Looks like I am grounded for a while. A migraine headache on Friday morning turned into near total blindness in my left eye. Today the diagnosis at Mass Eye & Ear was not great. My retina is detached and I will need surgery sometime soon to attempt to repair it.
So …. We shall see. Apparently extreme myopia and cataract surgeru combine to make these things a big risk and I came out on the wrong end of the odds. I’m still cranking on the right eye and shouldn’t miss any work, but judging from the description of the likely surgical procedure, the recovery could be a little inconvenient.
Therefore — whereabouts the next few weeks is likely to be home and little else. Sigh.
Tropical Storm Danny is futzing around to the south, due to hit the Cape in the form of some windy rain tomorrow. I headed out to the Osterville Cut at noon for a service in memorial of the son of a friend who tragically died last weekend diving off of the Oyster Harbors Drawbridge. The skies were bruised and ominous — fitting for a sad day — but I wondered how a Wampanoag felt four hundred years ago, standing on the shores of Coatuet and Cotacheset, looking out at Nantucket Sound with a hurricane over the horizon, no idea what was coming, but perhaps tuned into some natural indicators that I’m too technically enabled to see.
Now I can track this stuff on the National Weather Service … or Wunderground … or Accuweather or gazillion weather sites, all loaded with Flash-enabled graphics, and probability cones, and hourly predictions that tell me to expect a 30 mph gust tomorrow at 3 pm.
Whatever. I rather be the one who looks at the sky and says, “Going to be a blow tomorrow.”
So out of the water came the motorboat — more for a powerwashing to get the mid-season slime and barnacles off the hull than fear of some meterological disaster. The big boat sits where it sits. I may pop out there early in the morning and take off the sails so the wind doesn’t unfurl them and cause mayhem in the harbor. The weather service is calling for gale conditions with winds in the high 40s – enough to make a mess, but not a disaster zone.
If I mention I am from Cape Cod sooner or later someone asks if I know the Kennedy’s. Not really, I say. My family was a bunch of crabby Cape Cod Protestant Lincoln Republicans who viewed anyone with a summer house as an intruder. Anti-Kennedy sentiment fell on tender toddler ears. But interestingly enough, over time the orbits crossed and for me they crossed because of a simple wooden sailboat called a Wianno Senior. So yes, I met Ted Kennedy, a couple times in fact. I thought he was a good guy. With the flag in the Cotuit park at half-mast, here at random is where Ted and I collided over time:
1969, Edgartown Yacht Club Regatta: I am eleven years old and sent over to Martha’s Vineyard with the yachtsman Marvin Green, a childhood friend of my father’s, to keep his son Sandy Terry company. Terry and I bring bicycles over on the Green’s yawl and ride around Edgartown and Chappaquiddick in the midst of the regatta chaos. Then there is the morning of July 18th and we see lots of police and ambulances crossing the channel on the On Time, the Chappaquiddick ferry. We ride our bikes out to the eastern side of the island in time to see a car pulled out of the water by a tow truck. We aren’t told who the car belongs to, but we are told that a woman is dead. I am frightened by this and steal a long splinter of wood from the Dyke Bridge as a souvenir. I lost the splinter before returning home two days later.
Mid-1970s, Edgartown Yacht Club Regatta: A leeward start on a very windy day. I am sailing our Wianno Senior, the yellow Snafu III, and manage a good start with a smart spinnaker set right at the gun. It’s a very crowded starting line, with a fleet of forty sloops careening just feet apart from each other as they race towards a mark downwind to the north. To leeward of us, being incredibly aggressive and announcing his intention to exercise his right of way, is Teddy Kennedy, Jr. in the Kennedy’s boat the Victura. Maintaining control is nearly impossible as the boats start to death roll in the building swells. As I get ready to douse our spinnaker and avoid the crazed Kennedy boat their spinnaker explodes with a satisfying pop!, and for one magical second the tatters fly forward like a hundred pennants, held out in perfect outline by the tapes along the parachute sail’s leeches and foot. We sail on as they fall behind.
Early 1980s, Andover, Massachusetts: as the resident geek in the newsroom of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune I am told to cover the opening of a new high tech company called Symbolics (makers of a LISP processing workstation). I get to the scene and see in the lobby the office developer, Wianno Senior sailor and Ted Kennedy friend Jack Fallon (also developer of the Prudential Center) and Senator Ted Kennedy. Both make remarks, and afterwards, not sure of what in the world to ask them directly, I start talking Wianno Seniors with them (Wianno Seniors are the totems of the Cape Cod sailing class. JFK’s boat sits, in silent homage, outside of the Kennedy Library in Dorchester and can be seen from the air as one lands to the north at Logan) and the discussion gets very animated, to the exclusion of the other reporters and Symbolics staff, none of whom have the faintest idea of what we are talking about when we get into a discussion about that year’s new jib from the Hood sail loft.
The front porch, Cotuit, Massachusetts: the old Cotuit Inn, now demolished and turned into a plastic hive of condominiums, had a wonderful little bar run by Hack Daniels. It was a nice quiet place to have a drink or two, and usually closed when Hack ran out of ice. One night some associates left the bar and saw on the porch of the inn a small igloo cooler with the words “Rose Kennedy Cottage” written on the lid. Inside were the makings for additional cocktails. The cooler was pilfered and brought to the Churbuck porch where the party continued. An hour later the senior senator stood on the steps demanding his cooler be returned for his boat ride back to Hyannisport. He chided us not by name but by our boat’s sail number, “140.”
He was meekly obliged and Hack banned us from the bar for a while.
1984, Lawrence EagleTribune: The democratic primary was in full force in New Hampshire and Ted Kennedy dropped by the newsroom. As political editor (at the sage age of 26) I am called in to record the Senator’s remarks. Massachusetts politics are chaotic. The junior senator, Paul Tsongas is retiring due to cancer (opening the seat to John F. Kerry). Walter Mondale and Gary Hart are battling it out in the Granite State. The Carter legacy has opened the door for the Reagan Revolution. And the Grand Lion of the Democratic Party is in the conference room holding forth. I can’t stop staring at his face. Ted looks terribly tired. Painfully so. It was, in retrospect, a low point for him. Little did I know.
And that’s it. Booze and boats. I’ll miss the guy. Now for my prediction. Remember Opening Day at Fenway? Ted was there to throw the first pitch with his niece, Caroline. The same Caroline once thought to be a contender to assume Hillary Clinton’s senate seat in New York. My theory? Caroline gets Ted’s seat – this state can’t exist without a Kennedy in office and I imagine Caroline can claim residence in Chilmark. Update: I blew that prediction. Say hello to Scott Brown.
Cruising off the flight from the US to Beijing with my colleague Peter. We enter a phalanx of cameras and weird looking electronic sensors. Buzzers go off. I get waved into a side room, given a face mask, and the nurse comes after me with a big thermometer. Mask is on face. Where else can the thermometer go? I get up to take off my pants which yields a terrible reaction. Colleague takes off at high speed abandoning me to my fate. Armpit is pointed at. Up goes the shirt, thermometer is clamped inside my right pit, and the passing hordes look at me like Typhoid Dave.
After a few minutes the nurse extracts the thermometer, sticks an electronic doo-dad in my ear, scribbles on my health declaration, and sends me on my way. Total time in quarantine – 10 minutes.
Are you really my friend? If I’ve accepted that LinkedIn or Facebook request does that mean we are really pals? The kind of buddy, chum, sidekick who would give you the shirt off hisb back?
This question was posed for real last week when I was in a meeting, glancing at Facebook when the little chat/instant messenger tool popped up with a distress signal from a person in my friends list whom I have never actually met,
“Can you help me? I’ve been mugged and have lost my wallet, my phone, my credit cards, my cash. Everything.”
$1,000 was needed to settle a hotel bill in a foreign country. All I needed to do was go to westernunion.com and transfer the cash. I’d be paid back immediately. I started Googling the person. He is an entrepreneur with a Wikipedia entry and appears to be a perfectly decent upstanding citizen, yet is a person I have never met, had a beer with, indeed, ever had any contact with before the IM window popped open. How he became a “friend” is beside the point, he was calling a marker I didn’t know I had outstanding.
I have been asked by friends who I accept invite requests from in networks like Facebook or LinkedIn. “Do you know all those people?” I used to answer promiscuously, now I am not so sure. I don’t think I will let people inside of the Churbuckian velvet rope so easily.
No aspersions cast on the poor individual who asked me for money – but I found myself parrying his request with lines like:
“Did you try your credit card company? Surely American Express has a way to help?”
“The police or US Embassy?”
“Of everyone in your friend’s list, why me?”
I didn’t send the money. I was tempted. But in the end, it made no sense. I projected myself in the same situation and asking someone as tenuous as myself in a virtual network would not be where I found the solution. Family member, close friend. No problem.