2017

Making New Friends at Fenway

  It is late August, and the Boston Red Sox are leading the American League Eastern Division. My hopes are rising. I can’t help it. It is in my DNA. Three weeks ago, we sat five rows behind home plate at the shrine — Fenway Park — thanks to my generous Beautiful Mystery Companion, who bought us premium seats as an early birthday present. “If we’re going to Fenway, we might as well sit close,” she said. I like the way she thinks. We were close enough to see the sweat on the home plate umpire’s brow when he removed his mask. The umpire was a large man loaded down with protective...

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A 60,000 Square-Foot Summer ‘Cottage’

“Any fool can make a fortune; it takes a man of brains to hold onto it.” “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt   NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND — CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s great-grandfather lived large, mostly because Cornelius Vanderbilt the First built an empire centered on steamships and steam engines. He was personally worth $100 million at the time of his death in 1877, back when that amount provided a lot of power. His son, Billy, managed to double the family fortune. Cornelius Vanderbilt II (nicknamed “Deuce” by me) and his brother William proceeded to start spending the late...

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Dining Well In the North End of Boston

BOSTON — The famed North End of this city is barely a third of a square mile in area. It is packed with more than 100 restaurants, wine bars and bakeries. It also contains Old North Church (now called Christ Church) and Paul Revere’s house. North End is Beantown’s oldest residential area, home to immigrants since the 1630s when the Pilgrims arrived. North End became the preferred neighborhood to a heavy population of Italian immigrants in the early 20th century, a trend that has continued. Italian is spoken almost as often as English in the North End. You can close your eyes and imagine you are in Europe,...

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A Chilly, Wet Time in Beantown

BOSTON — We fled Texas on a Sunday morning in late July. The temperature the day before had reached 105 in Dallas. Just walking out to the car to deposit the items not making the trip was akin to opening a pizza oven and staring at that large pepperoni pie from six inches out. It was a dry heat, as they say, akin to holding a blow dryer to one’s face. And that was at 9 a.m. It was time to make our annual escape to New England. We booked this trip just two weeks ago, after waffling over whether we would go somewhere new this summer, or nowhere at all. Then the first miserably hot, humid day of summer...

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Some Summer Reading Material

Summertime, and the reading is easy. As we head to cooler climes for holiday, as the Brits say, here are a dozen books to fill those leisurely afternoons by the pool or wherever you choose to get some down time. My daughter Meredith, editorial director for the Birth.Movies.Death website (birthmoviesdeath.com) and for Alamo Drafthouse, sent my Beautiful Mystery Companion for Mother’s Day the first two novels in the Dublin Murder Squad series, by Tana French. I beat my BMC to the books and started with In The Woods. I was hooked. Each book has a different protagonist, but they all share a connection....

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Telling Stories on the Front Porch

And this old porch is like a weathered, gray-haired Seventy Years of Texas — Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen   We sat on the front porch in early July. A steady western breeze and low humidity sliced the edge off the 90-degree afternoon. We sipped beer. I listened and took notes as the three men and two women swapped stories, out in the blacklands of Central Texas. I balanced my laptop on my knees, taking a tighter grip when Miles the collie came by to nuzzle my hand. Miles and I became fast friends, after I spent much of a previous visit kicking his soccer ball and waiting...

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Hauling Lumber on Independence Day

“Hey baby, it’s the Fourth of July.” — Dave Alvin I began Independence Day as any other day, walking Sam through the neighborhood while listening to NPR. As they have for the past 29 years, the announcers were reading the Declaration of Independence, familiar voices taking turns reading Thomas Jefferson’s literary shot across the bow toward the British. I later learned NPR also tweeted the Declaration in 140-character bursts, which alarmed a number of people who did not recognize what it was. It took 113 tweets, and by the end a number of people — who apparently skipped the Declaration...

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A Weekly Habit Marks 35 Years

This week marks 35 years of writing a weekly column. This journey began in San Augustine — Behind the Pine Curtain in Deep East Texas — in July 1982 at The Rambler. I was a month shy of turning 27 and had taken a job as managing editor with nobody to manage but myself. I was the sole editorial employee. At that age, I had my hands full with self-management. Still do. I typed the column on an IBM Selectric. We had no computers, just typesetting machines that, through a complex process turned characters into dots on a ribbon that was fed into another machine, which spat out galleys of type...

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I’ll Never Wear a Speedo Again

Summer officially arrived this week. Finally, our swimming pool is at a perfect temperature. Every afternoon after work, I jump in to swim a couple of laps. This started about a month ago, when the water was Barton Springs Pool cold, which meant I jumped toward the ladder so I could extricate myself quickly. Now the water is just right. By July, likely it will be bathtub lukewarm. I will continue to swim, determined to, if not get my money’s worth, at least get some physical compensation for the amount of money this pools costs to maintain. Buying a house with a swimming pool was the second-happiest...

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Jumping On A Box Not Just For Kids

In a few months I will turn 62, which means I will be eligible to draw Social Security. I have no idea how that happened so quickly — time is whooshing by at warp speed. I don’t plan to begin receiving a monthly check then, since it would be greatly reduced. Barring unforeseen financial reversals, I plan to wait until I can receive the full take — at 66 years, two months. And, of course, if I croak I will not be receiving a check, but my Beautiful Mystery Companion will until she turns 65. I find all this faintly ridiculous. I take note of this age milestone because a few days ago I achieved...

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