Letter to a Friend by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Dear Marty:

Sorry this is late. I wish I had sent it a week ago when you were still here. Better yet, I should have delivered it by hand—I would like to have been there to say goodbye in person. I’m glad Furry was able to visit and let you know how much we all love you.

I remember the first time I saw you: it was opening day in the Ponce de Leon league and you showed up ready to catch. You looked like a garden gnome in a Chicago Cubs uniform, but you sure could play. You knew how to call a game; you could block balls in the dirt. You could get a bunt down. Maybe you weren’t all that quick down the line, but you were always one step ahead of everyone else on the team. You were a strategist; you knew the game; you had baseball in your Scandinavian bones. You, Mike, and I had some good years on that team. We were in our forties but we felt like kids again.

A few years later, you showed up again in my life. At Landon. The boys were in the Upper School, both fine baseball players and worthy young men. I was Drew’s assistant on the varsity then so I got to watch them develop their skills. Carl was a crafty pitcher with a nasty curveball; Neil anchored the team at shortstop. Both could hit. Before a game, I would hit fungos to the outfielders and you would catch me up. You were always loose and we would make bets on whether so-and-so would catch the next one. Sometimes, you would go warm up the pitcher or just sit in the dugout sharpening your pencils and arranging your yellow highlighters. The scorebook you kept was beyond accurate; it was an encyclopedic work of art—every pitch, every out recorded and rendered with detail and precision. I loved sitting with you, Charlie, and Furry down at the end of the bench, watching the boys play, thinking up the next prank, caring deeply about what we were doing but not taking it all to seriously. After all, it was high school baseball.

(Hey: do you remember the time when Charlie got under Drew’s skin and Drew actually threw him off the bench? His own father! OMG! Every time I think about that, I start to laugh so hard the tears come again. Even now.)

After the boys graduated and went on to college, we remained buds. I had been sent down to the JV, but you still showed up for games, keeping the book, hitting fungos, bouncing balls at the catcher in blocking drills. Thank you for doing all that. It just felt good knowing you were still there. But I wondered how you did it: after all, you had a big time law practice to tend, students of your own to teach down at Duke. I mean, really: how did you do it? How did you juggle all the big-time stuff and still find time to be fully present in my little high school life?

You were never a laugh-out-loud guy. More of a smirk and a twinkle-in-your-eye boy, but God, you were funny. Road trips with you were hysterical. More than once, we kept Drew from driving the bus off the bridge, made him laugh when he was deep in his you-know-what. You were the perfect foil; he had too much respect for you to stay mad for long even after a close loss.

As the years rolled along, we didn’t see each other as much, but we remained close. When my son came to you for advice and legal mentoring, you gave it thoughtfully and generously. I was always invited over for one of Neil’s healthy and delicious meals, followed by a wee dram or two of your good single malt from the top shelf. We’d sit around the kitchen table and it was like we were back in the dugout. Andrea would roll her eyes, but we knew she was amused. She loved you so much; hell, we all did.

So now you’re gone, but don’t worry: Charlie and I will get together and raise a maudlin glass to you soon. By now, I imagine you’ve looked up Buddy and the two of you are bantering each other again or having another fungo competition up in heaven. Your family and friends and colleagues down here miss you dearly. So do your students at Duke Law School, as well as the countless kids you coached with Dave in summer league ball over at St. Albans. If legacy is memory, yours is legion. You are an All-Star, a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. I’d give a lot for one more extra-inning game on a warm spring day in May, sitting next to you on the bench with Furry and Charlie, teasing you while you bone your old fungo with a Coke bottle, laughing so hard that I cry.

With so much love from so many of us,

Jamie

PS: I’ll be right back…

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Birthday Gifts by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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So yesterday was my birthday. The actual number didn’t really matter but whether I liked it or not, it was definitely time to turn another page in the yearbook of my life. I’ve made it from Truman to Trump and like everyone else, I’ve been jumbled a bit in the washing machine of life and hung out to dry on the clothesline of experience. But all in all, I’ve been undeservedly blessed and I’m grateful for the many gifts I’ve been given along the way.

Gifts like having loving parents, witnessing the birth of my two children, and having a loyal and loving wife and five precious grandchildren. Like finding a world of good friends, a happy home, and a place to stand here in Chestertown. Like watching the sun rise on Mount Kilimanjaro or a harr creep in from the North Sea in Scotland, or hearing a loon on a Canadian lake, or lying out under the stars in the blackness of the Sahara night. Like working with wonderful colleagues, athletes, and families in Special Olympics International or interacting with interesting students and parents at Duke Ellington, Landon, St. Andrews, and Georgetown Day School. Those kinds of gifts and more.

Gifts like growing up in a real city like Pittsburgh, or spending a summer with the Grenfell Mission up in Labrador and another one studying in Kenya, or serving six years in the Peace Corps in Tunisia, Morocco, Afghanistan, and Washington. Like having wise and empathetic mentors like Bob Bryan, Lawrence Sagini, Steve Vetter, Bill Crawford, and Sargent Shriver. Like being infused with an abiding love of learning from invested teachers at two good schools, a superb university, and a challenging graduate program. And more…

Miraculous and unexpected gifts like catching a foul ball off the bat of Mickey Mantle or watching Bill Mazeroski’s home run sail over the left field wall to win the 1960 World Series or seeing Franco Harris’ incredible “immaculate reception.” And more…

Like the most precious gifts I try hard not to take for granted: freedom; good health; a warm, dry home; healthy food; enough money to make ends meet and then some. Like the happy memories I have of cherished old friends and the bittersweet memory I cling to of a dear friend who suddenly passed away just a couple of days ago. Like loving and being loved. All these and more…

Floods in Texas; danger on the Korean peninsula; chaos in the White House: it would be easy to fret our lives away. Instead, spend a moment thinking about the gifts in your life; count them, say them aloud or silently, whatever it takes to store them in your mind and heart so that you can draw on them when you need them most. And you will…

In 1848, a Shaker elder named Joseph Brackett penned a song we know today as “Simple Gfits.” It goes like this:

“Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.”

May we all come ‘round right.

I’ll be right back…

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Damascene Mirror by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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A long time ago—almost forty years now—I bought an old Damascene mirror. I found it in an antique shop in Amman, Jordan (that’s a story for another time) but it had originally come from Damascus…or so I was told. I don’t remember how much I paid for it—couldn’t have been much as I didn’t have much disposable income back then—but it was certainly old, probably late 19th or early 20th Century, the last days of the Ottoman Empire, the time of Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab Revolt. Not all that long ago really, but old enough for me.

The mirror itself is small but it is embedded in a wooden frame (olive maybe?) surrounded by an intricate inlay of mosaic patterns of mother-of-pearl. It isn’t really all that functional anymore—the small piece of reflective glass is chipped and scratched; I should replace it—but it’s still a graceful old thing from another time and place. I wish it could speak: whose face did it first reflect? Whose home did it grace? Whose hands made it? How did it get from Damascus to Amman? Who timbered the wood and where did all that iridescent nacre originally come from? Old things have all these stories to tell; too bad we can’t speak their language!

It’s just simple science, right? After all, when a ray of light—a stream of photons—hits a smooth, reflective surface, the angle of incidence is always equal to the angle of reflection. We look into a mirror and we accurately see ourselves in real time. But mirrors also capture and collect images and auras from the past. They have a rich and wondrous history. All too often, we overlook their provenance or just take them for granted or (maybe even worse) we turn them into bland utilitarian objects to serve a limited human purpose. But not this old mirror of mine: it reminds of a dear friend and mentor who has since passed away; of a magical dinner party with a king and a queen and a crown prince and a princess; of one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities on earth, a place once known as the City of Jasmine that is now war-torn and slowly bleeding to death; of a time in my life where everything lay ahead of me and I didn’t know the meaning of regret. All that in a little Damascene mirror; the reflections of my life.

Sorry; I think I must be under the spell of the last days of August. Summer is winding down like an old grandfather clock and while there will still be plenty of sunshine and warm weather for the next couple of months, we know what’s coming. This last week of August always catches us by surprise. Forget January; September is when the year really starts: we learned that in school. It’s a quieter, more reflective time of year—maybe that’s why I’m looking into my Damascene mirror again.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

 

 

 

Eclipsed by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Wondrous things are afoot in the heavens. Whether you made it to the seventy-mile-wide Path of Totality that stretched from Oregon to South Carolina and turned day into night for a couple of eerie minutes, or were merely close enough to perceive a hushed mid-day twilight, you have to admit that a total solar eclipse is a pretty awe-inspiring celestial event. So why am I feeling so eclipsed?

It probably has to do with more earthly events: in Barcelona. In Charlottesville. In Kissimmee, Florida. In Afghanistan and Iraq. On the Korean peninsula. In the White House and in Russia. For reasons I can’t begin to fathom, those of us who inhabit this mortal plain don’t seem capable of anything as remotely awe-inspiring as a total eclipse of the sun. In fact, just the opposite seems increasingly true. For example, whether we voted for him or not, we just elected a President without moral authority, a very flawed man-child with a trunk full of personal insecurities and a damnable inability to speak the truth, unwilling to accept any measure of personal responsibility, astoundingly unable to unequivocally condemn white supremacy and the inherent racism that has infected America since its slave-holding roots—a man (in other words) who leaves us all with the kind of dread that makes us open our smart phones every morning just to make sure we’re all still alive.

If you’ve been reading these Musings over the past year-and-a-half, you know I try to keep things light. But recently, like so many others, I can no longer sail blithely past the events of the past couple of weeks. I’m sorry, but avoidance behavior is no longer an option. Like the CEOs who recently resigned from the President’s various Advisory Economic Councils or the the artists who imploded the President’s Arts Council, it’s time to R-E-S-I-S-T.

An eclipse is a natural phenomenon. According to NASA scientists, if you live in the United States, you’re lucky if you experience a total solar eclipse—the brief moments when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun—once or twice in your lifetime. There hasn’t been one visible across the expanse of North America since 1918. (In February 1979—Jimmy Carter was in the White House!—a total eclipse was briefly visible in the northwest corner of the state of Washington. The next total solar eclipse visible in a large part of the United States will be in April 2024; I might get to see that one. After that, we have to wait until 2045. I doubt I’ll be around.

The Trump administration, however, is not a natural phenomenon. It is an aberration brought on by an odious individual who somehow slipped between us and the sunlight of our better selves, casting a long, black umbra of hate, bigotry, and fear over the landscape. But whether as a result of all the daily churning within the West Wing, or through impeachment by disillusioned members of his own party in Congress, or even by his own hand—resignation—Trump’s days seem numbered. I plan to be around for that eclipse, although I’m not at all sure that a Pence administration would be any better. It could well be worse. Sad!

Back on the celestial front, a total eclipse is really only a matter of speed and simple geometry. When the orbit of the moon brings it between the Earth and the sun, the moon’s greater proximity to Earth distorts the relative size of our two favorite heavenly bodies so that the moon seems to obscure the sun, extinguishing daylight for a minute or two along a Path of Totality which moves across the continent at an astonishing speed of 1,800 mph. Meanwhile, back down here on the ground, the political geometry seems much more complicated and hopelessly slow.  Watching it unfold with special glasses won’t help; continuing to protest, elevating the truth, and resisting will.

I’ll be right back.

(PS: if you want to read a hauntingly beautiful description of a total solar eclipse, I highly recommend Annie Dillard’s classic essay,”Total Eclipse.” It first appeared in an anthology of her work titled “Teaching a Stone to Talk” in 1982; it is reprinted in this month’s Atlantic magazine.”)

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Rock On! By Jamie Kirkpatrick

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We stopped in Plymouth on our way to Cape Cod last week. It’s a lovely summer town, famous, of course, for the rock on the beach that was the Pilgrim’s first toehold in the New World. I could tell it was THE rock because it was right across the street from the Mayflower Grocery Store, the Pillory Pub, Bradford’s Package Store, and Ye Olde John Alden Gift Shoppe.

The Mayflower had 102 souls on board when it finally landed in New England. Among them were about 40 Puritans, descendants of Brownist English Dissenters who didn’t care much for the pomp and circumstance of the Church of England. (The remaining sixty-plus Mayflower passengers were tradesmen or indentured servants.) The Pilgrims (they called themselves “Saints”) and their not-quite-so-religious friends (“Strangers) were the second group of pesky illegal immigrants to settle in the New World. (The first were the English settlers who established the Jamestown colony in Virginia in 1607.) They were Separatists who left England to form independent congregations that adhered to stricter, more divine requirements. When things didn’t go all that well for them in their first refuge at Leiden in Holland, they naturally decided to try their luck over here in the New World. Since no one had built a wall in 1620, when the Mayflower finally arrived in Plymouth harbor after more than two months at sea, the new immigrants made themselves right at home and began to make life difficult for the good people who were already lived nearby and had steady jobs, plenty of corn, and spoke perfect Native American. Apparently, that’s what immigrants do.

Despite not having visas, green cards, drivers’ licenses, or any other form of documentation for that matter, some of our Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers turned out pretty well. John Alden, the Mayflower’s cooper (not a Puritan), finally spoke for himself and married fellow passenger Priscilla Mullins, much to the chagrin of his roommate, the bumbling Captain Miles Standish who also had his eye on Miss Mullins. (She was, after all, the only single woman of marriageable age on the Mayflower.) William Brewster, the only Pilgrim with a university education, served as the new colony’s first religious leader. He fathered several children and gave them wonderful names like Patience, Fear, Love, and (my favorite) Wrestling. William Bradford became the second Governor of the new Plymouth Colony after the colony’s first Governor (James Carver) dropped dead working in the fields after only a few months on the job. Bradford is best known for the rich historic detail of his journal, his contributions to the Mayflower Compact which attempted to create a “civil body politic” in the new colony (we’re still working on that), and for forming a military alliance with Massasoit, sachem of the Pokanoket Indians. Needless to say, that treaty didn’t go down very well with the Pokanoket’s two main rivals, the Narraganset and Massachusetts Indians who were understandably suspicious of the new immigrants who wore funny hats with buckles, spoke a strange language, didn’t know much about farming, and carried those noisy blunderbusses.

The great irony in all this is that the Mayflower and its passengers and crew composed of “Saints” and “Strangers” never intended to land on Plymouth Rock. The ship was originally bound for Virginia but gales forced it off course and eventually into what is today Provincetown harbor at the tip of Cape Cod and from there on to that rock on the beach across from the grocery store, pub, package store, and gift shoppe; the very one Henry Wadsworth Longfellow labeled “the cornerstone of a nation.” I guess you could say that although the Pilgrims did manage to evade Homeland Security, they were actually lost. Sad!

Oh well; despite a rough first winter or two, things turned out pretty well for the Pilgrims and the other passengers aboard the Mayflower. Plymouth today is a happening place. As for the Pokanoket, Narraganset, and Massachusetts Indians: uh, not so much.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

 

Back at the Beach by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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You may recall that at about this time every year, we head to the beach. It’s part military operation, part traveling circus, and part annual animal migration akin to one you might see on the National Geographic channel. The week prior to departure, Costco restocks its shelves to accommodate us, ice makers go into overdrive, and the weather app on my wife’s iPhone is consulted more often than the Oracle of Delphi. That’s just how we roll.

And yet, for all the strategic planning and advance work that this operation requires, it’s mostly about taming a creature of habit. Although I’m a relative newcomer to this seaside roadshow, I’ve learned from experience and ancient hieroglyphics that the same rituals have been performed at the exact same time, year after year after year. While I’m not at liberty to divulge the secret rites of this tribe, anonymous sources indicate a certain level of chaos is just part of the equation so I’ve learned to go with the flow and keep my mouth shut. Most of the time, that works; when it doesn’t, I go upstairs and take a nap.

This year, however, there’s a monkey wrench in the works, a wooden shoe in the gear box. (For all you Francophiles out there, that is indeed the derivation of the term sabotage.) It involves a mid-week deviation from the annual norm, a detour, if you will, that will propel my wife and I to Cape Cod for the much-anticipated wedding of the daughter of very dear friends. From one shore to another, ’til death do us part.

Here’s the AAA-approved plan: we’ll cross the Delaware Bay by ferry, motor up the Garden State Parkway, cruise on over the Tappen Zee Bridge, sail (hopefully) past the picturesque towns that dot the Connecticut and Massachusetts littoral, up and over the Bourne Bridge and onto the Cape, home of lobster, clam chowder, and cod. Waze will be our navigational star, routing us around any of those pesky summer traffic jams that can turn 95 into a carnival bumper-car ride. I’m figuring at least 8 hours of interstate fun; recommendations for good books-on-tape are welcome.

And then of course we do all this in reverse (well, not literally) four days later. What could possibly go wrong?

And while we’re on vacation from vacation, the show in Delaware must go on, although it remains to be seen if my wife will be able to disengage from all the children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, in-laws, and other honorary members of the family caravan who will be holding down Fort Rehoboth in our absence. I’m betting that she’ll somehow manage to straddle two states at once, separated only by a few hundred miles of the Atlantic Ocean.

Maybe next week, I’ll let you know how it all turns out. Then again, maybe I won’t. God forbid I should leak any information that would surely be decried as “Fake News!” in the Chestertown Spy.

I’ll be right back. I hope.

 

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

 

 

 

 

On The Ropes by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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As most problems go, this one isn’t very high on the inconvenience scale. Nevertheless… three days ago, the hammock in the backyard broke. Amazon has another one on the way, but it will be another two days in transit, a veritable lifetime in weather like this.

It was a rope hammock from LLBean and I really shouldn’t complain: it served me well for a good three years. But over time and seasons, rope weathers, sags, and eventually rots and the other day, the first knots let go from the spreader. Others weren’t far behind. I got out in time…barely. Now the frame sits empty, patiently waiting for its new occupant—a double wide, two-point tight-weave Caribbean poly rope model with hardwood spreaders, perfect for lazy summer afternoons…if I could just find one.

That’s the real problem: when I go out back to lay in the hammock, all I can see are the things I have to do: the grass that needs to be cut; the shed that needs to be cleaned out; the weeds that need pulling; a bike in need of repair; a board that needs to be replaced, etc., etc. Talk about irony! The ultimate seat of relaxation turns into all manner of items on that pesky honey-do list. Guilt or a misguided work ethic rears its ugly head and I’m launched like a rocket. So much for another lazy summer afternoon.

But it’s not the hammock’s fault and I’m sure not going to throw out the baby with bath water. I’ll take my time, get something done, and let the hammock be my reward which of course will start the whole never-ending cycle all over again. There’s no escaping life; it just keeps coming at you which if you think about, is a whole lot better than the alternative.

And speaking of babies, this brings me in a roundabout way to the grandkids. Two of our five (four-year-old Gavin and two-year-old Annie) spent the last three days with my wife and me while their mom was dealing with a nasty wisdom tooth extraction. Talk about life coming at you fast! Take four cups of high energy, curiosity, mischief, and enthusiasm, mix in a pinch (literally) of sibling rivalry and a dash of a tear or two, add one sycamore tree with some shredding bark, one trip to the ER (he’s fine, thank you), a fascinating pile of pea gravel, a gauntlet of sprinklers on a sizzling afternoon in the backyard, the soundtracks from “The Lion King,” “Frozen,” and “The Little Mermaid” at full blast, popcorn for dinner (yes, we did but just once), endless loads of laundry, three full dishwashers a day, and a truckload of trash and you’ll understand why, when the dust finally began to settle on Sunday afternoon, that empty hammock stand looked so forlorn. It couldn’t even deliver a minute of post-tumult sweet repose. As you-know-who might tweet in one of his more lucid moments, “Sad!”

Don’t get me wrong: they’re sweet, wonderful kids and it was great to have them. True: it gets a little crazy and messy sometimes and once or twice they almost had me on those other ropes (now do you get the connection?), but it’s the little things that matter most: a funny facial expression, watermelon dribbling off a chin, a crazy laugh, “Please” at the end of a sentence, spontaneous dancing, an early morning snuggle when a little somebody crawls into our bed for a few extra winks. Too bad the hammock was out of commission because a little light swinging goes a long way with a two-year-old who loves to sing “Let It Go!” at the top of her lungs.

Oh well. Today, you can find me on the front porch waiting for that brown UPS truck with my Christmas-in-August present from Amazon. Now if I could only stop humming Hakuna Matata…

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

What’s That Noise? By Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Eggman was up on his ladder, scraping a second-story window frame when he heard it. Bootsie lifted his head from one of his leather-bound tomes to listen, then went back to making notes on his yellow legal pad. Iffy heard it in Colorado; Crumpets even heard it all the way over in London. Dan took a break from his investigative journalism long enough to listen. Coach couldn’t tell if it was thunder or just an Aberdeen rumble. County lifted his chiseled chin to sniff the breeze, a worried expression on his face. Key held a hand up to his ear to hear better and laughed. Me? I was coming out of Just Right Treats with a scoop of green mint chip when I heard it. “Uh-oh,” I said to myself, “that’s the sound of change.”

Why is change always so hard? After all, it’s inevitable and we really have only three options: embrace it, tinker with it, or deny it. Stasis is definitely not the natural order of things. While it’s true that that not every change is good, not every change is necessarily bad either. Think of change as evolution in real time: when things don’t change, they wither, atrophy, maybe even die. Just ask a dinosaur.

Maybe change is difficult because we’re such creatures of habit. We get comfortable, settled in our ways and don’t like the thought of learning new tricks. Or maybe change is difficult because it can have lots of moving parts and some unpredictable consequences: if we change this, then we have to change that. It can get complicated, expensive, messy real fast. It seems to me that successful change boils down to the ability to read the road signs pointing the way to the future and the willingness to make the necessary course corrections that ensure a safe arrival.

So what’s this all about? I’ve been thinking about some proposed changes at a place I love, Chester River Yacht & Country Club, that would provide physical enhancements to some existing facilities while creating new ones—specifically tennis courts—designed to attract new members. However, these changes would also necessitate some significant revisions to the existing layout of the club’s historic and beautiful golf course. And that’s when things begin to get messy…

The demographics of golf are part of the problem: the population that plays golf is aging and younger people don’t seem inclined to take up a sport that is a) difficult, especially for beginners; b) expensive; c) deemed too elitist; and d) takes three or four hours to play. Golf is a niche game and a decade or two ago, too many courses were built to accommodate too few players. (Within an hour or two of Chestertown, several courses designed or built within the last twenty years have gone belly up, are incomplete, or are holding on by their fingertips.)

On the other hand, tennis, along with its trendy new step-child with the unlikely name of pickleball, is more accessible, less expensive, and provides more exercise bang for the buck. For a club like CRYCC, that might attract new members spending more money which translates into better facilities and services for everyone—tennis and pickle ball players, swimmers, bocce ballers, boaters, eaters and drinkers, and, yes, even golfers. But there’s always a price tag to change and in this case, is the cost of these changes worth their potential reward? Good question!

I admit it: I’m a golfer and I unabashedly love the course in its present configuration. While the proposed changes to the golf layout are thoughtful, even creative, they’re also expensive, would alter the existing par balance of the course, and would entail some significant (albeit temporary) disruption to the club’s golfing population. There are certainly alternative options that would be less expensive and less disruptive, but these, too, have consequences. Even in our own backyard, there aren’t any simple solutions. I just hope we can discuss our options and come to a collective consensus about the best way to allocate our resources moving forward. This much I know: when it comes to any kind of change, an open mind is always a good place to start.

Back up on his ladder, Eggman is dreaming about the time he hit it close on number twelve. Bootsie is in his office thinking about the sacred ground of number fifteen and its lovely vista down to the river. Dan remembers his recent birdie on fourteen while Crumpets still talks about the miraculous three wood he hit on seventeen three years ago. Key is chomping at the bit to get back on the course with a new hip. Iffy returned home with a new golf outfit. Me? I’ll never forget my hole-in-three on number four last year. Maybe some things will change, but these memories won’t.

I’ll be right back…

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Our Very Own Russian Connection by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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In light of recent events and in keeping with the transparent revelations of the mainstream media, I feel compelled—no, COMPELLED!—to disclose a recent meeting with five Russian tourists to Chestertown. The meeting took place four days ago at an undisclosed location somewhere in the 200 block of Cannon Street, deep in the heart of the town’s Historic District. Present at the closed-door session were a family of five Russian visitors to Chestertown including father Igor (of course); mother Jenny (as close as we could come to pronouncing her name), and three charming adolescent daughters aged 11, 9, and 5, whose first names are being withheld under the terms of the ACA (Anonymous Childrens Act) which is not to be confused with that other ACA (Affordable Care Act), also known as Obamacare. The family’s surname is also being withheld because it has too many vowels and syllables. Also present at the meeting were my wife and I and an unidentified former political operative from Kent County known only by the code name, “Smokey.”

While it is not clear exactly how this meeting was arranged, reports indicate that initial contact was made during last Thursday’s meeting of the Martini Society at The Kitchen Restaurant in the Imperial Hotel on High Street when Igor—who was dining with his wife and the three suspiciously well-behaved girls—volunteered to take the official weekly group photograph so that all members of the group, including our local golf professional, could be included. It was also reported that it was at that moment one of the children said that Igor was a lousy photographer and that “mom should take the picture because she knows how to use her iPhone.” An examination of the phone in question indeed reveals two sets of Russian fingerprints on the photo button of the camera. (A copy of the photograph taken by the reputed “Mom” is included with this report.)

It is not exactly clear what happened next, but a source close to the investigation who spoke on condition that he would not be identified saw my wife go over to the Russian table and begin to engage the family in seemingly innocent chat that included questions such as “Where are you from?”, “Where did you go to high school?”, and “Why on earth are you in Chestertown?” The conversation quickly became complicated when it was determined that the Russian family, originally from Moscow, currently reside in Dubai where Igor was employed (among other things) as a liquor distributor for the government. Although specific details of the encounter remain vague, it was at this time that a formal invitation was issued to the Russians to visit a private home on Cannon Street the following evening for further talks.

That meeting was scheduled to take place at 5pm on Friday but a sudden thunderstorm threatened to engulf the town and caused the Blue Heron Restaurant to lose power for a few minutes. (Fortunately, the Chester River Wine & Cheese Shop across Cannon Street did NOT lose power!) The storm delayed the arrival of the Russian entourage and caused the meeting to be moved to an off-porch location—the indoor living room. When the Russians finally arrived under cover of umbrellas, they presented us with a large bottle of Russian vodka which as everyone knows is specifically excluded from the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

There are no known recordings of the conversations that ensued but anonymous reports indicate that various topics were addressed including the state of micro-distilleries in Maryland and Igor’s new translation of The Nutcracker opera into English. However, surveillance did confirm that at one point in the evening, all three girls went upstairs and bounced on the guest bed, but reports of an ensuing pillow fight could not be confirmed by the time this article went to print.

The Russian family claimed to have been in Chestertown for three weeks while their eldest daughter attended a Math Camp at Washington College. (It was during this exchange that the terms “sine” and “cosine” were first used, although no one present at the meeting knew exactly what either term meant.) The eldest daughter did confirm that she “loved” Math Camp while the other two girls passed their time in Chestertown playing, swimming, fishing, crabbing, reading, visiting Annapolis, and taking a ride on The River Packet. They vowed to return next summer.

“Smokey” has not been seen since last Friday’s meeting although a grainy photograph taken of him drinking Bad Alfred’s bourbon in Dubai appeared on FoxNews yesterday.

I’ll be right back…

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.