I've decided to finally continue the tradition we established from 1989 to 2002 but then interrupted for a few years: an annual letter. It is no longer in print format but electronic, for obvious reasons.
2006 has been a good year for us. Here are, month by month, some of the highlights:
January: Rita began the year in Bill Clinton's arms (with me watching :-), while Aviva considered becoming Hillary's campaign manager but then deferred her political ambitions until after her Ph.D. (in 2008, hopefully -- maybe in time for a new career? Just kidding...)
February: We saw a very good shoe-string production by a company called "Take Wing and Soar!" of Rita's play The Darker Face of the Earth in New York, directed by Trazana Beverly, who had played Scylla at the Kennedy Center nine years ago.
March: After Rita's reading in front of
a large crowd at
(Ten Items or Less: shopper Rita walking past in the background) (Rita & Fred with Lori McCreary)
day we set out in our rental car for a 9 day cross-country drive back to
Finally we headed north again to spend a day in Birmingham, Alabama, where Rita gave the keynote address at an annual literary festival, and made it back to Charlottesville just in time for me to fly to Germany for my 40th "Abitur" (high school) class reunion; in fact, we had planned this so tightly that I dropped off the Chrysler at Charlottesville airport on the way to my plane.
1963 on our way to
3 of the 4 are also in the reunion picture on the right)
I returned 8 days later for the Virginia Festival of the Book, where Rita read together with John Hope Franklin in UVA's Culbreth Theatre and had a cameo appearance during John McCutcheon's concert at the Paramount Theatre; John performed songs from his new CD, Mightier Than the Sword, which contains one track he wrote with Rita.
(Rita with John Hope Franklin before their joint reading) (David Baldacchi, Rita Dove, Barbara Kingsolver, John McCutcheon)
April: On the first day of the month Rita received the Common Wealth Award -- together with Queen Noor of Jordan, CNN's Anderson Cooper, director Mike Nichols and former astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn -- at a lavish dinner in Wilmington, Delaware. Aviva and her partner April and several other dear friends came to revel with us.
Later that month the Washington Post commemorated the 10th anniversary of its weekly Book World column Poet's Choice, which Rita had written from 2000 to 2002. Her successor Edward Hirsch and the current columnist Robert Pinsky also participated in the event.
May: In mid-May we flew to
three of us spent a week with my mother and her partner Karlfried. Aviva
then flew from Köln to
(with German Chancellor Angela Merkel & Mexican writer Homero Aridjis
government reception for the International PEN delegates,
June: The last weekend in May we drove
Relaxing and a lot of fun were also, to our surprise, the three days in the middle of the month we spent at the Cave Canem retreat for promising African-American poets on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. It was amazing and very gratifying to experience such a wealth of extraordinary new talent -- burgeoning poets who, had it not been for the foresight and tenacity of Cave Canem founders Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady ten years ago, might have gone undeveloped and unnoticed.
July: For about a year now we have been taking lessons in Argentine tango -- which is quite different from the ballroom tango in which we had already acquired some proficiency over the past eight years. So, what could be more logical than experiencing this new passion at its roots? Consequently, in early July we and our dance friends Frani and Ed Demaio hopped on a plane to Buenos Aires, where we had a wonderful time taking tango lessons for several hours each day, exploring this grand and sometimes endearingly shabby city during its mild and mostly sunny winter days, devouring the best steaks in the world, watching spectacular shows...
August: Rita's dad
turned 85, so we drove to
Aviva and April (and their springer spaniel
September: Two weeks after
morning after the Awards ceremony, Rita gave the Anisfield-Wolf lecture at
Severance Hall /
(with Simon Schama and Zadie
few days after Cleveland Rita and I flew to
October: We disembarked near
purely touristic point of view, we were very pleasantly surprised. We had
booked our inner-Chinese travels through a Chinese travel agency we had found
on the Internet, and they did a very good job. All the hotels were excellent
and ideally located, the private drivers and tour guides awaiting us in every
city were always on time and courteous, and except for our guide in Beijing,
who spoke English but had a hard time understanding it, we had few
communication problems. We travelled by train from
It's only an hour by hydrofoil boat from Hong Kong to Macau, so we explored the former Portuguese colony for a day (and deep into the night) -- on foot and by renting a Moke, an open jeep-like vehicle that took us all over the peninsula and two islands that comprise Macau, whose Mediterranean ambience is being usurped and destroyed at wreckless speed by an amazing construction boom in casinos, turning what just a few years ago was a sleepy European fishing and trading outpost, into the Las Vegas of Asia.
(Yeah, it was
back in the
November: Aviva and April flew to
For Rita and me, after the six blissful weeks of our Far Eastern travels, being home also meant taking care of obligations. Not that it was all hardship; Charlottesville's ambitious Music Resource Center, which is supported in part by our local boys made extremely good, the Dave Matthews Band, had recruited Rita and DMB violinist Boyd Tinsley as judges for a public poetry and songwriting contest. In general, I found the songwriting more promising than the poetry, and wished some of the gifted Cave Canem poets had gotten wind of this competition and submitted their work.
before Thanksgiving I took a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course up at the
high school, just a mile from our house, and received my motorcycle
license. This sudden craziness, more than forty years after my last
motorcycle ride, surprised me as much as anybody. It was triggered by my
old school buddy Apostolos Tsomplektsis, who has also taken up
motorbiking again recently. (He's my passenger in the b&w photo with
the trailer below; in 1964, we travelled like that all the way from
Köln to Salzburg in Austria, to Munich and Lake Constance, about 2500 km in
four weeks -- some of it on the Autobahn!) Is it a desperate attempt at
regaining some semblance of youth? Well, sure -- but what's wrong with
that? Of course, everybody is warning me of the direst consequences, in their
most somber tones; meanwhile, I'm enjoying myself. The day after the
competition at the
year, we spent Thanksgiving in
We also took the opportunity to celebrate Rita's parents' 60th wedding anniversary (they got married on Pearl Harbour Day 1946), plus it was the 30th anniversary of my getting to meet them for the first time (Thanksgiving weekend 1976).
always, we drove over to
after Thanksgiving we spent three days in
We then "rounded out" the last week of November and went into December by driving further north to Rochester, New York, where we admired Aviva's latest achievements: continued refinement in horse jumping, her rookie accomplishments in jiu-jitsu, and her recently gained Black Belt in karate:
December: Besides my having a blast on my
Buell at every opportunity and on every rain-free day (mostly to the gym and
back), Rita and I spent much of this month in "quiet
contemplation" -- choosing and decorating The Tree, putting the holiday
lights up around the house, shopping for presents, going to parties, dancing.
We continued the tradition of presenting a little dance show -- with our
friends Frani and Ed Demaio and Roxanne and Collin Hagan -- for the
appreciative residents of a nursing home in
Unfortunately, Rita won't be able to dance for the first few weeks of 2007, since she had knee surgery on December 29. Hopefully, the physicians' promise that this should make her "good as new" by February means she won't have to deal with swelling and pain after every dance evening any longer.
before she went under the knife, we enjoyed the holidays. Aviva and April,
still enjoying her Ph.D. program, teaching, T.A.'ing, and writing proposals
and papers for conferences. Next spring she'll have an essay about
the Showtime TV series "The L Word" published in an anthology. Last
but not least, she is working on her dissertation. (April is also a doctoral candidate
So far, only two bigger trips are on our books for the coming year: to Germany in May for my mother's 80th birthday party (according to her plans, it'll be huge), and a cruise in September/October from San Francisco down the West Coast all the way to and through the Panama Canal, then north through the Caribbean to Fort Lauderdale.
That's it for now! Please stay in touch!
All best from the three of us,