Archive for December 4, 2011

Lacrosse Travel Plans

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

2012 North Carolina Men's Lacrosse Team

It is an annual tradition at Ron’s View that come May, I write about the NCAA men’s lacrosse championships. (See here for last year’s addition, to which I added brief follow-ups in later posts.) Here in Seattle, we’re far removed from the lacrosse big-time. But the big-time is getting closer. High school lacrosse continues to grow here in Washington and throughout the west. The University of Denver is in the process of joining Notre Dame as a perennial power in a state not adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.

Still, if I want to see major college lacrosse, I have to go east, where the historic powers reside. Hopkins. Syracuse. Cornell, Princeton. Virginia. Maryland. North Carolina. And recently Duke, to name the only schools ever to win the NCAA championships. Plus sub-powers such as Navy, Hofstra, Delaware, UMass. (See, they all really are in Atlantic-touching states.) You can imagine, then, that when I learned Joel was accepted into a graduate program at UNC, my initial wave of excitement was closely followed by a second one, the “Hooray, I get to see big-time lacrosse!” wave.

I’ve been waiting patiently for UNC to post the 2012 schedule. All fall, whenever I checked, I would have to content myself with a review of 2011. Not a bad year — UNC was highly ranked — but one ending in disappointment when Maryland beat them in the first round of the NCAA tournament on its way to a runner-up finish. Last week, at last, I visited the UNC men’s lacrosse site and found the the upcoming schedule.

I can’t just take off for Chapel Hill whenever I want. Early spring is the obvious time. And the lacrosse regular season ends shortly after the start of spring in order to leave room for the ACC championship in late April and the NCAA championship, beginning in mid May. Plus, there has been a trend in recent years to schedule several games involving traditional powers on the same day at one of the major football stadiums in lacrosse country, to give the sport more exposure and bring in lots of fans.

Looking over the UNC schedule, we find three such games: against Princeton at the Ravens football stadium in Baltimore, against Hopkins at the Giants/Jets football stadium in New Jersey, and against Hofstra at the Carolina Panthers football stadium in Charlotte. That doesn’t leave a lot of big matchups in Chapel Hill itself. But I only want one, and one there is: at home against reigning national champion and arch-rival Virginia on April 7. Or, two weeks earlier, there’s the March 24 rematch with Maryland, another ACC rival. Another option would be UNC’s game against the remaining ACC power, Duke, which hosts them just down the road on March 16, but I won’t be able to get away then.

It will be tough to root against Virginia. I’ve long admired their coach, Dom Starsia. We’re the same age, we grew up just a few miles apart on Long Island, and I probably saw him play against us when he starred at Brown. (One of my best friends in college was a defenseman and I went to several of our games.) But I’m a UNC fan now, and I will act accordingly. In fact, once I post this, I’ll visit the UNC online athletics store and plan my lacrosse gear purchases.

Don’t worry, Joel. If we do visit, you don’t have to attend the game with us.

Categories: Sports

Lindsey the Great

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

A lot happened in sports today. To name a few, Rafa Nadal beat Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro to bring Spain their their David Cup in four years; Tiger Woods won a tournament for the first time in over two years (though not a regular tour event, and with a field limited to 16 players); the BCS college football bowl pairings were announced; the Green Bay Packers beat the New York Giants on a game-ending field goal to win their twelfth game of the season against no losses. But what seized my imagination was Lindsey Vonn’s third win in three days at Lake Louise.

Just three days after announcing that she and her husband Thomas are divorcing, Vonn won Friday’s downhill by the huge margin of 1.95 seconds over Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather. Yesterday, she won another downhill, this time by 1.65 seconds over Marie Marchand-Arvier of France. And today, in the super-G, she completed the weekend sweep, edging the Austrian Anna Fenninger by just 0.19 seconds. (See video above.)

The three wins bring her career total to 45, moving her ahead of Swedish great Anja Pärson to fourth all alone in career World Cup victories, one behind Austrian Renata Götschl. At age 27, she has plenty of time to close the gap on Swiss Vreni Schneider (55 victories) and Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll (62 victories).

Regular readers know that skiing is normally not part of Ron’s View’s bailiwick. Indeed, when I started this post, I looked through the Ron’s View categories, anticipating that I would have to add a new one. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that skiing was there already. On further investigation, I find that I have put only one post in the Skiing category. And guess who it’s about? Yes, Lindsey Vonn, whom I wrote about just last December. I’m a bit embarrassed that I didn’t remember this.

It’s a mystery to me why she isn’t getting more attention. Well, I don’t mean to be naive. I know women in sports are never going to get much coverage, especially during such a crucial football-filled weekend. I could write at length about the terrible hole that women’s golf has fallen into, with fewer and fewer events, more and more of them played in Asia, and less and less live coverage. Plus, when it comes to skiing, or track and field, or swimming and the other “Olympic” sports, one can’t expect coverage in non-Olympic years. That’s just the way it is.

But still. Lindsey’s special. Let’s see more of her.

Categories: Skiing

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

I might have given the impression with my posts about books on three successive days last week that after finishing Alexandra Fuller’s wonderful Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood on Sunday, I would return to Robert P. Crease’s World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement or Max Egremont’s Forgotten Land: Journeys Among the Ghosts of East Prussia. (What’s the deal, anyway, with these colonic titles?) And that was indeed my intent. But instead, still under Fuller’s spell, I downloaded and began reading Fuller’s more recent memoir, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, finishing it yesterday.

Once again, Fuller’s mother Nicola Fuller is the star. But whereas the first book was told from the perspective of Alexandra Fuller as child, the second one assumes the mature perspective of the adult Alexandra. Thus, even though some of the most dramatic moments in the family history are repeated, and even though I had just read them less than a week before, the second telling was just as gripping, with new emotional impact.

The second memoir fills in many biographical details, such as how Alexandra’s mother came to Kenya as a child, how Alexandra’s father arrived in early adulthood just after World War II, how they met, and how they came to the farm in Rhodesia where the first memoir begins. And it brings the story of her astonishing parents up-to-date. Reading the two books in succession worked out well.

Allow me to include two brief passages, one from early in the book, one from near the end, that give a sense of Fuller’s writing. In the first, Alexandra recounts Nicola’s childhood in Kenya.

My grandfather worked as a government agricultural extension officer, going off on safari for two or three weeks at a time to remote parts of the country and leaving my grandmother and Mum “up country.” To begin with, until they could find a proper house, the Huntingfords lived in a tiny rented bungalow on the grounds of the Kaptagat Arms, the estate of Zoe Foster, whose husband had been a white hunter in Uganda.

“The husband was gone by the time we showed up. I think he had been eaten by a lion or gored by a buffalo or whatever happened to those white-hunter types,” Mum says. “Anyway, Zoe seemed perfectly happy. She had two sons, a beautiful blond daughter called Mary and lots of animals. There was always a vicious but effective mongoose resident in the house, excellent for killing snakes — just like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. Oh, and her garden was the most exciting in the whole area — a stream, a maze, beds of rhododendrons and roses, lavender and peonies, and a vivid lawn strewn with hippo and elephant skulls that the husband had shot over the years.” Mum’s voice takes on a singsong quality, as if she is reading from a storybook. “It was fantastic. I used to run away from our bungalow, which was on the edge of the estate, and go over to the main house and play in her garden with my first best friend, Stephen Foster.” Mum smiles at the memory. “Stephen and I used to take turns pushing each other on his tricycle. We wore matching romper suits. We had tea parties. We went everywhere together, hand in hand.”

“Stephen was one of Zoe’s sons?” I guess.

Mum frowns. “No, no, no,” she says. “Stephen wasn’t her son. Stephen was her chimpanzee.”

There is a small appalled pause while I try — and fail — to imagine sending one of my toddlers off to play with a chimpanzee (quite apart from the Jane Goodall abuse-of-the animal concerns).

“Weren’t your parents worried he would bite you?” I ask.

Mum gives me a look as if I have just called Winnie-the-Pooh a pedophile, “Stephen? Bite me? Not at all, we were best friends. He was a very, very nice, very civilized chimpanzee. Anyway, my mother didn’t worry about me too much. She knew I would always be all right because everywhere I went Topper came with me.”

“And Topper was?”

“A dog my father had rescued,” Mum says.

The second passage describes Alexandra’s parents’s return to the Isle of Skye for a funeral.

Dad led the procession to the Trumpan Church, followed by the vicar, followed by the hearse, followed by Auntie Glug and Uncle Sandy. Dad, accustomed to covering long distances on rough African roads, kept up a decent pace, weaving expertly around the baleful sheep as if they were potholes. “The vicar was flicking his headlights at us like mad because he wanted us to slow down, but Dad thought it meant we should go faster. I think it’s the only time a hearse has gone whizzing through Skye on two wheels.”

The little funeral procession, slightly breathless from what had felt to most of them like a rally-car race, gathered around the grave next to the ruined church.

The one theme of the books not represented in these excerpts is the loss that is a constant in Alexandra’s parents’ lives — loss of family, of animals, of land, of country — and how they summon the strength to get on with their lives time and again.

Categories: Books


December 4, 2011 1 comment

Two months ago I wrote about our dinner at Chloe, a self-described French bistrot near the university. After describing the meal, I confessed to telling Gail as we left that I would eat there all the time if it were in our neighborhood, not realizing that its older sibling, Voilà, is in fact in our neighborhood. As I explained then, Voilà is one of four French restaurants in a one-block stretch in Madison Valley, just over a mile from our house. I have written often about Rover’s and Luc. A month ago I wrote about La Côte Crêperie. But until yesterday, we had never eaten at Voilà.

Like Chloé, Voilà describes itself as a French bistrot, but at lunchtime it turns into a burger joint, albeit a fancy, French-influenced one. The left half of the single-sided, one-sheet menu lists Les Burgers, each with aioli, lettuce, tomato, and choice of frites or a mixed greens salad. One can pay more for additional toppings: bleu cheese, brie, emmental, red onion, truffle oil, sun-dried tomato, caramelized onions, wild mushrooms, fried egg, bacon. Or, one can order the tartine de légumes (open grilled baguette with mixed vegetables) or the gnocchi au pistou (hand-made potato dumplings with pesto cream sauce). These sounded good, but we focused on the right half of the menu. Both of us started with soup (onion soup for Gail, vichyssoise for me), then we ordered the salade gourmand (mixed greens, tomato, ham, egg and apple).

A simple meal, but a good one. Oh, I forgot. We also shared a side order of frites. Those were first rate. I would happily return for another Saturday lunch.

We passed on the crème brûlée and the lemon tarte in favor of going down the street to yet another neighborhood French enterprise, Inès Pâtisserie. It’s relatively new, and I had never been there before, though Gail had brought home a few of their items from time to time. The proprietor has a distinctive approach to her customers. Ahead of us at the counter were two mothers and three young children. One mother started to order when Inès stopped her to ask how many children there were, then went into a case and pulled out pretzel-shaped biscuits for each of them. When the second mother and her child were leaving a few minutes later, Inès pulled a candy out of a glass dish for the child.

Gail was set on ordering canalés, the famous Bordeaux pastries that my sister introduced us to some time ago. (I devoted a post to them three years ago, after returning to Seattle from a trip to New York with a box that my sister had brought to New York from Paris. Two years ago, on the morning we arrived in Paris at the start of our France/Italy trip, Gail and I went food shopping with my brother-in-law and stopped to buy some on the way back to their apartment.) There were several in the display case, or so we thought, but when Gail asked for them, Inès said they were savory pastries, not canelés. But she assured us there would be canelés today. She then brought out the pitcher of batter that she had refrigerated for several days and gave us a lesson on the importance of refrigeration. She ran through the batter ingredients, held up a couple of the canelé molds, and assured us that canelés are easy to make, as long as you are patient and let the batter set.

As consolation, I asked what the similar-sized chocolate-looking pastries were that were under glass on the counter. Chocolate, or something else. Inès looked at me blankly for a second, sizing me up it seemed, then wordlessly lifted the lid, pulled out one of the chocolate-looking pastries, grabbed a knife, cut it in half, and gave each of us a half. Yup, chocolate. And pretty darn good. We bought one, along with a chocolate macaroon and a pistachio one.

This morning, Gail returned for the canelés. That pitcher held only a small amount of batter, enough for a dozen, which were waiting when Gail arrived. She bought two (or so she says) and we each had one this afternoon. As good as the Lemoine canelés that my sister buys? It’s been a while. I can’t really compare. Perhaps not. But what’s the difference? They’re great, and they’re available just down the street.

Categories: Restaurants