Monday, July 29, 2013

The end of my 3 week trip North in June …

After 4 days in NY City I grabbed the Amtrak back to Dutchess County to spend my last 2 days with my daughter and her husband. I knew we wouldn’t have too much time together since it was the end of the week and their business, Bowen Barn, is open on weekends only and I was leaving early Sunday to come home. But I love visiting their shop and was anxious to see how Jody had highlighted the two little chairs that I had painted for them. As usual she did a great job.

Jody is constantly changing and updating the rooms … which is quite a task when you consider that it’s a converted cow barn on three levels ! Here is another room that she “staged”…

Both of them are very artistic and their shop is a reflection of their talents. She has a great sense of design and Brian does amazing things with metal, as demonstrated by this 6 foot armillary.
   And this large bell that he fashioned from a discarded oxygen tank.
It has the loveliest tone, deep and reverberating and if you close your eyes you would swear you were in Italy. 

So that wraps up my 3 week trip. It went by too quickly but I came home with some lovely memories that will last a lifetime !

Thursday, July 25, 2013

We have a choice …

On my recent trip North I turned on the radio and was interested to hear Scott Simon, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, interviewing the author Martha Grimes and her son Ken. They have collaborated on a book called Double Trouble which is a memoir of their two lives as alcoholics.

I listened carefully to their words and found them disturbing. Here is a small part of the dialogue:

“SIMON: And towards the end of this book, you folks raise an almost startling question, which is: Is sobriety worth it?

K. GRIMES: Well, yeah. I mean, if you consider, is being alive worth it? I mean, I'd be dead if I wasn't sober. So that's a pretty simple answer there.

SIMON: So, what's it like for you now every day? …

M. GRIMES: Well, now there is this emptiness that has to be filled, and I haven't found a way to fill it. But I'm not really worried that I'll go back to drinking. And when I think of one drink, I don't stop thinking of one drink. I go to the second drink and the third and the fourth, and I know what's going to happen. That's the only thing that keeps me sober.”

Isn’t that sad? I couldn’t help but compare my sober life with theirs and it made me so glad that I chose to go the AA route. I have to admit, though, that I didn’t feel that way in the beginning. My attitude was one of distrust and arrogance. I couldn’t imagine what this strange group of mismatched people in the AA meetings could possibly teach me. Then I read these words by Herbert Spencer: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance …that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

Those words literally changed my life. I decided to give AA a try and it’s turned out to be one of the best choices I’ve made in my lifetime. Among other things I’ve learned that the way to fill that emptiness that Ms. Grimes spoke of in the interview was to get out of myself and to help others who were struggling. It’s like a magic potion … it always works !


Sunday, July 21, 2013

One last memory of the "Big Apple"

One of the things that all of us in AA enjoy is attending meetings all over the world. It is very comforting to know that they are basically the same wherever we go and no matter what language is spoken. So………with that in mind I decided to look for a morning meeting that would be near Penn Station. I wanted one last view of Times Square and it was also where I would catch the Amtrak train.

The directions led me to a pretty run-down building on 42nd street. I knew it was on the 3rd floor so when I saw a young guy waiting at the elevator I asked him if this was the way to the AA meeting. He glared at me and nearly bit my head off but at least his angry answer was “Yes”.

I followed him and, as soon as we entered the room I realized that this was a “no-nonsense” group. There were no frills … just 5 rows of folding chairs and the usual literature and slogans on display. It was quite a small group but their welcome was warm and I felt “at home” right away.

The first 15 minutes an elegant lady in her 70’s shared her story. She had enjoyed a successful career as an actress until alcohol got the better of her. She recalled passing out on stage in front of a packed audience and lying about the cause of it. When it happened again she could no longer pretend it was anything but drunkenness and she was fired. This wasn’t enough to stop her from drinking however and it was a downward spiral until she came to the rooms of AA in 1975. She’s been sober ever since and, after 4 years in the program, she married a man, also a member of AA, who had directed one of her plays years before !

After her talk each person was asked to give their sobriety date and to share a bit. Since there were only 10 of us we had plenty of time. I loved the fact that the audience was a cross section of humanity…from the requisite old codger in blue jeans to a handsome man who could have come straight from the board room. Oh, and the angry young guy ? He had just 3 days ! He was hanging on for dear life and every one of us could relate to his pain. I wished him well as I was leaving and he actually gave me a hug. I pray that he makes it.

It was an hour that I will treasure and a good way to say “goodbye” to NY. And, yes, I did get my last glimpse of Times Square…


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A change of pace …

Well, it’s day 3 for me in New York City and it’s time for some “couth” ! A trip to the Metropolitan Opera House (part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts) will fit the bill perfectly…and that’s where Wendy and I are headed.

The ever-moving water fountain catches our eyes first as we approach this magical area …but we don’t tarry too long. We are there for the Met’s rendition of “Romeo and Juliet’, the ballet, and we don’t want to be late.

Now we’re inside the Opera House and it’s overwhelming:

I can’t help but wonder if the performance will live up to the surroundings and I am pleasantly surprised. Here we see Herman Cornejo as Romeo and Xiomara Reyes as Juliet:

Their performance was flawless, as was that of the entire cast, but I thought their costumes (unlike the picture above) were a bit overdone. It was hard to see the actual ballet steps when they were so heavily clothed. However, the music by Sergei Prokofiev was excellent and I would have loved the performance if it had consisted of that alone!
So ends my 3rd day in the “Big Apple”. Tomorrow I head back to my daughter’s home but not until I have one last venture that I’ll share with you in my next entry !

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Still in NY City …

Here’s where I lodged for the four days that I was in the city and you can tell by this lovely entryway that it was pretty posh. The interesting thing is that it was just a few blocks from where my husband and I and our three children lived in the early ’60’s. The big difference is that when we lived there it was not considered a particularly desirable area and I guess that’s why we could afford it !

It had been years since I’d taken the Ferry to Staten Island and I was pleased that Wendy wanted to do that too. As you all probably know it is FREE and a wonderful way to get up close to the Statue of Liberty & to really view Manhattan on the way back …so, off we went.

I love this picture, even though it is not very clear.  I wanted to show the cross section of humanity that was on the ferry really touched my heart to see that while viewing the grand lady.
Going back uptown we got on the wrong bus but were lucky to have a wonderful driver who didn’t charge us anything and took us to where we could make the right connection. Speaking of bus drivers I have to say that I’ve never seen a nicer bunch than those in New York. I watched countless times as they aided elders and joked with the young children who they obviously knew from busing them to school and back. There was even a time when one driver aided a young girl in a wheel chair up and over a ramp that he’d put down and affixed her safely to the floor. Then, about 6 stops later, he reversed the procedure and deposited her to the care of a woman who was obviously waiting for her. It was heart warming to see all the smiles it elicited.
Still on the bus theme: at one point two UPS guys hopped aboard carrying a load of packages:
I couldn’t resist it and asked “Did your truck break down?” The look they gave me was enough for me to know that I was just one of many who had thought that was a funny line. Barely looking at me one of the men mumbled something about being the “on the ground footmen of the company”…something I didn’t know even existed. So, as the old adage says “you learn something new every day” !
We finally got back to the apartment in time for a light supper and then off to Lincoln Center … (details coming…)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Cloisters … let’s go inside !

 It felt like we were going back in time as we approached the Cloisters … and indeed we were, since the entire building was built from parts of five medieval European abbeys that were disassembled and sent to NY brick-by-brick ! I can’t even envision what an enormous task that must have been.

Evidently it didn’t faze John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who created an endowment grant that made the project a reality. He also donated the entire collection of medieval art that he had purchased from the American sculptor George Grey and then turned it all over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Met was featuring the Unicorn Tapestries when we were there so that was the first thing that we saw as we entered:                    
They were impressive, as was everything that we saw, but I have to admit that I was more enthralled with the architecture of the buildings than with the medieval collections which were, as you would expect, rather dark and heavy.

By noontime we were happily tired and thoroughly enjoyed a luncheon overlooking these lovely inside gardens… 
…and then, on our way out, we were surprised and delighted to enter a room that displayed some light-hearted depictions of Jesus…                  

Here he is sculpted in wood on his trusted donkey & adhered to a rolling cart. It would be brought out for parades during religious festivals …

     …and then my all-time favorite baby Jesus:
 Have you ever seen anything sweeter? I think he snuck in when noone was looking.

I hope I haven’t disappointed those of you who were looking forward to a more detailed tour of the exhibits but the medieval art and artifacts kind of left me cold. However, if you get to Manhattan The Cloisters and the gardens within and without provide a restful respite from the hectic pace of the city and are definitely worth the trip.


Friday, July 05, 2013

Approaching the Cloisters via The Heather Garden …

Can you see the George Washington Bridge in the upper right corner of this photo? It’s proof that this floral oasis exists in the same city that is often viewed as dirty and overpopulated.

  Of course I’m referring to NY City where I was spending part two of my recent 3 week vacation. I was staying with my niece Wendy and we were taking advantage of this one day of sunshine to visit “The Cloisters”, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

You can actually drive there but it’s so much nicer to take the subway to Ft. Tryon and then walk the winding paths of the Heather Garden. This is a 1935 Olmstead planned area that is approximately 3 acres of land overlooking the Hudson River and culminates with a set of stone steps and walks that lead to The Cloisters.

We even had the treat of watching a workman trim the top branches of this tree ! It was fascinating to watch him hoist himself up the trunk …scuttling along like a monkey.

…and here’s Wendy as we approach the end of our walk and near the steps that take us on the last path to The Cloisters.
 My next blog entry will take us inside !  

Monday, July 01, 2013

The memorial service for Peg …

This was the lovely setting for the memorial service held June 8th for my sister Peg who passed away in November of last year.
It is the Unity Church in North Easton, Ma.

This was the one part of my 3 week “vacation” that I was nervous about. I had been asked to say a few words about Peg and, although that was easy enough since I loved her very much, it was nerve wracking to say them in front of a room full of strangers. However, despite a few tears, I managed to fumble through and then it was time for her daughter, two sons and grandchildren to memorialize her and it was one of the most heart-felt services I’ve ever attended.

Her three children stood up together and one by one they recalled their favorite moments with Peg. Much of it centered around her love of family and everything that entailed …from her flying to the hinterlands of Alaska to comfort her daughter … to her 60 year marriage … to her love of cooking and her special delight in reading to the grandchildren. The love and devotion for their mother was apparent in every word they uttered.

Next it was the grandchildren’s turn. Each one had selected a book that they had shared with Peg over the years and they read their favorite part. I doubt if there was a dry eye left when the oldest grandson concluded the readings with ... 

….”Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere …Goodnight moon”                  

… and Goodnight Peg … we love you.