Spring Awakening

After two months of our pandemic lifestyle, I still find that most conversations – whether with work colleagues or friends – include some commentary on our “new normal.” I suppose this reflects the depth of our surprise, and perhaps that the answers are still unclear. The most consistent observation I’ve heard is that we’re living more slowly. And this moderated pace means we’re more observant. For example, I’d say this is the first year I’ve fully appreciated spring.

Over the past month, Boston’s cityscape has been magically transformed by blossoming trees. Some neighborhoods have symmetrical awnings of magnolias, while others are dotted  with various flowering species. In prior seasons, I considered spring meant renewing visits to Fenway Park, running outdoors with fewer layers and the start of the grilling season. Walking around to look at blossoming trees was not on my “to-do” list. These days, however, I’ve been grateful for this gift of nature that I suspect you’ve also enjoyed in recent weeks.

So let’s heed the benefits of living slowly and taking in all that’s around us. Those ballparks will be waiting for us next spring!

Magnolias

Waiting in line to pass the time

If someone had told me a month ago, that I’d need to wait 20 minutes just to enter my neighborhood cheese shop, I would never have believed it. Yet that’s exactly what I did yesterday, and frankly, I was happy to do it!  In this era of social distancing and nonessential business closures, “running errands” has taken on an entirely new meaning. Like many of you, we’re trying to support those local businesses that are bravely staying open, such our local cheese shop – Formaggio Kitchen.

Their distanced shopping rules are simple: only two customers can shop at a time, although you can call ahead for curbside pickup. Upon entry, disposable gloves and a container of sanitizing wipes are positioned just inside the door, and then it’s on to business as usual. The staff still made time for small talk and their usual helpful service, which was appreciated even more during these uncertain times.

So the takeaways are simple – try to support local businesses, appreciate good customer service and follow your community’s COVID containment mandates. Oh, and remember to enjoy life’s pleasures, like your favorite cheese!

Formaggio

Baseball, Legends & Love

On Friday, June 23, I was fortunate to be among the Red Sox faithful who witnessed the retirement of David Ortiz’s uniform number. Fondly known as “Big Papi,” this larger-than-life star athlete was everything a fan could wish for: clutch player, fun-loving and through it all, remained humble and kind. David is yet another product of the Dominican Republic’s player talent pool and throughout his career, never forgot his homeland. Given my similar roots, I have always favored players from the DR, and of course, particularly those who help keep the home team atop the standings and in championship contention.

Baseball is all about patience and tradition. It takes hours to complete a nine-inning game and more than half a year to proceed from spring training through a World Series. Yet, the rewards for fans are short-lived; we get excited about a win but there’s usually another game within 24 hours. And championships certainly earn bragging rights, but again, they tend to be more impactful in that moment.

That fragile experience is exactly why players like Ortiz are special. Every time they step into the batter’s box, you anticipate a little magic. And quite often, they make the impossible happen. When they’re pushed into the limelight, they instinctually know exactly what to do. What Red Sox fan doesn’t have a mental image of Big Papi’s famous bear hugs or his emotional ballpark comments following the Boston Marathon bombing?

The David Ortiz experience came to an emotional climax last month when friends, family and fans gathered at Fenway to pay tribute to our local hero. The number 34 was ceremonially unveiled above right field, joining nine previous Red Sox and Jackie Robinson as eternal legacies. Several honored guests were invited to offer tributes including former teammates and fellow legends. The comments were festive but perhaps none more heartfelt than second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s observation that what meant most to the team was the great love Big Papi always shared with everyone in the dugout. That simple statement came just before Ortiz spoke to the crowd—and brought tears to his eyes and to those of many throughout the ballpark.

Looking back, we’re forever grateful for the many baseball memories but as every member of Red Sox Nation knows, David Ortiz will continue making us proud for many years to come. Here’s to you, #34!David-Ortiz-Number-Retirement

Six Degrees of Separation = Northface Parka

I don’t consider myself superstitious but I do love a twist of fate every now and then, particularly when the story ends well. I recently had such an experience, which coincided with New Year’s so I’m convinced that 2016 is going to be a good year.

On December 30, we had dinner at a restaurant whose coat rack is a set of wall-mounted hooks. Given the chilly weather, I was wearing my black Northface parka. And being a practical New Englander, it’s a men’s small so I can layer however many sweaters are necessary to stay warm.

After dinner, our group headed to the lower-level bar for after-dinner drinks, so coats were grabbed and off we went. When we were finally leaving, I slipped on the parka and unzipped the pocket only to find an unfamiliar pair of large ragg wool gloves; I’d taken the wrong coat! I ran back upstairs but there were few diners left and my coat was nowhere to be seen.

The next morning I contacted the restaurant and fortunately they were aware of the mix-up and provided me with contact information. However, I needed to reach out quickly because the coat’s owner was visiting from California and leaving Boston shortly. A few pleasant text messages later, we developed a plan to exchange our Northface parkas by mail, as he had already left Boston to visit friends in central Massachusetts.  I texted my address and received a most unusual reply. By amazing coincidence, his wife was spending the next day with someone from my hometown. And not just from my town, but she lives around the corner, so a personal coat exchange was planned and completed.

So the moral of this tale is simple:

  1. Plain black Northface parkas are popular winter coats.
  2. Size does matter.
  3. Ragg wool gloves may be warmer than fleece.
  4. And last, six degrees of separation is a wonderful feeling.

Happy New Year!

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