A South Coast Weekend – Massachusetts

Indigenous People’s Day, as Columbus Day is known in Somerville, Mass., has been a regular time for J and me to venture to Boston to see daughter A and boyfriend N. Lots of times we’ve combined it with a summit or two in the White Mountains, but this time made it more “swamp”-like with a weekend at the South Coast. Not to be confused with the many South Shores of multiple other states (including Massachusetts itself), the South Coast is an area of coastal farmland south of Boston. It’s got a complicated coastline, bordered by Buzzard’s Bay and Rhode Island, which makes orienting yourself quite difficult, and is the starting point for people taking the ferry to the much better known Cape.

We were fortunate that our Spirit flight to Boston was on time. Flying Spirit is always a gamble, as proved true on the way back when our flight was not just delayed but canceled! Following a nice evening in Cambridge, which included a brisk walk, dinner at Craigie’s On Main, and breakfast at a well known bakery, we took off for the South Coast, Dartmouth, Mass. to be precise.

N had put together an extensive itinerary, only a portion of which we completed, despite a valiant effort. First stop was lunch in Westport at Back Eddy. It’s a beautiful setting, right on the calm bay – blue skies and lots of boats. It’s also quite expensive and is frequented by lots of New England ladies.

Next stop was Gooseberry Island. I’m not sure if it’s an actual island or a peninsula, but it is a stunning area of uninhabited shoreline. A trail wends its way around the area; we were tempted to go bush whacking but didn’t for fear of getting stuck at some inaccessible point. The weather was superb. Lots of wildflowers and birds; seas of tall golden grasses.

Topped off our afternoon with beers at the Buzzards Bay Brewing Company. We’d been there once before, and it’s always a scene. There’s a farmers market, live music, a meadow packed with families — some of whose parents seemed to be quietly drinking themselves to oblivion while their kids ran around like banshees. I’ve always wanted to use the word “banshee.”

Our AirBnB was advertised as an “Artist’s Farmhouse”, located outside Dartmouth. It is owned by a rather well-known ceramicist, whose enormous, three chambered kiln occupies quite a bit of the back yard. His studio is next door. All the tiles in the house are handmade, as are all the dishes, and interesting collections of memorabilia from different places furnish the rooms. There’s also a fire pit, and an extremely large and friendly cat lives close by. And there was enough room for frisbee playing and for A to hone her new-found skill of juggling.

The Kiln

After dinner at Little Moss and breakfast at the Farm and Coast Market, both in Westport, we were fortified enough for our adventure to Newport, Rhode Island. We arrived just as a marathon was ending, but nonetheless were able to find a parking spot near the beginning of the famous Cliff Walk.

The Cliff Walk runs several miles along the shore – needless to say, along the top of the cliffs, past huge and ornate Gilded Age mansions. I was staggered by how many there were. Some occupied, some now museums. We stopped to tour The Breakers, which is the Vanderbilt mansion. The opulence is overwhelming.

The walk itself ranges from smooth paving to scrambles over some large areas of rock toward the end. Apparently there has been a fair amount of damage from various storms. As you near the end, the mansions took on a spookier feeling, and I could imagine an ancient widow sitting in her rocking chair, looking out the window at the ghosts of long passed guests.

We stopped at Red Dory (not sure where that name come from) for dinner on our way back. We arrived just as the sun was setting and were treated to a psychedelic light show of reds and pinks and oranges. It was a fitting end to a weekend filled with art and color and sea and shore. And almost made up for that canceled Spirit flight on the way back to Orlando.

Advertisements

Election Year – Hurricanes, Presidentials and Mt. Jefferson

img_5087
This wasn’t the summit but it looked just about the same!

For the last several years, we’ve spent that most politically incorrect of all holidays, Columbus Day, either in New Hampshire or Maine, together with Boston and New Bedford residents Daughter A and Boyfriend N.

And despite hurricane force winds in Florida, courtesy of Hurricane Matthew,  this year was no different.  Of course, we had planned for a Friday departure, but after even my office announced it would close for both Thursday and Friday, I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen.  But it still took our So Budget It Shall Remain Unnamed airline until 4 am Friday to cancel the flight. For some unknown reason I’d woken up almost at the precise moment of flight cancellation and hence was able to have rebooked us before 5 – after which I immediately went back to sleep, lulled by the 60 mph wind gusts.

Saturday we woke bright and early to inspect the debris in the yard. The wind had howled most of the night, but Matthew’s 20 mile jog to the east had made all the difference. We made it to the airport, our one checked suitcase within one pound of an excess weight charge.  All was going as smoothly as it could for a 24 hour delayed flight, until we learned that our Unnamed Budget airline had apparently forgotten to tell the first officer he was supposed to be on that flight. After about an hour, said Unnamed Budget airline snagged two pilots who had just arrived from Texas and who agreed to rearrange their schedules to fly us to Boston.

We finally arrived in Boston about 7 pm. After dinner at a nearby Peruvian restaurant (with Pisco Sours!), N drove us through the night in the old faithful Previa to Jackson, New Hampshire.

We had left our reservations late and knew we weren’t staying at a quaint New England B&B. Instead we were booked at an old style motel, run by a crusty elderly man who had clearly been asleep when we had to ring the service phone after we arrived at midnight. I must admit to a brief moment of panic when I saw all the lights off in the office and the no vacancy signs at every establishment in town.

But we managed to get ourselves checked in and even to wake up  by 7 or so. Well, 7:30.  Our original plan had been to climb Mt. Jefferson and then go over the ridge to summit Mt. Adams. But given the late start and the overall hassles of the last few days, even we recognized that perhaps that was overly ambitious.

We gave A the choice between a shorter and steeper climb or a longer and more gradual one.  Ever the pragmatist, she went without hesitation for the shorter one – Caps Ridge.

It was about an hour drive to the trailhead, which was quite well hidden down a dirt logging road. It was a relief when we finally found the small parking lot and saw other hikers getting ready to start.

img_5099

The trail starts with a fairly steep climb through thick woods. It was overcast and grey and proceeded to get more overcast and grey the higher we climbed.  After a bit, the trees turned into skinny short birches, their white trunks looking vaguely unclothed with ribbons of grey bark hanging off them.

From the birches we climbed through scrubby pines and finally above the tree line. At that point, the bit we hadn’t been expecting – some real scrambling and rock climbing – suddenly appeared. Frankly, I thought it was harder than Mt. Washington up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail – although it certainly was shorter.  There were at least three sections where we were looking for cracks to scale and I made good use of the shrubs growing on the sides as handholds. A had neglected to bring any gloves and J ended up doing it all bare handed.

img_5118

Toward the top there was a section of big boulders, covered in lichen, where you balanced along the edges of one rock holding on to the one above. It was like some crazy jungle gym that you had always wanted to try in kindergarten.

By that point it was all slippery and even greyer and A was showing tremendous resistance to the idea that a summit was really necessary, wisely reminding us all that what goes up must come down. But at that point, striding out of the mist, came a European climber who looked as though he’d just left the Matterhorn. According to him, the summit was only “10 or 15 minutes” away.  Despite the fact we were now experiencing sharp dry pellets of hail, that gave us the encouragement we needed for that final push up.

Of course, it took us 30 minutes, and the view from the top was as grey as the view from the bottom — but it was still the summit!

img_5101
Summit!

We had made a commitment not to waste time at the top because we had all those sections of rock to slide down. And slide we did. My favorite part was when I saw a foothold several feet below my legs, and figured if I just started the slide I could grab on to a nearby branch halfway down to break my fall. Not very elegant, but it worked.

I ended up climbing a good portion of the way down solo. As I’m usually the slowest going up, I feel I must make up for it on the way down. I had a good head start and it seemed a mistake to intentionally reduce my pace. But voices don’t carry well in the mountains; I couldn’t hear my fellow hikers; and I spent a fair amount of time worrying I had drifted on to a rabbit trail or a dry stream bed and would plow further into the wilderness, never to be heard from again.  And, I was without a phone since J had forgotten his and was holding mine to take photos.  Big  note to self. One group should not have all the phones!

Regardless, it was back through the scrub, the birches and the woods, and I was sitting on a log waiting for the other side when they reappeared not too long thereafter.

We were all absolutely filthy and wet. Back to our little motel, showers, and out for a short walk and dinner. The weather cleared and the brilliant fall foliage that we’d been hoping to see all day was finally reflected in the orange pink sunset.

And how better to conclude our climb in The Presidentials than by watching the presidential debate. Jeffersonian it was not.

Part 2 – Back Benching in Cambridge

 

image

How else could you follow up the Cambridge Winter Farmers Market – managed by daughter A  – but with a Saturday lunch with Harvard Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain. This was the first official function I attended.   My post would not do JZ’s talk justice, but his themes ranged from the potential lockdown of information by the Googles of the world to the word clouds that can now be created from the digitized collections of all US legal cases at the HLS library. I left feeling as though I would most certainly appreciate law school more now than I did when I was actually attending. And how many times has that statement been made following a reunion.

After the law school luncheon, class symposium (international perspectives on American politics – imagine that), we had a brief interlude of drinking champagne imported by a friend and classmate from small vineyards in France. Mr. Transatlantic Bubbles! I offered to be his marketing person. He even brought a box of his own Reidel stemware.

After catching up with old friends and surviving the stares of the 1Ls who couldn’t quite comprehend why the old folks had their own wineglasses and were drinking champagne in the student center, it was time to rendezvous with J, daughter A and boyfriend N. Off to the most trendy current brewery in Somerville. By the time  we left at 5, there was a three deep line stretching 30 feet out the door.

image

J and I changed for the class dinners at the Charles Hotel. A little bizarre to float back and forth between life as a parent to my now mid 20s daughter and then to travel down memory lane to meet up again with people whom I’d first known thirty years ago. But after the dinner and attendant speeches ended, we found ourselves back at that aging Cambridge establishment, the Hong  Kong. Up a grungy flight of stairs to a dank few second floor dimly lit rooms – it is the epitome of college dive. It’s famous for scorpion bowl cocktails. Imagine a 12 inch diameter bowl, filled with a lethal concoction of different liquors, muddled together with grain alcohol, and you’ll get the idea. Everyone partaking is provided with their own straw for imbibing.  Some  obtain extra straws, link them  them together, and suddenly  achieve the telekinetic ability to swill cocktails from a full couple of feet away.

It was time to go. Bowls only last so long. And we knew a brunch awaited the next day with A and N at Tap and Trotter m Somerville.

We made it to our rendezvous with A and N surprisingly early Sunday morning. But when we arrived at our brunch destination we learned that our counted upon Bloody Mary’s couldn’t be sold til 11. We managed to eke out our order until drinks arrived almost simultaneous with our entrees. From brunch, a visit to the remarkable Harvard art museum. Beautiful collection of 19th art  to present. Below – a painting that brought back memories of New Orleans. An absinthe drinker.

image

After, a visit to daughter A’s house and off to the airport, via a trip to see Old Ironsides, now mostly under restoration.

image
View next to Old Ironsides

We have a tradition of ordering scrod at Legal Seafood at the airport. The plane flight back was as smooth as ever. And even as we pulled into the semi humidity of Florida I still felt that little crackle and pop of a Boston spring.

 

Cambridge, Mass. – 30 Years Later

image

We have just completed the daughter circuit. It’s a little different than the Annapurna circuit (not that I’ve ever done that) but certainly has its own special highs. Still escaping the trigger points that exist everywhere at our house and remind us of Malcolm, our recently deceased Westie, husband J and I took off for the second weekend in a row early Friday morning to venture off to Cambridge, MA.  We were in New Orleans the prior week with daughter S, so we’ve managed to cover the Gulf and the North Atlantic within a week of each other.

I say Cambridge intentionally, as we barely set foot in Boston. The ostensible reason for the trip was my 30th year law school reunion. This reunion had special significance for me – five years ago we were preparing to climb Kilimanjaro in July 2011. That was the trip that – no exaggeration – changed our lives. As I reflect back – life since then? There’s been a lot more than work. Besides Kili, there’s Mt Elbrus, the Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu, Cotopaxi, Illiniza Norte, Mt Hood, Orizaba… The list continues.

Leaving such reflections in the wafting jet trails of our 8 am flight, now over an hour delayed, we arrived in Boston about noon and made our way to a trendy lunch spot near Central Square, close to one of daughter A’s two not for profit jobs. Following the obligatory sandwich and salad, we left luggage with A and did our first urban hike from Central Square to the law school so I could register. To say the place has changed is an understatement. Wyeth Hall, the ancient dorm where I spent my first year in 83/84 is no longer, replaced by a luxurious student center and administrative building. The parking garage I remembered is gone, with a below ground parking deck now serving that function. And the old student center, the Hark, has a fancy name, and the smell of a keg of beer gone bad that pervaded the pub vanished.

image

We’d decided that Friday was family night and Saturday would be devoted to more official matters. So after registering we walked back to Central Square, retrieved our luggage and went to pick up A via Uber at her second NFP job – managing the Cambridge Winter Farmers Market. Yes, my daughter is a market manager!

Since when one is with millennials one does as millennials – hence, the Uber took us to our AirBnb. A small studio, it was fine, but the last guests must have stolen the duvet because two sheets were definitely not enough covers for a Floridian couple. There was a brief moment of panic when I realized I didn’t know the unit number for the studio, but at least no one noticed us trying the key in various and sundry apartments.

From there it was time to meet boyfriend N’s parents, K and S (see The Real Mysteries of Puzzle Mountain, Maine), A and N for a free concert sponsored by the Harvard music department. Billed as Creative music, it was several steps beyond jazz improvisation. We saw improvisational pianist Craig Taborn perform “Avenging Angel: Improvisations for Solo Piano”…and I have never seen anyone’s hands move so fast and precisely over a piano keyboard – almost as if he was chiseling glass. But there was one moment when daughter – at a particularly discordant part – silently pointed out to me that the map of the building in the program included an area designated as “area of refuge.” I still have a sore spot from biting my lip so as not to laugh out loud in the awfully serious concert hall in which we found ourselves.

image
Following our foray into the world of musical virtuosity, dinner was at Shepard – where I found rabbit on the menu for the third time in a week. So much for my having recently predicted the demise of Thumper on menus.

After a chilly night at our AirBnB, Saturday morning was dedicated to the Cambridge Winter Farmers Market. It was “Get Growing” day and daughter A was in her prime keeping vendors that ranged from a duck egg purveyor to a seller of homemade marshmallows to a manufacturer of rain barrels all in order. And who knew about kombucha. A’s housemates had set up their own booth to give away samples of the fermented tea with a reputation for healing properties. Floating in it is a SCOBY – a “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” I kid you not. Supposedly its low alcohol content is what set off Lindsay Lohan’s anti alcohol bracelet.

Still to come….drinking fine champagne in the student center in the middle of the afternoon, some great speakers, an art museum, and that classic of Cambridge nightlife – bowling the Hong Kong.  You can only imagine. Next post.