used as his head for a Frankenstein look alike.  His influence was significant in that years later my friend and I put together a costume with two heads that we had made out of papier mache' that we fashioned around some very large balloons.  We then painted them with whatever leftover paint we could find, and our costumes were good enough to win us a prize at the town's Halloween costume "ball".  My younger brother was a tube of Colgate toothpaste in college and was rewarded a case of toothpaste from the parent company.  However, the one we never created was the "human bean", a person dressed up as a green bean.  I thought that was particularly clever.  There were lots of others too, pirates, hobos, sailors, princesses, witches, cowboys, Indians, to name a few.  However, what made it so fun to me then was that we used our imagination when we created those costumes; and after the "haul", we would sit on the living room floor and organize our booty to start trading for those must have candy bars.

Halloween was and still is about being a kid, pretending, dressing up in disguise, gathering a few sugary treats, and having fun; however, when it is all over, and the costumes come off, the question becomes, "which witch was the real one"?  Let me think about that one for a minute while I sink my teeth into this Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, Mm Mm ghoul!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"More times"

Have you ever had something taste so good that you just couldn't wait for a second or third bite? Perhaps, it was so good that you wanted seconds. However, at some point in time you would find yourself full enough that, regardless of the gastronomic delight, if you took another bite your eyes would pop out. Sound familiar? Well, there is a law in Economics which captures this concept called the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility, and although it applies under most circumstances, just like most rules, you can always find an exception; allow me to explain.

The day my daughter was born the East coast was being hammered by hurricane Grace and "The Perfect Storm". She barely let out an utterance, even though her arrival was almost as stormy as the weather outside. However, her demeanor then and now has remained far more calm than the seas on that October day. She progressed through the newborn stages like any other healthy child and eventually got her sea legs and began to walk. Right about that time, The Simpson's had become popular, and we adopted Bart's "cowabunga", as our "flight" song. She would stand on the stairs and shout out, "cowabunga" and then jump into my arms, and just when I thought she was finished, she'd say, "more times". If I hadn't run out of energy, she would have done this until the "cows" came home, and there were none in sight.

Coincidentally, this was about the same time I realized that, if I was going to keep up with this little bundle of energy, I better get myself into shape; so thanks to my daughter because she provided the impetus for a lifelong commitment to good health through exercise.

As she prepares to celebrate her 19th birthday, I find myself wondering, where has all the time gone since those days of absolute innocence and boundless energy? Although it seems like just yesterday for me, it has been a lifetime for her, and to that I say, "cowabunga". Here's wishing you a Happy Birthday, and may you celebrate them "more times" and many "more times" to come. I love you with all my heart, and this is something I will never get tired of saying!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The first 1000 just get you warmed up

Experts often refer to the first 1000 days of a president, and in fact, there is a book written about JFK's first 1000 days. This could be a lifetime to some, but in reality, it is but a blink of an eye.

This morning my friends and I decided to consolidate our swim workout into a straight 1000 yards, because we lacked enough time to do anything more. We did start the day off in the weight room for a few quick "reps", but our efforts were concentrated on our swim workout. However, rather than do our usual warm-up, we went right to it. We agreed on 1000 yards and divided it up with a little breast stroke and back stroke to make the counting easier. Before we knew it, our workout was complete; it was over in the "flashiest of flashes".

The take home lesson here is that, no matter what the workout, it is better to have done something than to have done nothing at all. Although we didn't have enough time to really "challenge" ourselves, we did what the time allowed. If you apply this thinking to politics, I guess we shouldn't be all that surprised that our elected officials don't quite get everything done that they promise they will; after all, in those first 1000 days, they must be just warming up too!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Get me to the church on time

My Fair Lady is a musical based upon George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so she can pass as a proper lady. Of course, there have been several productions, but my favorite rendition starred the incomparable Julie Andrews. Well, for a bunch of guys, getting to the church on time is just as important on weekdays, as it is on Sunday morning.

Typically, my friends and I meet 6 days a week, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, our ritual has us running. A number of years ago, before our group expanded, we'd arrange to meet at each other's house. That worked just fine until we couldn't remember where we had planned to meet, and that really caused chaos. As a remedy, one of our compulsive comrades determined that one of the local churches was the geographic center between our respective homes, and it has been our meeting place ever since.

Now that we centralized our gathering spot, the issue is not where we are meeting or even at what time, we start at 6am, but can you get there on time? We do have a "grace" period, much like you'd have given your professors back in the day, but if you aren't there soon thereafter, you generally pay for your sins by running alone.
It is remarkable, but for more than 10 years, we have probably been the most consistent group of church goers in our community, and trust me, that's no lie!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pfeiffer's final days give way to "The Meek"

Ohio Wesleyan University, located in Delaware, Ohio, is a small Liberal Arts University and home of the Battling Bishops. For many Ohioans, there is The Ohio State, and then, there are all the rest. Well, for the students who call OWU their school and for the residents of Delaware, the school is far more than that. The University offers opportunities for both the students and community, alike, however, like anything in life, one has to be a willing participant. As competition for quality students has risen, the schools have had to up the ante of available amenities, beyond providing an excellent educational experience. Because of the generosity of several benefactors, OWU will soon be proud of "The Meek", and allow me to explain.

My friends and I have been fortunate to have called the Pfeiffer Natatorium at OWU "our" home pool for the last 15+ years. The University has been a gracious host, not only to us, but to many other members of the community, including serving as home to the Delaware Hayes HS swim team. A number of those graduates have then gone on to swim at OWU, but perhaps more importantly, they have graduated and gone on to become Battling Bishops themselves. During the last 2 decades, there been a number of accomplished individuals who have taken the plunge at Pfeiffer: a Master's world record holder; 2, Ironman finishers (one an age 2nd place finisher in Hawaii); students who have challenged the crossing of the English Channel while promoting Peace; community leaders, distinguished faculty, and a whole host of others, too numerous to identify here. The waters of Pfeiffer have certainly been rejuvenating, been filled with students of all levels, and have offered a well spring for anyone willing to submerge themselves. I ought to know because our group has been one of the most consistent visitors to its decks.

Now that the University is on the verge of opening its new Meek Aquatics and Recreation Center, I would just like to say a sincere thanks to the University for having opened its doors to all of us over the years. Louis Pasteur once said, "opportunity awaits the prepared mind"; when I think about the much anticipated opening of this new facility, this expression comes to mind but with a slight modification. As the waters recede on Pfeiffer Natatorium, I say, "opportunity awaits you at "The Meek", provided you are prepared to get your feet wet". Good luck with the new digs, and although it is "The Meek", from what I have seen, it is everything but!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Track workouts always have you rounding the corners

Several years ago, after moving to Ohio, I joined up with a group of guys with whom I have been exercising with ever since. That, in and of itself, is the subject of another story, but when someone who I had recently met said, "Aren't you a runner and who are you running with?" I responded somewhat timidly, but "Yes, I love to run, and I have been running with these 2 other guys, Dave and Tom". The next words out of his mouth, "Oh! You are a serious runner then", and we both chuckled. So, since I have been labeled a serious runner, let me share with you a recent story.

Of, course, most of the running faithful recognize that, in order to become faster, you have to train some on the track; isn't that right? The weight room workout, however, can't hold a candle to the dreaded track workout. We avoid both like the plague, but the track, need I say more? Well, yesterday, was our usual day for running, and we generally meet at the local middle school oval. After some stretching and palaver, we began the seemingly, never ending event; today we ran 2, 200's; 4, 400's; 2, 800's, and ended with another 2, 200's. Each "pickup" is followed by the obligatory rest lap of equal distance, and by the time it was all over, we had run our 5 miles, not bad for a bunch of "half fast" middle, aged men. The reward for surviving this ordeal, a stop for coffee at the local Tim Horton's and conducting the day's briefing.

Yes, few of us enjoy a day at the track, but the benefits have certainly been proven. For a group of friends, it is more about "rounding the corners" together, and that too, is worth far more than the price of a cup of coffee!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Paying attention can be a force of "habits"

How many times have you been at a gathering of people and then heard some loud, booming voice say, "may I have your attention please"? In Colonial times, the town crier would have had this role, but the call would have been the quite familiar, "hear ye, hear ye". Whichever the case, the very shrill of the person's voice or a whistle, each gets the crowd to settle down so some pronouncement can be made. At least for an instant, everyone "focuses" the attention on the speaker delivering the message. Sometimes, the distractions are so intense that none of these efforts break that "trance" we call day dreaming, unless of course, it was Sister Yvonne.

Sister Yvonne was my 5th grade school teacher at St. Joseph's. She had the reputation of being very strict with the boys, but the girls just loved her. Since she had at least 2 of my older sisters and my older brother, I wasn't quite sure what my prospects were when I entered her classroom in my youth. My brother, however, was an exceptional student, so he was received more like those angelic women. As I recall, she would write our homework assignments on the chalkboard, and if we were lucky, you could complete all the homework before you even left for home. This was particularly important in the Fall, when the "usable" after school daylight was a premium and my friends and I needed to "stretch" our legs playing football.

During class one day, I remember finding myself looking out those huge, double hung windows in our classroom "studying" the birds and wondering, "How do they fly"? I marveled at this mystery, and wished that I too, could fly, just to get a "birds eye" view of things. Suddenly, from that trance like state, I heard this voice asking me a question to which I had no response. Fortunately, when Sister asked what I had been doing I quickly pondered my options; do I admit my guilt or do I make up some "white lie" and say that I didn't hear the question. Remember now, this was Sister Yvonne whose reputation was legendary, so I fessed up and admitted that I wasn't paying attention. She seemed surprised by my honesty, but I have contended ever since that this admission of guilt went a long way to helping smooth over an "old habit".

I owe an awful lot to Sister Yvonne and the others, for over the years, I have reflected on this event and have even used it to illustrate to others that "day dreaming" may not be pathological. In fact, I believe that it is only an issue, if it occupies a disproportionate percent of one's time and thus interferes with working productively. Otherwise, it may simply serve as a distraction that ultimately keeps us "grounded", unlike those feathery friends!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

IM the son of an "Ironman"

A person's genetic code provides the blueprint for such individual characteristics as hair and eye color, and it also influences the presence of particular medical conditions or behavioral tendencies. While we all know that the genetic code is virtually infinite in its expression, many features are more likely than others to be expressed, the ever familiar dominant trait. Additionally, some features have nothing to do with the gene pool at all, but perhaps more likely, are related to environmental factors. Certainly, the ultimate manifestation is multi-factorial, but if you are familiar with Newtonian physics, you'll understand that "the apple, generally, doesn't fall far from the tree", and allow me to explain.

My mother was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1918, shortly after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. Until recently, she had lived her life without ever having seen them win another, but that finally all changed again in 2004. Her parents lived across the street from her home parish of St.Clement's on Bristol Road. My grandmother stressed education, and my mother listened, as she graduated at the top of her class and went on to Regis College in Weston. Long before women were fully accepted for their academic prowess, she defied "gravity" again, by graduating second in her college class with a degree in Chemistry. Her drive for success was contagious, as her brothers equally achieved academically.

During her years in high school and college, my mother frequently was found walking or riding her bicycle wherever she went. I remember that old maroon and yellow stripped, single speed bike, which of course, was her "set of wheels", but I surely couldn't visualize my mother ever having ridden it. After all, those first recollections, she was already "old", so how could she have done that? She once told us that she biked all the way from Boston to Hampton Beach, NH, some 45-50 miles, which she probably did in "her" day.

During the summers of our childhood, my mother would bring us to the lake, Sandy Beach, and let us cool down. She was always preaching the "buddy system", so while we were swimming, we watched out for each other. Although she watched us from the beach, she was always counting heads to insure our safety. I sometimes wondered whether she could have actually swam out to save us, but then again, she probably could have because well, she would have.

Literally, there are hundreds of stories that I could share which would illustrate her perseverance and desire to succeed. Although I have completed a real Ironman, I look at my mother's accomplishments and how they compare. That's when I realize that being an Ironman goes well beyond those 3 events; it's about having a dream, training hard, and living every day with a purpose to make it all happen. She had the dream, she has never stopped training, and continues to make it all happen. As my mother celebrates her 92nd birthday, I thank God that I am the son of an "Ironman". Happy Birthday Mom, we love you, and you can have whatever you want for your special day. However, instead of cake, would you care for an apple? After all, you have 8 to choose from!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blood doping, everyone should do it, naturally

The most recent blood doping scandal centers around Tour de France champion, Alberto Contador. Did he really dine on a piece of "tainted" beef", unbeknown to him? If so, maybe the Tour riders should opt for the safer vegetarian diet. Additionally, the entire Floyd Landis story has also fueled the speculation surrounding his former teammate, Lance Armstrong, as well. The Tour seems to be wrought with alleged users, but more importantly, it is a behavior that has become pervasive among professional athletes and has "infiltrated" almost to every level. In light of these recent developments, I thought it was time to come "clean" regarding my own personal experience with "doping".

As many of you are aware, residents of Mexico can get prescription medications quite easily, simply by going into the "farmacia" and requesting them. Now, this may not apply to all medications, but for many, certainly, this is quite common. Well, I am now ready to assume full responsibility for my actions because while I was studying in Guadalajara, this was when my doping experience began.

The pressures of professional school were challenging enough; however, shortly after settling into a routine of studying for those long hours, I realized that getting regular exercise actually made me a better student. So, rather than sitting for long, uninterrupted hours at my desk, I arranged my study schedule to accommodate for some kind of daily workout. My friends and I played softball, a little golf, football, but what really refreshed me most was running. In spite of the poor air quality and narrow streets, I returned to what set off my endorphins most, taking it to the streets for a study break. I generally ran late in the afternoon or evening, and the course I enjoyed most was a limited access roadway that took me into the country and over a series of hills. Whenever I finished one of these "training" runs, it gave me that much needed boost. What I failed to appreciate was that it also was giving me a physiologic transfusion, because the elevation of Guadalajara is just over a mile high, high altitude training, blood doping, naturally.

As part of the pre-nuptial activities at my sister's wedding, several of us went out for an early morning run. That's when the "doping" paid off because I cruised over our hometown loop with the "big kahuna" with ease. The benefits of my high altitude training were plainly apparent to all, especially me, and to date, my blood tests are still negative.

With all the publicity and potential for ruining a career through blood doping, it amazes me that these "professionals" don't just come clean, and certainly, if they are caught, simply take ownership of their poor judgment. I recognize that it has taken me nearly 25 years to acknowledge my involvement with "doping", but now that my conscience has been cleared, I may just go out for a run and get a little natural dose of those endorphins!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Perfect 10

Most of us are familiar with the rating scale, 1 to 10, of course, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the absolute maximum of whatever we are rating. In fact, there was an old movie, "10", staring Bo Derek, that epitomized this very point. As you might undoubtedly then realize, something that is a "10" is on the extreme end of the scale, and therefore, occurs less frequently. For the meek at math, "it's way out there on the right end of the Bell curve".

For those of us who were alive or were born last Sunday, we were fortunate enough to have experienced the perfect "10". October 10, 2010 was a day that will never be again and will take another 1000 years before the calendar will reflect 10/10/10, which, presumably, will be written the same.

Life sure has its ups and downs, and in a time of fiscal uncertainty and global turmoil, for one day at least, we all got to experience the perfect "10"!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Life's on a flash drive

In this age of computers, the amount of memory and the speed appear to be ever changing. I remember my first desk top computer, a Macitosh, which had a "massive" amount of memory, 40mb. I expanded it to the unheard of amount of 80mb, before I moved on to something "bigger" and "faster". Of course, those of us who have evolved with these desk tops, are now the dinosaurs in our society, a pleasant bit of symbolism, wouldn't you agree? Regardless, with each passing phase of the technology boom, newer features are being added and their size forever getting smaller. The flash drive comes to mind when I consider these microchips. My newest flash drive has more memory on it than my very first computer and fits in my pocket. Wow, I say! Well, as I embark on another year of my life, I think of it, too, as a flash drive.

Several times over the years, my father recounted the day that I was born. To this day, I am amazed at his ability to recollect such events, since there were so many of us. The story has never changed though, so I am quite sure that it is accurate. He'd take my older sisters and brother out for a ride and end up at the hospital. Somehow, he'd let the nurses know that they were all out in the parking lot, so my mother would come to the window and wave hello. In those days, no one was permitted in to visit, especially children, so this was the next best thing.

When I was just a week old, I have been told that my sister tripped over an open oven door and tossed me across the kitchen floor. Everyone has always said that life is full of its ups and downs, but I simply managed to get my baptism by fire far earlier than most newborns. Naturally, I have no recollection of this, but I do remember my father being concerned that I hadn't given up the bottle by age 3-4. I couldn't figure out why everyone was so worried about it, after all, if you threw it or dropped it, nothing ever spilled. Consequently, it seemed quite logical to me that this avoided the risk of accidentally spilling that precious "nectar".

Over the years, I have experienced and endured: broken bones, multiple lacerations, school, earning several degrees, camping across country, marathons, including Boston, triathlons, especially an Ironman, open heart surgery, hiking mountains, swimming across lakes, the thrill of sailing, rock climbing, and yes, the list seems endless. However, all of this pales in comparison to being a father, a friend, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, and a son, because without any one of you, my life would not have been even remotely fulfilled. I sometimes reflect on one of my favorite movies, "It's a Wonderful Life", and get this sense that it is just hurdling by in such a "flash", that there won't be enough time to complete it all. However, I realize that I have had a wonderful life, and with any luck, it's only the intermission, because I've got a lengthy bucket list. To you, my family and friends, thanks for the memories that we have made together, and here's hoping that the flash drive has plenty of unused memory!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Armchair quarterbacks are everywhere

The college and professional football seasons are well underway. That's when everyone becomes a quarterback, and at best, most of us are nothing more than first string armchair quarterbacks.

An armchair quarterback according to Webster is:
1. a viewer who criticizes conduct of games: somebody who is certain that he or she can make better calls than the coaches or players while watching a competitive sport on television
2. a giver of unwanted advice: somebody who offers unwanted advice about how to do something or tries to supervise an activity without being asked

If it isn't obvious, armchair quarterbacks are guaranteed perfection because they have 20/20 vision, retrospectively. However, there is almost always an exception to the rule, and it's time you heard about this one.

However, when I was in my youth, my father discouraged me from playing because I was "undersized". He told me many times, that if the coach would permit me to be the kicker, then he would allow me to play. His advice seemed sage enough, but the coach viewed it differently, so, I ran X-country instead.

When I was in my postgraduate training, the school put together an intramural tackle football league. It was made up from the other various academic schools and the School of Medicine. I had never played tackle football before, and having put on a few "lbs", I thought that it was time to kick off my football career and join the team. We held a few practice sessions, without contact, and I volunteered to be the punter. It was all going according to plan until my roommate drafted me to fill in as the backup QB. Having studied for all those years watching "game films", I agreed to "act" as a substitute, if it became absolutely necessary. So, I memorized the playbook, and even came up with my own version of the flea flicker, the iso-flip pass.

We opened with a road game, I believe in Zacatecas. The team traveled over the night before, and they put us up for the night all around the city. We didn't play until later on, so they showed the sights of town beforehand. We felt like we were playing in the "super bowl" the way treated us. Unfortunately, when it came to the game, well they were slightly over matched. I just remember after going up 28-0, the "coach" thought I should take a few "snaps". We started on our own 3 yard line, not much breathing room for this rookie QB. However, after a couple of plays, we found ourselves near the 30 yard line, and I thought, "time for the bomb". So, I called for this pass play that seemed to have some success in practice, not really knowing what I was doing, except that I had probably done it a million times on the practice fields. After the center snap, I dropped back, stepped up, and threw a perfect spiral. My teammates wondered where the "hell" I was throwing it, but when the receiver and the ball were united downfield and I had completed this 70 yard touchdown pass, they asked, "Where did you learn that"? Calmly and confidently I said, "What's so hard about this game"? That was just the beginning of our "perfect" season. We went undefeated, the only season of football I ever played.

Although I was the QB at the end, the starting quarterback went back home before the season ended, my friends had dubbed me, "Armchair". As you can see, that year I truly became a veteran of the game. There aren't many people who can claim that they took a team from "nothing" and made it to the top in one season. My friends later awarded me the "Heis-hombre" trophy recognizing that some "armchair" quarterbacks actually let their actions speak louder than their words; ready, on two, break!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Whose anniversary is it anyway?

The calendar is marked by days, weeks, and months, and each year we celebrate the holidays and make room for all those other special days. Some are not celebrated every year, such as baptisms and graduations, but of course, there are those that are, like birthdays and anniversaries. When you come from a large family, there are plenty of important dates, but who can remember them all?

Because the Fall is such a great time of year, October became the month for big events, therefore there are several anniversaries to celebrate. My sister and her husband were married on the 2nd. They had a lovely reception at Abenaqui CC, an area country club on the coast. My youngest brother and his wife enjoyed their wedding on the 12th which was another terrific Fall day. This time the parties gathered at Vesper CC which is where my sister had been a member for a number of years. My older brother and his wife had a slightly overcast day and a brisk breeze. The reception was held just outside of Albany. It was a grand day, except that the Mets came back to beat the Red Sox in that memorable game 6 of the '86 World Series. My Uncle and Aunt were married on the 28th in Salem and held their reception at the glorious Spray Cliff Inn in Marblehead. I remember carrying a bottle of Ginger Ale around just so that I could pretend to be drinking that bubbly stuff.

Yes, October has been a month of memorable dates and anniversaries. Not to be upstaged, my Mom has a birthday in October too, so there isn't any lack of opportunity to hold a family gathering to celebrate. As I sit here, I have this gnawing feeling that I have forgotten one. Oh well, it will probably come to me on another day or in my dreams. C'est la vie!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A cut above the rest

There is an age old expression, "a cut above the rest", which typically refers to something being just a little bit better than its comparison. The derivation is unclear, but if I had to guess, I'd say that the origin may lie somewhere behind the counter of a butcher's shop. As you can see then, one would prefer to be a cut above the rest, except perhaps, in the case of the story I am about to tell you.

Have you ever had a package delivered to your door, and you just couldn't wait to open it up to see what was inside? Maybe it was something you ordered or perhaps, just a surprise. In either case, I am sure that you can imagine the excitement of opening up the package for that initial glimpse.

Well, before starting my "formal" education, I had a few years at home with my younger brothers, in our own "playgroup" with Mom as our fearless leader. One morning, while she was on the phone, I remember the postman delivering one of those brown paper packages with the twine wrapped around it, and I just couldn't wait to see what was inside. Naturally, I was able to convince my brothers that we shouldn't disturb Mom while she was on the phone, but too, we should go ahead and open the box. However, instead of grabbing a more conventional means of cutting the twine, like a pair of scissors, I opted for the sharpest thing in the drawer, a carving knife. It seemed like a reasonable option, at least for a 4 year old, but rather than cutting through the twine in a downward fashion, I slipped the knife below the twine, and started "sawing" on it while pulling up. Bad idea. Before I knew it, I had cut through the twine and continued right on up into my forehead. I can only imagine the look on my mother's face when she saw me hold a knife and blood pouring from my forehead. My mother, of course, didn't panic and grabbed a dish towel and applied pressure, until she could coordinate with my father to arrange for proper treatment. This wasn't the first, nor was it the last time my father had to exercise his surgical skills on me.

To this day, I have no idea what was in the box, but I still enjoy the suspense of opening one up when it arrives at the door. I did learn several lessons though, as a result of this little mishap. "Brown paper packages tied up with string" are still a few of my favorite things, carving knives probably ought to used only on the Thanksgiving turkey, and to have dealt with these sorts of things, my parents clearly were and still are, a cut above the rest!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

One plus one equals three?

Mathematics makes up one of the three foundational skills that students are expected to "master" as part of their formal education. The three Rs (as in the letter R) of education were considered: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. Does this seem vaguely familiar? Although I am not gifted when it comes to math, even I know that 1+1 equals 2. However, there are rules and there are exceptions to those rules, and I know of an exception to this rule, so permit me to explain.

My older brother and his wife were living in Bangor, Maine, after their wedding on a brisk Fall day in October of 1986, the same fateful day the Red Sox went down in game 6 of the World Series that year. Following the nuptials, my sister-in-law joined my brother in Bangor. It didn't quite provide the atmosphere of Boston where they had initially started dating, but it had the Paul Bunyan statue, the greatest number of pizza "joints" per capita in the state, and home to novelist, Steven King. In the final year of my brother's training, they announced that they would be expecting their first child, likely an October birth.

The parents welcomed their "little" bundle of joy on October 3rd, 1988, and her parents have been trying to keep up with her ever since. Early in her academic career, it was evident that she had a gift for numbers, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing them. When she was in high school, she challenged the local college students with her skills too. There was a time I think her father thought she ought to make a career in the military and head for the Naval Academy, but that plan never came to fruition. Instead, she opted for a smaller school and is on the brink of becoming a college graduate, in Mathematics and Education.

In addition to her math prowess, she also has a royal background having been selected to the homecoming court. She once was asked what would define her perfect vacation and she responded by saying that's easy, because she takes it with her family and relatives in Rangeley every year. This spring she spent the semester abroad in Ireland and probably did more for international diplomacy than most politicians. Just to round out her resume, she plays a little rugby for her college and cuts hair on the side.

Yes, this is a young lady who has accomplished much in her brief life but certainly has all the necessary ingredients to expand that growing list of achievements. Happy Birthday Maude, as you celebrate your 22nd. You are one in a million, and if I do the math correctly, I'd say that's awfully rare, just like you!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The local's guide to dining

With the advent of the internet and long before "fast food", guide books referencing the dining "hot spots" were aplenty. AAA had their tour guide books, and of course, Fodor's has had their reference manuals to assist their readership with selecting fine dining establishments. These were particularly useful when traveling, at least until you had a chance to ask some of the locals for their opinion. However, today many of us just access the internet, and voila, the information is right there at your finger tips. Well, when we were younger, there was a cadre of options, but because of our large family, eating out or for that matter, getting take out, was a real treat indeed. However, over the years, even we had our favorites, and with a little arm twisting, my parents would treat us so Mom could have a much deserved reprieve from the kitchen.

My first recollection of the local fare was "Mona's" pizza. The pizza parlor was right next to her husband's barber shop where my brothers and I had our hair cut. If we wanted hamburgers and fries, it was either Skip's or Laubner's. Skip's was known for their curly Q fries, while Laubner's had lobster rolls too. After the Saturday football games, it was off to Reet's for a cheeseburger and fries, but they had good milk shakes too, and of course, the young ladies. Additionally, Martha's was on the beach road, and they had the best lobster rolls and onion rings. The Atomic pizza parlor was right next to the A&P, so it was handy for a quick snack while getting something at the store for Mom. Their pizza was the astronomical price of $0.99, a bargain at those prices for sure. There were other stop offs as well, Auntie Raines' Country Corner, Alecs' soda shop, just to name a few.

If my parents wanted a real sit down dinner with us, we had several haunts. The Howard Johnson's on 95 South had great booths, clam rolls, and of course, its the home of the 28 flavors of ice cream. The 110 house had a lovely lobster pie, but it had the ambiance of an authentic roadside inn, and the "ye Olde Cock and Kettle" should not be forgotten. They had these miniature loaves of bread that were served heated, right out of the oven, and I believe, in fact, that our childhood neighbor actually baked them for them. Certainly, there were more on the list, Yoken's, with their sign, "thar she blows" and good food, Brown's, with their classic lobster in the rough, The Clam Box, home of the perfected fried clam, and of course, The Hungry Traveler, where we gathered for Easter Sunday brunch for many years.

Yes, there were a large number of excellent eating establishments just a short drive from home, and this doesn't even include some of the Boston gems. However, no matter how we sliced it, the most popular 5 star restaurant always served its meals with style, at home and with the family, and when I last checked, they were still open for business!