19 April 2015

From Texas, To See The New York Carriage Horses

From Texas

From Texas

We met some interesting people in New York.  Casey and Jim are father and son, they live along the Southern border of Texas and Mexico,they have two miniature ponies, they read that the mayor of New York was trying to ban the carriage horses, and they were shocked by the news. Casey said they decided to get in their van with the horses and drive straight to New York to see the carriage horses and hopefully jar New York into realizing how valuable horses are to a town or city and support the carriage drivers.

Casey says he was worried that the mayor would ban the horses, and that he and his son would never get to see them again.

The ponies ride in the truck with the sides open and stick their heads out, they stop traffic all across the country. It took father and son more than a week to get to New York and the went straight to the Clinton Park Stables to meet the carriage drivers and were instantly adopted by them. The drivers brought gave them hay and water and helped them care for the ponies and find showers and places to rest.

Jim and Casey took the ponies to Time Square, where they drew huge crowds and stopped some more traffic, they love New York. They came all this way, Casey, said, to support the carriage drivers and the horses, it is simply unfathomable to them that any sane person could believe it is cruel for a carriage horse to pull a carriage in Central Park.

"The carriage horses are so beautify and happy, "Casey said, "people love them so much, I just can't get my head around." Maria  shared some carrots with the ponies. Jim loves New York and might move here, they will stay as long as they can help the horses cause.

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The Americans: Dinner At The Knuckleheads Cafe

Dinner At The Knuckleheads Cafe

Dinner At The Knuckleheads Cafe

Ashley and her parents opened the Knuckleheads restaurant in Stephentown, New York about a year and a half-ago, it  has not been simple or easy, but the family seems to love what they do and are doing it very well. The restaurant is a major find for Maria and I, we just discovered it a few weeks ago, it is on Route 22, we go by there on our way back from Blue Star Equiculture, from Boston or from New York City.

They have great sandwiches, wraps, burgers and soups. We had a huge barbequed chicken breast with beans and coleslaw. Ashley is the waitress, mom and dad (camera shy so far, but warming up), she is engaging and competent, lots of fun. She looked out the window as I dropped my new camera out in the parking lot – the camera caused a stir when I first went into Knuckleheads, Dad grilled me in the kitchen, he was impressed but dubious that I actually was an author. I promised to bring him a book next time.

The camera is fine, I give thanks for my Titanium camera body.

He asked if I was a Gentlemen Farmer (I can't say I love the term.) I said I was neither a farmer nor a gentlemen, just a writer with some donkeys, dogs, barn cats, sheep and chickens. I'll have to bring him a book.

He said he named the restaurant Knuckleheads after the Three Stooges, the name caught our attention, the home cooking and great, fresh food brought us back. Places like this are a treasure to us.

 

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The Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids

Emma has the most wonderful friends, they have remained close since their college days together, the meaning of love and friendship was etched poignantly in their faces as their watched Emma and Jay get married.

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Wedding Day: When Your Daughter Gets Married

When Your Daughter Gets Married

When Your Daughter Gets Married

Emma hired a wedding photographer, she didn't want me hiding behind my camera all night and missing a sense of the ceremony. She asked me to take a few photos and I decided, as always, to concentrate on the emotion that I saw. This photo was of Emma and Jay dancing the first dance at their reception after the wedding, it says about everything I could say about the marriage.

When you daughter gets married, you move from one passage of life to another. Daughters are always little girls to some extent in their fathers mind's, and I was thinking about the times when Emma came out of bed to find me and ask me to get the ghosts and goblins out of her closet. She always trusted me to do it, and that meant the world to me to help her feel safe, to be necessary and important to her. I saw the little girl gone for good Saturday night, waving goodbye in the loving embrace of a good man.

My daughter does not need me in that old way any longer, and that was always my job, to help guide her to a life that she could live by herself, independently and with confidence. I always felt the best parent is one who is not needed much as their child moves into the world. I think it is true that children always need their parents to some extent.  We always understand each other in a unique and particular way. People tell me that daughters always need their fathers, and I imagine that is true.

But she is writing her own story, as I am writing mine. That is, I think the way of life.

The idea that a daughter will always need her father is in some ways a fantasy, a bit of emotionalizing, I think. Love and need are two different things. If she needs me I am always here, of course, but it is hard for me to see that. Emma can take care of herself, and she and Jay are a powerful partnership. We will be moving to a different space, and I will always try and respect hers. At this point in my life, I am not something she should be worrying about or thinking about, she is knee-deep in her own wonderful life now, and I will be cheering her on.

I guess my thoughts about parenting are unconventional now.  I never saw Em as my best friend or emotional salvation. I always wanted her to have her life, and for her to understand mine, not be enmeshed in it. That is hard work in it's own way. Looking at this photo, I felt were are there in this new and profoundly meaningful space. It is humbling.

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Father Of The Bride. The Wedding Toast.

Father Of The Bride

Father Of The Bride: Emma Watching Jay

My daughter Emma Span was married Saturday in the funky Williamsburg  neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was an extraordinarily beautiful and authentic ceremony carefully pieced together by Emma, her new husband, Jay Jaffe  (both baseball writers in New York City) and Emma's life long friends from Yale. We returned to the farm Sunday Afternoon.

The wedding took place on the roof of a catering loft on the water looking out at the Manhattan skyline. The weather was perfect. There was a palpable sense of love, community and profound connection. I am still reeling from it.

It was an emotional but polished ceremony, Emma and Jay's love for one another was never more evident or touching, she is happier than I have ever seen or known her, and no father could ever ask for more than that. It was an intense experience for Maria and I, and a healing one. Emma's mother Paula Span was there, along with a number of friends from my former life, most of whom I had not seen or talked with since my divorce six years ago.

I saw very clearly how far I had gone, how far I had come, how different my life is now. That is always jarring.

It was good to see Paula, we had not seen one another for four or five years,  we both feel warmly and comfortable about being with one another, we talked easily. We were very happy to be at Emma's wedding and seeing Emma get married made me feel especially good, it was one of the very beautiful things to come out of our 35-year-marriage.

Divorce was a painful thing for both of us, we have moved on with our lives, this seemed to me a profoundly and healing experience. I confess to feeling like a visitor to another world at times – I always feel that in gatherings and around groups, and I have left that world far behind. But Emma worked hard to make me comfortable, and I never felt closer to her than I did Saturday night, we were so glad to see one another at her wedding and experience her great love for Jay. I got to meet his family and their friends from Utah, a dozen of whom flew to New York to see the wedding.

For fathers, weddings are always bittersweet, no matter how happy, there is always the sense of a goodbye, of a transition from one kind of life to another. My job now is to stay out of the way and cheer her on, and always be available if I am needed. I felt as if I were standing on a dock waving goodbye to Emma as she got on a big ocean liner to sail away.

There was a very powerful sense of community at the wedding, it was essentially conducted and produced by her friends from college, it was warm without being sappy (that is Emma) and yet had great feeling and authenticity. It was just beautifully done and went straight to the heart of every person there.  Emma was determined that I be free to experience the wedding, she hired a photographer and asked me to take a few photos. So I did. My role was mostly to be present, give a toast and to be happy. Maria graciously navigated what might have been an uncomfortable experience, it was a happy from beginning to end.

I have no trouble talking, but small talk with strangers is hard for me, people tend to assume that I am only about dogs and animals and talk to me about theirs. I got to sit with Emma's college friends and we had a great time talking about their lives, my Jewish Pirates Tattoo was a hit, people wanted to hear about the farm, the very idea of a farm is an alien notion in Brooklyn, I think.

Later that night, Maria and I were invited on a midnight horse carriage ride through Central Park, a magical experience and a thank you for my writing about the carriage horses. It was an amazing night on both ends (more on the carriage horse ride later.)

I have yet to really gather my thoughts about the wedding, I am proud of Emma and happy for her. She is putting together a wonderful life for herself, she loves her work at Sports Illustrated, her life with Jay, and she is learning to love herself as well, as I am learning to try and love myself. She is happy. She still has Pearl, who is beautiful, old and hanging on.

Is there anything more a father could wish for than a night like that?

As some of you may recall, there was a moderate dress code – no jeans, all the men were in suits or ties. I declined to wear a tie, (there was of course, some controversy about that, we live in the Facebook era, after all) Emma said it didn't matter to her at all. I realized when we got to New York City that I had forgotten my sports jacket, and that, I think, did matter. Maria and I rushed over to Joseph Banks on Madison Avenue and bought a new blue sports-jacket on sale for $248. A wonderful woman from Brooklyn named Josephine took me under her wing and got me a jacket right off the rack. Bless her.

__

Here was my wedding toast:

I’ve been given a microphone too many times in my life, this is the first time I have ever read from a script. I guess I am nervous, I don’t want to mess it up.

Emma told me a few months ago that I would not be walking her down any aisle. I was not surprised or disappointed. I am proud of Emma for not wanting her father to give her away at her wedding.

She told me she and Jay did not wish to celebrate the Patriarchy, and I’m not sure if that was a promotion or demotion for me. But I thought it was a good thing. Emma never cared much for being told what to do.

   It is not of course, for me or anyone else to give her away, the women in our family make up their own minds, have their own free wills.

Emma is here tonight of her own free will and her great heart and brain. She knows how to get herself from one place to another, she has been doing it her whole life.

   Still, I was uncertain about what the role of the father really is at a wedding as we all leave the Patriarchy behind, at least in Brooklyn.

So this is what I came up with.

First, I am so happy to help celebrate this marriage, there is little risk or rolling of the dice here, not much to worry about.

Emma and Jay are already a great couple. If you judge a marriage by love, trust, safety and connection, this is already a Grand Slam home run – Em, I needed a sports metaphor, you both write about baseball, I wanted to speak in the language of the newly married couple.

I read Jay’s important work at Baseball Prospectus and drew some valuable lessons from it, it is relelvant to tonight. I developed the JAWS Statistical Average of a Couple, their overall relationship averaged with their seven-year peak for compatibility, openness and commitment (not necessarily consecutive years.)

This includes humor, support, affection, financial responsibility, neatness, cooking and micro-brewing skills, listening, and bad movie appreciation quotients.

The current newlyweds aren’t penalized for past relationships, bad blog posts, missed World Series predictions, complaints about Republicans and income equality or stupid comments on Twitter.

   Within that process, a promising relationship is formed, a marital status is arranged based on the most inducted position. So Jay’s JAWS Marital Average is 61.3 and Emma’s is 64.2. It should work.

For more information, go to Si.com or pre-order Jay’s new book on Hall Of Fame inductees.

__

Speaking of stats, I had to wonder how many Jews from Salt Lake City are there in Brooklyn who can recite the E.R.A. of every pitcher ever admitted to the Hall Of Fame and find and marry a Yale Film Studies graduate who loves to hear about it?

   Both of them are here, and they just got married.

   Em has always felt safe with Jay, and loved and respected by him. The first thing she ever told me about Jay was that she felt safe with him. I don’t think there is a higher compliment.

   Jay and Emma have always been partners as well as lovers and great friends from the start, that’s about all any father could wish for.

   Their connection has only deepened and grown.

From their first meeting, Emma was welcomed and accepted into Jay’s very loving family, and that is also a cause for celebration, good news to any father.

   I want to welcome the Jaffe’s here, and their friends from Utah. I am grateful for all of them.

As some of you know, our family has gone through it’s own transition, and I am so grateful for another family that has sprung up around Emma and has loved and supported her from her first days at Yale to this celebration here tonight.

When I think of Emma’s friends, all here, all helping to create this beautiful wedding ceremony, I think of St. Francis and his vision of a Shelter of Compassion, Mercy and Connection. They are all that, each for the other, and I thank you and welcome you all.

__

Some years ago, a new father asked me what was the most important thing about being a father. I said being a father was not one thing, but many things, and a lot of those things are changing.

But there is one very simple and universal thing about being a father, I said, something that transcends all and unites us all: we just want our daughters to grow up and be happy.

   That is really what it is all about.

   So I have a lot to celebrate tonight. Jay Jaffe is what any good father would want for his daughter.

   I am happy for you Emma, and for you, Jay. I can’t wait to see the happiness and joy and meaning you both bring to your marriage, to your lives.

   I am on the other end of life, the other side of the hero journey, so my perspective is different, as it ought to be.

We have learned a lot about commitment and trust in our family. Emma has learned those lessons well. Jay Jaffe is a good place for her to be.

   I wanted to leave you with one verse – a favorite of mine – from the beautiful old folk ballad “Stay With Me.” It is a love song about commitment, it is what I see in you both, and hope for you both, now and down the road, when commitment matters so much.

   “Should my heart not be humble,

should my eyes fail to see,

Should my feet sometimes stumble,

On the way, stay with me.”

To Emma and Jay. A lifetime of peace, compassion, love and meaning.

April 18, 2015,

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

 

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