Sunday, March 9, 2014

Confessions After a Funeral

I miss my dad.

He hasn't been gone for long, but I miss him.

There was so much activity as we planned the funeral; focusing on logistics and liturgical options--not to mention the luncheon and musical choices. It seemed there was rarely a moment to dwell on the enormity of the loss. It was ever-present, yet it loomed more in the corners and shadows of each day. And after the funeral and all of guests there were thank you notes to write and other details that required attention.

And then comes the lull. The condolence notes begin to taper off and as you try to go about your routine you remember that there's a void the size of the entire universe in your heart.

I suppose as daily life gradually begins to approximate "normal," the moments of staggering heartache will be fewer and farther between. Maybe not. I don't know. I can't imagine it ever totally goes away. And I'm not sure that it should.

Upon reflection, though--and having had a few days to look back--there are a few things I am pretty certain about.

1. Live your life fully and make a difference in the lives of others and you will be remembered and missed. My dad is missed. And not just by my mother and I. Of this I am immeasurably proud. I am also very grateful for all of the track athletes and coaches who gathered at St Francis church to bid my dad farewell. It was a send-off he'd have loved.

2. Eulogies don't always need to be prepared in advance. Sometimes the occasion calls for spontaneity and in the best of outcomes you still leave the assembled mourners both laughing AND crying.

3. The smallest gestures may mean the most. Including stamps (for the copious thank you notes that a family will need to send) in your condolence card is easy and thoughtful. As is sending a pizza. Seriously. A neighbor rang up and asked what time was good for a pizza to be delivered and that was that.

4.  You really do see the true colors of people in moments of sadness and grief. It becomes clear (sometimes painfully so) whom your friends are. And the venomous and toxic people of the world are only made exponentially more so during difficult hours. Not letting them poison the love and good will that surround you in times of need is paramount--and harder than you'd imagine.

5. Let yourself lean on people a little. When people ask if they can do something, they actually want to help. Providing an ear to listen or a shoulder to vent/cry on might be the best things you can offer a friend. It's a good thing to be needed and a good thing to need others.

6. There are not enough ways to say Thank You to all the people who have shown us all such kindness in the past few weeks. For helping with the snow removal; for sharing remembrances; for sending loving, happy, and silly thoughts; for sending pizzas and stamps; for unexpected flowers; for phone calls and emails, texts, and messages. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

GBA and Beaujolais in their beloved blue truck. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Pack Up the Moon and Dismantle the Sun

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood...

My father, a Nordic force of nature in his own way, departed this earth in a flurry of snow this afternoon. And while I'm incredibly sad, I'm also immeasurably grateful. I'm grateful for the various emails that always populated my inbox, for his daily critiques of my Flickr photos (he is, after all, responsible for my shutter bugging habits, having bought me my first SLR after teaching me how to develop photos in our old darkroom); for his love of skiing and skating and all things winter, and for my first pair of skis at age 6. Is it any wonder this Tyger is a winter girl?

I already miss his wonderful advice and thoughtful replies to my family history questions. Our genealogical conversations were epic and varied and I loved every minute of them. I'll always feel a little pang of regret that I was never the all-star track athlete he'd have loved me to be--my loves were elsewhere. It probably bothers me more than it ever concerned him--he was a coach in the truest sense of the word and whatever I was involved in he was there to motivate, educate, and otherwise light the fire under my derriere. I've decided this is a very special trait to have in a parent and if you are or were lucky enough to be thus gifted, you know how much it means.

As I said to a dear friend today, the snow squalls today that ushered him out of this life were most à propos--it was as if the Norse deities were reclaiming one of their own, bringing him back to Valhalla amidst a commotion of snow.

What I will say, happily, is that nothing remained unsaid between us. He knew I felt like he'd hung the moon, just for me. Another intimate, beloved to both my father and I, commented to me that my father "loved me the way the night sky loves the stars." Who would dare ask for more?

With that said, I bid a heavy-hearted farewell to my father. Requiescat in pace, Pops. Your legacy lives on in those who loved you, the athletes that you helped guide, and in your wonderful capacity for love and laughter.

Glenn Bernhardt Amundsen, a well-respected local track coach and lifelong Rochester resident has died at the age of 78. He will be fondly remembered and much missed.

Glenn was born in Rochester on December 24, 1935, to Norma M. Evans Amundsen and Glenn O. Amundsen. He graduated from Rochester High School 1953. He attended RCC and Hamline University in St Paul, MN before joining the US Air Force and serving in Japan with the 39th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. While overseas, he competed on the Air Force track and field and football traveling teams, winning both Pacific and US Air Force titles. Returning stateside he took a job at the City of Rochester in their Engineering Office where he worked until his retirement in 1994.

Glenn enjoyed many hobbies throughout his life--pursuing each of them with his special combination of energy and devotion. As a young man he was active in the fledgling Rochester Civic Theatre and garnered praise for his portrayal of Happy Loman in Death of a Salesman and as Luther Billis, the great comic role, in South Pacific. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Rochester Track Club and the All-Comers Track Meets. He organized The Kelly Games as a benefit for Brian Kelly, a Rochester Lourdes athlete paralyzed in a diving accident. Among the notable guests for the event were Jesse Owens and Hubert H. Humphrey. 
 After his retirement, he spent much of his time painting, drawing, woodworking and woodcarving, often with the family’s beloved Golden Retrievers at his side. Recently, he devoted hours each day to designing and constructing intricate wooden boats and airplanes. Always an early adapter, Glenn loved new technology and would use it in both his artwork and his coaching.

His greatest passion, though, was reserved for his work with young track athletes in the field events of shot put and discus. For many years he volunteered to coach high-schoolers from across southeastern Minnesota; he’d gladly assist any athlete who had the drive and desire to improve their throwing technique. His innovative and motivational coaching style led to great success for his athletes. Under his thoughtful tutelage, athletes went on to the Olympic Training Camp in Colorado Springs as well as to successful college track and field careers at Purdue and Oregon among others. Over the years he coached 12 athletes to 16 Minnesota State Track and Field championships.

His decade at Stewartville High School was, perhaps, the highlight of his coaching career. The Glenn Amundsen Invitational Track Meet, held in Stewartville each year, is named in his honor. Among his great joys was seeing athletes that he’d coached become coaches for the next generation.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Course of True Like

You know the old saying about the course of true love never being smooth? Well, sometimes getting around to like is no easy bargain, either.

To get to Boston or Hartford--most any point northeast of me--I must run the traffic gauntlet that is {cue dramatic pause followed by menacingly dramatic music} I-84 in Waterbury. The dreaded Mixmaster, where eastbound and westbound are equally fraught with peril. It's a double-decked spaghetti junction that is half traffic misery and all poor road manners at most any time of day or night. The Mixmaster at peak commute times is, and I'm certain Dante himself would concur, a special and singular circle of hell. As one friend says, regardless of when I'm traveling through, "There'll be traffic in Waterbury."

My most recent passage through Waterbury, however, was incredibly smooth. There were no speeding cars from Massachusetts in the slow lane, no insane trucks hell-bent on merging in awkward places, and no Jeep sized potholes. In other words, it was nearly pleasant.

It's terribly unfair to judge an entire city by the couple of minutes--or longer--I spend traversing it and I realize this. I also realize that with the little I know of Waterbury, there's probably something I might find to like about it. As an old city with industry, clocks, watches, and brass in its history, it's possible Waterbury and I could even be friendly-ish.

A few things had caught my eye on my previous drives through town: interesting cemeteries I spotted from the highway, the Timexpo (a museum devoted to the history of Timex watches) and Harpers Ferry Road. The cemeteries and Timex museum have been recorded on my Nutmeg State To-Do List and I quickly looked up a little info on Harpers Ferry Road.

Why Harpers Ferry Road? Why indeed. I'd made a mental note to check on any Harpers Ferry connections many times, but I'd never followed up. Waterbury is nowhere near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where John Brown's raid took place. But as the Internet would reveal, famous abolitionist John Brown was born in nearby Torrington, Connecticut (The Torrington Historical Society's site is  good for some background) and while Harpers Ferry Road doesn't seem to actually lead to Torrington, the John Brown revelation does make it both more interesting and more sensible.

Point: Waterbury. (For good historical interest.)

As I was hunting for more information on Harpers Ferry Road, I saw a mention of Rosalind Russell. Auntie Mame...Hildy in His Girl Friday. That Rosalind Russell? Connected to Waterbury? More digging.

It turns out that Rosalind Russell was born and raised in Waterbury, Connecticut. (I'm guessing this isn't so newsy to many others as it is to me, but I was intrigued.) Her pre-Hildy Johnson and Mame Dennis days were spent in the area--at Marymount College in Tarrytown, NY, in NYC itself, Hartford, and Boston. She was a local girl who made good, often playing women who had all the brassy wit and spirit of Waterbury itself.

Several points: Waterbury. (For Roz Russell.)

Full disclosure: I love Auntie Mame. The novel, by Patrick Dennis, is a go-to read for me if I'm having a blue day and I've seen the movie with Ms. Russell dozens of times and enjoy it more with each viewing. (I'm much less fond of the 1970s movie version of the musical, but the soundtrack of the 1966 original Broadway musical featuring Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur is a splendid listen.) That Waterbury--a town I'd written off from my (often not-so) quick breezes through on I-84--gave the world Auntie Mame incarnate? Magnificent. And if you add fast-talking hard-boiled Hildy Johnson from His Girl Friday to the equation, then I'm all in. Waterbury, you and I can be friends.

As with any new friendship, there's more to be discovered. But when you start with John Brown and Rosalind Russell it's bound to be an interesting trip. Perhaps the best friendships start off awkwardly and only when you start to really look and share your common interests do they begin to click. The Waterbury getting-to-know-you phase is in its infancy, but this might be the beginning of a lovely friendship. For a fun browse, the links below will send you to a great old map of the town and a charmingly old-school website devoted to Waterbury's history.

Waterbury 1917

Waterbury Time Machine II

And any Waterburians out there, if you know more about the story (if there is one) behind Harpers Ferry Road, I'd love to hear it. Know of a great place I'd love in Waterbury? Let me know that, too.

As a final thought, Waterbury was also home to Holy Land USA. And while the Holy Land aspect of it interests me not at all (loses points), I do so love an abandoned place (gains points back!) and this one looks like it might be wonderful to explore. (With permission, of course!)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Wee Small Hours

The past month has been a blur: the drive west to Minnesota on Christmas Eve, navigating the rabbit's warren that is St Marys Hospital, the daily--sometimes hourly--ups (his white count is down!) and downs (his hemoglobin is low...) of hospital stays. And then there's the uncertainty. It's crippling. And the fear. It's palpable and sometimes it feels like it's piped into the room via the hvac vents. Grief, sadness, exhaustion, and occasional bemusement all joined us in my father's comfortably large room.*

To try and reach some small level of sanity (for lack of a better word) I started writing little snippets--on paper or on my laptop when I had it with me--moments I wanted to remember and feelings I had to document somewhere. Holding hands with my father while we watched the Minnesota Wild game. The odd peace of hearing the machines beeping and pinging to assure us that whatever they were monitoring was "normal." The bone-chilling sub-zero mornings when pulling my boots on to go out and start the Jeep seemed to require extra effort, as if the gravity of the days was pulling, pulling, pulling at me--dragging me underground, the familiar suffocation of being in a place where I simply am not at home despite being technically "home."

And then there's the guilt. The guilt felt over giving any voice to your own feelings, wants, and needs when you have an ill parent confined to a hospital bed. The focus--and the energy, especially the positive energy--needs to be on them. We, my mother and I, became cheerleaders. (If you knew my mother this would be far funnier, but trust me, it's a sight.) Keeping my father's spirits up and not focusing solely on the challenges became our daily regimen. When needed, I was bad cop (Really? Would you let your athletes quit because of a setback? NO. Now let's try it again!) and my mother the extra nurse. Quietly, yet firmly--she is, after all, fully German and a Scorpio--she encouraged, cajoled, managed, nudged and glared my father into eating, trying, and cooperating. Regardless of how exhausted she was--sleeping on a cot at the hospital many nights until she realized she was putting her own health at serious risk--she persevered. She was advocate, helper, nurse, questioner, and all-around watch dog. In short, she was The Spanish Inquisition, but in a good way.

St Marys (those of you with apostrophic here) is a teaching hospital and part of the Mayo Clinic system. It's the farthest afield of the Mayo Clinic properties in downtown Rochester, Minnesota, but it's a wonderful and grand old building. Another method of keeping my modicum of sanity (again, for lack of a better word) was wandering around taking photos. A few are on my flickr page (here) and some are up on my Instagram feed as well. The quiet of the St Marys Chapel and its luxury--really there's no other word for all the carvings and marble--made it a great spot for photos. Sometimes leaving the room was necessary for both patient and family. Returning with Lifesavers to soothe a scratchy throat can feel like returning the conquering hero, trust me. And don't underestimate the value of finding a can of ginger ale in a pinch, either. A bottle of sparkling Catawba Grape Juice is also a totally fabulous way to ring in a new year.

Reader, I am happy to report that my father left the hospital on January 10 and is doing well in a rehab center with the hope he eventually makes it home. I got to spend a few days with him and meet his physical and occupational therapists before I left to return to Connecticut and he's in good hands. And we've told him, the perpetual coach, that trying is the thing. All we ask is that you try. It's what you would've told all your track athletes, it's the best you can expect and hope for. And remember what you did when you did it right. Visualize the result you want. The nuggets--both trite and tried and true--that he used to motivate generations of track and field athletes have now been turned on him. Not sure he's always thrilled with that, but he's a trooper. Track season is ahead...and the coach needs to be around for it. He's fond of quoting a note left by a waitress on a lunch receipt from a Lake City, Minnesota drive-in many years back: "The 10 most important two letter words...If it is to be, it is up to me." Go get 'em, Pops.

Now that I'm home, ensconced in my beloved East Coast, I can look back and be grateful. Grateful for friends who let me vent without judgment, played Scrabble to keep me occupied, sent me funny quips to make things seem a little normal and those who simply asked how we were all doing. It meant more than any of them can ever know. They know who they are and I am in their collective debt. It's no fun being away from your support system, but when they can tweet, text, email, and iMessage you, it's much better. Never underestimate the power of quietly being there for another person.

OH. And about the * and room size. Fun factoid ahead. (Especially fun for my Republican parents!) In September of 1989 Ronald Reagan visited the Mayo Clinic for his routine physical. They found some fluid on his brain--likely due to a fall from a horse that same July--and he was sent to St Marys for a procedure to remove said fluid. While he was at St Marys he was visited by Boris Yeltsin. The Mayo Campus is no stranger to hordes of security and secret service, but I have to imagine this was a memorable day for all concerned, regardless of party affiliation. All this to say that my father's comfy, spacious room on the 3rd Floor, Joseph Wing, was once the lodging of Nancy Reagan. The President was across the hall (in a room occupied during my father's stay by a very nice family from Oelwein, Iowa who told me stories of horse-drawn school buses in North Dakota!) and Nancy was in my father's room. The Secret Service agents were in the lounge that was kitty-corner across the hall. One of the nurses shared this with us and I quickly verified the details. Not quite the "George Washington slept here" tales that I'm used to in Connecticut, but it'll do nicely.

So here's (belatedly) to a fresh, new year. One filled with possibilities. And here's to the attempt. To trying and to celebrating the small victories that warm our hearts in the wee small hours. And to my father--long may the Bear flourish and thrive. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Memory of the Living

When I was a small child, Memorial Day meant going to various small cemeteries around southeastern Minnesota and along the Mississippi River. There were geraniums to be planted, hosta and petunias. Sometimes marigolds or impatiens, depending on the whether the grave to be decorated was sunny or shady. My mother usually did all the choosing and planting, my paternal grandmother acted as tour guide, reminding us whom was at each of the cemeteries and where their markers were. I was usually the water girl, taking the oversized aluminum watering can (sloshing as much water as I delivered) back and forth from the faucet to the plot. A trip to Dairy Queen was my incentive to be a good helper.

As I grew up, Memorial Day morphed into a day spent in small parades, once again in southeastern Minnesota. My high school band never turned down an invitation to march in summer parades--most often fully decked out in dark purple woolen band uniforms--something that I'm very proud of to this day. Our band director, the indefatigable Gene Eiden--who still pays tribute to veterans in his role as Honor Guard Commander for American Legion Post 92 in Rochester, Minnesota--knew we needed the practice, and he instilled in us the importance of taking part, giving back, and paying tribute.

After September 11, days like Memorial Day and Veterans Day took on a different significance for me. Days when we not only pay tribute to those who have sacrificed so much for us, but when we remember their stories, their paths. We recall and are grateful to the people who run toward danger to save our lives. 

And most recently, I've been working slowly but surely on a WWI soldier's letters. Letters home to the boy's mother and sister (and one lone missive to his father, too) from various parts of France and an Army hospital in New York. As I delve more deeply into not only his story, but that of his unit and his comrades, I can't help but think what a miracle it is that he made home--that any of them made it home. He is remembered today not only by his daughter--who is of a ripe old vintage herself, these days--but by those who will read of his experiences. His story will be told, he will be remembered. 

So today I went looking through my postcard collection for a WWI return reception card--one of the favorites of my little assemblage. It's pictured below, and even though there are redacted lines, it still bears the handwritten name of the town of LeSueur. The image of the lone biplane above the Statue of Liberty as she watches over a moonlit harbor--a large ship receding into the distant horizon--is beautiful, but sobering. This soldier came home to his family when so many others did not. 
Well Done Men, America Greets YOU.

Soldiers Mail

A bit further back in my postcard album are a number of cards that were sent to my grandmother's sister, Mayme, in 1907-1908 when she was quite ill. Most have flowers or kittens on them and have some kind of "get well soon" message as well. In the midst of those, however, was this one. Mailed from Nelson, Wisconsin, to Mayme in Wabasha, Minnesota, in June of 1908. The writer apologizes to Mayme that this was the only postal they had.

"As a veteran in old age
He was loyal to the red, white and blue,
Which placed his name on the page
Of heroes the recording angel drew."

And finally, this old classic. A beautiful linen postcard--one that I couldn't recall purchasing. Removing it from the sleeve, I realized it was a note from an old friend, one now deceased. Someone I haven't thought of in a while, so it's appropriate to find it today. She wished me a nice 4th of July, said she was sending me her schedule for working at Mayowood, and commented on a quote I must have given the local paper about Kirby Puckett. She said to put the clipping in my "save" pile. I don't have the clipping from the paper, but I do have this most pleasant reminder of a much loved and much missed friend.

Happy Memorial Day, then. Parades will soon be over, flags will be carefully brought in from porches and picnics and BBQs will be getting into full swing. As the sun sets, though, it's a good time to remember and say thank you. Remember the stories of servicemen and women, their sacrifices and their families. Remember friends loved and lost, remember the people who keep us from harm's way. The simple act of memory--sharing a story, raising a glass--is an act kindness and an act of love. 

The life of the dead is placed in the memories of the living. -- Marcus Tullius Cicero

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

In memory, Lottie and Ruthie Dattner.

Lottie and Ruthie Dattner

Greetings, FOPT (friends of ThePaperTyger)

Michele has graciously allowed me the usual 140+ characters to honor Lottie and Ruthie Dattner, my first cousins once removed.

Photo taken in Tarnow, Poland about 1939. Sadly, the SS thought the two little girls with bows threatened their reich, and they were murdered in 1942.

In honor of Yom Hashoah, I welcome them to the world of social media, 70 years after their passing.

Michael Kinstlinger

(Honored, MK...and honored to do this in their memory, but very sorry it is thus. --TPT)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Ada Louise Huxtable already doesn't like it..."

Memory is a funny thing. Even the mental lock-boxes that we shove to the far recesses of our minds--for reasons of pain, or pride, perhaps--contain surprisingly sweet moments.

In very early 2008, I was among those made redundant in one of publishing’s great purges. Suffice to say that most of that year is buried in an expletive-laden, self-pitying (and self-loathing) file consigned to the dustiest shelf in my memory. The happy hours are all but forgotten amidst the fog of angst and disappointment. Yesterday, however, with the sad death of Ada Louise Huxtable, the opportunity arose to unearth some meaningful recollections of that otherwise annus horribilis.

I first had the pleasure of meeting the redoubtable Ada Louise Huxtable over tea at The Carlyle. Diminutive in stature, she was impeccably dressed and elegantly coiffed in a manner befitting the doyenne of architectural critique. We were sitting down with her publisher (my former employer) to discuss what kind of a book she might be interested in putting together. I’ll admit that I was a little in awe. I’d been reading her columns and articles in preparation for this meeting and I knew she took real pleasure in Modern Architecture, a feeling I had yet to cultivate for things built after, say, 1940. As tea progressed (following a rather alarming incident that involved the server spilling on Ms. Huxtable’s stylish Issye Miyaki jacket) and we discussed timing, options, and themes, I started to appreciate her thoughtful insights and forthright assessments of both architecture and book ideas.

Over the coming weeks we worked through several drafts of an outline/table of contents that would eventually become her book, On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change. I looked through some of our emails last night and was reminded how wonderfully articulate she was even in the most mundane of exchanges. In correspondence to another author with whom I was working at the time, I noted how Ms. Huxtable, then 87, was sharper and brighter than most people half of her age. Throughout the letters her willingness to be part of the process, which can be very tedious at times, was evident. There wasn’t much new writing for her to do, but we needed to organize her columns and other pieces in a way that really made sense. I still have high hopes that we mostly succeeded and I’m quite proud to have played the smallest of parts in what would be her final work.

For me, the most poignant section of the book is Part 5. Centered around New York City, it contains a collection of Ms. Huxtable’s pieces on not only the construction of the World Trade Center complex, but of the aftermath of 9/11 and implications for both the former WTC site and Lower Manhattan, as well. All of her columns are worth reading--if for nothing more than her vivid and straightforward voice--but for New Yorkers, I think these will have meaningful resonance.

As the book began to take shape, I was afforded the distinct pleasure of visiting Ms. Huxtable at her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. While my memories of the building itself are frustratingly vague, I recall her space very well. Especially vivid is the memory of a simple, splendidly modern lighting fixture that had been designed by her late husband, industrial designer L. Garth Huxtable.

In the end, our book project quickly became an actual book. There was jacket copy to be sorted out, quotes/blurbs to be gathered, and photographs to be sourced. My final contribution to the book would be my photograph (on page 64, thank you very much) of Richard Meier’s Hartford Seminary. I chose a beautiful early spring day and made the short drive to Hartford. I was a little unprepared for how much I’d appreciate Meier’s unique edifice, of which Huxtable writes, “This glistening white structure makes its immaculate presence so inimitably clear that there is no question about which building one has come to see.” I shared my surprise with Ms. Huxtable during one of our penultimate conversations. I’m sure she’d heard it many times before, but I still felt the need to share with her how much she’d broadened and enriched my experience of architecture. I’ve always been enthralled with the grand (and often grandiose) buildings of history. Our built heritage is incredibly important to me. And yet, if you’d have discussed most post-war architecture with me, I’d likely have crinkled my nose dismissively. What a lot of the built world I would have missed out on.

And I guess this is what the best critics do, really. They don’t necessarily change our minds (give me McKim, Mead & White over Mies van der Rohe, as a personal preference) but they afford us the ability to enjoy and appreciate that which we may otherwise overlook. Ada Louise Huxtable, rightly famous for her specific taste, reminded us to pay attention. She wanted people to look at the environment they live in, to be aware of the structures that surround them on a daily basis.

It's safe to say that I didn't always agree with Ms. Huxtable's well-stated and fully-formed opinions, but I will always value the mindfulness that was at the heart of each of her critiques. 

There’s a blurb from Paul Goldberger on the back of the jacket that perhaps puts the life’s work of Ada Louise Huxtable in proper perspective:

“Ada Louise Huxtable has been more than just the most important pioneer of architectural criticism in newspapers in our time; she has been the most important figure in communicating the urgency of some kind of belief in the values of the man-made environment in our time, too. She has made people pay attention. She has made people care. She has made architecture matter in our culture in a way that it did not before her time...Before Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture was not part of the public dialogue. Today it is, and she is overwhelmingly responsible for this.”

Monday, December 24, 2012

All Are Welcome

Horse Christmas party, 12/29/23
LOC Prints and Photographs Division
LC-F8-28154 (P&P)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Just do what you do best. -- Red Auerbach

A wall of great quotations as you enter the VICTORY exhibit.
"Just do what you do best." Words of wisdom from the one and only Red Auerbach, the Celtics' legendary stogie smoking coach. My friends at The Sports Museum in Boston have done just that--what they do best--in their new exhibition at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.

Titled VICTORY, the exhibition showcases some of the greatest moments not only in Boston sports history, but American history. From Jim Craig's 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic hockey jersey and goalie mask to the astonishing quantity of Johnny Kelly's loving cups, trophies, and commemorative medals, the spoils of VICTORY are beautifully displayed. It's hard not to be moved by the wall-sized graphic of father-son marathoning team Dick and Rick Hoyt as they cross the finish line of the 2006 Boston Marathon. Equally sobering is the small display honoring Tony Conigliaro (Tony C) and the horrific injury that cut short a promising career.

Galleries are devoted to all Boston's (and greater New England) beloved teams--the Boston Celtics, the Bruins, Red Sox, and New England Patriots. You can't help but feel like you're momentarily transported to an early autumn afternoon at Fenway Park or the old Boston Garden when you pass an old Red Sox bleacher seat or stand near the parquet floor that was the site of so many great Celtics victories. A theatre area with videos that recall our favorite sporting memories, aptly named for the early 2000s "Decade of Dominance," allows guests to re-live great victories from the various teams.

I was lucky enough to be able to spend a day helping out with the installation (read as: I put hook-and-loop on the backsides of several pieces of foamcore for mounting) and get some behind the scenes details. Sully, one of the superb team at Foxwoods, took me on a "lighting" tour of the various galleries.   If you do visit, pay attention to how beautifully lit the entire exhibit is. Sully and his team--more accustomed to lighting Craig Ferguson or a Celtic Woman performance--are true artists and went above and beyond in crafting the illumination and effects within the exhibit. There's the cute Blue Spruce trees behind a Celtics themed cow (yes, you read that right) and a fiery light that floods down on General Patton's bronze statue. (If you're wondering, "why Patton?" he was a very accomplished equestrian and competed in the 1912 Olympic Pentathlon for the USA.) Fireworks explode over the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox wall graphic and the 24 second clock lighting looks terribly official.

My stellar contribution...the hook-and-loop mountings for
the programs. Executed to perfection by Ethan from
Cambridge Seven Associates. 
Though I'm not an aficionado of The Sweet Science, Boston has a great boxing tradition and Rocky Marciano and many other boxing legends are well represented here. As are the Olympic Games. Though I prefer to claim the 1980 Olympic team as mostly Minnesotan (and lead by favorite Minnesota son, the late Herb Brooks) I will concede--for this exhibit only--their strong New England connection. I'd also wager most of you have never seen Ted Williams' Red Sox locker. It's on display, too.

And then there's the opportunity to see some great sculptures. If you've never stood up close and personal and studied the work of the incredible Armand La Montagne, do so. La Montagne's life-sized basswood sculptures of Ted Williams, Yaz, Larry Bird, Harry Agganis, Bobby Orr and General George S. Patton are all part of the installation. The detail--down to the ribbing in Bobby Orr's socks--is not to be believed. There are also several of the large painted studies that La Montagne does for each subject on display as well as a video about his process.

Armand La Montagne's life-sized sculpture of Bobby Orr. 
The Sports Museum plays a vital role in preserving and teaching the important lessons of sport. They are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and in addition to saving important artifacts of our sporting history, they promote and sponsor stay in school programs and anti-bullying campaigns in the Boston area. This exhibition is a chance to highlight some of their many treasures and to broaden their outreach across New England.

Re-live your most iconic sporting memories or introduce your children and grandchildren to the legends of New England sports--a trip to the VICTORY exhibit at Foxwoods Resort and Casino will do your heart good. And you're helping a great cause: passing on the value of sport to a new generation and assisting the preservation of irreplaceable sporting history that the Sports Museum is dedicated to. It's a winning proposition if there ever was one.

There are many more photos over on my flickr page at...

And here are the details for VICTORY --
Foxwoods Resort and Casino
Mashantucket, Connecticut
Great Cedar Exhibition Hall, Great Cedar Hotel Lobby
September 27, 2012 - January 27, 2013
Adults - 15$, Children 10$ and Seniors 12$
Sunday - Thursday: 11am - 8pm
Friday - Saturday: 11am - 10pm

Monday, September 10, 2012

Time Past and Time Future

It doesn't really matter if we awaken to a cool, grey mist that morning or to azure skies scattered with cottonball clouds. The day still hurts. And it haunts. I used to think that it was somehow more appropriate when the morning of September 11th arrived with rain and drear. It's not that the drizzle takes the edge off of the pain or shrouds the memories, but in being so completely opposite of the morning in question there is, perhaps, a small amount of comfort to be taken.

That Tuesday morning was so brilliantly sunny. Too sunny. I walked to the 72nd street subway with a spring in my step. Autumn's first crisp breezes were starting to make their way into Manhattan that day and it was beyond beautiful. And then it wasn't. It was chaos and smoke and sirens and fear. The fear slowly but surely turned to disbelief, horror, and then stunning, overwhelming sorrow.

The twin towers of the WTC, taken from the Brooklyn Bridge, Labor Day weekend, 2001.
And so it is once again Tuesday, September 11th. This year there will be copious sunshine and refreshing breezes escorting the summer heat away from the Northeast. There will be silences, bells, moments, observations, and ceremonies. We will each remember in our own way, marking the hours, noting the time, and allowing ourselves to feel the sadness. Each year I wonder if this will be the one, the year when the anniversary hurts a little less. It never is.

I was reminded of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets over the weekend, and this small fragment from Burnt Norton caught me:

Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.