Musings & Observations / Barry Halpin
The value of the human connection is immeasurable -- Anonymous
The quality of our lives is directly proportional to the quality of our relationships -- Anonymous
It's been said that life should not be measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away. Throughout my life, I've had the good fortune to have more than my fair share of unforgettable breathtaking moments.
However, the moments I truly love and appreciate are everyday flashes of human connection that heighten the experience of being alive. It's always been about family and friends, but I also love connecting with new people on the highways and byways.
Sadly, those moments are often missed, because we're distracted by the white noise of life or in a mad rush to get somewhere else. We live in a world where digital connections are increasingly outnumbering face-to-face connections and I believe we've lost something because of it.
Recently, I've experienced quite a few of those special moments with family, friends and new people. Here are my favorites:
I'm doing my early morning routine: making tea -- Barry's Irish tea for me, and Lipton for my Dublin, Ireland-born wife, feeding the cats and checking my e-mail when Kelly comes into the kitchen.
"You're up early. What's up?"
"Dad, I had all these crazy dreams last night and I'm feeling a little out of it. Do you have time to make me a spinach and tallegio omelet?"
I immediately transform myself into "Iron Chef Dad," the perfect mix of Bobby Flay, Morimoto, Mario Batali and Michael Symon -- and scream, "Today's secret ingredient is spinach," while pulling anything and everything out of the fridge. I can't believe all the energy I have at 6:15 a.m., as I'm dicing, slicing and spicing like a maniac, but it's worth it to hear Kelly's laughter. There's absolutely nothing like getting silly with my daughters and if there's a better sound than their laughter, I haven't heard it.
She devours the omelet and some Irish brown bread in record time, gives me a hug and heads back up to bed. "Thanks, Dad, that was delicious. "Bold flavors and great spicing" -- she knows the entire foodie lingo. "You get a perfect score from me, next stop is kitchen stadium!"
My wife and I walk into Prescott Park in Portsmouth, N.H., headed to the concert area for the Rhythm and Roots festival starring Patty Larkin, and three groups that are new to me: Lindsay Mac; The Nouveaux Honkies and Alasdair Fraser; and Natalie Haas. I notice a sandwich board listing all the taste treats offered by Hebert Brothers Seafood, the caterers for the concert; I hear Lobster Rolls, two for $15, calling my name and immediately know what my wife and I will be having for lunch.
I strike up a conversation with Justin, who runs the operation with his twin brother, Michael, and it's like we've been buddies for years. He's down-to-earth with a great sense of humor and has tattoos of his twin daughter's footprints, when they were infants. Since we both have twin daughters, we're soon waxing poetic about the joys of fatherhood and having twin girls; he has two other girls as well.
The lobster roll with large chunks of lobster meat spilling out from a perfectly toasted bun is outrageously delicious, a real culinary delight. Hebert Brothers Seafood is located on Badgers Island in Kittery, Maine, across the Badger's Island Bridge from Portsmouth. They've got a shiny blue vending machine dispensing bait outside and some bodacious, tasty seafood treats inside.
Lindsay Mac and her band open the Rhythm and Roots Festival and they're sensational. My wife and I fall in love with her music straight away. The music is heartfelt and emotional; Mac and her very talented band weave together a fabulous mix of soul, rock and folk. She plays guitar and cello; when she straps on the cello she gets this incredible sound, from strumming it like a guitar to slapping it like a bass. Her song writing is equally impressive, as she sings about love, protest and the confusion of modern life.
After her set, I chat with her and the drummer, who is phenomenal, about Los Angeles, rock `n' roll and the drummers who've played with Carlos Santana. There are lots of laughs and hi-fives all around.
Alasdair Fraser, fiddle player, and Natalie Haas, cellist, close the concert with a fantastic set of Irish jigs and reels. At the end of their set, a good portion of the crowd are on their feet dancing up a storm, my wife has taught everyone around us how to dance the Irish reel on the fly and I can't wipe the smile off my face. A joyful moment for one and all!
I'm standing outside Town Hall in Manhattan, waiting for the doors to open for the Ray Davies Concert, when I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around and see a 20-something -- it's so hard to tell ages these days -- with dancing eyes and a big smile. "Dude, dude, you get it all the time, don't you? I know you do."
I didn't really get what he thought I was getting all the time, but why not play along. "Yeah, I get it all the time. Pretty crazy, eh?"
"No, dude, I'm not playing, I'm really serious; I can't believe this is the first time someone has ever told you look like Phil Lesh -- bass player for The Grateful Dead, The Dead, Phil Lesh & Friends & Furthur. C'mon, you know you look like him."
It turns out he wasn't completely wrong; it may have been the first time I'd ever been told of a Phil Lesh resemblance, but it certainly wasn't the first time I'd been told of a resemblance to a rock musician or type of rock musician. Just over the past year, I've been told I look like: a British rock musician, by a young lady in Grand Central Station; one of the Rolling Stones -- I didn't want to ask which one -- by a guy at the Shark Bar in Manhattan and a local high school student; a rock and roller, by an American tourist in a record store on Grafton Street in Dublin; and an old rock and roller by a middle school student -- which turned out to be a compliment.
I continue to find nourishment for my soul in moments of human connection; the unexpected, delightful and magical moments that bring a smile, put things in perspective, surprise, often inspire, but always enhance the quality of life.
Barry Halpin is a prevention specialist for Liberation Programs, a substance abuse health-care agency based in Stamford that provides substance abuse counseling to adolescents and their families in Darien. He's also the director of the county-wide Peer Players, an adolescent theater company. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.