Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

With gratitude to all
who are serving now
and all those who have gone before them.

With special appreciation for those who gave their lives in service to our nation,
in particular
Uncle Carl.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Follow That Man!

Film Critic Roger Ebert has been through hell and back. But he still publishes at The Chicago Sun-Times and he has a blog. He also Tweets up a storm and is definitely worth following. His topics are wide ranging; his comments witty, pithy and an excellent match for the 140 character limit of Twitter.

Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times
Roger Ebert’s Journal
Mr. Ebert’s Twitter Feed

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Little More Spring

The perfume from this Mock Orange has been particularly powerful this year. Whether we are on the porch or upstairs in our bedroom, the slightest breeze causes a new wave of its spicy, heady scent to wash over us.

I still don’t know if this bunny is a native New England Cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) or an Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). Either way, it, along with some friends and family, enjoy nibbling along the edges of our lawn, especially in the late afternoon.

Friday, May 28, 2010

As Promised

May I present the L.L. Bean rockers, after assembly by (the smiling) Chuck. We can’t decide which way we like them best: with or without the striped cushions. But the photos give you a feel for them both ways.

As for Eartha curling up again on the old wooden rocking chair (or any rocking chair for that matter) she was having none of it. We tried placing her on the seat repeatedly, but she would just jump down, shaking her head at the odd things humans do. But she was ready for her close-up.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


While we were up in Bar Harbor, Maine last month, we stopped into the wonderful Window Panes shop on Main Street. It’s a treasure trove of the practical, the exquisitely beautiful and their perfect offspring! Owner Julie was ringing up our purchases and we got to chatting about the importance of shopping local. Yes, we shop in the big box retailers. We dine in the national chain restaurants. And heaven help us, we order books on-line from you-know who. But our first choice is to patronize locally owned establishments. Julie referred us to something called The 3/50 Project: “Saving The Brick and Mortars Our Nation Is Built On”.

The 3/50 project asks the provocative question: What three independently owned businesses would you miss if they disappeared?”

Yup, you thought of a few didn’t you? The diner in town that always makes your eggs just right. The funky bookstore where the owner lets you know when your favorite author’s latest book has arrived. The cobbler who regularly resuscitates your Birkenstocks. The independent pharmacist who makes sure you have a ride to the dentist before he gives you the prescription for the Valium, because he’s worried about your safety (True story!).

Now, imagine all of them as empty storefronts. That sends a cold shiver up my spine.

Simple Solution: Patronize them!

Go to The 3/50 Project to find details on how easy it is for you to help. And you can get some powerful facts and figures about the benefits of keeping your dollars in the local economy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Heat Wave

It was 94 degrees F (34C) in the shade today. Plus it was humid. Longtime readers know that neither Chuck nor I was happy about it. Despite the heat, Chuck spent some time getting the new rockers assembled. They are sturdy and comfortable! Yay L.L. Bean! And, most especially, yay Chuck!

Just before we moved into this house, we bought a big wooden rocker for our porch. We bought one because one was what we could afford at the time. We planned to go back and get the second one, but there was always a bigger priority. This spring I decided to try to find the old rocker’s twin but, alas, it was no longer in production. That’s what prompted the great rocker search of 2010, which led to our trip up to Freeport yesterday. The full rocking motion on the old wooden rocker is still superior, but we were both happy to report that the new rockers are more enjoyable to sit in.

Late this afternoon we sat on the porch in our new rockers and rocked - very, very slowly! One of our cats was curled up on the seat of the old rocker. She was the only one enjoying the heat. But we were all content.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Extra Mile(s)

I love good customer service. I don’t mean obsequiousness or fawning. What I really appreciate are people who like their jobs, understand their jobs, want to be sure that your customer experience is outstanding and go the extra mile to make that happen.

You know the scene in “Pretty Woman” where Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts shopping on Rodeo Drive? And shop owner Larry Miller asks Gere “How’s it going so far?” Gere replies: “I think we need some major sucking up.” I get that moment. That’s not what I mean by customer service, but I get it!

One of the reasons we are so loyal to L.L. Bean is because we have almost never, ever had a negative experience with any of their staff. Once in a blue moon you might come across an employee who is a little lackluster, but even that is quite rare. Today Chuck and I were in the Freeport, Maine “Flagship” store. It’s the one without locks on the doors because they are open 24/7/365. We had called all the smaller stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut to see if they had a particular rocking chair for our front porch. We wanted to be able to sit in it before we ordered it. None of the Southern New England stores had one on display. But when I called the Freeport store, they said yes indeed they had one we could try out. After some brief discussion, an impromptu road trip was organized and we headed north. We arrived at the building which houses the Home Store only to learn that they did not have that particular rocker on display!

Freeport is three hours from our home. Chuck and I may well be a couple of odd ducks, but we do not like wild goose chases! We explained to a young man named Chris why we looked both stunned and crestfallen. (Actually, I probably explained all my phone calls and our reason for driving three hours a few times!) Chris apologized for the inaccurate information we had received, but he couldn’t let us sit in a rocker he didn’t have. We discussed a variety of options with him. We sat in/on other chairs, benches and gliders. While we were hemming and hawing, Chris spoke with some other colleagues. Soon after, he emerged from a storeroom area with one of the elusive rockers! It was a damaged, returned rocker, but it was the one we had been seeking. Despite the damage, we were able to sit rather gingerly in it and found it to be as comfortable as we had hoped it would be. Yes!

We told Chris we would like to purchase two unassembled, flat-packed rockers in white, which, thanks to Chris, we already knew they had in stock, in the warehouse. Suddenly there was a new problem: the warehouse was closed! Closed? What about that whole 24/7/365 thing? Before we had a chance to plunge back into stunned and crestfallen, Chris said not to worry, they would have security open the warehouse for us. Come again? Yup. They would call security and we would meet them over at the Merchandise Pick Up Center.

That’s exactly what we did. Chris’s colleague Tim drove over to the warehouse and met us there. Soon after a security guard arrived. In no time, we had the rockers loaded up in the Subaru and we were on our way home. Tim even gave us a recommendation for where we could have dinner in Portland.

I love good customer service.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Sue did something astonishingly generous.

It turned out beautifully.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kindness Matters

“This is my simple religion.
There is no need for temples;
no need for complicated philosophy.
Our own brain, our own heart is our temple;
the philosophy is kindness.”

- The 14th Dalai Lama (1935 - )

My Mom is not perfect. Nor am I. But the stories she tells me of elderly women she knows who are parsimonious with praise, gentleness, generosity of spirit and kindness leave me slackjawed.

Holding back a thoughtful, cheerful compliment or an encouraging, supportive word, must be much harder than letting that little bit of grace out into the world.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Memory Lane

Chuck and I were down in Rhode Island yesterday with my Mom. It was an unusually long afternoon with lots of errands, so we didn’t get out of her hair until early evening. On the way home we stopped for a bite to eat at Newport Creamery. I grew up with Newport Creamery so for me it is all tied up with happy childhood and teenage memories. My favorite location was the one in East Greenwich, next to Thorpe’s Pharmacy, in the same plaza with Almacs. I may have gone to Friendly’s restaurants over the years (Newport Creamery’s primary regional competitor), but my heart belonged to Newport Creamery. Unfortunately, after the founding family sold the business, the corporation went through some dire times (including bankruptcy and auction) and nearly disappeared.

We discovered this Newport Creamery, on Atwood Avenue in Johnston, several weeks ago. The moment I saw the sign, I had absolutely no choice but to pull in and get a coffee (what else?) ice cream cone. It tasted exactly the same as I remembered: heavenly! But we hadn’t eaten a meal in a Newport Creamery since the one in Worcester closed many years ago. Last night was a treat. We found that they still serve a hamburger “The Newport Creamery Way”: on buttery grilled bread with melted cheese; lettuce and tomato on the side. I ordered mine well done; Chuck’s medium. They were done correctly. They still serve their amazing Sweet Red Pepper Relish which puts the whole homestyle-comfort-food-burger-cheese-melt right over the top. Amazingly, we resisted ice cream, a cabinet (which, heretically, they are now calling a frappe!) or an “Awful-Awful”. The joint was jumpin’ and noisy with kids. But the service was great (Thanks Taylor!). Coincidentally, this Newport Creamery is housed in a former Friendly’s. Maybe “coincidentally” is the wrong word. Perhaps I should have used “justifiably”! Either way, we’ll be back.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


How long after a musical is born does one have to wait for an Original Cast Recording to come out as a CD?

I would like an O.C.R. of “Johnny Baseball” A.S.A.P.!

I can see it in my mind. I can remember snatches of dialogue and lyrics. But I am unable to hum, whistle or sing any songs from the show.

This must be rectified!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Johnny Baseball

Yes, I am a fan of the Boston Red Sox, but you don’t need to be one in order to love “Johnny Baseball”. All you need is a heart.

Tonight, Chuck and I attended the fourth night of the world premiere of this musical at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge. It was terrific! It tells the tale of the Boston Red Sox from 1900 right up until they miraculously turned the corner in Game Four of the 2004 American League Championship Series.

The creative team of Robert Reale, Willie Reale and Richard Dresser (originally from Holden!), with the able direction of Diane Paulus, manage to compress a century of baseball, culture and racism into the story of two fictional characters: Johnny O’Brien, the outstanding Red Sox pitcher who, so humbly embodies the sport, he becomes known as Johnny Baseball and Daisy Wyatt the African American blues singer who captures his heart. Over the course of two fast paced hours we come to understand the real reason for the curse which kept the Red Sox from winning a World Series for 86 impossibly long years. And we face head on the bigotry which led to the Red Sox being the last baseball team to integrate with the hiring of Pumpsie Green in 1959 - twelve years after Jackie Robinson broke that barrier in 1947.

Johnny Baseball” is creatively but lightly staged to perfection. Little more than a set of bleachers, the Fenway Park sign, the Green Monster and a few tables and chairs frame each scene. (The stagehands deserve kudos for their seamless and unobtrusive work.) The lighting, coupled with the thrust configuration of the Loeb Drama Center created focus and intimacy with the cast. Nearly all of the members of the ensemble play multiple roles. Happily, the cast is filled with powerful, lovely voices. Despite perhaps three brief microphone glitches, the sound was solid tonight, with the music and voices complementing each other; never competing. Costuming was detailed and evocative of each era represented and added to the ease of transitions as the storyline progresses through the decades, with repeated cuts back to the pivotal Game Four in 2004. Yes, there is a touch of “Field of Dreams” and “The Natural” in “Johnny Baseball”, but the show is unique. (Oh how I want to tell the entire story in detail, but I don’t wish to ruin any plot twists and surprises!)

From the moment you arrive and staff in Red Sox jerseys take your tickets, while another “hawks” the program; to the sausage cart on the patio at intermission, the A.R.T., under the blessedly accessible artistic direction of Diane Paulus, echoes the atmosphere and excitement of Fenway Park. After the opening number “86 Years” I found myself smiling and thinking: “The trip was worth it just for this number.” But “Johnny Baseball” held and even raised the bar through both acts. By the time the full company sang the final number “The Game of Baseball” I was in tears.

The entire cast is to be commended for their talent, clarity and passion:
Colin Donnell
Stepanie Umoh
Charl Brown
Burke Moses
Jeff Brooks
Robert McClure
Joe Cassidy
Alan H. Green
Carly Jibson
Kaitlyn Davidson
Kirsten Wyatt
Paula Leggett Chase
Charles Turner
Erik March

They deserved the standing ovation we gave them. They also deserved a full house!

Johnny Baseball” is playing at the A.R.T. through June 27, 2010. Treat yourself and get tickets now!

P.S. Our beloved Boston and Southern New England accent is so often played too broadly or just plain mangled in television shows and movies, that Dialect Coach Nancy Houfek deserves three cheers for helping the performers get it right!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Second Time’s The Charm

Today was a low key day by design (we’re going out for my birthday tomorrow evening). But it turned out to be fortuitous because I was a bit under the weather. At one point Chuck said he wished he could do more to help me feel better. I thanked him for all he had been doing. He dismissed them as “little” things. I replied they were not little to me and then added “In fact, I posted about that very subject.” A quick search helped me find this. Which, after I read it aloud, I decided to repost:

Love, Romance, Fact, Fiction

We’ve all been sold a bill of goods. It started ages ago with fairy tales, books, television and movies. I’m referring to the “romantic grand gesture”. You know - the hero rides up on the white horse and sweeps the damsel off her feet. The engagement that takes place on the JumboTron at the 50,000 seat stadium. Jetting off from New York to Paris, just for dinner. The clock striking midnight, the pumpkin coach and the kingdom-wide search for the rightful owner of the glass slipper. OK. I’ll admit they’re fun to watch, but that’s not the bedrock foundation of romance.

Nope. It’s the small gesture. The routine, humdrum, ho-hum, daily grind of living a life together with the person you love. It’s putting the other person first in your thoughts, words and deeds. I’m not talking about subjugating yourself to someone else. Just exercising the reflexive thought that always thinks about the impact of your actions on your partner. Listening, holding hands, being there - choosing to be there with your partner - making each other laugh, holding each other through tears, taking out the trash. Seriously - taking out the trash, washing dishes, doing the laundry, cooking meals, paying bills, scooping the kitty litter, mowing the lawn - those are the household chores, which when completed, help peace reign in the home. Finding a way to take on those tasks with a cheerful spirit, or heck, just slogging through them knowing it’s for the good of your little family unit, well, that works too. And let’s not forget the social graces of please, thank you, excuse me and gesundheit. Saying I love you, saying it often. Saying I love you in the heat of an argument just to remind yourself and your partner of where it all sprang from. Saying yes to the one you love. Yes, you’ll attend the concert that you think sounds like fingernails on a blackboard, because your partner thinks it’s the sound of angels. Yes, you’ll attend the poetry reading or the Nascar race or the thimble convention or the woodworking show, because that’s what floats the love of your life’s boat. And you’ll do it with a willing smile or you’ll at least tour the convention floor and settle down in a corner with a good book until you have lunch together!

Not romantic enough for you? You really want to hire the horse and wriggle into the suit of armor? How about leaving a note in your partner’s briefcase or lunch box instead? Or jotting a quick “Thank you! I Love you!” on a Post-It-Note and sticking it in the checkbook just before they write the checks, to pay the bills, because you never have been able to balance the checkbook. Or call them in the middle of the day to say “Hi” and ask “How’s it going?” and actively listen to their answer. Remember their birthday, your anniversaries and pick a bunch of black-eyed-susans from the side of the road and bring them home.

It’s not the grand gesture. It’s the Golden Rule mentality that wins hearts. That’s real romance. That’s real love.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Need Or Scam?

Many, many summers ago, Chuck and I were sitting in our car on a street in Boston. We were chatting about where to head next when a man came up to the car window. He had a very specific story about how he came to be in need of some money and came off as quite credible. He promised to pay us back. Chuck decided to give him twenty dollars along with his business card. The man thanked him and promised he would send us the money the next day. Of course we never were repaid. After that experience we wished two things: the first, that we had not given him the money and the second, that we had absolutely not given him a business card. That guy was so smooth, we came to have the feeling that he was a “professional” con man or panhandler.

Over the years, I have been approached on numerous occasions in multiple locations. Each time a person, or, in one instance, a couple, has had a story of misfortune, followed by a request for money. Sometimes they have wanted me to drive them somewhere. In every instance I have said no. Once, at JFK Airport in New York, I was approached twice in the parking lot by the same person, but a couple of hours apart. After the second occurrence I reported him to security.

A few months ago, a man came up to us as we were about to exit our car to go into a restaurant in Worcester. He had an elaborate tale to tell, which ended with him stating that he needed us to give him money. We declined. In that instance he persisted and began to look angry. He did eventually walk away from us, but we stayed in our vehicle and ended up changing our plans and driving away.

This week, Chuck and I were in Worcester, headed back to our car after leaving a different restaurant with a to go order. Another man came up to us, asking us to do him a favor. He told a convoluted story. But the upshot was, he said he needed ten more dollars to get the cab fare to go home. We declined. He walked away.

I like to think of myself as a kind person, even generous. But I cannot bring myself to trust the strangers who approach me wanting money. Nor can I bring myself to believe the people who want me to drive them somewhere, whereupon I will be reimbursed for my gasoline and my trouble.

The terrible feeling I have after these encounters is that if the stories the strangers tell me are true, I would like to help them. But I don’t believe them. And I hate the nagging concern that I could have or should have helped out a fellow human being.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I don’t know exactly where the day went, but it has zipped by. There were phone calls, e-mails, family history, walking (fast), laundry, hanging laundry, cooking, eating, measuring, sorting, tossing, planning and a dismal Red Sox game.

Here’s a tiny violet which took root along the edge of a Carriage Road in Acadia. It made a home in gravel, with just a few pine needles scattered around it. Plucky little thing; it likely doesn’t care that my day felt hectic and busy and yet still not as productive as I would have liked it to be. And it is also probably unperturbed about the Red Sox, having learned at an early age to take the long view. The violet is busy being; doing what the violet needs to do: survive and thrive.

I’ll work on that...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Big Blog Birthday Bash

Tomorrow is Roo’s birthday, as well as Jake’s. Monday is Sue’s birthday (Jake’s Mom). Wednesday is Wendy’s birthday. Oh, and I’ll be celebrating the half-century-plus-two birthday on Tuesday!

”Happy Birthday to us,
Happy Birthday to us,
Happy Birthday dear all of us
Happy Birthday to us -
and many more!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The “Cottage”

It wouldn’t have to be this big. And it certainly wouldn’t need to be this modern. But a little place, on the ocean, up on Mount Desert Island in Maine, well, that would be nice. Except for that whole pesky financial thing of course!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

“Nazi Tourette’s”

Comedian Lewis Black is spang on as he describes Glenn Beck on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. (Thanks to Countdown with Keith Olbermann.)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Glenn Beck's Nazi Tourette's
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Problem with the video? Here’s the link to watch it on The Daily Show’s website.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dear Diary

I can’t remember how it began, but Chuck and I were discussing something recently and couldn’t remember exactly when it had happened. (Gail’s move to Georgia? One of our trips to Seattle?) I tried searching iCal, but it was long enough ago that we weren’t using it as consistently as we do now. I began to look in iPhoto, but then I thought to search Pink Granite. I used the little search box in the upper left hand corner of the page and poof, we had the answer. That was when the penny dropped and I realized this blog was, in many ways, a chronicle or a diary of our lives.

So I randomly scrolled through a month and found things which surprised me. As “Miss Memory” I don’t like to be surprised! For example, in March of 2007 we helped a driver get his pick up truck unstuck. As I read the brief post, the fog cleared and I could remember the event. But if you had asked me to recall it without the aid of that post, I would have been as stuck as that driver had been!

Similarly, when I went back to link to “Team Carrie” yesterday, I read that post and the follow up notes appended to other posts. Apparently I am much better at “pulling the shade” than I knew. Remembering the scariness of that day and some of the medical ups and downs which happened in the next couple of weeks left me filled up. When I think back on it, I tend to focus on Carrie’s smiling face in Recovery and in her room at the hospital. And of course I remember the camaraderie of all of us wearing the “Team Carrie” signs on lanyards as we waited for news.

I never kept a diary when I was a kid. (Well, there were a couple of attempts, but I was always afraid my mother would find it, so I didn’t bother!) Turns out, I have a very public one now. And it’s becoming, quite literally, an aide-mémoire.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day!

I can now tell you, with great delight and excitement, that our niece Carrie and her husband Al are expecting their first child!

It has not been at all easy keeping this happy secret. But now that Carrie has safely navigated her first trimester we feel free to share the good news with you.

You likely remember Carrie from her “Team Carrie” days and her heart procedure. You probably remember Al and our love for him despite his “appreciation” of the dastardly New York Yankees. And I bet you remember Hurricane Hanna crashing Al and Carrie’s wedding day.

Now that I think about it, “Hanna” or Hannah, is actually a very pretty name...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Tin Ear No More

President Barack Obama issued a proclamation naming May 2010 as Jewish American Heritage Month. In this lovely and important statement, the President describes the Jewish American story as “an essential chapter of the American narrative”. It concludes with this paragraph:

“Today, Jewish Americans carry on their culture's tradition of "tikkun olam" -- or "to repair the world" -- through good deeds and service.  As they honor and maintain their ancient heritage, they set a positive example for all Americans and continue to strengthen our Nation.”

Andrew Silow-Carroll, Editor-in-Chief of the New Jersey Jewish News and Josh Rolnick, a member of the Board of Directors of the National Jewish Democratic Council point out that, unlike previous proclamations, President Obama removed the standard Christian phrase “in the year of our Lord” from this proclamation.

Nice touch.
Thank you Mr. President.
(He’s such a mensch.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lilacs For Lunch

I was talking with Chuck in the dooryard this afternoon when a flash of color flitted by beyond his shoulder. It was an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). (I suppose it could have been a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis), but I think that would be less likely.) I went to get the camera, hoping it would stick around until I could get back outside. Happily, it seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the lilac blossoms and let me snap away. I wish I could upload the lilacs’ intense but never overpowering perfume. It has always been a favorite of mine.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Positive Ripples

We attended a beautiful funeral service yesterday. The woman who passed was 97. She was part of our greater extended family, but we had only been in her company a few times. As we listened to the Rabbi, her daughters, granddaughters and a friend of long standing eulogize and reminisce, we got to know Rose better. It may be trite to say that we laughed and we cried, but we did both. We were grateful to be able to listen to how Rose lived her life and appreciate that every day, through every action, Rose chose to be positive. It put us in mind of the philosophy of Randy Pausch. In fact, Rose and her late husband had been deeply affected by Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning”.

As all of us were helping to lay her physical body to rest by placing the first few shovels of earth on her casket, Rose was still teaching, still influencing those around her. What a wonderful legacy she left - even to those of us who did not know her well before yesterday.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Welcome Home

Many years ago, I transplanted some creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) from down by the roadside to up by the barn. I used a bulb planter to cut circles of flowers and soil and then quickly replant them. It was a spur of the moment decision. Within a year or two, they had formed a cheerful but tidy row along the top of the wall. When we stopped using a second car, we stopped using the far set of doors. Soon the phlox were leap frogging out of their casually defined bed and colonizing the driveway. When we arrived home from Maine it was a wonderful sight to behold - even in the spill of the indirect light from the barn fixture.

Bar Harbor and Acadia were wonderful.
Home is good too.