Tag Archive: reunion

The pollen of elms troubles my eyes

How mine eyes
Tear and weep.

Is it the pollen of elms?
New Haven’s eponymous trees?
The elms are back from weakness, disease.
I return from there, too.

We gather,
Sit beneath the great
Barrel vaults. The
Florid rood floats, almost,
Faces in faux-ancient
Glass gaze down.
“Do we remember you?”
Their stares draw my
Gaze to them, to the
Western light, the
Vesper glow.

What tears! Is it the
Pollen of elms, or the
Bright sun, which
Makes me weep?
Such distorted vision—
Prismatic view!

Whom do I see?
Friends long since departed,
To both other places and planes.
The bat boy flitters nude across the parlor,
The chunky one flounces before the tube,
Taunting the weird, bearded one.
Beets pour forth,
An endless sea of beets.
And the fragrant, baked egg yolks.
The lazy man naps in the dining room niche.
Jolly rings.
The first real love approaches—
What fear!
Funky, chunky,
crazy, annoying,
Krauts, Canucks,
Tiger Lily,
Beer me!
Leona Helmsley lives again.
Miner, Murray,
Lara, Lackstrom.
Faces pass in eye mist:
Newberry, Dwight, Marquand—
Pipes by the thousands.
Velut maris stella!

Two Dots… then a dash?
No, stay!
I cannot.
I must go
To grow.

I have gone.
Are you still there?
Yes. No.

When I close my weeping eyes,
I see you.

I open my eyes,
And you are there
In the tears.
“There we sat down,
Yea, we wept.
How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land?”

I am back!
You are here…
You are gone.
Your face, your smile,
Your voice.
We meet, embrace,

Friendly faces
Peer from the windows I pass.
Again, I return,
Must go.
All my godsons,
How they’ve grown!
And my Mentor
Prepares for a final

I can’t see.
My nose drips.
Images and memories
The allergens,
But not the irritant:
It is the absence,
The distance.

I hear “Singet”
And remember when
I last sang
Truly well.
Under the elms.

I am here again—
Must I say good-bye?

A score of years
Since I arrived,
Yet even after so many away,
It is still a reuniting
To return.

Could I have left
My heart in New Haven?
Hardly, you say,
And yet,
Why this weeping
When I return?

Is it only the
Myopia of age and
Nostalgia that makes me see only
Your warm smile?
Has the cheek sunken?
The hair thinned?
The waist grown?

Or are you still the
Rough Beauty
I came to love?

Wipe the tears,
And let me see
You, in the
Vesper Light
Filtered through the saints,
And the elms.


Beer me, Hamilton!

Saturday 7 Jul 2012

It has been a great Saturday in Hamilton, NY. Five of us (including two dogs) went to the Farmers’ Market (in the rain, alas) on the Village Green, and I chatted with My Farmer (actually, it was more with Kelly, his companion and business partner) for the first time since last fall. Such nice, bright and earnest people. And, boy, were those salad greens super-fresh!

The afternoon began with my 25th-year high school reunion. The rain quit, and twelve of us, the “faithful remnant” as in chapter 23 of the Prophet Jeremiah, along with spouses, partners and children gathered for some tasty barbecue from Holy Smoke and a couple hours of friendly conversation. It’s funny, I think, that I feel closer to my classmates now than I ever did in school. It was our twentieth reunion in 2007 that sparked new friendships, and it was a major bummer that so few people returned for this year’s event. Mom, as optimistic as I, questions whether people will come back again in quantity before our 50th reunion. Our 50th!! Oh, my God, I can’t bear the thought. Since so many Hamiltonians return every year for the Fourth of July anyway, I might start hosting an annual reunion at the family home.

Today’s title, though, refers to the post-picnic activity, a tour of Hamilton’s brand-new micro-brewery, Good Nature Brewing. It was started recently by a young woman whose family has been connected to Hamilton for many years, and her husband. They are jazzed about Hamilton and are committed to nurturing their business and related commerce in our sleepy, economically-challenged town and region. Their website states, “Good Nature Brewing, Inc. (GNB) aims to contribute to a socially, economically, and ecologically thriving community. GNB aims to support and provide impetus for the establishment of independent businesses and family farms.  By encouraging a deeper understanding of an age-old craft, with historical significance in Central New York, GNB aims to foster a sense of pride, ownership, and a deeper connection to home.” (You can read more at their website: .)

In the 19th century, the hamlet of Bouckville, just northwest of Hamilton, was the epicenter of the largest hop-growing region in the United States, producing 80% of the American crop… until a blight wiped out the plants, and with it the industry. (More recently, American hop growing has been concentrated in the Pacific Northwest.) Good Nature Brewing is using local hops, and in turn is helping to revive a part of Central New York’s agricultural heritage. On the north side of NY Route 12B between Hamilton and Bouckville, you can see the trellises set up for the skyward growth of hops plants, and maybe a cottage beer industry!

I never, NEVER drank beer when I lived in Hamilton. I was a bit of a prude (well, not just a bit) in high school, and I was afraid of all illicit activities. No wonder I didn’t have many lively friendships. I tasted Bud in college (I was nonplussed), and didn’t drink any beer again until graduate school.

Prior to the year of my arrival at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, organ and choral conducting students gathered on Thursday evenings to commiserate about the evening’s church choir rehearsals (collective drowning of sorrows, I gather). For some reason, the event moved in-house, and the ISM Lounge became the site of the weekly Beer Night. Someone would bring some decent brew, and attendees would chip in a dollar or two per beer. My first successful beer consumption was a Rolling Rock; not great, but not bad, either. The “bottle summons” (to the evening’s host) was, “Beer me!”

Hamilton has its share of beer outlets. It’s the home of Colgate University—not a major center of teetotalers. It’s been a long time since someone made beer in Hamilton, though, so it’s high time to motor up to 13346 and summon your next brew.

All together, now: “Beer me, Hamilton!”

Not My Fourth of July

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Hamilton, NY, offers archetypal small-town Fourth of July festivities: quaint parade, chicken BBQ, craft fair, junk food, local musicians, better than mediocre fireworks (thanks to mega-wealthy Colgate University on the hill overlooking the village). On the eve, the Colgate Inn offers a block party at the foot of the Village Green (two blocks from home) with music and beer. Since Hamilton (and its Independence Day celebration) is the biggest thing going in the area, it draws people from hill and valleys, villages and hamlets, all around us.

Hamiltonians may spend Thanksgiving and Christmas elsewhere, gathering with families in other homes in other towns, or checking into ski resorts and beach hotels, but they come home for the Fourth of July. Hamilton Central School class reunions happen at “the Fourth”, guaranteeing a glimpse into one’s own future as the graduating classes make their way down the parade route, first walking and whooping, next standing with thinning hair and expanding waistlines on floats and waving, and finally sitting in rocking chairs with distant gazes on craggy faces. The Fourth is Homecoming for Hamiltonians. Spouses and partners, beware.

This year, I was invited to play the 11th Annual Fourth of July Organ Recital at Hamilton’s First Baptist Church. I put together an eclectic program of fun music celebrating the diversity of voices in American music. As of bedtime last night, I had practiced twelve hours out of the previous thirty-two. I missed the block party, the arrival of cousins, and welcoming my partner whom I hadn’t seen for 43 days.

I was up at 7 this morning and at the church shortly after 8. The craft fair and farmers’ market began while I practiced. Between pieces, I could hear the National Anthem sung over the parade PA system as the first units approached Broad Street. Practice, practice, practice. With a one’o’clock start time, I had to get home to eat lunch and change my clothes. I left the organ bench at 11:15 and headed across the street to see a bit of the parade.

Back at the church by 12:30, done playing by 2. Pretty pleased with the performance, audience generally very happy. Who wouldn’t love an organ transcription of a Scott Joplin musical depiction of a staged train collision? Greet the audience, clean up the clutter, chat with the host. Craft fair gone, food tents closed. Hamiltonians have left the scene.

Where’s my holiday?

As evening arrives, I realize that today was more like Christmas than the Fourth of July. In Traditions class at Walt Disney World, we were all taught that we work when others play. That’s just one way in which working for the Church is like working for the Mouse.

As a church musician, I give up Christmas for my work; Easter, too. Most three-day weekends are like split days off. Many of my colleagues have to work Thanksgiving. If work isn’t near family (and for me, it isn’t), either the holidays are spent alone or in the car rushing across the miles to belated observances.

The Fourth of July is MY holiday. The day stretches on for hours and hours, the night is mild, the village is alive, the extended family gathers for the big picnic, the country roads are rolled out for a long bicycle ride, the wild raspberries leap off the bushes, the front porch beckons. My gift of music to my beloved hometown brings joy to us all and refreshes decades-long relationships, but now that the day is past, I realize that I haven’t just gifted them my music; I’ve given away one of my favorite days of the year.

Can you bring the parade around for another pass?

18 Pockets Teaser: The Italian Job

Hi, friends and readers! You’ve read about my recent accident. For a little while, I was afraid that it would put the kaibosh on my upcoming trip to Italy, but the doctors said that I’m fit to travel. I’m leaving for Rome on Wednesday, where I will spend four days and attend an Italian wedding, tour the Vatican necropolis and maybe even meet up with my Italian cousin, whom I barely know. Then, it’s off to Sicily on the overnight train for ten days of exploring, including Mt. Etna, Catania, Siracusa, the Greek temples at either Agrigento or Selinunte, Trapanì, Erice, and finally my first return to Palermo, where my first-ever non-North American travels deposited me for three weeks in the summer of 1989 (I was 5…). I can’t wait to see how the city has changed, and my impressions of it, too, half-a-lifetime later. If you’re very good, I’ll write a couple-few entries as I go. Anyone care?