thAtwood Be Great

thAtwood Be Great

My ProCrasstheNation “Author Love of the Day” goes out to Margaret Atwood.

Most folks are likely familiar with her dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” However, it was a recent reading of her short story, “The Man from Mars,” that reminded me of her adept skill at hooking readers into uncomfortable situations and lending us some insights about the vagaries of life. This story is especially relevant to current readers because it challenges us to an honest self-examination of the prejudices and xenophobia that have permeated our lives as we navigate the social institutions that detract from the cultural experiences that many immigrants face as they try to maintain their cultural identity while trying to assimilate into a new community.

Well known for her takes on feminism as articulated in her work, Atwood is a wonderful read, and is a fine addition to the pantheon of  modern fiction authors.

Give her your undivided attention, you won’t be disappointed.

Rites of Passage…

Rites of Passage…

External Shot of Pure Hockey in Medford Square

External Shot of Pure Hockey in Medford Square

Today marks a truly special day for Atticus and our family. It was our first trip to, as Atty calls it, “the hockey store”. After a lazy Sunday morning, from which we awoke with quite a chill, we unwrapped ourselves from a series of quilts, sweaters and woolen socks, to try on the day and some skates at the Pure Hockey store in Medford Square.

It is a day of which I’ve been dreaming ever since Lissette and I had the ultrasound that showed that we had a bun in the oven. Atty is the first, and Lenore will follow, and any others that might come our way might join in the procession of giving hockey a go.

Atty is at a great age right now. His light speed jump from toddler to little boy, came with self-awareness, full blown conversations, and articulations of his own desires. It came on too fast and certain. He turned four in September, and assures me that “four year old boys, are big boys, and that they aren’t afraid of the big inflatable bouncy houses at Monkey Joe’s anymore.” So I ask him a few weeks ago, “would you like to try hockey” and he says “yeah, yeah sure, I think so I would like hockey.” Everything he prefers comes with the disclaimer “I think so…” It is the cutest.

Knowing from Atty’s response, and past experience, the fact that he would like to try it is a good indicator that he might enjoy it. So, Lissette and I decide to support him in this new journey. Luckily for us, the first series or session from October through December is a learn to skate session. So we can hedge our bets a little bit, just in case he doesn’t like it, or comes away from it with a little bit of ambivalence. In all honesty, he’ll tell you that almost everything is his “favorite” right now: macaroni and cheese, The Avengers, Kellogg’s Apple Jacks, etc.  So we’ll have to wait and see if this blossoms into a firmer commitment. We are happy that Malden-East Boston provides an opportunity for him to learn this new activity and we hope that Atty gets the sense of community, sportsmanship, and inclusiveness that comes of the best parts of organized youth sports.

I started this journey myself over 33 years ago. One fall night, I think it a Tuesday. My father, mother, and uncles hopped in our family station wagon (AMC wagon circa late 1970’s) which affectionately became known in the annals of our family history as the Grey Ghost.

Just a stock example photo, as the real Grey Ghost could not be photographed because it was a ghost.

Just a stock example photo, as the real Grey Ghost could not be photographed because it was a ghost. And it was Grey and had a rusted roof. Also, it needed two keys instead of one: a key for entry and a key for the ignition.

We were a hand me down car family. We got cars based on the opportunities provided by a friend of a friend of a friend selling their ol’ jaloppies. We had a series of these throughout the 80’s until my Dad became a company man at B.L. Makepeace, and got to take home the company car for the remainder of the decade (this is another story for another time).

So on a similar feeling day to this one, more towards the evening, we got in the Grey Ghost, and traveled from Charlestown to Medford where I got my first pair of skates. Back then, the store was known as the Medford Sporting Goods Store, and the consensus seemed to be that this is where you went to get skates and hockey equipment if you were in the market for such.

MedfordSportingGoods

I’ve been past this location a few hundred times in the course of my life, and I always felt the gravity of it pulling me. I always believed that someday, I’d bring my children here to get their first pair of skates.

Today was the day.

I don’t know who was more excited about the trip, Atty or I. When we walked through the door, we were both kids in the hockey store. Although, I can’t say for certain, I’d like to think that the smell of the place was the same as when I visited it all those years ago. The smell of fresh equipment, hockey pucks, and the hint of the slightest burning as skates were being sharpened in the background.

Atty was bouncing off the walls with sensory overload, as we were greeted with a young woman who asked us if we needed help. I said “yes, I’d like to get my son outfitted for his upcoming learning to skate session.” She was immediately helpful, and brought us from station to station so that we could get Atty set up with the correctly sized equipment and protective gear. He was awash in delight, as each piece of equipment brought another comparison to Iron Man’s Gear, or Darth Vader’s.

“What color helmet would you like?” said the saleswoman. “Yellow and Red!” said Atty, just as Iron Man would have. “We only have Black, White or Blue” she said. I interject: “How about Black, buddy? Darth Vader’s mask is black” “Yes, yes, I think so I want black”  And so it was. Black helmet, black gloves, and black elbow pads.

Darth Skater

Darth Skater

As we progressed around the store, and with the proper safety gear in hand, the focus turned to skates. This is the moment I had been waiting for a very long time. I told the sales woman which skates I wanted for him, and discussed his size. She brought out two pairs so we could try each and decided which felt best.

He parked his little ass up on the bench and couldn’t get his shoes off fast enough. As the sales woman slipped the first skate on his foot, he had a hard time getting his foot into it.

Trying on the first skate

But then, as he pushed a little bit more, his foot slid right into the skate, and then a smile to light up the room came about his face.

Smile

A perfect moment. A moment of his own. A moment of mine. A moment of ours. And a moment that will see to it that he brings his kids back to this same place many years from now to try on their first skates when the time arrives.

I thought about my family, and how special the trip was for me, and having the experience with my son today, allowed me to understand how they must have felt back then when I slipped my very first skates on all those years ago.

This is a rite of passage in our family. Although, my hockey career never amounted to much, I felt so positive about my first trip to the hockey store, that it left an impression that has since guided me back.

I do hope that Atty enjoyed this experience. I also hope that he enjoys learning to skate, and that regardless of the outcome, that today leaves an impression on his young mind and heart. I so love being there for him, with him, and am so excited to see how he skates through this life now that he has his first pair of skates.

Tis’ the Season

Tis’ the Season

Poe is never far from my mind. He takes up residence with greater frequency during the run up to Halloween of course. Here is a lesser known poem not quite related to the Gothic but quick and dirty nonetheless.
Eldorado



BY EDGAR ALLAN POE

Gaily bedight,

   A gallant knight,

In sunshine and in shadow,   

   Had journeyed long,   

   Singing a song,

In search of Eldorado.
   But he grew old—

   This knight so bold—   

And o’er his heart a shadow—   

   Fell as he found

   No spot of ground

That looked like Eldorado.
   And, as his strength   

   Failed him at length,

He met a pilgrim shadow—   

   ‘Shadow,’ said he,   

   ‘Where can it be—

This land of Eldorado?’
   ‘Over the Mountains

   Of the Moon,

Down the Valley of the Shadow,   

   Ride, boldly ride,’

   The shade replied,—

‘If you seek for Eldorado!’
Source: The Complete Poems and Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (1946)

Are you a Saundenista? I am…

Are you a Saundenista? I am…

My ProCrasstheNation “Author Love of the Day” goes out to George Saunders.

He’s someone I’ve become fond of exploring recently after some friends I dearly trust with peppering my reading sensibilities suggested him.

I now own two of his short story collections:
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996) (short stories and a novella)
Pastoralia (2000) (short stories and a novella)

Each of these has its own merit, and will take you in new directions and towards an excitement of seeing a perspective that hasn’t been seen to date.

Give ol’ George a try, will ya! He teaches in the MFA Program up in Syracuse, and if I had my druthers, I’d like to sit a class or two that he teaches to pick up some of his writerly insights.

Saunders

Marking the Occasion

Marking the Occasion

A Knowing Smile to Assure Us All

A Knowing Smile to Assure Us All

A funny thing happened today. I realized that a year has slipped away since a great friend of mine departed from this world. I don’t know what to make of that. I really don’t. Is it the fact that it has been a year, or that he resides in a different reality now?

It is strange to come to terms with so many things that happen as we age out of this life. Dreams of our youth that don’t pan out, our bodies succumbing to mortality, and watching those around us slip away a rate that is all too increased. I call this “Adulting,” (something you have to do, but don’t really want to do). Being an adult. Accepting the reality of a situation without the promise of it being okay, or knowing if it ever will be okay again. The kind of situation where you turn around to get assurance from those you have always got assurance from, but they are no longer there in that way.

Mark provided me assurance, and he was “Adulting” long before I discovered what it meant. Those of us that know a bit about him, can attest to the litany of things that occurred over his life that could have buried the best of us. But not Mark. He lived love, and showed me a magnificent example of how to be in this world. I owe tribute to this example, and bear testament to a grand memory of a sincere and beautiful person.

By all accounts, I would characterize Mark Hickey as a soul that made me feel comfortable whenever I was in his presence or was thinking about him. He was the kind of guy, that had a loaded smile that was full of everything that we experienced together in our friendship, and yet invited the possibility of more experience. Never impatient with me, he always assured me with that smile. I have to believe that anyone that reads this and knew Mark, probably experienced this in their own way with him. You know, the kind of deal where you share a secret with someone, and you both are invested in the trust of that bond, and it is never violated. It seemed to me that Mark fulfilled that luxury in my life. I knew that whenever I saw him, that we had a connection that allowed us to not speak for a time, and then pick up where we left off. This is the gift of his friendship, and it transcends quickly dissolved years and different realities.

What I can say of Mark, is that he embodied a feeling about life that I cherish, that despite knowing that there are evils in the world, and that not all experience in life is grand, that despite these things, all that we can do for each other is create a bond marked by a knowing smile of shared experience. We can turn around when there is no one there to assure us, and be assured that a memory is a pretty concrete fucking thing when the love that created it is still inside of us.

I don’t feel loss, I feel gain, because whenever I think of Mark, the good things bear out in that moment. I admire his bravery in facing adversity, I admire the amount of love he shared, and I admire how he attracted so many great people into his life to share that life with. My thoughts go out to Mark’s family on a day that is very tough to endure by many accounts. My hope is that they too can recall that assured smile, and feel his presence, and take comfort in that it continually serves as a reminder that it might not be okay right now, but someday, somewhere down the road, that smile will be waiting to lead us to a far better place where secrets are shared and we can pick up right where we left off last time.

Love and fond memory always,  insert that sly grin here brother…