“Most men, they’ll tell you a story straight through. It won’t be complicated, but it won’t be interesting either.”
– Albert Finney (Senior Ed Bloom) from Big Fish
I love to tell a story. Spinning tales about travel, personal dislike of snow, and even craft beer crusades allow me to narrate the story of my life, but hopefully, in an entertaining fashion. It reminds me of the film, Big Fish. I constantly think of the line Billy Crudup delivers, as William Bloom, “Have you ever heard a joke so many times you’ve forgotten why it’s funny? And then you hear it again, and suddenly it’s new. You remember why you loved it in the first place.” That is how writing posts on this blog makes me feel. I have forgotten the central meaning of so many stories that I see those events from a fresh perspective as I dig through photos or retread old roads. This fact became clear during a recent trip Corinne and I took to Newport, RI.
“Veronica Corningstone: For the entire Channel 4 news team, I’m Veronica Corningstone. Ron Burgundy: And I’m Ron Burgundy. Go f**k yourself, San Diego.”
– Will Ferrell (Ron) & Christina Applegate (Veronica) from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
When thinking of cities in the United States, few places have impressed me more than San Diego, California. The beer, food, and entertainment make it one of my favorite cities. I wrote about my time there before, but that post took a cursory look at my experience. Therefore, today, I am heading back to 2017 and my trip to San Diego. In so doing, I will survey what I did, all in support of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, but this time I wasn’t running with my brother Jeff, nor was I running alone. While my wife Corinne did not, nor would she ever, participate in the 13.1 miles of scenic fun, her sister, Kaitlyn, did. The three of us took a nearly week-long trip to SoCal, and the rest is history.
“I have crossed the horizon to find you. / I know your name. / They have stolen the heart from inside you. / But this does not define you. / This is not who you are. / You know who you are… who you truly are.”
– Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) from Moana
It isn’t easy to answer when people inquire about where my wife Corinne and I vacationed for our honeymoon. You see, we married in Hyannis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, yet lived in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. Therefore, we left Hawaiʻi to wed, only to return several weeks later, continuing our everyday academic lives. Usually, it’s the opposite, right? As Jason Segel, as Peter Bretter, screams, with ironic anger, in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, “Oh, wedding in Hawaiʻi! Real original!” Yes, we skedaddled from Hawaiʻi to get married. How does someone plan a honeymoon when they live in a tropical paradise? Thus, came into fruition an NCL Hawaiian Islands cruise that served as our honeymoon getaway. Sure, it took two years to go on it, but our first cruise was memorable and filled with love, adventure, and Kona coffee!
“Ebenezer Scrooge: Let us deal with the eviction notices for tomorrow, Mr. Cratchit. Kermit the Frog: Uh, tomorrow’s Christmas, sir. Ebenezer Scrooge: Very well. You may gift wrap them.”
– Michael Caine (Scrooge) & Steve Whitmire (Kermit the Frog) from The Muppet Christmas Carol
It’s that time of year when those who celebrate Christmas begin to rewatch specific movies. Most people, like myself, have a favorite film they immediately watch with a loved one or save until the last moment and watch alone. The simple task, or tradition, of rewatching a festive film performs a nostalgic function. That tradition comes with rules that one must follow so as not to break with a familial custom. Personally, after the last couple of years, these traditions are equally important as well as expendable. I have had to take stock of those traditions worth holding onto and those I wish to set aside. Yes, even the practice of watching a film is one I took notice of, but rather than avoid it, I leaned in and turned on, for nearly my twentieth year, The Muppets Christmas Carol.
Today, I am going to explore the ghosts of Christmas. I will illustrate those moments of joy, those family traditions I nostalgically recall, and how the Christmas holidays have changed. In doing so, I will discuss those Christmas films that I play and replay this time of year, with particular attention given to those adorable Jim Henson Muppet characters. In the end, this post is an opportunity to get sentimental and excited about a new Christmas season and a celebratory year that will, thankfully, be nothing like last year. I will spend this holiday with extended family because of vaccines, lower COVID numbers, and great determination. Whether you celebrate or not, all are welcome to explore the holiday ghosts of my past once again.
“Here in New England, the character is strong and unshakable.”
– Normal Rockwell
In 2015, my wife Corinne and I finally took a weekend trip to Nantucket Island, located off the South Coast of Massachusetts. There we celebrated our anniversary but did so in a distinctive style. Although the weekend followed no primary schedule, we took in the history, scenery, and beauty of this fantastic island. When we left, we were not surprised by how wonderful the trip was, but wondered why it took so long to visit in the first place. We knew we found a place where we would travel again. If for no other reason, to feel the majesty of the island environment and be taken aback by the splendor of the ocean water as it crashed onto our feet as we walked along the lovely beach.
I am a born and raised New Englander, one who grew up able to see the local harbor from the bedroom window. I do not feel calm or at peace if I am without access to an ocean. This need to live “oceanically” is one reason I found myself living in Hawaii by 2010. If I was going to work towards a Ph.D., I thought, why not study on a gorgeous tropical island surrounded by water. After my wife and I moved back, we found ourselves living in Salem and, once again, had a window with views of the ocean and a sense of peace. The ocean is essential to me, and being as close as possible to it, is vital to who I am as an individual. Nantucket is the perfect example of a location that can instantly recharge my core emotional battery in that way. Just by setting foot on the island, feeling the ocean breeze, and observing the ocean’s vastness from the roof of the Whaling Museum or coastal road, I appear centered.
“But the Colorado rocky mountain high I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye Rocky mountain high”
– John Denver “Rocky Mountain High”
The other day was gorgeous outside, with the sun shining and 65°F. I mean, it could have been 50°F, and, as a New Englander, I would have thrown on shorts and celebrated! The temperature was incredible, and the snow finally melted. I went for a run, and along the way, as I allowed myself to fall deep into thought, I reflected on my favorite half marathons. I have spoken of them before on this blog, but my memory kept bringing me back to Denver, CO. The Rock n’ Roll Denver Half Marathon is one of the best races I have ever run, and I mentioned it in an August 2020 post. Denver is a fantastic city, and this was an awesome trip.
As I mentioned in one of last month’s posts, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn!”, my brother Jeff promised that if we ran the Rock n’ Roll Brooklyn race in 2016, he would support me in selecting a race destination, further away, in 2017. Knowing exactly where I wanted to go and supported by a series of welcomed cosmic occurrences, the stars seemed to align. I went to Jeff with my request to run in Denver. Join me as I explore the city, the race once again, but honestly, for the first time, first observing the emotional connection that sparked my need to visit the city and see the mountains I had read about, or more importantly, heard about in songs.
“I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack… it grew by one. So there… there were two of us in the wolf pack… And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, “Wait a second, could it be?” And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack.”
– Zach Galifianakis (Alan) from The Hangover (2009)
In the long history of my life, which isn’t that long at all, I have never had a ton of friends. Sure, I have close friends from my past who I am still in contact with from time to time. I communicate with colleagues and classmates who I met along the way and positively impacted me. But friends I hang out with and talk to frequently are a much smaller group, at least in terms of number. Over the last decade, I built a small group who I consider great friends. So, it should be of no surprise that when returning from my month-long stay in Shanghai, China, in July of 2018, I was invited by a couple of those close friends for a weekend trip to Philadelphia; I responded yes. This group of friends goes on a trip once a year, usually to visit a Major League Baseball stadium, test out the local breweries, and eat fantastic food. I was thrilled to be invited. I had not been on one of their weekend excursions, but I enjoyed playing softball and exploring breweries with these four guys, so I was eager and excited to join them. Filled with history, a couple of breweries, and a visit to Citizens Bank Park, this trip became an unforgettable memory.