It was a long and warm fall this year here in the Hub of the Universe. It almost seemed at times like winter was not going to come. But, of course, it did - really just over the past two weeks. The first major snowstorm coming just in time for the Winter Solstice. So, as I look across Roslindale Village and over toward Mattapan while I wait for the commuter train that takes me to MIT, I mainly see shades of white. The sun is up, but won't be for long. By the time I leave the buildings that I work in for home in the afternoon, the sun is long gone. It's somehow happened quickly this year, but it is clear that we are at the end of the sun cycle and the year. It is time to look around and see what happened this year.
The first thing that everyone who hasn't seen me for a while asks me is how I'm feeling. I'm happy to report that besides that though I seem to be getting older than dirt, I'm just fine. Coming up on three years after cancer surgery and, so far, there is no sign of it coming back. I've still got a couple of years to go before they pronounce me officially "Out-of-the-Woods", but so far, so good. I've even lost a little weight this year (too damn little, but that's another story).
Denise is enjoying, at 52, the fun that comes with being a "mature woman." Things don't heal quite as quickly as they once did, suddenly the room can become uncomfortably warm, an you have to balance the effect of medications for minor illnesses so that the side effects don't turn into major illnesses are all part of the on-going hormonal shift thing. Nothing unusual here (even if it is annoying at times) - just part of the day to day the juggle of keeping going.
In fact, this year seems to be a time where we're worried about other people's health more than our own. We've got one senior suffering from Alzheimers, one friend dealing with brain cancer, and another diagnosed with my personal favorite, prostate cancer. People are getting parts replaced, people are dying, and people are hopefully recovering. All of this seem to be a larger part of life of late.
On the upside, we finally got to fit our honeymoon into our busy schedules this summer with a two and a half week trip to Sweden, Norway, and London. Denise had never been to any of these places and I hadn't been there in over 15 years, so the trip was all new for her and somewhat new for me. It was a good trip, but no one could mistake it for relaxing.
After a quick stop in Iceland (not a place to hang when it's midnight and raining), we landed in Stockholm at 6am on June 5th with the usual amount of jet lag (bad) and tried to find our way to where we were staying via public transportation. Unfortunately, the signs were in Swedish making this easier said than done. But we got there and spent the next three days trying to figure out which of the bizillion islands that make up Stockholm we were on.
Denise got to reconnect with an old friend that she hadn't seen since high school. Hakan and his wife Kinna made us a beautiful lunch, introduced us to their boys and Hakan then gave us a guided tour of Uppsala, which is not far away from where they live. Uppsala is one of the oldest university towns in Europe and it was great to spend part of a day in the middle ages while meeting new/old friends.
From Stockholm we took the train to Oslo, Norway and then to my old stomping grounds of Fredrikstad. We spent a week in Norway alternating between catching up with two different groups of old friends (Egil and Sissel and Jorun and Per Erik) and, in the middle, taking a trip across the country from Oslo cross-country to Bergen via glaciers, fjords, trains, taxis, buses, cars, and ferries. The feel of Norway has changed a good deal since I lived there 20 years ago - it seems more materialistic, diverse, rich, and more a part of Europe than I remember. Ah, but it's still one of the most beautiful places I've ever been - that has not changed.
It was tough to leave Norway, but London was calling (as the Clash once said) and we packed everything we could into the three days that we were there. As fast as we went, London went faster. London wasn't laid back the last time that I was there, but someone seems to have turned the speed dial all the way up to eleven while I wasn't looking. Somewhere around the second day, I realized that what the city had become was New York with an overlay of Boston. We did our best to just stay with it.
We managed to make the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Covent Garden, Westminster Cathedral, a play in the West End, a fabric store, and (of course) a couple of pubs. I think that I'm still digesting parts of the trip.
You can take a look at where we went by going to D's photo stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dwallacespriggs/
On the family front there were some significant entrances and exits this year:
Exit: BB King Wallace - the Queen of Amherst Street - had her body fail her after 17.5 years in the early spring. She was a beautiful cat and a worthy heir to the lineage of Koji and Smudge, her predecessors. She was a calm presence in a sometimes not calm environment and she brought a certain emotional depth to the household. We miss her.
Entrance: Harry - By fall we were feeling that it would be good to have a fuzz ball in the house again. Harry found us by way of a group of women who monitor feral cats in the South End. He obviously was not feral (he liked people too much) and wouldn't have survived for long on the street, so we took him in to foster him and then he immediately took over our house. He's a young cat (probably about two) and he's got a lot more energy than his parents. He's also very stubborn and he and his Dad are having some issues about knocking things off of the coffee table. Stay tuned to see who wins (but don't put money on the fuzz ball).
Final Exit: Bill and Patsy Wallace - Hard to believe that we've been without D's dad for a couple of years now and her mom for more than seven. We still miss them. It's amazing how many times Bill comes up during a week. This July we did his and her final internment in a veteran's cemetery on the Cape. It's a beautiful place. I hope that they enjoy it there (when Bill's not jiggling my elbow with a ghostly joke that is - he's still good at that).
MIT - After five years at MIT, work has finally become just work. Not an adventure. Not a method of personal expression. Just work. And that's okay. And it better be.
Huntington Theater Company - The fall season started early for D as she spent the month of May in Chicago working at the Goodman Theater on a production of The Jungle Book. I fumbled around on my own for a month trying to figure out what exactly I did before we moved in together. By the fall, the Jungle Book had come to Boston and was such a big hit that it ran an extended run at the HTC. What this meant for D was fixing broken monkey tails for most of the fall.
While we were in Sweden, the Huntington was awarded a Tony for the best Regional Theater in the US. D didn't get to go to the party, but she did get to have her picture taken with "her" Tony.
ARTS (Martial and Marshall)
Iaido - As I reported last year, after 5 years of behaving myself, I've gone back to studying the martial arts, in particular a Japanese weapons art called Iaido (the art of drawing the sword, cutting, and returning the sword to the scabbard). After more than a year of being really dangerous to myself and others, I've finally gotten to the point where most of the time I can get the sword back in the scabbard at the end of the exercise. This is because of the fine instruction that I receive from Don Laliberty. I figure that I may have some of this elementary stuff down in another ten years or so. At 63 I may have to reconsider taking up arts that take 30 years to get good at.
Drawing - I had a chance to chance to brush up on the Latin that I didn't take in high school by taking an "Anatomy for Artists" course this fall. I learned that the knee bone is actually connected to the leg bone and that there are a hell of a lot more bones in the human body than I was drawing heretofore. Good class, if not actually "art." Some day I might even be able to draw a hand that doesn't look like a club.
My sister would be disappointed if I didn't lambaste some political people during this Annual Report. So, here we go, Nan.
At this point in the history of the Republic, the Tea Party Right has actually achieved it's goal of eliminating much of the federal government. It's still there, but it just doesn't do much anymore. And the Republican's plan is for it to do even less. The strategy is to go after programs like the Food Stamp program.
In Tea Party World, people get to starve so that people who haven't missed a meal in the past decade can then lecture them about how they are freer for not having government assistance. This is their version of freedom. Especially for those hungry little kids who are undoubtedly feeling freer calorically. The Tea Party argues that voluntarism will fill the gap once the government goes away. The Food Stamp program was just cut $5 billion. Did you notice a great number of Republicans at your door asking for money for the hungry lately?
So, they break the government and then use the fact that the government doesn't then work as an argument for why people shouldn't support it. Of course it doesn't work; they just broke it. These are great tactics for promoting the interests of the super-monied with the about 20% of the American populace is just stupid enough to buy the argument. It also builds on the feeling that middle class people have that the government doesn't work for them (which has much more to do with the fact that all the wealth from "increased productivity" (read: they're working harder) is not going to them. The Right has convinced them (by constant repetition) that the reason for this is that all the wealth going to the poor, but it's really going to the super-rich - the people that the Right really work for.
Of course, not all the problems have been on the Right. Barak (being a managerial type) has tried to "manage" the country for the past 5 years. Unfortunately, he's attempting to manage people who are not on the same planet as he is (and don't want to be) and so, they are not easily managed (delusional people almost never are). So his approach didn't work. He's now trying to change his tune but I don't think that he's going to get much of anywhere. He's going to manage himself into oblivion. The Democratic Party as a whole? Useless (with notable exceptions like Warren and Lahey). At best, they keep very bad Republican stuff from happening.
As you can see, I don't think that the political situation is going to get much better very soon. The economy will recover weakly (there's not much middle class left to buy the goods that a decent economy would put out) and the Republicans will content themselves for the next thee years with trying to continually repeal Obamacare and in deciding who's pure and crazy enough to be their candidate for President. The media (into the usual horserace approach to reporting), will show us another crop of yahoos who will embarrass themselves and us as they run for President and will also avoid real issues like poverty and climate change.
I suppose we can hope that the Republican Party will self-destruct like the Whigs did in the 1850's. See, there's always hope.
It's the end of the solar year - a time to reflect on the challenges and blessings that we have received over this period of time. For twenty years now I have taken this opportunity to assess and communicate with you my dear supporters and friends and this never gets old. Life is continually surprising (in good and bad ways) and I can deal with it by the knowledge that the you folks are there if I need you. You have been there for the past twenty years now and the forty-three before that. I can only hope to be as kind to you as you have been to me. Thank you.
The sun returns. Slowly, but surely. May the coming year for you be as that sun - slowly returning to the summer of light. A round process on the round ball that we all share.