Breaking Down, Cells, Breaking Down

This past weekend Stephanie and I were so very lucky to get away by ourselves, if only for one night. Steph managed to find a small B&B out in Amherst, MA, not far from the UMass campus. Many people who read this blog are from Massachusetts, so you already know how beautiful and lovely Western Massachusetts is. Our plan was to relax as much as possible for the short time we were away because those opportunities simply never present themselves when you have two year old twins. So relax we did. You can probably guess that the first thing we did on Saturday when we arrived was take a nap. Then we got up and drove down to Northampton for some shopping and some dinner at a charming little restaurant called Circa, who, as you probably could guess again, focus on local outlets for their food. For the record, I had the pumpkin risotto with kale and a glass of Morande white from Chile. Very, very good.

Coincidentally, Son Volt was playing that evening, but I skipped it. I did hear their sound check as we walked by Pearl Street before dinner, but this trip wasn’t for bands, it was for sitting and resting.

The next morning we walked through the grounds of the B&B and this is where the story gets good. The grounds were just outstanding. The innkeeper is/was a botanist, so she clearly knows what she is doing. The flowers, trees and all other plantings were so perfectly planted and maintained that you wonder how this person has time to also run a B&B. But that’s not all – she also has a small farm there, barn and all, with goats, chickens, ducks, etc. Oh yeah, there’s a vegetable garden, too. Impressive is not strong enough of an adjective to describe it. Trust me. Breakfast was delivered to our room –  a spectacular omelette of peppers, onion, bacon, cheese, tomato and mushrooms. Toast and her own homemade raspberry jam accompanied it. The eggs come from her chickens. Everything inside of omelette comes from her garden. The bacon was from a local meat place. Delicious.

So we got around to talking to the innkeeper, a charming woman, maybe 55-60 years old, who lived there alone. Twelve years ago her life fell apart. She had two teen daughters and got divorced. Her life was hard. She kept a small ranch in Amherst and did volunteer work occasionally. One Sunday she was out in a neighborhood of Amherst collecting money for homeless people and came across an absolute disaster of a house. An old woman lived there, amidst large amounts of junk and piles of whatever that had likely been accumulating since the Great Depression. The barn was falling down. The grounds were unkempt. The ceilings were leaking.

The future innkeeper knew right then and there that she had found her calling. Eventually – get this – she traded her finished ranch to the old woman for the dilapidated, dreary farm house. Her daughters were horrified at the thought of this and were embarrassed to bring any friends to this disaster of a place, at least initially. She poured all of her life savings into it, used her background in botany to sculpture the outside into the remarkable gardens they are now – and opened a B&B. It took her five years to get the house in condition to start selling rooms. The barn was reborn and animals filled it. The kids classes began.

She is living her dream, with her cat in tow and happiness and serenity tagging along for the ride. Bless her heart. She made our stay so very pleasant and as I listened to her story, I couldn’t help but be filled with admiration and happiness for her. And a little jealousy! What a great outcome. Now, I’m not saying I would ever start a B&B and a farm for my own ultimate happiness and personal utopia. Truthfully, I have a TON to be happy about as things stand right now – an amazing wife. Wonderful children.  Financial security. But we all strive for that point in life where you feel everything is just right. Most of us don’t get there. For her, it took a divorce and years of sweat for it to come to fruition. You just can’t help but feel so happy for her and inspired by her. I also know there’s more I can do to be truly fulfilled. Things like this innkeeper’s story fuel the fire for my own wants. It’s not about the money. It’s about finding fulfillment in time to enjoy it.

Time. A lot of my posts have to do with time. You have to act before you can’t.

facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Where Am I Writing This?

I’ve got this blog set up where if I post something here, it automatically adds a note to my Facebook page. I find it interesting that if you read the blog post on Facebook, there is no indication whatsoever that it comes from another site – no link, no attribution – nothing. What they’ve done is brought all of my blog posts into the Facebook environment, under the Facebook brand. A walled garden. I would suspect many people who read my blog posts on Facebook have no idea that it comes from a blog here at this domain, rustedrobot.com. The other interesting thing is comments. Comments to my posts on rustedrobot.com have gone way down. But comments on my blog posts at Facebook are higher in number than they ever were here. Traffic is also very interesting – used to be all or most of my traffic came from Google. Now Facebook and Google are running neck-and-neck, with Facebook pulling ahead lately. I don’t know what any of it means, really. I’m still of the belief that eventually Facebook will dwindle, much like MySpace and Friendster did. But Facebook is making it very hard for people to go away from it and they’re managing it far better than their previous, aforementioned companies did. So who knows. …..fascinating stuff.

facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Pigs and Missles

I recently finished two books that bear mention here on the blog.

One Minute to Midnight is a detailed biopic of The Cuban Missle Crisis, specifically the week leading up to “Black Saturday” – the closest our world has ever come to nuclear war. Previous to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the crisis, I only knew who the key players were politically and the basics of the story – that the Soviets had put nuclear-armed missles into Cuba, aimed at the U.S. The book, written by The Washington Post’s Michael Dobbs, is terrific. Now that I know the whole story of that week, I am amazed on many different levels. For example, the story of two United States U2 planes. One of them was shot down over Cuba by the Soviets in a hit NOT ordered by Moscow or Khrushcev, but essentially someone much lower in the pecking order who, in the heat of the moment, made a pretty shitty decision. The second US U2 plane was a bi-weekly air testing flight that went horribly awry when it took off from Alaska and flew north. The US regularly sent U2’s north of Alaska to test the air because that’s where the Soviet’s would regularly explode nuclears as a testing ground. This particular pilot simply made an error in direction (he was using the stars as his guide) and ended up over Russia and was subsequently chased by several fighter jets. Now, this was a standard mission, had nothing to do with the missle crisis at all, but the Russians didn’t know that. They believed the US was sending a nuclear-armed jet to drop a bomb over Russia in response to the U2 that had been shot down over Cuba. These two events were the catalyst in our almost engaging in a nuclear war – a Russian decision made at low levels to shoot down a U2  and a U.S. pilot error up in Alaska. Wild! My favorite quote in the book was Kennedy, upon hearing both stories that fateful weekend – “there’s always some son of a bitch who doesn’t get the word.”

The other book was far different in topic, but no different in weight. The Omnivore’s Dilemma was tremendous, educational and fascinating, but now am I going to feel guilty if, in a pinch, I have to run to the grocery store and pick up industrial grade ground beef? If you knew the story behind how things like chicken and beef end up neatly packaged on your supermarket shelf, you might have a self-imposed crisis on your hands. This book has little to do with PETA and more to do with where your food comes from and how it gets there. And it is a stunner. It will make you want to start a farm and only eat your own food. That’s how I felt – until I realized how much work a farm would be. Anyway, the book – you just HAVE to read it. The author, Michael Pollen, travels around the country to different farms and food organizations – industrial, organic, others, etc and he spends time working at each one a little bit, documenting his experience and discussions with the owners and workers. His week on a farm in Virginia with an eccentric and smart farmer is the highlight of the book – and the book is chock full of highlights. The chapter where the author shoots a pig in preparation for a meal nearly made me sick (and him, too). But he wanted to experience what it felt like to literally put your meal on the table. So yeah, some of it will make you cringe. It will make you stop and think for a second when you’re standing in a supermarket. But in the end, your decisions are your decisions. It will be next to impossible for me to go totally rogue and only eat what I know is safe, clean and sound. But I’ll do my best where I can and I suspect you’ll feel the same way if you read this book.

facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

New Music: Drug Rug

Drug Rug
Drug Rug

I just realized that it’s been a long time since I posted any music here on the blog. For those of you that like the songs I post here, sorry for the delay. 2009 has actually been a stellar year for new bands and new releases so far. One that I keep going back to is Boston’s own Drug Rug. I don’t know what kind of recognition they’re generating outside of Boston, but I hooked onto them after their first release a couple of years ago and was excited to read in the Boston Globe last month that they had a new album, called “Paint the Fence Invisible.” I got it the day it came out and was so happy to hear that it’s twice as better as their first album!

Drug Rug is a four-piece (sometimes five) that is led by their two lead singers – I don’t even know their names, but that’s them in the picture (cool ‘stache, dude). I know this – they are a couple and they make bubbly pop/phych songs that work in any environment and are – get this – cute. There, I said it. Cute songs! I’ve even caught my kids bobbing up and down in the backseat of the car once as their music played. And don’t worry folks, I do play plenty of children’s music for the boys. In fact, I’d say the breakdown is 90% children’s music. But every now and then I like to sneak in a little indie rock or The Band or Neil Young. So far so good.

Anyway, explaining Drug Rug is a little difficult. I’ve never been really good at explaining how bands sound, I just know what I like when I hear it. How about this – they sound like the Captain and Tenielle on acid. How’s that?

Here’s a song called “Never Tell” from their new album. Enjoy!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Remembering

Hard to believe it was eight years ago now. I was just two months into my tenure at Ask.com, where I still work. Driving down 128, going south, and being stumped by the news that came on the radio. I was also supposed to be on an American Airlines flight from Boston to San Francisco on September 12th, 2001 – the very next day. For us, our generation, it’s our Pearl Harbor, I guess. Each year on the anniversary I try to keep the noise minimal – I don’t need any more news accounts or video of it. I watched it once – that day – and I try to avoid watching any more. I won’t (can’t?) see the movies and miniseries. Anyway, each year I’ll read an article or two that interests me and that’s it. Mostly I just want to be with my family.

This year, one of the articles I read was this one. One story in a sea of thousands. It’s still painful…..and I didn’t even know anyone who was killed. Pause.

facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail