2018 In Words And Pictures

If you think the world is hopelessly messed up, please turn off the TV and all your other screens and go for a walk.  Put that crap in a box.  It is true that we humans have been screwing up a lot lately and the situation is dire, but the world is still a wonderful and surprising place in uncountable ways. You might not get this message from your glowing blue screen, but in 2018, Tania and I saw it almost everywhere else we looked.

Our most joyful news is the addition of a new family member.  Emma was engaged to Ayyappan Venktraman (who goes by “Pan”) at a gala nichayathartham, or Hindu engagement ceremony, thrown by his parents for 150 guests at a temple in Washington DC on December 8.  Love won again, and all bowed down before the new king and queen of our hearts.

[As you read, you can click on the photos to make them larger]

Over the last two and a half years, Pan courted Emma and all the other Edmondsons while balancing a tough residency in psychiatry with a girlfriend who was going through an even tougher residency in pediatrics and internal medicine.  Sometimes Emma and Pan didn’t see each other for several days in a row, even though they lived in the same apartment.  There were times when America’s upside-down medical system ground them both down to the nub.  Yet they still threw great parties.  When Emma turned 30 on January 28, for example, all the young doctors went bowling and the old folks (in back) made a lot of new friends.

We saw many good friends this year, and we have lots of grainy snapshots of smiling people, but you probably don’t want to hear about all of them (if you do, click on the link above).  Still, I can’t resist this shot of our friends David Wax and Suz Slezak, who perform and tour as The David Wax Museum and definitely deserve your attention, playing at a house concert we threw two days after the bowling party.  Thanks to Peter Carroll for the photo.  As I said, it was a very good year.

We were also fortunate to have another visit with Ellison and Escher, offspring of niece Lindsay and her husband Luis, in Austin, Texas.  They are the first two entrants in our family’s grandchild derby, and it will be very hard to beat them for pure delight.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention 106 Short Street’s Man Of The Year, John Crutchfield, who demolished our old kitchen, built us a beautiful new one from scratch, and then came over to eat from that kitchen and tell funny stories.  If you’re looking for a good Ithaca Fixer, you won’t do any better than this guy.

The nichayathartham was one of two events that blew our minds last year. The other was our second noncommercial rowing trip through the Grand Canyon, 225 miles from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek.  We were unbelievably lucky to get the National Park Service’s permit and assemble eight highly skilled teammates, including three jolly geologists, who got us through without a hitch.  Once again, we were allowed to spend 16 days and nights in probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.  The trip was also a long stretch of extremely hot, sandy, and wet 12-hour work days, with scorpions lurking.

The Canyon beat us up and bestowed its grace upon us relentlessly.  After three weeks outdoors in an Arizona summer (and only one scorpion bite, which Rod said was painful but not serious), we returned home dehydrated, disoriented, and full of wonder.  We took hundreds of jaw-dropping photos and will be happy to share on request (or you can see my report on the 2014 trip here).  This shot shows us touching The Great Unconformity, a huge gap in the geologic record.  The Precambrian rocks below the Unconformity are up to 1.75 billion years old. The Tapeats Sandstone, directly on top, is only 500 million years old.  Who knows where the time goes?

Speaking of relentless, one can’t ignore the wildfires, wars, famines, dying reefs, and the sociopath-in-chief who manages to make even George W. Bush look good.  It’s awful and depressing.  We can suggest three coping strategies.  One is to think of news as nutrition. Try to consume news only from high-quality sources, and don’t eat too much.  Another strategy is to get a daily dose of exercise, a powerful antidepressant.

The best exercise for us happened outdoors on sunny days on cross-country skis or bicycles.  And the best of the best happened when we discovered something surprising and wonderful during the trip, like this statue of Luther Burbank on Bodega Avenue in Sebastapol, California.  We did not know that Burbank, the world-renowned agronomist who lived in Sonoma County 100 years ago, was also described in a contemporary newspaper account as “notorious” and “a terror on two wheels.”  The statue stands outside of his Experiment Farm, where he spent decades developing plants that everyone still uses, including the Shasta Daisy and a strain of potato that is probably in your crisper drawer right now.

The third coping strategy is activism.  We wrote checks, mailed postcards, and marched in the streets. We also went door-to-door for my friend Tracy Mitrano, who mounted an unexpectedly strong challenge to our disappointing four-term incumbent, Tom Reed.  Tracy took no money from corporate political action committees, marshalled an army of 2,000 volunteers, came within a few points of winning, and immediately announced her candidacy for 2020.  She proved to be a happy warrior – she made a herculean effort, discovered that it was just the first round, and decided to stay in the game.  That’s how you win, friends.

Our year ended with a memorable celebration.  We visited my mom in Florida, who made one of her famous bourbon cakes for her beloved brother Michael and sister-in-law Marilla in Boulder, Colorado.  The cake was so nice that we delivered it to Boulder in person, where Michael, 84, delighted us all by temporarily turning back into a little boy on Christmas morning. There was love and good cheer everywhere.

But really, nothing else in our momentous year compared with our pride in Will, Zoe, Emma, and Pan, who looks a little tired here after pulling off a flawless nichayathartham.  I didn’t even mention the apartment Will and Zoe bought in Manhattan, or their fascinating jobs and fabulous trips, or Pan’s rapport with the residents of Philadelphia’s psych wards, or the day Emma performed CPR on a stranger who was having a heart attack at a gate in O’Hare Airport.  We are truly blessed to know them, and we are also truly grateful for your friendship and attention. Best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous New Year!

2017 In Pictures

We are treehuggers, but we’re also loggers.  This is Emma at the local tree farm with last year’s Fraser Fir, which served us well as 2017 began.

This is a rare shot of Emma NOT working.  She and her partner, Ayyappan Venkatraman, are plowing through their residencies at Penn Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (pediatrics and internal medicine for Emma, psychiatry for Pan), and they are almost always wearing white coats and/or sleepy.  But it’s all good.

As you scroll down, click on the thumbnail photos to make them larger.

Okra is a West African plant that is not supposed to grow in Ithaca, New York, but our backyard crop was bountiful this year.  The freezer is bulging with vegetables—ours and others from friends with whom we engage in semi-competitive food swapping and storage meets during harvest season.

 

I am still getting paid to look for news in strange places.  This shot is from the mammoth annual trade show of the Private Label Manufacturers Association.  But most of my work these days is either volunteering (for the Cornell Daily Sun and political causes) or what a contractor would call “on spec” (benefit corporations and the history of environmental activism in the Adirondacks).

I am extremely fortunate and grateful to be an independent journalist, among many other things. This was an unusually good year, and that is what this post is about. It doesn’t get into politics until the last graf, where I make a non-partisan suggestion about a specific action you might consider making in 2018.  Forewarned is forearmed.

Tania is ending her third year of “retirement,” and I think she has found the rhythm of it.  When she is not volunteering for historic preservation groups in Ithaca and Buffalo, she is often at the gym.  Here she is with her trainer, Ashley Fennell. Ashley is smart, funny, and able to dead lift 270 pounds.  I am encouraging Tania and Ashley to bench press each other, but so far they have declined.

Probably the biggest and happiest news of the year is Zoe Shea, who joined our family on October 21. Reader, she married him.  Here are Will and Zoe in New York’s City Hall, getting their license. Zoe is a sharp lawyer who likes to take down bad guys.  Will is Director of Analytics for Major League Baseball.  The consensus is that they are freakishly happy and well-matched. More on this later.

 

As the year began, Tania and I celebrated Orthodox Christmas at the Holy Trinity Cathedral and Seminary in Jordanville, NY, where Tania’s parents and grandparents are buried. It’s about as Russian as you can get without a passport.

 

Then in March, we stretched a Phoenix business trip to see my old pal Joel Garreau, eat real tacos,  and hike just before an historic “superbloom” that lit up the Sonoran Desert.  These shots are from Cave Creek Regional Park.

2017 was a year of parties, and we went to four memorable ones. The first happened in Austin, Texas in March, when our friends Jay Pulliam and Mara Pfund threw a barbecue for us, my mom and sister, and my niece Lindsay and her family. The biggest thrill for me was playing catch with Lindsay and Luis’s son, Escher.  Thanks, Jay and Mara!

Dyngus Day, the day after Easter in Buffalo, NY, will always make the short list.  It’s like St. Patrick’s Day for Polish-Americans. It features a wacky parade with people dressed up like perogies and other things, while on the sidelines a battle rages of squirt gun attackers facing defenders who wield pussywillow branches.   That party peaked when Brave Combo, the best punk-salsa-polka band in the land, tore the roof off the joint.

Deep Springs College’s Centennial party over July 4 weekend was another jaw-dropper.  We stretched it out with a three-night train trip west, which I hadn’t done in 30 years and Tania, incredibly, had never done.  Try Amtrak if you like staring out the window and making friends with strangers. If you’re over 40, pay for the sleeper.

The train let us off in Reno, where we were met by my old pal Nonie Holloway, who generously drove us to the College and even allowed us to stay in her tiny vintage 1947 tow-behind trailer.  Deep Springs has about 700 living alumni, and nearly one-third of them made the trek to the valley.  If you aren’t impressed by that, look at the map.  Thanks, Nonie!

I’m irrationally proud of an elaborate stunt I helped stage for Deep Springs’ opening ceremony.  Jonathan Kriess-Tompkins, a member of the Alaska State Assembly, surprised the crowd by appearing as the college’s founder, LL Nunn.  Mr. Nunn magically rose from his Glendale crypt to deliver a 10-minute comic speech. I wrote the speech and played Mr. Nunn’s chauffeur.  I know people often accuse me of making things up, but every word of the above paragraph is true.

When we got back from Deep Springs, we jumped on our bicycles and rode the Great Allegheny Passage, one of the country’s greatest rail-trails, 150 miles from Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh, PA.  One of the highlights of the trip was the youth vegetable-fashion display at the Fayette County, PA Fair.

Our house-sitters during that trip were Anastya Alexsandrov and her son Geny, who had also come to visit us in February from their home in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Anastya’s husband, Kirill, who has a deep love for American cowboys, joined us when we returned.

Kirill is an historian at the University of St. Petersburg and a colleague of Tania’s late father, George.  He helped us sort and donate some of George’s Cyrillic-language papers on World War II history to the Hoover Institution.  We repaid him by renting a house on Cayuga Lake so they could bake in the sun for a few days before heading home.  St. Petersburg, Russia is many things, but warm and sunny are not two of them.

Our next big trip happened on September 9, when we circumnavigated Cayuga Lake in an annual fundraiser for the Southern Tier AIDS Program.  It’s a 105-mile day, known in the cycling biz as a “century ride,” and Tania did it for only the second time in her life. All that gym time made it possible for us to tune out the physical complaints and focus on the incredible scenery.

This year’s AIDS rids was also the first-ever century ride for our old pal Henry Tepper, who drove over from Boston to spend the day with us, and who surprised himself by finishing strong enough to shower and eat a hearty dinner with 400 close friends before collapsing in our spare bedroom.  Hank is just one of several friends who we wish were our neighbors.  Hey, maybe we should work on that.

In late September, Emma got a rare stretch of time off while Pan did not, so I strapped the canoe to the car and met her in Albany.  We camped on the islands of Indian Lake, NY for three nights.

Then it was time to prepare, worry, dress, and write a toast for the event of the year – Will and Zoe’s wedding on October 21st in Lake Placid, NY.  I had never married off a child before, so I was unprepared for the emotional wallop, and I went through most of the weekend in happy disbelief.  “Amazing” is a word that needs a vacation, but it truly describes my feelings of wonder and gratitude for this union and the families who celebrated it.  Tania and I went home and slept for three days, like cats after they get home from the veterinarian.

Oct: 21: Emma and Pan, Lake Placid
Oct: 21: Sara Hess, Jeff Furman
Oct. 21: Katelyn, Nolan, Mike, and Jennifer Edmondson

 

 

 

 

Nov: Tod, Brian, Mary, Nancy, and Meredith Edmondson

In November, we managed to get in a trip to Florida to see my mother and two siblings.  Brian and Nancy hosted our mom, cousin Tod, and Aunt Mary for a dinner that also could have been a shareholders’ meeting of Edmondson Farms Inc., but we didn’t talk business.  Mostly we sat around and told jokes, which is what Edmondsons do.

 

A few weeks earlier, I covered a rally for The Poor People’s Campaign, which is reviving the movement Martin Luther King was organizing when he was killed 50 years ago.  The Rev. William Barber (pictured here) gave a speech there that turned me from standby to convert.  Councils in two dozen states are preparing to coordinate forty days of big, non-violent protests that will start on Mother’s Day, 2018.  Most of the organizers come from churches.  They aim to go beyond partisan politics and start a “moral revival.” If that sounds good to you, please learn more and sign up here.

Nov: Venice, FL

OK, thanks for listening. Let’s go back to one of the happiest places I know — my brother Brian’s yard.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everybody!  -Brad

2017 AIDS Ride For Life

Your donations helped raise nearly $200,000 for the Southern Tier AIDS Program on Saturday!  In this year’s AIDS Ride For Life, Tania and I rode around Cayuga Lake with our friend Henry Tepper.  We did the whole 105 miles.  Click on the top photo to start the slideshow with captions, and THANKS for your donation.

hian

Brad &Tania’s 2016 In Pictures

IMG_2235A year ago, Tania and I were enjoying boiled peanuts while delivering a free Cadillac to my mom in Florida. Things got even weirder and (often) more wonderful in 2016.  Sometimes it got so exciting that I took pictures.

Click on the first photo to start the slide show. Order is left to right, top to bottom.