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Monday, August 31, 2009

Hanging Paper

As the Martin Short character says in perhaps the best Saturday Night Live short ever produced said, "I am not that strong a swimmer."  Yet, today I again found myself in the pool at the Salem YMCA rhythmically flailing back and forth.  Lap swimming gives me both the time and mental space to think.  There are buoyed lanes and a line on the pool's bottom to help me swim straight, leaving my mind free to wander.  All I have to do is stroke, kick, and breathe.  Today I let my mind drift in hopes of settling on something to write about.  I found myself recalling the many places I've swum over the years.  Cape Cod beaches, Maine lakes, Connecticut ponds and rivers, and lots and lots of pools.

One pool in particular lodged in my memory this morning and I realized it wasn't the pool, but whose pool it was.  The pool was at Hollybrook in Pembroke Pines, Florida, a 55+ community where my grandparents moved in the 1970s.  My grandmother's name was Marcia (more on her in another essay) and my grandfather's name was Hyman Weldon.  As I swam back and forth this morning, I thought back to my youth when I visited grandparents during summer vacations.  They adored me with such unabashed vigor that I can still feel the warmth of their embrace, one I sometimes miss more than I realize.

Hy was the youngest of 9 children born to William and Sarah Weldowsky (proper spelling never verified), Jewish emigrants from what is now the region that includes parts of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Russia.  Born in Brooklyn in 1920, Hy was a teenager during The Great Depression.  Though he was intelligent he dropped out of school, presumably to earn money to help support his family.  He told me many tales, some even true, about his early jobs.  He was a diaper truck delivery man and one time he and a friend tried to run away to join the circus.  He married my grandmother at 21.

My mother was born just about a year later, followed by a son and another daughter.  Along with some of his brothers, Hy found work as a house painter (though three of them were in fact color blind).  Long before I was born, he became and remained a talented wallpaper hanger.  In those days, you just said you were a "paper hanger."  Eventually, he moved his family from Brooklyn to Levittown, NY, famous as the first real suburb.  From Wikipedia:  "Levittown gets its name from its builder, the firm of Levitt & Sons, Inc. founded by William Levitt, which built the district as a planned community between 1947 and 1951. William Levitt is considered the father of modern suburbia. Levittown was the first truly mass-produced suburb and is widely regarded as the archetype for postwar suburbs throughout the country."

For many years he commuted into New York City, hanging paper and working hard to support his family.  (He never forgave Barbara Streisand for stiffing him on a job because she wasn't happy with the pattern of the paper she'd chosen!).  In the years that followed, several of his brothers moved to South Florida.  Not long after his youngest child became a young adult, he and my grandmother made their way to Florida, too.  Though he lived in a retirement community, most weeks grandpa was still hanging paper.  Retirement was never a financial possibility.  He was working for himself, toting his equipment to jobs in a giant Cadillac.  He'd bring ladders, buckets of paste, brushes, smoothing rollers, putty knives of every imaginable width, and his most important tool, a unsheathed razor blade.  He had boxes and boxes of razor blades.  My grandfather loved gadgets and 'invented' a few of his own.  The razor blade is the indispensable tool of a paper hanger.  Trimming paper, aligning seams, perfecting the corners where paper meets ceilings, all require a deft touch, years of experience, and a very sharp razor blade.  To keep his blade always at the ready, he clipped it to the underside of his wristwatch - a beat up digital Casio - with a magnetic clip.  The exposed blade stuck to the magnet and rested, always sharp, not far from the veins in his wrist.  I can't recall his every cutting himself.

Hy Weldon loved to tinker with just about any kind of mechanical contraption.  And though he probably wasn't a master at anything other than paperhanging, he was more than proficient in a multitude of mechanical and musical hobbies.  Next to his study, between the organ and his desk was a closet, the shelves of which were lined with the detritus of a lifetime of gadgetry.  There were radios of varied sizes, eras, and working order.  There were several film cameras, flashes, light meters, lenses, and the photo developing equipment leftover from his darkroom days.  There were video cameras, reel to reel projectors, slide projectors, and stacks and stacks of slide boxes.  He had an old accordion, which had belonged to his son and which grandpa could still riff Scott Joplin's The Entertainer on.  He was an able tailor and had an old sewing machine in the closet that he took out from time to time to mend clothes.

When I was about 14 I went down to visit my grandparents.  Now that I was older, traveling on my own - my sisters now off to college and summer jobs - the usual agenda of trips to Disney World and water slide parks was to be replaced with a paper hanging apprenticeship.  We woke up early in the morning and I joined grandpa in their small eat-in kitchen.  Grandma made me a bialy with cream cheese and poured me a glass of orange juice.  My grandfather enjoyed his breakfast with coffee, a Camel cigarette, and the Miami Herald.  We grabbed some more tools from the front closet and stuffed them in the trunk already bulging with gear.  Our job that week was at a furniture store.  They were remodeling their showroom and putting up new walls which were to be papered.  There were two hispanic plasterers there, too,  who I clearly remember as having great affection for my grandpa. I vividly remember and can still feel how proud he was to introduce me, his only grandson, to them.

I was an able enough assistant under grandpa's expert tutelage.  I learned how to properly mix the paste to just the right consistency.  I learned how to handle the pasted paper so as not to dirty the exposed surfaces.  I watched my grandfather expertly align the patterns so that the seams were all but invisible.  I watched and tried to emulate how he'd brush the paper into its final place, starting from the top and moving trapped air down and out the sides of the sticky paper.  He showed me how to use the wide rollers to push the last remaining air pockets out leaving only the perfectly smooth and now patterned surface devoid of seams, wrinkles, and bubbles.

In the many years that followed that summer, the work became increasingly physically taxing for grandpa.  The decades of smoking caught up with him; heart problems arose. My grandparents didn't have the money to retire to a life of leisure.  As my grandfather's health declined further they elected to move north to Connecticut to be close to their daughters.  Though I no longer lived in the area, I visited my grandparents there regularly.  The Florida condo decor always looked out of place in Connecticut, the white vinyl bench, the white porcelain cat, the glass paper weights, and the candy dishes frozen in 1970s Florida.

Just months after his first great-grandchild was born my grandfather died in December of 1994.  Along with my family, I was able to be in the hospital as his vital signs faded.  He was on some strong medication and wasn't in pain, but he was gaunt, pale, and as skinny as I'd ever seen him.  He couldn't speak and wasn't really fully conscious.  Our family commandeered a waiting room to sit vigil for the night, taking turns sitting by his bedside.  As it became clear that his time was short, I went into the room.  I sat on his right side and took his hand in mine.  I don't remember the soft words I spoke, but as I said them I felt his hand squeeze mine, very tightly.  As I remember it, he opened his eyes, saw me, and smiled broadly, something he hadn't done for anyone else in several days.  And though it was not the smile of younger, stronger days it was the same one I'd seen so many times before.  It was the same one he'd showered me with when taking me out to hang paper.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Barefoot Running

First and foremost so as there's no mistake: I don't run completely barefoot - yet.

Vibram Five Fingers act like a second skin that protects feet from road debris, glass, rocks, and the like. In effect, it is running as if barefoot. They have no real padding and therefore require a runner to change stride slightly so that one lands on the balls of the feet, tapping the heel slightly. It doesn't take much to begin to do this for the foot 'knows' what to do. A heel strike, common to runners in most running shoes becomes effectively impossible because it would simply hurt too much. I began, as recommended, slowly. I walked around in them for a week to get used to the feel. After that I began to jog a mile or two in them, then three, five, and now I am up to about seven mile excursions. Other than some soreness at first in the balls of my feet and some pretty intense calf soreness as I added miles, running in them feels normal, great, and perhaps most importantly, natural. Why I run in them is a whole other matter.

A while ago I saw a link posted on the Facebook profile of a friend that had something to do with alternative footwear. I clicked on the link and arrived at a radio interview from a public radio station in Texas. The interview was with an author named Christopher McDougall and the book he was humping is called Born to Run. I was surprised to hear the author's name because I actually know Christopher personally. Christopher and my sister's husband rowed crew together in college in the mid-1980s. In the intervening years, I'd had a few occasions to spend time with Christopher. The last time I saw Christopher in person was last summer, when he, his wife, and their children made a visit to the North Shore from the farm country of Pennsylvania where they now live. We enjoyed a day a night with them and my sister's family, the highlight of which was a traditional hula dance lesson led by Christopher's wife.

And then a year later, seemingly out of the blue, comes Christopher's voice over my computer speakers. I was heartened to hear this resonant and warm voice I knew. He was deftly answering questions about his new book with the same contagious and kindly enthusiasm I heard many times over the years. Soon though, I stopped hearing his voice and began to listen to the story. He talked about so many seemingly varied things it seemed impossible that all the topics could be at all related. He began talking about his own injury ridden experience with running. Then all of sudden he was talking about a lost tribe living in Mexico's Copper Canyons. Then he was talking about ultramarathoners - those that might run 50 or 100 mile races. He touched on conspiracies, biomechanics and, huh, the evolution of man.

Since I was a runner, had recently decided to run a marathon, and had also just recently incurred a slight injury to my leg (a strained posterior tibial tendon) I was more than intrigued. The timing and coincidence of my hearing that interview also tapped into something deep in me that compelled me to act swiftly and with purpose.

In the two months since I heard that interview, I not only read the book, bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, logged scores of running miles in them, and recovered fully from my injury, but have also begun to live a life closer to my internal compass. And while Christopher does a great job telling the story, I can't say for sure that his book will affect you the same way. I know what you're thinking: "Is this nutter saying that barefoot running has changed his world?" In a way, yes.

When we were toddlers, we all wanted to run. And we did. We didn't care if we wore shoes or could feel the ground below. Too soon though almost all of us learned, indeed it was inculcated, that to run meant wearing running shoes. We never questioned it. Until two months ago I never did. Then one day, I wake up, hear an interview, read a book, and start running 'barefoot.' My world IS different.

When something challenges our assumptions, it has the power to make us reconsider any assumption we've made. Look back on your own life and think about about a specific instance where your view of your world was significantly and irrevocably altered. Got it? Remember how fundamentally it changed your perspective, the lens through which you saw the world?

The important question now is when will be the next time in your life you'll allow that to happen?

Stay tuned.

Friday, August 28, 2009

How Do You Explain That?

We all have random thoughts or ideas that pop into our heads (I hope). What if they aren't random at all? Maybe they are sentences of a larger story, phonemes of a different consciousness? We return to so-called random thoughts (or they return to us) periodically, unpredictably.  Random and unpredictable are not exact synonyms. Lodged deep in consciousness, often dormant, ideas can be awakened by a smell, a moment of deja vu, a song, or for no reason we can conceive. The thought could be a personal experience, from fiction, non-fiction, and sometimes from that place in between.

My dad, at the height of his professional academic career, based in Department of Psychology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, was one of, if not the foremost, expert in studies of Near Death Experiences (NDEs). I was in grade school for most of that era and recall several dad and son lunches at the local health food restaurant near his campus office and my school where I heard tales from his research.

With great animation he'd share stories from his work, often unaware of the carrot shaving hanging from his mustache. It's hard to imagine an 11 year-old boy asking his father to tell him about academic research, at least not that 11 year-old boy pictured below at left, circa 1981.  My dad didn't tell me much about the science of his research, although there was plenty. Rather, he shared stories from which the science was derived. Working with people who had NDEs, my dad had some really good stories. I now realize I was just as interested in the content of the story as I was in listening to my dad tell it. 

The common elements of the NDE are well known now - out of body, tunnel, light, love, life review, yada yada yada. However, the bullet points of the experience aren't nearly as gripping as the individual accounts of the person who has had one. You won't have to look far on the internet to read such stories (Google Results: 229,000,000 for "Near Death Experiences"). Whatever your interpretation, sometimes it's just interesting to hear a story. Here is a paraphrased account of one of the many extraordinary stories my dad told me over a meal, or in the car, and or while playing cribbage. 

A woman, blind from birth, was traveling to a city that she'd never been to before in her life. As I recall, the city is Philadelphia. In the course of her visit she steps out in front of a bus. Wham. She's sent by ambulance to the emergency room of the hospital, unconscious the from the moment of impact.

As she's being attended to her vital signs fade. She feels herself floating out of her body. She's now aware - can SEE - herself on the gurney. This woman, who's never had the gift of sight can SEE the room, the physicians, and nurses. She can distinguish colors, never having actually seen them before. She floats higher in the room, up to the ceiling corner. She then passes through the walls of her room until she floats outside, up and beyond the hospital. 

She finds herself moving at infinite speed through a darkness, a tunnel, at the end of which is the brightest, but somehow not blinding light one could possibly ever, ever imagine. And even what you're imagining can't begin to approach what the light looks and feels like. 

She suddenly has a sense of being "somewhere else," some kind of more spiritual world. She SEES all of this. Her thoughts are as clear as they've ever been, her observations sharp and quick. She is then in the presence of Love, maybe in the form of family, or a vision of an all loving being. Communication is mind to mind - an understanding.

Next is a life review, where she relives actions and feelings in her life. Not only does she feel the emotional impact she's had on others in her life, She SEES it, too. She can later describe it as only someone who saw it could.

But then the choice is made to not stay; a decision is made to return to her body. When she is resuscitated and able to speak (but still, of course, blind) she recounts the experience. She accurately describes the doctors and the scene in the room when she died, using language only a person with sight could. She even told them about a file folder she SAW on top of a tall filing cabinet, out of view from those standing on the floor. 

She told them that she'd SEEN a red sneaker. On the outside of a hospital window. Several stories above the floor she was on. She told them exactly where she SAW it. They went to that room. They opened that window. Out on that ledge was that one red sneaker.

Of all the scores of Near Death Experiences my dad shared with me over the years, this is the one that comes to mind first.

My dad is still telling stories. Here he is on a somewhat recent trip to Palestine.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

That Pit in Your Gut

I've been restless for a long time. Years. Decades. When I was in college, I was busy, sure, but there was ample time to wonder. I wondered where I'd live after college. I wonder what I'd do.

I have a very clear memory, from sometime near the end of my Freshman year. I was reading the UMass course catalog for the next semester. UMass - Amherst is a large school. The course catalog is at least as thick as the New Haven phone book. As I turned from one section to the next, I genuinely had a hard time finding five courses that I thought I'd be sufficiently interested in to commit to a semester long class.  In the 20 plus years since, I've had that same feeling many times.

'They' say that when you feel something in the pit of your stomach or deep in your gut that you should go with it. 'They' say to follow your instincts. 'They' say to trust your intuition. And 'they' also say to do what you love. We all know that's easier said than done. Or is it? I am about to find out.

It's been an interesting time here on the Massachusetts North Shore. Linda, my wife, and I moved to Beverly, Massachusetts shortly after we got married in 2004. For a couple of years I was a partner with my friend, Kevin Burke, at burke + design. I then returned to EF Education for a couple of years. Toward the spring of 2008, it became clear that if I was to stay at EF, I'd have to take on a role that would require working many late nights, assuming a lot of responsibility (with accompanying pressures), and managing a sizable, and likely miserable, staff. I'd also have to commute about 2 hours each day, leaving the waking hours with my son, Max, to less than 1 in the morning and probably none at night.  My gut told me this wasn't what I wanted.  Linda, ever my chief supporter in our quest for mutual happiness, agreed.

For me the value proposition wasn't one I could see, accept, or compromise on. With no prospects I exited stage left and was unemployed for several months. I was holding out for something that better approximated my personal (if yet inchoate) value system. In June 2008 I accepted a position at Digital Bungalow in Salem. I could literally walk there from my house in less than five minutes. It was, for a time, perfect. I made a lot less money (35% less!), but I left the house close to 9am and was home close to 530 or 6 almost every day. What ever could I complain about?
Well, it turns out, I didn't like the job much. Couldn't I figure out a way to make it work out? Apparently not. By December, I was out of Digital Bungalow, and though the economy was crumbling, and prospects weren't bright, I felt a certain, well, relief upon leaving.  The pit in my gut was dissipating.  I was able to feel this way for several reasons:
  1. Linda was working (and is highly employable as a physical therapist).
  2. I had not compromised. I was not happy in that job and I felt life is simply too short to be unhappy in your work for too long. (Witness my resume.)
  3. I got to spend more time with Linda and Max.
  4. For a time, our finances were stable and we had cash reserves to stake us.
I knew that at some point something would have to give, but until then there wasn't a compelling enough reason to alter our strategy; we were going to formulate a new life plan.  This plan would take into account the value we place on our free time, the benefits of living a simpler life, a truer appreciation for things that really matter to us in life, and a commitment to each other that we'd seek happiness not in the ephemeral trinkets of the free market (though there are many), but in the richness of the present moment.  This is not easy to keep in the fore, not when there are sales of HDTVs, shiny iPhones,  and deliciously caloric food smells wafting from the downtown Salem restaurants.   And especially not when you have mortgage bills piling up.

[About to channel Andy Rooney.] I tend to think a lot about how we are marketed to and, for the most part, I don't like it.  I don't like how ads (necessarily?) make us feel like we don't have enough, or that we don't look like we should, or that if we don't buy now, we're idiots.  I don't like being guilted or shamed into making a purchase.  I am pretty sure that Kay Jewelers doesn't really know what would make MY wife happy.  And I am 100% certain that the vast majority of those marketers have their items on the priority list listed higher than mine.  I actually derive a fulfilling pleasure in NOT buying things, in remaining strong in the face of the constant assault of commercials on TV, Radio, and the Internet (not to mention billboards, flyers, gorilla marketing, networking, etc., etc.).  I am not completely na├»ve.  I know that this is a necessary part of the free market in which we live, but I like to focus on the 'free.' part - that is to say, I am free to feel good about not participating unless I consciously and purposely decide to do so.  This can, at times, make me a stick in the mud.[/Andy Rooney]

Before I lose you completely, let's just sum up a few ideas that we can pick up again in future writings.  The pit in your stomach IS telling you something.  You do have the power to make tomorrow different than today.  It's not easy.

This post is more of a diatribe than I'd like and there is much lighter fare in upcoming posts.  So for now, give it some thought and check back soon.

Stay tuned.

p.s. Today's pictures were taken by Linda this morning as I set off for a run in what I call my freaky feet -

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Supermarket Minefield

I've been thinking a lot about food and health lately.

For the better part of the past decade - if not longer, I've been aware that I have high cholesterol.  While I contributed to it with regular doses of cheese and hamburgers (tip: the two taste great when combined), I also have my genes to thank for its base level.  What is high?  Well, let's just say that it was somewhere below Ted Williams' lifetime batting average, but not much.

It always seemed unfair to me that I'd have high cholesterol. While I've taken time off from exercising from time to time, I've been active far more than not and I've always eaten better than my cholesterol number would suggest - or so I thought.  At various times, I've had doctors tell me that unless I could lower my number, they'd recommend Lipitor or other statin drugs to do the job.  But the idea taking a pill for the rest of my life (at was then only my early 30's) seemed both onerous and expensive.  I told the doctor to let me try on my own first.

For more than 5 years, I tried and had only marginal success.  The number, at times, was lower, but then it would rise again.  I modified my diet.  Less fries, 'lite' cheese, lean meat, turkey.  Inevitably, though, there'd be a plate of nachos or what is still my weakness, a bowl of French onion soup with that broiled layered of oh so tasty cheese. Let's not even talk about ice cream.

A few years ago, I felt a tightness right about the area where my heart is.  It hurt, but because I'd developed a latent paranoia about heart disease, I was aware that my symptoms were not that of a heart attack.  Soon after that I sought the attention of a local cardiologist.  (The doctor, for the purposes of imagining the scene, is a dead ringer for Matthew Broderick, right down to the voice and mannerisms.)  I made the doctor do all kinds of tests:  EKGs, a treadmill stress test, and I even got to see a three dimensional computer model of my heart.  Aside from all that being very cool and fun (and probably expensive), I learned that my heart is very strong and in good shape and that the pain I was occasionally feeling was likely musco-skeletal and had nothing to do with my cardiovascular system.  However, my cholesterol and especially my triglycerides levels were indeed still very high and I'd need to do something about it or risk heart disease, heart attack, and of course pre-mature death. (And while what the doctor was saying rang true, it's hard to take serious medical advice from - take your pick - Ferris Bueller, Eugene Morris Jerome, or Leo Bloom.)

But back to food now.  In the past couple of years, I've made some major changes to my diet.  It began, as I noted with a reduction in cholesterol laden foods.  I slowly began to cleave (dig the diction) meat out of my diet.  I ate it from time to time, but rarely ever bought it in the grocery store.  I was still eating chicken and turkey, though.  I was, along with my wife, trying out recipes from Eating Well and other more 'healthy' oriented websites or magazines, but deep down I knew that I wasn't being consistent enough to make the kind of dent necessary to make a difference in my numbers.

Thanks to some good friends of ours, we were introduced to a doctor's diet.  His name is Joel Fuhrman and his book, "Eat to Live," espoused the health benefits of what is basically a vegetarian diet loaded with essential, unprocessed nutrients:  fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, soy, seeds, nuts.  We began to eat this way far more often than not (but by no means as strictly as advocated).  Without exercising much - at that time - I lost about 10 pounds, with very little effort at all.  When I added exercise to my regimen, I had to notch the belt tighter and was quite often greeted with, "you look skinny" or "have you lost weight?"  I did and I had.  In fact, today I weigh almost the exact same I did when I graduated college at 21.  (I am the taller of the two in the photo.  The older man, who lives a healthy life, is 128 years-old.)
It wasn't very long after shifting my diet that I had a check up with Dr. Bueller, uh, I mean Dr. Lawson to review my numbers.  When he came into the room, he could barely contain his excitement.  "What have you been doing?!"  My triglycerides, which had literally been off the chart were back to near normal and my cholesterol while still being above baseball's Mendoza Line would certainly have have landed me back in Double A.  "Whatever you're doing, keep on doing it," the doctor exclaimed with joy.  I felt like I'd aced a test I'd been failing for years (like when John John finally passed the bar).

It's hard for me to recollect exactly how my present thoughts on food and diet got to where they are (and I should note they are still in flux), but the more I read about how food is processed, what industrial farming does to animals, land, the environment, not to mention America's (and the world's) waistline, the more I feel like I have to opt out - as much as I can.  And it isn't easy.  Go to the supermarket and all the aisles between the produce (which is suspect, too!) and the milk (another no-no according to Furhman) is likely processed, likely made from corn by products and likely has high fructose corn syrup as one of the first few ingredients.  The more I read in books like Eat to Live or The Ominvore's Dilemma and the more I see in documentaries (Super Size Me, and soon Food Inc.), the more I come to terms with the fact that, at least the way I see it, our health is being highjacked by the corporatocracy (Tangentially related good read:  Confessions of an Economic Hitman).  Know this:  our food today is NOT the food of our forefathers.  And while science works to solve many of life's banes, it also causes too many others.
I don't yet know where these thoughts will lead me, but I do know that in both my thinking and my actions, I am already outside of the mainstream.  I have to tell you, though, it feels like the mainstream isn't really serving me well right now.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Poison Ivy

I have small break out of poison ivy.  It's just on my foot and shin a bit.  For the most part I can control the scratching - far, far from a bad case.  I must have picked it up in Connecticut the week before last when I was barefoot in and around the garden at my in-laws property.

Getting poison ivy always makes me wax nostalgic.  Growing up in Storrs, Connecticut we were always close to the woods and there was plenty of poison ivy around.  In the summer, I'd go traipsing through the low ground cover and disappear in the cool woods.  I'd see huge ferns growing on the carcasses of fallen trees, fed by the dimpled sunlight filtering in through the canopy of leaves above.  I'd note fungi growing on moist limbs and from moss gathered on a rock buried like an iceberg, a comparatively small surface the stone exposed.  And during those excursions I'd inevitably rub my legs or clothes on the oily leaves of the ivy plant.

At that age  - 10, 11, 12 - I wasn't paying attention to, well, much.  And I certainly wasn't practicing any preventative measures like washing hands or clothes after parading through the grass.  I got poison ivy multiple times a summer.  Everywhere.  Not washing up meant my hands were covered with the ivy oils.  I'd touch my face, my eyes, go to the bathroom (yup, got it there, too).

One time I went to sleep with a small case of it and woke up in the morning with my eyes literally swelled shut from the allergic reaction.  That was scary.  We went to our family practitioner who prescribed some Benadryl pills.  Benadryl can cause drowsiness.

The next day, my mom went to work and I was home alone.  She called the house to check on me, but there was no answer.  She called again and again no answer.  She worried and called a neighbor.  Unaware of any of this, I was surprised to find the mother of my neighborhood friend in my bedroom rousing me out of bed.  With little explanation that I can recall, I was put in a car - still in my pajamas - and brought the the doctor's office, where my mom met us.  The doctor checked my pulse, blood pressure, and temperature.  He shined a bright light into my eyes and asked me if I knew who the President of the United States was (Reagan).  I was declared fine other than extremely groggy and was sent home.

Scratching the top of my pink-dotted foot reminds me of those idle summer days, exploring woods that seemed as infinite as my youth.

Stay tuned.

The Chronicles, No. 1

Every Day is a New Beginning.

In 20 days we're moving from Salem, Massachusetts (population ~40,000, 18 square miles) to Pomfret, Connecticut (population ~4,000, 40 square miles).

I've been married a little over 5 years. My wife's name is Linda.  She's so wonderful.

We adopted our son, Max, at birth in November 2007.  He's a happy whirling dervish.

We lost our other son, Leo,  stillborn one month before his due date in July 2009 - just over a month ago.

I've been unemployed since December 2008.

Yesterday morning, August 2009, my wife and I signed documents with our attorney with the intention of declaring bankruptcy.

I am training for a marathon, my first, in October 2009. Many of the training miles are run in minimalist footwear called Vibram Five Fingers.

I am 'this close' to becoming a vegetarian.

I turn 40 in 112 days.

And I am looking forward to what comes next.

Stay tuned.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Soft Launch

The drumbeat has grown loud, the call now too clear to ignore. Beginning with this blog, I am declaring my candidacy for your internet time.

Some background: I was born in the waning days of the 1960's; I grew up in Storrs, Connecticut - a sleepy college town set betwixt cow pastures, woods, streams, and rocky farmland. I was voted "Class Clown" my senior year. That's enough background.  Yawn.

"Ring Writes" (working title) will eventually be a mixture of articles, columns, reporting, web guides, observations, fiction, opinions.  There will be featured writers, guest columnists, links to great articles, audio, and video.  I imagine an online magazine, a forum, and a community which will be appreciated for its content and usefulness.    This is just the start.  So follow the blog, subscribe to the feed, read the postings, share with your friends, and let's see where this takes us, shall we?  And yes, this is going to be a primary source of my income.

It begins with this blog and ends....stay tuned.


p.s. I like this regular column by Lynn Zinser in the New York Times:  Leading Off