Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dog day of the soul

A long day stretches before me:  Graham to martial arts, soccer game at noon, MC a little at the Be Loud! afternoon show, home to rest, back to the Cradle for the evening show.  In the middle of all this laundry must get done so I'll have a clean Be Loud! t-shirt for the evening.

Tomorrow an alumni function Durham Bulls game. I sometimes wonder how I let myself get dragged into joining that board.

Last night at the show I had a number of instances of people recognizing me and saying we had met, and/or me getting peoples' names wrong. God how I hate that, but it is so hard to keep peoples' names straight.  I think I have said this before, but this is what CRM software, social networks, and friends are for, to help you fill these gaps.  Of course I know that the people didn't walk away shocked that I had forgotten their names, they are not blogging about it this morning, but still.  I suppose it rankles in particular as I am watching my mom and others age and display memory issues, and the memory of my maternal grandmother's protracted battle with Alzheimer's and my dad's struggle with oncoming dementia in the months and years leading up to his death scare me a little.

Particularly for someone like myself.  I view myself as living by my wits and intellect. Increasingly, I think I need to transition to living less by brains, more by spirit. If I can just try to do the right thing at each moment of the day, and accept that even that is a hard thing to do, that will have to be good enough.

Even in that regard, it may be a question of limiting scope. I need to try to do the right thing, but equally endeavor not to take too much on. I know darned good and well that I cannot predict interest rates, so I try not to make decisions based too much on expectations of their direction. Though I have to take them into account.

In any case, right now I need to brief myself for this afternoon's MCing and pack water bottles and sunscreen, cuz it's gonna be a hot one.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Keeping it in mind

Long day yesterday, from at breakfast in the park sponsored by Ernst & Young looking at BioTech capital markets over last few years and expectations going forward, including a very interesting presentation by CEO of Patheon, to an evening event for NC's Secretary of State (both events featured "free" food, by the way), followed by a board meeting at our house.

In the middle, we discovered that Mary's Mac is having significant issues (had to call up Paul Rosenberg, guitarist extraordinaire of CHHS '84 and computer guru).  Then in the morning we awoke to cat puke on the sofa.  Ughh.

Overall, rather tired going into a weekend of Be Loud! Sophie concert fun, with first soccer game of the season at noon on an August Saturday, capped by an alumni event, then back to school next Monday.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of it all, it is easily for me to be knocked off-kilter and for me to lose sight of how incredibly blessed I am to have what I have and do what I do.  Right now I am honestly just trying to marshall my energies and focus on doing the most important tasks over the next 72-96 hours.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Presence of mind and body

Early this morning David and I played tennis for the second day in a row, raising my total of tennis playing sessions for 2016 to a grand total of three. Once more I heard the chorus of voices in my head: "Oh I am feeling old and creaky... I should really get out and play more... I should go to a coach and work on my serve... I really need to get some instruction in the gym to build core strength... I should take up yoga."  At length I was able to wrestle these voices to the mat and get to a worthwhile observation: my footwork is lazy on my forehand side, so I end up hitting with my weight going backwards all too often, resulting in looping shots. In essence, I am lazy on the forehand because I know I can usually get it back over the net and deep enough to make it not easy to return aggressively, because I exert so much mental effort getting my feed in position on my backhand, where I know I can't be so casual. So my brain is tired out for forehands.

Once I got to that realization, I started to focus more, be more present, and hit the ball a little better.

Still, I really should do all of the things I listed above. I just won't, because in the end I will prioritize soccer.

After the excellent drive north on 95 a couple of weeks back, coming south today was hell. Some of it was traffic, in the normal spots, but mostly it was torrential rainfall between Delaware and Fredericksburg, VA, in short in the places where traffic sucks the worst.

But we made it home.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


I have been listening to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow:  The Psychology of Optimal Experience in the car recently, and it is a pretty good listen.  One point he makes is that often people seem fixated on one aspect of experience or another: food, or exercise, or music, or whatever, and they may tend to talk about this incessantly.  Csikszentmihalyi notes that, while such monomania may become boring (I won't argue with him on that), the ability to appreciate various aspects of experience (say, all of the ones listed above and more) and express appreciation for them does seem correlated with a good life, and makes for pleasant conversation. I buy that. Seems like a pretty simple observation, but I've never thought about it just like that.

That's all I got for now. Back to the coal mine.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dog Days

It's rather hot here in Larchmont.  For the most part, we are holed up in the back of the house, in the four rooms coolable by window units. It is not unlike being on a small boat, indeed, there are conspicuous similarities, given the predilection for nautical motifs of these historically boat-loving Berridges, and the view of the Long Island Sound through the kitchen window.

I nonetheless braved the elements this morning and went for a run. For the first time ever, I saw deer in Larchmont Manor. Baby dear. I mean, I have long since stopped being impressed by seeing deer on the East Coast, but this is a pretty dense, semi-urban place, this neighborhood, less than 1 mile between US 1 and the Long Island Sound. That was a surprise.

In general, it has been a pretty lazy Sunday, capped off a few minutes back by frittering away  some time watching Olympic ping pong. Those are some hard core geek athletes. Gotta love it.

Now must go make progress on my new book, Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of Maladies. Not light reading.  I just polished off Kate Atkinson's Case Histories, a very solid book dressed up as a mystery novel, which I had felicitously snatched up for a buck at the PTA Thrift Store a few weeks back after hearing of it for the first time on NPR not an hour previously. Good karma.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Good day on 95

It was that rarest of things, a fine day driving up 85 and 95 to New York.  We left at 9:30, arrived 7ish to Larchmont.  Natalie drove the first leg to the VA border, mostly without incident (in which I was as at fault as she was -- overreacting a little as she drifted off the road while learning to change lanes).

From there it was pretty much smooth sailing, a little traffic on the Balt-Wash Parkway (as the Google Maps lady is so fond of calling it), a little on the approach to the GWB -- though we used 46 to cut a chunk of that off, this time with good guidance from our eternal friends Sergei and Larry.

There was, however, mildly less family togetherness than on prior rides, as each of us was, in turn, sucked into our devices. Even Graham spent most of the ride listening to the soundtrack to Hamilton on his ancient iPod, which continues to suffice for him. On the ride south, we must concentrate more on shared media, more podcasts from Dear Hank and John, or even the ebook about a container of rubber duckies that fell into the sea in the Seattle bay and helped scientists learn a lot about currents and much else (the book is fully 15 hours long, so there must be much there) I downloaded from the other somewhat evil empire.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Ron Weasley

I was taking Natalie over to mom's house to do some moving-related stuff today, and she mentioned she had a good idea for keeping the kids occupied while sitting around grandma's house:  "We could read parts from the new Harry Potter screenplay/play thing" (whatever it is).

Of course that seemed like a fine idea, and she continued "the adults could join in too." So I asked which character she thought I would be best suited to play.  "Mmmm.  Probably Ron Weasley, he's a stay-at-home dad."  Part of me wanted to be Harry, so I said "Not Harry." And she was like, "Nahh, he's all tortured and tormented."

I was actually touched and flattered by that, that she perceives me as a stable presence rather than tormented, whereas, as regular readers of the blog (and Mary!) can attest, I am at times a little tormented by the big questions of life, touched by a wee dram of the Hamletism. I will not rush to disabuse her of this perception.

Saturday, August 06, 2016


One of the things about being out of the flow of pop or even alternative culture, but having the archival resources of the internet and other people at your disposal, is that I get to make discoveries long after others, things that are in a sense pre-curated for me.  One great recent example is Neutral Milk Hotel. I remember a couple of years back they played in the parking lot in front of the Cradle as part of Merge Fest, I think, and I was like "who the heck is that?" There was some good reason I didn't look them up at the time, plus it was gonna be a million degrees out in the parking lot, but sometime later on Facebook somebody posted a song and I checked it out and was like, dag, this is special.

Apparently inspired by the story of Anne Frank, it really doesn't matter. What shines through is the intense level of commitment of Jeff Mangum, the front man, to his vision of whatever universe the album occupies. They're from the south, so I always thought it was kind of Faulkneresque, with all the wombs, rattlesnakies, sweaty bodies, semen and dreams, sounded like trailer society to me, but what do I know. Mangum's voice isn't that pretty, but it is intensely expressive and he fully inhabits the songs, and part of it is that, as you teach yourself the songs on guitar and start singing them, it becomes clear that he doesn't breathe much as he sings them, and he stretches his lungs, and there is something to the sheer physical demands of the songs that is compelling.

As with the Shins, there is a huge subculture of particularly teens alone in their bedrooms playing these songs that is discoverable on YouTube.  Maybe this is true of lots of artists these days, not just the ones I get intrigued by. Whatever. It strikes me that great songwriters create new dimensions of soul, which others step in to inhabit with covers.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Top notch

Last night at the Bulls game, it became apparent to me that my wallet was no longer in my pocket. We looked high and low, but it was in neither of those places.  Ah well. I think it has been well in excess of two decades since I last lost the thing, but there you have it.

We were able to get the credit cards cancelled quickly, and I saw that I could get a replacement license online, but we need to drive north on Tuesday for our traditional August northern jaunt, so I had to go to DMV pronto.  I got there early, but not early enough to really beat the rush. So I got a front row seat for watching this woman handle the front-desk triage: checking to see that people had the documentation they needed to do what they wanted to do, assigning everyone numbers, and generally handling crowd control by setting expectations for the throngs gathered there.

She was awesome. She stayed positive but firm while delivering news that people mostly didn't want to hear, either that they didn't have what they needed, or that, even if we did, that we were in for some waiting due to factors entirely beyond any of our control. It was masterful customer service from someone in an occasionally-reviled organization, one which, it should be noted, has been hamstrung by branch closure, even in the wake of NC's restrictive voter-ID laws, which does not appear to be coincidental....

Hats off to this most excellent professional! Tis a shame I take such blurry pictures, and that I failed to ask her name.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016


The other day I went back to the barber shop near Whole Foods, which is staffed by guys who are a little more country than the dominant local population.  I have talked politics with them before, so I figured I'd see where they were at with the upcoming election.

The guy who was cutting my hair, a fortyish guy, said that it looked like we were damned either way we voted. I.e. Hillary's just as bad as Trump. I didn't press, figured it was good enough that they weren't pulling for Trump. "Eight more years of the same thing we been having."  I paused for a bit, and then asked what concretely had been so bad about Obama.  "Well, I just never liked him much."  I tried to draw them out a bit, mentioned how I knew businesspeople who felt that the expense and regulatory burden of Obamacare was something they didn't like, and he said, "Yeah, Obamacare, that's one thing." I didn't bother to actually ask how it had hurt him.

I tried to nudge the conversation around to Hillary concretely and one of the customers, an older white guy, started making jokes about "Billary." At least they didn't call her crooked.

Then my haircut was done.  I gave the guy a decent tip and left. Basically, it seemed pretty clear that they weren't comfortable having a black guy or a woman in the White House.