Posts Tagged memories

A Running Dialogue

2000 Boston MarathonMany years have passed since I ran the Boston Marathon. I used to work in the Boston Athletic Association’s hospitality suite for the sponsored runners as well. It was there I met Joan Benoit Samuelson, worked with Ernst van Dyk, and shook hands with Little Richard. I also met Jacqueline Gareau there, the actual woman that won the 1980 race, not Rosie Ruiz. It all seemed so long ago, until this past Monday, April 15th. I was driving out of Boston, not there for the race, when my phone started going berserk. I had checked the times of the few people I knew running the race that day and could not imagine what could be going on. Turns out, nobody could imagine what was going on would ever happen there.

Cities that play host to marathons find a cohesive bond that brings out the best in its citizens. With the exception of last year’s New York City Marathon debacle, a marathon has unprecedented support from the public. History has shown that the marathon is one of the only spectator sporting events that bystanders can be so close to the champions and that everyday runners can compete on the same course as those very champions. I have been in New York City for their Marathon, watched the throngs of people cheer on the runners and yell their support. Nearly every street was lined with people, in the bitter cold. They know that the runners are giving all they have to complete the course and the spectators want them all to do it.

The race on that Monday was one of those days made to run; the weather was near perfect. Everything seemed to have gone just as everyone had wished it could go, until that fateful moment. After that moment, everything before it was washed away. The anger and outrage that followed was there for many reasons, many of which you cannot understand unless you have been in Boston for the race, let alone run in it.

The Boston Marathon is the Mecca of running. I do not use that analogy haphazardly, but instead to put it in perspective for those that might not quite understand. I only trained for marathons so I could qualify to run in the Boston Marathon. I qualified on my first attempt, barely. Runners may run for charities to get a bib number, but those runners that are the obsessive, devout distance runners want to qualify; it validates their being there.

To run in Boston, to finish, is to reach the end of a religious journey. Once you have done it, no one can take that away from you. The race on Monday was defiled by a senseless act and the entire community responded by coming together to rebuke the attack.

While many other people around the world wondered why a community would be so outraged by an act that injured relatively few in the view of the world, the running community of the world understood. New York City understood. London ran its marathon the next weekend and they understood. It was not just an affront to a group of people running for 26.2 miles, it was a community coming together to support people running for various causes, fundraisers, and the memories of loved ones. It was a city supporting those people running for all of those reasons, whether the people watching and cheering knew the reasons or not. THAT was the reason for the anger and outrage.

What happened on that Monday was a despicable act, perpetrated by ignorant, hate-filled individuals. The people of Boston showed that they will not waiver in their support of that city’s marathon. The Boston Marathon is THE marathon, and that will never change.

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Buy Local. Buy Lemonade.

Not too long ago I was walking to the post office and found some young entrepreneurs hawking their wares on the public square. Yes four girls were selling lemonade on a bright, sunny late summer day. Their chaperone was standing a few feet away, supervising their capitalistic endeavor. I had the privilege to be their first customer, gladly paying the sum of fifty cents for a refreshing taste of their product.

The girls had beckoned me to their stand like a barker at the fairgrounds. The fact that I stopped sent them into a near frenzy. Apparently the prospect that they could actually make some money had not really occurred to them. They scurried to decide who would do what: pour the lemonade, hold the cup, and collect the money. For their first sale, it came together quite quickly, with a little help from their supervisor.

Following the transaction, I posted a picture of their “pop-up” to twitter, just to aid their cause. I have no idea how the rest of their day went, but I know I got my money’s worth. I was only too happy to let the world of social media in on my little discovery.

Now granted, I was not thirsty. There are times in life where we all do things just because it is the right thing to do; supporting a youth sport, helping a stranger in distress, offering a kind word to brighten someone’s day. The fact is, if I can make four kids giddy over setting up a lemonade stand to earn a little money and make memories that will last a lifetime, my fifty cents spent that day was possibly the best fifty cents I had spent in many years.

Lemonade

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End Of An Era

After all of my years working on Martha’s Vineyard, I can count on one hand the number of clients that I can still call my “regulars”, those whom I can anticipate seeing whenever they find their way to the island, since my first season. Today that number decreased by one. Mike Wallace, a Vineyard summer resident for more years than many can remember, died last night. Though the Wallace property was sold last year, it is only now that people will come to the realization that an era has come to and end on Main Street in Vineyard Haven.

I must first say that it is not customary for me to invoke the names of my clients, out of a sense of professionalism. But “Mike”, as he insisted on being called, as opposed to “Mr. Wallace”, had a candid demeanor about him and he was responsible for several generations of his extended family, as well as many of his friends, becoming my clients. Truth be told, I always addressed him as “sir”. While I believe it was also Mike’s way to address many people with whom he spoke, whenever he greeted me with a “good to see you, my friend”, I also believe it was genuine and heartfelt.

While exchanging general pleasantries was usually the extent of our conversation, the usual goings on about town was a topic that often came up. Seasonal residents have an entire winter’s worth of changes to catch up on when they first arrive; new businesses that have opened, old ones that have closed, houses that have sold, etc. For many years Mike would leave my office at the end of my work day and he would say that he had a Sopranos episode to watch with “Bill and Artie”.

Often Mike would walk into the office without an appointment scheduled, asking “would Jason happen to have any time for me today?” I could hear his unmistakable voice in the office every time. I grew up watching “60 Minutes” and he was an American institution. Still, I never had the impression that he had an air of entitlement when dealing with him. It was interesting to watch the reactions of other clients that happened to be in the office when Mike was; they were almost always speechless and star-struck. The rapport Mike and I had was professional, but certainly more familiar than formal.

Of all the “notable” clients I have had over the years, Mike endeared himself to me on more levels than many, if not all, of the other such clients. He had that ability with most people he met, I believe, judging by what I witnessed over the years. I feel that it was his ability to be genuine and frank; no pretense, no hidden agenda. While many clients that I have worked with over the years can barely remember my first name, Mike knew my full name.

One time I was chatting with someone on the sidewalk in front of my office in Vineyard Haven when Mike approached me. He explained that he had left he wallet at the house and needed to pick-up lunch; would I be able to front him some money that he could repay when he came in later that day? Certainly, “how much”, I asked. I ended up fronting him a fin, which he promptly returned later that day, when he came in for a session. The person with whom I had been speaking was left speechless. Priceless.

For the two winters I worked in New York City, commuting back and forth every week, Mike was a client there as well. A chance meeting with his wife Mary on the Upper West Side one day made the city seem more like the Vineyard, if only for a moment. Still, it was always summers on Martha’s Vineyard where the Wallace clan would be able to escape and just relax in true Vineyard style.

Now there seems to be a chapter ending for our little island. The “Possible Dreams Auction” has lost the celebrities that were institutions at the annual summer event. Many of the clients I looked forward to catching up with each season will no longer be returning to Martha’s Vineyard. There have been thousands of clients passing through my office over seasons past; hundreds became regulars for a period of time. A few dozen have remained seasonal clients, returning for ever shorter periods of time as the years pass. In all sincerity, I can say without hesitation, that there will only be one Mike Wallace, and he shall be missed.

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Once Upon An Island

It has been a short fourteen years of living on Martha’s Vineyard. What amounts to more than a third of my life has flown by at a speed that I can scarcely imagine that it actually happened. During my time living here I have been witness to so many changes; people, stores, laws, economies, fortunes. I have grown older, hopefully wiser, definitely maturing as a result. As I traverse the island on occasion, my memory recounts the changes, obvious and sublime.

I celebrated a rather subdued New Year’s Eve, swapping memories and anecdotes with a few friends. I recalled the “Get A Life Café”, Louis added that he owned what is now “Zephrus” on Main Street in Vineyard Haven before opening “Louis’”. We all commented on the bed & breakfast “Martha’s Place” just up the street, now a private residence. Yes, many of the businesses had changed hands or disappeared over the years; the Red Cat Café, The Feast of Chilmark, Bowl & Board, The Ice House, etc.

Most of the businesses changed hands, others just closed. Still others suffered from the financial downturn that currently afflicts the nation, even though we felt the pinch a bit sooner than the rest of the nation, as our economy is based on a resort economy, for better or worse. I noticed the difference back in the 2005 season. All of the numbers were down, not just with my business, but with the majority of shopkeepers I spoke with concurred. The previous five or six seasons had been so strong, there was really nowhere to go but down. The vibe of the island changed back after the 2001 season, after the September 11th attacks. The Clintons were not the summer regulars they had been, a new sobriety set a pall over extravagant vacationing, and once the financial collapse happened, the season shortened significantly.

My first season on Martha’s Vineyard, I paid $22 one way to get my car to the island. There was “guaranteed stand-by”, meaning if you were in line to get your car on the ferry, they would run ferries until the line was empty, weather permitting. Even though gasoline was not cheap on island, it was less than $3/gallon. I used less than a tank of fuel the entire season, riding my bike everywhere. I didn’t own anything on island other than my car, I was free of debt, and I was free to travel; a twenty-something with endless opportunities. The island was an idyllic paradise, an endless summer. Reality was a swift and cruel harbinger of the future; the end of summer.

They say that all good things must end. On Martha’s Vineyard many feel that happens at the end of every season. Others feel that the end of the season is just the beginning of another season. The only real constant, in my opinion, is change. Time waits for no one, but in our memories we cherish all that we hold dear. Living on this island I have gathered memories of people, places, and things that I will never forget, both happy and sad. To be a part of a place where so many others travel to just to be a part of for even a short period of time is very unique.

What are your memories? What was something that you remember so well that no longer exists? Whether it involves the original Humphrey’s location up island or a romantic weekend at an inn that is no more, the memories are yours to recall and share.

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The Brooklyn Chronicles, Part 5 (A Weekend in Connecticut)

(Originally posted 10/30/2007)

While I may be writing this series chronicling my transitional move and daily strife, I mean life, inBrooklyn, there must also be the contrast of my time away from the city, as that time has become that much sweeter. Although I had to again endure many hours on trains, both MTA and Amtrak, I knew that a much anticipated respite awaited me inConnecticut. Nearly two full days without having to deal with clients, scheduling, or business in general was something I had not had since sometime in May, over six months ago. Still, I had plenty to do and I could at least spend some of that time with my parents, who I had also not seen since May.

Fall has always been my favorite season. The fall foliage and the crisp air stirs memories of returning to classes at school, the end of the hot summer days and, because I grew up in a farming community, harvest-time from the local orchards and farms. Just driving around the towns that have always been so familiar to me was comforting, but to see all of the fall colors framing the countryside was exhilarating. To try and explain what it means for me to buy apple cider from Clyde’s or apples from Holmberg’s would be like explaining buying bagels in Brooklyn to a New Yorker. Each person has a special ritual or memory that they revive when they have the opportunity. The fall harvest of apples in Connecticut is mine.

The train into New London would meet my parents’ ferry from Fisher’sIsland, but I had a good half hour to stare at a glorious full moon on a rather mild evening for late October. I enjoyed the quiet time and took solace in the absence of sirens, which seem to be ever present in the city. When the ferry finally did arrive, it was well past 8 PM and it was a short drive home. The odd fact that both my parents and I spend the majority of our time on islands is simple irony. We might be a family of people seeking solitude perhaps, but we are a family none the less.

Of the many tasks on my to-do list over the two days, the one shopping for furniture was the most bittersweet. It was not that I had to spend the money that I do not have that was irksome, but rather the reason I was buying it. I had lost everything in a house fire and either had to replace everything by the second anniversary or lose the depreciation money from the insurance company. While I may be furnishing my home with some wonderful things, I would much rather have back what I had lost. Even after I had selected so many pieces, the task of measuring the spaces in my home would prevent me from completing any part of this tedious task.

Unbeknownst to me, my mother would be attending a graveside memorial service for someone I had known. In a town as small as ours, it is not whether you know someone, but instead how well you knew them. In this case, we knew the family better than the person. A short service on a yet another glorious fall day made the service easier in every way. A fall funeral somehow seems more appropriate than those at other times. Perhaps that is just my opinion.

Over the years, my family has gone through times where we would eat meals together on a regular basis, but in more recent years it happens mainly on holidays. On this rare occasion, there were more of us there than not. We could eat our fill, give each other a hard time then finish by recounting our most recent travails. I had the experiences on the subway system to tell, including the gestures and expressions that had accompanied the subjects of the tale. Finally, we would plan our week ahead and see where our paths and plans would cross or mingle. An evening that could hardly be surpassed by one riding the 4/5 Train back to Brooklyn during the rush hour.

The next day began with a trip to one of the local banks to closeout yet another of my dwindling accounts. Long dormant and rather paltry in size, it still took longer than it should have to close it out. No matter, as the money was already spent, as all of the money I will be making for many years to come has already been appropriated for accounts I owe. If only those people that owe me money would settle-up, I would not be in such financial despair.

Speaking of settling-up, it was time to pay the mechanic for the work done on the infamous Honda. Totaling over $1100.00, the work solved the problems that had weighed heavily on my mind during the long drive fromConnecticutto theCape. While it did not make the car any more presentable, the repairs would get me where I needed to go. As I drove away from the shop, all I could do was to try and convince myself that the car would now last much longer than I would have a use for it. Either that or that it would last until I could afford to buy another car, one with air conditioning.

I decided to drive over to my house, the one I rent to tenants. The tenants fall into the category of those individuals owing me money. Rather than seeing if they were home, I simply spent a few minutes walking around the house, taking note of the trim that I would need to paint in the spring. I had lived in the house for several years, working on it and rehabilitating the long-neglected home until I had decided to return to college for yet another degree. The income from the house paid for more than just books. Now it was barely holding its own. Although there may be different tenants and it may be different times, it is still the same house.

Ending the day by driving to the train station is not really any sort of comfort. I remember a similar ritual during my college days, when I would drive home on weekends. That drive was more enjoyable, as I looked forward to my time in college classes. The current travel has become more travail, as I hardly know what the next day will bring. As I waited for the train at the station in Old Saybrook, I thought back over the past few days and took solace in the fact that I do have my family to back me up in my current situation, as best they can, however they are able. That knowledge gives me hope that I will make it through the next few months with my sanity intact.

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Week of Reflection

This next week there will most likely be a number of religious services, ceremonies, vigils, etc. These organized events will be well attended by many people; some that may have lost loved ones, others that feel remorse, a few that will go just because they feel the need to show respect. Yes, this week will mark the ten year anniversary of the September 11th attacks by religious extremists that vowed to destroy or change our way of life. I will not be attending any of these events. Instead I will use this week for personal reflection.

Depending how well you know me, you will either know how I feel about religion or you will not. Basically, I study the Tao Te Ching. It is not a religion. It is a philosophy. The Tao is a collection of principles that apply to nature and the way things work in nature. To judge me based on the fact that I might defy your religion would be to admit your own ignorance to accept the beliefs of another, which is what brought the September 11th attacks to us in the first place; think about that.

So, this week I will disconnect. I will not be on twitter. I will not post on facebook. I will not be texting, sending instant messages or email. Instead, I will use all of that time that I would spend on that digital media reflecting on things; past, present and future. I will consider people that I have lost to violence, illness, and time. I will take hold of the memories of I have of those people and not forget what they brought to my life; the good, the bad, the thoughts and feelings.

Sometimes we live life at such a speed that we forget to live in the moment. Every now and again we lose sight of the fact that just because we have all of these digital forms of communication, we are not really in touch. Take some time this week to get in touch; with those that matter to you, those you have lost touch with, and especially yourself. There is no person more important in your life than you. Reflect upon that.

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Box ‘O Rain

I’m not a very sentimental person when it comes to “stuff”. You know, the remnants of projects started but never finished, the awards for achievements from back in high school and favorite clothes that are worn out or no longer fit, they all find their way to the circular file. A few years ago, fate lent a helping hand and I had a house fire that wiped my slate clean, taking everything that I had accumulated, without prejudice. The few things that I was able to salvage were personal cards and letters from family and friends collected over my life.

The fact that I ever saved such things would most likely surprise those people responsible for sending those cards and letters, as I am notorious for my fastidious elimination of all that I no longer consider useful to me in some way. So, after filtering through the remains of the fire, I managed to recover a few boxes I had labeled “memories”. The contents were transferred to a box that was not charred or reek of smoke and promptly placed on a storage shelf.

The box has moved many times, from my temporary home, to my re-built home and from one area of the house to another as I have continued to finish the construction of the house. Still, I have never gone through the box and re-read the contents. I already know what all of the contents have to say. I merely need to the box and the memories all flood back into a collage of words and pictures, people that have passed through my life, or rather I through theirs, whatever the case might have been. There are no secrets in their, at least not to me. Nor are their any regrets. There are however, lessons that I have learned.

The life I have led thus far have been one of an apparition, moving from one place to another every two years, until I landed at my current location. I had been changing careers and collecting degrees, licenses, certifications and life experiences. Every now and again I would meet someone that I could classify as a friend. Less often I would meet someone that would become more than a friend. Only once had I actually lived with someone that was not a member of my family, but that tale is for another time.

All of the letters, cards, and personal notes that this box contains I consider to be threads that have constructed the very fabric of my being. That is not to say that the pieces from the box could complete the puzzle that has been my life, but rather that they are only fragments that cannot be completed without the related correspondence from the other party. Only within my own mind can the picture be completed, and that is still a work in progress.

Today was a rainy, dreary day. I already had decided that I needed to straighten up the garage, where tools from spring projects had been co-mingled with items marked for storage. It was during that cleaning process that the aforementioned box once again stared down at me from its perch on a shelf. I needed to move it, but I also felt the urge just to peer inside for a moment, just to remind myself where I had been.

Her handwriting was unmistakable, an artist’s script that addressed the letters to the places I had lived over the years of our time of correspondence. I did not open the envelopes, as I only needed to see the dates of the postmarks. My secluded, minimalist life, wandering and confusing those that tried to engage me in conversation beyond the civil exchange, but especially her. I had ended a relationship that had become so dark, only to find one that was so blindingly bright and effusive that I sabotaged it. I can look back and say that now, but at that time I was just avoiding anything that would challenge my freedom. That is not to say that we would have ever had anything more than a few more years together, but I neglected to see what I was doing at the time. She saw it, however and sent me back all that I had written to her to show me what I had done; smart girl. She taught me something. Lesson learned.

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