Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Rarity

A rarity for me.  I cannot find sleep.  I know that this is something that plagues many, but I have been remarkably blessed. I go to bed, I fall asleep. If I wake up, I go back to sleep.  Lucky guy. Not today.  Some turbulence I guess is keeping the zs away.

So, some random thoughts. This and that.

Terrell Owens deserves to be in the hall of fame as much as a kangaroo deserves to be in the White House. He never won anything.  He has gaudy statistics but was a terrible teammate.  Hall of fame athletes ought to have helped their teams win.

The Red Sox have been fun to watch this summer. Their ability to come back has been the stuff of fiction, not reality.

It is frightening that 40 % of the country thinks that Donald Trump is doing a good job. A woman I know said that she has trouble saying his name without throwing up.  I am not there. Just stunned that people can look past his obnoxious character. He reminds me of the guy who tries to rush a fraternity bragging that he has 50 million dollars and a wench in every dorm wing,  but whenever you need a dime for a keg, he claims to have left his wallet in his room, and the only women on his arms are those that he appears to have bought.  His regular claims that the press is evil, is enough to make me wonder how anyone who does not have oatmeal between the ears, can believe Trump should be the leader of a democratic country where respect for journalists is a foundational plank.

I am regularly in awe of the incompetence at various high levels of organizations.  It strikes me as singular that a knucklehead can be the head of a lucrative company indicating that the value of whatever product or service trumps the irrational decision making of decision makers.

If pornography is the abomination that the right claim it to be and many even on the left publicly decry, then how come there is a stunning abundance of it. If the majority believe it is horrible, how can so many pornographers be cashing in. 

Outside of the library I visit, there is--daily--someone who wants patrons to sign a petition to outlaw marijuana shops in the community.  Sure. If they are so concerned with drugs, how come the petition doesn't include outlawing CVS, Walgreens, and the liquor store.

I don't give a damn that Donald Trump slept with Stormy Daniels or a former Playboy bunny. The guy is a cancer on so many fronts, dwelling on his infidelity is like focusing in on an axe murderers unwillingness to use the turn signal at intersections.

Where are the Republicans?  The true Republicans. The ones that believe in less government, conservative fiscal policies, free trade. Are so many people tickled because the stock market is going up, that they are ignoring the stench.

I do not know how some books have gotten published.  There are some real stinkers out there.

Anne Tyler is an amazing author. I read a review of her recent book, Clock Dance. Very good book and very good review of it.  One comment the reviewer made was that there were critics who deride Tyler because her books are so easy to read.  Really?  What Tyler excels at is taking complex situations and explaining them effortlessly.  Her books often have what seem to be quirky characters in them. But maybe the characters are just like you and me, she just does a good job of bringing out all of our eccentricities.

Yesterday and Monday were hotter than hell.  Those who poo poo Global Warning should leave an address for their great grandchildren when they kick so that their descendants can direct their shvitzing wrath.

Every month it seems as if another friend has departed.

I don't think the Patriots will be so extra this year. Belichick does not seem to have the same fire. Brady is Brady because Belichick is Belichick. Had Brady been on another team with another coach, his main asset--his head--would be a limited asset.

Will try to meet the sandman now.


Friday, July 27, 2018

drew me back in

Yesterday, according to headlines in the Boston Globe, Facebook lost billions of dollars. I don't think this means that Mark Zuckerberg will be staying at a youth hostel the next time wanderlust kicks in, but his company took a hit.  I am not sure why.  And as I wrote in my last blog, on balance I like Facebook. It has put me in contact with people that had been lost to my horizon.  I find out about comings, goings, children, grandchildren--get to see happy pictures--wish people birthdays. 

I wrote recently that I had decided, despite my generally favorable view of the social network, to take a break. I was spending too much time on it and that, plus concerns about privacy, and a general desire for temporary reclusiveness, had me deactivate the account.

If you have never done this, give it a try. It is not easy to deactivate. Lots of navigating steps which might make someone not all that sophisticated with technology to say "the hell with it I'll keep the account" But that day I worked at it, and finally deactivated.

And I was doing fine.  I did notice that I periodically subconsciously typed in the url until realizing I was no longer a member.  But I was getting used to it. And I had not missed it much.

Then I received an e-mail that told me that my niece had posted some pictures on facebook.  She often posts sweet pictures of their children which I like to look at.  I did not think I could access the photos because I no longer had an account. But I tried. I clicked on the link and was able to access the pictures.

The problem is that because I did click on the link, on that device at least (a laptop) I was back to "active." Yesterday I found that I am active on my desktop at home as well. How that happened I don't know.

Fact is, that once I found I was able to prowl around, I stayed on it and looked at the various posts. But I am mildly annoyed that I returned to being a member when I had actively tried to deactivate.

There was probably a clause somewhere when I went to deactivate that read that should I click on any link I would be back in the fold, but fine print should not govern this.

Facebook will return no doubt. I see that it is up over a dollar a share today.  Zuckerberg will not have to rush to make the Early Bird special tonight. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Deactivated

Last week I deactivated my facebook account.

I was in a cranky mood when I did it.  I have at times become concerned with privacy issues.  And also, I spend a good deal of time reading the posts.  I've thought that I might be a bit more productive without the account.

Several days later what have I noticed?

The first thing is how often I must have gone to Facebook. On a number of occasions I have mindlessly typed in facebook and then realized I did not have an account. So, previously, without thinking I must have gone to the site regularly.

I have missed the connectivity.  I like how facebook could and did expand my network. I had become acquainted with people I'd not seen in years.   I got to see pictures of family members that I would not have seen otherwise. I was connected to friends from various lives--college, camp, high school, sports teams, graduate school--and I enjoyed the virtual reunions. Peripheral friends have opened up in ways that have made our relationship less superficial and more meaningful. I have found out about illnesses and people's need for emotional support and have been glad to offer support to whatever extent my words may have been comforting. I have read about acquaintances' children and grandchildren and the joys they have experienced.

So, that is the bad news. I have missed these things.

The good news is that I am not spending twenty minutes at a pop, reading these posts.  And nefarious sleuths will have more trouble finding out about my interests, buying habits, "likes" and "loves."

In a way it's like being on a diet or giving up booze.  I miss the sweets and buzz, but wonder if, when all is said and done, I will be healthier.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Back from the Dead

Today, three plus days after I returned from London, is the first full day when I feel like a human being.  On Sunday night I attempted to work out. Afterwards, I do not know who the fellow was who was looking back at me in the locker room mirror. Yesterday, I felt like more of a mensch. Worked out again, and I felt better. Still sweated through my tee shirt overnight--a sign throughout my life of something less than stellar in my system. When I am really sick, or even on a night like Saturday evening, I can look like I dove into a swimming pool at 3 in the morning.  But tonight, and tomorrow morning I think I will be dry and my normal self when I awaken.

I'm in a local library, not my town's, one nearby. This is a very good community library. There is a system in the Boston burbs, that links over a dozen of these places and it is quite good. The place where I am sitting may be the best of all the participating facilities --though it has competitors. The town that houses this particular branch is quite affluent. My home in blue collar Waltham would be worth nearly double just a short ride away.  Still whenever I come to this library, I am reminded of how many people, regardless of wealth, are sick, lugging around their illnesses, and do not know it.

Thirty minutes ago a guy I have seen before came smiling into this section where I now am parked. He had the gleam of a person who was for some reason recently amused, or a religious zealot who beams because she or he has found the spiritual answer, or the person with such a gleam is a nut.

As the man got closer to me I knew it was (c). I'd seen him here before. In fact, the last time I saw him he was sitting directly across the table from where I now sit. I was afraid he was going to join me again, and my fears were warranted. But nearly a minute after he sat down he popped back up. When he was here before he was filling out a crossword puzzle frenetically, and alternately doing math computations which looked legitimate but could have been residual graffiti from courses he took forty years ago.  He was so manic then that I had to move my seat as his scribbles were jostling the table.   There's a woman now at a nearby desk who is speaking loudly in a library in a way that she would have to know is inappropriate. On Sunday I was at my university library and another person was bellowing there.  My point is that there has to be something off-kilter about an individual over the age of 18 who speaks loudly in a place where it is supposed to be quiet.

My night sweats are probably over. I will get off the elliptical tonight and feel like I appropriately purged tensions and calories to allow for the inevitable accumulation of the former and the necessary consumption of the latter in the following 24 hours. (I did spot a blueberry pie in the refrigerator which might require some extra time on the machine).  The beaming guy with the cross word puzzles, and the human megaphones in the library, though--they never recover from their temporary bouts with whatever, because whatever brought on the illness is likely here to stay.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Shall We Dance


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On Wednesday night my brother and I  bought tickets to see The King and I which was playing in the London theatre district. Our dad was a big fan of musicals in general but had an especial fondness for The King and I.  We heard him croon the lyrics to “Tis a Puzzlement” on many an occasion.

There are times I often think I am not sure of what I absolutely know.
Very often find confusion in conclusions I concluded long ago.
In my head are many facts that as a student I had studied to procure
In my head are many facts of which, I wish I were more certain I was sure.


That was dad in a nutshell. A wise man who, modestly left room to doubt what he “knew.” A favorite refrain of his, after he had opined on a subject was “Yeah: but what the hell do I know?”

I thought I knew the play, but I really did not. I knew the score from the album we would listen to in the house.  I had the gist, but there is more to it. 

A widow who had been a schoolteacher comes to Siam in 1861. She travels there at the request of the King of  Siam so that she can teach his many children whom he has fathered with several wives and lovers. The King, while a blustery and, well, imperious man is beginning to feel conflicted. He is not quite saying “What the hell do I know” but he finds “a puzzlement” in some of his conclusions. He wonders how to teach his eldest son.

What for instance shall I speak to him of women?
Shall I educate him on the ancient lines?
Shall I tell him that as long as he is able
To respect his wives, and love his concubines?
Shall I tell him every one is like the other
And the better one of two is really neither?
If I tell him this I think he won’t believe it
And I nearly think I don’t believe it either.


The king is also puzzled about how to deal with other countries.
           
Shall I join with other nations in alliance?
If allies are weak am I not best alone
If allies are strong with power to protect me.
Might they not protect me out of all I own
Is a danger to be trusting one another
One will seldom want to do what other wishes
But unless some day somebody trust somebody
There’ll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes.

How many times did we in the Zaremba household hear those last four lines? I think someone in Washington might be wise to consider this wisdom. Unless some day somebody trust somebody, there'll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes.


Ana the school teacher is a big hit with the kids.  And the kids are a big hit with Ana.  There is a melody that I always heard on the record, but had never seen performed called “March of the Siamese children.”  Just beautiful, with little ones stealing the show. After the show I went on Youtube and saw the original Broadway version from the 50s. It was good but not as powerful as what we saw on Wednesday.

Ana tries to tell the King that the groveling of his subordinates is inappropriate. The King is not quite convinced, but she is making a dent.  The audience begins to wonder if the two might have developed some feelings for each other. 

The King is to be visited by an emissary from London. He has been called a  barbarian by some in the west and he does not like it.  He wants Ana to help him create a good image for the ambassador. He is too kingly to ask for her help, he asks her to "guess" what his ideas are, and then of course adopts them. The ambassador actually knows Ana, and has a thing for her. Before Ana met her beloved, Tom, the ambassador had tried to initiate a love affair with Ana.  Ana was not interested.

And then she met Tom. The love of her life.

When I think of Tom. 
I think about a night
When the air was full of wonder and the night was full of light.  
And the sweet mist of England was nestled on the hill 
I remember him.
And I always will.

There are new lovers now on the same silent hill. 
Looking at the same blue sea
And I know Tom and I are a part of them all.
And they're all a part of Tom and me.

She breaks into a song called “Hello Young Lovers” which will touch anyone who has ever fallen.  A reviewer for this London performance called it the best rendition of “Hello Young Lovers” that he had ever heard.  (The London production is the same cast that performed the New York version this past year).

What makes the song particularly meaningful is that another woman has been “gifted” to the King which the king thinks is normal stuff. The problem is that this woman is in love with someone else. Ana in covert ways helps these two rendezvous.

The last song on the album is “Shall we Dance”  The King and Ana begin to dance and you get a sense for sure that there is something there more than platonic.

The two sing while dancing.  Nobody else is on the stage. Each verse ends with the refrain, Shall we Dance?

Shall we take a chance on loving family, friends, sweethearts. And dance toward that possibility.

As the two dance around the stage, you certainly get a sense that they are considering romance.  What actually occurs, I won't spoil. But the metaphor is there regardless. Things can happen if we dance with our family--whether individuals are still with us or not. Exciting, wonderful, perhaps wonderfully dangerous things can happen if we dance with our family, friends, and our sweethearts.

With the clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen, Shall we dance? Shall we dance? Shall we dance?

Yes. 

With the clear understanding that love and friendship can evolve, we should dance toward this end.
This is the message my dad told us our whole lives. 

With the clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen.  Shall we dance? Shall we dance? Shall we dance?

Invoking dad again, his answer to the question would be, "Only, if you know what's good for you."

Friday, July 6, 2018

Getting there

I almost never think of myself as the age I am.  In most ways, I feel like I did when I was a young man.  I can exercise or walk forever. Yesterday my brother and I must have walked 6 miles, if not more.  While I was not keen about waking up at 4 in the morning for Wimbledon, I had no real qualms about lying on a blanket in the middle of a field to watch the tennis, or taking the subway back, or cheering in a crowded pub listening to assorted encouragements from well oiled patrons.

Occasionally something happens that reminds me that I am not 25.  Usually it is in the form of someone saying something to me that reflects their accurate assessment of my laps around the track.  On Monday, while riding back on the subway from the tennis matches I could not get a seat. So, like a new yorker or bostonian, I just hung onto the straps thinking nothing of it.  A man who I will put at about 45, stood up and offered me a seat. He is fortunate to have all the tissue in the back of his head given the heat stare I gave him all but screaming, sit your ass down.  

I wrote the following in a blog a few years back, but since few follow my wisdom religiously, I'll repeat it here. I was sitting in a bar once and a young woman came up and sat in the barstool next to me. She started speaking to me in a way that seemed like she was hitting on me. I found this flattering. Her comments were so atypical for Harvard Square where this tavern was located, that I began to wonder if she was on the job.  She put that notion to rest with the ensuing chat. At that juncture she said that she did not like this bar much any more. Why is that? I inquired. "Well, no offense" she began, "there's just a lot of old people in here now."  For a moment I could not fathom why she had prefaced the comment with "no offense." When it dawned on me, the expression, "getting taken down a notch" seemed most apt.

Which brings me to what occurred about 50 minutes ago here in Gatwick airport.  When I got to England last Friday I took the train from Gatwick to London, and then took a cab.  After being in London for a week I learned the subway system pretty well. I saw that the distance from the hotel to Victoria Station was a mere three subway stops.  In fact, I had taken that ride on a number of occasions when I had gone beyond Victoria Station exploring the city.  I felt like it was not necessary to take a cab from the hotel to Victoria when I returned. I'd just hop on the subway, go three stops, get on the Gatwick express--I'd already bought a ticket before I departed Boston--and zip zip I will be at the airport.

And that is what I did. I got to the Gloucester road stop from my hotel in ten minutes, had to add some money to my "oyster" card, but then was ready to go. 

Problem number 1 was the response to my inquiry about a lift. "Sorry mate there is no escalator or lift down to the district line platform. "  I packed well for this trip, not too much, just right. Just right was a lot.  So, Okay, I lug the bags downstairs. Take the subway three stops. Get off at Victoria Station and follow the signs to the Gatwick express.

A word about signs. Boston has the worst signs. The worst, They all but scream, "fuck you if you don't know where you are going." Well, let me tell you we are not called New England for nothing. The English taught us well. I am pretty good with signs, and I was turning around like a pinwheel trying to find the Gatwick express. I did.

Then I get on the train and take it the thirty minutes to the airport.  I get off. Again a war with the signs. There's departures and departures.  And I am lugging these heavy bags.  I find where I am supposed to go and there is a long line. I had arrived in plenty of time but still I had just about had it.  I get through check in. What gate? I ask. She tells me they will announce it at 245.  That would be fine except there are no fewer than 93 gates and they are all in different directions. I need to find a central place to park my tired body. I go through security and wander here and there.  I find a spot, and then mumbled something to myself that I have heard others say, but rarely have said it meaningfully to myself before: "I am too old for this shit" I said.  I am not talking about traveling, I hope to travel until I go to the terminal terminal. But maybe I don't take the subway to the Gatwick express. Maybe I dont even take the Gatwick express and tell the cab driver, I am going to the airport. 

It is about an hour since I got through security. I am drinking an ice coffee and feeling more like a human being.  I still do not where the plane leaves from as it apparently is a top secret. I am in a  coffee shop at gates 31-38. Very few are in this vicinity so I figure I will be shlepping elsewhere and now, caffeinated, feel fine about it. Maybe even stop in a duty free store. The signs for these are, go figure, very clearly marked.

Day 2 at Wimbledon

When I suggested to Gary that we did not have to get up to meet a 4am uber for Tuesday, the second day,  he was incredulous. The second day was--we had been assured--lighter in terms of fans than the first.  So why did we need to beat the sun to the queue. Gary countered and said we had the drill down now.  He had a point. It is a drill I would be delighted to forget about it by Wednesday, but this is why we had travelled to England. So I agreed.  He yielded some so we gathered at 415 in the lobby of the London hotel.

Neville, our uber driver from Monday was the same fellow who picked us up at 415.  In much better spirits on Tuesday, he again got us to the queue in a short time.  We followed the stewards' directions, walked to the flag and got our card.  We had a number in the 1600s, 600 positions closer to the front than on Monday. On Tuesday on the queue we met two sisters from London directly behind us and two chums one of whom worked for a London newspaper.  Again, another group--less boisterous than Monday's revelers--were knocking them back before 5 am.  This group was, judging by the newspapers and books they were reading, more cerebral than Monday's. Still they had laid out a blanket like a tablecloth. On it, were glasses filled with red wine,  beer or champagne. The sun had not yet come up.

What neither Gary or I predicted, and what I will remember for months, was how cold it was on this second day.  I was wearing shorts and, fortunately, a long sleeve top with a windbreaker.  Gary was similarly attired. Nevertheless, we were freezing as were many on the line.  We had brought a blanket to lie on, but instead took turns wrapping it around ourselves to stay warm. We went to get coffee from the vendors and also bought some warm doughnuts which tasted delicious and, beyond the taste, addressed the cold. We discovered a cafeteria about 1/4 of a mile away and took turns going to it, less for any food, but more because it was warm.  By the time we arrived at the grounds, and later in the day, it was nearly as warm as it had been on Monday, but it was freezing cold on that queue until about 7 or 8 am.

The line moved much more rapidly on the second day.  We were in the arena a full 45 minutes if not an hour earlier than the day before. Also because I had agreed, however reluctantly, to the 415 departure we were able to pay a bit more and get seats into one of the three stadiums that we could not get into the day before.  Wimbledon retains a number of seats in these prestige arenas for queuers. We knew that, and knew we would get shut out of these on Monday.  We thought that we would get shut out on Tuesday as well, but we were able to buy these tickets.

And they were terrific.  We were four rows back, center court.  When we heard they had retained some seats for the peasants, we figured they would be on the moon.  Not so. These seats would cost 1000 dollars easy at the US OPEN. And, the people we met from California who had bought the tickets in advance, had paid over 800 dollars a seat in the same arena.  They could not have been as close as we were.  I got to see Djokovic easily beat an opponent with strokes that were just remarkable.  We saw two other matches from these incredible seats.  Earlier we were in the second row on an outer court watching a match and I marveled at how close we were to the competitors.

While there might have been fewer people on the queue when we arrived to line up before 5, the grounds at Wimbledon themselves were more crowded on the second day than the first.  Just jammed. More crowded than I can recall at the USOPEN. The grounds at Wimbledon are not as open as they are at the USOPEN. The lines to get into certain venues are a bit longer in New York than at Wimbledon, but there is more room to move about on the grounds in New York.  Food prices in Wimbledon are more reasonable, but the lines to get to them can be challenging.  We gave up considering the strawberries and cream because the lines were too long whenever we considered waiting on them.

Some observations from the tennis and the spectators.

The players' abilities to get to dropshots was something to see. A ball that seemed completely out of reach they could manage to get and in some instances do something clever with the ball.

You could hear, from where we sat, the comments from the players to themselves, the officals, and each other.

I could get a sense of whether a player was a cry baby from their gestures and attitudes toward their opponents.  On one of the outer courts a guy was clearly getting trounced, and he kept looking at the officials as if they were the cause. At one point he was caught at the net when his opponent flipped the ball over the whiner's head.  He raced back to try and get it, but when he knew that hitting the ball back was hopeless, he hit it away from the court as far as he could, the ball probably landed near the strawberries and cream stand.  The referee called him for a sportsmanship offense. The offender turned around with an incredulous "who me" look on his face and began to plead his case in such a transparently disingenuous way that I wrote this guy off for evermore.

I am recalling now a fellow we met on Monday. He was charting every single play. When I asked him why, he said he was a journalist from Luxembourg and one of the competitors was from Luxembourg himself. Still, he charted every single point.

The ballgirls and ball boys had a paramilitary style when play began, during points, and when they were relieved as they were periodically throughout the match.

One player routinely foot-faulted and it was not called once.

More than I recall it from the USOPEN, people cheered for their countrymen and women.  When an Aussie was playing, the Australians around me shouted for him. When Kyle Edmund, a Brit, played the place was very supportive of him.  Meanwhile he was real good.  I saw, from the fourth row, Edmund whip his first round opponent. I read yesterday that he won the second round.  He plays Djokovic in the next round, and I think his ride will be over. Still very impressive.

During the Djokovic match at almost exactly 7pm, people were cheering on his opponent so that the match might be a bit longer.  When those cheers were voiced, followers of Djokovic also shouted their support.  Then in the amidst of cheering for the competitors, a yell came from the crowd that  caused both players to laugh. Someone shouted, GO ENGLAND, at about the time when England's world cup match against Columbia was about to begin.

After we returned to the hotel I went to a pub to see the end of the soccer match.  England had led by a goal nearly the entire game, but the home town team was tied very late in the contest.  I got to the pub just in time to see the end.  Quite a scene in there when England prevailed 4-3 on penalty kicks.