Saturday, July 14, 2007

Brief Yet Disturbing Moment of Bigotry

I was eating a late lunch with my husband and the Boy at my local Chili's today. As I went to the restroom to try to rinse out a stain (some Skillet Queso--yum), which had most inconveniently landed on the only white section of my otherwise black blouse, I heard someone in a stall speaking in a foreign language (Portuguese, I'd guess). Presumably on a cell phone (otherwise there are other issues going on here too deep to contemplate).

After an only partly fruitful attempt at destaining my shirt, I decided to avail myself of the faciities, too. I went into another stall, then heard a third person enter. A moment later, I heard someone mutter the word, "English." Meanwhile, the first person continued her phone conversation.

Huh, I thought to myself. (I'm especially eloquent within my mind at such moments.)

Then, I heard the mutterer flush, leave her stall, and say, loudly and clearly, "Speak English, damn it! You're in America! SPEAK ENGLISH!" She then left, because by the time I was finished, she was gone. The cell phone talker also finished and left\ without replying.

When I got out to the sinks, I was alone. And I was sorry, because I wanted to confront the Mutterer-turned-Complainer. "What is the problem?" I wanted to say. "She wasn't talking to you--she was having a private conversation. For all you know, she was a tourist. And besides, even immigrants have the right to speak their own language to themselves, for God's sake! Did YOUR family give up all [insert language here] when they were newcomers? WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?!"

But I couldn't, so I didn't. And maybe I'd have looked M-turned-C in the eyes and backed away, scared. Because her voice--so pointlessly rude and mean--didn't carry the sound of reason.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Maybe If the Town Hosted the Doughnut Hall of Fame Instead...

Well, the results are in: Our neighbor to the northwest, Springfield, VT, will host the official premiere of The Simpsons Movie, beating out our own Springfield, MA. But at least it's still going to be an SNFE premiere, and I, for one, can't wait. (We're big Simpsons fans in my household.)

From today's Globe (scroll down past the snit between environmentalist Laurie David and her neighbors):
D'oh! Springfield, Mass., won't be hosting the official premiere of "The Simpsons Movie." Instead, the honor goes to Springfield, Vt. -- population 9,300 -- thanks to a short video about Homer Simpson chasing a giant, rolling doughnut through town. Fourteen cities named Springfield (home of TV's favorite animated family) posted 5-minute films on USA Today's website, and the public voted for the winner over the past week. "I almost drove off the road when I heard," said Vermont television producer Tim Kavanagh, who played Homer.

Springfield, Mass., placed fourth with 11,442 votes, behind Vermont, Oregon, and Illinois. "If it had to be anyone else, I'm glad it was Vermont," said David Horgan, director of the Massachusetts video. "The smallest state -- the one that everyone thought had no chance -- won it all." Each participating Springfield will host its own premiere on July 26, but Vermont gets first dibs on July 21. "We've never hosted a movie premiere, but we're ecstatic," said Patricia Chaffee of the Springfield, Vt., Chamber of Commerce
I guess in the end, having Hoop Hall wasn't quite enough to put the Massachusetts Springfield over the top (athletics were never a big draw for Homer). But considering we came in 4th out of 13, I think I'll be happy with that old Hollywood standby: It's an honor just to be nominated.

Live it up, Springfielders, wherever you are! (Or Springfieldaweenians, as my husband would say.)

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Isn't It a Bit Early for This?

Yes, yes, I know they're still leading their division--by a lot. Yes, yes, I know all it takes is for the batters to get hot again. I know all that. And maybe I'm being too picky, but isn't the collapse supposed to come after the All-Star break?

Sometimes procrastination is a good thing. In fact, sometimes certain things don't need to happen at all. Or maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way--they collapse now, then pick up again in August. That's the ticket!

(Sometimes even the cockeyed optimists of the world need a little boost.)

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Beauty Revisited

After Wednesday's rainout, we took a chance--despite occasionally threatening skies again--and headed back to Marblehead for their belated Independence Day celebration. We took our seats at the edge of the peninsula and waited, looking hopefully toward the fireworks barge at the mouth of the harbor.

A camera-phone photo can't really do justice to the outstanding show the good people of the town put on for us. And words can't really do justice to the beauty of the evening--the harbor illumination, the red, green, blue, and gold explosions, the shimmering reflections on the water.

So I'll use one word: Spectacular.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hot Dogs and Beauty

Well, we tried to watch the Marblehead fireworks last night...

We drove to Marblehead, thinking we'd park, then ride our bikes to Salem and eat hot dogs, but the skies were threatening. I suggested we instead drive to Salem, scarf dogs, and come back. Good plan, as the rain began falling. But weather be damned! If you like hot dogs--the good kind with the toasted buns and all kinds of toppings--get yourself to the Boston Hot Dog Company (yes, they're only in Salem, but why quibble?) and enjoy. Southern slaw dogs (chili and cole slaw)--yowza!

We returned to Marblehead and hauled our folding chairs a half-mile to Chandler Hovey Park, where we sat patiently in our thank-goodness-my-husband-packed-them rain ponchos, looking out at the fireworks barge in the water as the rain fell. The view was lovely--boats in the harbor bobbing in the inlet--and we were comfy and dry. I had a moment of sheer happiness at being with my famiy, enjoying the view, keeping warm.

At 8:15, some nice police officers walked through the park announcing that the fireworks company had called it on account of the weather--come back this Friday and try again. (We probably will.)

As we drove home, fireworks were going off in all directions from other towns that hadn't cancelled or postponed, so we still got a bit of a show.

All in all, a lovely evening.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Now I Know What Everyone Does Early in the Day on the 4th

They go to the movies. Transformers to be exact. The theater in Lowell (nice stadium seating) was packed. Apparently people (including us) need a place to hang out when they (a) don't go to work and (b) don't want to head out to see fireworks 7 hours early.

And actually, it wasn't half bad. Could have sucked, but I enjoyed it. Despite being a Michael "Pearl Harbor" Bay movie, which proves that there are second acts in American lives--very fitting for the Fourth.

Beverly Sills: Cheerful to the End

Though I'm not the world's biggest opera fan (I used to attend the Virginia Opera regularly with my mother during my teens, but not much since then), I was a big fan of Beverly Sills, who died this week. In one of the many ironies of her life, she had lung cancer--though she never smoked.

People have all kinds of role models in their lives, and she was one of mine. Not so much for her musical ability--few of us could hope to compete in that area--but in how she lived her life: with style, with kindness, with grace. As her obits point out, other opera singers of her era had nicknames like "la Stupenda" -- Beverly was called "Bubbles."

She managed to have a great career, both as a performer and an arts administrator, while always being herself--which was a damn fine thing to be. She spent important parts of her career in the Boston area and was a leading light of Sarah Caldwell's Opera Company of Boston. Her husband, Peter Greenough (who died last year) was a financial columnist for the Globe during the 1960s.

Though she had by all accounts a happy marriage, her children were born with physical and mental disabilities, including a daughter who is deaf:
It was an ironic trick of the gods to give me a daughter who couldn't hear me sing," Ms. Sills said on a PBS special last year devoted to her career, Beverly Sills: Made in America. "It affected my singing. The best times I had were moments on stage. To be able to pretend to be somebody else for three hours was such a relief.
Here's where the role model stuff comes in. I'm a naturally upbeat person, but sometimes you just have to push through on attitude, like Beverly Sills. Whenever I'm down, physically or emotionally, and feel like being catty or snippy or just plain cranky, I try to remember what she famously said many years ago (and thanks to my mother for first introducing me to this quote):
I'm not happy, I'm cheerful. There's a difference. A happy woman has no cares at all. A cheerful woman has cares but has learned how to deal with them.
I learned a lot about perspective from Beverly Sills and about how you treat the people around you even when things aren't going great for you. For me, that's a legacy that will last as long as memories of her beautiful voice. Wherever she is now, I hope she's not just cheerful, but happy, too.

Photo by Joseph Sinnott from the Concise Encyclopedia Britannica.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Awesome Beach, Hilly Ride

There are few beaches in New England as beautiful as Wingaersheek in Gloucester, but also few with as small a parking lot (also, there's between a $15 and $25 charge, depending on the day). So my hubby announced: "We'll park behind the police station in Essex and ride our bikes to the beach. It should be about 5 miles, mostly flat. It's at sea level, after all."

Well, we did park behind the police station easily--check. No trouble getting onto the beach at Wingaersheek on a bike--check. As for the other parts: Ummm...not flat and the winding roads make the route definitely more than five miles to the beach. Beautiful place to ride--salt marshes, nice houses. And an equally nice place to push your bike up a hill because it's the sixth hill in a row and your panniers are full and you just need the break (although pushing a bike up a hill is no picnic either).

Nevertheless, thanks to a restorative break at the beach concession stand (very reasonable prices and delicious fruit cups at this time of year) and some water and sand, we felt refreshed. Really--this beach is spectacular, all Edward Hopper-y with a lighthouse in the background and all. And in the end, despite an offer from Jim to pick me up in our van, we all (hubby, The Boy, and me) made it back to the Essex P.D. intact--and a little more fit for the effort. In fact, I blazed through the last two miles on Rt. 133 (we came back a different way) as though I'd gotten some sort of second wind. So I guess I'd do it again.

But next time, I'm getting a topo map first.

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