Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A few days back home

Eagle Point Lookout
Originally uploaded by patbonck
I took a trip home this weekend to go to our annual family picnic and spend some time with my family. We call it the Cantalupari family picnic becuase that's where everyone hails from in Italy (Cantalupo nel Sannio). The Martelli and Masella clans get together to eat, of course, but also to catch up and play some games. Sarah, my awesome cousin, came up with kick-ass games like a donut eating contest (hilarious), a pizza throwdown, a balloon stomp, and the ever-popular water balloon toss. And Aunt Mary ran the fairest bocce tournament we've ever had. I'm biased, though, since somehow I was on the winning bocce team with Sam Di Re, Carl Martelli and Kevin. Way to go fellas!

On Monday, Aaron and Lauren joined me for a hike at Mt. Rainier on what was the absolute perfect day. It was a Monday, so the trails were deserted, the weather was beautiful, there was still some snow on the trail, and it was clear as a bell as you can see from the photo. We started from Lake Mowich, at the end of a long gravel road from the Carbon River entrance. We took the Spray Falls trail (approximately 6 miles round trip) for a nice 3 hour hike through beautiful old growth forest and across streams and creeks. Spray Falls, so named because of the mist created by the falls as it cascades over a cliff rock face, was a pretty spectacular setting. We then hiked up to the apline meadows of Spray Park. Though there was still snow on the ground at this altitude, the wildflowers were just getting ready to bloom. Another week or so and it would have been amazing! But we had a great time and it was a nice reminder of what a treasure it is to have such wilderness to enjoy just an hour away. If you click through the picture, you'll be able to view most of the photos we took along the trail.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Sometimes, especially when the subway is overcrowded, I daydream of living in the country. Like here, mabye:

Pasture outside of Harrison Hot Springs, British Colombia

It's beatiful there, and people will actually stop and talk to you whether they know you or not. Not that everyone is guileless, just that you have fewer people to deal with, a manageable number, say; there's no overwhelming mass of strangers stepping over you to get where they really-need-to-be-right-now-or-else. There are tourists, but they do not ride past your house on weird open-top buses. There is advertising, but it does not oppress you from every street corner, every transit center, every building facade that has not yet been covered in the image of some impossibly hip and beautiful person listening to an mp3 player or drinking mass-produced whiskey or competing in a misguided reality show called Date My Ex.

But that's why daydreams are daydreams and reality is a city that never sleeps and gives you the opportunity to be whatever you might want to be this week. Because no one knows you here, unless you're on one of those ads. And most days, anonymity is grand.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Personal Ad

Single white male. Shy and quiet at first, loud and obnoxious later. Prone to bouts of sarcasm. Cynical streak a mile wide. Thoughtful, though occasionally thoughtless. Does not easily grow facial hair. Has been accused of being "stingy". Self-identifies as a "saver". Generous with friends. Competitive to a fault. Can be moody, but what human being isn't? Enjoys red wine, but only with good company. Very close to family. Slight overbite. Loves to cook. Eyelashes have been described as "girlish" despite having never been groomed. Unable to show teeth when smiling. Catholic, though not a good one.

You are of the female persuasion. Have a wicked sense of humor. Like sports and being active. Prefer nights in with dinner and a DVD to other nighttime activities. Love to laugh. Might speak some Spanish. Like to travel in developing countries. Wouldn't mind playing board games all Saturday. Might be a little crazy. But only a little. Have shotgunned a beer at some point, not necessarily recently. Wish people would just shut up sometimes and enjoy the quiet. Really. Understand that some people have an unquenchable desire to be a stage actor.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Our downstairs neighbor, Maria, works at the Long Island College Hospital just a block north of our building. She is a delightful lady, hardworking, always has a kind word for me. I can’t say the same for my roommates who when I first moved in referred to her as “Sword Lady,” since she had come up to yell at them, mostly in Spanish, during a very loud party brandishing what they described as a sword.

Not too long after I heard this story, I struck up a conversation with her and learned that she was from Colombia, that most of her family was still there and that she has two children who live in other states. She returns to Colombia once a year or every two years and sends money regularly. She can’t wait for her retirement and thinks she has saved enough to buy a small house in New Jersey. Her son and his wife will soon give birth to her first grandchild.

Last night, as I was walking home from the supermarket, I saw Maria hobble around the corner with a gentlemen carrying her bags. She had fallen in the street between blocks and thankfully he’d been there to give her a hand (it had been raining and Hicks Street is a one-way, two-lane thoroughfare to a freeway entrance). She appeared to have landed on her left knee, a knee on which she has had three surgeries in the past few years. I helped her get her bags up the stairs; she’s up just one flight, but she made her way very slowly.

And that made me wonder. What does a person do who’s been here for 20 years, whose two children live in other states and whose family lives in Colombia? What if she were seriously injured? What if she’d been hit by a car? I myself have been in a few near misses with cars, mostly on the Upper West Side, where cabs and trucks race down one-way streets at what seems like freeway speeds. And those were with a full walk signal. You could disappear in this city and people might not notice for days, weeks even. I suppose it’s possible that could happen anywhere, but I think I’ll check in on Maria more often now.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Uncle Vanya

In an attempt to read more lately, I’ve revisited the small set of books I brought with me to New York. The last few days have been spent with Anton Chekhov, the great Russian dramatist, and it’s brought back some memories.

My first memory of Uncle Vanya is seeing it at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1998 with a group from Bellarmine Prep. We saw wonderful plays on that trip, including a great production of Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry and a spectacular production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I still count among the favorite theatre experiences of my life. The production of Uncle Vanya was remarkable, especially for its portrayal of Vanya himself and I wish I could remember the name of the actor now. I remember the set very well, since it so beautifully evoked the themes and images of the play: a bouquet of roses suspended from the ceiling that withered and dropped petals as the play progressed; a gigantic hammered sheet of metal that gave large, hazy, distorted reflections of the actors and set pieces; and always central was the piano that Yelena and Sonya try to play, only to be shut down by Serebryakov. The end of the play had Vanya sitting on that piano, wrapping himself in one of Dr. Astrov’s maps, weeping. I remember sitting there for a moment, my mouth agape, as the audience around me began to applaud. Sometimes you have that experience in the theatre when you wish there were no curtain call.

I could not say the same for our production of Uncle Vanya my sophomore year at Seattle University. While it was a phenomenal experience, I don’t think I fully appreciated how wonderful a play it is, and how lucky I was to have the chance. Playing Vanya at the age of 19 was a challenge beyond my means at the time, though I had the pleasure of working with a fine cast, including a professor who, appropriately, played the professor. It was a learning experience for which I am immensely grateful. I don’t get to do those kinds of roles anymore (yet?) and I miss it more than I can say.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jury of Your Jeers

Serving on jury duty these last two days has reminded me why I’ve never particularly liked lawyers (and why I don’t think I could ever become one, at least a trial lawyer): they are full of shit. Few people (with the possible exception of politicians, most of whom were lawyers at some point) can hold forth for an hour, or longer, while saying so very little. If you value quantity over quality, you’d probably make a good lawyer. So it is with legalese, a dialect of English created solely to obscure reality and distract the hoi polloi from these two pesky things: facts and the truth.

And I wasn’t even selected to sit on the jury. Imagine my chagrin after sitting through a week or more of trial.

They continually exalted our system as the best in the world, and I am fully aware that it probably is, but that certainly does not mean it is the best it can be. I don’t begrudge the two gentlemen involved. I’m sure the guy whose knee was injured deserves a full hearing, and the defendant may have been completely without fault, who really knows. But two days to select six people seems like overkill. Had they cut the bullshit, we might have gotten through it all in one afternoon.

And the two white male lawyers picked an all male jury. Not one female was chosen to sit on the jury. Not even for the two alternates.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

Random Observations

Random Observation #1: I’ve been watching a lot of television lately, something I’ve vowed will change, though we’ll save that for another post. Fun fact: watching the Food Network is hazardous to your waistline. And not because the programs inspire you to prepare the recipes, just that you are at home, on the couch, near the kitchen where abundant amounts of food are available, this being America, and seeing all that food incites constant snacking.

Random Observation #2: My roommate self-identifies as a “hippie.” If hippie means privileged slob who buys lots of toys (digital SLR camera, electric drum set, the latest products from the fruit-themed-company-I-shall-not-name that has taken over our lives, etc.), spends weekends in the Hamptons with his upscale girlfriend, works a side job selling premium Scotch, and never lifts a finger to clean our fucking apartment, then hippie he is.

Random Observation #3: A new hole-in-the-wall eatery opened in my neighborhood this week. There are just two items on the menu: shaved ice and dumplings. I have finally found two reasons to love New York.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Out of Place

A year has come and gone here in New York. I do feel out of place, but I've always been the kind of person who feels out of place just about anywhere, except among my crazy family where we are all weird and loud and obnoxious.

And, of course, there's been a lot of change in my life over the past year or so, what with the move, and my grandmother's death, and other recent upheavals.* I've been trying to convince myself to give it another year, but I don't know if I have the heart or fortitude. And I don't know that I want it as bad as many of the people I've come to know here, who like to market themselves, and angle for work, and seek out commercial and TV spots. It's a maddening business rife with rejection, and I've never been much good at making lemonade. Mine's always too tart.

But no one ever told me it would be easy, and I'm thankful for that. And I'm especially thankful for my family, who have supported and loved me across the miles, and who think I'm crazy. I think you're pretty crazy, too, guys. And isn't that just wonderful?

And I would certainly not still be here without my dearest friends, Sam and Vic. They're the best, and I'm glad that there is a whole group of people here in NYC who know that and love them. Check us out, we're pretty awesome.

It's been a hot summer already, so I'm very much looking forward to my trip home in September to celebrate with my best buddy, Paul. Paul is the smartest and funniest guy I know. He's getting married to a woman who is his equal (and probably his better) in so many ways. Welcome to the Fermans, Teresa, they are a crazier bunch than my family, and that's saying a LOT.

So until then, I'm here. And that's just fine.

*I lost the regional spelling bee on this word in the 5th grade. It was the only time I made it to regionals. I use this word as often as I can.