Showing posts with label Ray V. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ray V. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Anniversary of Sorts

I started writing this blog six years ago, having no idea where it might go.  And it's gone all over the place, following, mostly, my personal views.  It's become a journal, a diary, albeit a public one, a place where I've been able to say my piece, unfettered except for some self-imposed censorship to safeguard family and friends and some past history.

Two primary reasons I write this is for accountability and to remember details that get washed away with the years.  Even if I wrote this privately, the latter might be achieved in part; it's so much more constructive to form views, and to remember them by the process of writing.  Probably that's why I've increasingly written "reviews" of plays I've seen and books I've read, although it should be noted that I do not write about everything I read or see.  It's better to forget the more marginal ones.  And as I've said in my disclaimer at times, these are all personal views.  I don't pretend to be a critic.

Accountability is something else.  My opinions are there for all to plainly see, and when I wrote them.  Some I'd like to erase (although I've never removed anything written in the blog), such as a political view I might have expressed, one I might now feel somewhat differently about, but that is where I was at the moment.

Collectively, this blog of, now, 372 entries constitute a significant slice of my life, and as I've been dealing with some health issues, potentially serious ones, I may not be getting to the blog as often.  I've learned that the best medical advocate is not one's Doctor, but oneself.  It takes time.

But looking back over the last six years, I'm basically satisfied by where the blog has gone.  These entries, including the photographs, would fill volumes of printed pages, but it is important (to me) that the search engines bring "visitors" to my "little" blog (that is, small by the number of visitors, typical of a blog that is more personal than professional, or subject focused).  By Google's count, I've had more than 48,000 "page views", with the most popular entries (no surprise) mostly being descriptions of trips we've been on, which include many photographs (and frequently accessed through Google Images).

Then there are the are the emails I receive (I have disabled the comments section of the blog as I have no interest in a debate with strangers) but I have always included this email address and over the years I've received some very interesting notes from people all over the world.  I never fail to respond, even to the few that were not complimentary, but critical of what I wrote.  This one came quite recently, even though I wrote the entry it refers to more than a year ago. I was delighted that my efforts reach out across the globe:

Dear Lacunae,

Thank you for publishing these pictures of Operation Sail Bicentennial they are truly a treasure to me as I was a crew member on the warship in front of the Statue of Liberty.  The ship is the frigate SAS President Kruger (SAS being South African Ship).

We anchored in front of the Statue of Liberty on the afternoon of July 3rd 1976 after sailing up from Norfolk Naval Base in three convoys of warships.  I can still remember the excitement of sailing under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge on our arrival and steaming up the Hudson River to our anchorage.  I still think we had the best anchorage.

On the 4th July 1976  after the sail past of the Tall Ships at approximately  4pm we lifted anchor and sailed to Manhattan and tied up at pier 40 for 5 days.

Whilst berthed in Manhattan I had the privilege of going up to the top of the World Trade3 Centre and walking around on the observation deck and also a trip up the Empire State Building.

What impressed me the most was the friendliness of the people and the helpfulness of the police, this was a trip that I shall never forget!

I live in South Africa in a town called Kommetjie just outside Cape Town.  It is near the Simons Town Naval Base.

Again Thank you for posting these pictures,

Kind Regards
Kjell Hvidsten

Thanks to the Web, we've truly become a world community. 

I'm also pleased that my write-ups of the Dramaworks productions, in the aggregate, would place them among the top entries.  I said that I don't bother "reviewing" productions that have marginal interest to me.  Ever since I began including plays among the topics I cover, I think I've covered every Dramaworks production, as all are relevant and inspired, as professional as one would expect to see on Broadway or the West End.

Rummaging around in my old files I found the "first review" I ever wrote -- it was for my college newspaper -- and for a while I was their "film critic."   I wrote several, but only one survives in my files, so I scanned it and include it here.  It was written when I just turned 20.  Interestingly, to this day I think of This Sporting Life among the best films I've ever seen and no doubt, just writing about it cemented that opinion in my consciousness.

So, from fifty years ago, a little sophomoric, but a beginning....

'Sporting Life' Brings 'True Life' Approach
by Robert Hagelstein
Man's acceptance and rejection of life is the theme of "This Sporting Life," which presents a realistic if not shocking approach to motion pictures. The plot begins violently as Frank Machin, star rugby player, battles his foes in a ball game. He is helped off the field with six broken teeth, blood pouring from his mouth.

The challenge of the rugby game is juxtaposed to the challenge of life. Frank accepts both and deals with them in the only manner he knows how: using brute force.

Although a vigorous, powerful, and relentless symbol of strength throughout the film, he is unable to dominate life entirely. His desire for his young, widowed landlady, Mrs. Hammond, is futile. Though later she accepts him physically, his quest for spiritual love remains unreciprocated.

Mrs. Hammond's husband has died a year before the action of the film. Furthermore, there is an indication that he committed suicide. Unable to accept reality, she remains forever in mourning. However, she continues to clean her husband's boots and place them by the fire, secretly expecting his return.

Spiritually, she has already relinquished life. Thus Mrs. Hammond can't accept Frank, who epitomizes the turbulent and the unpredictable aspects of living. The conflict between these two personalities eventually results in Mrs. Hammond's physical death.

Incredulous of her death, Frank returns to the house to search for her. He is enveloped by the same malady from which Mrs. Hammond once suffered: the refusal to accept reality. However, this is not sustained. Grievously afflicted by her absence, he kneels in the empty house and his thoughts wander. Once again he hears the roar of the crowd and the juxtaposition of the rugby field reappears. The analogy to his present situation is explicit. Knocked down by the opposing team, he is stunned. Weary, but not beaten, he picks himself off the turf and once again plays the game of "this sporting life."

The previous scene demonstrates the superb technique which Lindsay Anderson, a fine new British director, employs throughout the film. Much of the action is revealed in retrospect as Frank lies dazed on the football field or as he sits unconscious in the dentist chair waiting for remnants of broken teeth to be removed. The film is logically constructed, moves rapidly, and the significance of the theme reaches the viewer with tremendous impact.

The acting is especially good. Richard Harris, as Frank Machin, is excellent.  Acclaimed the new Marlon Brando, Mr. Harris surpasses his American predecessor. His portrayal of Frank Machin is sensitive and highly expressive. Rachael Roberts, as Mrs. Hammond, also does an admirable job. She handles the role of an emotionally disturbed woman sensibly and does not carry it to an extreme. Her depiction of a human who runs from life is memorable.

The striking, realistic approach of the film certainly illustrates that motion pictures can be a highly developed art form. It is one of the finest films in years.

And on a final anniversary note, for thirteen years our friends, Ray and Sue have made their way to our home on their boat, departing Connecticut, arriving some 10 to 12 days later at our dock in Florida.  As Ray swings the boat around for docking, with Sue on the bow to handle lines, we customarily exchange a greeting, "It's a miracle!"  And when you think about the challenges of living on a boat year round as they do, making this journey up and down the Intracoastal, with some off shore cruising, docking at our home, and then out to the Abacos in the Bahamas where they spend most of the winter before returning to Connecticut, it truly is a miracle to make these trips safely and with such efficiency.  Of course it is primarily a testimony to their teamwork and boat handling.  We made the trip with them the first time they brought their boat down in 2000, but we took a few weeks to make the journey and to smell the roses along the way.  By Ray's reckoning, they've put about 42,000 miles on the boat since then.  It dawned on me to take a little video of their arrival this year, never knowing what year could be the last.

They left this morning from our dock on their way to the Abacos -- this screen shot from their GPS FindMeSpot system earlier this morning.  Indeed, an anniversary of sorts!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


On several disparate topics, sort of a "catch up" posting.

First and foremost, the Boston bombings, deplorable, despicable, cowardly. The stark, almost naked vulnerability of the runners, makes it especially gruesome to me, and on Patriot's Day in Massachusetts, the symbolism of the act is unambiguous.  If it was carried out with assault weapons rather than the anonymity of trash can bombs, would it speed  national gun control legislation as Connecticut commendably passed?  I wonder, but violence in our great land is intolerable and must be dealt with through education and legislation and improved economic opportunity for all. 

Then, on a less important subject, but a continuing frustration, is the foolishness of the Florida Legislature which is actually considering massive increases for windstorm insurance coverage through its state supported "Citizens Insurance."  The unintended consequences of such an increase will destroy the nascent housing and construction recovery and, long term, turn coastline communities into ghost towns, the very communities that draw tourism, Florida's most important revenue source.  The "need" for such an increase is to buy even more reinsurance for a once in a hundred year storm but one has to wonder how much the insurance industry has cozied up to Florida legislators. 

As it is, there is a "cauldron of misconduct alleged at Citizens Property Insurance" but as a state designed and operated institution, it seems to be immune to corporate codes of ethics. The bottom line is the entire state is vulnerable to destructive weather, be it hurricanes, or tornadoes, and the state needs a plan other than a usurious tax on coastal citizens.  It could create its own reinsurance pool with a quarter of a percent sales tax increase (some of which would be paid by tourism), with, of course, still higher insurance rates for coastal homes, but not at levels that would destroy those communities.
Our friends Ray and Sue were briefly here, making a detour on their way back to Connecticut from the Abacos on their boat 'Last Dance.'  Always wonderful to see them and to learn more about their living full time on their boat as well as being part of a boating community in the Bahamas, the Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club -- scores of boaters doing the same thing during the winter (although most have homes to go back to in the summer). 

So Ray and Sue arrived here on Sunday and I followed them on "Spot Me" which broadcasts their position every twenty minutes or so superimposed on Google Maps.  A remarkable technology.  Here's their last leg of the trip from the Bahamas to here. 

I helped them untie their lines on our dock early this morning and they've begun their 1,200 mile trek "home" to Connecticut where we will join them on our boat later this summer.

Earlier this month, Ann took me to see my first opera since my college days, Richard Strauss' gruesome Salome, at the Kravis Theatre in West Palm Beach.  I went as much for the spectacle as I did to understand how Ann has "spent all that time" for the last decade with season's tickets.  She usually goes with her friend, Lois, and there they meet our friend Roy, who we also see at the Dramaworks functions, for a bite of lunch beforehand,.  Ann and I were photographed with characters from next year's program of operas.

I used to apologize for not liking Opera (Stephen Sondheim, however, gave me permission).  It was a epic spectacle to see Salome, the main part being sung superbly by Erika SunnegĂ„rdh and it was helpful to have the English translation in the subtitles overhead.  The music is almost oppressively beautiful, but, to me, the staging seems so wooden compared to, say, a Sondheim musical.  Perhaps it measures up to Sweeny Todd for the bloodiest musical stage production.

A notable article appeared in the April 7 New York Times by AndrĂ© Aciman, How Memoirists Mold the Truth.  It certainly hit home with me as most of what I write is indeed memoir and I know exactly what he means by the following:

Writing the past is never a neutral act.  Writing always asks the past to justify itself, to give its reasons...provided we can live with the reasons.  What we want is a narrative, not a log: a tale, not a trial. This is why most people write memoirs using the conventions not of history, but of fiction.  It's their revenge against facts that won't go away ...And maybe this is why we write.  We want a second chance, we want the other version of our life, the one that thrills us, the one that happened to the people we really are, not to those we just happened to be once.  There is a lot more to take away from this profound article, but it reminds me of the fine line I sometimes walk between fact and fiction trying on the one hand to be truthful, but sometimes circumventing facts, frequently to keep certain people anonymous, and perhaps to remember the past as I would have liked it to be (frequently being unable to distinguish it from the real past which, ironically, it really may be!). I must confess it's also a delicate balance between honesty and privacy.

But my writing has led me to places and people (although I do not have a comment section, an email address appears in my profile) and most recently I was contacted by someone I hired 44 years ago.  She had found me through my blog and wanted me to know that I served as an important mentor (unknowingly to me) to her early in her career.  Since then she has gone on to very significant accomplishments, in business, and, more importantly, in her empathic quest to make a difference in one of the great tragedies of the past decade in our economy: the high unemployment rate and its impact on individuals (statistics aside).  I might say more regarding our distant relationship over the a narrow alleyway of time, but that will have to wait. 

My blog will probably go quiet for a while as I am preparing a piano program and will be recording it at a studio, so lots of practice in the days ahead.  I'm calling it "Music Makes Us" after a quote from David Byrne's recently published How Music Works: "We don't make music; it makes us." How true. And we are sort of defined by the music we listen to. For myself, it is the Great American Songbook, music we sometimes refer to as "The Standards."  I'll have more to say about this, and the specific pieces, after I've taken this on, difficult for me, a mere amateur, but isn't that what an engaged life is all about, setting demanding goals and doing one's best to attain them?  I've used those piano skills to bring some joy to people in retirement homes and will continue to do so.  It's makes all that time and commitment that much more meaningful.  

Meanwhile, I leave with a photograph of our seasonally flowering pink Bougainvillea tree, highlighted by my lovely wife, Ann.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dock Life -- and Loss

I've written before about living on a boat, something we've done now for the past 13 summers in their entirety and before that, on weekends and summer vacations.  In spite of traveling on the boat, much of the time has been spent at the dock, either getting ready to go out, returning and cleaning up, or in bad weather, just staying there, rain, wind, lightning and all.  How many days of our lives have been at the dock? Probably, in the aggregate, it measures several years.  A brief video of awaiting a storm at the dock is here:

Dock life is unlike any other.  It's close living and on weekends, when we were younger, it was a party atmosphere, someone was always hosting cocktails or sometimes there would be a dock party, everyone putting out something and dock mates strolling past, and filling up on finger food, libations. and good cheer. When we were younger, it was a family affair, the kids running up and down the dock under the watchful eye of the community. 

Of course, our boating life has been defined by the fact that we are "Long Island Sounders," berthed in Norwalk, CT. Over the years, we have cruised to most of the ports in Connecticut, to the north shore of Long Island and as far east as Newport, Block Island, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket.  As we grew older, the amount of cruising and distances traveled diminished to the point of now spending most of our time at the dock or the occasional short cruise to the Norwalk Islands. 

Our boating is also different because we live in Florida, and our boat in Connecticut is now our home up north.  That changes everything.

When we had a home in Connecticut, jumping on and off the boat was easier and the boat was less cluttered.  Taking the boat out now means stowing much more and unplugging all of the umbilical cords to the dock for power and water.  Easy when younger, but more challenging now.
We also have a small boat in Florida. Boating is different here, primarily because many in Florida have their boats, as we do, behind their homes.  There frequently is no marina or dock life.  Of course, there are people from up north who bring their boats to Florida for the winter.  I see lots of Canadian flags coming down the Intracoastal.  Many of those boats, though, wait out cold fronts to make a crossing to the Bahamas.

So, my comments are more "northern boat" centric, not Florida or Bahamas focused.  I could divide the boaters at the two docks we've lived at into several categories: fishermen (rarely saw much of them, they were up early and off to Montauk), cruisers (we fell into that category until I retired), liveaboards or people who rarely took their boats out (that's us now), and, strangely, people who have boats but never seem to use them.

For a long time we thought we wanted to live on a boat 24 x 7 x 365, selling our house and ties to land.  Our good friends Ray and Sue felt the same way and when towards the end of the 1990s it looked like, coincidentally, both Ray and I would be out of jobs, we fantasized about pooling our resources and buying a big yacht, something that would be comfortable for all, a ship that four experienced boaters could handle.  We looked at large Hatteras motor yachts, and some high maintenance ships such as the welded aluminum Burgers.

In our mutual excitement, we went to boat shows searching,  thinking up names for our fabled new home such as 'Moments to Remember,' 'Four Happy Hoboes,' Four Seasons,' Summer of our Lives, 'As Time Goes By,' and the overly cutesy 'Home Sea Home.'  But things have a way of taking care of themselves.  Ray and Sue were gravitating toward a sport fish style boat and we were also looking at homes in Florida.  It seems we both came upon our own individual dream places for our next phase of life simultaneously, wisely abandoning the idea of sharing a yacht, they buying a 56' Ocean sport-fish and we our current Florida home.  It worked out better this way, and we remain close friends.

They are still to this day true liveaboards on 'Last Dance,' having no other home, spending part of the year in Norwalk and the other part in the Abacos, Bahamas (usually stopping at our dock in Florida before heading out to the Abacos, and we've joined them a couple of times, stayed for awhile and then flying home from Marsh Harbor to West Palm).  Thus, we still have our own independent boating lives in Norwalk during the summers on our 'Swept Away' and that is when we try to catch up with all of our former boating friends.

Our dock life has changed as we ourselves have become summer liveaboards. Aside from Ray and Sue, we know few people who are year-round liveaboards.  But one such person was our friend, Lindy, who I referred to a couple of entries ago when he was entering a hospice.  Lindy succumbed to cancer shortly after I wrote that entry.

It occurred to me that we shared the same dock for 26 years, first at Norwalk Cove Marina, and then at the South Norwalk Boat Club.  We knew each other well and relied upon one another, checking the other's boat if one of us was away, picking up something at the store if we were going there, having a quick bite at the Club and sharing the same table at regularly scheduled boat meetings.  Lindy was somewhat of an enigma, typical though for a man who lived alone on a boat, even through the harsh winters in Connecticut, shoveling snow off the dock to get to his car. 

To Lindy, his boat was a sacred refuge and as much as he talked about leaving it behind for the winter, staying with one of his sons, or renting a place in Florida, he stuck with his boats, in the northeast, through blizzards and ice, awaiting the thaw of summer, until the following Fall when he would talk about not living another winter on the boat and then just do it again.

Lindy was an optometrist during his working years.  His boats were appropriately named 'The Optimist,' and if a sign of optimism is to have a joke du jour, he was the supreme optimist.  He always had me laughing and for most of the time I knew him as a live aboard, he had but two boats, a 42' Post, a beamy boat which I think he later regretted selling, and then a 42' Bertram. Both are classic sport fishes and, indeed, in the earlier years that I knew him, he would plan one big trip to Montauk each summer with some friends or his sons to "fish the canyon." But as he aged, his boating stayed more local until he rarely took the boat out as well.

His social life on the dock was spent visiting us and a few other couples, but mostly with a couple of guys who no longer married, ones who were on their boats a lot, particularly Harold, who remarkably boated into his 90s, having a 42' Bertram as well.  Harold predeceased Lindy by only a little more than a month.  I think it was one of the final straws for Lindy, who had been struggling with esophageal cancer during the last year.

Lindy's closest companion for many happy years was his beloved black Labrador, Charlie, a large dog to have in the confines of a boat.  I am convinced that no one knew the man better than Charlie, an exceptional dog, keenly intelligent, and extraordinarily well trained by Lindy.  That dog would sit in the cockpit of the boat and NEVER leave it until commanded by Lindy.  There could be a litter of cats parading by and Charlie would stay fast.  If Lindy was walking down the dock, Charlie would follow him with his eyes. He did not pace or whine like so many dogs missing their owners. He waited patiently as the photograph below attests (ironically, I have no photos of Lindy as he usually vanished when he saw my camera out).

Once Lindy said watch this:  he walked down the dock, Charlie keeping his eyes on him.  At the end of the dock, Lindy turned and just stood there, looking at Charlie.  He raised a finger and his eye brows, and Charlie came bounding out of the boat towards his master.  That was the sign.  Otherwise, Charlie would have stayed put.

It is strange, all those years on the same dock, knowing the man well, but not closely, and having to acknowledge that his dog knew him best.  But that is the way Lindy wanted it.  During the last few years I urged him to spend more time with his son, John, and family during the winters rather than the hard life on the dock in the winter.  He was the ultimate maverick, though, and felt that would be an imposition.  This summer, when we saw him for the last time in early September, we had a prescient feeling that that would be the last time, even though, as the perpetual optimist, he felt he would get better. 

But the operation to remove the cancerous tumor from his esophagus had taken its toll.  He wasn't able to eat, and had lost a lot of weight.  He was unsteady on his feet and we worried.  Ann had sent over quite a few meals and we had been shopping for him, but we were then going back to Florida.  Lindy, I said, why don't you make arrangements to go to New Hampshire to your son, establish doctors up there, the winter here will be impossible for you.  We'll see he said.  I spoke to him in early December and he said he was going to go to his son's for Christmas.  Great, I said, you are staying there, right?  Make arrangements with local Doctors?  He said that he'd like to get back to the boat. 

I called him on Christmas Day and I could tell he was in bad shape.  The cancer had metastasized in his lungs and the plan was for him to start chemotherapy after he had hoped to put some weight on. He said he would like to see the boat one more time.  On Dec 26, though, John had to call an ambulance, over Lindy's protestations.  He had pneumonia and it was then, according to his son, that he "realized that to continue to try to fight the cancer would only extend his life a short while but at the cost of his dignity and his quality of life. He decided to discontinue nutrition and enter hospice." And so finally at the end he was with family for a compassionate, comfortable passing. 

I remember getting up on Jan. 4 and looking at the clock.  It was 6.00 am.  I didn't think anything of it -- about 15 minutes earlier than I normally wake up now. Later that day I got an email from John, about Lindy's passing at approximately 6.00 am. Indeed, Bon Voyage, Lindy.

His death has had a big impact on us, not only because of the years we spent on the dock together but because it reminds me, and anyone connected with him, of our own mortality.  I wish I was a religious person and could say with conviction that there is some sort of heaven, but I believe in the here and now and, when dead, especially after such a horrible disease, one is indeed in another better place.  As Susan Jacoby quoted 19th century Robert Green Ingersoll in her article in last week's New York Times on atheism -- when Ingersoll had delivered the eulogy for a child who had died -- “they who stand with breaking hearts around this little grave, need have no fear. The larger and the nobler faith in all that is, and is to be, tells us that death, even at its worst, is only perfect rest ... The dead do not suffer.”

Many years ago when I used to go down to our boat to check on it during the winter, the boatyard which during the summer was such a bustling place, became one of stark desolation.  Most boats were up on land for storage and the early morning winter sun and wind made it an eerie place (I think of Emily's Dickinson's poem that begins, "There's a certain slant of light, / On winter afternoons, / That oppresses, like the weight. / Of cathedral tunes."). On one such day I felt compelled to write my own poem about the experience, not a very good one, I'm not a poet, but it expressed my feelings.  I include it here in memory of Lindy.

Wintry Moorings

Halyards slap
in the winter morning’s
northwest wind.

The boat yard
is a lonely place.

Hulls are awkward hulks
beached on parking lots,
stringers and fiberglass
settled on blocks and cradles.

Some boats still endure the water,
lines urging
finger slips to test pilings;
ice-eaters drone in the briny dark.

On land they are shrink-sealed in plastic
or framed under bulky tarpaulins,
riding out the wintry bombardment,
awaiting next summer’s voyages.

Others lay abandoned
by Captains who are no more