October 5, 2008
Most of you were on my dispatch list in July 2007 to receive “Brazil Dispatch 12,” where I excerpted the stories from your lives you had e-mailed me in Brazil during the year. Well, I had such fun compiling those quotes, that I just had to follow up this year. The following excerps are fewer in number and longer in length, but they capture some pretty good moments with which you lit up my life in Brazil:
From our friend, Adam Jacobs, describing a weekday out with his wife during his year’s sabbatical:
Jill and I went to the Celery Farm nature preserve this morning in Allendale, New Jersey. We brought our sons’ binoculars. At the preserve, there are lots of bird watchers, an odd flock themselves, who spend countless hours examining and enjoying the minutiae of bird species, behavior and comings/goings. There were enough surprises to make it a thrilling and wondrous walk. Among birds which we saw were:
1. Cedar waxwings (one of my favorites) with its yellow stripe at the end of its tail, a bright red spot on its wing and a soft tawny hue that blends beautifully. They are a family bird, with flocks around 10 that stick together.
2. 3 types of Herons, Great Blue Heron with its long neck and huge bulk, a pair of Black Headed Night Heron, and Green Heron hiding in the reeds.
3. A family of wood ducks, with the mom and 12 tiny day-or-two-old ducklings behind in a bunch so tight that they look like a larger animal. This helps deter the 40-pound snapping turtles from lunching too freely on the babies. A photographer had a huge-lensed camera pointed at a birdhouse for wood ducks. Inside was a mother, presumably with her hatch. He was waiting for the magic moment when the babies are large enough to fall/jump/plunge out of the box and into the world/pond. Mother picks a safe moment, and apparently Dad comes by for the big moment. The photographer had been there 2 days and was despairing that he might not catch it. I was hoping to catch sight of the brilliantly colorful Dad, but no luck.
4. Warblers were around, with their showy yellow bodies striped with red.
5. Baltimore Orioles, bright orange and black streaked.
6. Lots of swallows, bright blue, streaking around at high speed keeping the mosquito population at bay for us, who double as tasty treats in the evening hours.
7. And just to round out the color chart, brilliant red and also common Cardinals.
From one of our longtime friends in Manhattan, Guadalupe Warren, writing from her cytology lab at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on a Friday afternoon after seeing photos of my ‘office’ – a hammock on the veranda, and of Newton on Zumbi beach:
This is really too much!!
Here I am working in this room with not even ONE window!
I see your office, Sandy, and I say okay that is a nice corner. Then, I see Newton at the beach with these incredible palm trees and amazing ocean and sky.... like if, before the picture was taken, he went there and painted the trees at the beach..... at that point I said loudly oh...no...this is really too much!.
So, at 20 to 5pm I am leaving work. This is it. I called Joe to make sure he sees the picture and he leaves too.
What a beautiful life...!
From my nephew, Brad Tarpley, of Durango, Colorado training on mountain bikes with his 12-year-old son:
Nick and I have been training some for the upcoming Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, a 50 mile road ride through the mountains from Durango to Silverton. It is an annual Memorial Day event, now in its 37th year, and has grown in popularity to the point where they now have a 2,500-rider cap on entries which fills up by March. When we first started talking about riding this event together I had visions of "showing him the ropes." The truth of the matter, though, is that it has turned out to be a bit of a challenge for ME to keep up with HIM sometimes, especially on the steeper climbs where his very lean physique is more suitable for the job than my better-insulated one. I have been working out some on-the-sly in an effort to make sure that I'm not the one that slows us down, or worse, forces the Tarpley team to abandon before making the finish line!
The toughest element of the ride for Nick won't be the climbing, which is formidable with two major passes over 10,000 feet elevation, but the 5-hour distance. So we have been gradually increasing our training ride distances, and last week we rode our longest yet at 30 miles, including one long tough climb and about ten miles of open terrain into a fair headwind. Two riders can trade off, first being in front and breaking the wind (ha ha), then switching and taking a rest in the luxury of the other's draft. The relative smoothness of the switching back and forth along with how close the second rider can tuck in behind the first without actually touching and possibly crashing largely determine how fast you go and how much energy you use up. THEN we hit the big climb at which point Nick stood up and easily started powering right up, much to my chagrin. We were able to talk some back and forth while all this was going on (OK, Nick was able to talk some), and it was cool because he was noticing things that I think are cool, too...things that you don't notice so much in a car, like the clouds and the rock formations and that 35MPH on a bike is incredibly exciting, and one rides through cold pockets sometimes, and the direction of the wind changes, and everything SMELLS so good because it rained a couple of days ago, and the first of the wildflowers are starting to show on the sunnier hillsides that face South...anyway, the combination of enjoying these details AND enjoying Nick enjoying them was really something. I had the thought while we were riding that I would gladly trade any bullshit or discomfort I've experienced in life so far (I admit not really that much) for the shot at this moment with Nick on our bikes.
From my Mother’s life-long best friend, Jean Richter, (and source of my middle name), also 93, living in a retirement community in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her and husband Cebert’s anniversary was on Valentine’s Day, although he had passed away since their last anniversary:
This was Cebert's and my wedding anniversary---would'a been 71st!
So today at the dining hall, all decorated with hearts and such, we had as a 'fun' thing, the Elvis Impersonator to go around singing to us. I couldn't help but get a bit teary-eyed when he sang ‘I can't help falling in love with you'.....'our' song.
About that time, unexpected by the Events scheduler, a bus drove up filled with beautiful young high school students, bringing sacks of candy, and each of the 60 or more, determined to give each of us a hug! Bedlam reigned, what with Elvis singing, and precious young people milling about ! But we loved every minute, of course.
Yesterday, two nieces came from Oklahoma City, and we went out to lunch at Keo's together. Now, this is a place set in what used-to-be a town's old bank building in what used to be a town. Some enterprising woman, who makes the World's Best Pies, opened a cafe, and even though it is 25 miles away, people have to make reservations to eat there. It was fun.
From my dear friend, Lucia Gratch, of Nyack, NY, the kindergarten teacher at my beloved Blue Rock School, after the death of her father:
I am in Michigan to visit my mom, and have been working really hard and non-stop until today (garbage day), to clear out 47 years of accumulation in the basement. A truck came and hauled off 3 loads; my sister in her husband's truck, 2 more (just of paper - my dad kept ever periodical and if I think I worked hard this week, it has given me a little insight into how hard he worked every day of his life until he could not); and then a huge pile for the garbage pickup - we scheduled an extra large load pick up. It has been very cathartic (as I have similar problems with collecting, with less space and only 10% the length of time). And also, to see what my father actually did - as he was totally involved in his professional life, would come home and work more, but shared very little of himself. He was accomplished and brilliant, which I see more and more, but reading his innumerable letters, lectures, talks, etc., I am having a good visit with him. He has been so much more present since he died in many ways, and then, I look in the mirror and there he is. My mom is now starting in on a box of letters she saved from after high school, and having a laugh, which is wonderful to see. I am sure seeing so much of the accumulation of a lifetime go to the dump is very difficult. It had really gotten unwieldy, plus had suffered from years of flooding, cat shit, and generation after generation of mice - multitudes of mice - who so enjoyed the bags and boxes of fabric, paper and assorted good nesting materials. Yuck. I hope that you are well, and please hug Newton for me and ask him to hug you for me too. Do you remember the very sweet book: "A Kiss for Little Bear" in which a kiss for Little Bear's grandma is passed through the whole animal community on its way to reach his grandma?
From my sister, Donna Wilder, who is the assistant to the principal at a 4th-6th grade elementary school in Lawrenceville, NJ:
One weird thing (school story) to pass along is this: It was during the week of Martin Luther King's birthday, and the students in one sixth grade class had to write an essay using "I have a dream" about something good they would like to see happen in the world. This boy wrote "I have a dream that animals and people will not have sex with each other." Yipes!! The Dean of Students talked to him about it, and he told her that he heard about it in church. The Dean called his mom, and the mom said yes, that was true. Now what kind of church would be talking about that! His teacher said, "Martin Luther King would have been so proud."
From my very close, funny, funny friend, Carolyn McMonegal, of Manhattan:
Lousy Fourth of July weather…grey, rainy, and storms predicted with intermittent bits of sun (??)…Sooo glad I don’t have a houseful of guests and kids to contend with and entertain…I remember long weekends in the country years ago with restless guests…OY! All I did was bring out the booze right after breakfast...it worked beautifully.
From Manu Khatchadourian, a friend of ours since college with Newton, who is Armenian (he grew up in Lebanon, lives on Long island now), about taking his family to Armenia for the first time:
In summary: It was a very emotional trip for us - It is a country with sharp contrasts: "haves" and "have-nots," old and new, expansive valleys and rugged mountainous terrain. At times you felt you were in Switzerland (Alps), and often at the barren mountains of the Caucasus. Seeing Ararat at a distance (unfortunately in Turkey - you know the story) assured us that we were (in our historic) home ...What is striking are the 4th + century churches which adorn the mountains - incomprehensible how they built these churches on top of the mountains with expansive views of the valleys. Armenians were certainly committed to Christianity - this was evident in every location which we visited. All in all, an amazing vacation ... knowing that there are crazy people like us who speak the same language as a nation was comforting ...Having said that, there is no place like home: Manhasset, NY! (smile)
From my niece, Marianna Cunha, of São Paulo, Brazil. I had taken a Ukrainian egg batik coloring kit to a beach resort for all the teen-aged cousins and boyfriends to color Easter eggs in 2006:
Do you remember those eggs we painted two years ago, in Bertioga? With Fernando, Leandro and everybody else?! Remember? Last week, they almost completed two years. Almost! If it weren´t for me... I hit the jar with the eggs inside and it fell on the ground... hehehe (what a disgusting smell!!! specially after two years).
From our dear friend Nancy Taylor, of Manhattan, after the death of her husband, Dick. (She then took a trip):
I truly don't know that I am blazing through anything. But, then, I'm just figuring out who I am in this new phase of my existence. It's very bizarre to have to answer self-queries I never imagined existed. I'm too busy or not busy enough. Seeing too many people (to the detriment of other loved activities) or not seeing enough people (bending to my natural inclination and love of solitude), doing too many "to-do" list things and not enough big stuff, or going with too many big thoughts and not getting vital little daily things done.
Or, some days everything is just fine and I sail through life.
More when I've come up with all the answers. That should be very soon, huh?
Same Nancy Taylor, just back from her trip:
Just back from Papua New Guinea. Three fascinating weeks. Other than a small earthquake, a medium police riot, a blown plane tire on a small airport runway and being shot at directly by armed robbers, it was a tremendous trip. I wasn't, but Dick would have been thrilled staring directly into the barrel of a shotgun which was shot off into the front window of the rickety van we were in, as the driver threw it into reverse and managed to outrun the gang. I didn't, but Dick would have loved that....and emerging unscathed. As I dove behind the front seat, my thoughts were "I'm being shot at and I'll be darned if I go to Ethiopia with Betty." As she dove behind the second seat, she says her thoughts were "If I were 50 lbs lighter, I could get further down away from the shots." Not too philosophical in the moment of truth, I must admit. Aside from that, it was the most exotic, grueling and wonderful trip I've ever taken. We visited a tribe which had not seen a white person in 5 years. Many Stone Age peoples. Our antidote to being shot at was a day cuddling koalas and baby kangaroos in Brisbane.
From my high school friend, Bob Garrett, of Lawrence, Kansas, after reading my ‘Tulsa Dispatch:
Thanks for the reminders of Tulsa. It has undeniable charms, tornadoes aside. I have heard good things about that theatre where you saw "Oklahoma." I saw an hilarious episode of "Third Rock" in which the main characters (Jane Curtin and John Lithgow) were stranded in a storm in a diner at the end of a rotten day. John Lithgow’s character was desperate to placate Jane Curtin and remembered her love of Broadway tunes and began to sing "Oklahoma" to the backs of the men sitting at the counter. When he reached "We know we belong to the land" a plaid-shirted John Raitt turned around and took over. The entire diner joined the swelling finale. It was a hoot. (John Raitt, Bonnie’s father, played ‘Curly,’ the lead, on Broadway.)
From my sister, Janet Kohler, of Denver, about her river boat trip with husband Rex in the Netherlands:
Yesterday was the reason for our trip. We call it our flower day! We started out VERY early, 6:30am, for the Aalsmeer flower market. It is the largest wholesale market specializing in flowers in the world. Here are bidders as they auction flowers of all kinds. It was amazing. After the flower market we were bused to the Keukenhof Flower Park. The tulip growers of Holland have used this park to showcase their flowers for years. It was truly a spectacular sight…tulips of all colors, daffodils of many shades of yellow, other spring flowers of every color of the rainbow! We also got to go past the flower fields…these are full of spring flowers, but these are not for cutting; they are harvested for their bulbs.
From Katie Morgan of Brooklyn, daughter of my longtime Tulsa friend and high school teacher, Lynn Morgan, working at her fourth Olympics for NBC, in Beijing:
I actually have an even better title this time….FETCHER. I know…it sounds like I might be fetching Starbucks coffee for Dick Ebersol and company, but that’s not the case. I’m actually an Associate Producer in the Central Tape room responsible for “Fetching all the best footage from the Games and routing it back to the States where our NBC department will be able to create Promos for each show…Primetime, MSNBC, USA Oxygen, etc.
So everyone knows that Michael Phelps came to the NBC compound to do a four hour interview. One with Costas which involved all 8 races and another with Brian Williams from Nightly News. Now, the day before his arrival, Dick Ebersol sent word to me that I had to collect every race, every NBC feature and every medal ceremony and put it on a DVD for his viewing pleasure. Okay, for all of you who don’t really know what that means, here’s the deal: Every 2nd day of the Olympics, all our external drives are cleared to allow more space for future events. This means that all of Phelps footage from Race 1 to Race 6 had been deleted. So, besides having to find these tapes where the media lives, which could be anywhere in the NBC compound, I had to re-digitize them into the system, lay them on the timeline, edit, place a few transitions and build a slate at the front. A very easy thing, but the sequence came out to be 4 hours long and I had 12 hours to put this together, not to mention that Dick Ebersol personally asked me to do this so Phelps could walk away with his eight moments of glory after he was done with his interviews. If I failed, I would no doubt be fired immediately. Needless to say the pressure was on.
Here’s how it played out. Phelps was expected at 1pm, but arrived at 2pm and did the meet and greet crap. I had to break the 4 hour sequence into two DVD’s. The first one was finished at 2:30pm. At this point I’m sweating like a crazy woman and frantically talking with the assistant in Dick’s room telling her to stall Phelps because I needed him to stay for at least two hours and some change. He was obviously exhausted so she told him to lie down in Ebersol’s office where he proceeded to fall asleep for an hour, making Costas and the entire Primetime set wait for him. I was thrilled with the news because it bought me more time. It was agony watching each interview come to an end, while knowing the 2nd DVD was still processing. After he talked with Brian Williams, there was 15 minutes left for the dub. Thankfully he was taking pics with several of the NBC crew, which gave me just enough time to sprint through the compound with his DVD set. This was ‘Chariots of Fire’ and I was running for my life. As soon as I dropped it off, I heard Michael came into Dick’s office a couple of minutes later, collected the DVD’s and was off on his merry way. I presume that means I still have a job in Vancouver for 2010. The funny thing is this…Phelps will never know the panic we went through to get that made nor will he ever watch it.
Keep your stories coming. They allow me to live in so many places at once!
from Sandy Needham
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