My wife and I decided we would spend this Christmas holiday in a New York hotel rather than our cozy home. The thing about New York around the holidays – midtown really strives to entirely banish darkness. Times Square, in particular, has gone miles to blur the line between daytime and night. In a sense, the early morning daylight hours have perhaps the quietest light of all. The sun softens the effect of the giant screens that surround Times Square, which loudly depict things to drink and the bra’d and panty’d of the current generation. Not far off are somewhat quieter lights, with sidewalks that are merely crowded instead of crushingly packed.
Winter Scene in a Lord and Taylor Window
We brought along a nightlight for the kids – they’re scared of what might be out there in the dark even though much of the horror happens in broad daylight – but that proved entirely unnecessary. You don’t need a nightlight when you can look out your window and see an animated, computer generated M&M advertisement, looped all day, 24/7, on a giant screen below. Crack the shade a hair at 9 p.m. and the room is lit up all night long. That’s some kinda loud!
At home, I have some recessed lights on dimmer switches. These are quite loud too. Because we don’t have power in the hallways, we can’t just stick a nightlight into an outlet, so we make use of dimmed lighting. This provides a beautifully soft, elegant light, and scares away the monsters. However, these “cans,” as they call recessed light fixtures in the business, emit a noticeable buzz when fully aglow. As you turn the lights down, the buzz gets louder, until they are screaming at you at 2 in the morning. Eventually, one becomes inured to the noise, until one day the power goes out and you realize how pleasant the silence is.
I finally see a tangible use for all those noise-cancelling headphone offers I get via spam.
I’ve decided to change my name. In spring or summer of 2013 (or by fall at the latest) I will petition the court to change my legal name to “Rick Wheelwright,” or perhaps something else. I haven’t settled on the exact name yet.
Rick Wheelwright suits me, I believe. Rick is the second syllable in “Patrick,” and since I’m in the second half of my life (true, with medical advancements this might still be the first quarter of my life, but let’s say second half and maybe I’ll be surprised), there’s some symmetry there. Also, during my much needed holiday break, I built a bicycle wheel for the first time in my life. I am now an actual wheelwright! Except maybe not, because I haven’t properly dished this wheel. Dishing is the part of the wheel building process where you curse in front of your children because you don’t own a dishing tool and didn’t really believe one was necessary until you put the “finished” wheel on the bike. (Oh, sure, cavemen built wheels without a dishing tool, but they didn’t have gears.) Also, I discovered that my spokes weren’t tensioned nearly enough, so I went ahead and tightened everything up such that now this wheel is out of true again. So, yes, I have to work more on this wheel.
Still, by virtue of the number of hours spent on this wheel (many!), I feel I have earned the license to call myself “Rick Wheelwright” and will proceed with the legal name change process for myself and my two children once I get all the forms.
I’ve skied some nice resorts – Park City and Deer Valley in Utah – but mostly I ski the northeast, which is great fun, though the conditions can be iffy. It’s probably not going to get easier, of course. The oncoming warming trend is not great news for an area that already has limited quantities of the white stuff.
I’ve skied Mt. Saint Anne outside Quebec City, and Tremblant in the Laurentians, but never the Alps, or western Canada. I’ve long wanted to ski the Canadian Rockies, or do a combination Whistler/Vancouver trip. Part of me says climate change will alter the course of evolution in these places, so I probably should go now. On the the other hand, it’s expensive, and my wife doesn’t ski much.
With this in mind, it’s a wonder that I even bother teaching my kids to ski. You’d think I’d encourage chess, or more television. Those hobbies aren’t likely to be wiped off the face of the planet in the coming years, or available only in the polar regions. Also, they’re a lot cheaper. But I nevertheless feel the pull of the rope tow, yanking me out of the house, into a car for several hours, and up the mountain. I might as well enjoy what we still have, I’m thinking, and offer the kids the opportunity to enjoy it as well.
Taking the family to ski Whistler isn’t an option now, but I’m getting omens that it might be one day. My son, who is 7 and entering his 4th season of skiing, recently became a whistler in his own right, having learned to make a little noise through puckered lips on the car ride back from New York last weekend. He’s been practicing for hours a day now, occupying the pleasant quiet that otherwise would be present while he builds his lego models, reads books, and reconstructs Hot Wheels tracks. Maybe it’s a sign of things to come.
When young lovers of rock music discover that I was born in 1964, among the first things they wonder is whether I ever saw Led Zeppelin. Sorry, no. I’d have been 13 in 1977 when they last toured the US, and anyway, they didn’t come to Syracuse, NY, where I raised. Sure, I was technically old enough to see Zeppelin, but for all practical purposes I was unaware of the band in 1977, even if I knew a song or two, and I was in no position to thumb a ride to New York or Philadelphia, where they played. By 1980, I was a huge fan and was planning to see the band in Buffalo at Rich Stadium. Alas, John Bonham died that year and the concert never happened.
But since most people don’t know those little details, I want to claim that I saw Led Zeppelin. I want young rockers to envy me the way I envy people who have had their plays produced. I want them to point me out at parties and remark to one another that I witnessed the greatest band in the history of rock music. Part of me honestly feels like I could get away with lying about it. Who is going to look up Led Zeppelin’s 1977 concert tour dates (besides me)? No doubt someone would, exposing me as a fraud and causing a scandal, such that this website suddenly gets millions of hits and I become famous. Then, using some internet advertising scheme, I make tons of money. But, alas, I’m a bad liar. (So please don’t ask if I ever saw REO Speedwagon).