" /> Loose Leaf Notes: August 2008 Archives

« July 2008 | Main | September 2008 »

August 31, 2008

Rinsing the Salt Out of My Bathing Suit

I won’t cry over a spilled summer
drained empty
like the last gulp down the sink

I won’t squeeze
another beach day out of August
mourn the blueberries of July
dripped dry

I will lay in the low slant
of late sunflower light

I will soak up the gold
of a perpetual setting sun

August 29, 2008


Crepe-myrtle is late summer’s answer
to the lilacs of spring

Happy girls with pink berry pom poms
shaking in the breeze

Ironweed purple and goldenrod yellow
in September school colors
play the field

August 27, 2008

13 Snapshots

13albx.jpg 1. When it comes to the school of life I don’t do a lot of homework but I pay attention in class.

2. My friend Mara says she’s a “one hour photo” sort of person.

3. How come after spending three weeks vacationing on the beach when I finally got home I felt like I had missed the summer?

4. My nails were ragged, my bangs overgrown, the corn in my garden had dried on the stalks, and I hadn’t seen butterfly since I left.

5. I bought one of those shark steam floor cleaners after watching the infomercial on TV. I’m here to report that it works great on an already clean floor, which is another way of saying that it doesn’t.

6. I already miss Polaroid pictures. Even though I didn’t take many, I liked knowing I could.

7. I recently noticed that little girls never wear black bathing suits.

8. I was glad I had my "Miracle Suit" (bought at 70% at the outlet mall in Rehobeth) when we went out for ice cream on our last night on vacation. I couldn’t decide which flavor to get so I got two scoops of two different kinds in giant cone. The Miracle Suit claims to make you look 10 pounds lighter.

9. In a dream so beautiful could you dare to be a miracle? ~ Jeff Puryear Donna the Buffalo.

10. I think of libraries like I think of embassies. No matter where you are you can go into one for information and refuge.

11. I chew down corn on the cob like I mow my lawn, with little pieces left sticking up between the rows.

12. I love to play in the sand. You can play HERE.

13. Remember when interest in Senator Obama soared after he gave the keynote speech at the last Democratic National Convention? Last night our former Governor Mark Warner, who I was Floydfesting with in July HERE and who I wrote about in Floyd Press HERE, gave the address. See why Warner could be President someday HERE.

P.S. THIS is the real miracle.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here. #148

August 26, 2008

How Many Apples Can you Fit in Your Mouth?

A border collie is droned to sleep
by the porch swing creak
tin pie plates catch wind in the garden

A deer wags its white tail
while grazing bruised apples
Hummingbirds and mud daubers buzz

No one comes down
the winding dirt driveway
Fruit thumps like footsteps
hitting ground

Post note: While working at the home of a family who does foster care for an adult with disabilities, I was lulled into a poetic trance, watching deer wander out of the woods. They came to enjoy the fruits of the same secluded setting I was enjoying, deep in the Floyd countryside. Can you spot the red apple in the little buck’s mouth, pictured above? Watch the video clip of him and his accomplice HERE.

August 25, 2008

Earthsong Teen Meditation Retreat

trteenswalk.gif~ The following was published in The Floyd Press, July 31, 2008

Summer camp is an all-American tradition for many teens. But what kind of camp teaches kindness as part of its curriculum, or instructs campers to disconnect from their high-tech, high paced lives in order to sit still and listen?

At the second annual Earthsong Teen Meditation Retreat teenagers from Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, Maine, and all over Virginia agreed to undertake five prerequisite commitments, one of which was to speak truthfully and kindly. They learned sitting and walking meditation skills and were given the opportunity to explore yoga, martial arts, visual and performance arts, primitive life skills, and to participate in a traditional Native American sweat lodge ceremony.

Hosted by Earthsong Farm and Retreat in Patrick County, Virginia, the week long event was held July 6 - 12 at a camp adjacent to Earthsong, thirty minutes from downtown Floyd. Rolling green meadows dotted with cabins, a pavilion, a large room for gathering, wooded pathways, and a nearby creek set the stage for a teen camp experience with retreat as its focus. dhall2.jpg

The founder of Earthsong, Maury Cooke, is an entrepreneur from Portsmouth, Virginia, who heads up The Center for Community Development, a non-profit organization that promotes affordable housing, arts and culture, and microenterprise. After the death of his son in a car accident, Cooke, a longtime meditater, vowed to find a way to mentor youth. When he met Erin Hill, a teen meditation teacher from California, and was inspired by her to attend a meditation retreat, he knew he had found the way.

For the Virginia retreat, teachers skilled at working with teens were flown in from California and Ohio. They included Hill, Tempel Smith, Marvin Beltzer, and Jason Murphy (CSAC). Smith has lived as a monk in Burma. Belzer, a Professor of Philosophy, helped develop youth retreats at the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts. Other teachers included twenty-nine year old Jessica Morey, who began practicing meditation at the age of fourteen at the Insight Meditation Society, and Joe Klein, LPC, who also helped to organize and managed the retreat. Assistant teachers were drawn from Floyd and surrounding areas and included Alan Forrest, head of Counselor Education at Radford University. Commenting on the retreat Forrest said, "What was amazing is that it was a transformative experience not just for the teens but also for the staff." trkitchen.gif

In some ways the retreat resembled any other summer camp experience. Friendships were formed. Guitars were played around an open fire. But rather than the traditional marshmallows being roasted, teens munched on wild berry cobbler and other locally grown food. Teachers gave nightly talks. Teens were encouraged to use "wise speech," and periods of silence were observed at designated times throughout the day.

The meditation techniques introduced to the teens were drawn from the Vipassana tradition, an ancient practice of self observation where attention to the breath is used to anchor the mind in the present. Vipassana, a Sanskrit word for "insight," is sometimes referred to as "mindfulness." The Teen Meditation Retreat brochure reads: "Meditation clears the mind, allows a sense of calm, and supports more appreciation and happiness. It is an avenue that empowers by allowing more control of our states of mind and emotions." dharma.gif

"We're giving kids skills to maintain their own mental, physical, and spiritual health," said Klein. "They're learning to practice loving kindness towards themselves as well as towards others," he added.

Even mealtimes at the retreat provided opportunities to practice mindfulness, as teens were encouraged to slow down while eating and guess the ingredients of the chef's savory nightly soups. Clean-up was also encouraged to be done with mindful concentration.

Although developing meditation skills was the primary focus of the retreat, several of the sixteen teens who participated expressed their appreciation for the daily inclusion of small discussion groups, where feelings were expressed, barriers broke down, and the challenges of group dynamics were explored.

"At first I was sort of shy and then I started to warm up," said Devin Deerheat Gamache. Gamache, who grew up in Floyd but now lives in Arkansas, attended last year's retreat and returned this year. He credited a small group game called "If you really knew me, you'd know that ..." for helping him quickly forge friendships. drummerstr.jpg Liota Weinbaum, another retreater, said the small groups were "a unique social situation where relationships got more real and meaningful."

The retreat culminated in a spirited Community Sharing the night before the end of the retreat. After dinner teens and teachers shared poetry, songs, drumming, and dancing in an open mic atmosphere. They also presented theatrical performances, learned in workshops throughout the week.

At an Appreciation Circle the next morning, feelings of gratitude were verbalized. One teen described the retreat as "the single best week of my life." teenretreatgroup2.gifAnother remarked that he enjoyed learning drumming and how to use poi lights (a string of LED glow lights that change colors and make a light show when swung at night). Others used the forum to voice gratitude for what they had learned and to thank the adults for making the retreat happen.

As the week wound to a close, goodbyes were exchanged with humor, hugs, and emotion. Many of the teens expressed enthusiasm for coming back to next retreat. "Everyone here was so loving. I just felt loved," said fifteen year old Maya Matlack before heading back to her home in Pennsylvania. ~ Colleen Redman

Post notes: Earthsong Farm and Retreat will host two more Teen Meditation Retreats before the return of the annual retreat next summer. The first one is scheduled for Columbus Day weekend, October 10 - 13. A second longer retreat is planned for New Year's weekend, December 28 - January 2nd. The cost for the October Retreat is $125. The January Retreat is $500. Teen Meditation Retreat organizers are seeking sponsors so that they can offer scholarships to some teens. Please contact Joe Klein at joklein@swva.net to make a scholarship donation or for more information about the retreats. The Earthsong Farm and Retreat webpage is earthsongretreat.com.

Read an article on the retreat that appeared in the Roanoke Times HERE and one from The Virginian Pilot, written by a recent high school graduate who participated in the retreat HERE. The Virginian Pilot also did a July 12th feature on Maury Cooke, which appears as an excerpt HERE.

August 24, 2008

In the Land of Sand

1. Magic Marks
2. Land Shark
3. A Bowl of Hole
4. A Strand of Sand

Post notes: During my beach days in Hull and Bethany Beach I regularly walked the beach and often came across interesting sand art. The first photo was taken when I was playing Scrabble on the beach with my sister Tricia and her sons. Her son Matthew had tattoo markers, which he used to draw a tattoo on my thigh as we played. The second photo is from Bethany Beach. That's Joe in the background not worried about the Land Shark that nephew David and I found nearby. Photo three is from a beach walk in Hull on a less than sunny day. That's my sister Kathy's grandkids Isabelle and Dom playing in the giant hole we came across. The strand of sand snowballs was some of the sand art I found on a sunset walk. I always felt bad knowing people's creative efforts would be washed away by the tide each night.

August 22, 2008

Who Am I Now?

lvng.jpg It’s the eternal sadness from the Great Beyond. Everything’s coming and everything’s gone. ~ Donna the Buffalo

I feel like I’ve been around the world in eighty days, although it’s only been twenty-one days that I’ve been vacationing up and down the east coast of Massachusetts, Delaware, and Virginia by plane, car, and bike. Now, at the end of my summer travels, I’m like a split personality with pieces of me left behind in different places.

While in Hull visiting my family, my life in Floyd faded away. The more I connected with the roots of my past, rode my bike up and down the beach town streets of my childhood, and spent quality time with family members; the more my life in Floyd began to feel like a dream. It felt like how I imagine it would be to let go of my life through death and then re-awaken to a new reality.

After ten days in Hull, I had one day at home in Floyd before heading out again with Joe to visit his family in Bethany Beach. There, in the midst of days spent on the beach and hours spent being immersed in the ocean, there were group dynamics, tourist traffic, and large meals cooked by teamwork to navigate. Children were about and family and family friends floated in and out of the large beach house.

Usually when I travel, I eventually hit a speed bump where I become over-sensitive to my surroundings. As the weeks of being away from home wore on, bouts of melancholy came over me in waves. Had I missed the opportunity to absorb my trip to Hull or grieve leaving it by adding a second trip on top of the first?

I had missed two Spoken Word Events and several of my Writer’s Circles. I abandoned my garden during peak harvest, and haven't had anything in the newspaper for a few weeks (with nothing in mind for upcoming issues). Who was I without these familiar activities? I felt distant from my sons who are grown and involved in their own lives. Feeling nostalgic for my youth in Hull, for my sons as children, and for the Floyd of my past, I said to Joe, “I don’t know myself here. I’m empty of ideas. I’ve lost my place and my momentum.” But what was all that momentum ultimately for? With the busyness of my life routines ceased, I seemed to be tapping into a groundswell of sadness.

As one who strives to take responsibility for my own happiness, I investigated why I felt out of my element and what ‘being in my element’ might mean. Routine, comfort, familiarity, safety, and periods of solitude all came to mind. But it wasn’t until I spent some time alone at the beach, swimming, snapping pictures, and writing that the full answer came to me. “Whenever I’m engaged in my own creativity, that’s when I feel at home,” I happily updated Joe later that day.

While in Hull, I drew sustenance from walking the beach each night at sunset. On my last day of beach vacations I watched the sunset through the windshield of our car while Joe drove us home. Listening to Ziggy Marley sing Tomorrow People … you don’t own the past … you won’t own the future … I felt emotional watching the Blue Ridge Mountains come into view. But I couldn’t tell if the mountains were those of my past, present, or future. “You can travel miles but not time,” I said to Joe. Joe said having his identity stripped down always feels exciting to him, like a chance to begin anew. I said it felt confusing and deeply bittersweet. It was then that I realized that the sadness I had been feeling was related to the ultimate truth, the fact that nothing and no one lasts.

Making the climb up the mountain, I knew I had caught a glimpse of the beginning of a new life stage, one that involved letting go of life’s attachments. I also knew that with each chore done, each meal prepared, each meaningful conversation engaged in, and each spontaneous idea followed, I would find my footing again, and that through these life activities, step by step, I would feel at home in the world again.

August 21, 2008

13 From the Life Guard Stand

bbtt13.jpg 1. In a pinch when I’m at the beach without a notebook, I can write in the margins of a clam box menu using my flip flop sandal for a desk.

2. Compared to the crowds here at Bethany Beach, Delaware, where we’re visiting Joe’s family, and Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts, where I was recently visiting mine; Nantasket was practically deserted, but Bethany is better for swimming because the water is so much warmer.

3. At a certain hour in the evening the whole town goes out for ice cream cones, like every kid rides a boogie board at the ocean during the day.

4. The woman who goes up and down the beach looking for coins with a metal detector reminds me of someone feeling for change in the back of the cushions of a couch.

4. I’m starting to want to learn lifeguard sign language.

5. On the sixteenth day of my two state beach vacations, I woke up and said to Joe, “Woe is me. Another day to spend on the beach and the sun is shining.”

6. When I was in Hull, I was reading from an old box of letters that my mother gave me, sent to my dad when he was in the army during WWII. If I wasn’t convinced that my Irish grandparents were poets, the letter they wrote to my dad convinced me. It was signed: “Oceans of Love and a Kiss on each Wave, Ma and Pa.”

7. The waves are so much bigger in Bethany than they are in Nantasket. When they’re really high, I have to carefully plot my way past the breakers and into the ocean, like I navigate my bike across the highway during traffic.

8. I bought a new “Miracle Suit” at 70% off at the Rehobeth Outlet Mall. Will I be able to walk on water now?

9. Watching a father run into the ocean to save his young daughter from a giant wave wipe-out, brought tears to my eyes.

10. Joe was reading this out loud from “Wise Heart” by Jack Kornfield: “Each time we meet another human being and honor their dignity, we help those around us. Their hearts resonate with ours in exactly the same way the strings of an unplucked violin vibrate with the sounds of a violin playing nearby. Western psychology has documented this phenomenon of “mood contagion” or limbic resonance. If a person filled with panic or hatred walks into a room, we feel it immediately, and unless we are very mindful, that person’s negative state will begin to overtake ours. When a joyfully expressive person walks into the room, we can feel that state as well.”

11. Next, he read about the Dalai Lama staying in a hotel for dignitaries while visiting San Francisco. “When it was time to leave he told the hotel management that he wanted to thank the staff in person, as many as wished to meet him. So on the last morning a long line of maids and dishwashers, cooks and maintenance men, secretaries and managers made their way to the circular driveway at the hotel entrance. And before the Dalai Lama’s motorcade left, he walked down the line of employees, lovingly touching each hand, vibrating the strings of each heart,” Kornfield wrote.

12. Watching dolphins from the beach is always a treat, even though they look like sharks. When I first saw whales off the coast off Provincetown a few years ago, I learned how the saying ‘I was floored' came about because I was so overwhelmed at the awesome sight of them that I literally dropped down to the floor.

13. The Bethany Beach experience is not complete until we: 1. Get an overflowing tub of hand-cut, peanut oil fried French fries. 2. Walk or ride our bikes downtown for an ice-cream cone on the boardwalk. 3. Buy a new toy in the toy store like THIS one. Jaws on the beach video Here.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

August 19, 2008

Last Call

A cherry
sinking down
in a cocktail of sea
I’m drunk
with the beauty
of a sun drenched evening

August 17, 2008

Front Row Seats at the Beach

1. View for Two
2. Catch of the Day
3. Crab Grab
4. Card Sharks
5. Playing for Sand Dollars

Post notes: Photos were taken during a visit to Joe’s family at Bethany Beach. A video clip that could be a scene out of Jaws is HERE.

August 15, 2008

Flyer Beware

mirrormotel.jpg Aka: The Saugus Saga

I. One of my brothers is going through a divorce and his finances have been challenged because of it. When I first saw him during my ten day visit with my family in Hull, I remarked at how much weight he had lost. “I call it the ‘I can’t afford to buy food diet,’” he joked.

I lost three pounds myself during my visit. A couple of them were probably due to long walks on the beach and bike rides. One was the result of what I joked to be the “ginger-ale and pretzels for supper diet.”

For two days I was one of the refugees from Logan Airport when flights were canceled due to stormy weather on the day I was suppose to fly to LaGuardia and then to Greensboro, where Joe was planning to pick me up. After reluctantly accepting my predicament, leaving my husband a phone message that began “the sanity has begun,” and waiting in more than one long line of dissatisfied travelers, I got my ticket changed to 6:00 a.m. the next morning. Finding myself riding with four other strangers in a Days Inn van to a hotel in Saugus, eight miles from Logan on Boston’s north shore, set the stage for what could have been a scene out of a Twilight Zone episode.

Truth is stranger than Science Fiction. The episode I call the “Saugus Saga” got worse when the hotel in Saugus said my charge card was denied. I explained that the card worked all week but might have to be punched in manually. The clerk insisted emphatically that it had been declined, that there was nothing further he could do, and that he would hold my room for only 15 minutes.

Feeling that I had no options, I threatened to sleep in the lobby. That’s when a woman named Polly, who I had struck up a conversation with in the van, offered to share her room with me. By this time I was emotionally and physically spent. I was not thinking straight, but knew enough to know that I needed a room of my own to de-stress and gear up for what might face me the next morning.

In Polly’s room, I was able to make a call to my credit card company and discovered that they had upgraded my card without my consent! After fifteen minutes on the phone and running to the lobby with the phone call on hold, the card went through. Too exhausted and reluctant to face the world again, I stayed in my room watching TV and using the hotel’s wireless, which is when the pretzels and ginger-ale for supper came into play. mtl.jpg

II. When Polly and I arrived at the airport at 5:15 a.m. the next morning, by way of the hotel courtesy van, the check in line for departing flights was about a mile long. I complained to everyone that would listen that I was going to miss my plane. After several false starts in wrong lines, I made my way to airport security with only 15 minutes to spare. That’s when I was randomly chosen for a pat down and bag search and when my adrenaline really started to flow towards the direction of a nervous breakdown.

I made the plane in the nick of time and so did Polly. I re-met up with her on the same plane I was traveling on. In Philadelphia, where she was connecting to Greensboro and I was scheduled to fly to Roanoke, we had breakfast together. (I was starving. Not only do flights not provide pretzels and peanuts anymore, they charge you $2.00 for drinks.) Polly and I talked about how airport travel gone wrong can be a stage for human nature and drama to play out. Events are neutral. Everything comes down to how we react to them. I was travel-weary but proud of myself for making it through one of life’s unexpected obstacle courses. Reuniting with Joe never felt so good.

Post note: On a sad note, in the few days I've been home since my trip, I've gained the three pounds back.

Thanks to my nephew David for helping me proof read this.

August 14, 2008

Thirteen Thursday: The Jet Set-back

13gate.jpg 1. The night after my fisherman brother John brought lobsters home and I video-taped them, he said, “Colleen, I have something else for you to take pictures of” and then he spread THESE out on the table.

2. I guess I’m a full-time beach bum now, at least for the rest of August. After spending ten days visiting my family in the Massachusetts beach town I grew up in, and with only one day at home in Floyd, I’m heading out with Joe to visit his mother who also lives by the beach.

3. While in Hull, an old friend was hitting on me. He’s done that since high school and I guess he feels compelled to keep up the charade. When I reminded him that I was happily married, he assured me that he was harmless, saying, “I’m impotent.”

4. We then went on to have a long conversation about how the drug Cialis works because we are just that comfortable with each other and I was curious, never having known anyone who used it. (His condition is a side effect of heart medication).

5. At the airport check-in a bottle of my facial cleanser was confiscated when it was determined to be a tad too big for what they allow. The same thing happened to Deana a couple of weeks ago, but she had time to put hers back in her car. With fifteen minutes before my plane took off, I was randomly chosen to be patted down and have my bags checked, so I wasn’t so lucky (besides the fact that I had no car to take it to).

6. During the bag check, feeling sure I was going to miss my plane, I couldn’t tell if I was breathing deeply to calm myself down, or if I was hyperventilating.

7. Deana’s confiscated skin care product cost over $40. Mine was a fruit enzyme cleanser from Mychelle for about $16. I like Mychelle products because they contain no parabens (estrogen mimicker), artificial chemicals, colors, or fragrances.

8. Your body absorbs about 50% of what you put on your skin, which is why when I buy a skin product, I ask myself, ‘could I eat this?”

9. Losing the bottle of facial cleanser and being patted down at the airport was the least of my problems. I hope to write more about the cancelled flights I endured and an unscheduled overnight in Saugus, eight miles from Logan on Boston’s north shore. I’m calling this unwritten pieced “The Saugus Saga.”

10. The good news was that because of the delay I flew into Roanoke instead of Greensboro, which meant that Joe (who picked me up) and I were able to get a twenty minute fix of baby Bryce before heading up the mountain to Floyd. Video clip is HERE.

11. I was so happy to see the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains from the plane window that I took several photos of them. With the focused camera I could stop the plane propeller but when I looked at it with my eye it was going too fast to see.

12. I want to put a door and door frame that opens to nowhere in my yard so I can imagine myself walking through it while imagining a new frame of mind.

13. Sanity should return in September.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here. #146

August 13, 2008

The Wahlberg Brothers in Hull

wahlbergsdg10042005TimCorreiraHerald.jpg My hometown of Hull, Massachusetts, is lucky that Mark Wahlberg’s brother Paul chose it as the location for his restaurant, “Bridgeman’s.” And I was lucky to have had the occasion to eat there twice during the ten days I was visiting my family.

The first occasion was a birthday dinner party for my sister Tricia’s close friend Nancy, where everyone but me was a former high school cheerleader. I sipped my first Martini (peach, from Nancy’s glass) and loved the Almond Crusted Pound Cake with Bananas’ Foster for dessert, even though I don’t like bananas.

At our table of seven, forks of food were passed around because everyone wanted to share their five-star gourmet delights. Paul, who is also the brother of Donnie, a member of the 1984-1994 group New Kids on the Block, is a French-trained chef, but the food is Italian inspired, the restaurant’s webpage says. nacn.jpg
I was excited to have such a high quality restaurant in Hull and looking forward to eating there again on my visit home next year. But I didn’t have to wait that long.

My ten day vacation started with a high school class reunion and ended with another sort of reunion when my friend of thirty-five years, Eugene, (who I hadn’t seen in twelve years) and his wife Carla drove down to Hull on my last night home to see me.

After a walk on the beach and a ride in Eugene’s sports car with the top down, we headed for the Pemberton Pier clam stand to eat, but it was closed. We ended up at Bridgeman’s sipping wine, talking, and nibbling on clams, shrimp scampi, eggplant, and truffle French fries.

We could easily pick Paul out from behind the glass partition, where he was cooking, because he resembles his better-known brothers. eugene.lljpg.jpg The Wahlbergs grew up in Dorchester, part of greater Boston and less than twenty miles from Hull, where I grew up. I wished I had knocked on the glass, waved, or introduced myself to Paul. We have a few things in common. Like him, I am one of nine children from a Working Class Catholic family near Boston.

Catching up with Eugene and Carla at Bridgman’s was like a cherry on the top of a magical week that involved big sky sunset walks on the beach, bike riding, swan boat riding, quality time spent with family and friends … and good food.

Video of Paul Wahlberg talking about Bridgeman’s and his actor brother Mark’s taste in food is HERE.

August 11, 2008

Flip Flops and Photo-ops

1. The Yin Yang of Flip Flops
2. Don’t Drink and Drive
3. Achoo and God Bless You
4. Time to Catch a Ride

Video: Chasing Sandpipers on Nantasket Beach HERE.

August 10, 2008

The Johnster Cooks Lobster

What can top a Boston Swan Boat Ride? How about an all you can eat Lobster dinner? This one was caught and is being cooked by my fisherman brother Johnny.
John thinks the green tomalley (liver) is the best part. “What are these little red things? Are they eggs? I thought caviar was black,” I ask. John lines the table with newspaper and adds a dash of vinegar to the melted butter. It kills me that my mother had to buy corn of the cob when I know how much is in my garden back home as we speak (with our mouths full).
Lobsters are aggressive and territorial. John had to tape the claws down because one bit him. He says the lobstermen call the small ones “bugs” and that they have blue blood like horseshoe crabs. Later that night, I did some research and learned that long ago lobsters were so plentiful that Native Americans used them to fertilize their fields and to bait their hooks for fishing. During colonial times they were considered “poverty food” and were fed to prisoners, and indentured servants. Lobsters grow throughout their lives. They can get as big as 40 pounds and live for more than 100 years. Although rare, blue and albino lobsters have been caught.
When I see a lobster I think of a cartoon character and grown men in bibs.

Video clips: John does a Nixon impersonation using a live lobster HERE. The all you can eat Lobster fest on my mother’s porch. Caution: slippery when wet with butter HERE.

August 8, 2008

Vacation Transportation

In this day of theme parks with rides like the Tower of Terror and Disney mouse and duck characters posing for photo-ops, I’m relieved there are still parks where real ducks can be fed and where you can ride around a weeping willow lined lagoon on a peddle boat with a giant swan on it.
Boston is just a train, bus, or boat ride away from my hometown of Hull, Massachusetts. I spent a lot of time in the Boston Commons when I worked in a boutique on Tremont Street in the 70’s, but not as much time at the adjacent twenty-four acre Public Gardens, home of the Swan Boats. I had only been on a Swan Boat once before and my mother never had. So during my visit home, we traveled into Boston to the enchanted emerald park, where ducks splashed playfully, a pair of swans preened and posed like ballerinas, and Swan Boats full of tourists glided under the Public Garden’s ornate suspension bridge.
The Swan Boat website reads: The Swan Boats are as much a part of Boston as the bean and the cod. They are the harbinger of Spring to native Bostonians. Famed in the stories Make Way For Ducklings and The Trumpet of the Swan, the Swan Boats are the only boats of their kind in the world! To the delight of the young and old each April for over 120 years, the Swan Boats have appeared in the Public Garden Lagoon with preenly grace.
Governors, Presidents, movie stars, and royalty have ridden on the Swan Boats, including Matt Damon, Bill Murray, President John F. Kennedy and many others. Now, at the age of 83, we can happily add my mother to the list.
After a Swan Boat ride, a picnic lunch, and a short tour of the park’s flower gardens, we laid out a blanket on the way to Park Street station and joined city workers on break for a rest on the Boston Common lawn. Now it was children splashing playfully. Their screams of delight from the Frog Pond and the fountains in the nearby playground drew me over to watch. My mother and I ended our day with cookies and afternoon tea at South Station before catching the 4:00 Greenbush train back to Hingham where our car was waiting.

Post notes: See the Swan Boat ride HERE. Don’t forget to click “watch in high quality” for a better viewing experience. I call THIS second video of kids in the Frog Pond Playground “Screamfest.”

August 7, 2008

13 for the Hometown

13notbeach.jpg 1. You know you’re having a hometown vacation when you’re riding your mother’s neighbor’s bike and someone stops you on the street to ask where the library is and you actually know.

2. I get such a boost from my sunset walks at the ocean that when I get ready to take one I tell my mother I’m going down for my Vitamin B-each shot.

3. Because my hometown is a peninsula, only about five miles long and as narrow as a road wide in some places, I can start watching the sunset from the ocean and then walk to the bay and see the rest of it.

4. Named after Hull England, Hull Massachusetts is 20 miles from Boston by car and only 5 miles by sea. The main beach is called Nantasket, named by the Wampanoag Indian Tribe and meaning "at the strait" or "low-tide place."whitefex.jpg

5. In July of 2005 I posted an excerpt from the book I wrote, The Jim and Dan Stories, about the white feather that dropped in my path while walking on Nantasket Beach after my brother Jimmy died in 2001, and one that appeared in the hospital a month later, right before my brother Danny died. Three years later I’m still getting comments on that post. See HERE.

6. Former Boston mayor John F. Fitzgerald, the father of Rose Kennedy; President Calvin Coolidge; and Joe Kennedy Sr. all summered in Hull. So did Barbara Walters.

7. Video: Boogie Board Days on Nantasket Beach with a cameo role by Jonathan Livingston Seagull HERE.

8. Watch the Nantasket Beach tsunami HERE.

9. See my 40th High School Class Reunion Picture, taken last Saturday HERE. My High School Graduation picture is HERE.

10. Judging by the letters in a shoebox on the bottom of my father’s closet (which I’m allowed to read, as the family archivist, two years after his death) he had a lot of girlfriends when he was a nineteen year old WWII soldier, including my mother.

11. The letters are written in pencil. The envelopes are stamped with 3 cent stamps. One is sealed with lipstick kisses.

12. We thought my father looked like Elvis Presley when he was young. What do you think? Look HERE.

13. The Three Musketeers of Gulldom do a BlueMan routine on Nantasket Beach HERE. Next they perform as Larry, Curly, and Moe Gull HERE.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

August 5, 2008

When Life is a Beach

1. You take time to stop and smell the beach roses.
2. You have a red bike for chasing the sunset from the ocean to the bay.
3. You spend time with your mother and sisters.
4. And your other sister who is missing from the above picture and who wears an H on her hat for Hanover instead of Hull.
5. You wash down fried clams from the Hull Gut Pier with a beer at Joe’s Nautical Bar (with a brother and brother-in-law).
6. You play a game of vacation Scrabble with your cute nephews and have fun even though one comes very close to beating you.
7. When life is a beach your beach-nic cousin and his wife might treat you and your mom to a seafood dinner in a restaurant overlooking the ocean.
8. You get home in time for the sunset.

August 4, 2008

The Class Picture

One is a General in the Marines, another is a massage therapist. Two are hairdressers and about four are Vietnam Vets. There is a salesman, a store owner, and a professional dancer who came all the way from Spain. The thing I like most about the Hull High Class of ‘68 is that most of us like to dance. I put in a request for Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT before I left Virginia and, thanks to my friend Paul who helped to organize the reunion, the DJ played it. The dancer from Spain tried to coordinate us to do some choreographed steps on the dance floor. She inspired the dance improv enthusiast and the Surf Ballroom dancer in me. When I asked her is she was still dancing professionally, she laughed and said, “Well, I’m 58 like the rest of you! What do you think?”

Can you pick out the Spanish Dancer and me, her sidekick?

August 3, 2008

A Beach Devotional

The beach is my new religion. Baptized in the ocean’s holy water, I worship at sunset under a big sky. At the shoreline I'm humbled, in the name of the sand, sun, and sea.

Post note: The sandpipers were too hard to videotape so I made a movie of THIS.

August 1, 2008

From LaGuardia to Logan

planewngs.jpg New York City from the sky in broad daylight looks like the set of a Science Fiction movie. The island of concrete skyscrapers looming up from the earth at various heights is three times as wide as Boston and reminds me of a giant Giant’s Causeway, like the one in Northern Ireland. I find myself looking for the twin towers that I know won’t be there and for King Kong on the Empire State Building. I get a pang of anxiety watching cars and trucks merge onto highways, crisscross overpasses, and spin around mazes of rotaries. I never realized how much water there was around New York. I feel calmed looking at boats lined up in harbors or haphazardly dotting the shore. They look like pointed Dutch shoes waiting for someone to slip them on and walk away, escaping the hustle and the hassle of city driving.