Never In A Million Years

Laura had been born in upstate New York. She died August 26, 2004 on Long Island – 11 years ago now. Only 52 at the time, she’d died in her sleep of a previously undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm.

For those of us who grew up fans, she was like a local gal who’d “made it.” I saw her perform live once, and won’t ever forget it:

A sneak peek into "Distances." Click to enlarge.
A sneak peek into “Distances.” Click to enlarge.

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For Instant Happy Woman?

While cat sitting for friends last month, I’d noticed this coaster on their dining room table. I photographed it because, being a man, I’m not entirely sure how to take this: image

And it made me chuckle. We saw them again last night; they have just moved house temporarily until they move permanently to Cambridge in August. So we got to see their “interim” place in Bath, and she had that coaster on their dining room table once more.

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“Because you are born on a farm….”

Emerging from “Valérie’s” car onto her parents’ Paris driveway….

Excerpt from
Excerpt from “Frontiers,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

I thought I’d share that bit from Frontiers. (You may be interested in the *note at the bottom of this post, about a line in that above.) “It” is “1995.” Not that long ago.

A Paris view. [Very old photo, by me, 1994. Look familiar? It's on the back cover of Passports.]
A Paris view. [Very old photo, by me, 1994. Look familiar? It’s on the back cover of Passports.]

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The View From The Roof

The other day, Travel and Leisure offered an architectural expert’s take on the newly opened One World Trade Center observatory:

Screen capture of the Travel And Leisure web site.
Screen capture of the Travel And Leisure web site.

Seeing that article, I couldn’t help but recall one thing that made the old WTC observatory view extra special: the view of the massive twin tower next door. I slotted that experience and memory into Passports:

….As their elevator sped upward, their stomachs dropped. In moments, they were at the 107th floor Observation Deck. The North Tower stood majestically next door, and this was one of those days the rest of the view went for some fifty miles….

And, unlike on the new building, you could also venture upstairs from the indoor observatory and wander around outside:

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A Home Run: 28 April 1935

I can’t believe the timing. I happened to glance up at this yesterday afternoon and noticed the date the artist wrote on it. It’s hanging over my writing desk:

My grandfather, the baseball player, in a 1935 sports pages cartoon.
My grandfather, the baseball player, in a 1935 sports pages cartoon.

It’s in a good sized picture frame. I photographed it “artistically” to post here – blurring it deliberately and cropping it because his name is on it. Drawn on April 28, 1935 and shortly thereafter published in a now long-defunct New York City local newspaper, it’s a sports page cartoon of my baseball-playing grandfather after he had smashed a “home run.”

80 years ago, yesterday.

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Our Old School Chums

Today, this blog is in “Hala mania” hangover mode. If you missed the party, it was not something that happens here very often. Thanks to my interviewing Lebanese journalist Hala Feghaly on Monday, through yesterday I’d been inundated with new visitors, mostly from Lebanon.

Yes, yes, yes, I know they came by for her, so I presume most won’t be back longer-term. Although, you never know; one can but hope a few stick around. In any event, let’s return here today to what passes for “normal.”

Dawn breaking over our back garden in Wiltshire. [Photo by me, about 5:30 am this morning.]
Dawn breaking over our back garden in Wiltshire. [Photo by me, about 5:30 am this morning.]

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A “Fan Email” Brightens A Gray Morning

The Catskills in early April: it’s certainly not Florida. I just took a few snaps out the back just after dawn. Yep, there’s still lots of snow against the house and scattered here and there in the woods:

Still some snow out in the trees. Catskills. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Still some snow out in the trees. Catskills. [Photo by me, 2015.]
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“And where are you from?”

On our way out of church this morning, the priest asked me, “And where are you from?”

He may merely have been asking where I was from in the U.K. It wasn’t our “regular” church. Nonetheless, I was startled.

I thought: Gee, do I look like I’m not from here? I’m sure, to some extent, I don’t.

As we shook hands, I replied, “I’m from New York originally.”

The look on his face indicated that answer was a surprise. I suppose he had indeed figured I was going to say Bristol or something.

But I often don’t know how to answer that question. I was born in New York City, and when asked where I’m from that’s my initial answer. I grew up on Long Island, in Suffolk County; but most Europeans haven’t a clue where Suffolk County is, and they usually associate “Long Island” either with the Hamptons or The Great Gatsby. And, here in England, there is a Suffolk county too – the “original” Suffolk, of course.

US Embassy London on Google. It's closed today, Sunday.
US Embassy London on Google. It’s closed today, Sunday.

I’ve also spent much more of my adult life outside of the U.S. than inside of it. But I always feel American, and like a New Yorker. And I even still feel like a Long Islander – even though I have for years had no ties to Long Island whatsoever.

I don’t think I’ll ever not feel that way. We can move wherever in the world, but is where we are born and reared imprinted on us for life? Seems so.

Just a little “quiet reflection.” Hope you’re having a good Sunday. :-)

On Location: Long Island And The Catskills

It’s finally back here in Britain. Last night, we watched the second episode of Revenge for 2014-2015. (We saw the opener last week.) I’ve written about that escapist show before, although not in this context.

The program does accurately reflect aspects of the incredible wealth (often “weekend wealth”) seen on Suffolk County’s “South Fork” – in east end towns such as Southampton and East Hampton. But when I write of “Long Island” in the novels, it’s about the “middle class” island. In one exchange in Passports between Uncle Bill and Joanne (James’s mother), I decided to slip in this reference to the dramatic difference in lifestyles:

As her brother gave her a long look, Joanne added caustically, “You know, we were always imagining Lake Ronkonkoma as the sublime setting.”

“Really? What? Not East Hampton?” he joked.

“Oh, yeh, us Brookhaven billionaires,” she smirked.

Brookhaven is a large town (that would probably be better described as a “township” – encompassing many hamlets and villages) in central Suffolk that runs the width of the island from north shore to south shore.

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Merry Christmas

It’s almost upon us. If you celebrate, I hope you have a Merry Christmas. If you don’t observe it, I’d like to offer you best wishes for the coming year.

I almost forgot. You have to see it. Hey, you like our tree? The tree stand is doing its job well:

Oh, Christmas tree. Oh, Christmas tree. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Oh, Christmas tree. Oh, Christmas tree. [Photo by me, 2014.]
We spent yesterday in Bath doing last-minute shopping. It is one of the most attractive city centers in England. One of the possible reasons: some of the shops. For example, it seemed everything in the Hilfiger store started at £100 and only went up from there.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. Still, by comparison, £60 shirts at the shop in Bath would’ve probably gone for $45 at the Woodbury Common Outlets Hilfiger in upstate New York. Yep, they don’t call Britain “treasure island” for nothing.

In some ways it has been a very mixed year. Yes, I got Frontiers finished. And my Dad survived heart failure. Those are certainly positives.

On the heavily negative side, we lost someone who is utterly irreplaceable. An emptiness that will never be refilled will stay with us forever. This is the first Christmas without her and I’ve been trying not to think about that. Instead, when her absence crosses my mind (as it is now), I’ve tried to imagine that, come mid-January, she’ll just suddenly appear via a text or a phone message, saying she’d just got back from Rome, or Dubai, or Chicago, and her parents also introduced her to yet another man she’s not really interested in, and she wants to meet up for lunch at a brand new restaurant she’s been wanting to try. But I know that won’t happen of course.

There’s no law written anywhere that says a next year has to be better than the last. Sometimes it’s definitely not. But let’s be optimists anyway, not only about our own lives, but about the wider world as well that 2015 will be better for all of us.

We have some fun here too as you may know if you stop by regularly. We have to laugh now and then. I just wanted to use this short post also to thank you again for reading and following my modest, novel-writing site. :-)