Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tripping Up North

Door to door it’s 187.04 miles from our house in White Plains, NY, to Finley’s in Arlington, MA. I’ve solo-visited our grandson twice in eight days. The latest one day trip ended Wednesday morning, with another scheduled for Friday through Sunday when his working grandmother will be able to accompany me.

I’ve become pretty proficient making the drive. I don’t mean to imply the route is difficult to navigate. Rather, I’m noting my proficiency in capturing the signal of sports talk radio shows from New York and Boston that beam in and out during the three-hour ride.

Here’s my listening itinerary: As I drive up the Merritt Parkway in lower Connecticut, I listen to ESPN, 1050 AM. When the signal fades out around New Haven, I switch over to the FAN, 66 AM. Along Route 84, around Sturbridge, near the Connecticut-Massachusetts state lines, the Boston signals start piping in, and I switch between EEI 850 AM or BZ 98.5 FM. The ride home I reverse the order.

Of course, when Gilda is with me this well thought-out listening schedule is out the window. No way she will listen to sports talk radio.

My travels this week and last revealed sharp contrast among the talk shows as they discussed the most important sports news. No, not Tiger Woods’ designation as the Associated Press Athlete of the Decade (given to the player who can sustain double-digit trysts while knocking in more birdies than anyone else without knocking anyone up, at least as far as we currently know).

No, the most important sports story, now and forever, in Bean Town and the Big Apple, is the fluctuating state of the baseball rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees, with a little Mets commentary thrown into the mix. There was plenty to talk about—the Yanks trading for centerfielder Curtis Granderson, making Red Sox Nation hysterical that next season already is lost; New Englanders’ still unresolved disappointment at not re-signing Johnny Damon five years ago, made all the more bitter by the belief that Jason Bay should be resigned so that, God forbid, he should not wind up a Yankee, as Damon did (they have no fear he will be secured by the Mets); euphoria in Boston that the Sox signed pitcher John Lackey, but puzzlement about getting centerfielder Mike Cameron since they already have a good, young CF in Jacoby Ellsbury, unless the team is ready to ship Ellsbury out to San Diego with pitcher Clay Buchholz in a trade for Adrian Gonzalez to fill the first base hole they did not plug up last year when management let Mark Teixeira slip through their fingers and into the hated and dreaded Yankees gilded glove.

Whew. Did you follow all of that? Hard enough to do sitting at a computer, but try doing that at 65 mph. Good thing the road is relatively straight.

Highway observations: Boston radio hosts are more entertaining. They’re not only funnier than their New York counterparts, they also engage their callers in more conversation. They actually dialog with them. Surprisingly, very few New England accents among the hosts or callers. New York radio is replete with stereotypical speech patterns.

Cheapest gas I saw along the route was $2.49 a gallon for regular at the Pilot station at exit 1 in Sturbridge. But you had to drive off the highway to fill up. On the highway, gas got cheaper as you made your way north. Regular started out at $3.05 in New York, dropped to $2.75 in Orange, Conn., and $2.65 at the Charlton service plaza on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

No More Cuts: My most recent trip to Boston was to witness Finley’s Pityon Haben, an ancient Jewish ritual that literally means redemption of the son, in this case, the first-born son (let’s not forget that from biblical times even unto today, sons in most societies merited more rights and rites than daughters). The Torah commands that all first-born males, from beast or man, delivered through the womb were to be consecrated to God’s service.

Naturally, there would be too many officiants if all first-born males were conscripted into service, especially once the Levites were assigned the task of being priests (kohens) and assistants in the Tabernacle and Temple. So the Torah prescribed a common sense solution—first-born sons would be redeemed from a kohen at a cost of five silver shekels, the custom now being to exchange five silver dollars for the infant.

On my previous visit I had brought along the five coins we used to redeem Dan when he was 31 days old (for those wondering, it’s commonplace for the kohen to give the coins back to the parents after the ceremony in return for paper money).

Finley turned 31 Wednesday, so Dan and Allison bundled him up for the ceremony at the close-by Temple Emunah in Lexington. The redemption would take place directly after morning prayer service. Finley behaved admirably. Hardly a peep out of him. Perhaps he knew that unlike his last exposure to religious practice three weeks earlier, there’d be no cutting at this ritual rite of passage.

Changing Times: Wednesday also marked the 28th birthday of our daughter, Ellie. And the first time in 26-1/2 years I changed a diaper!

Ellie toilet-trained at the remarkable age of 17 months. Thus I was, to say the least, out of practice. But with Dan now at work and Allison on a quick trip to the cleaners while Finley slept in my arms once we were back home in Arlington, there was little reason to suspect my changing time had come.

Until I heard that telltale explosive sound burst forth from Finley’s tush. Once he started crying there was no denying he’d placed grandpa in a compromised position—wait till Allison returned and claim ignorance as to why Finley was crying uncontrollably, or take a stab at changing him and hope that, like bicycle riding (which I only learned to do when I was 40!), the skill comes back to you.

I retreated to Finley’s room, placed him on the changing table and assembled the necessary equipment. I won’t bore you with the dirty details, but he came through smelling like a champ. I thought he’d stop crying but he didn’t, forcing me to sing songs from Guys and Dolls. He actually smiled during I Love You a Bushel and a Peck, but after I exhausted the show's score, he was not content with songs from Camelot. Fortunately Allison came home (a jackknifed tractor-trailer had delayed her) and calm was restored. And I was back in the car, listening to sports talk radio for the next three hours.