Tag Archives: LBI

Thirteen on 13

I made a conscious effort to quantify more things in 2013 – my weight, health, reading habits, and a catalog of good things. Somehow the quantified self didn’t roll over into the more reliable self, but my Withings stats would tell you mathematically. Three weeks into the new year I don’t have resolutions per se that have been broken, but my lack of regular writing output also includes a failure to write an annual list (see 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2011 2012 historical references). This marks a decade that I’ve been writing publicly, which is an entire lifetime on Internet time. Rather than delve into a “best of” that’s already time deprecated, here are thirteen good things about 2013:

  1. Celebrated 25 years married to Toby. When we were 8 years old, and I saw her standing on the deck of a beach house in Harvey Cedars, I feel in love for the first time. That was 43 years ago, and she’s spent more than half of them with me. I am blessed. We celebrated with Israel, Ukraine, good friends and a lot of strange foods.

  2. Started a new job. After working for technology vendors for nearly 25 years, I seized an opportunity to go back to applied technology full-time. The problems are thorny, require the right mix of computer science and design, and I have a great team.

  3. Rediscovered the joy of recorded music. Working from home most days meant that “drive time music” was whatever I was humming while stumbling down the stairs. I’m now listening to an average of three albums a week commuting to that new job, and it’s great. Music defeats the aggravations of New Jersey traffic, weather, and makes for a nice segue between venues.

  4. Experienced one of the best hours of live music ever. Shared with good friends and our son, at Jones Beach, as a 6-hour rain storm ebbed and we wrung ourselves out, I heard Phish do a tour-de-force of my musical history. Oh yeah, got to meet Trey before the show too. All part of one of the best years of live music in a variety of venues, from Phish arena shows, to Rush, Frampton and Joe Bonamassa in smaller theaters, to some local area acts in Boston and western Massachusetts.

  5. Went to a Phillies game with my father and ran the circle of life counter clockwise. This time I took the pictures as he walked the bases post-game, at the modern instantiation of the same ballpark where I saw my first major league ball game and my real life hero took pictures of my boyhood sports hero (Willie Stargell, Pirates at Phillies, circa 1973).

  6. Witnessed one of the best displays of sportsmanship ever while dressed as Santa, handing out candy canes post-practice. One of my mite-aged hockey players asked for an extra candy cane for his brother who left the ice early. Sometimes being on Team Santa is its own reward.

  7. Visited the Ukraine for an exploration of my own history that was more emotional than I had anticipated. And more revealing. As my Uncle Ziemel used to say, “Nothing that is broken off is truly lost as long as you remember to search for it.” Half of a street address on the back of a 100 year old photograph tied together the threads of how my great-grandfather made his way from a small village to Kiev to Rotterdam to New York.

  8. Spent time with old friends. There is nothing better than re-igniting the sense of familiarity you shared a decade, ten area codes, four moves and a few kids ago.

  9. Toured the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Between Babi Yar in the Ukraine, the Day of Remembrance in Israel, and the World Trade Center site, I had a hat trick in understanding the impact of conflict.

  10. Sipped a coffee sitting outside of Cool Beans in Bay Village, on Long Beach Island, where I’ve spent at least a long weekend in about 80% of my summers. Even though some of the old haunts seemed smaller seen from the height of adult perspective, the memories were just as wonderful. And Crust and Crumb elephant ears are still worth every single calorie.

  11. Got kicked out of the Academie Francaise in Paris. After joking about it for more than 30 years, first with friend Steve, then with our daughter, I took a detour after a work meeting. Epitomizing American swagger, I walked in and was promptly asked to leave, but not before thoroughly butchering every known conjugation, pronoun and tense to get my picture taken by the security guard. It was one of the more weird things on my bucket list, but if Madame Scharf is reading this, Sheris and I were listening the whole time.

  12. Sat in on a recording session in one of the most intimate, well-engineered studios in New Jersey. Details coming on the band, the results and the process, and yet another bucket list item checked.

  13. Read more than thirty books, venturing away from a steady stream of science fiction to learn musical backstories.

There are any number of things that form the background radiation of a good year: Having kids make good adult life decisions, going to Israel, getting to work on interesting projects, loving every day that my wife puts up with my craziness, fixing my first guitar pedal and feeling like all of those late nights in the basement of E-Quad weren’t a total waste.

Northwest Corner Days

I am a visual learner and continue to use the school calendar image for thinking about times and dates. You know the calendar setup: it’s two rows of months, September to February on top and March to August on the bottom; our parents had them in planners and wall calendars in the 1970s. To this day, it’s how I visualize dates, forever bound to Labor Day in place of New Year’s when it comes to marking an annual cycle.

The two-by-six month grid is a periodic table for time, grouping months and setting agendas. March is the beginning of the warmth series; spring is in the middle and summer is at the most exciteable end. Sepetember is the beginning; between school, Rosh HaShanah and my birthday, it’s how I’ve always marked time. But starting the mental year in September means Thanksgiving is square in your sights, the first milestone of the year, just 10 weeks after new books and teachers. That may explain my life-long fascination with the holiday. Winter holiday season is just past the mid point, but by looking down a row you know you’re exaclty halfway to the official start of the next summer. February is the mid point. I never thought to look below February and see August, summer smiling back at me but also the on-ramp to a new school year. There’s a comfortable reason that February is short – you’re eager to start the next group in the table.

Conversesly, it makes sense that July and August are tag-teamed months of 31 days. You don’t want them to end. It’s getting to the last pages of Tales from the Jersey Shore and Deep Tank Jersey. August 31 is a carriage return (if you ever used a typewriter) up and to the left. Back to the northwest corner, as my band director would say. The first page, the beginning, the best of times, the worst of times, and other allusions to formal education.

Here’s the deal: even without the visual calendar cue, you know it’s coming. The end of summer isn’t just ticking off those last few boxes, more scared of losing them than the last three squares of toilet paper in a public bathroom. When you wake up, you need a sweatshirt before the day gets warm and humid. You can smell fall in the air; it smells like leaves that are ready to hit the ground. You see cars laden with the accoutrements of a Long Beach Island summer driving off the majors into your neighborhood, some early immigrants back to reality. The seagulls lose their black feathers, going all white to match the weather. A friend once pointed this out to me, on the very last day of summer, motioning to a gull that was working the salt and pepper feathered look. She knew because she spent most of her life at the shore, for a few years even when school was in session, and yet she still had a mental last day of summer. The gulls mocked her loudly with their squawks and silently with a whiter shade of pale on their heads.

Growing up, any day that you could steal from the beginning of September was a huge win. You’d take one of those beckoning early September days and stuff it right back in your pocket. If you could break free of school clothes shopping or cleaning your room or band camp (before the days of summer reading lists) maybe you could sneak in a day in flip flops, or jury-rig the antenna on the living room FM receiver to pick up WJRZ from Ship Bottom, NJ, or play whatever board game you discovered that summer spread across the floor, completing a perfect hat trick of a summer recap. It was perfect, until you heard the gulls, chased inland from the shore by an approaching storm.