Hi. It’s been awhile and while there is a Summer of catch-up (spoiler alert: not much happened, #COVID) today is 9/11 and not a day to reflect on frivolity. Instead, I’m more interested in a quick flashback and some thoughts which, while not monumental, are mine and I’d like to write them down.
On 9/11/01, I was a senior at Williams College, a prestigious liberal arts school that I was doing well at, although certainly not a shining star. Looking back, I realize that I missed out on the potential that it offered in terms of a potential consulting or Wall Street career, or even an early Silicon Valley entry. But no matter- I knew I wanted to be a doctor since I was 10 years old and I’m so happy with my career. It’s just amazing to me to see me how many other options could have been explored.
So, on 9/11, I was on my way to my senior biology seminar, “Circadian Rhythms and Biological Clocks” (or something to that effect). Even that subject has grown in leaps and bounds since I studied it in 2001. It really is amazing, even though I’ve only kept up with the field peripherally. The seminar was 9-11 a.m. and I was cutting through the student union around 8:45. A news report was on showing smoke coming from one of the Twin Towers. My first thought was confusion- I didn’t think it was the anniversary of the bombing in the ’90s because that had been a Winter day with flurries. What I saw on the screen was a gorgeous cloudless day just like the one that I saw outside in Williamstown, MA. Within a minute, I realized that it was real-time. Even still, the exact situation was unknown and what was known was that I had to get to class. An absence was non-excusable, apart from very limited circumstances.
The professor, whom I don’t remember although I can look it up, called the class to order, specifically saying to focus on matters at hand rather than developing news story. The next week, he briefly but deeply apologized, saying that he had no idea what had actually been happening. In the course of a 90 minutes seminar, the South Tower was hit and both towers collapsed. The world incontrovertibly changed while we were ensconced in a small academic bubble studying the current science in a field that has progressed in leaps and bounds during the following 19 years.
Since then, I’ve finished my career at Williams, followed by a medical career in the U.S. Navy since June, 2002. So much has changed within our country, our culture, our military, and our health care system. While there are deep, and even deepening, political divisions, I draw solace from the fact that overall, I feel we are learning from our circumstances and trying to effect change. I hope we are successful.
Aaaand…we’re back! Second half of July! On Saturday, I decided to treat ourselves by booking tickets to Hamilton! I have wanted to see the show for a really long time. I was excited to take SMS to a show since it isn’t something we have really done together before. Actually, we had seen Wicked and that was pretty awesome but that was six years ago!
In the spirit of a decadent night out, we went to Rich Table in San Francisco for an early dinner. Jyotsna raved about the place and she was right- it was exceptional! The menu changes often but there are a few regulars. We ordered two: the dried porcini doughnuts, raclette and the sardine potato chip with horseradish. The former was sublime and the latter was interesting but not worth ordering again. As I type this, I’m getting a case of serious deja vu…wait! I wrote about this in June! But we went in July! Oh, the perils and trials of writing too late. But this was definitely Rich Table. June was State Bird Provisions, now that I think about it. I am writing this correction here because who knows if I’ll get to it in the actual post. I can’t even blog on time! Anyway, between the two restaurants, I would go to Rich Table any day but both are gustatory treats!
Hamilton was awesome. Wow, such an original opinion and so cutting-edge! I had listened to the soundtrack prior to the show, but the experience was elevated by the incredible staging. My favorite aspect was the rotating stage that was particularly effective during a slightly dream-like, time-and-perspective shifting scene during the song “Satisfied.” I also liked seeing King George III on the sides of different scenes with his snarky expressions and body language even when his songs weren’t featured.
The next day, we met up with Jyotsna and Akshay for our long-planned Pt. Reyes picnic and outing. We went to Tomales Bay Oyster Co for several dozen oysters. Unfortunately, they no longer have picnic facilities there so we went to Pt. Reyes Station and ate in the small garden/picnic area of Cowgirl Creamery. There, we supplemented our picnic with cheese, bread, and a few other delicious things like…wine!
After our picnic, we decided to go to Heidrun Meadery, a favorite of A&J. We had gotten a late-ish start so we didn’t have it in us to head out to the lighthouse, although it is a great place. It just adds a fair bit of car time to take the backroads to the farthest parts of Point Reyes National Seashore.
After an awesome house-hunting leave (and I did find an apartment on Craigslist for Coronado!), I went back to work. I really worked until the very end, seeing clinic and even operating on my very last day (31 July) because a patient really wanted me to do her tracheostomy. She said I “didn’t bullshit her” when talking about medical care so chalk that up to good bedside manner (I think!).
Before that last day, however, I spent the last weekend of July in Belmar, NJ where I got together with my college friends whom I’ve kept in touch with for the last 18 years and known for the last 21! Ooo, I just noticed those years are very college-age lengths of time. I drove from Norfolk to NJ via Philadelphia to pick up Gisele and her sons. My brain was a little fried from PA traffic and the stress of being late, but once we arrived in NJ, things were pret-ty perfect! The six of us hung out all weekend long and were fairly mellow. I had the best time and feel so lucky to know these wonderful women. We were missing one of our “group,” who’s on the West Coast and recently-ish had a baby but six out of seven isn’t bad. Keeping in touch doesn’t seem to be anyone’s strong suit in the group but we write and get together just enough that I feel we are still in each other’s lives. Four of the seven live in the NYC area so they’re in more frequent contact (lucky!) but there’s still room for the three of us who aren’t local!
Finally, after a month of highlight upon highlight, it was time to leave Norfolk. SMS flew in on the 31st in preparation for leaving 1 Aug. Our trip will be featured in next month’s highlights but a teaser photo is below.
I loved my time at Williams. It was a really special time in my life- an intense cerebral-minded place filled with really smart, interesting people (but let’s be real, there was also a lot of partying). Although I feel I’d be even more appreciative of it now than I was in my late teens/early twenties (see previous parenthetical), I know I am incredibly lucky to have such a formative experience there. I also realize that there are many avenues to getting a great education and I am glad that I had such great parents who always encouraged me to do my best and not quit, even when I wanted to (I’m looking at you, organic chemistry!!!).
Why these warm feelings? I just came back from my 15th Reunion! I had missed my 10th when I was on the USNS Mercy so it was important to me to make this one. I missed the Berkshires and really wanted to go back. June is usually lovely and I was excited to go and re-meet people I had gone to school with so long ago. I realize that there are many more reunions to come (hopefully) and that one day, I’ll roll my eyes at my 2017 self thinking that 15 years is a long time but really, a lot of living and life events have happened during that time!
I had planned my trip back based on the college’s website which said reunion was 8-11 June. Well, my class really had things on 9-10 so arriving early on the 8th meant that Morgan Hall was pretty empty. I felt like a first-year wondering who my friends were going to be that night!
Backtracking a little, I landed in Albany and picked up my rental car where I recognized a woman I had been in school with. We spoke briefly and then went off our separate ways. I took a meandering route through Vermont and ended up on Rte. 2. I drove out to Shelburne Falls and went to the Glacier Potholes and Bridge of Flowers. It’s picturesque and a place I would visit the Summer of ’01 when I worked in a Williams lab. The glacier potholes were so much fun to swim in. “Were?” you ask. Yes, unfortunately. The town has cordoned off the potholes as they decided it was too much of a liability. Apparently, it’s a miracle I survived my youth.
I also stopped in at Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, a frequent stop on roadtrips across Rte 2. I ate lunch at Rollin Dough, a portable wood oven pizza place outside of the coffee shop. I had a delicious 1/2 pizza, tomato and burrata. Deelicious! If you are passing by, I highly recommend this roadside stand!
I headed back to Williamstown and checked in for reunion weekend, which included lodging in Morgan Hall for $80. Excellent! I met up with a few acquaintances and we went out for tapas and drinks at Hops & Vines. It’s weird to type “acquaintances” because I feel they are now friends but at the time, they were people I certainly remembered but had never interacted with at length. We talked about our current lives and certain highlights of Williams. A few of them had been at the Williams at Oxford program, which sounded fantastic. I did not study abroad due to a double major + pre-med work that I wanted to complete in four years. I definitely had to be goal-oriented because it was a choice to take classes I wasn’t necessarily interested in but needed to complete pre-med requirements. As a result, I didn’t take Art History 101 (*single tear*) or study abroad. I’m glad I made the choice I did but it was fun to hear about other Williams experience, especially seen with 15 years perspective.
We also had great political discussions that I really enjoyed. While you might imagine that there’s a certain political leaning among most Williams graduates, I found people’s viewpoints to be very nuanced and well-considered.
On Friday, I headed to MASS MoCA with two friends. The collection is incredible. James Turrell has a temporary exhibit with interesting manipulations of light. Our trio’s favorite exhibit was Spencer Fitch’s “Cosmic Latte.”
Friday afternoon saw the arrival of some of my close friends, whom I had last seen during our November trip. Two women from our November trip couldn’t make it and Gisele is still over in Europe. Our class had a casual dinner that night and it was really delightful to talk to so many people. I really had the best time and it was a late night, ending at the Purple Pub.
A note on the Purple Pub and other buildings in the area. In no way did I feel that Williams was austere when I went there but the current swankiness of the buildings and facilities (minus the dorm beds) is unbelievable. The architecture is world-class and the new Sawyer-Stenson quad is exquisite. I can’t believe that the class size (~525) is still the same- it’s such seemingly overabundance of riches.
Saturday was a Williamstown day. We ran, went out for coffee, marched in the alumni parade where we closed down Rte 2 (not much different than the 10 minutes between classes during the academic year), went to the all-campus lunch, hiked Stone Hill, ate ice cream and got ready for the Saturday night dinner and party. Our party went late and we ended up getting crashed by current students, the class of ’07 and the class of ’82. So clearly, it was a great party. I ended the night again at the Purple Pub, this time with several people from the Class of ’82.
Sunday was the day of departures. Marissa and I hiked up Pine Cobble, which had fantastic views. Then we went back into town and said goodbye to each other and to Hillary and Jason. After my friends left, I went to the snack bar for a bit before leaving the dorm room around 11:30. I went to the Clark Art Institute with its fantastic collection. Then I got a Lickety Split ice cream (so good!) and a Papa Charlie’s sandwich and hit the road. I got home late but it was worth it to maximize my Berkshires weekend. I’d like to get back in between reunions but if I can’t, I am really looking forward to the 20th!
PS: Where was SMS? Home. He didn’t have enough vacation time, plus it wasn’t his reunion so interest wasn’t super-high. As it turned out, a lot of people came sans spouse unless the spouse was a fellow Williams grad. Since it had been so long, I felt like I was meeting people for the first time so introductions could have been hard. Someday, though, I will definitely take SMS to this amazing place!
This past weekend, I took a quick trip up to NYC to see several of my college friends. It was amazing! I feel so lucky to have these women in my life. It’s even more impressive in that we’re not necessarily the best in keeping in constant contact but I think we revive our email strings juuuust frequently enough that we’ve managed to keep in touch over the years. I wish I was part of the NYC-area contingent so I could see people even more but hey, I’ll take what I can get!
Flying into LGA
So, the weekend didn’t start out super-auspiciously since I got stuck in an unexpected delay on the highway. I mean, yes, it was rush hour but traffic was stopped for 20 minutes. Not ideal. I ran to the gate and saw the door closing just as I approached. Boo! But, the missed flight was easily rebooked and it meant I could meet up with my amazing friend at LaGuardia and head into the city with her.
A chicken in the apartment!
Unfortunately, Marissa’s roller-bag was forced gate-checked and utterly, completely lost by Delta. Boo! We waited for awhile at LGA with growing baggage despondency which was totally offset by our delight in catching up with each other. We headed into the city to meet up with the rest of the group. We went to a bar briefly before heading back to the house where we drank wine, ate Dorritos and talked until 2 a.m(!).
The next day, my eyes flew open at 7:20 (boo!) and I stayed quiet-as-a-church mouse until everyone else got up around 9:30. We got ready and headed out to brunch at Diner, a great restaurant under the Williamsburg bridge. We had drinks while we waited and then had a nice brunch outside on a gorgeous Fall day.
Afterwards, we headed into Manhattan where we took the Big Onion Satan’s Seat Prohibition Tour. It was fun to have an guided walk through the Bowery and West Village. The tour guide only talked at specific stops rather than the whole time so while I prefer continuous guiding, it was still a worthwhile tour. Again, the weather was incredible. It was so nice to be outside and in such good company.
How does a selfie stick wor-*click*
We went shopping for a bit so Marissa could get some clothes. Then we headed back to the apartment to get ready for our night out. We stopped by Hillary’s sister’s apartment, which was beautiful. Her sister and parents were there. It was so nice to see them! After socializing for almost an hour (and we could have kept going!), we went around the corner to Lilia. We had an incredible meal of shared dishes to include roasted cauliflower, roasted trumpet mushrooms, mafaldini, ricotta gnocchi, butternut squash ravioli, scallops and lamb. The lamb was incredible and, really, all the dishes were winners in my book.
Very important a.m. pit stop
We went back to the apartment and spent some more time talking before going to bed at 1:30. The next day, I slept in until 8:30 thanks to two late nights and daylight savings time! Marissa left on the early side to catch her flight back. As for the rest of us, we packed up our bags and headed down to cheer at the NYC marathon. We were in the Hasidic section of Brooklyn, so our cheers were heard since it was otherwise quiet. Later, when we walked in deeper to hipster Williamsburg, there were a lot more spectators out.
Run, run, run!
Cheering and working up an appetite!
From our spot, we saw the men’s leader pack and the motorcade in front of them, which included Meb Keflezighi. Watching other people run made us decidedly hungry so we went out to brunch/lunch in the city where we could watch some football. We ate at Duke’s where the food was fine and hung out for a bit more until we started saying our goodbyes. Hillary, Laddie and I headed to the Upper East Side, where Hil and I met Laddie’s daughter whom I’m fairly certain is a living doll. She’s so cute!
Norfolk Buddy #2!
I went out to Central Park to cheer a Norfolk friend running in the marathon. She looked great! I held onto her dog while her boyfriend took pictures and said hello. Then I headed back to Laddie’s, said goodbye and went on a long walk through NYC. It was another gorgeous day. I walked through the park with the constant stream of marathoners to my right and then I headed downtown past Rockefeller Center. I got to Karen’s house just about the time I needed to head out to the airport. I was thinking of an Uber but since it was $130(!!!!), I took public transportation. $8 for the win!
I headed on my flight, already missing my friends but so happy to have had such a great weekend! I can’t wait for the next one!
I’ve seen uglier places…The beautiful Melchee-Frutt!
After a slightly interrupted night’s sleep thanks to my friend Mr. Jet Lag, SMS and I were ready for a fun day. Gisele had planned for us to go on a hike to see the bearded vultures, an endangered species that recently had a pair released in the wild. Gisele and her family had seen the release a few months prior so she was excited to see how they were doing.
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow…which Dolly Parton song? Anyone?
Breakfast was a delicious feast of croissants and jam. I had been eating super “clean” before the vacation so it was a switch to be eating so much grain but it wasn’t hard. In fact, it was delicious!
We headed out to Melchsee-Frutt, a four-seasons resort kind of place. We took the train to the gondola station and then rode up the mountain. It was an absolutely gorgeous place and we hiked for about 1.5 hours to get to the vultures. Now, we did have kids with us and it was a fairly leisurely pace so keep that in mind before you think we are super slow. We were hiking in peak wildflower season so all of the fields were filled with flowers, which was a theme of the entire vacation.
The highlight of the hike for me was lunch! Hear me out. In Switzerland, they have little huts with fire pits that are stacked with firepits. You start a fire and then grill the sausage you’ve brought along on your hike. It is amazing! It’s also very neighborly since at lunchtime, you tend to take over your predecessor’s fire and then someone takes over yours. It was awesome! I love the concept. It would never happen in California, land of the wildfire but maybe on the East Coast…
Do you see the bearded vulture sitting on the little rock?
We got to where the vultures were and yes! They are doing very well! We saw both of them flying and roosting so that was very cool. We hung out for a bit, watched the kids climb a rocky hill face after SMS decided to be a good example. The kids did great but we were a little worried when we saw a guy climb up holding two kids. I said something in English (inadvertently! I was just so shocked someone was doing something so stupid!) and his wife looked up and yelled at him. International diplomat over here!
Playing at the Visitor’s Center!
After hanging out, we stopped in a cafe, had a drink and then caught a little train back to the gondola. Now, when I say train, it is actually several cars linked together and driven on car wheels but the exterior looks like a train. It’s very touristy and we saw similar transports in other cities.
Yay, no more walking!
We headed back to Gisele’s and had a delicious dinner of pork chops, potatoes and salad. I felt so Swiss, I almost started speaking Swiss German!