Small World, Big World (Midnight In Paris)

There hasn’t been much of a social life lately. Days pretty much look like this for Doug …

• 4 to 5 miles of swimming early in the morning
• Work all day
• Dinner with the kids
• Walk the dogs
• Write thank you notes for donations to A Long Swim
• Pours himself into bed

Last night was Saturday night and our little movie theater in town was running the Woody Allen movie Midnight In Paris. It started at 8:00 and at just about 8:00 he picked up a bottle of wine, I slipped it in my purse and off we went. He said, “We need to change it up and I think this movie was made for you.”

A couple of years ago Mack was studying in Paris for a semester so I decided to go there and take a photography workshop. I had never been to Europe and while the adventure was a bit big for me I figured the timing was perfect. So for 7 days I worked with a guide from 8AM till 6PM. He took me to out of the way places that only a Parisian would know. His charge was to keep me away from the traditional, although I did get a shot of the Eiffel tower from an alley way. It was thrilling and exhausting. We saw Paris from winding roads and rooftops and ferris wheels. We visited portages (tiny malls with tiny shops that barely exist any more) and museums and perfectly tucked away bistros for lunch. He had an adorable wife who would join us and we all became friends.

And at the end of every day Mack would find me and we would have dinner together. There were millions of little restaurants and one was just as charming as the next. I would tell him that we could order whatever we wanted. And we did. We had fois gras every night.

I shot over 3,000 photographs that week and created a collection that has been on exhibit a few times and now lives in my little studio on Main Street. I named it “Paris Like This” and it even has its own website.

The movie had scenes of Paris that were identical to those in my collection. How odd it was to see all of that big world again in our little movie theater. When the credits were over I slipped the empty bottle of wine back in my purse. On the way home we drove past my little studio and I saw my Paris photographs sleeping on the wall. Doug started telling me about swimming in Lake Michigan early in the morning. We took the dogs for a walk. He poured himself into bed. And I’ve been thinking about Paris ever since.

Here are some of everyone’s favorite shots from the collection “Paris Like This”

(Mack in Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris)

Enough Of The Swimming Tee Shirts!

Every time you swim in an open water race you get the tee shirt, or two.

Some are cool.

Some are not.

My Bionic Boyfriend cannot seem to tell the difference and he wears them EVERYWHERE. I try to slip the ugliest ones out to the Goodwill when he’s not looking, knowing full well that I’m starting marital discord in someone else’s house.

I’ve gotten away with this until this weekend. We were in Costco….

DOUG: Hey, that guy has my tee shirt!

ME: Really? You sure?

DOUG: Who has a neon orange swimming tee shirt from Florida at a Costco in Illinois!

Immediately I felt sorry for him … until I looked at his chest to see the next one that just has to go.

24 Years Ago Tonight

24 years ago tonight Doug and I had our first little boy, Mack. Named after Doug’s Dad, David Alexander McConnell, we called him Mack after the Mackinac Sailing Race, which started that year on his birthday. We had a little sailboat in Belmont Harbor and Doug would sail in the big race every year on a friend’s big sailboat. But not this year. The year was 1987.

Mack, a swimmer himself, lives in California now. His flight to England will be 4-l/2 hours longer than ours, but he’ll be there and he’ll be on the guide boat with us across the English Channel.

The Commitment

Doug made a commitment over the winter and when I learned about it I thought he was crazy. But, the more I thought about it, the more I understood.

It was a commitment to attend each session at Camp Edwards, the camp he attended as a little boy, and escort kids on their first open water swim. A l/2 mile swim to the elusive Buck Island. A few weeks ago I went along with him on his first swim with the kids and I really understood the magnitude of its importance right away.

This commitment has ended up being so important that it has been covered by 365 Barrington, a clever an entertaining blog written by a new friend of mine, Liz Luby. Liz is an extremely talented writer, to say the least. Plus, she’s really nice. She started this blog a little over a year ago and it has become the hit of our town.

There is a link to the story about the commitment over on the top right of this page.

And He Goes Public

So this whole thing started out kind of quietly. He announced it to his family at Thanksgiving a couple of years ago and they’re kind of low keyed so it was pretty much, “That’s nice, where’s the gravy?” He signed on an official English Channel trainer, without telling me. He got a website and a blog. He began working out so much that my friends started saying, “Susan, your boyfriend is hot.”

So he says to me one morning, “I’m being interviewed in Chicago today, want to come along?” Not much notice but I pack my camera bag and next thing I know I’m getting a real lesson in how to create video and make a news piece that looks like this in our living room that same day on the 5:00 news …

The kids were shocked. Gordy put on his facebook page, “Dad’s on tv now.” Then he says to me, “Mom, there’s no turning back.”

What You Do When Your Boyfriend Is Training For Dover And Not Paying Attention

Doug is busy training and working. Don’t get me wrong, he’s there for us if we need him, but this is his time and we’re kind of on our own. Me, the kids and the dog.

The dog that last year they all gave to me as a birthday gift. A coonhound puppy from a shelter. Probably the best birthday gift ever and certainly the best dog I’ve ever had to boot. My friends know, I am ridiculously in love with this dog. Her name is Grace and the kids adore her too.

So, flash forward a year, Doug is not paying too much attention and I’m on Facebook more than I should be. I’m friends with these dog rescue people and every day dogs flash by my eyes that are not about to make it much longer. I’m sympathetic but on this afternoon here’s what comes across on my Facebook page.

A baby coonhound that is going to be put to sleep with the whole lot of dogs at an animal control place in Tennessee, just over the Kentucky border. Wednesday at 3:00PM is the deadline. She looks just like my Grace.

My Facebook contact is a woman named Rejena who is a police officer with a big heart. She has a pretty thick accent when I talk to her on the phone. She assures me that if I can get there by 2:00PM on Wednesday I can have the pup. They don’t want any money. They just hate putting them to sleep.

I have been to Ohio and Kentucky, not too long of a drive. But this turns out to be quite a bit further. I look at the map … I look at the picture again … I have to do it.

Ashley is the adventurous one, as is her friend Emma, so at 4:00AM on Wednesday, we take off in the car. We have ten hours to get there.

We head to Tennessee, just south of the Kentucky border.

We run into morning traffic in Indianapolis. We run into construction in Kentucky. We see beautiful country. We make two bathroom stops and one gas stop. We make it there by 2:02PM and Rejena meets us in a parking lot and escorts us to the animal control facility.

I won’t bring any cameras inside for fear of souring the whole project. We meet two other guys, one named Scrappy, and they open a cage. Out she crawls, on her tummy. They seem genuinely happy that we are there to take her.

They ask us, “What are you going to do with this dog?” “Are you going to keep it?” My new friend, Rejena is in charge of the whole scene. I think she is the kindest woman, much less police woman, I have ever met in my life.

Ashley scoops the puppy up as quickly and as politely as she can and in the midst of beginning to love her we scurry back to the car. The dog’s eyes are huge. She is dirty and dingy and smells horrible. She is afraid and quiet.

We drive back down the dirt road from which we arrived and we come across a little house that says, in your best Tennessee accent, “We wash dowgs 24/7.” I pull in the driveway and knock on the door and here comes a little woman who reachs out the door and asks that we come back in one hour. We do, and she hands us a pup that is clean and happy and $10 later we are off on our long drive home.

Along the way we stay in a couple of hotels. We run into a vet from New Mexico at one of the hotels who checks the little thing out and speculates about her age … 12 weeks. She even has some worming medicine with her. We let the puppy sleep in our hotel beds. She kisses us nonstop. We eat at a lot of Cracker Barrels. We even come to like country music. And we are in for a nice ride home.

Our goal was to rescue this puppy and foster her and find a home for her. I’m not sure how it’s all going to work out because, no surprise, we love her. It seems as if she knows that we saved her. And what’s her name? Not sure yet, but it might be Dover.

If anyone wants a special little puppy just let me know.

Best Quote From The Trip:

ReJenna the Police Woman, again, in your best Tennessee accent: “Scrappy, this is heaven right here come down to take this dawg.”