Friday, February 22, 2008

The Sledding Hill

Every adult who grew up anywhere that had the slightest bit of snowfall remembers the definitive sledding hill of their youth.

Mine was at the end of my block; a curving slope that ended on the next street up.

We all took our sleds - wood with metal runners - to the top of the hill for the run down. There was a rumor that soaping your runners made for a faster run but I never remember testing that theory, as my mother wouldn’t “waste” soap for such an endeavor.

There were about thirteen boys and two girls in our gang. One of the girls had blonde Shirley Temple curls and always boasted that she had once won a baby beauty contest down the shore. Her mother claimed that we picked on her when we were sledding, so whenever she was there her mother would stand at the bottom of the hill guarding her daughter.

I don’t remember having to stop for cars, but they must have been there at least when our fathers came home from work.

We sledded until it was so dark that the streetlights went on and our mothers began to yell for us to go home. Our wool coats and leggings with zippers on the bottom would be soaked, our mittens hanging off our mitten clips, and clots of snow embedded around our wrists. The metal fasteners on the front of your galoshes would be encrusted with frozen snow. If your nose began to run you wiped it off on your rough cold wet sleeve. The style of your sledding outfit could depend on whether your older siblings were boys or girls.

When you finally got home and leaned your sled against the house, you undressed just inside the kitchen door so you didn’t melt all over the house and the smell of wet wool pervaded the kitchen. Your face and your hands were red from the cold and droplets ran off your eyelashes and your mother brought an old towel for you to wipe off your wet fringe of hair.

A few years ago, in the spring, I happen to be near the town where I grew up. I made it a point to ride through my old neighborhood and took a picture of the sledding hill.

The hill was a lot bigger when I was sledding on it – way longer and a lot steeper. Honest. Or maybe it just looks different when it is covered with snow...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Exactly Who Is the Cliff Dweller?

About 20 years ago, when Hillsborough was going through a building boom, I bought a high-end townhouse. By high-end I mean it had its own garage and my parents couldn’t believe that I was spending so much money (about $125,000) for “an apartment” when I could spend the same money for a “real” house.

My neighbors were a varied group.

One was an older widowed lady – a long time Hillsborough resident whose family was well known for the hundreds of hours they had volunteered to the town’s emergency services. She could no longer care for her single-family home, but wanted to stay as independent as possible, remain near her friends and family, and still have a place to plant her rose bushes.

Another neighbor taught piano at the beautiful grand piano that filled her living room. The family had left Russia for the United States and now worked hard to afford the first home they had ever owned – a dream they never thought would be possible - and to proudly honor their adopted country.

Two units down from me was a couple in their sixties. The husband had finally retired after spending decades being repeatedly transferred all over the country while serving in the United States Army. This was the first home they had actually owned.

There were families who wanted their children to be able to safely play outside their houses and truck drivers and owners of small businesses, and young working couples; a variety of people working hard on the American dream, starting with their first small home.

Hillsborough should be proud to have these families choose to live here. But recently a resident of the western end of town, posting on a local forum, disdainfully declared that Hillsborough would be better off without these people who he contemptuously and condescendingly refers to as “cliffdwellers.”

As far as I can determine, his superior attitude rests on the belief that his family has a right to reside here because they have been here longer and he lives on one of the older homes on a small farm. He believes our town would be a better place if all the “newer” homes (by which he seems to mean any dwelling built after his) went away and their residents ceased to exist.

That is an interesting viewpoint from a resident whose forefathers apparently arrived in North America only around the seventeenth century. The real cliff dwellers, possibly ancestors of the present-day Pueblo tribe, built their towns in the southwest United States between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries.

Which homes would those original cliff dwellers want to go away? Who would they choose for their neighbors?

Who would you choose for your neighbors?


"The basis of world peace is the teaching which runs through almost all the great religions of the world. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Christ, some of the other great Jewish teachers, Buddha, all preached it. Their followers forgot it. What is the trouble between capital and labor, what is the trouble in many of our communities, but rather a universal forgetting that this teaching is one of our first obligations." - Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Rah. Rah. Rah.

For American football fans today is a big day. The magic of advertising and marketing has convinced these fanatics that today’s game is somehow important.

These PR people are so good that those watching the game are convinced that they are personally involved in the game. When discussing the game or their favored team, they refer to “we” as in “Then we ran the ball down the field” or “The ref made an unfair call against us and that’s why we lost.”

We? When was the last time these armchair quarterbacks actually played professional football or worked in any capacity for either of the teams?

And what is the connection between football and alcoholic beverages? The local liquor stores are crammed with fans stocking up for the game. There is a rumor that if you gave an alcohol-free football watching party no one would come; at least the real fans wouldn’t come.

A study of sports fanatics was publicized this week pointing out that they are more likely to have medical problems when there is a big match.

Local police departments know that there will be an upswing of calls when the game ends – domestic disturbances, DWIs, etc.

So, let’s recap. We have a bunch of (mostly) guys who are out of shape, can’t watch a televised football game without drinking, and who follow-up the game with a visit with the local gendarmes and/or a trip to the local ER.

Go team….


You can’t be a Real Country unless you have A BEER and an airline—it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a BEER. - Frank Zappa (1940-1993)