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9.1.03 End of Summer

It is Labor Day. End of summer. Beginning of busy season.

We spent Friday and Saturday with Jim's family going about the business of burying his mother's ashes. We met at his youngest son's house in Connecticut on Friday -- his 3 children, 2 of the spouses, 3 of the grandchildren. 10 of us in all. At best the family is composed of intelligent and lively conversationalists. At worst, the conversation degrades into quip-a-minute competitive teasing driven by the two sons (although it was his daughter who brought the electronic fart machine).

The trip to the family plot in Hewlitt, Long Island, was semi-planned. Two cars and 8 back-seat drivers. After some roaming around and frustrated cell phone calls between cars, we found the Church.

The ritual was accomplished without the interference of clergy. We stood in a circle around the tiny square grave, read Orpha's poem and a letter from her mother, written to her at the age of 19. The talkative family shared memories till  granddaughter Olivia fainted from the beating sun. Then Jim's sons lowered the wooden box and we laid roses around.

We weren't really coordinated about what to do next, though someone had the idea of visiting the Museum of Modern Art's temporary headquarters in Queens. It was slightly crazy on a sweltering day when everyone else was headed for the beach, but at least we didn't get stuck in the east-bound traffic.

Who would have guessed that hanging out in Queens would be so cool? We parked under the elevated train on Queens Boulevard and bickered about which of the scores of ethnic restaurants we should have lunch in. We settled on Turkish and enjoyed a feast.

The MoMA was mesmerizing -- my reactions probably worth another whole entry here.

We left the MoMa at 5. We were tired but there was still some zany energy left in the group so we wandered around till we found warehouses covered with the most spectacular graffiti "burners" It wasn't vandalism but a sanctioned site ("permit required").

We drove the scenic route on Northern Parkway on our way to the Whitestone Bridge. We were fascinated by the ethnic diversity of the small businesses that lined the boulevard. The people were interesting, dressing their overweight bodies for the heat... It is certainly the type of place kids would long to escape from as they gaze west to Manhattan and the sparkling Chrysler Building. Still, we were impressed: we were witnessing the authentic melting pot, all these people becoming American. Maybe "becoming" is the wrong word. They are American.

We hit the bridge, the suburbs, and I slept all the way into Connecticut

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