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My Christmas List
Published on November 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my Christmas list.

Click here to read it.


To Colorado And Back
Published on November 4, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my Colorado vacation, which took me to Denver and Vail.

Here's an excerpt:

"I’ve been to Denver a number of times to visit my friends Dave and Melissa, but when I began planning my most recent trip out there, I decided I wanted it to be a little different.

The last time I went to Denver, I had a broken wrist and Melissa was eight months pregnant. We watched television and played board games. As vacations go, it was pretty low-key.

I wanted this trip to be a little more exciting. I love hanging out and playing board games, but I didn’t want to spend my entire trip in Dave and Melissa’s living room. I wanted to get out of the city and see some of Colorado’s incredible scenery. I wanted to go someplace new.

And my wishes were granted.

My trip coincided with Dave’s work retreat in the town of Vail, home of the famed ski resort. None of us ski (and the ski season doesn’t begin until later this month), but we were all looking forward to a few days in the mountains, and a break from daily routine. As soon as we got on the road we began to relax, and it wasn’t long before sharp, rocky peaks covered with pine and aspen were looming above us, and the landscape had the look and feel of an old western. The sight of a herd of bison off Interstate 70 cheered me immensely. I was far away from home, and it felt great."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Mindless Guessing
Published on October 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my fondness for making pointless predictions.

Here's an excerpt:

"Now that the football season is here, I’m back to trying to predict who will win every game.

This has become an annual ritual.

For the past four or five years, I’ve participated in the Pigskin Pick’em group organized by my obnoxious friend from high school. Pigskin Pick’em is pretty simple: The person who correctly guesses the outcome of the most NFL games over the course of a season is the winner. This year, to make things more interesting, I’m also competing in the football pool at work. Apparently there’s no limit to my enthusiasm for making predictions and seeing how right (or wrong) I am.

My Pigskin Pick’em strategy has evolved over time.

For instance, I’ve made an effort to stop picking wild upsets. When I first began participating in Pigskin Pick’em, I couldn’t resist the temptation to try to pinpoint which underdogs would prevail each week, mainly because doing so would make me feel like a genius. ('Nobody else saw it coming, but I knew the Cleveland Browns were going to pick up their first win!') But I’ve since realized that if you want to have any chance of winning Pigskin Pick’em, you should stick to picking the favorites, because the favorites tend to win. Which is shocking, I know."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Soccer Memories
Published on October 7, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I reminisce about playing soccer in my weekly column. 

Here's an excerpt:

"A couple of weeks ago I stopped in Keene, N.H., to visit my friend John, who teaches middle school science and coaches a varsity soccer team.

Since coaching soccer is something I could imagine doing in a parallel universe, I’m always interested in John’s team.

'How are you doing?' I asked.

John sighed.

'We’re not very good,' he said. 'We’re 2-6. And we got crushed on homecoming.'

As an adult, it’s easy to smile at, even mock, the very concept of the big homecoming game. That is, until you suddenly remember your own homecoming games and what a big deal they were.

As John regaled me with his homecoming game horror story (more on that below), I suddenly recalled how serious and important such games once seemed, how wrenching I found each and every loss to our cross-town rival, the evil Hanover High School. (OK, they weren’t really evil. But they seemed evil at the time, and I doubt my feelings will ever really change.)

I longed to beat Hanover, which arguably fielded the best girls’ soccer team in the state, and every year we failed. Also, we had to endure obnoxious chants from their fans, such as 'That’s all right, that’s OK, you’ll be working for me someday!' It’s probably a mistake to take a bunch of chanting high school students very seriously, but I always wondered why nobody ever told these snobby kids to knock it off. Like, maybe a parent or coach could have said, 'Hey, that’s really obnoxious. Why don’t you find a different chant?' But whatever. The pain of such memories fades with time. Though I do remain grateful that nobody from Hanover High School has ever been my boss."

Click here to read the whole thing.

 


Being a Tourist in Autumn
Published on September 30, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my recent trip to see my parents, sisters, brother-in-law and niece.

Here's an excerpt:

"People flock to Maine during the summer, which is why the state describes itself as vacationland on license plates.

During July and August, the beaches and coastal restaurants are full of visitors and summer guests, and there’s a busy, energetic vibe almost every place you go. But come Labor Day, almost all of these people clear out. I’ve gotten caught in this mass exodus a few times driving back to Albany from my parents’ house — trapped in standstill, bumper-to-bumper traffic, an already-long drive getting even longer, my patience wearing increasingly thin.

As nice as Maine is during the summer, I like it even better during the fall, when the weather is still fairly pleasant and the tourists have vacated the scene.

I spent part of last weekend in Maine, hanging out at my parents’ house.
We crammed a lot into 24 hours, eating lobster for dinner and steamed clams for lunch, and spending several hours at the beach.

There were no lifeguards and the surfboard restrictions of summer had been lifted, giving wetsuit-clad surfers the run of the place. The beach wasn’t crowded, though plenty of people were sitting in chairs and on towels, basking in the surprisingly warm sun and clear, brilliantly blue sky. Most impressive of all were the waves, which crested and crashed with a ferocity I hadn’t seen in quite some time."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Noticing the Important Stuff
Published on September 24, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the stuff I notice, like doughnuts and deer, and the stuff I don't notice, like handbags and shoes.

Here's an excerpt:

"My parents often accuse me of being unobservant and uninterested in the world around me.

Whenever I visit, they make a point of remarking on all the things I haven’t noticed, ambushing me with questions like 'What do you think of our new floor?' or 'What do you think of the garden?'

My vague responses inevitably disappoint them because they’ve done all this work on their house and the garden, and very little of it registers with me. 'I cannot believe you have not gone out back to look at the garden yet,' my father kept saying when I visited in July. 'Now that you have your own garden, I would think you’d be a little more interested!'

Personally, I wasn’t sure what the rush was: I was visiting for a whole week, and the garden wasn’t going anyplace. Eventually I wandered over and took a look at it, and I did notice things I wouldn’t have noticed in the past, like how neat and tidy it is. Now that I have my own garden, I understand how much effort is involved in getting a garden to look pretty and organized as opposed to wild and unruly, which is what my garden looks like."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Adventurous Birthdays Are Better
Published on September 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how I spent my birthday: doing a ropes course that entailed ziplines, navigating wobbly elevated bridges and swinging from one weird aerial obstacle to another.

Here's an excerpt:

"Earlier this year, a friend and I hatched a plan to go zip-lining.

We agreed that this would be a fun thing to do, an unusual and adrenaline-filled activity that would satisfy our need for adventure. But plans are much easier to hatch than to execute, and as the summer begin to wind down I suggested we come up with a zip-lining date before winter.

'Maybe we should go zip-lining on my birthday,' I said.

My friend and I decided that this was a great idea, which is how I found myself getting up early last Saturday morning for my trip to Adirondack Extreme, an 'aerial adventure park' in Bolton Landing. Before we left for the park, we got into the spirit of things by watching 'I Never Should Have Gone Ziplining,' a recent episode of the animated TV show 'South Park.' At the park we met our friend Kristen, who was also in the mood for a birthday adventure.

Adirondack Extreme is about so much more than zip lines.

The park comprises five elevated obstacle courses, which get increasingly difficult as you move from one level to another. Each level contains between 10 and 17 elements — wobbly midair bridges, Tarzan swings, what the park euphemistically describes as 'swinging surprises' and, of course, zip lines. For me, the zip lines functioned as something of a reward; after making my terrified way across the other elements, I was more than ready to strap my harness to a cable trolley and zip through the air like Batman."

Click here to read the whole thing.

 


Hiking and Eating Like a King
Published on September 10, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how I like to eat like a king when I hike, and how hiking makes me feel like I can do whatever I want. 

Here's an excerpt:

"Fall is a great time for hiking, as there are fewer people on the trails and the weather tends to be just about perfect — not too hot and not too cold.

On Labor Day, I decided to celebrate the arrival of autumn by hiking Phelps Mountain, one of the Adirondack High Peaks.

Phelps, I was pleased to discover, is an underrated mountain.

We chose it mainly because it’s supposed to be easier than most of the other high peaks, and I wasn’t expecting too much. My hiking guide described Phelps as modest. And at 4,161 feet, it is relatively small. But Phelps is beautiful, from start to finish. The trail parallels a crystal-clear brook for much of the way and, although most of the hike is tree-covered, the flat, open ledge of a summit offers a stunning view of the surrounding peaks.

Upon arrival, we found a nice patch of rock to sit on and settled in, rummaging through our backpacks for refreshment. We carefully laid out our banquet: I unwrapped the cheese — brie, our favorite — and opened the package of garlic-herb crackers and a bag of trail mix — a medley of nuts, chocolate and raisins. My friend set out small plastic containers filled with cut watermelon and cucumber, as well as pepperoni slices from a local deli.

'Where’s the brie?' my friend’s son asked impatiently."

Click here to read the whole thing.


A Call for Compassion
Published on August 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the anniversary of Hurricane Irene, and why we need more compassion in the world.

Here's an excerpt:

"A few weeks ago, I bought tickets for the Restoration Festival, a three-day music festival that will be held the second weekend of September at St. Joseph’s Church in Albany.

I attended Rest Fest last year, and it was a blast — great music in a cool setting.

But what I remember most about the event today is that it coincided with Tropical Storm Irene, prompting two of the national acts scheduled to play to cancel, and organizers to make the event free.

Even so, I had no idea how bad the storm was.

I never lost power and the one-mile trip from my apartment to St. Joseph’s Church was uneventful — no downed lines, no flooded streets. At the church, I heard ominous stories of flooding in Troy, but nothing that truly conveyed the extent of the devastation unfolding in places like Schoharie County, Rotterdam Junction, Scotia, the Stockade and the hill towns of Albany County. Of course, I’d made the mistake of paying attention to national news reports that weekend, and they were full of disappointed chatter about how the storm was an overhyped letdown because it didn’t destroy New York City."

Click here to read the whole thing.


The Nostalgic Pull of Childhood
Published on August 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about body surfing in Maine, my favorite stuffed toy and how we both hold on and give up the pleasures of childhood.

Here's an excerpt:

"I recently took some young friends to Maine for the weekend, a 12-year-old boy and his 17-year-old sister.

The weather was acceptable — overcast, but warm enough for outdoor activity — and so we headed to the beach, where we were delighted to discover that the water was fairly warm, too, and that the waves were decent — good for boogie boarding and body surfing, which is what I do.

The kids dashed into the water, armed with boogie boards borrowed from my parents’ garage. Their mother and I followed. We weren’t moving quite as quickly, but we were still eager to get in there. In Maine, you seldom get good waves, warmish water and nice weather all at the same time, and we wanted to take advantage of the optimal conditions."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Staying in the Octagon House
Published on August 12, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my trip to Vermont last weekend, and my stay in an octagon-shaped house in the middle of a field.

Here's an excerpt:

"Shortly before I was due to visit, my friend Heather emailed and asked, 'How would you feel about sleeping in a small octagon house while you are here?'

Immediately, I was intrigued.

Who wouldn’t want to stay in a small octagon house? Are there actually people out there who would reject such an offer? I tried to imagine how such people would respond to Heather’s email. 'Sorry,' they might write, 'but I only stay in square houses.'

My friend Heather, her husband and their two young children live in Virginia, but for three weeks this summer they are staying in Vermont’s remote Northeast Kingdom.

I visited them there once before, when they were renting a small wooden house for the winter, and although I was impressed by the solitude and beauty of the place, I could also feel myself going a little stir crazy after a mere 24 hours. It snowed constantly, and just getting to the house entailed snowshoeing a quarter mile up a gently sloping unplowed field, pulling a sled loaded down with luggage behind me.

Things were much different on this trip."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Keith Got His Gun
Published on August 7, 2012 by guest author: Keith Ross

I remember it very clearly. It was a step into manhood. It meant I was grown up. I was seven years old. We were all at my aunt and uncle's house for Thanksgiving. My uncle and my grandfather had been whispering to each other all day. Finally, after dinner, while my mother and aunts were cleaning up the meal, they brought me down to the basement. They brought me over to a work bench. I could see the case sitting on top. My heart barely stayed in my chest, I was so excited. My eyes quickly caught sight of a small, square, white and red box. I had seen boxes like that lying around another uncle's farmhouse. I could not believe I was going to actually be given one. All my friends would be so jealous. I finally could go out with my cousins and uncles and father down at the farm. My grandfather could finally bring me up to camp.

“Now Keith, you must promise us that you always respect and understand the importance of what we are about to give you.” My uncle explained. He spoke to me as if I were on adult, severe and stern. “Your grandfather will show you how to clean it, load it and shoot it, and clean it again ...”  Turning to my grandfather. “The scope will probably need to be sighted in. What does his mother say about all this?”

“We will let him tell her,” my grandfather grumbled. “She will take it out on me, but his father goes out, it’d be good for the boy.” 

I vaguely heard the conversation. I was so in awe as I was shown how to load it, where the safety was, how to hold it, always point it away from people, never point it at people, this is for hunting only, it is not a toy, this is how you hold it, now let us take it apart and clean it.

It was an hour or so before we came up from the basement. “Where were you guys?” my grandmother said accusingly, glaring at my grandfather, she could see his smirk, she knew what was done. 

“Mommy, mommy Bee and Uncle Bob gave me a twenty-two. If I practice real hard, they will take me hunting next year.  Maybe dad will too, isn’t that great.....?”

I remember seeing the fear on my mom’s face. 

 (More)


Like Most of America
Published on August 6, 2012 by guest author: Adam Rust

In the summer of 1994, I lived in a 1940s one-bedroom apartment in Columbia, Missouri. It had a front porch with a chair swing. I never saw the other three housemates, maybe because I parked in back and they parked on the street. It cost $265 and I never met my landlord. It did not have an AC but it had a claw foot tub and hardwood floors. It was a coveted place to live among my graduate school friends.

In May and June, I suffered through the unbearable heat of mid-Missouri. You have to understand that Missouri is a place with only two seasons. Spring and fall both last for about one month. The air is charged. At night I would lie in my bed sweating, listening to the heat lightning in the charged but silent atmosphere. It was still. Even though I put my bed in the cross-draft of two windows, there was no wind.

I stayed in town that summer because I had no better option. I needed to be somewhere else. I had classmates in Cedar Falls, in Saginaw, in Hays (Kansas) and Jasper (Indiana). We were living through a unique lens. We wanted to go where the pictures were. Usually that meant going to a place where there was so little in the way of news that the editors were glad to fill their pages with pictures of county fairs and profiles of local pastors. No news meant there was plenty of time to work on picture stories. This was the early 90s. My classmates from college were embarking on careers in New York at precisely the nadir of the stock market. Many would become millionaires merely by being in the right place at the right time. Did they see the future of internet bubbles and real estate bubbles? I did not. I saw a bright future with a camera and only as many possessions as I could fit into my four-door Saturn.

 (More)


Remembrances of Guns
Published on July 30, 2012 by Sara Foss

Like many people, I've been thinking about guns in the wake of the mass shooting in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.

It's no fun to have a gun pulled on you, as I can attest, having once been mugged at gunpoint. I was lucky - the gun wasn't fired, and the man who mugged me eventually ran off. Even so, close encounters with death - and the instruments of death - are difficult to put out of your mind.

Over at Gawker, my Oberlin classmate Kiese Laymon has written an essy about his encounters with guns. Like me, he hasn't forgotten these experiences.

Click here to read Kiese's piece.


Yes, I am still going to see "The Dark Knight Rises"
Published on July 29, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the shootings in Aurora, and how I remain committed to seeing the new Batman movie.

Here's an excerpt:

"I have not seen 'The Dark Knight Rises' yet, but I will because I am a moviegoer and I go to movies like that.

Like everyone, I was pretty horrified by the murders at a screening of the film in Aurora, Colo., and I quickly emailed my friends Dave and Melissa, who now live in Denver but used to live in Aurora, to check in and make sure everything was OK. I then emailed another friend, a neuroscientist at the University at Colorado, to ask whether she knew the alleged shooter, who was studying neuroscience at the school. My friend replied that he worked down the hall and that although she didn’t know him “everybody else did.”

By my estimation, this put me about two degrees away from an alleged mass murderer, which is way too close to comfort. But I have little to complain about — my friends are fine, and my family is fine and I’m fine. The same cannot be said for the victims and their friends and families, and my heart goes out to them, just as it always does when something like this happens.

But I am still going to see 'The Dark Knight Rises.'"

Click here to read the whole thing.


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