Thursday, August 28, 2008


I have a nasty addiction to caffeine. And I will say this about my addiction: at least it's not heroin or painkillers!

It's not just any caffeine. In my opinion, coffee is gross. Yuck! And I know, because I have tasted it. One time when I was four, I was being bratty and demanding that my dad give me some of the instant coffee he made and drank each morning. Tired of the whining, he said fine and filled a cup of the scalding hot stuff. Having never consumed a hot drink before, I drank it right down -- and burned my mouth, throat, and tongue (before calling the agencies, bear in mind that this event was 33 years ago, I turned out mostly normal, and my folks were otherwise mostly responsible parents).

The point, anyway, is that I'm not one of those people who just decides something without giving it a fair, open-minded chance. To this day, even the smell of coffee makes my throat hurt.

No, I am a soda drinker. Not just any soda; I will drink Coke -- not Pepsi -- or Mountain Dew. I am currently on the one-pop-a-day program, but there have been times when I have consumed much more. Like four or five a day or more. At times like those, I can just feel my teeth decaying.

Dentally speaking (do you mind if I speak dentally for a moment?), I only have one filling, so apparently my teeth can stand up to the onslaught of these sugary, syrupy beverages. But it's not really my teeth I'm worried about. I am a healthy person for the most part, and, from a health and intake perspective, soda is my one Achilles heel. Don't get me wrong; I could quit at any time. In fact, I have quit -- many times! But then I'll go on a long road trip, or I'll get busy at work. Or something. And next thing you know, I'm back up to four a day!

Well, I am going to try to keep the soda consumption under control. I don't want to wind up obese or with diabetes. On the other hand, I don't eat chips by the bag while watching TV. I don't suck down candy. I don't smoke or do heroin. What you are reading is a good example of rationalization. So thank you for helping me out... suddenly everything seems clear. There are plenty of bad things I could be doing, and, chances are, it probably won't kill me. And, that traumatic childhood experience with the hot coffee probably scarred me emotionally, so nothing I do is really my fault.

I feel better now. And, besides, what's wrong with a nice cold Coke or Mountain Dew now and then?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Great Buddy

Yes, these are big fish, but my Uncle John was a great fisherman. John Fred Obuchowski died yesterday morning.

I guess I'm not much of an obit-writer, because I don't really know the vital statistics. For example: birthdate, not sure. Age, also unsure, although I know he was in his eighties. Birthplace, not positive, although I assume it was way back in the day, someplace in southern Vermont. Service in WWII, I know he was there, but not where exactly or how much. (However, he's been a regular at the American Legion ever since.)

Hmmm, maybe it'll be better to start with what I do know…

Uncle John was not exactly my uncle; he was my dad’s uncle, which makes him my “grand-uncle.” Whatever he was, he was a great buddy and an awesome friend, and I am going to miss him. If he did not originate the phrase “You can’t put it on if you don’t have it,” then he made it famous, and I have sworn by it (which is why I always carry the heaviest pack or overdress -- but am never cold).

I went on literally hundreds of fishing trips with Uncle John. He always made sure the cooler was full and that we had plenty of sandwiches. Notice the emphasis on the cooler and food, not on fish caught. I guess if you had plenty to eat and drink, the trip was a success, even if you got skunked. One year, we went out a couple of times with charter captain Gary Frazier to learn some of his secret spots. The second trip, when Uncle John pulled out the cooler to start working on some roast pork sandwiches on Polish rye with fresh tomato and mustard, I saw Gary grab his wife, who had joined us for the trip. “Watch,” he said. “I want you to see how he does this.”

Uncle John was, in a word, loud. “Hey, all right!” (at full volume) was his favorite moniker. When he showed up, it sounded like he brought an entourage even if it was just him and Aunt Amelia. And it was always a party. He taught me to play cribbage – a game that is impossible to teach. Really, he made me sit and watch tons of games as a six-or-seven-year-old keeping statistics: average hands, average cribs, pegging averages. He and my dad were big players, but rarely has there been a more comprehensive student of the game than me.

I could go on and on with Uncle John-isms. He seemed to always travel with pounds of meat to grill, and he loved Vermont sweet corn. He got me my first adult-sanctioned beer (pre-21, as otherwise the gesture wouldn’t have meant as much). He loved Aunt Amelia, who I know will miss him dearly, but who I am confident will have lots of support from here on out. He raised three great kids and had several awesome grand-kids. He was a great friend and uncle to my dad. He was known by all my friends as “Uncle John.” He was there when I caught big fish and when my mother died. He was funny, and he was fun – just the way you would want a buddy to be.

Thanks for the great times, Uncle John. We all miss you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Standing Invite

Anyone familiar with my history is aware of the role the band Phish has played. I first saw them at the now-defunct bar The Front (in the building now occupied by the SkiRack in Burlington) in 1990, when I showed up a half-hour late for the show but didn't miss a thing, because I arrived only a minute before this funny-looking bearded guy who, it turned out, was the band's lead guitarist.

I have traveled far and wide to see the band. I have waited in traffic, ridden in over-packed trains in Europe, and stood in the pouring rain. And never once had a bad time. During their hiatuses (plural of "hiatus" anyone?), I have attended their solo performances -- and have always been surprised and impressed at how incredibly talented each band member is, even on his own. Case in point: bass player Mike Gordon just put on a free show at Waterfront Park last Friday. Mike has put together a great band, and the new music off his new album The Green Sparrow is fabulous (note how I resisted the urge to write "phabulous" as most Phish-writers do). It was great to see Page McConnell join him for four or five songs too.

Seeing Mike reminded me of something I've been meaning to do. As I am getting married on September 12th, I wanted to extend an official invite to Trey, Mike, Fish, and Page. You're all invited to the wedding (and, let's just say you all have a standing invite to swing by my house anytime). I have been at many of your biggest events, so I wanted you to know you're welcome at mine. Email me for directions.

PS Tom Brady, I'd invite you too, but I figure you'll be studying film that day in preparation for your game on the 14th in New York. Go Pats!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Running Group Makes History

For the first time in history, Team in Training's Run With Jan group met in North Hero, Vermont for a group run. (For more info on Run With Jan, see the "check these out" section below.) The history-making running set gathered and started the run from Aiken's camp, some runners going 5 miles and others as far as 19. Temperatures were warm, but everyone called it an improvement over the previous week's torrential group run.

When runners returned to the camp, they went to the beach where everyone jumped in the lake, which was a perfect temperature. Then runners noticed the record water levels and just about everyone contributed (some actively and others from more supervisory roles) to the removal of the wooden dock deck sections, which would have suffered severe water damage otherwise (a few end pieces had already broken apart) -- to which the writer of this blog has just one thing to say: THANK YOU!

Afterwards, runners enjoyed liquid refreshments, prompting more than one comment that perhaps alcohol and running do mix!

All in all, it was a great day and a great run.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Save the Turtles

My daily commute this summer takes me through some beautiful rural Vermont farm country. Over the hayfields and gardens, I can see the ridgeline of Green Mountains between Mount Mansfield and Camel's Hump, and I always reflect on what a great way the drive is to begin and end a day.

Yesterday, as I was coming home, a white mid-sized pickup truck stopped in the middle of the road, seemingly for no reason. He didn't even try to make it look like he tried to pull off to the side. I have to admit that I was like, "Buddy! What are you doing?"

The driver got out of his truck -- still parked in the middle of the lane -- and, leaving his door open, stepped in front of it. He bent down and picked something off the ground. It was a turtle! It had been working its way across the road, and by the time we got there, its head was jammed inside its shell -- totally freaked out.

The guy walked across the road, set it on the other side (I hope to heck that's the direction it was trying to go!), smiled and waved to me, got in his truck and continued down the Vermont country road.

You know what's better than finishing a work day at 4pm (I love that, by the way!) and driving home on a picturesque Vermont country road? It's seeing someone stop and do something nice along the way.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Today's Weather

It's raining. Steadily.

But because the purpose of this blog isn't to give the daily weather report, I'm not going to talk about that. Because, although people are saying it's been a rainier-than-usual summer, the honest truth is I haven't even noticed. True, I haven't been rock climbing as much outside. And true, the Winooski River across the street from our house is high in its bed, and the rock we use to judge the river's water level has been gone from view for weeks. But the fact is, the weather hasn't really affected me.

Pretty much every morning this summer, Alison, Oscar, and I have either gone for a run on one of our running loops or for a walk to the river -- rain or shine. Ali said recently that these morning forays have been her favorite part of the whole summer, and I'd have to agree with her. We live in such a beautiful nook here in Vermont... I'm glad we have had the flexibility this season to take this time in the mornings. I will miss our walks when winter takes the daylight away (and I begin my 45-minute-each-way commute to work).

And, also, when you change your career from "summer camp director" to "freelance writer," you notice after awhile how little the weather matters in your new life! For the last nine years, I'd be off to camp early on a day like this, and the day would be full of stress. Trying to come up with rainy-day activities for 40 or more kids in spaces without enough room is hard work. By the end of days like this, I'd be ready to drop. But those days are past! Today is perfect writing weather. I'm going to work on one of my freelance projects this morning and then head over to EatingWell. I like being able to enjoy a day while the earth gets to drink its fill; it makes me feel like my motives are a little more in line with the planet's.

Although this is not a weather blog, I love a rainy day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Gardening vs. Weeding

Left: my vegetable garden before weeding.
Right: my vegetable garden after weeding.

I am a great gardener (self-proclaimed), but a terrible weeder. Yes, two weeks ago, I went after those weeds with a vengeance. And, I have to admit, it was rewarding. I'm not saying I like weeding, but each time I went out there and knocked out another section of the garden... I felt good about myself and life in general.

That said, I think I let the weeds suffocate most of my veggies. My squash and zucchinis have not produced (although they flowered like crazy). I have only enjoyed two cucumbers. Our peppers did pretty well, and those peppers we got before the insects did were good. The beans, like the squashes, flowered but didn't produce (and I had a little incident where I might have knocked over some of my bean plants with the wheel of the lawnmower, which may have killed them -- not sure, though). Our basil, like last year, is doing well, and my four lettuce plants contributed to one taco salad. Meanwhile, the tomatoes are rocking -- hopefully they turn red before the insects get them too. And -- my pride and joy -- my garlic.

I forgot to plant my garlic last fall when you are supposed to. Instead, I planted six cloves of garlic that I bought at the grocery store -- DURING A JANUARY THAW! You're reading it right here, ladies and gentlemen! Despite the warnings of many nay-sayers (and there were lots), my garlic sprouted, it's thriving, and I believe it's going to be my cash crop this year. I haven't harvested any yet, but it's coming, baby!

My gardening skills are nothing to write about (unless you have your own blog!), but they are improving. I can't wait till next year's garden... and I can't WAIT to harvest my garlic of 2008!