Author Archives: JP
it’s become a source of irritation to me that it seems increasingly difficult to get back in the blogging routine. Over the past year and a half I have published TWO posts. And yet, I’m still online constantly, going about my daily digital routines.
But what if I actually sat down and wrote something? On this blog that I continue to pay for? Imagine that.
So, this morning’s heavy rain on Martha’s Vineyard and concurrent status as the first official day of summer seems to be a good time to actually come back to the blog.
But what to write about? In my present full-time islander iteration, I seem to have mastered the art of short off-island trips. Last weekend was the last opportunity for awhile, and this time my sights turned to northern New England, as in New Hampshire and Vermont.
There was something familiar and pleasant about seeing the signs for roads I grew up with while making that same drive with family. The journey to our usual destination in Vermont, in particular, is so familiar that I could create a checklist of where to stop and when. But for this occasion I decided to change it up and go “the other way” all the way north along I-93 through Franconia Notch, ultimately to the road’s terminus in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where i would be spending the night just north of my intended destination.
There was also something familiar and pleasant about simply having an OFF-ISLAND DRIVING EXPERIENCE where one could go higher than 45 MPH and not have the thought of a ticket go into one’s mind. The lack of geographic limitation – if I had more time I may well have driven on to Canada, just 50 more miles north – also factored into the appeal.
The I-93 route has always had a feeling of being more mysterious and dynamic than the blander I-89 route across New Hampshire. The sensation reaches its apex in the Franconia Notch Parkway, which “required Congress to pass a special amendment to the standards applied across the rest of the U.S. interstate system” as briefly described here, and was originally not even signed as part of I-93. The mystical feel is also evident in a different way at night, when you can’t even see the mountain tops, and I recall feeling that way on my previous evening trip through the notch, near the end of 2015.
This particular pass through also made me notice how the parkway is a rare (for New England) evocation of Southwest and West Coast driving experiences, with the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona being perhaps a particularly close equivalent, which I’ve now seen for myself but had no idea of on childhood trips through.
And then the road widens out again and its onward north into Vermont. The Green Mountain State has always felt welcoming to me, though it had been slightly over a year and half since i was last in the area. As with any state lines, there is a noticeable change in “feel” from the start, and makes me recall the opposite “back to real life” feel of re-entering Massachusetts, which I experienced again on this weekend’s trip.
Once in St. Johnsbury, I wrote on Facebook later to close out the day:
Back in St. Johnsbury Vermont for one night only, celebrating 30 years of coming to the Northeast Kingdom, recalling two separate instances of considering moving here.
I didn’t realize until today that this Father’s Day weekend trip also honors the memory of a short trip here in 1990 with my dad, possibly also on Father’s Day weekend, when we caught the then-new release DICK TRACY at this very cinema, and friends back at Karme Choling were very interested to hear how the movie was.
And the mix of nostalgia and acknowledgment of the present seems a good way to wrap up this reflection exercise and notation for today.
Well, somehow a year went by without posting on this blog.
I was conscious of the time passing, but, also conscious of making notes of events and activities in other mediums, and so it didn’t feel as necessary to maintain a long-form written presence here.
I’m still on the island and life is busier than outsiders might think it would be. I’ve also been keeping up my travel inclinations when I can, along with making up for time spent parked in the same place (the island) last summer.
I should have used some of those travel opportunities, such as a return to the UK over Thanksgiving break, as an opportunity for longer form chronicling. But on the other hand, I tend to chronicle events more naturally in retrospect than in the moment.
So mayne that means that the next chapter of blogging will offer some combination of present and retrospective. It won’t be a year until I next post, and so I look forward to discovering what may be chronicled.
During some days it may feel like we are “going through the motions” – and so I felt it was a good challenge to compose A Day in The Life at the end of Saturday, January 27.
Up and at ‘em for the day. Breakfast of choice is a lemon muffin from a 4-pack purchased yesterday at Cronig’s Market.
It’s time for my daily walk around “The Loop” – which I’m now accustomed to seeing in a fairly quiet mode. Since it’s Saturday, the Club manager’s car isn’t there outside the Club, where he’s the sole employee at this time of year. There’s a slight variation to the walking routine when I step onto a friend’s property to pick up something he had purchased for me, and then continue along the Loop with that item in hand.
Buzz into downtown Vineyard Haven and find a parking space in the market (central) parking lot, where there’s no guarantee of space as the day goes on, Notice the ferry of the hour about to leave for the mainland, and briefly reflect (as I do periodically these days) about how it’s different to be oriented towards island residency rather than just visiting. End up in a particularly indecisive state about what I want and need to do at the town post office, eventually walking back and forth from the car to the PO five times, but getting the mailing done that I had debated about.
Decide to visit the island’s “Secret Starbucks” for what’s become a weekly visit and dose of a venti vanilla latte. The cashier is someone i have not seen there before. Add a cookie to my order for the first time in a couple of weeks. End up staying at the cafe for another hour or so, wearing down the computer battery, which I’ve taken to showing the percentage of ever since I had to have the battery completely replaced last month.
Arrive for weekly visit with my great-aunt, which isn’t on a formal schedule, but when she asks me if I’ve been away I get the sense I might have waited slightly too long to come back. But she turns out to be in a chattier mood than other recent visits, while I continue to appreciate her even-keeled wise elder presence.
Decide that today is also time for my weekly visit to the Main Street sandwich shop, where, on a previous visit last week, I’d graduated to a “known customer” role coming in at the end of the day and the cashier giving me two slices for the price of one “because you come in here all the time.” This time the meal of choice is a fish sandwich, which I’ve determined to be among the island’s most underrated. I’m particularly pleased to pay with exact change.
It’s on across the street to the gym, where I’ve suddenly vaulted back into a level of higher physical endurance that I did not feel I could come right back into when I resumed the membership two weeks ago. I do a couple of things differently on this particular visit, including focusing more acutely (vs. on the iphone) during the recumbent bike portion, and later completing a longer time at a higher treadmill speed, which leads to a 1.8 mile and 260 calorie endurance total.
Against my better judgment, it’s time for a visit to the coffee shop, where their prices include tax and the payment is cash-only, so it fits my preference for exact change, especially when the total is $6 like today. As I’m drinking it, I feel I shouldn’t have bothered to have the small mocha.
It’s time to begin the day at the theatre with preparations for tonight’s performance, one of two for this weekend of a returning popular community event. I am the first one there and for once that doesn’t seem to bother me as I feel comfortable with what needs to be set up and the amount of time it will take.
Work up a sweat while vacuuming certain public areas of the lobby. The modes on the (not new) vacuum are particularly challenging to adjust, but I manage it, though my fingers feel the effort.
Start a running handwritten tally of how many people are attending the free performance. Some people notice my annotating and some do not.
It’s time to start the show! But as house manager, I stay downstairs for the first half an hour, just in case anyone straggles in. (ultimately we have no latecomers.)
Time to go upstairs and observe the second half. It’s the first time I’ve seen this storied adaptive group in action.
Time to wrap things up as people mingle in the lobby. We manage to leave by 9pm.
Celebrate a full day with my first swig of Lagunitas Undercover Shut-Down Ale since April or May of 2017.
Having lost track of what I wanted to do in this blogging space over the past year or so, I’ve resolved to renew emphasis on filmgoing and dramatic criticism for now, and see what may come of other experiences ahead.
While recently back in the great state of California, I enjoyed a few filmgoing experiences. The 2017 moviegoing year ended in the same place where the 2016 moviegoing year had both ended and began: the Century Cinema in Corte Madera, CA. I’ve surely written before about how this particular cinema is the ultimate in big-screen entertainment for Marin County and possibly the entire Bay Area itself, with one single large screen and almost always featuring the latest and biggest blockbuster. Legend has it that the Cinema has always been a top commercial venue of both choice and gross for the Star Wars films, and that tradition continued with its screening of The Last Jedi, the latest installment in the Skywalker Saga.
This was my second and likely last big screen viewing of the film, and I found it more enjoyable the second time around, though not an overall tops experience .If the first viewing was about riding the crest of anticipation mixed with a dose of melancholia stemming from Carrie Fisher no longer being among the earthly realm, the second time around was a way to sit back and enjoy the ride of the story, while also staying present in the flow of the narrative and not over-anticipating elements i already knew were coming around.
Later in my California stay I enjoyed some moviegoing as rainy day counter-programming. The film of choice, somewhat randomly, was Molly’s Game, a new drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, and seeing the film brought back memories of seeing Sorkin’s The Social Network in California for the first time in 2010, which I ought to do a retrospective post about at some point. I wasn’t really aware of the story of Molly Bloom and her self-made poker empire, so that helped to keep the material fresh. Chastain, who seems to have gained a new level of confidence in her public persona within the last year or two, carries the film splendidly but never too show-ily, even letting herself blend into the background of a few scenes and letting the story focus on gender politics along with systematic challenges of business and professional identity, among others.
Unfortunately, the film takes a sharp turn into sentimentality for its final act, and thus caused me to lose interest in its overly pat resolution. Sorkin obviously loves his dialogue, delivered in trademark rapid fire style, but the material could have used some greater editing. The film narrative is one that shifts back and forth in time, making for an absorbing and immediate sensation, but I had to wonder what it would have been like as a more straightforwardly chronological story. (Most likely not as dynamic, of course.)
On a different note, the filmgoing experience for Molly’s Game (in downtown Santa Cruz) was unusual in that a person was being arrested in the lobby as I walked in for my film, and I’d be very curious to know what became of their situation.
My third California film became The Post, a very East Coast story that I had tried to see on the East Coast itself earlier in the holiday break, only to discover that showing was sold out. Related to that general East Coast feeling, my knowledge and appreciation of Martha’s Vineyard history led to an intriguing subtext while viewing this film, which features several real-life individuals – Katherine Graham, Robert McNamara, and more – all of whom summered here on Martha’s Vineyard and socialized together, concurrent with their “real lives” in Washington. The island’s storied weekly paper, The Vineyard Gazette, is even name-dropped in one brief sequence during the film.
I knew that the filmgoing experience with this film might be a bit frustrating, as I was heading to a large corporate style multiplex, but I wasn’t expecting to wait ten minutes in line due to limited staffing at their box office. As well, the film was showing in a “premium” cinema, which meant a higher ticket price, and that might have been more irritating if I hadn’t been using a gift certificate.
So I arrived a few minutes late to the film, but it puts you right in to the tense, claustrophobic atmosphere of the early 1970’s. The story eventually falls into the mechanics of leading up to One Big Event, and therein lied some of its problems for me. While undoubtedly well-told, once that Big Event is past, the film seemed to rush along to its conclusion. There’s no doubt either that Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks offer stellar work as the two main real-life characters in the story. But … Streep is obviously Streep, and i had to wonder what a lesser-known actress might have done with the part. On the other hand, Hanks seemed more at ease, and not necessarily being Tom Hanks, than in some of his other work I have seen in recent years.
The Post also lays on the contemporary allegories a bit too thickly, never in the sense of “this is happening again, ahh!” but in a bit too much of a showing the past to make your own judgements about the present. Nonetheless I feel I would still recommend the film.
In an attempt to blog more, I’m looking back at a blog post that I started just over a year ago. A bit embarrassing to realize that I never posted it, but why not do so now, with some more context added?
A year ago, the Merchant-Ivory classic film Howard’s End appeared at The Maple Theatre in Bloomfield, Michigan, for a one week re-release celebrating an impending 25th anniversary and digital restoration. Somehow I learned of the screenings, probably thanks to my regular scouting of film listings and moviegoing itself serving as a stress relief at that particular time.
I recall being retrospectively impressed by the film’s use of scale, most notably seen in the lush cinematography and music score. Most of the central cast – Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter and others – felt like they are not as active in the present day, or more selective about their projects (probably a mixture of both) and so looking back at their previous work felt especially revelatory.
The theatre itself – one of my favorites in the metro Detroit area – contributed to my enjoyment as well, where it only has three screens with carefully crafted film choices and isn’t oriented towards mass market entertainment.
It feels a bit funny to say that The Remains of The Day was one of my favorite films as a kid … but it was. Somehow I never got to see its immediate Merchant Ivory cinematic universe predecessor Howard’s End all the way through as a whole film … until today at The Maple Theater, which is screening it as part of a special limited run re-release.
I’d forgotten how intricate the Merchant Ivory world was, with elements bursting out of the frame and suggesting a wider visual and active world beyond the story. Such depth was particularly apparent in this narrative, with three parallel stories intertwining, intersecting and then branching out into their own narratives.
This afternoon i chose to indulge in some nostalgic activities (as opposed to an activity that provoked nostalgic sensations) here on Martha’s Vineyard. The island has an extensive range of memories for me spanning my whole life, as I’ve undoubtedly mentioned before, and, at this point in my life, it offers a larger array of memories than the area of Massachusetts where I officially grew up. If asked, I say I “partially grew up” here on the island, which isn’t an exaggeration.
I am noting this today because it seems that each time I intentionally go back to a particular area of the island that has a number of memories for and with my paternal side of the family, there is a gradual but noticeable curved sensation of enjoyment. Initially being in that area provokes something like a warm fuzzie: “hmm, yes, there are many memories here and I’m glad to acknowledge and recall them…” which then carries itself on with a familiar mix of past and present. That feeling gives way to one that’s more rooted in the present, like an “okay, here I am, and I’m going to stop what I’m doing and JUST BE for a few minutes, because the present moment involves what feels like lots of running around.” Or something like that. And then, there’s an abrupt shift, which could be provoked by something like a phone call or seeing another person, or it could take the form of a sudden realization, to the tune of “OK that’s enough to look back on for now. Don’t get lost in the past.”
I didn’t really realize that those sensations have been chronic, but something about this particular activity today made me recognize that the cycle has played itself out before. And maybe it will again. While I will continue to think that it’s good to be respectful and acknowledging of the past, it’s possible that if the desire for nostalgia comes up in the future – as it probably will – I will be more mindful of how much time and thought I wish to spend with it.
I seem to only write blog posts at or near the end of the month these days. But I would like to get back into a rhythm of writing more frequently, especially in the vein of developing a writing portfolio or platform.
With that in mind I’ll offer a slice of life snippet from island life this week:
I’ve been greatly enjoying taking my daily activities in a more “whimsical” direction that is less about having to be somewhere at a specific time and more about going with the flow and what feels right. Part of that has manifested with a desire to observe and interpret the main streets of the island.
So yesterday I was walking down one of those very main streets, and an acquaintance appeared rather suddenly who I have met once or twice before. They said something to the effect of “I love your aura, you’re meant to be here right now” and a little more than that, and you can’t ask for clearer validation from the universe.
My post counter tells me that this is entry no. 313, which I think is a super coincidence, since today is move-out day from “The 313” aka Metro Detroit.
I’m certain that this is not a final goodbye from the state of Michigan, which has been a friendlier place than I could have expected over the past 4 years, and I’ve become quite loyal to in a variety of ways, such as defending Detroit itself from its national low-brow stereotype, and offering insight on the cultural differences from one part of this large state to another.
This could be the part where I get all sentimental about the journey of the last four years, and perhaps that is warranted in due course. But the main thing to remember is the process of evolution that I went through with my time in this state, where I arrived for one thing, which led to another, which led to another … all in a very natural and organic and welcoming way.
So I will close with an embrace of Michigan itself, which has the highest amount of freshwater coastline in the US and the second longest total shoreline in the country short of Alaska. There are many other perks to life here in the Great Lakes State and I feel a sense of continued appreciation and gratitude for them all.
My current lodging arrangement while visiting Switzerland is comfortable and hospitable, but it has also made me reflect on whether or not I still want to arrange hosteling, or if I was ever really into the experience of hosteling.
Part of the reason stems from how my first hosteling experience was a negative experience, where I had some things stolen that I had left in the shared room. While that was admittedly a somewhat naive choice to not keep things with me at all times, that particular hostel initially appeared to be a serviceable and welcoming environment.
A year or so later, when traveling in Europe became a more frequent activity thanks to studying in London, I segued back into the hosteling life, with the most memorable experience probably being one location that was right on a black sand beach on the renowned Greek island of Santorini. My dabbling in hostels continued over the next few years, and I recall particularly memorable destinations elsewhere in Europe, including Vienna, Helsinki and Belgrade, while other locations were not quite as memorable.
Ultimately I segued gradually into booking personal hotel rooms instead of hostels, which was initially due to increased travels with my cat and thus needing to learn the art of the “pet-friendly” accommodation. After my cat passed away I found that I’d gotten accustomed to the more personal and less communal style of lodging, and eventually came to rely solely on hotel accommodation (when needed) for a long-haul trip last year.
So all of that meant that this current hostel stint felt like a step back into an earlier era. There were some perks – such as being reminded of how seniority rises quickly, where the Thursday newcomer is the veteran by Saturday – while other moments reminded me of the less desirable aspects of communal living, such as people coming in and out at all hours of the night or using poor etiquette (lots of noise) when moving themselves out.
All of which to say I’m not sure I will be hosteling in the future, but I appreciate the memories of hostel experiences more than I realized.
This weekend I’ve journeyed back to the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, where I previously spent a memorable weekend just over 10 years ago in May of 2007. The unquestionable highlight then was a somewhat spontaneous decision to go skydiving, though one could also argue that the entire experience was a literal high point of a month long Eurotrip.
When the 10th anniversary of starting that Eurotrip occurred last month, I spent some time reflecting on that experience, and how it seems surprising in the present day that I managed to travel around a wide array of Europe (15 countries, I think) for a six week period and coordinate logistics as I went along, such as lodging, transport timing, places to eat, sleep, what to see and so forth. It seems retrospectively surprising especially as it took place just before our current mobile communication era began, when the iPhone was introduced at the end of June, 2007. It’s also retrospectively impressive in that it was mostly a solo trip, with the most interactions with friends happening at the start and towards the end of the experience while in Germany and Scandinavia, respectively.
At some point around that anniversary time, I also reflected on the process of remembering a place, specifically regarding spots that I’ve visited only once. The question mainly was around whether it’s worth updating a memory with a new one or the previous (only) visit was satisfying in a way that I don’t want or need to update it.
I find those ruminations coming back to mind while here in Switzerland and updating the memories of 10 years ago. It is nice to be less “on the move” than the previous visit, which found me staying in 3 different locations over 3 consecutive nights. It’s also of some amusement to update the memories, as I did not recall until arriving here that I actually stayed at this hostel on one of those three nights in 2007, and actually in the same room.
I’ll be thinking about that “updating” again in the morning with a trip back up to the Schilthorn, the iconic mountaintop restaurant prominently featured in my favorite James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and which itself has been updated since 2007.
Of course the main thing through it all is staying present.