In April, I took a day off from work and drove with my mother from Richmond, Virginia, to Lee County, Virginia — a seven-hour drive that takes you to the westernmost part of the state (I stood with pride as a 10-year-old on the spot where Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky meet). The drive used to take longer when my brother and I were younger (with strategic stops for a discovered playground or a second lunch) and before the state carved wide, straight roads through the Appalachian Mountains.
The birthplace and retirement spot of my grandfather, Lee County was the destination for several annual family treks, including Christmas and summer vacation. It’s a place that has special resonance in my life and my memories, its windy roads (they’re still there, though some are avoidable), the deep quiet of star-filled night skies, the farm fields ripe for make-believe afternoons, the hard church pews and twangy hymns, the county library on a hot summer afternoon. And my grandfather, of course – a strong and soft, pious yet playful, wise man who raised my mother and aunt after his only wife died when my mother was only three.
When my mother told me that she was planning to do a book reading for her fourth book at the Lee County library in April, I instantly, perhaps breathlessly, suggested I could accompany her. How special it was to be able to share those three days together.
The drive was uneventful, short of passing through an area on I-81 where a tornado had blazed through some days before, and provided for long conversations about marriage, families, stages of life, good books, and the like.
As we arrived in Lee County, my mother drove below the speed limit as we passed through the town of Jonesville, and I pointed out each of my favorite homes, the pharmacy where we’d sat for cokes and grilled cheese sandwiches, the laundromat where I’d discovered the art of placing quarters into thundering dryers, and the pull-off road to the middle school where I’d first sat behind a steering wheel and shrieked as a I “steered” my yelling father and our family minivan off the road and toward a ditch of trees.
When we reached my grandfather’s home (built by his grandfather), we pulled into the driveway to find the family away with no chance to step inside (we did the next day, though, after a hike up the hill to take in the farmland…and I walked through the familiar, though changed, farmhouse, recalling where the Christmas tree, the old wood-burning kitchen stove, the oversized freezer filled with garden-grown fruits and vegetables, and the on and on used to be). The soft light of the sunset, the cicadas’ rhythmic song, and the not-too-distant mountains: they had been waiting more than a decade to welcome me back. (At certain stages of my life, I’d mourn the moment when it was time to load up and pile into our car to make the drive back to Richmond. Once, while I cried into my grandfather’s wizened neck, he softly noted that I couldn’t come back if I didn’t leave.)
The rest of the weekend: A dinner out with the lovely family friend and cousin with whom we stayed, the editor of the local newspaper, and the wife of my grandfather’s doctor (a spitfire, civil rights lawyer) made for lively conversation. The following day, we walked quietly in my family cemetery, stopping to visit those we remembered, the longest pause at my grandparents’ grave (in the 1990s, I pointed out to Pa that he had prematurely carved in the “19″ for his death year). The event at the library was well-attended, and the comments and questions following my mother’s reading reflected a genuine appreciation for the story she had told.
Afterwards, a good number of women approached me and told me how lucky I was to share the weekend with my mother and to have the opportunity to know so much about her through her book. I could not agree more.
I’ve been without a watch since I lost mine (sorry, Mark!) last fall. Lately, I’ve noticed what a great yet simple fashion statement a watch can be…Plus, it’s a functional accessory unlike, for example, a toe ring. After examining options online, I picked out the following (love it!) and have been wearing it ever since:
Fitting that I return to the list (which has been languishing only electronically) to post a quick (technically, 58:35) update and officially cross off #12, “Run in a 10K,” which builds off my most “recent” post. Last Saturday, I laced up my sneakers and participated in the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond, my home town.
I was a bit nervous about my knee holding up (my handful of training runs were hit or miss, with a number of frustrating moments of intense knee pain), but what with the adrenaline, the perfectly lovely spring weather, and the presence of friends Jennifer and Karen, I did just fine and never had to stop to stretch!
It was a really wonderful experience, running past any number of life institutions (the apartment of an old piano teacher, my high school, my parents dispensing high fives…) and down Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue (Richmond is the only city in the world with a street of monuments of people who lost a war….but it now includes a monument of Arthur Ashe!) And the festive city spirit was amplified by VCU playing in the Final Four that night.
An annual tradition may have been born. (A couple itty-bitty photos of me running:)
No, I didn’t run a 10K today, but I did throw on my running shoes and hit the pavement for a 4.5-miler…which is only the fourth time I’ve run in the last 365 days. Not too shabby!
In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d post the playlist I had on my ipod since I”m always looking for good running songs.
1. “Hey, Soul Sister” – Train: A peppy, upbeat start as I head from the South End to the Back Bay.
2. “Break Your Heart” – Taio Cruz: According to my Entertainment Weekly, this is the frontrunner for song of summer 2010. We’ll see…
3. “Carry Out” – Timbaland (feat. Justin Timberlake): Anything with those two names attached is worth consideration on a running mix.
4. “All the Right Moves” – One Republic: A break from the R&B and rap. I am almost done running up Beacon to Mass Ave and about to head over to the Charles River.
5. “Down” – Jay Sean: The ultimate “love rap” song (as Mark critically calls this genre), it’s not at all original or interesting but it helps keep my pace up.
6. “Whatcha Say” – Jason Derulo: A little slower but the chorus is so good!
7. “I Made It” – Kevin Rudolf (feat. a lot of people): It’s a climber on the Hot 100 so I figured I’d check it out. It’s a little slow for my taste (plus how many more times do you need to hear a rapper talk about all his money? come on…) but it finished off as I was half-way though my run along the Charles.
8. “I Do Not Hook Up” – Kelly Clarkson: Love her.
9. “Raindrops” – Basement Jaxx: Never hurts to add a British dance/electric record to the mix. Goodbye, Charles.
10. “Hero” – Nas: Can’t argue with a rap that has a good beat and an actual message. Hello, Boston Common.
11. “Osaka Loop Line” – Discovery: I’m not sure what genre this is – indie electric? Entering the South End.
12. “Right Now (Na Na Na)” – Akon: Na, na, na, I just ran 4.5 miles.
Last weekend, my parents flew up from Virginia to visit us. On Sunday afternoon, we went to Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and spent just over an hour walking through the exhibits and then another hour and a half catching the Oscar-nominated animated shorts.
Although the exhibits met with a range of reactions — from don’t get it (parents) to why did you bring me here (Mark) to this is so fun! (me), the entire outing was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The main visiting exhibit was Roni Horn aka Roni Horn, which was impressive to me as the artist used so many different mediums to examine the meaning of identity and perception. At first glance, a room that displayed multiple photographs of the water of the Thames River was redundant but each photograph was adorned with small footnotes that provided discrete and interesting comments on water. Very intricate! I also was moved by Polish artist Krzysztof Wodiczko’s projection-based work…OUT OF HERE: The Veterans Project, inw hich the routine sounds of life are interrupted by the noise of destruction and chaos as Wodiczko’s narrative unfolds across three walls of the gallery. It was really powerful.
The Oscar winner, Logorama, was inventive but didn’t overwhelm any of us.
The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You’re born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one. — Don Draper, “Mad Men: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (1.1)” (2007)
Last month, Mark and I hosted our first real house party, inspired by one of my favorite television shows, AMC’s Mad Men. Our evite invitation required that guests come dressed in era-appropriate attire and promised an evening of 1960s cocktails and cuisine.
Attire: I bought a 1960s dress on Etsy while Mark grabbed a fedora hat and suspenders at Macy’s.
Food: We offered deviled eggs (the most labor-intensive selection), pigs in a blanket, a cheese/meat tray, chips and onion dip, mixed nuts, and several other finger foods. And of course, packets of candy cigarettes where placed throughout the party room.
Drinks: Mark and I put together an Algonquin Bar Punch which made for a delicious and deadly concoction. We also set up a Gin station (for Tom Collins) and a Vodka station (Vodka Gimlet and Martini), stocked with the necessary ingredients and recipe cards. And of course, we offered Heineken, one of Sterling Cooper’s clients. Here’s the gin station:
Etcetera: We got I downloaded four hours of 1960s songs which we played throughout the evening and used this great Flickr slideshow of old advertisements which we played on a laptop set up by the food.
Overall, it was a fun evening! I’ll leave you with some group shots:
There were no excuses this year…and next year, I’ll likely be in the throws of work at Big Law. So I picked up two boxes of holiday cards and sent out about 30 in the week before Christmas. It’s not a very impressive number but it’s the most I’ve sent in years (and maybe ever). One lesson learned (in the event I do this again) — I’ll probably search to send out New Year’s cards as that give me the week after Christmas to also write and mail out…and get rid of all of the holiday stamps!