Archive for May 10, 2009

Sunday in the Park

May 10, 2009 1 comment


On Friday night, we saw Sunday in the Park with George at the 5th Avenue Theater in downtown Seattle. I guess you could say it’s our musical. We don’t have a song. But we have a musical. We saw it on Broadway near the end of our extended honeymoon, in the summer of 1985.
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Categories: Theater


May 10, 2009 Leave a comment


Pictured above are the chaise longue I was sitting in late yesterday afternoon (as I read the newly-arrived issue of the New York Review of Books) and the golf ball that came to rest next to me. I took the picture just now, and Emma decided to follow me out, so she got into the picture too.

As you may know, we live alongside a golf course. Our property abuts the 9th fairway, visible in the background on the photo above. From the teebox, we are about 200 yards down the fairway (north), on the right as one looks down the fairway from the tee. The marking on a golf course sprinkler head that is on the golf course side of the property line indicates that the green lies another 248 yards farther north from our house, with a bit of a dogleg to the left. (The sprinkler is just past the cedar pictured in the upper left of the photo.) The fairway slopes sharply down from right to left by our house, so a golfer will generally want to drive to the right side of the fairway in order to have a view from a higher level towards the green for the second shot rather than hitting a blind shot to the green from the valley. Thus, when a golfer who is already aiming right drives too far right, the ball is likely to land in our yard, on our house, or in one of the trees protecting our house.

We get hundreds of balls a year this way. Some are so badly sliced that they hit the far side of our house and land on the front lawn, but this is uncommon. The scariest are those that whiz by on their way to the neighbor’s yard to the north, powerfully hit but just off line, as opposed to ones a less powerful golfer (older men, women) might hit that land softly in our yard. We’ve lived here since November 1993. The most dangerous ball arrived the following summer. We were dining outside with friends, using our then-new outdoor furniture, when a ball came through so fast and so level that we didn’t see it but just heard the whoosh as it went through our air space just 2 or 3 feet behind our ears. It crashed through the hedge about 40 feet past us and bounced into the northern neighbor’s yard.

But yesterday was the closest hit ever. There I was, minding my business, when I heard a crack as a ball hit the bark of the towering maple in our yard to the south. I then heard it work its way through the branches, hitting leaves, seemingly coming farther north towards the patio as it descended. I didn’t know what to do. I looked up and back, but couldn’t see it. So I put my hand over my head as makeshift protection and awaited my fate. In a moment, I heard it land close to me on the patio and roll to a stop. I looked left, where I think it landed, but it must have rolled under the chaise to the right. When I stood up to find it, there it was. It couldn’t have missed me by more than a foot. Then again, even if it had hit me, it would have done so softly. The heat had dissipated as it worked its way through the tree. Still, pretty exciting.

By the way, the article I was reading at the time was Jonathan Freedland’s review of David Vine’s book Island of Shame: The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia. I recommend it.

Categories: House, Sports

Farewell to Pontiac

May 10, 2009 1 comment


I almost missed an article by Dan Barry in the NYT last Monday on GM’s announcement that it will be closing the Pontiac division, as seen through the eyes of two long-time dealerships in western Pennsylvania. In going through the week’s papers yesterday, I stumbled on it, and now I see that there is an accompanying on-line slide show.

The article is a sad one for us Pontiac lovers. I drove three Pontiacs. My first was a hand-me-down, a 1964 Le Mans that I got during spring break of my sophomore year in college and drove from March 1971 through August 1972. I didn’t actually drive it much, not while at school, but in the summer of 1972 it got a lot of use, between New York and New Brunswick, New Jersey (where I was at a summer math research program for undergraduates at Rutgers) and New London, Connecticut (where I was with the crew team). Senior year I inherited my sister’s car while she was studying art in Rome. Then, in November 1973, my first fall in graduate school, I got a beautiful red 1974 Pontiac Grand Am.

The 1974 Grand Am is a classic, one of their great cars. Mine had its problems. Electrical for instance. Like at one point it developed an odd behavior: when I stepped on the brake, the interior dome light over my head would go on. That was a tough one to track down and fix. The Grand Am went to Chicago with me for the 1980-1981 academic year. And it paid the price when I forgot one day to follow the local rules. I lived in a run-down dump of a building that the University of Chicago owned on the NE corner of E 56th Street and Drexel Avenue. It was the lone building on the block, running from 56th north to 55th and from Drexel east to Ellis. The university had razed everything else and would in due course raze the dump in order to expand its athletic fields. But thanks to pressure from the Math department, which used the building for its postdocs and visitors, the university let it stand, virtually without maintenance, so the mathematicians and roaches and mice had a place to live. And thanks to the isolation, one learned not to park one’s car up the street along the empty block, near 55th. Employees would fill the street in the daytime, so if one took one’s car out in mid-day, one had to park way north on one’s return. The rule was, move the car back when the street emptied out. But I forgot that rule in my second month in Chicago, and sure enough, the trunk was broken into, with assorted items stolen that I had never bothered to bring in when I moved there, like my squash racket. I got the trunk repaired, but it always took in water after that.

With one problem after another, from electrical to water leaks to dying alternators, I finally sold the car — which had moved to Seattle with me — and got another Pontiac. This would have been in 1984, when I got a Pontiac 6000 STE. This was the fully-equipped version of the standard mid-sized Pontiac, sibling to the Buick Century and Olds Cutlass. It served us well. In its early years, we got married, bought our first house, added Joel to the family, and moved to Princeton for a year. On our return from Princeton, it remained our only car for almost 3 years, as I rode the bus to school and Gail used it as the family car. It was reliable, comfortable. A good car. But we passed it on to Gail’s sister and our brother-in-law on February 29, 1992, when we became an exclusively Japanese car family. We had bought a Mazda MPV in March 1991, and we replaced the Pontiac 6000 with a Lexus, ending my life with Pontiacs.

As for the NYT article, it focuses on the Arnold Pontiac dealership. Here’s an excerpt: Read more…

Categories: Automobiles