After a quick trip to China, possibly my last for a few months, I made my way to New York City. The 12 hour Narita-JFK flight was something else, especially when the movie system broke 45 minutes into the flight, but I did get a big kick out of seeing a partial lunar eclipse from the plane. I was in New York for my grandfather’s memorial service, held Sunday afternoon.

I spoke there, and said this (or something close to it):

Those of you who know me know that as a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up. And it seems, in retrospect, that Howard perhaps felt the same way; as long as I can remember, he treated me like an adult.

By and large, this was a good thing, though occasionally it had its pitfalls. On one visit to Sharon, he took me with him to do the grocery shopping, and we stopped to fill up the car. He asked if I wanted to pump the gas (and what 4 or 5 year-old boy wouldn’t?), and then seemed completely surprised when I was overtaken by the fumes, which escaped the nozzle & tank right at my eye-level. I’m pretty sure it was the same trip when he was trimming the lilac bush in front of the house and asked if I wanted to help. Again, I don’t know any boy who’d say ‘no’ at a chance to use a chainsaw, but you can imagine this wasn’t the best idea. I think in some ways we’re all fortunate I never even got it going since I burned my finger on some metal part of the engine (which had already been running for a while and was quite hot).

But I’m left with no permanent scars, and the pros of being treated like a grownup far outweighed the cons. Howard & Marjorie had a very active social life, and they generously included me in that. I enjoyed meeting their friends and colleagues from all over the world at parties in Sharon and dinners in New York, and also enjoyed the hospitality of their friends all over the country when I traveled. It was through Howard & Marjorie that I got to know Amos Landman and developed a friendship with him over fishing in the rowboat on the pond in Sharon (starting around age 5). And more recently, family friends the Chelimers have become friends of mine, and helped ease my transition from Boston to Seattle.

I liked the different sides of Howard, and how they coexisted. I guess I have a hard time describing this well; perhaps the best way would be to say that I found him interesting in the same way it’s interesting to hold two contradictory thoughts in your mind at once. He was a man of habit and enjoyed his traditions, but was in other ways quite opened minded and liberal. He was a part of a generation to be sure, but changed with the times.

In college, I came to visit in New York with my girlfriend at the time. I was pleasantly surprised when they asked, with no judgment attached, whether they should make one bed or two. This wouldn’t have been a common occurrence within my group of friends. Similarly, there weren’t many of my friends who could email their grandparents, but I could and did with some regularity and enjoyed greatly.

In the past few years in particular, I don’t think aging suited him much at all, but in the face of losing his partner in Marjorie, he showed remarkable resilience at the age of 89, taking on many of the day-to-day tasks he hadn’t done before. Now, you might say this isn’t a big deal, or even that perhaps he should have been doing more of these all along, but nonetheless I would have imagined that for such a man of routine, this kind of change would have been quite difficult. He handled it with relative grace and good humor.

Even as his health & hearing declined, he kept a busy social calendar and kept up communication with friends and family, which all parties appreciated I know. I have all the letters & cards from him saved, on his classic monogrammed stationery with his progressive, liberal-minded turquoise ink.

His death, relatively painless, at 93, was sad to be sure, but no tragedy; he lived a long, full life.

Howard Zucker
Howard Zucker

I’ll miss him.

posted June 28, 2010 – 8:26 am

I did not make the cut for Swagger, and though I think it would’ve been fun, I’m not too broken up about it. I do find it interesting that I’ve been on or near the cusp of this sort of team (co-ed club ultimate frisbee at the highest level) for years. When I think about what’s prevented me from making these teams, a couple things come to mind.

The first is a purely physical limitation. Although I am a naturally athletic person overall, my right ankle in particular is weak (in spite of the exercises I did all winter). Playing too much ultimate (really, more than once a week), even with a brace on, aggravates it (feels like a persistent, low-grade sprain). If either I were more serious about playing at this top level or my ankle were a little weaker, surgery might be the right answer, but neither is really the case.

The other roadblock has been a psychological one. When I was a kid, I was fiercely competitive. If it was a game, I had to win it, and if it wasn’t a game, I made it a game. And this spilled beyond sports, too; I was a serious know-it-all and would answer questions (in all sorts of contexts) that I had no business answering. Ultimately (starting after high school), I made the conscious decision that this was a really annoying habit of mine, and worked hard on saying “I don’t know” more (or just not saying anything). It worked, though it took a while, and I think that might have spilled back over and killed my killer instinct when it comes to sports. I enjoy playing just the same, but winning doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as it used to. These teams are serious about winning, about making it to Nationals, and I am not.

All that said, I had a pretty great summer last year without any competitive ultimate to speak of, and the prospect of some free time in Seattle during the summer is a nice one.

And I will be in Seattle this summer! Once I’m back from my next China/New York trip (leaving Sunday), I have no plans to leave Seattle again for months. Hurrah!

posted June 14, 2010 – 11:31 pm

Happy Sunday, friends & Internets!

In one week, I will be in Seattle, and so will Drew, for the first time in about six months. By then, I will know if I made the cut for the new Seattle co-ed club ultimate frisbee team, Swagger. Not sure if it’s a good or bad sign I’m currently featured in pink pajamas on their front page…

In two weeks, I will be on a plane, bound for China. If all goes well (by no means a guarantee), this will be my last trip for my current project, and also the last for a good few months. The prospect of spending the summer in Seattle is truly delightful.

In three weeks, I will be in New York City, having flown directly from China, for my grandfather’s memorial service (more on that later). Though not the most joyous occasion, it will be nice to see family and celebrate his life.

In four weeks, I will be playing at Potlatch the always-epic ultimate frisbee tournament. This year, I’ve put together an amazing group of people for a team themed around awesome sunglasses.

In five weeks, summer will be in full swing. I will either be playing lots of ultimate, or have plenty of free time to enjoy the best season in the Northwest. Either way, I like the way the future is shaping up.

posted June 6, 2010 – 4:16 pm

I feel like I’ve said “I’m glad to be back home in Seattle,” so many times this year. I guess I have, it’s still true, and I’ll say it again: I’m glad to be back home in Seattle. In recent months, I’ve been to China, Argentina, Chile (very briefly), and just this past weekend, Buffalo, NY. In reverse order, the trips were great (Buffalo), great (South America), and just fine (China).

I think my friends Barrett & Gadi singlehandedly gave the Buffalo economy a serious bump this past weekend. Both are natives, and set up the festivities to take advantage of what the city has to offer – gorgeous architecture, wings, and (because of the wedding) a fantastic collection of people.

It also worked out quite well to meet up with Matt in Buffalo (he graciously made the 3 hour drive up from Pittsburgh), and we ate more wings, saw a pretty big waterfall, and had some quality Zucker-brother time. Lots more Buffalo pics here.

After a winter & spring of seemingly perpetual travel, it did occur to me it was a little crazy to voluntarily get on a plane for 18 hours to Buenos Aires in April, but both the destination and the people there made it a 100% worthwhile endeavor.

I spent a fanastic week in the city with Drew, Whit, and Claire. We ate superbly, saw plenty of sights, drank some great wine, and generally enjoyed each others company. Highlights included some fantastic barbecues, and this awesome tour of street art in Buenos Aires.

From there, Drew, Claire & I took off for a long weekend in Mendoza. Had we planned a smidge more, we might have realized it was Labor Day, but then we might not have experienced the brilliance that was the thermal baths in Cacheuta, the only remotely local attraction open May 1st, and an amazing place to spend a lazy day.

We did get out to a couple bodegas the next day, and enjoyed a fine meal at Familia Zuccardi. Claire and I also enjoyed the bus ride from Mendoza to Santiago, which traverses the Andes in most dramatic fashion. I have a bunch more photos from Argentina pics up here

Offered without commentary beyond “three weeks is an awful long business trip” are pictures from a Hong Kong/China trip in late March.

posted June 4, 2010 – 3:11 pm
Old News
Log in