A Good Year

For many people, 2016 was, to quote from social media, “a dumpster fire.” Between what feels like an incredibly large number of celebrity deaths, and the events of November 8, it certainly had its moments. For me, though, it has been one of the best years in quite a while.

The atmosphere at work changed from the very first day of the year. We started a new chapter (excuse the pun), which led to my getting a promotion. The job I have now is not anything I ever imagined I would do. However, I enjoy it. I’m good at it. And most importantly, my work is respected.

I dated. For many of you, this is no big deal. It was huge for me. Maybe I’m too particular (this did not involve any commercial web sites), maybe it’s social anxiety, maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that. Whatever. For a few hours this summer, I was able to put that all aside and hang out with a guy.

My best friend from high school and I started our birthday celebrations a couple months early this year. We spent a weekend in New York, having splurged on tickets to Hamilton. The show was (as you’ve probably heard once or twice) amazing. Getting to spend hours walking around the city, on beautiful, sunny days, talking about everything and anything, was equally wonderful.

Later in the summer I was asked to be the Vice Chair of the Hartford Jewish Film Fest (March 16-26, 2017…see you there!). I’ve been on the committee for a few years now, but this is my first leadership role with the Hartford Jewish community. The film fest falls into the category of ‘lots of fun and lots of hard work,’ and I’m looking forward to being more involved than I have been.

img_4893The next step in my birthday celebration was a week in Wisconsin with my family. We
stayed at a lake where my grandparents used to have a house. I was able to visit with friends I hadn’t seen in a few years, introduce my niece and nephew to some very dangerous (but incredibly beloved) playground equipment, and spend copious amounts of time outdoors. Swimming in the lake is one of my favorite activities, and I don’t get to do it nearly as often as I used to. Even the morning it was 48°, I was in for a dip before breakfast!

img_5152When my actual birthday arrived, I celebrated with a bike ride from West Hartford to Old Saybrook. It was another warm, sunny day, and perfect for the 54 mile trip. By mid-September, the water in Long Island Sound has reached a perfect temperature. It was incredibly refreshing after spending four hours on the bike. My mother met me at the beach, we had lunch, did some shopping, and then she drove me home. Later that day a friend and I went to Mozzicato’s, where I had just the right amount of cake.

Though I have branded myself as Cycling Archivist, over the past few years I have done increasingly more of the former and less of the latter. This fall I had the opportunity to process a collection for the Watkinson Library at Trinity College. It’s a small collection (less than three linear feet), but I welcomed the opportunity to get back in the game. Working full time at one job, and trying to fit in another four or five hours a week at a second job, is tough. There are some interesting pieces, though, and I’m glad I got to work with them (I wrote five blog entries between October 28 and December 14 about the collection. Search for ‘Wells’).

Cycling. It has continued to be a huge part of my life. On the last day of July I realized I was a mere 35 miles away from hitting 500 for the month on my road bike (I don’t keep track of distance on my hybrid). I couldn’t let that milestone slip by. My pace for the ride ended up being my fastest ever. Most Saturdays I have a friend to ride with, which is wonderful. One Sunday I went out with some racers. It was fast, and I couldn’t really keep up, but I gave myself points for going on a group ride (I’m a slow rider and generally avoid group rides because of the frustration they bring). My biggest cycling accomplishment of the year, though, is my new personal best record for biking to work. As of this writing, I haven’t missed a day commuting since February 23. That includes the day in April when it snowed, which I admit was a

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Commuting in December’s single degree temps.

mistake. Excluding weekends, holidays, and vacations, I have ridden to work 191 days in a row. For the year, I have 218 commutes. Yes, there have been days I’ve switched vehicles at lunch. But I still got in the bike ride. Who knows what Mother Nature has in store, but I am trying to get as close to February 23, 2017 as I can!

One of the best holiday gifts I got was the weather in Atlanta during my recent trip there. I was able to ride my sister’s bike each day, including Christmas Day, when it was 75°!

Don’t worry, the year wasn’t perfect. Amid all these high points, were certainly were some low ones. But the first time in a while, the highs were more numerous. A lot of this was luck, and things I won’t necessarily be able to replicate next year. Friends have had marriages end in 2016, and have lost family members and close friends. Certainly for them, this was not the best year. I hope everyone else, though, can look beyond the top headlines, and see that there were many good things that happened in 2016.

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Film Fest Time!

It’s that time of year again. Tonight is opening night for the Mandell JCC’s Hartford Jewish Film Fest! As usual, I’d love to see some familiar faces in the crowd. You don’t need to be Jewish to attend! There’s a little something for everyone, and they are all worth viewing. Learn more about each of these films (and others – I left a few out), along with location information, on the film fest site (for the budget-conscious, I have not included opening and closing night in this list, but they’re worth seeing, too).

If you like…
…soccer and/or gay politics: Kicking Out Shoshana (Sat. 4/2 at 9PM and Wed. 4/6 at 7PM)
…mother-daughter relationships (good or bad): Look at Us Now, Mother! (Sun. 4/3 at 1PM)
…stories about pot brownies (no samples available): Dough (Sun. 4/3 at 7:30PM and Sun. 4/10 at 4:30PM)
…food: In Search of Israeli Cuisine (Mon. 4/4 at 7PM)
…#millennialproblems, improv, the Mark Twain House, or any post-film conversation moderated by Hartford’s own Julia Pistell: Are You Joking? (Mon. 4/4 at 7PM)
…art, artists, how art/lives are changed by illness, or learning about ALS: Imber’s Left Hand (Tue. 4/5 at 7PM)
…political incorrectness: Serial (Bad) Weddings (Wed. 4/6 at 7PM and Sun. 4/10 at 2:15PM)
…motivating and challenging inner city students and/or teaching about the Holocaust: Once in Lifetime (Thu. 4/7 at 8:15PM)
…perseverance through music: Rock in the Red Zone (Sat. 4/9 at 9PM)
…use of archival footage and/or stories of peacemakers: Rabin in His Own Words (Sun. 4/10 at 11AM)

While I mentioned above that I was not including it, I have to say that I am incredibly excited to see the preview of Trinity College History Professor Sam Kassow‘s Who Will Write Our History following The Last Mentsch on closing night. I recently read the book and was amazed by the work of Emanuel Ringelblum and the Oyneg Shabes Archive.

See you at the movies!

Hartford Outside the Box: Final Installment?

Well, I made it about six months. Frankly, I’m impressed I made it past the second installment. As much as I enjoy research, fitting it in is tough when the repositories are only open the same hours I work. It was fun, but it’s time to suspend my campaign…oh wait…

I put a question mark in the title of this post because, who knows, I may pick it up again on a less regular schedule. But between now and then, here is a history of the Hartford’s House of Comfort. Some of you may have seen it before; I originally published it in January on my other site (which is going dark by March 31).

Happy reading…

Hartford Outside the Box: The first six months

Back in June I started a series on my professional blog about archival materials available for research in Hartford. I have reached the halfway point (yay!) and decided I would share the posts over here.

Introduction – An explanation of why I am doing this, and some of the thoughts I had as to how I would be going about it.

July: Music in Bushnell Park

August: Eliza Read Sunderland

August/September Extra

September: H[amilton] Outside the Box – Eliza Eaton

(I had to concentrate on a post I was asked to write for an archives group, so there was no entry for October.)

November: Harriet Jacobs

December: Caroline Hewins

I have an idea for January, but February – June are completely open at this point. I hope you enjoy these, and Happy New Year!

Buses, beauty, and bikes

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How do you get a Nutmegger to try something they’ve pretty much been against throughout its construction? Use the word “free.” That is how CTFastrak got me, and plenty of others, aboard their buses this weekend. I wasn’t excited enough about it go walk around in the snow on Saturday, but the bright sunshine lured me out today.

While Google Maps seems to think the Parrkville [sic] Station (or as I shall now refer to it, the Talk Like a Pirate Station) is closest to me, I chose to walk to the Kane Street Station. It isn’t a pretty walk, at least not one I would choose to do with any regularity. The most attractive portion is the convent, though the nuns don’t seem to forgive those who trespass.

The station is still clean and new, with plenty of amenities.

Once on board, it was, well, like riding a bus. I appreciate that the names of the stops are announced. When it snows, I take the bus downtown instead of biking, and I wish that feature were on the regular city buses. I had already read that the Fastrak wifi wasn’t working, but decided to try it anyway.

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Nope, not working.

I didn’t time the ride, but there were no issues, and I was soon in downtown New Britain. This was my first time walking in the city, though not my first time in town. Like many cities, New Britain has attractive architecture,

a public library, and buildings that have changed use (I walked past a synagogue now housing a church). Yesterday my friends were Instagraming photos from Polish restaurants. My destination, though, was the New Britain Museum of American Art. Last summer, when I rode in the Mandell JCC’s Poker Bike Ride, I received a free Guest Pass to the museum (notice a theme here?).

The NBMAA is pretty much the only reason I ever go to New Britain, and I don’t even go that often. Because I work two doors down from the Wadsworth Atheneum, I’m far more likely to go there for a cultural fix.  It’s great having access to both, though. As soon as I saw Custer’s Gun by Otis Kaye, I thought it looked a lot like The Faithful Colt, which I often see at the Wadsworth. Yup, there’s a reason for that!

My favorite piece of the day was this one, which I neglected to find the label for.

The best surprise, though, was the view of bicycle racing!

View of the race from the museum
View of the race from the museum

The 2015 Ronde de Walnut Hill was taking place, and a friend of mine was even riding. Hardly the Tour de France, but much less jet lag. After saying hello to my friend, I made my way back to the station.

The bus was overcrowded, and more than once the driver had trouble getting the rear door to close. But I made it back. I don’t foresee becoming a busway regular. For trips to downtown Hartford, it’s out of the way. And as I said, New Britain isn’t a big draw for me. When it warms up a bit, I would like to try the multiuse path that runs from Newington to New Britain. That’s more my speed.

Chilling

I prefer to spend at least a portion of my lunch hour outside of the library. There are two general rules I follow: 1) Unplug 2) Vary the route. This week I chose to break both of those.

I walked the same path along the river three days in a row. On Wednesday I had unplugged, but you can get an idea of what it was like by watching my friend Brendan’s short video. I believe he recorded that on Tuesday, so there were more sheets of ice floating by, and more frequently, when I was there. The ice sheets were jockeying for position as they made the trek. Some were trying to sink others, some were content to glide along without making a fuss. If you haven’t watched (and listened!) to something like that, I recommend it. It’s fairly mesmerizing.

Overnight it got pretty cold. All of the really cold days are blending together, but I think Thursday was the day we woke up to temperatures in the single digits. The river had slowed down, too.

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IMG_2212It warmed up on Friday, but not before we got a few inches of powdery snow.

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It surprises me how much of a difference a day can make to a river.