Fear of travel

0E881A25-33E1-4C32-9729-A2DD5FE4859D-1489-0000010B789793A8

I had a conversation recently with a woman a bit older than I. She was retiring from a job she had held for 15 or 20 years, a job she had done very well for all of those years. It hadn’t paid her much, but her true calling had been motherhood and she had only taken the job after her children were well on their way to being grown.

Now that retirement was imminent, we talked about what she would do with her time. The topic of travel came up and she expressed how uncomfortable she was about going somewhere she’d never been before without the company of someone who had traveled previously to wherever that destination might be. I nodded as the words bounced around in my head…thinking…wait! How in the world do you ever go somewhere new? Are you saying you’re afraid to ever leave home? How does a competent, intelligent woman allow fear to limit her horizons?

International terrorist attacks are happening with increasing frequency. We’ve all seen it – there’s truly no safe place. Church, work, markets, concert venues, airports, train stations, all have witnessed the deaths of innocent people around our world. I’m not even including the tremendous losses we’ve suffered in the U.S. to gun violence – in schools, night clubs and office buildings. The world is a dangerous place.

There are things that scare me, too. I hate to fly because the more often I do it, the greater I think the odds are for a bad outcome. I don’t like heights or crowds and there are places I’d be hesitant to go to without the company of someone native, like Turkey or Indonesia. But, the world is also a remarkably beautiful place filled with people from whom we can learn. Visiting new places, observing customs and absorbing history and culture are one of life’s greatest gifts. It enriches us beyond any other experience, in my opinion, and I dedicate a lot of my expendable income on collecting memories in new locales. It’s money well spent.

Diminishing our lives as we seek to preserve them seems counter productive to me. If something ever happens to me when I’m traveling, reread this post and know that I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way. I’m way more afraid of not seeing everything possible than I am of dying while trying.

2 Comments

Filed under aging, beauty, musings, road trips, travel

Best of what’s around – Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds at SPAC

IMG_2024I’ve lost count of a number of things in my life. For instance, I can’t remember if Jeter is 2 ½ or 3 ½ years old. I no longer remember how many times I’ve flown across the Atlantic and while I can count the number of U2 shows I’ve been to (5, soon to be 6!), I can’t for the life of me recall how many times I’ve gone to see the Dave Matthews Band. We’ll leave it at quite a few.

I’ve got memories from some DMB shows that I’d prefer to forget. There was the year a man seated below our balcony seats got urinated on – that was gross. On another occasion rabid fans rushed the back gate at the end of the grassy area behind the vending and out ran the outnumbered security force to gain access to the show. That situation was pretty entertaining to watch, unlike the year the crowd actually pushed through the gates at the back of the amphitheater in an obnoxious show of entitlement and rushed the stage. That was just kind of scary.

Friday night, though? That was all new. First – it was “just” Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, not the entire band. I’d never seen Dave without the band before and I’ve got to say I loved it. Sometimes things get a little too jammy for me when each player takes an extended solo and I really enjoyed the stripped down experience. The setlist   was pretty damn phenomenal and we got lucky with the weather with barely a misty drizzle over the course of the entire evening.

We parked in a different area than usual and the tailgating was absolutely on point. We didn’t see anyone getting out of hand or vomiting, two things I’ve seen far too frequently at DMB shows in the past and everyone was just completely chill. We spent a couple of hours hanging out and achieved the ideal state of…zen, let’s call it zen, before taking the short walk to the gate. We staked out some lawn space, but I know I was never even tempted to sit. It was all about dancing.

FullSizeRenderSpeaking of dancing – we had a fantastic vantage point to take in the writhing mass  of humanity that was the lawn. One guy in particular kept us all entertained with his enthusiasm and sense of rhythm. There were no obnoxious frat boys or bros to be seen and it was almost as if the entire audience had been dosed with something that resulted in pleasant politeness. It’s too bad whatever that was isn’t in the water universally because we could all use more nights like that. It was a perfect Dave show – whether you were a newbie or a veteran of the scene. So. Much. Fun.

Leave a comment

Filed under beer, concerts, Events, favorites, friends, Music, road trips, Saratoga, SPAC, Uncategorized

The burgermeister

They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family, however that hasn’t been my experience. When you don’t meet your first relative (other than your mother and brother) until you’re 22 years-old, having family is very much a choice. With complete honesty, I can say that finding and getting to know my family has been without exception the most personally gratifying and fulfilling decision I have ever made. I think that’s why I’m so devastated by the loss of my uncle, the man I’ll always think of as the burgermeister

From the very first time we met, me an undergraduate student and the daughter of one of his oldest sisters kicking around Europe, he, in his midthirties and a father to two young children, he always made me know I was family. There was never an instant that wasn’t apparent in the subsequent years and the times we shared.
Between that initial introduction and his recent death we probably were together on a dozen different occasions. He and his wife visited Albany, we met in NYC on the very day my own cancer was determined to require additional treatment, we traveled together in Europe. Three of my last four trips to Europe involved spending time with him and those are some memories that I’ll take out and shine until they gleam gold.

We stayed in the town where he lived twice in recent years and it was truly wonderful to witness the affection with which he was greeted everywhere we went. It was so obvious that he was a beloved member of his community – from the bakery to the Italian restaurant where he still occasionally worked when they needed a hand, he was met with humor and warmth and I was honored to claim him as my uncle. I always felt safe with him and I’m convinced there was nothing in this world with which he couldn’t contend. Except cancer.

As I was proud of him, he was proud of the life he had created. He had been a competitive athlete representing his country in the biathlon. Since learning that part of his history, I’ve loved cross country skiing even more, like it’s our family’s sport. During our visit in April he shared the medals he had won and his unabating love for winter sports was apparent. His home actually overlooks a ski jump used in international competitions, (which he helped with, of course) and we toured a local museum dedicated to the history of Nordic skiing.

My uncle, the unofficial burgermeister, was a great man and the loss of him, despite the thousands of miles between us, feels almost unbearable. How incredibly lucky was I to have seen him so recently? How kind of the universe to have cooperated by putting so much of my family in one place to celebrate Easter just two months ago. I know the ache in my heart will dull and the tears will dry but I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing him. As the marker on his final resting place states, he was a gift from Heaven.

Hug your dads, uncles, husbands and sons and know how fortunate you are.

1 Comment

Filed under aging, cancer, Europe, family, Germany, love, Uncategorized, x-country skiing

Are your ducks all in a row?

IMG_2019Have you ever chaperoned a field trip? At this point in my life, I’ve accompanied quite a few bus loads of students to destinations like NYC, Montreal and, as of today, Boston. I take the responsibility pretty seriously and spend an inordinate amount of time counting my charges, hoping to consistently arrive at the same number. Today my magic number was four.

It was a beautiful day for a field trip to Boston. We left before the sun came up knowing we were in for a long day. After contending with typically hideous traffic as we approached the city, we arrived at our first destination, the Museum of Science. I’d never been there before and my small posse was a great group. We had fun exploring the hands on exhibits, checking out the dinosaurs and stumbling upon the lightning storm demonstration as a perfect finale to our visit. On to the next stop – the Duck Tour.

I herded my group, feeling like Mrs. Mallard from Make Way for Ducklings, to our meeting point and we boarded our amphibious vehicle to learn about Boston’s history and get into the river. I checked my email as we sat at yet another red light and gasped at what I read. There had been a very unexpected death in my family. Tears immediately sprang to my eyes. The day changed and memories washed over me in waves larger than any we would see on the Charles.

The uncle I lost was the relative, other than my brother, to whom I felt most connected. He was the first member of my German family that I met, years ago when he arrived at the Hauptbanhof to pick me up and bring me into the mountains where my family lived. He was the youngest of my mother’s brothers, closer in age to me than her, and from that very day he was never less than kind, generous and thoughtful to me and, eventually, my own family. Losing him has shocked me into sadness.

I have memories of him holding my babies, walking with us across the Brooklyn Bridge, sharing meals together in a half dozen countries, hosting us in his home…He and his wife had a marriage that never failed to make me smile. Their love for one another was evident and they enjoyed more adventures in their nearly 20 years as husband and wife than many couples will ever know. That’s the consolation, right? To have loved with passion, lived with spirit, taken advantage of the time given?

Our most recent trip together was less than two months ago. My youngest son and I spent nearly 10 days traveling around Germany with my uncle and aunt. We had what I’m convinced was the best Easter I’ll ever have, eating and drinking with five of my mother’s siblings and nearly a dozen cousins. I never imagined that he’d be gone just weeks later. Our last night together was in Berlin. We had dinner and then reconnected later in the night to have our final drink of vacation together in a little bar popular with the theater crowd. It was quiet and, as always, I felt a little sad to know that our time together was coming to a close, until next time, next year.

A day that began with counting my charges became an evening of gathering memories. I’m really going to miss being able to make more of those with him. Ensuring that all of my ducks are in a row may be something that will always require attention and work, but I’ll take some comfort in knowing that my efforts to know and spend time with my family have been the greatest use of my time, money and energy. Rest In Peace, WM.

3 Comments

Filed under aging, cancer, family, Germany

Walkway over the Hudson Half Marathon – 6/11/17

In our ongoing quest to check items off our runner’s bucket list, Chrissy and I headed south to take on Sunday’s Walkway over the Hudson half. Due to the crazy early start time (7:00 a.m. with a suggested arrival time of 90 minutes earlier), we drove down Saturday evening and enjoyed a few hours of hanging out with friends, including another Sunday morning warrior, and an ideal sunset walk.

Morning came early. We bumbled around having some breakfast, preparing our gear, and getting sunscreen-ed prior to leaving the house well before 6:00. Parking was kind of a pain in the ass, but after a solid 15 minute walk we found our way to the port-a-potty line, right in front of the starting line. After a flyover by some historic planes and the national anthem, we were off promptly at 7:00.

The first couple of miles were challenging with what felt like a few decent hills. On a hot morning I worked really hard to pace myself and committed myself to maintaining a slow and steady pace. We traveled from the roads to the beautifully shaded rail trail before we ventured out onto the walkway and crossed to the west side of the Hudson. The sun was really beating down by this point, mile 7 or 8, and I took my brag worthy 7 Sisters shirt off and continued in my tank, relishing the faint breeze on my shoulders. I began taking two cups at the water stations, drinking one and dumping the other over my head.

The mile markers were great with notes about the environmental themes the race is based upon and encouraging images. The support was great with lots of spectators and enthusiastic folks lining the trail in numerous spots. Mile 8 was particularly significant because of the height I reached as I jumped into air after noticing the snake curled up on the side of the trail. I got elevation!

Not being familiar with the course was a little disconcerting. I just didn’t know what remained between me and the finish line. Fortunately, it was surprisingly shady and not terribly hilly. Despite those positive conditions, I was friggin spent and the last two miles were kind of hellacious as my feet burned uncomfortably and I rode the line between muscling though and feeling nauseous and a tad dizzy. When I finally caught a glimpse of the finish line, I couldn’t have been happier. Half marathon #5 in the past 10 months is in the books. Time to find another race.

2 Comments

Filed under Events, Exercise, friends, Recommendations, road trips, running, sunday, upstate New York

Window dressing

When my main bathroom was renovated a number of years ago, we reconfigured it and moved all of the fixtures within the space. I sacrificed my linen closet in favor of a larger, jetted tub which is located below the room’s window. Since I would never want to offend my neighbors with nudity, I covered the lower window with decorative window film designed to provide privacy, which it did for a good number of years. Recently, though, it’s been starting to look a bit worse for the wear. Time for something new.

      I went to Lowe’s and found their small selection of comparable window film products. After quickly reading the package, where it stated “Static Cling – No Adhesives” I tossed it in the cart. Cross that task off the homeowner list.

Unfortunately, once I was home I realized that I did in fact need to purchase additional items, namely the Gilda Tool kit. This set, at an additional cost of $9, contained window film application solution, a squeegee card, trim tool and low-lint cloth. Great, let’s get this done, right? Believe it or not, this is when I got the most annoyed by the entire chore…

The original package contains enough film to cover a 2′ x 5′ window. Seems reasonable enough. Now, the film application solution bottle contains 16 oz of some kind of liquid for which I have no other imaginable purpose. What’s the point of that? My bathroom window required a couple of squirts, but even a larger window wouldn’t possibly need more than an ounce of solution. Why in the world would the manufacturer provide such an excessive amount of this solution that now I have to dispose of?

Things like this annoy me more than you can imagine. Tell me what household project annoyed you recently.

1 Comment

Filed under house, Rant

3 nights, 3 burgers

It’s been a weird week. I’ve consistently been one day ahead of the calendar, thinking today was tomorrow, and each time I mentally corrected myself, I was disappointed to find myself a day “behind.” See? This is what happens when I have too much free time – I can’t keep track of it.

While concluding that what I thought was Thursday was really only Wednesday was a bit of a bummer, what didn’t disappoint were the meals I ate on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Let’s start at the beginning…

Albany to Troy

Wednesday was the night of the sick storm that dumped rain, and even hail, around the area. It was the last pre-half marathon, long run that Chrissy and I were doing and we organized ourselves so that we left a car in Troy, drove to Albany and then ran back to Troy to get the car. When we met in Troy jagged bolts of lightning were flying to the west and, as we headed south on 787, the rain began. Out timing, though, was perfect and by the time we parked at my house and got ourselves ready to run, the sky was clearing and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees – perfect weather for a run along the Hudson.

That 10+ miles left us hungry with me craving a burger and an adult beverage. We made our way to McGeary’s, where Tess’ warm welcome and the kitchen’s well executed plate set us right. The burger was generously portioned (Seriously, I could have been satisfied with half the burger. Naturally, I ate all of it.) and nicely cooked to the requested medium rare. The fries were crispy like I requested and the draft cider, recommended by our server, was perfect. I slept well that night.

Dirty Bird

The next night, Thursday, I finally made my way down to Nine-Pin for their Cider and Sliders event. I’ve been wanting get to one of these forever to have a cider and some food from one of the food trucks they have organized and I picked a good night – the weather was ideal and I got the chance to try Slidin Dirty. I had a really hard time choosing from the menu options,  but eventually selected the Dirty Bird BLT, a delicious chicken burger with bacon, cheddar, arugula, tomato, red onion, avocado and chipotle cream. I mean, really? There’s nothing on there that I don’t love! I added some Asian noodle on the side (I’m carb loading, people!) and washed it all down with a raspberry cider. It was a terrific al fresco meal for less than $20.

Lamb burger!

Friday night my son filled up on pizza and popcorn at his school’s carnival and my older guys were out and about, leaving me solo for dinner. I impulsively decided to walk to the Cheese Traveler to see what was on their Friday Night Cookout menu and was lucky to find a seat outside within range of the grill and its wafting aromas. The lamb burger was an easy choice and, after some assistance from my server, I chose an interesting cider that featured hops. As the sky darkened and night fell, I lingered, savoring my dinner and the live jazz music. It was a great way to ease into the weekend and I really hope to repeat that experience soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Albany, Eating, Exercise, favorites, friends, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, running, Troy