Thursday, September 09, 2010

2 new favorite poems

I know I haven't posted in ages - and I promise a report on my New England trip (the beach! Walk off Sox wins!). But I wanted to put two poems up here that I've recently found. I'm mainly putting them here for me - so that I don't have papers cluttering my desk.

Beachcomber by Robert Service

When I have come with happy heart to sixty years and ten,
I'll buy a boat and sail away upon a summer sea;
And in a little lonely isle that's far and far from men,
In peace and praise I'll spend the days the Gods allow to me.
For I am weary of a strife so pitiless and vain;
And in a far and fairy isle, bewilderingly bright,
I'll learn to know the leap and glow of rapture once again,
And welcome every living dawn with wonder and delight.

And there I'll build a swan-white house above the singing foam,
With brooding eaves, where joyously rich roses climb and cling;
With crotons in a double row, like wine and honeycomb,
And flame trees dripping golden rain, and palms pavilioning.
And there I'll let the wind and wave do what they will with me;
And I will dwell unto the end with loveliness and joy;
And drink from out the crystal spring, and eat from off the tree,
As simple as a savage is, as careless as a boy.

For I have come to think that Life's a lamentable tale,
And all we break our hearts to win is little worth our while;
For fame and fortune in the end are comfortless and stale,
And it is best to dream and rest upon a radiant isle.
So I'll blot out the bitter years of sufferance and scorn,
And I'll forget the fear and fret, the poverty and pain;
And in a shy and secret isle I'll be a man newborn,
And fashion life to heart's desire, and seek my soul again.

For when I come with happy heart to sixty years and ten,
I fondly hope the best of life will yet remain to me;
And so I'll burn my foolish books and break my futile pen,
And seek a tranced and tranquil isle, that dreams eternally.
I'll turn my back on all the world, I'll bid my friends adieu;
Unto the blink I'll leave behind what gold I have to give;
And in a jewelled solitude I'll mould my life anew,
And nestling close to Nature's heart, I'll learn at last . . . to live.

(Taken from a website called (!)
This poem was included in the program for the funeral of a friend's mother - I just think it's lovely!

The Lanyard - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Included in the FORTHCOMING book (OCT 2005), The Trouble with Poetry. (from Billy Collins' website )


Friday, July 16, 2010

An Outlander at AT&T Park, San Francisco

After our three games in Denver, we hopped a plane headed west - to San Francisco to see the Red Sox play three games versus the San Francisco Giants. Our flight was delayed getting into SFO due to fog - so we barely had time to drop our bags at our friend Kate's apartment, and head to the Park. The gates were just opening, so we watched batting practice (Ortiz had his son with him, which was adorable). Then we grabbed some dinner at the California Grill - and I got my garlic fries. I swear the aroma of garlic permeates the Park, which isn't a bad thing. I was really impressed with the array of concessions at the Park - standard fare like hot dogs,sure, but also a Chinese food stand, Ghirardelli hot fudge sundaes, a California wine cart, real Irish coffees - there was even a farmer's market on the Club level!

Our seats were in the section right behind the Sox bullpen, which was fun. When someone was warming in the pen, as he tossed, the fans would make this "wooo" sound, on a rising note. Then when the ball was tossed back, the "woo" was on a descending note. As for the game, we lost - and we also lost Pedroia for 4-6 weeks. He fouled a ball off his foot and broke it. Imagine going from 3 home runs one night to the disabled list the next.

A sharp contrast in temperatures during that 24 hour period. Game time temperature in Denver on Thursday had been 92 degrees. Friday night in SF it was 59! Yikes! Now I know why there was a long line at the Irish Coffee cart.

Game 2 was broadcast on Fox, so that meant a 4pm start - not much time to do any sightseeing. So we took a cable car ride and wandered along the Embarcadaro to the Park. We had planned to find a place to watch the US in the World Cup soccer tournament, but we couldn't get in anyplace - everything was "at capacity." So we sat at a sidewalk restaurant, ate pizza and enjoyed the California sunshine.

Game 2 was special: they were retiring the number of Monte Irvin, a Negro League player who also played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. All the Giants stars were there to honor him: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda - very, very cool. It was a beautiful sunny day, which made the whole ceremony that much more spectacular.

We sat at the Club Level, again on the second tier. It was a nice spot, with access to all the Club Level extras (less crowded ladies' room, better concessions). We won 4-2, although we lost another player to injury: Buchholz left with a pulled hamstring.

We met our buddy Lydia for dinner at Joe DiMaggio's restaurant - a really nice spot in North Beach. We had a great meal - and a lot of laughs. And the trip back to the hotel was highlighted by a gorgeous full moon over the Transamerica Pyramid.

Day 3 - Sunday - was an interesting and fun day. It began with a stroll along the beginning of the route for the city's annual Gay Pride Parade. Yes, there were naked men and men dressed as women, but we also met some pit bill owners showing off their "babies" and librarians from the SF Public Library. It was a wonderful salute to human rights, the right for each person to be themselves. Very cool. Then on to the Park - our freebee today was a Panda mask, in honor of SF third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who is called Kung Fu Panda. My lunch today was the Crazy Crab sandwich, recommended by the NYTimes. Very good.

We sat on the Field Level, about a dozen rows behind the SF dugout. It was a really hot day - lots of sunblock was used - but the seats had their own concessions area below the stands. It was a handy spot to get out of the sun. As for the game, the billed star was two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum - who the Sox battered into submission by the third inning. Ortiz even hit a homer into McCovey Cove! The REAL star was on our side: Jon Lester threw a complete game, looking very strong. Who would have predicted that Giants pitchers would get 15 strikeouts - and lose 5-1? Bad note: we lost another player to injury - Victor Martinez left with a broken thumb!

After the game, we had dinner in Chinatown - yum! Then, it was time for me to pack up - I took the 1:30 am red eye back home. Ack.

Other notes on AT&T: at the end of the game, maybe within 10 minutes of the last out, the seagulls come swooping in. You can see them perching on the roof, on the giant glove in left field, waiting for the crowds to disperse so they can get their dinner. Very Hitchcock-esque! Great concessions - an incredible variety of food and drink. A gorgeous setting on the Bay - we were lucky to have such clear weather so we could enjoy it. They have a female public address announcer, who is excellent!

I'm now up to 12 major league parks. And already thinking about next summer. Pittsburgh? Philadelphia? Toronto? Maybe some of the midwest parks like Kansas City or Chicago? We'll see!

And photos!

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

An Outlander at Coors Field, Denver

My second Red Sox road trip of 2010 began in Denver, for a three game series vs. the Colorado Rockies. This was the first trip to Denver for the Sox since the 2007 World Series - which the Sox won in 4 straight games. You got a sense almost immediately that the Rockies wanted to prove something - to show that they were capable of taking a few games from the Sox.

We got in Tuesday morning - I beat Kelly to the airport, and saw just-called-up-from-Pawtucket Josh Reddick arriving. We stayed at the Hampton Inn Downtown - nice, free breakfast, etc., but about a mile from Coors Field. Many RS fans there - well, there were many RS fans all over the city. Every game was a sell out, with more than 48,000 in attendance. I guess that makes sense. If you are a RS fan living in Idaho or South Dakota (and we met folks from both of those places), this was your only chance to have seen them play in three years.

We met up with our SG pal, John from New Zealand, at Wynkoop's, a local watering hole, where I ate some elk sausage. From there, we wandered towards Coors Field, and hit the Falling Rock Tap House. Wow! Over 80 beers on tap - and tons of Sox fans soaking them up (of course).

As for game 1: oh, well. We couldn't get any offense going, leaving the bases loaded twice. It was also very hot - I was surprised that the weather turned out to be so warm for the whole trip. We also discovered how easily you can become dehydrated at the mile high altitude. We quickly learned to drink a lot of water!

Day 2 was fun. We did the tour of Coors Field. Pretty standard stuff: dugout, special club dining areas, etc. One fun moment was when we were in the visitor's dugout. Terry Francona wandered out, clearly peeved that a bunch of tourists were milling around! Our seats for game 2 were on the Club Level, which is on the second tier. We also sat there for Game One, and felt too far away from the game action. So Kelly did her magic on Stub Hub, and quickly sold our tickets and bought two more down behind the RS dugout. Yeah!

Game 2 was a ♥ breaker. Colorado had their young ace Ubaldo Jiminez pitching, and he held the Sox scoreless thru the 6th. Then we went crazy and scored four runs to lead. Papelbon came in to close it out - and promptly gave up two home runs. I do not like that kind of drama! We lost - worse yet, one of the homers was a walk-off by our old nemesis Jason Giambi. Ugh.

Day 3 was a day of no plans that turned out fun. We discovered a Belgian pub called the Cheeky Monk, which we really enjoyed. We also visited the Great Divide Brewery - a great place for some pre-game libations. Yes, Denver is a city of beautiful vistas and wonderful beers!

Game 3 joins my "game-dropper" file. We had great seats behind home plate, thanks to my godfather who knew a season ticket holder who owed him a favor! The Sox scored early - the Rockies came back - the Sox went ahead again. The Sox used every player on the bench and every pitcher but one (this only confirmed my love of the DH) The Rockies tied it in the bottom of the ninth (again, Papelbon gave up 3 hits and 2 runs), but then the Laser Show arrived. Dustin Pedroia hit his THIRD homerun of the game, Papelbon came back and convincingly closed it out (a nice bit of redemption for him), and the Sox won 13-11. Phew!

A really fun trip (we continued on to San Francisco, but that's in the next installment). It was really hot the whole time (in the 90s), which was surprising. Denver has a free trolley that runs all the way down 16th Street - which has lots of restaurants. So we were able to ride from the hotel to close to Coors Field. Very handy. As for Coors Field, I would recommend not sitting on the first base side if you can help it - that side of the field gets the full afternoon sun, which can be brutal. They also placed their restaurant above the right field side - again, full afternoon sun would make a nice dinner there uncomfortable. I was impressed with the fans, though. They seemed very knowledgeable about baseball, and I saw many keeping score in their own scorebooks.

We also accumulated some "swag" at each game - I was surprised they offered giveaways at games that you could predict would be sell-outs. Tuesday night was hat night, and we got a really nice Rockies ball cap. Wednesday was player shirt night - we got a Carlos Gonzalez tshirt (which several fans waved in our faces as Giambi was circling the bases). But Thursday's gift was the best: a Coors Light cooler bag. Perfect for lunch!

Of course, tons of photos. Here are some of the best:

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Monday, July 05, 2010

An Outlander at Progressive Field

It's been a pretty busy month of June - two big Red Sox road trips, and an overall record of 5-4. Not bad!

Our first trip of the year was to Cleveland, to see the Red Sox take on the Cleveland Indians for three games (they actually played a fourth, but we only attended three). My erstwhile companions - Kelly & Steve T. Ferret - met me at the terminal in Cleveland on Tuesday morning, and we headed to our hotel. If you're going to see the Indians play, I highly recommend the hotel: the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown. It's kitty-corner to Progressive Field, and close to restaurants, watering holes, and only a mile to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We got the B&B package, which included a full, made-to-order breakfast each day - great!

We grabbed some lunch at a spot we would visit a couple of times: the Winking Lizard Tavern. A nice spot - close to Progressive Field - with good pub food. Everything I had for lunch had bacon on it: wedge salad, chicken club sandwich, fries smothered in cheese and, yes, bacon! No cholesterol counts on a Red Sox road trip!

We headed to Progressive and watched batting practice from the right field bleachers - Kelly even got bopped by a well-hit ball! For our first game, we had pretty good seats - behind the plate, up a bit, but a good perspective on the field. And the Sox won!

Day two was one of our best yet! Our morning was spent searching for the Great Lakes Brewing Company.Google maps showed it to be 1.3 miles away - however, due to some incorrect directions (thanks Barry & Erik from Boston), we went on the Bataan Death March II. Our hike included a walk over a wonderful bridge: the Hope Memorial Bridge, named in honor of Bob Hope's dad, a local stone mason. Very cool art deco sculptures called the "Guardians of Traffic,"
(Photo from wikipedia)
several of which were sporting LeBron headbands!

The early afternoon was spent on a tour of the field. I love touring the various parks and seeing some of the behind-the-scenes things. We saw several of the Sox getting in some extra work in the batting cages, Jerry Remy in the Press Box, but most interesting was the stop at the indoor batting cages, behind the 3rd base dugout. The Indians' "vision coach" was working with a young player, and he demonstrated some of the ways they help players sharpen their view of pitches at the plate. They had one machine that pitches tennis balls, all with colored numbers, and they ask the player to call out what type of pitch they've seen based on what color and number is on the ball. Oh, and it's being pitched at 100 mph or so. Wow.

The late afternoon was our splurge: we bought tickets for the "Ultimate Batting Practice Experience." We entered the park at 4:30 and were allowed down on the field, to stand behind the cages and watch both teams take batting practice. So, so cool - very close to the players! Victor Martinez (a former Indian) had his 5-year old son with him on this trip, and Victor Jr was all decked out in a complete RS away uniform. It was so fun to watch all the players playing with him - hitting him pop ups, playing catch, wrestling with him. Aww. But the absolute highlight was getting to talk to Justin Masterson! Justin was traded by the Sox to Cleveland last summer for Martinez, and Kelly had followed his career up thru the minors. The look of pure delight on his face when he saw her was so cool! He came over, hugged us, and talked to us for quite a while about the state of the Indians, the baby he has on the way... ♥ A special shout-out to Megan and Maggie for letting us hang around until the end of BP.

Oh, and the Sox took game 2 - we sat just beyond the screen on the first base side. We also discovered Strickland's Frozen Custard. Wow! And we got free Progressive umbrellas!

Day three! It was raining, but the hotel offered us a ride to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame via their courtesy van. Yeah! The building was designed by I.M. Pei - very recognizable! - and we spent three hours there. The special exhibit was on Bruce Springsteen, tracing the Boss' rise to R&R fame. We also enjoyed the permanent exhibit of artifacts from Hall inductees. Costumes from Fleetwood Mac, U2, Parliament Funkadelic! We also saw a very cool 12-minute multi-media/film presentation called "Video Killed the Radio Star," tracing the ever-increasing importance of video and MTV. In one section they highlighted four influential video artists. Two are no-brainers: Madonna and Michael Jackson. The third was Peter Gabriel - I guess you can argue that he did push the envelope. But the fourth made me scratch me head: Tom Petty. Now, I love Petty - have a bunch of his CDs - but I'm not sure I'd say his videos were "influential." I would argue that Duran Duran is a better choice: they learned early on how to use video to market themselves, and used it to make themselves a worldwide phenomenon.

Our last game! We had chatted with a season ticket holder at Wednesday's game, and he got us passes for the Terrace Club, the large restaurant and bar perched on the left field side of Progressive which is for season ticket holders only. We arrived early, and sat in the "pit" - a counter area overlooking the field. Quite a different vantage point for b.p.! For the game, we sat behind the Indians' dugout on the third base side - a perfect spot to watch Masterson pitch a 2-hit, complete game shut-out. The Indians won 11-0 (the 8th inning included a grand slam home run) - a bittersweet result. Sorry to see the Sox lose, but so proud of Justin.

So, a terrific trip! I really enjoyed seeing Progressive Field, and the other sites in Cleveland - and felt like such a VIP on Tuesday! Another Major League ball park ticked off my list!

Here's an album of some of my best shots from the trip.

Click on the corner to get a full-size version!

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Recipe: Pound Cake Squares

My friend Holly passed along this recipe - and I've included her notes. I made these this weekend for a meeting - and they were a BIG hit!

Pound Cake Squares

1 box pound cake mix (Betty Crocker)
4 eggs
1 stick butter, softened
1 box powdered sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1. Combine cake mix, butter & 2 eggs. Spread in greased and floured 13x9x2" pan

2. Combined powdered sugar (same some to sprinkle on top), cream cheese, 2 eggs, and vanilla. Pour over top of cake mixture. Sprinkle nuts on top.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. While still warm, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

NOTES: "They are incredible fresh from the oven; the melt in your mouth like a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday Dine Out: Carrabba's Italian Grill

One of the things we try to emphasize to our members in Weight Watchers is the importance of "taking care of yourself." I'm always amazed at the number of new members who tell me about having just taken care of a dying parent or spouse, of having spent several years as a stay-at-home parent, of having put everyone else's needs ahead of their own. It's difficult for many of us to say, hey, it's my turn - I need to concentrate on myself for a while. But it's an important first step on the road to living a healthier life.

As I say, although I deliver this message each week, I don't always "walk the walk." As a school employee as well as a WW leader, I find myself putting others first a lot. So one of the best decisions I've made in the past year in the category of "taking care of myself" was my decision to give up my Wednesday night WW class and devote that evening to me. Just allowing myself that one selfish evening in the middle of the working week has really helped my overall mental health!

Although I have been continuing my Wednesday nights out, I haven't been recording my dining experiences of late, mainly because I've been revisiting some I've already reported on - and enjoying them! Terminal Brew House, the Meeting Place, Niko's ...

But tonight I went someplace "new." I actually had eaten at Carrabba's when they first opened (which I was stunned to learn from my server was 7 years ago!) I hadn't been overwhelmed - it was kind of pricey for what I got, and the portions were superhuman sized. But our local paper recently profiled them in their Dining Out section, and I decided it was try to give them another go. So glad I did.

Carrabba's has built their restaurant around the open kitchen. You can see all the action wherever you sit, which is fun. But you can also sit practically IN the kitchen - as you can see above. And that's where I chose to dine tonight - I was actually sitting on that far left stool.

It was the perfect spot for a solo diner. It was very entertaining to watch all the action in the kitchen - the squabbling among the wait staff, the kitchen manager berating the lead cook for too much theatricality, the jockeying for position among the line cooks - nearly a reality show! I was there fairly early, so the kitchen wasn't too busy - but you could see the food prep - the mixing of the pastas and sauce, the chickens grilling, the mussels being heaped in a bowl. The chef even let me sample a few dishes!

I chose one of their signature dishes, the Chicken Bryan:

I had the 1/2 portion - so only a half chicken breast, which was perfect for me. It's covered in goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes - yum! - with a side of cavatappi amatriciana. Very nicely seasoned, and the two dishes really complemented each other well. I started with a tossed "Italian" salad, with freshly baked bread and dipping sauce. And I also sipped a "nice Chianti"(!). It was a really lovely meal!

I was glad I re-discovered Carrabba's. A fun place for a solo diner, a really nice meal that wasn't too much or too expensive. It will definitely not be another seven years before I visit again!

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

I'm such a delinquent

I've been terrible about updating this blog of late. Part of it is laziness, part of it is my addiction to the other social networking sites. I've been spending a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook - and I can only spread myself so thin.

Today was graduation day. My 27th! It was another hot, humid day - uncomfortable despite the school's attempt to thwart it by scheduling the event at 8:30 am. Now, don't think I've become cynical or inured to the day - it was lovely. So many back stories - the boys who barely, barely made it. Those that I had never set eyes on nor even heard their name. Those who I'd spent more time with than their families. And realistically - you always think, Oh, I'll miss that one, or I hope that one stays in touch. But they move on - and so do we.

We march and sit in order of seniority - I'm on the front row now! - and I usually maneuver things so that I sit between two of my long-term colleagues. One teaches many of the seniors in his history electives, and has clear-eyed observations on them. The other is dean of students and, thus, knows most of them. I know almost all of the graduates, as most have to use the library at some point in their careers. But there are always a few that are total strangers to me. So it's fun to exchange remarks with these friends as the grads march across the stage to collect their diplomas. (Oh, you think we're just watching enraptured? Hardly!) Some of my favorite quips from today

"Oh, that kid totally sucks."
"He has a really hot mom. She's wearing a cheetah-print outfit today"
"Boy, he's so lucky to graduate. I mean, really really lucky"
"I find him quite intellectually arrogant"
"Why doesn't he have socks on?"
On a set of triplets: "Amazing. They got one brain split three ways"
"They ought to just label those two the "Lax Bros"

One of the most unusual highlights was the speech from our Board chair. He called his speech "Beer and Tequila shooters" - and was a caution about using fake i.d.s to purchase alcohol. He said he didn't support the 21-year-old limit on drinking, but it is the law, so don't use a fake id. His remarks included this gem: "Remember. Nothing good happens after midnight"

It did have an affect on me - I came home and made a pitcher of margaritas!