Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day in Providence

Nope, not what you think -- no flags, although there are plenty flying in the Old North Burying Ground; no parades although word is they do in fact exist here in Rhode Island.

For the two of us this day, this "holiday" was a time for reflection, taking stock and hoping the best for those we hold near and dear. And since it was an absolutely gorgeous day in Providence, in fact in all of Rhode Island (motto: "Roads, what roads?"), we thought there's nothing better than a stroll along the waterfront on the East Bay Bike Path.

So put on our casual clothes, hopped in the Mini and headed off for points south. In particular we had our eye on Bristol, RI.

Our first objective was to find the location of "King Philip's Throne," a hunk of rock east of Bristol where the famous (or infamous) Pometecom, known euphemistically as "King Philip," ruled his people. In the late 16th century King Phil had had enough of the white settlers and decided to get rid of them once and for all, thus initiating "King Philip's War," the bloodiest conflict to have ever raged in New England. Needless to say he failed, was caught and executed. Needless to say we, too failed, but in this case there were no British soldiers waiting to take our heads or our lives.

After driving around where the rock was supposed to be -- signage is a concept lost of the folks in New England -- we wished Phil's memory well and drove over Bristol proper, a few miles west of where the throne was reported to be. We parked right downtown and soon found the beginning (or end, depending on your viewpoint) of the bike path. Joining the throngs of other like-minded folks, Susie and I strolled for both a while and a ways in the bright sun of the day. We eventually found a nice spot to park ourselves on a bench in the shade and enjoy the moment.

I'm curious though. If this is New England, why is everything so old, broken and run down?

Anyway, we sat and thought about our great, good fortune and wished the same for our family and friends: we prayed to all the gods that ever roamed the earth that you stay well, be happy and find a corner of the planet that gives you peace of mind and a lightness of heart.

Steve and Susan, picking our way through space and time in Providence, for the moment

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Getting our Groove Back, or at least trying to

First of May, May Day in Paris and much of the rest of the world, was a time of readjustment, realignment and resettlement day for the two of us here in Providence.

I returned to work -- or rather spent a couple of hours seeing what had transpired since I left nearly a month before. Everything seemed the same and yet so much had changed. My work, my job as it were, has evolved into creating a central image library for the university. Incredibly challenging to be sure but terribly fun at the same time.

I had begun this process half time before I left for Paris and now am charged with pursuing the project full time. From 110k images I pared it down (removing duplicates etc.) to less than 67k images; but with the new multi-campus photo shoots now complete that has added another 9k of images alone to the library. And then there are all the alumni photographs. . .

The Creative Services Group said goodbye to Nick V., a student intern that has worked for CSG off and on for the past year and more (that I know of). Nick's off to conquer the world of marketing and believe me, he'll probably do just that. A nice young man with a great work ethic. So a few of us tromped over to Olga's for coffee and to say au revoir. (photo below, l-r: Nick, Dan, Melinda, Scott, Scott, Steve, Greg and Andrea)

Susie, too, found herself plunging into an old and yet very new groove at Gracie's.

In fact, one of the first things she did upon returning was to create the incredibly popular tarte de jour. What, pray tell, is such a thing? Glad you asked. Here's a recent lineup:

Lime ginger with coconut cream
Strawberry vanilla cream
Raspberry almond
Apricot cherry almond
Brownie chunk milk chocolate
Raspberry lemon buttermilk
Blackberry raspberry streusel
Freeform chocolate dipped strawberry cream profiterole*
Lime curd blueberry

The list will, I'm told, go on and on and on. . .

Another dessert she has come up with lately, very popular at Gracie's and a particular favorite of mine is this scrumptious layered creation of hazelnut cake, cassis couli, mango puree, Bavarian cream:

Do we miss Paris? Every day. Are we going back. As soon as possible. More of Paris, LCB and French travel in another entry.

In the meantime we're trying to find a groove here, knowing all the while we left it on the rue General Renault, in the Jardin des Plantes, scattered among the stones of Pere Lachaise. The ghosts of Paris continue to haunt us.

We like it that way.

Wish you were there, I know we do.


*OK this one is out of this world: she dips little profiteroles in chocolate, places three of them on a short crust base and surrounds everything with strawberry cream.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dear Dad, we're back in the US, again

Dear Dad,

It's been a long time since we've talked. I do miss our Sunday phone calls.The unconditional happiness in your voice when your heard me at the other end makes me realize now how deeply I do miss you. Most of us don't give much thought to how really profound the gap left in our lives when our parents pass away. No one will ever quite love me or think of me or do the things for me in the same way.

Anyway, Susie and I are back in Providence, again, after another whirlwind trip to Paris. As you probably already know, she's working as a pastry chef at one of the city's better restaurants. She works incredibly hard -- it's in her blood -- for little money but she gets to do a lot of her own thing. And her own thing is to make absolutely scrumptious desserts. You would most certainly be pleased with the outcome of a day's work in her kitchen to be sure.

As for me, I think you'd be proud of how things have turned out. I'm actually working doing something I like and getting paid for it. It all has to do with computers, photographs, and that sort of thing; not your cup of tea so I won't bore with your details. But I'm trying to follow your last instructions: "Have a happy life, Steve."

I think you'd be proud of your two sons. By now you know how your story ends; or rather at least this part of it, the part we can see and feel and touch. I just know, and I think Don would agree, that the other part of the story, the part we can't see or touch or feel, is beyond our understanding but we both sense you're having a grand time with all those who went before you: Mom, Jack, Carma, Gene, and so many others whose lives you participated in and the smiles and laughter will always ring true with me.

I miss you pop but will always be profoundly grateful to have had your for my father, my dad. You're still the greatest person I know, or ever will know.

Thanks Pop!



Friday, May 01, 2009

Paris to Providence, again

Another early morning on Thursday. I got up before the alarm, made caffe and we both roused ourselves for the long journey home.

About half past seven we began schlepping (I love that word it is so evocative of what the action really is) our bags downstairs to just inside the front door. The driver from Paris Shuttle pulled up just a little after 8am, we loaded our bags nd after stopping to make two other pick ups we headed north out of the city, crawling through rush hour traffic pointing the car towards Charles de Gaulle airport.

Once we arrived and unloaded the bags we walked inside Terminal 2 into a maelstrom of humanity pushing every which way but the right way, as the hordes of travelers were seeking to escape the city before May Day holiday kicked off. May 1 is one of the major holidays in Europe and we were getting out just in time.

Notwithstanding the chaos the folks at the British Airways kiosks were incredibly helpful and before long we had deposited our bags into their custody -- would we ever see them again, I wondered? -- and with boarding passes in hand glided through security in fairly short order.

We found our gate and sat down to wait for the two hours or so until our flight left. Our major source of activity, it seemed, was watching the incredibly goofy tour group of Texans at the gate next to ours where an American Airlines flight nonstop to Dallas was getting ready to depart. We've all heard the final boarding announcements, you know where they call the names of passengers for the tenth time, warning them that the plane is ready to depart and if they don't show up the bags will be removed, that sort of announcement. I've always wondered how that happens? Are the passengers locked in the bathroom or passed out drunk in a corner somewhere (both plausible I suppose).

The real reason I suspect is simpler: they're not very bright. We watched with some amusement as a woman, from Texas apparently, wandered around browsing the store directly across from us when her husband screamed at her from the gate to get over as they had to get one the plane. Of course everyone else had already been on board for nearly a half hour.

Ah yes, life's little diversions.

before long they called our flight. I unlocked myself out of the bathroom and scampered on board sitting next to a beautiful young woman from Providence who, as it turned out, was a pastry chef of some distinction.

After a quick and uneventful flight to London Heathrow Airport we found ourselves once again the maze of the new Terminal 5 and before launching through security (again) had our boarding passes checked once more (for perhaps the umpteenth time I suppose). At that point the BA staff person informed us that we had been upgraded to business class and that after going through security we should make straight for one of their lounges.

After passing through a short queue at security, where we were permitted to keep our shoes on thank you very much unless you were wearing high heels or boots, we sought out the BA lounge. Walking past the Lamborghini raffle stand ("one day left!" ) -- I had to drag Susie away from dropping the 30 bucks on a ticket -- we found the lounge and entered a world apart form the noise and tension of the general waiting area. No announcements, with incredibly comfortable chairs, all the food one could want, wine, coffee, juice to drink, and make your own drinks, in a space that was enormous. And it was packed. But we found a couple of chairs together, sat down and spent the next three hours or so relaxing and preparing ourselves for the journey home.

Eventually we had to leave -- it really was inevitable you know -- once our gate came up on the departures board. Our plane boarded on time, we settled into our seats, not the 34-inchers of coach but more than 70 inches of stretching and sleeping space, seats that actually came with an instruction manual, both facing rearward. We couldn't help but feel incredibly relaxed as the attendants came by to take our coats, hand out champagne (Charles Heidseck) and pass out the menus for us to peruse.

Once airborne the lights dimmed, seats adjusted into nearly bed-like positions and with on-demand video (a feature for all classes on BA now) we spent the next six or so hours in a state of peace and harmony, our chi centered, we were one with the universe, at risk of never wanting to leave the plane ever again.

But leave it we did.

Arriving in Boston on time, at nearly half past six in the evening in fine weather, we scooted right through security, and waited for our bags. Susie's brother Dick had kindly offered to pick us up and drive us home and he was waiting for us right outside -- rather nearby. Over the years he had done this thing quite a lot for family, friends and colleagues and had found a place in the roadway labyrinth around the airport he referred to us "no-man's land) where he could actually wait with his car until given the signal for pickup. We hooked up by phone as soon as we had our bags and strolled into the evening air choked with fumes of gasoline and jet exhaust. A minute or two Dick pulled up, we loaded the bags and swept out and down I93 in rush hour traffic, switching to I-95 and then on into Providence.

After thanking Dick for the ride, we off-loaded the bags and he drove off home to Douglas, MA just 30 miles or so up Route 146. Fifteen minutes later our bags were in the apartment, we looked around, pleased to be home, more or less, and then left again. Walking across the street we had a light supper of salad and a glass of prosecco to end a long day and the beginning of a long night.

We were back in Providence, but were we back home?

Of course we were.

Wish you had been with us,