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12 September 2009

After 11 Sep

In the collective consciousness of this nation and most of the world, "9/11" has a certain significance. For each of us as individuals, though, it takes on a different meaning for different reasons. And, while we commemorate those who are gone and mark the first time since Pearl Harbor that there has been an attack on U.S. soil, life (and death) marches on.
Today, we want to mark one year since the passing of Charles Francis Dunphy. Larry and I miss him very much. He was a great lover of reading literature, watching baseball, discussing politics and current events, telling jokes (which he called "stories") and playing cards. Larry said he could quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet. He loved gathering the family together ("any reason for a party"). He had flaws and made mistakes, yes, but he also had the wisdom of years and experience which he generously shared and an indomitable spirit. Even blinded in one eye due to a cataract surgery gone awry, he continued to enjoy books through his wife Frances's reading. She pre-deceased him by one month (see our August blog).

And, we would like to mention the passing of Agatha Tyne, mother of Margaret -- one of Dixon's strongest supporters and a good friend since we met upon opening of Books of First and grandmother of Courtney, one of our early PT employees. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the family.

Just shared some time with Shelly Franz who loves mysteries and reads mainly with an EZReader, which she says is better than a Kindle. She has little use for smell of a book or feel of turning pages. She is of the argument that as long as we are all reading, why not electronically. Ahh, yes, we are in agreement there.

Let me tell you a little about our time back east Down East. Sunday before Labor Day, we flew (on a plane -- no arm-flapping necessary) out of Chicago O'Hare to Boston Logan. Met by Carolyn's maternal aunt & uncle Mary & Allan Tow, we went to the Union Oyster Bar for some great Cherrystones and Little Necks raw on the half shell. The fried clams were delicious. A lot of history within its walls, including Attorney Alan's -- after every trial, win or lose, he came to this restaurant. Having a meal here meant, "it is done." Mary very gamely played tour guide and recent historian as we walked along North End (not very much changed), the waterfront (unrecognizable except for the New England Aquarium), the Rose Kennedy Greenway (new over the Big Dig which was also before my time -- reminds me a bit of Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago) and Chinatown (quick walk-through). We stayed at the Omni Parker House (great Labor Day price via internet price shopping!), also full of history (Larry loves this stuff), but best of all, very centrally located.
We also managed in the next 24 hours to walk through the Boston Commons, Beacon Hill, Fenway Park, MFA, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Northeastern University/Huntington Ave, Copley Square, Newbury St and Back Bay...
I had hoped to eat at No Name, having fond youthful memories of arriving with co-worker Lisa Tuttle et al. at the end of a Friday night after finishing work at the now defunct lawfirm McCabe/Gordon P.C. and buying some California sparkling at the Store24, eating, drinking, flirting with and helping the Greek waiters re-fill ketchup bottles and salt shakers. However, a bartender we asked had never heard of the place and it wasn't on any tourist map -- which probably merely means the restaurant did not pay for any advertising. Having done no prior research, I conceded that the place may have gone out of business and did not want to drag Larry all over the docks in the dark, looking for the real Boston. I do believe, though, that that would have made for an interesting story (and we all know how Larry -- not unlike his father -- enjoys being able to tell a good story). However, as you can see, I found it on the internet with recent (conflicting) comments, so, it will be a destination for next time.

Onward to Gloucester, MA, where we spent much time reading the names of all 5,800+ fishermen who died through the years, including those featured in The Perfect Storm, which occurred in 1991. You can tell that ocean fishing had become relatively safer, fishermen were taking less risks, etc, by the number of names by year on the memorial -- 1623 up through 2001. I couldn't tell if there haven't been any deaths since 2001 or no one has updated it in 7-1/2 years.
There appeared to be a miniature museum in every shanty in town, but we restricted ourselves to 1-1/2 and managed to finish the visit with a beer from Cape Ann Brewing Co for Larry and a lobster roll (my one and only on the entire trip) for me.
In Portland, ME, a wonderful city, we visited another brewpub Gritty McDuff just a couple of blocks from the harbor, supported live music by a local artist and a number of other Maine microbreweries' offerings at Andy's Old Port Pub, visited with a bookseller of used volumes Cunningham Books in Longfellow Square. Proprietor Nancy has two storefronts (like we have our West Wing) but is cutting back to one. We wish her the best of good luck.

There is at least one, maybe more, coffee roaster in Portland. We dropped by a branch store of Coffee by Design. It was a fun space on Congress, right between Longfellow Square and the art museum. I noted that beans were being sold for average $10.75/lb, not much different from our smaller selection, offered for sale 100 miles from the roaster. Their dark roast on that day was quite good, but we were a little disappointed in the double espresso.

We also stuffed in a few hours at the Portland Museum of Art which currently has a wonderful exhibition: Call of the Coast -- Art Colonies of New England. Atop that, while the permanent collection might be modest compared to other art museums, the works are well-displayed.

The crown jewel of our visit was going to Rockland, ME, where Melissa Kelly's Primo was our destination, as featured in Michael Ruhlman's The Reach of the Chef. We stopped by the Rock City Coffee & Bookshop to check it out plus confirm directions. Melissa is a good friend of our daughter Kelly Dunphy (well, ok, Larry's daughter -- see August blogs on Frances and me). She graciously led us around the compact homefarm hehind the restaurant named for Melissa's maternal Italian grandfather, housed in a 130-year old renovated & now expanded house, where they raise everything from Tamworth and Large Black hogs to butcher to honeybees to hens producing some 90 eggs daily to herbs, vegetables and flowers all used in the incredible dishes in a daily changing menu. We returned for dinner at 7:30 after checking into The Ledges by the Bay, an old-fashioned motel with rooms featuring decks overlooking the water, and had a lemon drop martini made with house-made lemoncello, great local oysters with nasturtium butter, handmade pasta with wild boar ragout, house dry-cured beef, wonderfully prepared local tuna and halibut (with a zucchini risotto that Larry practically licked the plate to finish), a tisane of fresh picked herb leaves like lemon balm accompanying housemade grapefruit & Campari sorbetto.
We sincerely thank Melissa and co-owner Price Kushner for the generosity of their time. It was a great visit.

While we were getting ready to go to dinner, we discovered our FT (position: "Larry's Favorite Employee") Brenda had attempted to call Larry at least twice in a half hour. So, we kept the mobile on after reaching only her VM and lo, and behold, she was full of exciting news: ABC network television was coming out again to follow up after dropping by approximately a year ago to get the pulse of those in Ronald Reagan's boyhood home. Again, neither Larry nor Carolyn would be present. However, we all know Brenda Spratt, who celebrates 9 years with Books on First this month, is the boss of us, anyway. We hope there'll be a moment with her on air. We believe the segment with David Muir will air on Tuesday (15 Sep) night's ABC World News with Charles Gibson.

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