Archived entries for Family

Family time in Maine

Contrary to what one might think based on my tendencies to be a wanderlust, I do have a family and I do see them occasionally! This weekend the whole gang got together in Maine and had a great time…

My incredibly cute niece and nephew playing with their soon-to-be-eaten lobster:

My nieces:

Boys will be boys…my nephews:

With my sister-in-law in my new floppy hat:

My brother and sister-in-law:

Family time in Maine

My nieces exploring a super cool seaweed circle on the beach:

With my niece Katherine:

With my sister-in-law Sarah:

My incredibly cute niece Elsa really filling out her life jacket:

Two years ago today

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On the night my brother died, I was half a world away, wandering the cobblestone streets of Prague’s Old Town on a drizzly night. It was a perfect evening: the cobblestone slick in the light rain, the streets shiny under the glow of gas lamps, the muted clop of a woman’s heels the only sound in the world. It was a perfectly unremarkable evening, too, until my phone rang and another brother told me the news.

Life froze.

In that moment, thousands of miles away, my little brother (well, he always towered over me, but I always thought of him as my little brother) lay lifeless.

Joan Didion once observed that when tragedy strikes, we fixate on the normalcy of the moment.

The light. The sounds. The air. The calmness.

“Confronted with sudden disaster,” she wrote, “we all focus on how unremarkable the circumstances were in which the unthinkable occurred.”

“Life changes fast,” Didion said. “Life changes in an instant.”

After my brother died, a higher-up at my office offered to buy me an early plane ticket home. Another friend took me for Long Island Iced Teas when I returned. Long lost friends appeared at his burial. Each outpouring, in its own way, represented to me the true kindness of people — and the true friendship that emerges in times of chaos.

My brother and I were not best friends, but the truth is, we were accidental companions. Our age drew us together — we were probably closest to each other, among our family of five kids. We went on wild excursions through the back-of-beyond (dans les concessions, as they say in Acadian French), where he taught me how to successfully make a car do a recreational 360-degree spin on snowy roads; he introduced me to my future obsession, Sarah McLachlan; he taught me how to shoot a gun (indeed); we even went on a particularly embarrassing double date or two (ditto).

The experience of his death taught me a few things: we all grieve in our ways, and in death, we often remember people differently — sometimes quite differently — from the reality of how we knew them in life. Varying versions of history and memory emerge when one is gone, though perhaps none is more or less valid than the others.

But mostly, I was struck by the profoundness and simplicity — oh my, I sound like my English-teacher mother — of one line that I discovered.

“The timing of death,” writer Mary Catherine Bateson once said, “like the ending of a story, gives a changed meaning to what preceded it.”

Family time!

It was a great weekend here in Maine — lots of great family time with the ‘rents and the nieces and nephews.

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Kids having kids

No, I didn’t have a baby, but my nephew Pacey sure looks like he could be mine! Here he is, sleeping away this weekend.

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Here are nephews Pacey and Jesse playing yesterday. Precious!

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Family time

I’m up in Maine for the weekend enjoying the company of assorted nieces and nephews. Here I am with my nephew Pacey! I almost look like I could be a parent. JK!

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A castle wedding

I spent the latter part of my trip to the Czech Republic at Zbiroh Castle, 60 km outside of Prague, for a wedding. The wedding was to-die-for and the castle itself was amazing (especially the stuffed rabbit hanging over the bar in the restaurant, shown below)! Formerly the headquarters of the Czech intelligence agency, Zbiroh has since been renovated into a quite civilized hotel.

Below, at a wine tasting in the castle’s cellar with the fun and fabulous bride and bridesmaids, I apparently missed the red memo.

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Old Mother Coo

cooYesterday the world lost one of funniest, kindest, and most spirited purveyors of style and wisdom. Corice G. Hurd, better known as “Mother Coo,” to her adoring fans in North Haven, Maine, died at a ripe old age that would probably shock anyone who had ever been in her sharp-as-a-tack company these last few years.

She is perhaps best known for her fashion sense, which was at once peculiar, stunning, and effortless. I’m not sure she ever purchased a single article of clothing after the fall of Nixon, but as we joked one summer, it didn’t matter since style is timeless and trends fleeting. The well-worn clothes she bought in the 60s had come full circle and always looked great with her signature big Gucci sunglasses.

A fantastic cook, Coo endowed me with numerous culinary skills and bestowed upon me “Cooking for Dummies,” when I moved away to college. “Anyone who can read can cook,” she always said. She was also a well-graced socialite and at an early age nicknamed me the “butler” because of my domestic abilities. Coo was just, “dahling,” to me.

She was a rabid Republican, always accenting her flamboyant outfits with a jeweled GOP elephant brooch. (In the photo here, taken on July 4th, 2000, she is wearing it…and look at that patriotic outfit!). Despite our obvious political differences, we always had energetic debates on the state of affairs in Washington. If there was a book written on politics, she had read it and could quote it. Same goes for the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages going back decades. When our neighbor Pete du Pont ran for president in 1988, she marched right up to him and declared she was deserving of a spot on his cabinet.

In 2000, soon after Hillary Clinton declared her candidacy for the U.S. Senate, I attended a speech on my college campus in New York and afterward sent Coo various pieces of Hillary kitsch. I packed it all up in a nice, neat package and sent it to her place on Raspberry Patch Lane. One week later, the package had been returned to me. No note, just a “Return to Sender” stamp. It was classic Coo…

Nate and Sarah’s Wedding

My first experience ministering with the Universal Life Church went off without a hitch.  When my brother Nate and his fiancee Sarah asked me to marry them months ago, I thought it was a great idea — until I actually had to sit down and write out the ceremony.  I ended up writing the whole thing a week before the wedding, began memorizing it the night before, and then had a few glasses of liquid courage with the wedding party before the ceremony.

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It was the most perfect wedding I’ve ever seen!  The garden wedding was spectacular, the reception was decadent, and the company was excellent.  Photo below left cousin Abbie and I at the reception, after I had changed out of my collar (just kidding – I wore a suit), with Nate and Sarah leaving the ceremony on the right.

Spent the end of the sultry, long weekend at the Tennis Hall of Fame and watched Andre Agassi and John McEnroe play before this year’s Hall of Fame inductions.  I had an all-access “player guest pass” thanks to a friend’s friend working at the gate.  I showed it off like the shallow person I am, of course, hoping everyone would think I was Andre’s best friend.

North Haven – July 4th

North Haven is the best place in the world to recharge, especially in the summer months.  There is nothing quite like the experience of racing up from Boston before dawn to catch the early morning ferry (930 a.m.)–Will there be traffic on Route 1? Will the car make it onboard?–and then calming one’s nerves with the hour-long ferry ride across Penobscot Bay.

The ferry ride is a chance to catch up with old friends and take in the breezy salt air, something I don’t ever miss until I’m here, getting a face full of it.  I’ve probably made that crossing a few hundred times since my family first started going to North Haven in 1983 when I was 1 year old, but I was so inspired on the ferry ride over that I was able to crank out, almost in finished form, a new travel article for the Bangor Daily News.  I wrote furiously and the result is almost a perfectly true rendering of what that ride is really like.

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Highlights: Nate and Sarah flew in from San Francisco and local boy-turned NBC reporter Billy Bush was spotted running shirtless in front of my parents’ house this morning.  That caused a flurry of text messages to friends afar who love him.  I do have paparazzi-style evidence of this encounter thanks to my cunningly placed digital camera, for those who ask nicely. I’d post the shots here, but that’s so not North Haven.

The photo below is my niece Katherine Olivia, playing today in my mother’s flower garden.  Such a cute dress

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Christmas in Maine

Maine tends to become really grey and dreary in the middle of winter, but as this shot shows, at least there’s no snow.  I took this from Ames Knob, the highest point on North Haven (still just 200 feet or so) in the middle of the afternoon today, Christmas Eve.  The view is looking southwest, with Vinalhaven island poking out from the left and Crabtree Point, the westernmost tip of North Haven, reaching out into the ocean on the right.

My sister Kate and the ‘rents and I made the hike up the Knob for the views and for a distraction after being cooped up inside all day.  When I was a kid, I used to climb the Knob all the time, though it always seemed much more mountainous than it does today.  The trail to the summit always seemed treacherous, fraught with slivering snakes and knotty roots jutting into the rough trail.  These days, it’s an easy run to the top, where the views are spectacular, especially during summer sunsets.      

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Thanksgiving in San Francisco

This is the third Thanksgiving I’ve spent in San Francisco with Nate and Sarah, and each year the holiday gets more and more fun.  It was an Alfred and East Coast reunion, with a healthy flow of gin and fine wine (never mixed).  I hung out on the interesting streets of Berkeley one afternoon with my Aunt Sally, but otherwise had a low-key weekend.

Though I love San Francisco, its homeless problem is absolutely depressing.  Walking one block down Market Street, you see more homeless men and women than you would all day in an entire day in Boston.



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