October 31, 2003

A new start

This is just a sample entry which they may want to delete, but its being used to test the new start of their post-wedding blog!

Posted by Emily at 09:01 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2003

Weddings & Celebrations

Karen Dahl, Brian Reich
October 19, 2003
New York Times

Karen Lynne Dahl, a daughter of Evelyn and James Dahl of Danbury, Conn., is to be married today to Brian Alexander Reich, the son of Ann Sheffer of Westport, Conn., and Jay Reich of Seattle.

Barbara M. Kahn, a Massachusetts justice of the peace, will officiate at the Ballroom Veronique in Brookline, Mass.
The bride, 26, graduated magna cum laude from the University of Connecticut and in June received a master's degree in education from Harvard. In 1999 and 2000, she was an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer in New York, where she worked at Jumpstart for Young Children, a program that prepares disadvantaged children for school. Her father is a designer in Danbury of prototypes for the toy industry. Her mother is the human resources manager in the Ridgefield, Conn., offices of Boehringer Ingelheim, a German maker of pharmaceuticals and health-care products.

The bridegroom, 25, is the director of the Boston office for Mindshare Internet Campaigns, a Washington-based creator of online campaigns for nonprofit and political groups. He graduated from Columbia. His mother is the secretary and treasurer of the Betty R. Sheffer Foundation in Westport, a philanthropy focusing on the arts, health and education. The bridegroom is the stepson of Jane Reich and of Bill Scheffler.

Posted by Brian at 01:29 AM | Comments (3)

October 16, 2003

The True Test of a Marriage: Blind Faith

New York Times (Home Proud)
October 16, 2003

MAYBE Tolstoy had it wrong: Happy families are not all alike.

And what better way to put a happy couple to the test than by building a house together? Or in the case of Dr. Michael Dean and Dr. Maykin Ho, by building a house apart.

Dr. Dean, a retired health-care administrator, decided that the sweetest thing he could do for his wife, a busy biotechnology analyst, was to relieve her of every decision in the design, construction and furnishing of their weekend house, sandwiched between beach and bay.

"She just wasn't into it," said Dr. Dean, who turned 50, that awkward age, at about the time he began this project. "She said all she wanted was two cats. I said 'Fine, and I get to build a house.' " Dr. Dean then spent two years without swapping swatches or contractor war stories with his wife of 25 years while building and filling a 3,000-square-foot house in this Hamptons outpost by himself. "The only thing she ever wanted to know," he said, "was whether or not we were still within the budget. It was my project."

Building a $1.5 million house might be expected to deliver up a couple to codependency, but Dr. Dean, whose pressed tan slacks, black polo shirt and gold watch are more Donny Osmond than Marcus Welby, M.D., said he took his lonely duties in stride. His wife first saw the place when it was finished on Memorial Day weekend. Since then, they have used it every week, except when Dr. Ho was away on business. "I am very pleased with the way the house turned out," she said, in a telephone message.

"She reminds me of Ingrid Bergman," Dr. Dean said, referring not to any glamorous aura but to professional dedication. "I can see her working till the day she dies."

Although his wife abstained from design decisions, she was never far from his thoughts, said Dr. Dean, who comes across as cheerfully uxorious. ("Just look at that adorable derby," he said of his wife's bridal headdress in a wedding portrait that hangs prominently in the couple's Park Avenue apartment.)

And for this valentine of a house, he wanted all white, both for the architecture and for the furnishings. Minimalism may not seem the obvious choice for a midlife love nest, but for this couple who met in medical school, it was the only way to go.

Dr. Dean spoke with intensity of their shared attraction to a hygienic look. "I hate when you enter so many houses in the Hamptons and they smell musty," he said. "All our furniture is up on legs, so the air can circulate and it's healthier."

"Some people might need the protection of overstuffed furniture," he added. "This house feels almost museumlike, and I like that." There are no window or shower curtains either.

While Dr. Dean clearly loved playing house by himself, he still needed an architect. Through a local contractor, he met Lynne Breslin, who had not long before renovated a 1736 farmhouse in East Hampton with an artfully minimal hand. Now based in Manhattan, she once worked in Tokyo for Arata Isozaki and in 1979 joined the first wave of foreign visitors for a three-week tour of China, a strong selling point for Dr. Dean, whose wife grew up in Hong Kong. By coincidence, Ms. Breslin belonged to the same Upper East Side gym as Dr. Dean, so they could work out design decisions on the elliptical trainer.

Ms. Breslin approached the design with an eye to introducing sex appeal to the simplicity that Dr. Dean sought. The 2.1-acre site is beautifully situated on a barrier beach between Shinnecock Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, but it is also hemmed in by a narrow lot, with a nondescript shingled house just 20 feet away. According to environmental regulations established in the 1980's, the Dean house had to be raised 12 feet above the ground.

By way of inspiration, Dr. Dean showed his architect photographs of white houses by Richard Meier, master of the contemporary cube. Ms. Breslin obliged, but added a roof that waves like birthday streamers in a strong head wind. "I'm very interested in curves and their ability to animate forms," Ms. Breslin said. She developed her taste for curves in the office of Mr. Isozaki, who provided his staff with rulers replicating the line of Marilyn Monroe's figure. The roof at the Dean house is not quite so bodacious, but was still wavy enough to prompt surfers to call out "Cool, dudes," to the roofers when it was installed.

Apart from wanting the house to be white, Dr. Dean insisted that it have as much glass as structurally permissible. Ms. Breslin concentrated the glass on the ocean side, where it looks out on a deck and a long private boardwalk over the dunes. The interior is a single large room, combining kitchen and dining and living area. A partition and a hearth separate the study and master bedroom. Inquisitive visitors can sit on the couch by the fireplace and look through to those private areas.

Transparency is the theme here: from the second-floor balcony to the glass-paneled kitchen cabinets with glass above and below, affording views of the bay and the sky. The cabinets were positioned high to afford Dr. Ho unobstructed views out to the bay. In fact, at 5-foot-6 they are too high for the under-5-foot Dr. Ho to reach. No problem, Dr. Dean said, "I get everything for her."

A staircase with a stainless steel railing leads from the entrance up to a guest suite. The stairs triggered a brief crisis for Dr. Dean in an otherwise friction-free project. As a rule, he did not consult his wife. He did, however, show her the architect's first model, with its undulating roof, flowing open spaces and view of the ocean from the entrance, a sweeping gesture that Dr. Dean especially loved.

A big mistake. According to the precepts of feng shui, staircases in front of doors and wide-open passages through the house are invitations for good luck to run out. Dr. Ho, for whom feng shui is a given, insisted on a redesign of the entrance. "She took one look and said, `There goes health and happiness out the door,' " Dr. Dean said. "It was a major feng shui no-no." The stair was repositioned to block the entrance and keep the good vibrations inside. "It broke my heart to cut off that view, but there was no way Maykin would live with it any other way."

Dr. Dean approached the furnishings with a can-do rigor. He read up on design in Architectural Digest and decided that he wanted Italian contemporary. "It's usually smaller in scale, which works for Maykin, and it's up on legs so it's cleaner," he said. After touring a few showrooms, he settled on the Domus Design Collection, a large showroom and retail store on Madison Avenue at 34th Street, which carries primarily European designs. And then he spent three months there ordering everything, from lamps to couches, to the tune of $120,000. He became such a fixture at DDC that they gave him his own desk. The furniture was stored in a warehouse as it arrived until the house was finished.

"The hardest part of the whole project," he said in retrospect "was finding white cabinetwork that exactly matched the white of the white leather upholstery."

By Memorial Day, everything was in place (including the artwork, which Dr. Dean spent two years collecting, primarily from Asian exhibitors at the Seventh Regiment Armory in Manhattan). Dr. Dean was ready to take his wife to the house. They set off that Friday night, stopping first in Chinatown to buy groceries to test the 30,000 B.T.U. wok that Dr. Dean installed for his wife in the kitchen.

She was impressed. "There was no hugging or kissing," Dr. Dean said. "Maykin's not a jump-up-and-down kind of person, but I know she loved it." Then, as they set out to prepare their favorite chicken and cashew dish, the professional wok exploded. The romantic mood was somewhat dispelled, he said.

Still, the house apparently retained enough of its special aura to attract Woody Allen. The director's scouts approached Dr. Dean about filming a scene there for a movie project for next year. As usual for Mr. Allen's films, the plot is shrouded in secrecy. The only thing Dr. Dean knows is what he saw two weeks ago as the film crew moved in for two days of shooting.

The cardboard taped on his pristine white walls and the mover's blankets draped over the custom-made steel rods on his staircase did not bother Dr. Dean. But he balked when the African fertility masks and fur pillows came in. "I had to leave," he said of the primal-urge décor overlaid on his white-on-white Italian leathers. "I couldn't look at it all. It looked like a psychoanalyst's dream house."

And he decided not to tell his wife about the movie crew either.

Posted by Brian at 11:40 AM | Comments (1245)

October 11, 2003

Boston, for Richer but Mostly for Poorer

The New York Times
October 11, 2003

MY trip to Boston last month began, as so many of my trips do these days, with a wedding invitation. My boyfriend, Dan, and I have reached the age when our friends are starting to get married, and the arrival of those heavy envelopes with their clean-linen smell often means that it's time to book some reservations.

The trip to the wedding, we have learned, is a style of travel unto itself. For one thing, the expense of being a wedding guest (the gift, the formal clothes, the various celebrations before the ceremony) can make it essential to keep other costs to a minimum.

Then there's the question of whose friend's wedding it actually is. A weekend that is, for one of us, a series of joyous reunions can, for the other, mean hours spent smiling gamely at relative strangers. A side excursion or a nice evening out can turn what may feel like a command performance into a short vacation.

So when Dan was invited to be the best man at a wedding on Labor Day weekend, he sent his old college-orchestra tuxedo to the dry cleaners, and we planned three days and nights in the city, building in time when I could wander on my own.

Since Dan was a principal, he decided to take the Acela train from New York and I planned to follow him in the evening by bus. I wanted to take the Fung Wah, the $10 bus that runs between Chinatown in New York and Chinatown in Boston, and was advised by Fung Wah veterans that reservations weren't necessary. Alas, with thousands of students heading back to colleges in Boston in early September, Labor Day weekend is flood season for the budget-friendly Fung Wah and two similar services, the Lucky Star and the Sunshine.

Greyhound it would have to be. The Fung Wah disappointment rankled, but at $32 one way, I was still doing considerably better than Dan's $99 Acela fare. I found my way down into the grimy, tiled bowels of the Port Authority terminal, and waited glumly at the express bus dock with about 50 other Boston-bound passengers. I found a seat near the back, and settled down in anticipation of a four-hour nap.

We were scarcely out of the city when the trouble started. The man sitting diagonally in front of me became enraged whenever someone in the vicinity tried to use a cellphone. As we drove through Westchester, the man became more and more incensed, standing in the aisle and waving his own cellphone in the air.

"See, I have a cellphone, too!" he yelled. "I can use my cellphone, too!"

My seatmate expounded an elaborate theory on why crazy people like to ride buses, complete with similar anecdotes from previous trips. So much for a nap. I wondered: Was there such a thing as being too frugal a traveler?

I wondered this again about an hour later, when I arrived at the Casa do Zequita, the bed-and-breakfast I'd reserved in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston. The little three-bedroom place had sounded charming in its online listings, and for $80 a night, I reasoned, we wouldn't mind being 20 minutes from the center of the city. But as a clapboard exterior gave way to scruffy rugs and an ugly mishmash of battered Victorian furniture, my spirits dropped even further. At least the place seemed clean and, fresh from the bus ordeal, that was about all I was asking of it at the moment.

Neither of us slept that night. Dan came in late from the bachelor party, and between the hard mattress, a deafening rattle from the air-conditioner and a loud early-morning argument between the Brazilian-American couple who ran the place, we both tossed and turned.

The next morning, puffy-eyed and giddy from lack of sleep, I nibbled an orange-glazed scone from the plate of baked goods that had been left out in the Casa's kitchen, and made an early start for the South End to visit my friend Sarah.

It was turning into a beautiful day, so we decided to take a long walk through Sarah's neighborhood with her Italian greyhound puppy, Petra. When Sarah was growing up there in the 1980's, she said, the area was considered somewhat dangerous. Then, in the early 1990's, it became the heart of the Boston gay community, and gentrification soon followed. Today, the South End is reminiscent of the West Village in Manhattan, with narrow, tree-shaded streets, brick town houses fronted by neat pocket gardens and small boutiques.

We stopped at the Flour Bakery for cappuccinos, then walked past the old South End Burying Ground, and past the imposing Cathedral of the Holy Cross. With Petra in tow, we stopped at the Polka Dog Bakery, whose bakers are entirely devoted to the production of artisanal dog biscuits, and whose walls are plastered with black-and-white snapshots of tail-wagging customers.

I was charmed by the area, with its odd specialty shops and sprinkling of Amsterdam-style rooftops, but Sarah fretted that the neighborhood has lost its on-the-edge character. The South End has become more expensive, she said, and most of the gay and immigrant families have moved on. Where? I asked. Sarah said that Jamaica Plain was up-and-coming and fun, and so we headed there next.

We left Petra at Sarah's, and boarded a bus for Jamaica Plain. Ten minutes later - Boston is a wonderfully compact city - we were standing at the corner of Centre and Paul Gore Streets, across from El Oriental de Cuba, where dozens of people waited in line for take-out grilled Cuban sandwiches. The area wasn't enormously scenic, but the sidewalks were lively. Students were moving into their school-year apartments (over the Labor Day weekend, Boston is a city of orange U-Hauls). We wandered along Centre Street, Jamaica Plain's main drag, poking through homey little bookstores and hipster used-clothing stores until it was time to meet Dan for lunch.

We ate at Shawarma King, on Coolidge Corner in Brookline, where for paper-plate prices, we were served some of the best Lebanese food I've ever eaten. We sat in a double row of wobbly little tables across from the counter, and watched the countermen folding pita and slicing meat with their long knives. Stuffed grape leaves were served warm and sprinkled with lemon juice, heaped onto a bed of tomato-parsley salad. Lamb shish kebab, which at $5.99 was the most expensive of the more than 30 sandwiches that Shawarma King offers, was tender and garlicky. We especially liked the hot, crunchy zaatar bread, encrusted with sesame seeds and thyme and served in a neat roll of waxed paper.

After lunch, Dan headed to the wedding rehearsal, and I looked for a new place to stay.

There were several bed-and-breakfasts just a few blocks from Coolidge Corner. For about $110 a night, I booked the last available room at the Bertram Inn, in Brookline. Calm and lovely, the place is now my Platonic ideal of a bed-and-breakfast. Built in 1907 by a wealthy tobacco farmer as a wedding present to his daughter, the green-and-white house has been beautifully restored by its current owner, Bryan Austin. There's a perennial garden out front, and tea and homemade cookies are available all day. Our room was clean and cozy, and yet unfussy. Best of all, the queen canopy bed was very comfortable, and the private bathroom was plentifully stocked with Caswell-Massey toiletries.

The wedding, the next morning, was gorgeous (of course). Afterward, we made a quick trip back to the Bertram to change, then headed across the river to Cambridge for some book shopping. Cambridge has what is surely one of the highest concentrations of bookstores in the world, including specialists like the Grolier Poetry Book Shop and Schoenhof's Foreign Books, where second-language learners can treat themselves to painless practice with Tintin comics in Welsh or modern Greek.

On Dunster Street, we stopped at Herrell's, where Ben and Jerry were first inspired by the ice cream master Steve Herrell, and where flavors range from chocolate pudding to Earl Grey. We shared a single scoop of the burnt-sugar-and-butter flavor, which at $3.10 seemed a bit steep for ice cream, and talk turned to where we would find our real New England lobster dinner.

We decided on Sarah's recommendation, the No Name Restaurant, tucked among a row of fish wholesalers in Boston Harbor. For years, when the restaurant served as a lunch counter for fishermen and dockworkers, it literally had no name. But, as it became known to Boston diners, the No Name stuck.

The No Name's décor is basic, the service brisk but friendly. When a waiter arrived to plunk down our jug of water and basket of garlic bread, he noticed us struggling with a cellphone that had run out of batteries, and proffered his own. We tucked into seafood chowder (no potatoes, just meltingly soft fish and clams), fried clams and, of course, boiled lobster, which came with a freebie appetizer of sweet little fried shrimp and scallops. We watched the trawlers coming in from the long row of windows while we ate. Dinner for two including pie and a tip came to $47.70.

Then it was back to the South End for some jazz. With several major conservatories, including the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory, Boston has a number of small spots where it is possible to hear student musicians play without a cover charge. We went to Wally's Cafe, one of the oldest of these places, where a rotating group of young musicians known as Wally's Stepchildren plays three nights a week. Though Wally's has launched several jazz greats since it opened in 1947, it has never lost its pleasantly dive-y feel: think red linoleum floors and sticky pleather-covered chairs. For the price of a couple of drinks, we heard jazz standards, funk and some of the Stepchildren's own whimsical arrangements.

On our last morning, after a breakfast of the Bertram Inn's chewy, syrup-soaked walnut-banana pancakes, we went to one of my all-time favorites in Boston: the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. We wandered along the cool, tiled galleries, visited Sargent's flamenco dancers, and sat on a bench near the courtyard garden.

The rest of the day passed quickly. After a light French-Cambodian lunch at the Elephant Walk (where the nataing, a spicy minced pork sauce served with crispy rice cakes for dipping, is practically worth a trip to Boston on its own), we set out for the North End, where we walked into the tail end of a charmless Italian saint's day festival, all fried dough and pirated CD stands. Though we had planned to take an afternoon stroll along the Charles, a rain shower convinced us that it was time to pick up the rental car.

On our way out of town, we stopped for dinner at Helmand, the restaurant in Cambridge that is owned by relatives of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. We had planned to pick up some Afghan stews for a dinner on the road, but the place looked so cozy on a rainy night, with bakers taking long loaves of Afghan bread out of a round oven near the door, that we decided to stay.

We feasted on bowlani, pastry turnovers filled with a peppery scallion mixture; aushak, Afghan ravioli topped with a minty yogurt-based sauce; and plates of savory vegetable stews - just what we needed to sustain us on the long, rainy drive back to New York.

We spent $154.26 a day for two for lodging, food and admission fees during three days and nights in the Boston area.

I spent $32 one way for a Greyhound bus ticket to Boston; (800) 229-9424, www.greyhound.com. One way between New York and Boston on the Fung Wah bus is $10; (212) 925-8889, www.fungwahbus.com. Lucky Star, (888) 881-0887, www.luckystarbus.com, offers fares as low as $10 one-way, as does Sunshine; (866) 848-6877, Web Site www.sunshineboston.com.


The Bertram Inn, 92 Sewall Avenue, Brookline, (800) 295-3822, www.bertraminn.com, has 14 double rooms with private bath and breakfast for $99 to $209 a night. Our room cost $109.70, with tax.

We also looked at the Samuel Sewall Inn, 143 St. Paul Street, (888) 713-2566, Web Site www.samuelsewallinn.com, across the street from the Bertram and under the same management. Its 14 rooms with bath cost $89 to $199.


Shawarma King, 1383 Beacon Street, Brookline, (617) 731-6035, specializes in Middle Eastern meat sandwiches, but also offers hot dishes on a steam table, and a wide selection of vegetarian options. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch for two including sodas came to just over $15.

No Name Restaurant, 17 Boston Fish Pier, (617) 423-2705, offers fresh fish, simply prepared, and unparalleled views of the harbor. Lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday. Dinner for two with wonderful Boston cream pie came to $47.70.

Elephant Walk, 900 Beacon Street, Boston, (617) 247-1500, serves reasonably priced French and Cambodian specialties. We splurged a bit, ravenous after a long morning of walking, and eager to try several unfamiliar Cambodian dishes. Lunch for two including beer, dessert and several shared appetizers came to $65. Lunch weekdays, dinner nightly. A branch in Cambridge, at 2067 Massachusetts Avenue, (617) 492-6900, is open for dinner nightly.

Helmand, 143 First Street, Cambridge, (617) 492-4646, offers Afghan food many cuts above standard kebab-house fare. Dinner nightly. Our meal for two came to $29.25.


The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 280 The Fenway, (617) 566-1401, www.gardnermuseum.org, is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, and certain holidays. Adult admission is $10.

Wally's Cafe, 427 Massachusetts Avenue, (617) 424-1408, in the South End, is open nightly until 2 a.m. Domestic beers are $3; mixed drinks cost $4.50 to $7. There is a one-drink minimum, but no cover charge.

KATHERINE ZOEPF is a former research assistant at The Times.

Posted by Brian at 12:18 PM | Comments (1)

Who You Calling Quaint?

The New York Times
Sunday, October 12, 2003

BOSTON -- "There is, first of all, the question of Boston or New York. . . . It is a one-sided problem. For the New Yorker, San Francisco or Florida, perhaps — Boston, never."

Elizabeth Hardwick, "Boston," 1959

I suppose it is worth asking why I keep a copy of Hardwick's vituperative essay ("Boston — wrinkled, spindly-legged, depleted of nearly all her spiritual and cutaneous oils") in my desk drawer. Or why I once hopped out of a taxicab mid-trip in downtown Boston and turned it over to Donald Trump, who was trying to get to the airport. He and a flunky were standing in front of Fidelity Investments, in town to get their bonds rejiggered, I presume.

Indeed, when New Yorkers bother to come here, it is always because there is no way around it: "We're taking Caitlin to see schools"; "We were on our way to Maine, and thought we would give you a call." For New Yorkers, Boston is sort of an Extreme New Jersey, with colleges. We are the original bridge and tunnel people — many bridges, many tunnels.

Having lived here for 20 years, it has come to own me, this sense of subservience to New York's assumed superiority. New York is so happening — the Dalai Lama in the Park! Uma at Noche! Boston is so happened. My adopted hometown is a city that never tires of looking at itself in the mirror, but it is the rear-view mirror that attracts its gaze. Two schools here — Boston Latin and Roxbury Latin — quarrel incessantly over which is the oldest in the country. Each could claim to be the best school in the country, but the dispute over precedence seems more immediate.

Yet there is one group of Bostonians that does not instinctively grovel before the greatness of Gotham. They are men apparently unaffected by the Emersonian torpor of the self-styled "hub of the solar system," who are blissfully indifferent to Boston's burdensome past. Perhaps ominously for the Team That Steinbrenner Bought, that group of men is the deracinated band of millionaires known as the Boston Red Sox, not one of whom actually hails from Boston. But I anticipate.

Historically, everyone who is anyone has been here and left. Starting with William Dean Howells, the uncontested czar of 19th-century American letters, and ending with the wonderful Conan O'Brien — Brookline's own Conan O'Brien, as we like to call him. Howells, like the former Beacon Hill resident Hardwick and so many others, gave us a nasty kick as he fled out the door. "It was not life — it was death-in-life," he wrote of living in Boston. Even Medford's own Michael R. Bloomberg now masquerades as a New Yorker, braying his support for the Yankees.

Yes, history has ground us down. In the mid-19th century, one might argue that, around the time Oliver Wendell Holmes turned the noxious "hub" phrase, Boston was the center of American commerce, American letters, even American politics. The long, precipitous drop in our fortunes has been painfully apparent.

Two hundred and twenty-eight years after our glorious Revolution, Boston again seems like a colony answering to faraway masters. Publishing decamped to New York years ago. Howells's old charger, The Atlantic Monthly, is owned by a Washington-based consultant. Our cornerstone department store, Jordan Marsh, has been Macy's since 1996. The Bank of Boston succumbed to a takeover by Providence, R.I.-based Fleet Financial Group in 1999. In his forthcoming page-turner, "Harvard Yard," William Martin, a writer from Wellesley, Mass., calls my employer, The Boston Globe, the "tenant farm" of The New York Times. Even the New England mob, once domiciled in Boston's North End, has moved south to Little Rhody.

And yet. . . . Who would trade places? Who would leave Athens for Rome? My oldest son is happy as a clam at Columbia University — a stripling of a college, in Boston's gaze, being only 250 years old — but I rarely feel the need to linger when I visit him in New York. The garbage-scented zephyrs wafting down Broadway and the marvelously diverse men and women seeking your attention (don't go off your Rocker, Alex!) send me plummeting into the subway (more colorful characters!) and off to the Port Authority for the restful bus ride back to Boston.

All my friends in New York were once get-ahead-niks. Now they are gotten-ahead-niks. And yet nothing suffices; they have no time, no living space, no respite from the frantic pace dictated by the city that never sleeps. They double-book appointments, they work about twice as hard as I do. They look old before their time.

Not that I am any spring chicken, mind you. But I am home at a decent hour; my children know me well enough to be disenchanted by my many shortcomings. Like Californians, we Bostonians are impossibly smug about the leisure opportunities within a couple of hours' drive: the Cape, the Berkshires, the Maine coast. (No, not Vermont. That was ceded to New York about 20 years ago.) Our pols — we yield nothing to New York in this category — successfully gulled American taxpayers into spending $15 billion on the Big Dig, a beautification and revitalization program for downtown Boston. Thank you, America, and for your part, thank you, New York.

You know how it is with us self-styled Athenians: secretly we think we are superior to you. Of course, New York is the new Rome, New York rules supreme, and yet we make our modest gains. If you asked the managers of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with their New York audience in Tanglewood and their Boston audience in Symphony Hall, and their freshly poached-from-the-Met musical director James Levine, how they stack up to their Manhattan counterparts, you might see a flash of hubris. And while it is true that Columbia recently stole world-saver Jeffrey Sachs from Harvard, I don't think the loss is being taken all that hard at the institution that is accustomed to being called the World's Greatest University.

And as further evidence of a Hub-Gotham sea change, The New York Times Company owns 17 percent of the Boston Red Sox, and not one thin pinstripe of the Bronx Bombers. You don't think they would invest in a loser, do you?

Which brings us to the Carmine Hose. These are not the "men" of the John Marquand novels, not the charter members of Boston's charming private library, the Athenaeum. I doubt they have heard of the late George Apley, or ever darkened the wrought-iron doors at 10 1/2 Beacon Street. They are not baseball scholars, they are baseball players, and they are the first Red Sox team I've seen that has absolutely no fear of the Yankees.

History? The Curse? Fuggedaboutit! The past "makes zero sense to me," Baton Rouge's own Kevin Millar said this August. "I love this team and I love this city, but some of the things you see and read, it's like, `Uncle, turn the page.' "

And as Manoguayabo's own Pedro Martínez famously vented last year: "I don't believe in damn curses."

Call it a hunch, but I don't think Kevin, Pedro, Manny Ramirez & Company keep a copy of Elizabeth Hardwick's nasty putdown in their desk drawers. And I think that if they saw the Donald flailing at cabs on Federal Street, they would laugh, wave and tell the driver to speed up.

Posted by Brian at 06:31 AM | Comments (1)

October 10, 2003

Irreconciable differences

A Red Sox fan married to a Yankees diehard? It does happen, but the rivalry is fierce
By Don Aucoin, Globe Staff, 10/9/2003

Mark Crough, a Cohasset native and devout Red Sox fan, was instantly attracted to Kerry Carle when they met on Easter weekend four years ago in a Killington, Vt., ski shop. But Carle was harboring a dark secret Crough would not discover until four months later, when they moved together to Boulder, Colo.

Upon arriving in their new home, Carle opened her suitcase to unpack. Suddenly, before her swain's astonished eyes, out tumbled a . . . Yankees hat. "I didn't know," recalls Crough, 35, who married Carle this year. "It killed me. There I am, having to go out on hikes in public with her wearing a Yankees cap. Had I known . . . Just kidding."

Ah, but many a truth is spoken in jest. The reality is that this week dueling loyalties on the question of Sox vs. Yanks will open fault lines right down the middle of many an otherwise harmonious relationship. For better and for worse, OK -- but for the American League pennant? Fuhgeddaboudit. At least for the duration of the series, erstwhile happy couples could find themselves living in the house that wroth built.

"We're in a very loving relationship, but when the Yankees and Sox are playing, we sit in different rooms," admits Alyssa Toro, 33, a Yankees fan in Brookline whose husband, Matt, is a Red Sox fan. "We have to. It just gets too intense."

You want to talk about intensity? When Red Sox fan Julie Rockett exchanged vows with Yankees fan Patrick Paulick, her family told her she was "marrying outside the faith." Rockett will allow Paulick to watch the games with her in their South End apartment, but only on the condition that he not overtly cheer for the Yankees and that he never, not once, ask her what the score is. "I have so many weird voodoo rules," says Rockett. "I am so filled with rage, and he is not."

Eighty-five years of World Series futility will do that to you. That grim history was brought up all summer long by Ron Czik of Sharon whenever the three Red Sox fans in his household -- wife Wendy, daughter Shoshana, 15, and son Joshua, 12 -- got too excited about Boston's chances against New York. Czik would simply say three things: "Bolshevik Revolution, 26, and Bill Buckner," referring to the fact that the Soviet Union has come and gone since the Sox last won a World Series, that the Yankees have won the series 26 times since 1918 (when the Sox last won it), and that Buckner . . . well, you know.

"His obnoxiousness about the Yankees is becoming . . . more obnoxious," says an exasperated Wendy Czik. So last night, as the family gathered around the TV set, dad was not to be allowed on the couch -- he was slated for banishment to a spot near the kitchen -- and his wife was planning to wear a T-shirt sporting an oft-heard anti-Yankees slogan.

The Czik family feud is a good-natured one, as seems to be the case with most of the two dozen fans interviewed by the Globe. "It's all in good fun," insists Jessica Morris, 28, of Shrewsbury, a Yankees fan whose husband, Michael, is a Red Sox partisan. "It's certainly a rivalry that gets the best of both of our emotions, but it's certainly not something that would end a relationship."

That doesn't mean emotions won't be running high as the Sox and Yanks battle it out at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park in the days to come while those battles are echoed verbally in family rooms all over New England and beyond.

Nor will those battles be as one-sided as might be supposed here in the heart of Red Sox Nation, where a surprising number pledge allegiance to the Yankees. Transplanted New Yorkers or New Jerseyites, many of whom came to Boston to attend college and stayed to pursue careers and start families, have swollen the population of Yankees fans. Consequently, the ancient rivalry is woven into the fabric of many a young marriage -- one couple reports that they placed Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra bobblehead dolls on a table at their August wedding reception -- and such unions are now facing a test stiff enough to tax the ingenuity of the savviest marriage counselor.

Before Amy and Danny Kramer of Charlestown exchanged vows a year ago, they had the traditional pre-wedding confab with the priest who was to marry them. Amy's family members were longtime Red Sox season ticket holders, and one of her proudest possessions was a baseball that former Sox slugger Jim Rice had fouled right into her lap. Danny, by contrast, had only recently moved here from Staten Island, N.Y. When the priest asked whether either of them had any reservations about entering into the holy state of matrimony, Danny somberly replied, "Yes, I do have one concern." Amy was stricken. Then her groom-to-be spelled it out: "She's a Red Sox fan, and I'm a Yankees fan." The priest, a New York native himself, sympathized but assured Danny, "You'll eventually convert."

It hasn't happened yet, and Danny says it never will. In fact, the Kramers will probably watch the pennant showdown in separate rooms. During Sox-Yankees jousts over the summer, Amy, 30, had to put up with the sound of her husband heckling the Red Sox. "The `1918' thing is coming from the other room," she sighs. Says her 31-year-old husband: "It's the answer to everything."

For relationships still in their early stages, this pennant series could prove to be the defining moment. Sarah Stiglmeier, 25, of Brighton, has loved the Yankees since she was a toddler in Albany rooting for "Reggie Jacks." She has retained a loyalty to the Yankees in the seven years since she moved here to attend Boston College and has even gone so far as to wear her Jeter T-shirt or Yankees hat to Sox games. But she has been dating a Red Sox fan for two years and admits, "I'm a little bit nervous about this upcoming series." They were not planning to watch last night's game together.

"We get feisty. We make comments back and forth," Stiglmeier says. "It's all in good fun, but you take it a little bit to heart."

When children enter this charged equation, the Sox-Yanks rivalry sometimes intensifies in unpredictable ways. As a young child in New Jersey, Suzie Byers of Lexington believed that her father actually played for the Yankees because he used to talk to the players on the TV set as if he knew them. Later, in high school, she was in Latin class with the son of Yankees outfielder Lou Piniella. Even after she married Red Sox fan Carl Byers, who did his best to, in his words, "get her to come over from the dark side," she kept rooting for the Yankees. But her pinstripes fervor began to fade after their 5-year-old son, Jake, began rooting for the Sox.

"I cannot be a full-fledged Yankees fan anymore, because my son adores the Red Sox so much," she says. "But every time the Yankees win, I'm happy for my father. I'm secretly on the fence."

In the Breslin household in Milton, 9-year-old Nate has staked out a position as a Yankees fan even though father Mark, mother Bonnie Sosis, and big brother Zack are all Red Sox fans. "I like [Alfonso] Soriano and Roger Clemens and Derek Jeter," says Nate. "And all my friends like them. Well, some of them."

In deference to his son's feelings, Mark Breslin has waived his usual rule against the wearing of Yankees hats or shirts in the house. In a few weeks, Nate has an even bigger costume adventure in mind: "I'm being Alfonso Soriano for Halloween," he confides.

But then parenthood is full of surprises. Take the Croughs, out in Boulder awaiting the birth of their first child at the end of the month. Kerry, the Yankees fan, recently told her husband that if the baby is a boy, she might not mind if they named him Trot or Grady (his Sox loyalties notwithstanding, he nixed both). As for Alyssa and Matt Toro, whose baby is due in two weeks, they are taking no chances. Matt went out and bought a Red Sox onesie for the little one -- and Alyssa promptly countered by buying a Yankees onesie.

"We might make her wear them both until she's old enough to decide," she says.

Don Aucoin can be reached at aucoin@globe.com.

Posted by Brian at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2003

Civil marriage on rise across USA

By Cathy Lynn Grossman and In-Sung Yoo, USA TODAY

Fewer American couples who marry today see the need for religion's approval. The rate of civil marriage is on the rise coast to coast, a USA TODAY analysis of marriage license statistics suggests.

Experts say the trend could influence a larger debate: As fewer Americans see a need for religious blessings on a marriage, they may be more supportive of same-sex unions.

There's no national data on how many U.S. marriages are performed by clergy vs. a civil authority such as a notary, judge or justice of the peace. But in the 18 states that have tracked data for any significant period of time since 1980:

•14 showed a growing or essentially steady rate of civil marriages — more than 40% of marriages in 2001. That's up from about 30% in 1980.

•Four showed a drop in civil-marriage rates: South Carolina, where a legal change stopped judges from getting paid for weddings (but the state still has one of the highest civil-marriage rates); Utah, with its large, family-centered Mormon population; and tourism havens Hawaii and Tennessee, where visitors flock to be quickly wed by non-denominational ministers.

The pattern probably is similar nationwide. "My daughter (Jane Campbell), the mayor of Cleveland, does more weddings than I do," says the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell of Chautauqua, N.Y., who is ordained in both the Disciples of Christ and the American Baptist churches.

What's behind the changing view of "I do"?

University of Washington sociologist Pepper Schwartz, author of American Couples, cites high divorce and remarriage rates, more interfaith marriages and more personalized ideas on spirituality.

"We believe more in the church of 'My Way,' a shift in the sense of the ultimate authority from God and church elders to our own soulful searches," she says.

Posted by Brian at 06:27 AM | Comments (0)