Introduction, a Look Back

BACK HOME — Is it live, or is it Memorex? went the commercial. Blogs are Memorex, just like newspapers, sitcoms and National Public Radio. We all have smoke charges hidden in our cuffs. The windows on the set are mirrors.

Morning newspapers are made to look like they are reported and printed simultaneously and at midnight. “Laughs before a live studio audience” are helped with applause signs. Even quality broadcast news is not all, or mostly, “live.” a few months ago compiled some published statements of an actor and called it his blog. When critics called that a deception, staff removed the essay. Hey, these were comments on record, and apparently no skimping on context: He meant what he said then and later.

If I were to post comments about my vacation, one of whose highlights was the Fourth of July in national birthplace Boston, yet with today’s date, you’d be confused. Fortunately, my WordPress and other blogging services allow you to predate or postdate entries.

This series comprises daily essays — not that everything that happened was equally noteworthy to my wife and me, nor should each day be of interest to you — published in my desire to not forget that we found value in adventures big and small, and that we eventually may put the misadventures in perspective.

If you think that my Independence Day blog was written after the Pops and fireworks yet before midnight 7/4, fine. I did take notes during the show and later on the subway to the hotel. But I wrote them up a few hours ago today. Whenever today is. -30-

Epilogue, or a Look Ahead

DETROIT — Automatic soap dispensers were in restrooms of a number of stops throughout this trip, including Detroit’s airport in general and its Northwest Airlines World Club in particular. Does everything have to be automatic, run by an infrared electric eye? This one is particularly wasteful; a number of times I’d rinse the automatic gel off my hands then my elbow would get spritzed with more.

(We purchased a temporary membership in the World Club due to more than eight hours in layovers going and coming. Add up what we would have run up in magazine purchases and terminal restaurants, and it would have been close. This was wonderful. She read, and I worked on my notes that comprise the Boston Blotter.)

Northwest Airlines got us back to Arkansas close to our original reservations, unlike what is posted on June 25. In boarding the flight out of Boston’s Logan airport, we learned neither of our carry-ons of could be carried on this type of plane; they would not fit in the overhead. They were fine on the Northwest jets coming up. I took both suitcases up front, showed the flight attendant my boarding pass and itinerary so she write the necessary info on the baggage claim ticket.

Flight attendant, examining my papers: “Sir, what’s the abbreviation for ‘Northwest Arkansas Regional’?”

It’s on several of the documents I show her. -30-

Pop Pop Pop Goes the Fourth

BOSTON — Standing on the Cambridge side of the Charles River, under one of the 10 giant amplifiers mounted on portable towers where it was ironically quietest, we thousands had the best view for the fireworks but the hundreds of thousands at the amphitheater seemed distant and behind trees at that.

What do you do on a national holiday while on vacation? It’s a long time to sis-boom-bah, and it’s our last day. We took a subway train to the Shops at Prudential Center and checked out Levenger. It began to rain. We ate sushi and noodle soup, having liked it the previous Friday, at Zen. She walked to the hotel to begin to pack. I walked through the Granary Burial Ground then Boston Common (she had done this while I was in the conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.)

On Monday the Third, my wife and I saw the full dress rehearsal, including Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. All were tiny on the Hatch Shell, though we stood just outside a fence outlining the Esplanade but two giant screens displayed the stars, including conductor Keith Lockhart. So we knew what to expect the next night.

(Both performances were free, but to journey, then stand in a thick crowd to watch TV and to applaud machines proved that we moderns are desperate. For culture? No, this is the expert Boston Pops Orchestra. Which also meant it had a local sportscaster deliver patriotic speech excerpts then Dr. and Mrs. Phil to introduce numbers. The McGraws’ connection to music, Boston and even to Aerosmith was slim, probably none. We moderns are just desperate to get out of our houses, even if that means watching TV elsewhere. Even linen-level restaurants mount screens for sports and news in their bars.)

But the fireworks were live and easily seen.

What we didn’t know, just off the MIT campus, was whether the other songs were recorded. Continue reading

Our Fair Cambridge

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The day was devoted to Cambridge. We left the subway at Harvard Square and walked the entire afternoon, stopping in several Tibetan shops, for her, and whatever struck my fancy. One was Leavitt & Pierce Inc., just off Harvard Square. I could have spent an hour in the nearby Harvard Book Store (or the Grolier Poetry Book Shop behind it, but Grolier was closed for a long holiday), but quaint bookstores would kill a sunny day.

Leavitt’s windows made it seem like a mere guys’ novelty shop, but on entering it was obvious. This was (since 1883) a tobacconist, but with smoking bans, much fresher smelling. How sad. But well worth an hour, with shaving items, traditional game sets and quirky antiques. This was a man’s place (sorry, no evident Web site), quirky and classy and masculine without being laden with testosterone. In short, no sporting gear, except decades-old black-and-white group shots of one Harvard team or another on the walls.

About 4 we turned a corner and found Cafe of India (warning, audio), just in time for an early dinner — we soon would need to get to the Boston Esplanade for the open dress rehearsal of the Boston Pops Orchestra’s Fourth of July outdoor concert.

After our Vegetarian Dinner for Two, we walked around Harvard Yard to see some of the campus’ oldest buildings. Then I grabbed a couple of coffees at the Harvard Coop to take on the train.

I liked Cambridge, but my wife was surprised at it being dirtier and with more street people than she expected. -30-

Happy, happy seals

BOSTON — A grand day. The conclusion of the annual conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists always is a morning business meeting of the entire membership, at least those who don’t have especially early flights back home.

I grabbed My Beloved Wife (MBW, not to be confused with BMW, one of which she once owned as a single gal) immediately on adjournment so we could take a subway train to the Kennedy Presidential Library.

Excellent presidential collection, not too heavy on the love. There also were rooms concentrating on Jacqueline Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, along with space on Edward Kennedy, implying his space would grow at some point. I appreciated that Jackie spent some time as a newspaper photographer and columnist. Not only that, but hanging in her room was a cartoon she drew while Jack was a senator, washing his socks in a hotel room sink. MBW and I could emphasize, and pleased that even the born-rich don’t send everything to the hotel laundry.

We’ve visited the Clinton and Johnson libraries so we had a baseline on impartiality. They’re not, but all included controversies and crises. The impeachment is noted at the Clinton but not so much the Starr Report. MBW also has seen and loved the Carter library.

The Kennedy is especially extraordinary in its architecture, by I.M. Pei. (On Wednesday, June 28, we enjoyed Maine’s Portland Museum of Art, designed by a partner of Pei), In Boston’s, you don’t feel like you’re on a boat, it’s just evocative of the best of sailing, more of a dream of grandeur and floating. Continue reading

Founding Fathers, Arianna Too

BOSTON — While the afternoon would be devoted to the homes of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, the morning and lunch concluded the learning portions of the conference. See, it was just that quick. (I understand that to most folks the point of many conventions is for delegates to sleep in and attend only enough sessions to validate their expense reports. We had about 70 columnists, and most sessions had nearly full attendance. Maybe it’s because most of us pay our own way. Some sessions are of little use, every year, and I should skip those because those hours are when I ask myself about the expense, the effort, the point, when even the good panels could have been summarized in a newsletter article.)

This morning’s breakfast comprised the only separate sessions of the weekend. Recent conferences have had one to three of the hours with attendees splitting into small groups on their more specialized interests. Lots of us, including me found that some hours had nothing we were that interested in and others we wished to attend two or three at once. This is what made the CD recording of 2005 in Texas such a valuable purchase.

Today I stayed with the Blogging breakfast table, led by Tom Regan of the Christian Science Monitor. Mainly I got a feeling of camaraderie where 12 crowded the round table for 10. “The thing about blogs is their style,” he said. “Columns are personal by definition, but blogs are somehow more personal.”

J. Michael Robertson of the University of San Francisco announced results of surveys he’s been giving columnists in the last year. The findings are interesting but too spare for any reasonable validity. Though entertaining, I hate to repeat invalid statistics. Last year’s conference comprised most of his sample, and with Robertson’s self-effacing wit on how he needs more data, we learned we are exactly who we thought we were.

The circus of the weekend was when our conference was hijacked into a production backdrop for a cable television “Beyond the Book” program. Continue reading