Errors and Exposition

Upon publishing my post on The Big E, it was kindly pointed out that I was woefully mistaken in my facts. Thankfully, this individual, you know who you are, was nice enough not to expose me entirely for being such a knucklehead. I had mistakenly said that it was a five-state fair, even misquoting my beloved in the process apparently. This meant that I had inadvertently left out that miniscule slice of American land, Rhode Island. What kind of idiot forgets Rhode Island? Forgive me Rhode Islanders, but I hope all that ardent group of workers at the fair’s state house turned the lights out when they left (don’t miss the dark sarcasm). The entire state population barely passes one million, so a few small cracks are in order. I can’t imagine how I missed it; we ate clam cakes from there for heaven’s sake. However, all is corrected and New England is rightly denoted.

Miner Keri is on the case!

I forgot to mention that when we returned we were the victims of a sudden blackout. Fortunately, Ali and Keri leapt into action and within minutes had the entire place alight with strategically placed candles. Although my favorite part of the episode was miner Keri wandering around the apartment locating the candles. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but Keri with a lamp fixed to her head certainly has more currency. The blackout didn’t last too long, just long enough to stymie Ali’s ability to watch one of her favorite shows, Mystery on PBS. Being the nice boyfriend that I am, I made sure I caught the repeat and taped it for her.

Beyond that Life has begun to settle down a bit for me in New England. Ali and I were able to spend the majority of the weekend rearranging our living quarters to better accommodate the both of us. It took a bit longer than she would have liked, but things are significantly more comfortable. The boxes are gone! I know that will be hard for many of you who were witness to the way I lived the last few years, but believe it. There is nary a box adorning our bedroom to be seen, any longer. Plus, we were able to expand our closet space, which was sorely needed.

Zerbert

With Keri and Zerbert off in New Jersey, winterizing the cabin, we were able to ransack the whole place while reconstructing. This is, by the way, the first mention of the irrepressible canine Zerbert. I have to admit I wasn’t sure of what to think about this dog with a barely functioning set of legs, but she has grown on me since my arrival. Ultimately, I have become convinced; she is pretty cute. Apparently the admiration is mutual, since she bores a whole through me with her fixed gaze. Both Ali and Keri are already thinking I might be spending a bit too much time with little Zerbert. Now that she has got her mug published for all to see, I had better get a few more pics of Ali posted, lest she grow more jealous.

Finally, Happy Birthday to Vince who officially crossed the threshold of the mighty thirties. I am not sure it makes you an adult yet or not, but it is certainly a lot closer!

…It’s a Six-State Fair!

Welcome fine, fair patrons!

This weekend presented me with a distinct taste of New England, as Ali, Keri, and I headed to Springfield, Massachusetts, for The Big E (Every state in the union must have a Springfield!). What’s The Big E, you might be asking? Well, it is a fair celebrating the offerings of all that is New England. Complete with carnival rides, 4-H livestock shows, and enough fried food to give you a grabber before you make it back to your car, it has all the captivation and kitsch you can handle. Moreover, it is an event for which the Terwedow sisters are passionate, perennial patrons.

You can listen tunes by the mechanical band. They have real bands too.

As Ali likes to say, “It’s not just state fair. It’s a six-state fair!” This would lead many of you to believe that it is a huge event. Alas, remember how the size of the states we are talking about. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island could all probably fit in the state of Illinois. Thus, the size was not as overwhelming as I had imagined it would be. The whole thing could have been contained within the confines of McCormick Place. Yet, this event is mainly outside.

However, each state is proudly represented by a replica of their state house. They line a short street in the site’s compound. Tourist information abounds, as well as loads of local vendors hawking their goods. Most notable are: Vermont’s own Ben & Jerry’s, Connecticut’s Timex booth, Maine’s never-ending line for loaded baked potatoes, and maple flavored syrup and candy from nearly every state. Aside from being ridiculously crowded, even twenty minutes after the gates opened, the houses offered all kinds of interesting ways to separate you from your money.

This way to the éclairs!

Of course food is the real draw. Vastly outdoing most food fests I have attended, The Big E is the kind of junk-food binge that has you on a daylong bender before you know it; sending you home pumped up with enough grease and chemicals to induce a weeks worth of liver quiver. Nevertheless, we soldiered on and did our duty, partaking in éclairs the size of our heads, bags of fried clam cakes, and apple slices swimming in caramel. That was just some of our walking around food. We had to eat meals too! Although Keri and Ali have a particular desire for one of the grossest concoctions I have seen; it was a kind of runny faux blueberry-cheesecake in a nearly-flat graham-like cone covered in whip cream. It is essentially air and sugar, amazingly in a semi-liquid form. After one bite, I thought I was going to need a foot-long corndog just to recover.

The whole day was a happy reprieve from the Red Sox, who after clawing to within two-and-a-half games of the Yankees, got drubbed the day before by double digits. That game heralded a three game slide that was ended Tuesday. Thank God! Despite the fact that they are in easy position to win the wild-card, the danger of overtaking the division has all but been dashed. The Bronx Boys will make the trip to Boston this coming weekend, so things will definitely be colorful around here. By comparison, the Cubs and White Sox antipathy in Chicago is a grammar school grudge, Bears and Packers approaches high school hostility, but neither even comes close to the animosity that Red Sox Nation, as locals call themselves, feels for the “Evil Empire,” also a local reference. I think “Yankees Suck” t-shirts are issued to students in the public schools. However, that is just training. For the hardcore-select Yankee haters donning such slogans as “Posada is a Little Bitch” and “Jeter Sucks A-Rod” are readily available outside Fenway. It’s all a far cry from my more recent favorite White Sox bashing t-shirt of Frank Thomas, in a dress, lovingly entitled “The Big Skirt!”

Week Four Round-upand Back in Real Time

Birthday presents and mojitos!

Finally, I have caught up to real time with the tale of my beginnings in New England. Week four got off to a grand start, Ali and I zipped down to her family’s cabin in New Jersey to join her family for a belated birthday celebration of sorts. Both her Dad and her sister Keri had recently ticked off another annum a while back and it was high time there were some festivities taking place. The weather was fantastic and we had a grand time. Since the cabin is governed by fairly strict rules, like no television (although this has been slightly relaxed over the years, apparently), our main entertainment was the ancient art of conversation. Truth be told, I spent a lot of time reading, myself. Quick, catch your breath from the shock of that statement! There also is a lake down the road, where we spent some time. We played games and Ali’s brothers Willie and Nik-Nik can be a bit of a handful, as well as quite entertaining in and of themselves.

Ali and I headed back Boston way late Sunday afternoon, since she had to work on Labor Day. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to work like a fiend on holidays, so she didn’t have to race in first thing. That was nice, because we had a kind of half-holiday. From that point, the week seemed to fly by, especially with the NFL kicking it off. Being that the Patriots were in the first game things were all abuzz ‘round here.

Keri getting a birthday smooch!

I talked with my main man Dave, in Indianapolis, that day. Now that the world-champion Patriots are my local club, he proudly proclaimed, “We are going to kick you ass, tonight!” To which I replied, “Not likely.” This proved to be more truth than fiction. Of course, the beauty of this exchange is that Dave pays almost no attention to football. Hell, he doesn’t even own a television. Yet, we delighted in the growing rivalry of our representative teams. It was pretty good game, strangely reminiscent of last season’s AFC Championship tilt. I have to say, being a huge sports fan, it is kind of fun to know I’ll be watching a team that is more likely to win every week. After a decade of Bears teams that suck and do not look like they will be getting better anytime soon (losing to the Lions at home, when they haven’t won on the road in three years!), it is a definite change of pace. Think Chicago in the late ‘80’s when there was an expectation that we would win the division every year and have chance at the whole thing.

Red tongues from Italian ices.

Although, what I am hoping for is a Red Sox and Cubs World Series, again. It looks like my new team is going to have a shot. The Cubs are having some troubles. I must have jinxed them. I said to Ali before I got out here, when the Cubs had just got Nomar and were clearly on track to win the Wild Card, “You do realize that this could be a short lived stay in Boston. I am going to leave, the Cubs are going to win the World Series, and the Apocalypse will be upon us.” I should have known better, but a boy can dream.

On a side note, I just found out that my friend Angela had a little baby boy! Aidan was born on August 31. He is quite cute as the photo will attest. So, congratulations are definitely in order for her and Joe. Good work you two.

Week Three Wrap-up

Base of the trail

I spent most of my third week on my computer purging a lot of old unused files and reorganizing things. More than that, I was hacking away at this site and boning up on my dusty coding skills. I hadn’t concentrated on the site for a long time. Plus, I was going through the process getting the domain registered and set-up for the big launch. Unfortunately, there were a few snags in the works that delayed things. Other than that I was laboriously reviewing my code, tweaking things here and there, and trying to make sure I was producing good valid documents using proper Web Standards, but that’s enough of that.

Ali's brothers

I was still scooting around my new hometown and getting the lay of the land. I finally started doing some of the basic things, like changing over stuff and such. Of course being the bookworm that I am, I headed to the Waltham Public Library and got myself a card. There is a fantastic irony about the local library, however. After Ali’s first moved to Waltham she discovered that a distant family member worked at the library for years. Neither she nor her sister aware of the connection at all, until the name of the town prompted someone’s memory. Interestingly, both sides of her family pretty much hail from New Jersey despite having migrated all over in recent years. So, it was pretty much a surprise that of all the towns in the Boston area, a relation had beaten them to their own.

View from a vista

However, the peak of the week (pun deviously intended) was hiking Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Ali’s dad and I packed up her little brothers and headed for the hills before they ventured back into the classroom. Apparently, it is a very popular summit in the New England area. Rumor has it Monadnock is the second most hiked peak in the world, but I don’t have any verification on that and probably doubt it. Regardless, this is not a hike for the weak.

The Crew

Having hiked extensively as an adolescent, I’ve spent time in the Rockies and along the Appalachian Trail. Anybody that has hike in both areas can relate to the enormous difference in ruggedness between East and West. Out West most of the mountains are higher but switchbacks climb you up to the peak. Usually they grade everything so that for every 100 feet you run the rise in elevation is only 10 feet. So, it takes a lot longer but the climb isn’t at all dangerous. In the East, the trails just head right up the side of the mountains. There is no method other than the straightest path to the peak. Even though the summits don’t reach as high, hiking in Appalachia resembles mountain climbing at times. It is rugged and borders on dangerous, at times. Mount Monadnock is no exception. There are a number of trails of varying difficulty, but they are all rock strewn ascents that require all your appendages working, as the pictures will attest. Ali’s rubber-legged brothers had no problem scaling the first half like a couple of mountain goats. However, on the way back down they started to run out of gas. It turned out to be a great day as the fog burned off and overall it was great fun.

Nik-Nik running on top of the summit

In looking up some things on the mountain, I discovered the origins of the word monadnock, which is rather interesting. A Native American word meaning “mountain that stands alone,” it makes perfect sense that the Chicago building bears its name. The Monadnock Building was the first skyscraper in Chicago, when it was built. Constructed with pre-skyscraper technology, all 16 stories rise from the street completely supported by brick. No steel reinforcements were used as a rule, yet. Thus, the walls grow thinner as all that masonry surges in the air. At the base the walls are 6 feet thick, making this an impressive throwback to turn-of-the-century architecture. It is a building that certainly would have looked like a mountain that stood alone, when it was built. It really is a beautiful building. I have been in it a number of times to visit my friend Bill who has an office there.

Notes from Week Two

Apologies for the ribbon of pictures at the bottom of the last post, I’ll see if I can make the visuals a bit more stylish to come.

The first few days were a bit rough. A week before the move, I had wrenched my back similarly as I did in November while preparing to play Macbeth. This time it wasn’t nearly as bad, but on top of the move the timing couldn’t have been too much worse. Needless to say, I was still tender for the load and drive. By the time we had unloaded the truck all day on the 15th, I was hurting again. That meant pretty minimal activity on the settling front. Plus, with the school year rapidly approaching, I had to get on the stick looking for a teaching gig. Much to my chagrin, my endeavors to secure a position molding the youth of America have bore no fruit. It took the better part of the first week to even unpack the essentials.

Week two began with some investigation of my new surroundings. So here are some details of local color. We are in Waltham, MA, which is about 10 miles west outside Boston, along the Charles River. Most notably it is known as home of Brandeis University. However, the Waltham Watch Company, started in 1854 and lasting until 1957, made it known as “Watch City.”

For just over a century, the company was a maker of finely crafted timepieces and became particularly innovative in its manufacturing practices. They were so pioneering that after Henry Ford visited their plant he incorporated many of their methods into his assembly-line process for automobiles. More interesting than that, however, is the fact that Waltham was home to the Boston Manufacturing Company. This makes the town essentially the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. Imagine that! The Boston Manufacturing Company, a textile company founded in 1813, was the first factory where all processes that carried raw cotton to finished cloth were completed mechanically in a single mill. The building still stands right where the train and bus drop-off is, between the Waltham Common and the Charles River. In fact, there is a dam that is visible from the main drag in the town, Moody Street, which the company once used to power the looms. Most of you know I like to know a little about where I am and such. So, having the opportunity to explore a little was a good way to get my history fix. Plus, since I’ve been free during the day, looking for a job, Ali and her sister Keri have been giving me research assignments. I get to do the dirty work of finding answers to all the history questions they have had and not had the chance to find on their own.

At the conclusion of week two, we spent a good chunk of the day at Crane Beach, up the northern coast on the Castle Neck, in Ipswich, near Cape Anne. Cape Anne is up Gloucester way, the centuries old fishing town and site of Perfect Storm fame, among other well-known references. It was a really nice beach. Named after Chicagoan Richard T. Crane, Jr., no less, he was a turn of the century industrialist who summered in Northern Mass. He was a Yale grad with a lot of New York friends, but apparently was not interested in building in Newport, RI, like everyone else. Apparently, Junior took his dad’s Crane Company from a brass foundry and built it into a giant manufacturer of bathroom fixtures, valves, and steam engines. He must have been a bit of a robber baron. He built one mansion on the property, decided he didn’t like it, and hired then world famous architect David Adler to tear it down and build another one that still stands. After his wife died, she donated half of their 4000 acres to the public. The other half got donated after their son punched out in the sixties. Now it’s all a National Landmark.

Of course I, in all my intelligence, thought, “It’s a cool day. This is New England, and much further north than Chicago. I don’t need to use any sunscreen immediately.” Well, needless to say, that was an extremely stupid notion to have crowded my melon. Despite putting the lotion on a bit later and actually getting out of the sun at some point earlier than Ali and Keri, I paid the price. My back got progressively redder from the burn as the night wore on and by morning I was one hurtin’ dumb-ass! You’d think I would know better. The only good thing was that despite the burn, my back started to feel a whole lot better.

From Chicago to Boston

Picking up the truck.

I left for Massachusetts three weeks ago to the day. For those of you that were unaware here is the catch-up. After a long-distance romance that reunited me with my high school sweetheart closed in on a year’s length, I picked up and moved across the country so we could be together. Some wondered “What took so long?” and others responded more on the order of “You’re moving?” Nevertheless, Ali and I became serious enough that someone moving was inevitable. My moving was the path of least resistance, while satiating a bit of my long-buried wanderlust. So, now I am “Live from New England.”

Ready to hit the road.

First, I couldn’t have done it without the help of a small group of great people (You know who you are!). Thanks again to everybody who helped. This group includes anyone who helped with packing or took various items off my hands, so as they required no packing. I am extremely grateful to those that helped pack the truck, considering it was a weeknight and I was slightly overwhelmed with all the necessities. Yet, only three weeks ago Ali and I jumped in the U-haul, destination Bay State.

Coffee for the road. Day 2.

The drive took a bit longer than either of us would have liked, but we still managed to have as much fun as we could. We started the trek after the morning rush, since loading the truck took us well into the prior evening. Of course we got completely hung-up by the parking lot known as Interstate 80/94. Anybody that has ever had the pleasure of sitting on that godforsaken stretch of pavement will have just sighed in sympathy. Note that I was driving a 15 foot box-truck while dragging my Maxima in tow. Fast forward a few hours and we were cruising down the Ohio Turnpike. By the way, anyone traveling that ribbon of asphalt is treated to some of the nicest oasis stops in the nation. Passing through approximately five minutes of rain the whole leg, we pulled off in wonderful Barkeyville, Pennsylvania to lodge for the night at 11:00 PM EST. Combined with the weight, speed capabilities of our transport, and pit stops we were only to average about 55 mph. We ended the first day just shy of the half-way mark.

New American Gothic.

Road-tripping always renders the greatest opportunity to meet the most interesting people. On the dawn of day two, we had the pleasure of encountering an elderly couple from Little Rock, Arkansas. On the surface they were quite cute. They made the trip back to PA for the gentleman’s 60th high school reunion (How about that?!). Being a magnet for the social folk, these two took a shine to me and Ali immediately. That’s when everything took an amusing turn. The woman began chit-chatting about the weather. Hurricane Charley was the news of the day, if you’ll remember, so the television was abuzz with weather reports. That’s when she dropped the first comment that charmed my feminist girlfriend to no end. Mentioning those media-savvy meteorologists, the lady mused, “They (the weather reporters) sure think they know what they’re talking about, even the women.” Quite frankly, I was a bit surprised Ali didn’t pull a spit take with her coffee, but she really didn’t have time. The hits just kept coming from these sincere, sympathizing seniors.

Safely in Waltham, MA.

After learning we had come from Chicago, the older man proudly let me know, “I served with a bunch of boys from Chicago, in the War. They were all Polocks.” At this point, Ali jumped up to get more food and I seized the moment as a teaching tool, explaining how the Polish population in Chicago is greater than any other city with the exception of Warsaw. This and questioning them about their trip seemed to stabilize conversation for a short time. Yet the old lady had one last obscure ethnocentric tangent to weave into the conversation. She mentioned they had taken a local coal mine tour. Here was the topper! “Did you know that most of the coal that is mined here in the States is shipped off to China. I don’t like sending things to China. You know we sent a lot of scrap metal to Japan before they bombed us at Pearl Harbor.” At this point, all conversation seemed to screech to a halt as Ali busily tried to pick her jaw up, as it had dropped from the table, to her chair, and landed with an almost audible thud on the floor. Meanwhile, I was doing everything I could to stifle a welling laughter that nearly brought me to tears. It is safe to say that the last comment effectively ended our meal together. Once Ali had found and managed to reconstruct her talker, she screwed her eyes on her watch, and curtly but politely supposed “We should probably get on the road.” Not realizing we were breakfasting with the Bunker’s kicked the day off with fodder for a number jokes that traveled with us most of the second day.

All told, it took about twenty hours to complete our crossing to the coast, give or take an hour or two. So, pulling into Massachusetts around 7:30 PM EST was welcome relief. We dined with the Boston contingent of Ali’s family, took in some of the Olympics, and crashed for the night.

New home amidst the boxes.

First thing next morning, the unpacking began. With the help of Ali’s dad, step-mom, and younger brothers, we removed nearly all items on the truck marked for storage and headed for the homestead. Nearly all day was spent unloading that mobile crate into a space about half the size of my previous residence. Looking at the pictures below, one can appreciate my mild amusement with this reality. Truth told it is no doubt cozy, but not really problematic. As most of you know, I am capable of living out of boxes for long stretches of time. So, a few weeks of upheaval is nothing.

Hope you enjoy the pics. I have to say I think Ali did a great job of chronicling the voyage.

More to come…