Digression: Father’s Day 2017

People are still looking for my dad. After his chemo he always wore a little cap, sort of like a driving cap/golfer’s cap, here in Boston some folks call them scully caps.  But he favored ones that were slim and often I would buy six of them in Filene’s Basement or Marshall’s then then he would only keep one, and I’d return the rest. Sometimes my mom would sew/taper them — more like the style of the caps certain veterans wear.

People knew him from his caps, from cleaning our beach next door, watering the flowers out front, and in the summers, sometimes on the weekend mornings he would set up a little yard sale at the end of driveway.  Would talk to them as they walked by with their dogs, or just alone out for a stroll.

They see me especially, when I wear his old jackets and an old painters cap over my hair pinned up. These days I’m working on getting ready for when we are cleared to fix our seawall which collapsed in December 2016.  Finally got engineers and we are applying for permits.

From context or perspective, I’m about the same height and from the distance, they see me out there, and on the beach cleaning, and walk over and they stop and ask who I am or ask did I buy the house?

Has been over two years since my dad passed away in November 2014 — still explaining the very short version how he became ill with a lung disease (a long term side effect of his chemo) — pointing out the bench we dedicated in his memory, so people can look at out the water.

People are sad to hear it and say nice polite things.  They nod about the bench agreeing he would have liked that and noting that they will stop and sit there when they can.

Digression. As simply as that — it becomes personal.

Thoughts that hover around me today — are when “an attack” becomes personal. When they — whoever they are — attack your home town, purposely and with vengeance.  Something that means a lot or something very typical, something we often take for granted, something they — who ever they are — fear or despise along with no conscience.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, heard from folks that had been absent from my life for 10, 20, and even 30 years.  There is a little mental list I keep. And I let them know I wasn’t there on Boylston Street, and I had been across the river. On a belated celebration of my birthday, my friend and I went to see this indie movie and about an Australian singing group during the Vietnam War, and at one point there was a scene of their show turning into all running and explosions. Remember saying to my friend: “My goodness this sound system — feels like the building is shaking.”

And of course it was, from the bombs going off across the river, but we had no idea until the film ended and went to a nearby restaurant. Wasn’t until the trial and the release of the milk and cookies run to Whole Food Market video with the time stamp — realized how close our paths crossed via local traffic in driving back to my friend’s apartment.  As simply as that — it becomes personal.

Every time I walk up Boylston Street, I think of that innocent little boy and the women that died there, and the many others that left there without their arms and legs.  All because they were out on a beautiful day, running or watching a race, a time honored tradition, in one of the most beloved parts of our city.  As simply as that — it becomes personal.

And I remember all the photos and videos of all of those brave people at the marathon running toward the explosions. Frantic pulling down clothes off racks for tourniquets, random folks in line at our hospitals to give blood. To note with the bombers still at large at that point, everyone went to work that next day, by public transportation: bus, subway and commuter trains from all diverse neighborhoods — having no idea if another attack was imminent.  Everyone stood up and pushed back. As simply as that — it becomes personal.

Later that same week — the firefight in Watertown, MA and the subsequent lock down.  A dear friend called me from Brooklyn and said: “What the hell is going on up there?”  Which was a good question.  Told him I did not know but whatever it was — obviously coming his way since they had just announced shutting down the Amtrak train to New York City. As simply as that — it becomes personal.

After it all happened, realized how small my city really is and my belief in the theory of six degrees of separation became firmly rooted.  Years later our city continues on watchful and mindful amid the unspoken personal contracts during our daily commutes.  As simply as that — it becomes personal.

Today, my thoughts are with those who perished on June 3, 2017. To all the people in London trying to identify people missing or wounded.  The emergency services personnel including police, ambulance workers who train and train to deal with these unspeakable acts.  Regular citizens who took to social media and offered shelter in their homes, or who were locked out of their homes because of this violence. All those in Manchester and London — who will never feel the same about London Bridge, that particular concert hall, tube station, or about those certain streets and pubs, that have experienced all this violence.  As simply as that — it becomes personal.

Literary Digression: Anne with an “E”

Via Lithub I read an interesting essay/editorial at the Atlantic magazine online, which discussed the new Netflix series, adaptation of Anne of Green Gables.  The author talks about how after viewing the adaptation and then re-reading the book, she got more of a sense of the darkness.  In the new adaptation there will be more of a focus on Anne’s past via flashbacks — suggesting perhaps PTSD from her orphan years.  The author also sort of dismisses I think the beloved CBC’s adaption that ran on PBS for many years.

While I realize that Anne came from a dark and unstable background, I think it is her unending optimism that sets her apart — as misguided sometimes as it may be.  Kindred spirit has been part of my vocabulary since I read the first book, and also “getting into scrapes.”  For some reason I had a stretch of strange, little accidents and/or scrapes back in my late 20’s–which resulted in minor injuries and visits to the emergency room–on the last one I said to the nurse doing the intake interview, “I just keep getting into all these scrapes–thinking I’m going through this Anne of Green Gables phase or something.”

And without missing a beat she looked up at me and asked: “Well you didn’t try to climb up on the roof pole did you?”  Yes you know you live in a well-read city, when your ER nurse gets your Anne of Green Gable  reference.

Generally, these days I’m not sure about all these adaptions.  To be clear, I have nothing against book to film, or book to TV adaptions.  If done well they can be a nice companion of sorts to the original book.  But I feel like we are perhaps re-visiting  and recycling things a little too much and in the process to do this revisiting/recycling, putting darker/different shades of meaning on them — really moving away from the original books.  Full disclosure here, I don’t have Netflix or Hulu so I may not see any of these more recent literary adaptations unless they are rebroadcast later on regular cable/television — years later, etc.   Here is a URL if you want to check out the editorial/essay at the Atlantic:



Excerpt: Jane Austen The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly (upcoming book).

Essay/excerpt about Jane Austen including: her life, previous Austen biographies re: their sources, problems with documentation, her letters, and also the large influence of media/adaptations of Austen’s books, and various other subjects.  Little bit long for standalone excerpt/essay — via the site — Lithub — Excerpt from the book: Jane Austen The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly — URL: http://lithub.com/the-many-ways-in-which-we-are-wrong-about-jane-austen/

And a little update  — the ladies/folks, over at Jezebel.com are also kicking around some theories about this coming book as well as — Sense and Sensibility and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women.

Here is the URL/Link– http://pictorial.jezebel.com/dont-forget-your-mary-wollstonecraft-while-reading-jane-1795220001 —


Digression: Kipling, The Jane Austen Book Club, & Janeites

So a little digression here.  Often read books from what I call the Jane Austen Universe which includes but isn’t limited to: fan fiction, fiction inspired by Jane Austen’s life (reimagining her as a detective, etc.), and fiction inspired by her characters and her literary work.  Recently I read the book:  The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. It was a fast and enjoyable read, I had previously seen the film which was basically the same story but the plot and characters somewhat edited and re-ordered but that often happens when Hollywood does its version.  Spoilers follow — the book features a group of people who start a book club reading all of Austen’s novel.  The different characters narrate parts of the book, but there is also a third person narrator — I believe this narrator is actually the book club as a character unto itself which I really loved.

Early on though there was this reference: “Wasn’t it Kipling who said, “Nothing like Jane when you’re in a tight spot“? Or something very like that?”  Fowler tweaked it a bit —

Here is the actual quote from Rudyard Kipling’s short story, The Janeites: “You take it from me, Brethren, there’s no one to touch Jane when you’re in a tight place.”

Kipling’s story is set during or just after World War I or the Great War.  The men had apparently read Austen’s novels in the trench during the lull between fighting for comfort and to keep their spirits up.

The term Janeite originates from this short story, which can be difficult to read because a lot of the dialogue is written with the characters speaking very heavy Cockney dialect.