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Monday, September 28, 2009

Strength



It seems like everyday we look for strength. Some people need strength to get out of bed and go to the job they hate.  Others require strength to tackle a project they've been procrastinating.  And some simply need the physical variety.

Since our loss of Leo (still born in July at 8 months), I've been specifically asking him for strength.  It's as if by virtue of his ephemeral physical presence the power of his absence is vastly amplified.  Rather than a low wattage current running through me, his life is a lighting bolt that has permanently electrified my soul.  I am not religious, but I am spiritual.  I don't ask God for help, answers, or forgiveness.  I had come to believe that if I want any of those things that I must to do something to merit it.  However, since Leo's passing, I now find myself looking to him, and for him to lend me the strength I both desire and need.

My alarm went off at 6am yesterday - a Sunday - a day traditionally meant for rest, for sleeping in.  And while many still were, I had the dawn to myself.  I had 22 miles to run in preparation for my first marathon (The Baystate in Lowell, MA on October 18th).  It was a cool 52 degrees, foggy, rainy.  I drank a cup of hot black coffee, ate a single piece of whole grain toast with strawberry jam and quietly patted the floor as I gathered items for my bipedal trek.  I filled up my water bottles, stashed my Gu packs, and put my MP3 player in a plastic baggy to keep it dry.  In silence, I applied band-aids to my nipples so they wouldn't chafe and bleed.   I applied Glide - a vaseline like roll-on - on my inner thighs and on the soles of my feet to prevent chaffing and blistering (too much information, I realize). I strapped my Garmin Forerunner GPS watch to my wrist and drove the few miles to Putnam, CT.  I'd plotted an 22 mile course down RT. 12 and back, which winds through the formerly prosperous mill towns of Putnam, Killingly, and Danielson.  It roughly parallels the Quinebaug River and the railroad tracks that connect Norwich to Worcester, but upon which few trains still roll.


View 22 miler in a larger map

As I set off through the deserted streets of Putnam south toward the surrounding greener fields, a cool mist lingered low to the ground and nestled next to the hillsides.  A light drizzle fell and with the exception of an occasional car it was just me and the two lane road.

I took in the quietude and let my mind wander.  Soon I felt that Leo was with me.  Or rather, I asked that he join me.  I've taken to spending time with him on these long runs.  I ask him to give me strength, to help me on my journey.  I ask him to come forth from nature - from the mist, from the green (and now red and orange) of the leaves, and from the breeze.  I ask Leo to fill my lungs with oxygen, my legs with power, and my mind with stillness.  It's not a constant conversation, but as my thoughts drift from topic to topic, often too quickly for me to hold on to any for long, he occasionally returns to run alongside.  He'll wander off for a time and then sometimes - like yesterday morning - he slams into my chest like a linebacker.



At mile marker 8.34 (I looked at my Garmin to note it), near the Civil War Statue that welcomes you to Danielson, Leo came directly at me, forcefully, with no warning or discernible precipitation.  The power of his presence was as visceral as the day he came and went and brought me to the precipice of collapse. He brought on powerful tears of grief and caused me to gulp for air.  I continued to run, my breath short, my face contorted.   And I welcomed the sadness that overfilled my heart, pain that while intense somehow provides comfort in at least letting you know you're alive.  The severity didn't last long (.16 miles to be exact), fleeing as quickly as it came, but it was an abrupt reminder that for as 'normal' as most of my days are, the ache of the loss I feel for Leo hasn't substantially dissipated.

When my patience is thin, when I'm anxious or short tempered, when I am aimless and restless I feel certain it's rooted predominantly in my grief.  My sorrow waits inside me, waits and waits, and then pounces fiercely on my unsuspecting consciousness.  Leo, Leo, Leo.  Physically absent and wholly present; sometimes a cause of acute paralysis and at others the source of tremendous strength.  I welcome you in whatever form you choose to appear.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Chronicles, No. 3



Greetings from Pomfret, Connecticut. 



In the span of the 12 days since my last entry we/I:
  • Packed and inventoried the contents of exactly 100 boxes.
  • Ran two road races.



  • Unpacked and found new places for the contents of exactly 100 boxes.
  • Ran a 21+ mile marathon training run.
  • Arranged and rearranged several pieces of reasonably heavy furniture.
  • Hosted two family dinners.
  • Spent countless uneasy hours listening to Max cry himself to sleep while he adjusts to his new home.
  • Got Max off to his first day at his new day care.


  • And perhaps most importantly, set up the internet connection in our home.

While these are all worthy and necessary efforts, none of them means nearly as much to me as the feeling of simply being here.  I stand taller and breathe more deeply.

The breeze blows the absolute sweetest scent of blackberries through the air - so strong you'd swear it was the cloying odor of a Yankee Candle.  But, my God, it's just the smell of berries!  

I took a deliciously fresh bite of an apple - from a tree in the backyard. 

Jogging these roads, I can clock quarters of a mile between the houses - if I can see them at all through the trees or over the crests of the intervening hills.  The ubiquitous hills afford magnificent panoramas of the fields, forests, and farm houses that dot the Pomfret and surrounding towns' landscape.  Running them is tough on my muscles which had grown accustomed to flatter terrain.  And while we live on a Connecticut designated scenic route you don't need a state or a sign to tell you what you can simply see.


When we went to the local post office the other day, the postal worker was not only friendly, but recognized Linda's last name.  "Oh, you're Nick and Polly's daughter.  Welcome to Pomfret!"

Max has seen his Grandma more in the past week combined than he had in the past several months.  He also gets to go to "Bampa's" house to see his motorcycle.  Max also enjoys picking flowers in the field behind our house.


As yet there is no such thing as 'traffic.'

The morning air is cool; the grass drenched in dew. Crisp autumn leaves flutter to the ground and swirl behind the cars speeding down the empty road.

Idyllic as it is, peaceful as it is, there is a certain restlessness that continues to linger.  I know it will take a few more weeks of unpacking and settling in before I can truly relax and focus on the larger questions that have yet to be answered.  Now that we are here, how will we actually go about shaping the life we want to lead?  And practically speaking, how will we finance it?  Will outer peace facilitate the inner peace I seek?  What compromises will have to be made?  

And perhaps the most stultifying question asked everyday about an hour too late:  What should we have for dinner?

But for now we just have to figure out where to keep our shoes, some winter coats, and the clothes that used to fit Max, that fit him now, and that will fit him in the months to come.

I'll be able to write with more frequency in the coming days so stay tuned.  

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Remembrance


On September 10th, 2001 I was working in Toronto, Ontario for EF Foundation for Foreign Study.  I'd spent the better part of the summer in Canada finding homes for high school aged foreign exchange students.  It was a monumental effort to find homes for every student and required several weeks of long days and nights of work.  Around 10pm that night we found a home for the last student.  We were relieved and elated and in the mood to celebrate.  We went out to several bars and had more than a few drinks.  I fell into bed in the early morning for a few hours of sleep.  I was scheduled fly to Boston later that morning.

I awoke shortly after 8am on September 11th, severely hungover, to a crystal blue sky and a cool, crisp day.  I sloppily packed my suitcase and trudged toward our Bloor Street office.  I stopped at a Starbucks shortly before 9am oblivious to what had occurred just minutes prior.  Exhausted and bleary-eyed, I was simply focused on going to the office for a few hours and catching a taxi to the airport to finally go home.  When I got to my desk, I logged into my computer.  AOL Instant Messenger automatically logged me in and at precisely 9:09:31am a friend sent me a message, "YO!"  

This was when and how I learned that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.  There was no television at the office for me to watch.  The internet was jammed.  Cell phone service to the US was spotty at best.  And office phones soon began to ring steadily with calls from all over Canada and from EF offices all over the world wondering about the status of students who were slated to travel that day.  I was, for a time, the only person there to field those calls and was confined to my desk.  The only information I was able to get about what was happening in New York, DC, and PA came from the instant messages I was getting from my friend.  As you might recall, there were a lot of false rumors being reported; much of the information being provided was sketchy.  I remember when he told me that a tower had collapsed.  I couldn't begin to comprehend what that even meant.  Collapsed?!

It wasn't until later that evening when I finally got settled into my new hotel room that I saw the footage of what I'd been hearing about all day.  Surreal doesn't begin to describe it.  Even today words fail.  I obviously didn't fly to Boston that day.  I was grounded in Toronto.  After several days I was allowed to fly to Montreal from where I took a bus to St. Albans, VT.  Crossing over the border into the United States we had to disembark from the bus and show our passports to the border agents stationed there.  There were soldiers positioned out front with automatic weapons.  From St. Albans I took an Amtrak train to Springfield, MA.  As the train rumbled south through rural Vermont, there were American flags draped from nearly every house and every car I could see.  Those flags unlocked my pent up emotions and I wept both with the joy I felt in being back in my home country and for the magnitude of the collective sadness.  From the train station I took a taxi to a rental car and finally drove home to Boston.

What follows below is the verbatim transcript of the instant message exchange (complete with swears, off the cuff speculation, and typos).  For privacy, I've changed my friend's name to "Friend"):

Friend (9:09:31 AM): YO!
Friend (9:09:39 AM): you see news
DaveRing1969 (9:09:40 AM): you rang!
Friend (9:09:44 AM): yeah
Friend (9:09:50 AM): you see nyc news?
Friend (9:10:00 AM): two planes crashed into world trade ctr
DaveRing1969 (9:10:01 AM): you rang?
Friend (9:10:12 AM): yes
Friend (9:10:16 AM): find a tv
DaveRing1969 (9:10:27 AM): no!
DaveRing1969 (9:10:32 AM): when!
Friend (9:10:37 AM): 15 min ago
Friend (9:10:43 AM): you must find a tv
DaveRing1969 signed off at 9:15:11 AM.
DaveRing1969 signed on at 9:15:53 AM.
Friend (9:26:55 AM): yo
Friend (9:27:02 AM): cnn says that one plane was from bos
Friend (9:27:06 AM): 767
Friend (9:27:36 AM): AA
DaveRing1969 (9:35:19 AM): shitting me?
DaveRing1969 (9:35:22 AM): hijacked?
DaveRing1969 (9:35:25 AM): shit.
DaveRing1969 (9:38:37 AM): more updates - I got nothing here - cnn 
crashed - too many hti,s I suspect?
Friend (9:40:10 AM): ok
Friend (9:40:15 AM): yes...hijacked'
Friend (9:40:27 AM): "significant fire" at pentagon
Friend (9:40:30 AM): cause unknown
DaveRing1969 (9:40:36 AM): one was AA 767, what was other?
Friend (9:40:38 AM): looking at lots of smoke from the area
Friend (9:40:43 AM): not sure of other plane
Friend (9:41:00 AM): also...reports of fire on the mall in dc
Friend (9:41:12 AM): white house has been evacuated
Friend (9:41:19 AM): bush is in fla
DaveRing1969 (9:41:21 AM): on the mall?
Friend (9:41:25 AM): yes, the mall
Friend (9:41:32 AM): so here's synopsis
Friend (9:41:42 AM): 2 planes crash into wtc
Friend (9:41:47 AM): big fire at pentagon
Friend (9:41:55 AM): reports of fire on mall in dc
Friend (9:42:01 AM): white house evacuated
Friend (9:43:09 AM): getting reports taht a plane crashed in to 
pentagon
Friend (9:44:18 AM): reports are sketchy, but people are saying 
that "something"...possibly a helicopter...crashed in to pentagon
Friend (9:44:45 AM): HUGE amounts of smoke in dc
DaveRing1969 (9:45:10 AM): jesus
DaveRing1969 (9:45:12 AM): fucking scary
Friend (9:45:16 AM): crazy

Friend (9:45:32 AM): stay in canada
DaveRing1969 (9:45:34 AM): any news where the AA flight was bound for?
Friend (9:45:37 AM): no
DaveRing1969 (9:45:38 AM): no shit.
Friend (9:45:42 AM): nyse closed for day
Friend (9:45:56 AM): all air travel in us has come to a halt
Friend (9:46:03 AM): no planes flying today
Friend (9:46:07 AM): you may be stuck
DaveRing1969 (9:46:17 AM): ALL air travel?
Friend (9:46:26 AM): all us airports are closed right now
Friend (9:46:43 AM): all bridges and tunnels in to/out of nyc 
also closed
Friend (9:46:50 AM): this is tom clancy shit
DaveRing1969 (9:46:52 AM): Jeuss
DaveRing1969 (9:46:55 AM): Jesus
Friend (9:47:19 AM): all flights cancelled for 7 hours
Friend (9:47:32 AM): it may be extended beyond that
Friend (9:48:04 AM): this is unbelievable
DaveRing1969 (9:48:15 AM): freaky
Friend (9:48:29 AM): no tv's there?
DaveRing1969 (9:48:34 AM): every site I try to access is down.
DaveRing1969 (9:48:42 AM): yeah, one canadian station.
Friend (9:48:43 AM): overloaded
DaveRing1969 (9:48:51 AM): fuzzy - no cable
Friend (9:49:20 AM): cnn now reporting that it was a plane that 
crashed in to pentagon
DaveRing1969 (9:49:32 AM): a big one
DaveRing1969 (9:49:36 AM): I don't like this
Friend (9:50:15 AM): capitol bldg being evacuated too
DaveRing1969 (9:50:28 AM): feel violated
Friend (9:50:40 AM): no shit
DaveRing1969 (9:51:28 AM): going to check outy tv
Friend (9:51:30 AM): now they're saying that at first white house 
evacuation was orderly (like one of their frequent bomb threats)...then 
it became somewhat
panicked...secret service ordered people to run
DaveRing1969 (9:51:37 AM): keep posting updates if you get stuff
Friend (9:51:40 AM): aiight
Friend (9:55:17 AM): huge cascade of smoke from wtc
Friend (9:55:31 AM): can't tell what the hell is happening
Friend (9:55:46 AM): just got report of fire at state department
Friend (9:56:17 AM): part of south tower of wtc has collapsed
Friend (9:56:20 AM): apparently
DaveRing1969 (9:56:53 AM): jesus
Friend (9:57:34 AM): south tower of wtc collapsed...not all the 
way to ground, but
Friend (9:57:49 AM): it looked like one of those building 
implosions on discovery channe
Friend (9:58:03 AM): too much smoke, debris, dust to see anything
Friend (9:58:23 AM): watching replay  of collapse
Friend (9:58:27 AM): indesribable
Friend (9:58:31 AM): unbelievable
DaveRing1969 (9:59:05 AM): any mention of how many people died in 
Oklahoma city and are they talking about the same scale here?
Friend (9:59:34 AM): not much talk of that....it's basically a 
lot of cluelessness.
Friend (9:59:41 AM): no one's sure what's going on
Friend (10:00:11 AM): chicago's sears tower evacuated
Friend (10:00:30 AM): south tower of wtc may not exist after today
DaveRing1969 (10:00:41 AM): fucking crazy
Friend (10:01:32 AM): 2 people jumped from south wtc just before 
it collapsed
Friend (10:01:53 AM): cop guessed that there were at least 200 
people on ground before collapse
Friend (10:02:32 AM): 1 inch thick ash on streets of nyc near 
wtc...dust everywhere
Friend (10:02:35 AM): looks like volcano
DaveRing1969 (10:02:50 AM): speechless
Friend (10:02:53 AM): people are covered w/ dust....
Friend (10:03:10 AM): me too
Friend (10:03:16 AM): so are newscasters
Friend (10:03:17 AM): crazy
Friend (10:03:27 AM): you should see these people in nyc
Friend (10:03:31 AM): totally covered
Friend (10:03:36 AM): w ash and dust
Friend (10:04:25 AM): wash dc is in a ready for attack 
state....circling f-16's
Friend (10:04:32 AM): army on street
Friend (10:04:34 AM): w/ guns
Friend (10:05:10 AM): you there?
Friend (10:05:55 AM): aa flight 11....bos to lax....745
Friend (10:07:23 AM): "great deal of activity near supreme court"
Friend (10:07:25 AM): unsure
Friend (10:07:46 AM): TONS of smoke from pentagon
Friend (10:08:11 AM): pictures from manhattan are 
un-fucking-believable
DaveRing1969 (10:08:13 AM): yeah
Friend (10:08:16 AM): looks like war zone
Friend (10:08:36 AM): you reporting this to anyone
Friend (10:08:38 AM): else
DaveRing1969 (10:08:56 AM): listening to stuff on radio
Friend (10:09:15 AM): have you seen any pictures yet
DaveRing1969 (10:09:20 AM): no
DaveRing1969 (10:09:25 AM): none
Friend (10:09:31 AM): yahoo...has pic of wtc
Friend (10:10:38 AM): reports that a third plane caused the wtc 
collapse
Friend (10:10:53 AM): try to find howard stern on radio
Friend (10:11:25 AM): just got report of explosion on capitol hill
Friend (10:12:03 AM): chaos
DaveRing1969 (10:12:20 AM): dumbfounded
Friend (10:14:14 AM): hancock bldg, pru, one financial ctr 
evacuated
DaveRing1969 (10:14:16 AM): yahoo down
DaveRing1969 (10:14:22 AM): every number I call is busy
Friend (10:14:25 AM): yep
DaveRing1969 (10:14:26 AM): total chaos
Friend (10:15:12 AM): reports that 7 planes were hijacked this 
morning...only 3 are accounted for
Friend (10:15:20 AM): that's big speculation though
DaveRing1969 (10:15:25 AM): my god
Friend (10:17:22 AM): there are going to be thousands dead
Friend (10:17:58 AM): many nyc hospitals already full
DaveRing1969 (10:20:13 AM): thanks for keeping me posted
Friend (10:21:14 AM): still can't see wtc tower through smoke, 
but peopla are saying it has collapsed almost to groung
Friend (10:21:17 AM): ground
DaveRing1969 (10:21:28 AM): the whole thing?
Friend (10:21:37 AM): all flights to us diverted to canadian 
airports
Friend (10:21:54 AM): yes, the whole thing
Friend (10:22:32 AM): explosion at capitol bldg
Friend (10:22:39 AM): possible car bomb at state dept
Friend (10:22:43 AM): again,
Friend (10:22:51 AM): these are all unconfirmed reports
Friend (10:23:07 AM): this is pearl harbor
Friend (10:24:47 AM): watching replay of collapse...it appears 
that the bldg doesn't exist anymore
Friend (10:24:59 AM): holy shit
Friend (10:25:06 AM): BOTH towers have now collapsed
DaveRing1969 (10:25:16 AM): what?
Friend (10:25:27 AM): world trade center is down
Friend (10:25:32 AM): both
Friend (10:26:05 AM): this is unfucking believable
Friend (10:26:08 AM): incredulous
Friend (10:26:24 AM): both towers are absolutely gone
Friend (10:26:28 AM): out of control
Friend (10:26:47 AM): lower manhattan entirely consumed by 
dust/smoke
Friend (10:27:07 AM): gimme a call
Friend (10:27:10 AM): this is crazy
Friend (10:27:48 AM): that second tower entirely collapsed on 
itself...exactly like a planned demolition
DaveRing1969 (10:28:08 AM): wow
Friend (10:28:13 AM): call me
DaveRing1969 (10:28:13 AM): calls not going through
Friend (10:28:16 AM): fuck
Friend (10:28:37 AM): yeah...i can't get you either
Friend (10:28:46 AM): do you have a toronto #?
DaveRing1969 (10:29:15 AM): 416-927-7505x230
Friend (10:29:17 AM): there seem to be a lot of sirens around the 
cambridge area too
Friend (10:29:59 AM): nothing going through
Friend (10:30:33 AM): fyi...50,000 people work in wtc
DaveRing1969 (10:31:47 AM): what time did the first/2nd plane hit?
Friend (10:31:56 AM): ap is reporting car bombing at state dept.
Friend (10:32:13 AM): i think at about 8:45, then 9:05 ish
Friend (10:32:23 AM): my dad called me at about 905 to tell me
DaveRing1969 (10:33:03 AM): right
Friend (10:33:17 AM): just got report that a 747 went down in 
pennsylvania
Friend (10:33:20 AM): very unconfirmed
DaveRing1969 (10:33:32 AM): ok
Friend (10:33:45 AM): we're going to have to nuke someone for this
Friend (10:33:51 AM): this is going to change our lives
DaveRing1969 (10:33:52 AM): tons of cell phone towers were on top of WTC
Friend (10:33:57 AM): right
DaveRing1969 (10:34:02 AM): it already has......
Friend (10:34:06 AM): radio towers too, etc
DaveRing1969 (10:34:09 AM): fee; socl
DaveRing1969 (10:34:14 AM): feel sick
Friend (10:34:18 AM): me too
DaveRing1969 signed off at 10:34:21 AM.
DaveRing1969 signed on at 10:34:53 AM.
Friend (10:34:59 AM): dude!
DaveRing1969 (10:35:07 AM): no shit
Friend (10:35:27 AM): so...you don't have much work to do today?
Friend (10:36:29 AM): apparently plane that crashed in to 
pentagon was 737
DaveRing1969 (10:36:35 AM): well, yes and no - no placing kids - again 
we finished, but many were to fly, so have to figure out what happened.
DaveRing1969 (10:36:42 AM): or what will
Friend (10:36:50 AM): breaking news
Friend (10:37:03 AM): pentagon is monitoring second suspected 
hijacked plane
DaveRing1969 (10:37:32 AM): wonder if they would shoot it down to 
prevent worse happening>
DaveRing1969 (10:37:33 AM): ?
Friend (10:37:43 AM): in this case, they might have to
DaveRing1969 (10:38:12 AM): my mom is on the phone
Friend (10:38:24 AM): hi susan
DaveRing1969 (10:38:26 AM): sister with daughter at school
Friend (10:38:31 AM): fuck
DaveRing1969 (10:39:04 AM): john is at his school
DaveRing1969 (10:39:13 AM): nephew
Friend (10:42:03 AM): large plane crashed just north of 
pittsburgh, earlier this morning...confirmes
DaveRing1969 (10:43:05 AM): earlier?
Friend (10:43:19 AM): not sure what time
Friend (10:43:39 AM): 2nd aircraft circling pentagon
Friend (10:43:53 AM): at least one f-16 there now
Friend (10:44:04 AM): 60 foot section of pentagon has collapsed
Friend (10:44:11 AM): where earlier plane crashed
DaveRing1969 (10:45:33 AM): what the fuck
Friend (10:46:30 AM): stern is decent to listen to if you can 
find him
Friend (10:46:39 AM): playing a lot of local coverage
Friend (10:47:01 AM): watching different footage of wtc collapse 
now
Friend (10:47:07 AM): speechless
Friend (10:47:22 AM): wtc does not exist anymore
Friend (10:48:29 AM): hearing reports that pittsburgh crash may 
not be related to all this
Friend (10:48:35 AM): i can't imagine how it's not
DaveRing1969 (10:49:32 AM): in some way.
Friend (10:49:56 AM): right...they're saying if not directly, it 
may have something to do w/ air traffic control system
Friend (10:50:40 AM): you must see these buildings 
collapse...it's straight out of hollywood
DaveRing1969 (10:50:55 AM): I am sure I will -
DaveRing1969 (10:50:57 AM): eventually
DaveRing1969 (10:51:08 AM): I nearly started crying talking to my mom.
Friend (10:51:24 AM): i've gotten choked up a number of times
Friend (10:51:35 AM): i sort of wish that i was at srs right now
Friend (10:52:11 AM): fuck
Friend (10:52:30 AM): this is putting a little crimp in my 
"attack"
DaveRing1969 (10:53:47 AM): attack suspended
Friend (10:53:54 AM): breaking news
Friend (10:54:03 AM): a united airlines flight has crashed at 
camp david
Friend (10:54:15 AM): in vicinity of, or at camp david
Friend (10:55:54 AM): heads of state, primary officials of us are 
being moved, hidden, etc
Friend (10:56:39 AM): giuliani on
Friend (10:56:52 AM): just urging people to get out of ny
Friend (10:56:58 AM): especially south of canal st.
Friend (10:57:21 AM): wish you were here
DaveRing1969 (10:57:35 AM): yeah dude
DaveRing1969 (10:57:36 AM): wjere
DaveRing1969 (10:57:42 AM): where is Andy
Friend (10:57:45 AM): he's here
Friend (10:57:47 AM): called in
Friend (10:57:59 AM): said that people at vw were just watching 
tv anyway
DaveRing1969 (10:58:01 AM): how do they get out of NY?
Friend (10:58:22 AM): basically he just instructed people to go 
uptown
Friend (10:58:29 AM): can't get out of nyc
Friend (10:58:49 AM): see any pics yet?
Friend (10:59:02 AM): are you getting info anywhere other than me?
DaveRing1969 (10:59:04 AM): no dude, I am also working
DaveRing1969 (10:59:11 AM): figuring out what's going on with our kids
DaveRing1969 (10:59:19 AM): radio and you
Friend (10:59:23 AM): nice
Friend (10:59:38 AM): cnn now has titles:  America Under Attack
Friend (10:59:45 AM): Fox too: Day of Terror
Friend (11:00:38 AM): breaking news
Friend (11:00:47 AM): hijacked plane circling Dulles
Friend (11:01:06 AM): reports are now that 8 planes have been 
hijacked...5 accounted for
Friend (11:03:52 AM): news;
Friend (11:04:09 AM): camp david attack/crash is not true
DaveRing1969 (11:04:41 AM): it's hard to feel relief.
Friend (11:04:50 AM): faa is getting repeated reports of hijacked 
planes
Friend (11:05:44 AM): typically, at 11am est, there are 4000 
flights in air over us...at this moment, there are under 100...many 
being diverted to canada and/or
ordered to land immediately
Friend (11:06:05 AM): fighter jets circling lower manhattan
Friend (11:06:29 AM): flying very high
Friend (11:08:18 AM): hmm...my phone has switched to analog mode
Friend (11:12:37 AM): boston seems to be shutting down
Friend (11:12:48 AM): city and state workers being sent home
Friend (11:12:56 AM): financial district being evacuated
Friend (11:13:08 AM): umass boston, harvard univ cancelling 
classes
Friend (11:13:31 AM): barricades placed at uss constitution
DaveRing1969 (11:14:42 AM): right
DaveRing1969 (11:14:54 AM): wow?
Friend (11:14:59 AM): yes, wow
Friend (11:17:10 AM): hearing reports of explosion at embassy 
suites near battery park
DaveRing1969 (11:19:57 AM): getting lots of calls from HFs
DaveRing1969 (11:20:10 AM): Saunders
Friend (11:20:26 AM): saying what?
DaveRing1969 (11:21:47 AM): It's entirely possible it will take a good 
week to get everything back to normal, if that is possible.  Never 
before has there been a mass
grounding in the US.  Judging by what happens after a snow storm and 
that is one or two airports top, this is going to take a very long time 
to clean up.  There will be
planes in the completely wrong places. Not to mention the pilots will 
be getting into rest time issues.

This could take a month to clean up, so no I think that Vancouver is 
being a little dreamy.

Brian

Friend (11:22:22 AM): right
Friend (11:22:40 AM): you better get used to yyz
Friend (11:22:54 AM): probably a better place to be than here
Friend (11:23:09 AM): no car bomb at state dept
Friend (11:25:19 AM): breaking news
Friend (11:25:38 AM): police are reporting a plane flying up 
potomac river at high rate of speed
DaveRing1969 (11:25:49 AM): commercial?
Friend (11:25:55 AM): unknown
Friend (11:26:00 AM): just a report
Friend (11:26:36 AM): i can't fucking believe that the wtc has 
collapsed
Friend (11:27:07 AM): jesus
DaveRing1969 (11:27:22 AM): what happens now?
Friend (11:27:35 AM): gotta figure out who did it
Friend (11:27:39 AM): then retaliate
Friend (11:27:44 AM): war?
DaveRing1969 (11:28:17 AM): draft?
Friend (11:28:27 AM): if it's from middle east...we will probably 
crush them...and then own them...long run: gas prices go down
Friend (11:28:33 AM): draft...naah
DaveRing1969 (11:28:39 AM): why not?
Friend (11:28:41 AM): don't need that anymore
DaveRing1969 (11:28:45 AM): why not?
Friend (11:28:49 AM): we don't fight on the ground anymore
DaveRing1969 (11:28:57 AM): right
Friend (11:29:13 AM): it's a small organization that's 
responsible for this
Friend (11:29:21 AM): we'll be able to beat them easily
Friend (11:29:51 AM): cnn talking about a "catastrophic" loss of 
life
Friend (11:30:42 AM): some retired army general saying that we 
will go to full-scale war based on this
Friend (11:31:10 AM): helicopters patrolling air space over wdc
Friend (11:31:24 AM): lots of smoke still coming from pentagon
Friend (11:31:59 AM): occasional news helicopter over our apt
Friend (11:32:02 AM): many sirens
Friend (11:32:36 AM): not sure if there's more sirens than usual, 
but they're definitely more apparent
Friend (11:34:26 AM): breaking news
Friend (11:34:58 AM): UA is concerned about flight 175...bos to 
lax...UA is unaware of status of that flight
DaveRing1969 (11:35:17 AM): how is this reported
Friend (11:35:18 AM): UA flight 93 from EWR to SFO crashed near 
PIT

Friend (11:37:16 AM): breaking news
Friend (11:37:27 AM): getting very preliminary reports
Friend (11:38:02 AM): of islamic jihad group accepting 
responsibility based on us policy in middle east
DaveRing1969 (11:40:27 AM): if I don't reply, I am working, but I read 
everything you write
Friend (11:40:37 AM): logan airport briefing just started
Friend (11:40:46 AM): cnn and everywhere else carrying it
Friend (11:51:43 AM): UA flight 175...bos to lax....has gone 
down--says cnn....unsure where
DaveRing1969 (11:53:04 AM): fucking psychos
Friend (11:54:15 AM): out of control
Friend (11:54:33 AM): andy and i are hoping that steve martin was 
not on one of those lax bound flights from bos
Friend (11:54:43 AM): he was in bos yesterday
Friend (11:55:16 AM): second lost aa flight, #77, was dulles to 
lax
Friend (11:55:26 AM): us/mexican border has been sealed
Friend (11:55:53 AM): not sure if there's a specific reason for 
that, or if it's just part of national crisis plan
DaveRing1969 (11:56:34 AM): you know, I know you can't prevent psychos 
from killing themselves on shit like this, but you'd think that we'd 
have prevented 'some of
this' and if we did know, you'd think that Bush wouldn't be in 
Sarasota, FL.
Friend (11:56:38 AM): cnn reports that all principals of us gov't 
are safe
Friend (11:57:08 AM): i don't see how plane could crash in to 
pentagon
Friend (11:57:49 AM): i was in dc when ok city was bombed...as 
soon as it happened there were fighter jets circling city...and 
everything was closed...i was
evacuated from union station
DaveRing1969 (11:58:32 AM): I recall
Friend (11:59:01 AM): pataki on cnn now
Friend (11:59:07 AM): 'course he's in albany
Friend (11:59:17 AM): he doesn't have much info
Friend (11:59:25 AM): no one seems to have any info
DaveRing1969 (11:59:36 AM): sears tower hit?
Friend (11:59:45 AM): i haven't heard that....you?
Friend (12:00:09 PM): it was evacuated quite a while ago
DaveRing1969 (12:00:10 PM): inge heard on dutch website -
DaveRing1969 (12:00:13 PM): maybe wrong
Friend (12:00:37 PM): no...i haven't heard that yet...but i still 
don't know where that UA 175 went down
Friend (12:02:17 PM): us joint forces in VA have put the atlantic 
fleet (our largest military fleet) under threat condition 
"delta"...that's the highest threat
condition....that's what the military goes to when they perceive an act 
of war
Friend (12:05:58 PM): giuliani says "tremendous number of lives 
lost"
DaveRing1969 (12:06:22 PM): how many can it be?  how many thousands?
Friend (12:07:00 PM): i'd say it has to be at least 10?
Friend (12:07:09 PM): 50,000 people work there
Friend (12:07:14 PM): in wtc
Friend (12:08:50 PM): disney world evacuated
Friend (12:09:08 PM): it seems that the country may need to be 
shut down
Friend (12:09:11 PM): as a precaution
Friend (12:09:37 PM): i can't reiterate how surreal it is to see 
nyc w/o wtc
Friend (12:15:00 PM): 92 people on board aa flt 11
DaveRing1969 (12:15:30 PM): right
Friend (12:20:02 PM): everything now starting to close in 
bos...like a snow day
Friend (12:20:52 PM): my mom left her car downtown...said 
financial district and south station were crazy
Friend (12:22:06 PM): streets of nyc look like (or worse than) 
every bit of violence you've seen in israel
Friend (12:22:45 PM): unbelievable

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Archives

As any of you who've moved in recent years can attest, we keep a lot of useless junk.  In the past few days as we've prepared to move, I've thrown away reams of receipts, tape recorders, a knee brace, a pretty ugly beer stein, and some really hideous gifts (yes even the ones that we were keeping in case the giver ever showed up at our house), and files and folders of documents that were kept in the event we ever needed to reference them.  We never did.  Ever. 

We gave away several seasons' worth of clothes and boxes of cookware and other kitchen items that we kept for that fancy dinner party we thought we'd someday host.  Closet after closet, box after box of stuff I haven't used, needed, or even seen since it was stowed.  And now I have to spend endless hours sorting through the detritus of my life.  It's gotten to the point where I have begun to loathe my material possessions more than I do that orange-faced John Boener.

And yet, amongst the boxes piled high with dust on remote closet shelves are a few hidden treasures.  I've managed to keep about ninety percent of the personal mail I've received since I was about seventeen years-old: letters, cards, wedding invitations, notes, and postcards.  I have several shoe boxes of photos, the actual printed kind that came from something called "film" from high school right up to the present digital era.  I lost a lot of valuable packing time today sifting through those photos, which as per my lackadaisical filing system were in no particular order and thus compelling for the mystery that awaited me in each sleeve of images.  

Like a time warp, I'd whisk from a summer drunkenly cavorting on the Lower Cape to the nervous time my nephew was unexpectedly born two months early to an impromptu ski trip in Aspen with three people I haven't spoken to in ages.  I was also heartened by the many photos of people I still call friends.  Randomly selecting a picture or two from each envelope was like playing "This is Your Life" only with no large television audience and no one but me interested in the details.  I showed a few pictures to my wife who indulged my affection for the life I led before we met.  She was naturally more engaged in the pictures that featured her.  There was a whole packet of photos from a holiday party of the restaurant I worked at in grad school.  I hadn't thought about some of those co-workers since, well, probably the last day I worked there.  And yet, I still couldn't bring myself to throw those pictures away.

I like to fantasize that one day some graduate student working on their dissertation will sift through all my pictures and letters and put together a story that's far more grand than the life I really led.  Or maybe some aspiring writer will comb through my belongings and find a compelling tale to write, something that will portray me in an honest - and but hopefully not too honest - light.  I imagine my son reading the notes and cards sometime after my passing and discovering sides of his dad he couldn't have begun to imagine.  And yet, I know that for all the troves of personal effects there is much that can't be put together in the way that it truly occurred.  Having lived the life reflected in those pictures and words, I don't even know all the reasons behind the sequence of events.  And we all know that our own interpretations of the Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How of life is colored by what we want to be the truth and that the truth itself is ultimately someone's interpretation anyway.

To me, the worst part of keeping all this stuff isn't the schlepping of it from city to city, the burden of its physical weight, or the hours lost in revisiting it. It's the knowledge that keeping it is ultimately something to feed my ego.  The ego exists to place you at the center of the world (a world, by the way, that is fast approaching 7 billion people - to say nothing of those come and gone and those yet to arrive).  It's only natural to want to save the mementos of life, almost as a way to prove that it all happened and that it meant something, if only to you.  But it's also so patently self-indulgent, an attribute that is easily despised, if only in others....

What will become of the archives?  Perhaps I'll sift through them again one day, perhaps in retirement, maybe even organize them chronologically.  And then I'll make flash cards so that when my memory begins to fade, I can make myself insane trying to recall why I thought it was so important to keep all this stuff in the first place.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Little Tyrant

Dictionary.com defines a tyrant as: a sovereign or other ruler who uses power oppressively or unjustly.


That also accurately describes my son, Max.  Max turned 21 months-old a couple of weeks ago. Max has a remarkable command of English which he employs solely to command, dictate, discipline, and insult.


He is unyielding, impatient, demanding, and unreasonable.  Do I exaggerate the three-foot bullly who rules our home?  When I go to read bedtime stories he says, "Get out, daddy.  Daddy, no!"?



I don't want you to misunderstand me.  I love Max and Max loves me.  There's not even so much as a crack that separates our emotional bond.  He is still a despot of the first order, commanding us to wake no matter how little we're permitted to rest.


He booms, "I POOPY" to announce that it's time for us to go to work on him.  When he giggles, "Soupy Poopy," we know our work will be more unpleasant.



Hands and mouth both full to capacity with food, he commands us, "more, more, more."  "I want more, daddy."  "I want more, mommy."  He is never sated.


 Today he growled at me, a raspy sound coming from somewhere deep inside, so guttural, so Exorcist.  "Chocwit Milk." And if his head didn't turn all the way around, my name isn't Rumpelstiltskin

Max is the master, the commander, oppressor, and Supreme Leader.  I have to sign off now; he's insisting he watch the Wiggles sing Frere Jacques on YouTube, again.



Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Chronicles, No. 2

Exciting News:  Ring Writes will soon be featuring guest essayists. It is, after all, Collective Intelligence.

______________________________________

The clock is ticking.  We move the Monday after next.  Linda and I no longer talk in weeks, but in days - as in, "Max has five more days left of day care." I've filled out the change of address card.  It's almost time to cancel cable and order it for the new place.  None of this is foreign to me; I've moved many, many times.  Since high school graduation, I've never lived in the same place longer than we've lived here:  3 years, 9 months.  For a long time I moved less than every two years. I've moved across town, across the state, across America, and across the Atlantic Ocean.  But those were moves to places like Boston, Amsterdam, Long Beach, Z├╝rich, and New York.  I can't remember last time I moved somewhere that didn't have sidewalks.



  



Until I was 33 years-old, I made all those moves alone.  Five years ago I began to make them with Linda.  Four years ago we added two now very large cats (Lucy on the left, Tommy on the right).  This move will take our 21 month-old son, Max, from the only home he's ever known.


And the Monday after next when we leave Salem, Massachusetts for Pomfret, Connecticut we'll bring the ashes of our still born son, Leo.

***************
This move - in so many unanticipated ways - is the most substantive I've ever made.  It's true that it's a move of practicality, but it's also a move of conviction and principles. And right now, specifically because we unexpectedly lost Leo in July, it's also a move that will forever mark the beginning of a new era in our lives.  I know that losing Leo has changed me, changed us; we just don't know how much.  As this life chapter ends somberly, it does however feel auspicious that our next chapter will feature less traffic and roads and green pastures, thick woods, and rocky streams (but with the same number of Dunkin' Donuts).



A series of events in each of our lives (which I also believe are integrally, intricately, and invisibly linked to events in yours) have conspired to bring us to this moment in time.  And at this time we're to see if we can really lead the simpler life we say we want.  It's time to put our address where our mouths are.  Linda and I have talked about moving to country Connecticut for as long as we've been married.  At times we'd pretend there were other fates.  Up until a just a few months ago, we'd joke and ask each other, "Where do you want to live when you grow up?"

I recently heard a Ted Kennedy quote about the Presidency.  Kennedy said something like, "I don't care that I'm not the President.  I just care that somebody else is."  Linda and I don't care that someone else is living in Italy, Vermont, Northern California, or New York City. We just care that we can't live there, too.  But because we can't live everywhere, Connecticut here we come.

Starting tomorrow we're taking a couple days off - from packing, writing, and our concrete and brick condo.  We've been invited to go down to The Cape and with all that's happened lately, all that's going on right now, and all that's yet to pass, it just seems like good mental medicine.

I've been reading a bit about presence lately.  Being present means not being in the past.  It means not being in the future.  Now is really all you ever have.  We all have a lot to think about, but it's sad how little of it is dedicated to the now.  Sometimes when I'm running and I'm tired and I think about how far I've run and how many miles I still have to run, I repeat a little mantra, the timing of which matches my footfalls.

"There is nothing in this moment that is not right."

Stay tuned.

______________________________________

The Chronicles will continue in regular installments, as will other Ring Writes essays.  Though I've been posting almost daily, the frequency will drops off just slightly for a few weeks while we move and get settled.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Accidental Athlete

In 1981 The University of Connecticut Mens' Soccer Team won the National Championship.  Long before UConn football and basketball were household names, soccer was a national powerhouse.  Football and basketball were after thoughts.  I was 11 years old then and basically grew up on campus.  There were NO bigger heroes than the UConn mens' soccer team.  And if you were actually from Storrs and made the team, you were the best of both worlds, a local hero.  Even today, the town of Mansfield (Storrs is a village of Mansfield) runs a first rate recreation program that feeds athletes right up to the high school level and beyond.  I was not fed up the chain.  I was not to be one of those local heroes.

Like many boys and girls I joined town sports leagues.  They handed me a bat and a ball and a glove.  I knew what I was to do with each.  But when it came to doing any, let alone at the same time, I proved  - let's be kind - ineffective.  I swung wildly, early, late, high, low, erratically, and often.   I rarely made it to on base and if I did it was because I got beaned by someone who pitched worse than I.   On base, I'd try to run, but I was never sure what I was supposed to be paying attention to; my timing was, shall we say, off.  As a fielder, I remember distinctly catching a pop fly with my forehead. Playing defense required things like speed, agility, and something called arm strength.  Before long I was consistently playing right field.  As youth baseball coaches across the world know, right field is where you put your worst player.  There just aren't many power lefty tykes or kid righties hitting the opposite way.  I rarely saw a play.  I did though incur the ire of teammates and fans when a that was ball hit my way went unnoticed because I was looking for four leaf clovers.

Season by season I played every town sport.  I tied my legs in knots playing soccer, tripping on the ball, players, and my own two feet.  In basketball, the lay-up was a shot I'd make 1 in 10 times.  The further away from the basket, the more likely I'd miss the backboard, to say nothing of the rim or the bottom of the net.  The concept of dribbling, passing, shooting, and retaining possession of the ball was straightforward.  My execution was anything but.  There wasn't a player on either team who wanted me to have the ball.

I think the only reason I am probably still alive today is because our town was so small it didn't have a football team then.

If you wanted to win you DID NOT want me on your team.  I heard all the names and they were all pretty accurate.  Goof, Klutz, Spaz, Dork, Retard.  My eyeglasses (usually taped together) didn't help the 'more creative' name callers.  "Four-eyed Spaz Attack."  "Blind Retard Ring-a-Ling-a-Ding-Bat."  Ironically, my social life didn't suffer.  Indeed I was well-regarded and had many friends.  I was fun and best of all I was funny.  I might not have been an agile athlete, but my I had a quick wit.  Still it was not enough to keep these same friends from necessarily leaving me the last person standing when captains chose the teams.

As if it wasn't hard enough for me to control my appendages, puberty (coming seemingly years after all my friends) brought on a monster growth spurt.  I grew nearly a half a foot in three months. Even in that brief time, classmates who I saw in the summer didn't recognize me by fall.  My feet seemed miles from my hips and hands that rarely acted in concert were no longer even in the same time zone.  I tripped over my feet,  stumbling over curbs, rocks, and even the plain old flat floor.  And I would have been the first one to tell you how funny it was.  I played the goofball better than its inventor.  This all might sound like the laments of an unhappy childhood, it most surely is not.  There were painful times to be sure - several ball/foot/knee to the groin moments.  Believe me, I wanted to be more coordinated.  And to this day I wish my parents had passed down more athletic genes.   Luckily, they blessed me by giving me a terrific sense of humor.

It wasn't that I didn't want to play these sports, it was just that I wasn't really able to.  At least not at the same pace as my more agile peers.  They could control their bodies in ways that I had (have?) yet to discover.  I wasn't in aerobic shape to run, winded within a half-mile.  By the time I'd reached high school the town recreational mill had turn me into grist.  But I still wanted to play sports.

I realized that I needed a simpler sport or at least one with less variables.  I was on the golf team in high school.  There were no try-outs and there were no cuts.  I never played a single competitive match, but I got to play nine holes for free every day after school.  I had to run to keep up with my teammates as it took me usually twice as many strokes to play each hole.  Luckily hitting 80 shots over 9 holes allowed me to practice my stroke at double the rate of my fellow golfers.  I never got to be a good golfer, so I focused instead on having a good, if unathletic, time. Eventually the repetition improved my stroke, marginally.  At last, here was a sport I could almost play!  The ball sat still.  It wasn't being thrown or hit at me and there weren't other golfers trying to hit it at the same time.  It was a start.

In college I willed myself to become an oarsman.  Learning how to row - learning the stroke, getting in shape for the very first time of my life, and waking up that early in the morning  - was the most significant life change I'd ever made.  And again it was the repetitive nature of the stroke that allowed me to persist (and there were no cuts).  With the oar locked in position, my feet literally strapped in to a fixed footboard, and my butt planted it a rolling seat, I have few variables to consider.  These was a skill I could master.  But I was still weaker than to most of my teammates.  And that weakness resulted in me catching a boat stopping crab* at the Dad Vail National Championships in 1988, still the worst and most painful moment of my athletic career.  Getting in shape took me the better part of four years and by my senior year through (choose one) twists of fate, Providence, destiny, hard-work, good coaching, or coincidence,  I found myself sitting in 5-seat of the 1991 New England Heavyweight Mens' Championship boat, a boat that finished a heartbreaking 4th in our division's National Championship.

Since college and to this day, I have been a runner (another repetitive sport!).  There have been periods in my life when I've taken as much as years off from the sport, but it pulls me back.  And running consistently all these years has to a slight degree improved my overall agility.  Today, I can play a friendly game of volleyball, whiffle ball, or even basketball with little if any personal injuries sustained or inflicted.  But if it turns into a contest, you still don't want me on your team.  Unless you're 8.  If you're 8, I am going to be your second or third best player.





*Crab 

A rowing error where the rower is unable to timely remove or release the oar blade from the water and the oar blade acts as a brake on the boat until it is removed from the water. This results in slowing the boat down. A severe crab can even eject a rower out of the shell or make the boat capsize (unlikely except in small boats). Occasionally, in a severe crab, the oar handle will knock the rower flat and end up behind him/her, in which case it is referred to as an 'over-the-head crab.'