Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Eck

The entry following this one is so disturbing that I had a hard time writing it on such a beautiful June day.

So disturbing that I had to try to follow it with light heartedness. In the hope that if you read this first it will soften the blow. In fact maybe you should not even read the next blurb today.

Do as your conscience allows.

Anyway the first enjoyable thought that pooped into my head is Dennis Eckersley.

This man is an enormous breath of fresh air. He is the antithesis of the stereotypical ex-athlete/announcer.

I have written about him in here before. But he continues to amaze and amuse me this year when he fills in for Jerry Remy.

He is a man who does not care what people think of him. He speaks truthfully and in a way that defies the usual faux macho athlete bullshit. He has no filter. He says what he is thinking and does it in an entertaining way. He almost sounds naïve.

But he is not. He has lived a life. He is a recovering alcoholic, a legendary pitcher, a Hall of Famer, and exactly the kind of image MLB should be promoting.

His language is unique and colorful. He actually has to interpret his expressions because they are really out there.

Cheese, a pitch with hair on it, Johnson and on and on and on.

He also appears to have no ego. Truthfully, Jerry Remy almost has an adversarial relationship with Don Orsillo. He is always busting his balls and putting Don on the defensive. Which is easy to do because Orsillo has a naturally self-deprecating personality. He is aware of his peculiarities and just rolls with them.

Eckersley finds a way to incorporate his knowledge, language and sense of humor seamlessly with Don's broadcasting approach.

Orsillo actually seems happy to me when he is working with the Eck. Not so with Remy.

That says a lot about Eckersely's character, sensitivity and intelligence. That a man of his stature can sit as a relative rookie in the broadcast booth and make it all roll smoothly.

And make us laugh. The man just makes you laugh in an easy, enjoyable, don't have to think about it way.

He adds so much more to a baseball broadcast. He can make a boring game fun. And he takes an exciting game and blows it right over the top with his enthusiasm and appreciation.

Check him out when you get a chance.

Let him lighten your load, even if it is only for three hours.

Three hours of happiness is nothing to sneeze at, baby.

And Speaking Of Parents

And speaking of parents (reference Joe - Give Us A Break), two more disturbing occurrences have bled into my mind, never to escape.

Saw some footage of that idiot mom in court talking about her boyfriend who beat the crap out of her kid and left him brain damaged. I just Googled the topic in an attempt to get more details and NINE different heinous child abuse stories popped up. On just one goddamn page.

I didn't have the heart or the stomach to hit "next."

How sick is our society?

I watched this woman talk about how she allowed this jerk off to beat her kid, saw him do it, and didn't stop him. She kept saying that she blames herself. That it was her fault. She came across to me like she thought she was performing on reality TV. Like she was disconnected from the truth.

The truth that something poisonous inside her short circuited natural motherly love and instincts as she watched her own kid be viciously beaten.

She came across to me like she thought that admitting it was her fault to the cameras should invoke sympathy.

This is the coldest, the lowest that a human being can get.

I stopped watching.

But I could not escape. Because within a week I got caught watching the news again. Always a mistake.

Story of a 22 month old boy who was left in an SUV for 7 hours in Georgia heat. And died.

The father drove to work with his son in the car and left him there in the car seat for 7 hours while he worked.

The boy's mother said she was not angry with the father, saying: "Ross was and is a wonderful father."

In addition there is an online petition urging the District Attorney to drop the murder charge against the father. The petition has 11,000 signatures.

This means not only are these two parents depraved and diseased, there are 11,000 people in this country who believe the father should not be charged as severely as the law will allow.

One more truth: Cooper Harris, the 22 month old child who died, is the 13th child in the U.S this year and the SIXTH in the month of June to die after being left in a car.

I cannot understand, I will never understand how evil human beings can be. How does a person get to the point where parental instincts, the deep love and instinct for protection, are just not there?

It disturbs me to know there are people like this out there. That they are members of the same life form that I am.

Although in reality I don't see it that way. These people are some diseased mutation, some offshoot of humanity that exists in its own world.

What does it take to create that mutation?

What is it about the way we live that can result in that depth of horror?

Human beings scare the hell out of me.

Joe - Give Us A Break, For Christ Sake

I'm going to keep on hammering you over the head with Cheever because that is what he is doing to me.

From "The Housebreaker Of Shady Hill". A guy is struggling to survive, he is in more financial trouble than his wife is aware of and he is afraid. He is stressed but simultaneously thinking about his wife and a night when they were preparing to go to a party. Thinking about her affectionately.

"There seemed to be as much truth in her beauty and the power she exerted over my senses as there was in the fact that we were overdrawn at the bank."

From "The Bus To St. James."

"As he watched his daughter doing obediently what was expected of her, it struck him that he and the company that crowded around him were all cut out of the same cloth. They were bewildered and confused in principle, too selfish or too unlucky to abide by the forms that guarantee the permanence of a society, as their fathers and mothers had done. Instead, they put the burden of order onto their children and filled their days with specious rites and ceremonies."

In my mind, my oh so small and diseased mind, there is a lot going on in that one. A lot of truth. The picture of all of the phonies who pretend to live by the rules, who put on an outer show of unshakable morality and goodness. The same people who, when nobody is looking, cheat on their spouses, lie, steal, abuse their kids, beat their dogs and consume booze like spring water.

Beyond that, and this really hit me considering when these stories were written (Cheever died in 1982), is the screwing up the kids thing. All the parents today who organize "play dates" for their kids. This sickens me. The parents who organize and control every aspect of their kids' lives, push and intimidate them, in the belief that they can force their kids to be better than them.

I guess the thought process has existed forever, maybe, although I have a romanticized notion that there was a time when parents were parents and kids were kids, there was nothing but love between them, and the kids did not grow up to kill other kids at school.

Cheever may have seen the seeds of parental stupidity decades ago, but I maintain that the current crop of parents have perfected it.

We are mortgaging our future against the hope that our children's minds will not be so warped by their parents that they cannot even function.

Cheever saw human nature clearly.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

About A Guy

I am enjoying a two day weekend.

A real, honest to goodness weekend. The kind most people used to have before the world went to shit.

The only reason I have this opportunity is because of the thoughtfulness of a guy I work with.

For the sake of anonymity I will call him Rich.

He came to me earlier in the week and asked me if I wanted to swap shifts with him. I had Friday and Sunday off. He had Saturday off. He wanted to know if I wanted to work Friday and he would work Saturday.

Stupidly I asked "What's the catch?" You have to understand, I have spent my entire time in this nightmare of a job just protecting myself. Until Rich came around. Protecting myself from morons, psychopaths and mental defectives. Protecting myself from people who lied to me, took advantage of me, manipulated me and did not give a damn how that affected me personally or my life.

As Springsteen sings " end up like a dog that's been beat too much, 'till you spend half your life just covering up."

I asked "Why do you want to swap?"

He answered "So you can have two days off in a row."

Do you understand the significance of that? What a thoughtful, unselfish, considerate thing that is to do?

I kicked off the weekend last night in supreme fashion at Fisher Cats stadium, and the beauty is rolling over into today.

And tomorrow.

Because of the innate stupidity of retail, typically you get one day off at a time. Maybe a Sunday. Then a Wednesday.

That doesn't work. Not for a job that is razor blades in the gut. Not enough time to regain humanity.

Two days in a row is like a fucking vacation.

I am learning to appreciate the medicinal affect of time spent with family in 2014. I am appreciating it fiercely.

I am beginning to understand that there are good people in the world. People like Rich. People who have the capacity to care about other people.

Truth be told, they are in the minority. You know it is true even as you accuse me of pessimism and darkness of opinion. Most of us are crushed by life into positions of pettiness, selfishness, self defense, and cruelty.

Which makes it even better when a considerate human pops up into your life.

I am beginning to feel the power of love in 2014. I am beginning to feel the power of friendship in 2014. I am beginning to feel a bit of optimism.

My family has contributed to that. Rich has contributed to that.

Been a pretty good year so far.


And The Hits Just Keep On Coming

Fisher Cats again last night.

This time it was my first born son, my little baby brother and me.

Duane Allman used to call Gregg "Bay Bro'." Short for baby brother. Even though Duane was only one year older than Gregg. I always thought that was a strange thing to do. Almost demeaning. Of course if I gave it any thought at all I would have realized it as affection because Duane was a loving, sensitive, family and friend oriented kind of guy.

I know. I used to hang with him.

I used to think of it as strange until I watched a recent documentary. Part of the documentary featured Duane. Gregg was interviewed and in an offhand way he mentioned Duane's nickname for him. It was obvious he remembered it with affection.

However I don't ever see myself calling my brother Bay Bro'.

But I digress.

I am digging the permutations of this thing called Keith's free tickets. Seats that make us feel like VIP's. The first visit was me, Carol, Keith and Emily. Last night a father, a brother and a son. Before summer dies there will be me, my Bay Bro', and both my sons. And Carol and me and........................

You get the point.

The setting is the same, the participants vary.

Baseball is perfect for this. You settle into your seats on a perfect summer night, the game begins and you dig it. Innocently enough, conversation happens.

Initially it's about the game. Eventually you cover about 37 different topics. The ease with which this happens is comforting.

You can't do this at a football game. Football is intense. Part of me doesn't even like Super Bowl parties because there are always distractions. You cannot afford to look away from football.

There were innings last night when I barely knew what the hell was going on. But I was talking with my son (my chest still bursts with pride and love when I write those words, even after 34 years) and my brother, who I respect and love so much it drains me to consider my luck at the close relationship we have.

The Fisher Cats' organization gets this. Very family oriented. Extremely kid oriented. They have a bat dog. How cool is that? A beautiful dog who strolls out to the field after at bats and retrieves the bat in his mouth.

Kids went on to the field just before the performance of the National Anthem and stood around all the players in their positions. Very cool. Imagine how they felt. Doesn't matter to them that these guys are AA. They are baseball players.

Speaking of the AA thing, what I see when I watch these guys is dreams. These guys' dreams are right there on the field for everyone to see. They are fighting for their dreams in front of an appreciative audience.

Most dreams are secretive. Most of us are afraid to talk about them. Self conscious and unconfident.

These guys say "Here I am. I am pursuing my dream right in front of you. Hope you dig it."

That is an amazing thing.

Great game. Supposed to go seven innings because a double header was scheduled but the game was tied in the bottom of the 7th. Bottom of the 8th still tied, Fisher Cats with a runner on first. Perfect hit and run is executed and the guy scores from first. Boom. Game over.


Driving home windows down on this beautiful summer night, the kind of night I live for, the kind of night that makes me feel alive all on its own......................................smiling.

The Good Weather Portion (severely limited) of 2014 is rolling along nicely.

Because I am making the effort. Instead of sitting around and whining about how summer is slipping away without us doing anything, I am feeling peaceful. Content.

All it takes is a little effort. I have failed (we still have not celebrated Mother's Day, Father's Day or Keith's birthday) and I have succeeded, as duly noted in these pages.

Tuesday is July 1. That day would typically panic me. Time is moving too fast and soon I will be shivering miserably in New England's merciless, heartless, 8 month fucking winter.

In 2014 I welcome July 1 with open arms. Because I have already had a ton of fun with my magical, mystical family. And I know that it will continue.

I am going to make it continue.

Anyway, last night was supreme. Rooftop to the basement, to borrow a line from U2.

More than anything else this year I have learned to appreciate the amazing people close to me in my life.

They fill me with true, honest, soul nurturing happiness.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


I'm hatin' on a lot of shit this morning.

Hatin' on a lot of shit.

Need to have my life digitally re-mastered.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wholesome People And Meatloaf

Just took a break.

Exercised. Showered.

Whipped up a meatloaf sandwich on Italian bread with shredded cheddar sprinkled, mayo, lemonade with four ice cubes in a PATRIOTS/Budweiser glass.

Ate on the screened in porch in 80 degree gorgeousness with two content cats, delicious breeze and striking sunshine.

Here's the thing.

No beer. No shot of whiskey afterwards to aid the digestion.

Is this how wholesome people do it?

I had no idea wholesome could be so peaceful.

Can't Hurt, Can It?

Had a strange thought following the first visit to the shrink.

During the session I was explaining the motivation behind seeking therapy. In my typical offhand but honest way, in part, I explained that I have spent a lifetime crafting this outward personae that is not really me.

That I work hard to give off an air of confidence and casual sarcasm to mask the wickedly sensitive, introspective dude that I really am.

Subsequently I began to wonder if I am fooling myself. And for how long.

How do I know how much of me is real and how much is playacting?

Looking at it from one angle I know I have been fooling myself because if I didn't I would have committed suicide by now.

I have lived so long in so much pain at having this stranger jammed into my own skin, it would be impossible to survive only the truth.

I started wondering how I would talk to this guy if I was honestly myself. As I confessed my soul I did it in a confidant manner. Like a guy who knows exactly what he is talking about. Like a guy who is not twisted up inside like some vile, dark undergrowth in the Devil's garden.

Sorry - I just can't resist stuff like that. And, truthfully, it is a pretty good line.

If I was 100% honest in my confession, no playacting, should it have been tearful? Halting? Should my hands have been shaking?

I felt like I was being 100% honest. But can I be 100% honest if the playacting is going on?

I don't know.

Part of the problem is that pieces of my personae are honest. I have a dark, dry sense of humor, I am pretty easy going (with other people, not myself), I do love insanity and fun.

But I am not confidant. Not at all. I am not tough.

I am wondering how my outward projection, my personae might change if somehow through this process of therapy I can learn to just be myself.

In my mind I don't imagine a lot of change except happiness. I expect to come across as the same guy.

But what if the emergence of The Real Joe shatters the personae? What would I be like? How would I come across?

If it happens it would be a good thing. I just cannot imagine who I would be at that point. I have been the audience at my own show for as long as I can remember.

I don't know any other way to be.

But if a new me emerges, a completely different presentation to the world, that could be a very cool thing.

It is encouraging to me that just one visit with a shrink has my mind slogging through so many considerations.

Can't hurt, can it?

Cheever (AGAIN!)

From "The Sorrows Of Gin".

Amy is a young girl thinking about the way her parents live.

"The voices woke Amy, and, lying in her bed, she perceived vaguely the pitiful corruption of the adult world; how crude and frail it was, like a piece of worn burlap, patched with stupidities and mistakes, useless and ugly, and yet they never saw its worthlessness, and when you pointed it out to them, they were indignant."

Please don't try to get up off the floor until you are positive your strength has returned.

P.S. - I was going to say strength and sense of balance but, truthfully, none of us has a sense of balance.

Thank God

Music is limitless and thank Christ for that.

It is limitless, and sometimes you come across beauty in so random a way that you wonder how much beauty is missing from your life.

Get home last night and Carol was jazzed up about Mary Gauthier - a singer/songwriter she heard being interviewed/played on NPR. Carol was listening in The Peace Mobile on the way home from her private hell - work - and was so inspired that she raced into the house and dialed up NPR on this ancient boombox - a big, ugly thing we got sitting on top of the hope chest - and listened to the rest of the music and words.

Other than last night, the only other way this boombox gets used is as a stepping stool for the cats to the windows.

When I got home she reached her legs out and tripped me as I staggered by, jumped on my chest, got in my face and said: "You got to listen to Mary Gauthier, you grumpy, old bastard. You will love her."

It was a strange greeting after a day at The Asylum but it certainly got my attention.

And she was right.

Just dialed up You Tube and listened to "I Drink" and "Drag Queens And Limousines", and got knocked down again.

By beauty. Deep, heart felt emotion.

I sat here stunned by the depth of the lyrics, the simple power of the music. The life experience in her eyes and the amused knowledge in her body language there that we all gotta make our own mistakes and learn in our own way.

How did I get all that from a couple of  You Tube videos?

I am more amazing than you might think.

So now this woman is a part of our life. I will buy her music and allow it to lessen the fire in my nerves. Carol will listen and realize that it makes more sense to listen to Mary Gauthier than to listen to any of the insane, unfocused and rambling words that come out of my mouth.

Win win.

Which got me thinking about owning music. I can buy Mary Gauthier's CD's and you can buy Mary Gauthier's CD's and we won't be buying the same music.

Her music will mean something different to you than it means to me, depending on where we both are in our lives, past experiences, future plans, wavering dreams.

But it will be beautiful to both of us. It will take us away from the muck, the everyday bullshit, the flow of meaningless that sweeps us away every morning. And transport us to truth.

Truth of emotion, truth of life, truth of struggle, commonality of the fight. The fight to survive, the fight to express individuality fiercely.

Dig this lyric from "Drag Queens And Limousines": "Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and hope that the people you love will catch up with you."


Thank God for Mary Gauthier, thank God for Carol's sensitivity, thank God she always knows what I will dig.

Thank God for the limitlessness of music.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Got The World By The Balls

There is a picture in the latest issue of Rolling Stone of The Rolling Stones.

One picture is of Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood having lunch in an outdoor café in Berlin. Mick is talking, he is leaning in towards Ronnie with a wry smile on his face, hands up and animated, shades covering his talented eyes. Ronnie is leaning towards Mick looking interested. Smiling and wearing shades to cover his humorous eyes.

They look like two guys without a care in the world.

Maybe because they are two guys without a care in the world.

There is a picture below that of Keith Richards standing on a limited balcony outside his hotel room in Zurich. His hair is disheveled, he's wearing a serape and there appears to be a scowl on his face.

I love these guys.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I did something yesterday that I have never before done in my life.

I spent time with a shrink.

Been thinking about it for a while; like DECADES, but never got around to it. But this is 2014 and I am sixty years old.

It is time for the volcano to erupt.

Didn't know what to expect. A piece of my brain doubts the value of therapy only because I have heard so many people spend years and years indulging in it. I don't want this to be endless. I don't have time.

I need it to end in resolution. In the untying of the knots in my brain.

Got a good vibe right out of the box. I was not sure if therapy consists of only endless talking and gentle prodding. If that is what it is I could deal with it as long as I sense change and evolution.

This guy made it clear that he is going to challenge me and guide me towards facing my fears and overcoming them. I like that.

he introduced himself, gave me some background and then set me loose. "Tell me why you are here."

I am determined to be brutally honest throughout this process, otherwise what is the point? I told him about my fears and hangups and insecurity, the depth of unhappiness I endure every day, drinking, the anxiety that I wear like skin, the hatred I have for the life I live.

It registered in my brain how different it is unburdening all this to a stranger. I have spent many decades whining to my wife, my sons, my brother and my friends in full knowledge that they would cut me some slack. That makes it easier and more self indulgent.

Laying out 4 decades of perceived failures to a stranger made me sound like a fool. Made me piercingly aware of how much life I have wasted. It was a positive realization; it immediately made me look at myself more harshly.

Talk got around to the job and the boss. I confessed my inability to confront my boss over her pettiness, coldness, agenda driven bullshit, commitment to gossip, and unfairness.

He asked "What are you afraid of?" I stopped cold. Wait, what? Afraid? I never thought about it that way. I thought I was minimizing the stress in my life by not butting heads with an idiot.

I told him that. He said "Take a minute. Think about this. I really would like an answer."

Boom. He was not going to let me off the hook. There was a minute of uncomfortable silence. Eventually I answered him but I liked the fact that he pushed me. Right there. At my first session.

He quickly arrived at the conclusion that I have spent my life in avoidance. This is not brilliant insight. Even my cats know that.

But he said the focus of our discussions were going to be to move me from avoidance to confrontation of my fears, and change. He said it would be uncomfortable at first because my emotions will lag behind my actions. That I had to act confident before I could be confidant.

Boom. One of my favorite Leonard Cohen quotes is: "Act the way you want to be and soon you will be the way you act."

Interestingly enough, when he talked about confronting my fears I got nervous in the gut. That is exactly what I am there for and yet when he tells me that's what we are going to do, I get weak.

I know the source of all my problems. My parents beat me viciously as a child with bicycle chains, whips and 2x4's, lit my hair on fire and put it out with gasoline. My wife belittles me in public, calling me Idiot Boy and Anxiety Arse. My sons won't even go out in public with me; I call and say "Let's do this," and they respond "You got to be kidding me, Dad - I don't ever want anybody to know that you sired me. If you even did."

Still, therapy might be helpful.

I feel good about taking the step. It is one more thing that I have set in motion in 2014. Don't know where it will lead, but it is CHANGE, something completely different creating an alternate vibe in my life.

The drive out to the shrink was long, about forty minutes, but gorgeous; his office is in a beautifully stereotypical, small New England town. The ride is all winding back roads.

It was gorgeous weather yesterday, the ride calmed my soul, my senses were soothed by natural beauty.

I thought "What a gorgeous ride. At least for now. It will suck in the winter, though."

I got work to do.

Monday, June 23, 2014


"We must travel in the direction of our fear."

John Berryman


In 1973, at the age of 19 (Jesus Christ that was a long time ago), I started a co-op job at The Mitre Corporation in Bedford, MA.

I was attending Northeastern University as a co-op student. The co-op thing means you go to school for six months, NU gets you a real job which you work for six months, back to school for 3, back to work for 3 etc. It really is a good program. You get thrown out into the real world right off the bat with a chance to use whatever minimal knowledge you have already  accumulated in the classroom.

I worked in the accounting office. There was an accounting manager there named Jim Hanley. This guy was hilarious. He had a dry, sarcastic sense of humor as well as a dry, sarcastic appreciation of the absurdity of working for a corporation.

Examples of his sense of humor: My amazing wife Carol worked there (that's where I met this 36 year life partner of mine). Carol being Carol, she took it upon herself to tend to all the plants in the office.

Jim had plants in his office. Carol tended to them. They suffered and did not flourish. All the other plants in the office flourished. Carol could not understand it. One day she took down one of Jim's plants and found cigarette butts ground out in the soil. This was way back in the day when people could smoke in the office. Kind of like Mad Men.

Jim confessed to Carol that he ground out his cigarettes in the plants and also dumped the dregs of his coffee into the soil.

Very funny dude.

He also had a big rubber gorilla hanging on the back of the door to his office. Whenever anybody asked him what it was, he would explain that it was his mother-in-law.

Jim was such a cool guy that of course he was cut down quite prematurely by cancer.

Anyway, once he got to know me he called me Joe-Boy. Joe-Boy this and Joe-Boy that.

Right now in the hideous job I currently hold I work with a woman named Sue.

Sue calls me Joe-Man.

It took 41 years, but I have evolved.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Little More Cheever

From "Christmas Is A Sad Season For The Poor".

An observation on Christmas - and the human race:

"Now, you kids help me get all this stuff together. Hurry, hurry, hurry, " she said, for it was dark then, and she knew that we are bound, one to another, in licentious benevolence for only a single day, and that day was nearly over."


"When I remember my family, I always remember their backs. They were always indignantly leaving places."

John Cheever

Angel From Montgomery

Heard "Angel From Montgomery" on The River t'other day.

Written by John Prine, sung by Bonnie Raitt. Great song, great lyrics.

"If dreams were thunder, lightening was desire, this old house, it would have burned down a long time ago."

If that's the way life worked we would all be homeless.

"There's flies in the kitchen, I can hear them there buzzin', and I ain't done nothing' since I woke up today, but how the hell can a person go on to work in the morning, to come home in the evening and have nothing to say."

'Nuff said.

The Pot Of Gold

John Cheever is blowing my mind.

Call me a pretentious fool, but every time I come back to "literature", supremely talented, sensitive and expressive writers, I am thrilled.

The day began innocently enough. I just worked seven days in a row. Got today off. Slept until 8:15, which is uncharacteristically late for me. Felt good. Rolled out of bed, tended to the toiletry needs that mark me as human and make me feel somewhat awake, and strolled leisurely downstairs without a care in the world on a beautiful but too damn cold June SUMMER morning.

Brewed up a cup of coffee and settled in to the recliner with Cheever in hand.

As I have said endlessly in here, give me a cup of coffee, a book and a quiet house and I am in the most peaceful place I can get to.

And yet I drink whiskey. Who can understand these things.

Maybe my shrink? I'm hoping tomorrow marks the beginnings of insight.

But I digress.

Within half an hour of reading, Cheever had me on the floor.


I have read 11 of his short stories so far, and every one of them has grabbed my emotion and ripped it up and through defensive bullshit straight to the truth.

Many of them deal with small lives and endless hope and broken dreams and hurting people.

You know, reality.

"The Pot Of Gold" is the one that floored me today. It concerns a couple who is endlessly plotting, planning and dreaming, always on the verge, seemingly, of lifting themselves out of survival mode into an easy life. Their dreams are continuously crushed by broken promises, unlucky circumstances, and unrealistic expectations.

Finally, though, a solid chance presents itself. The husband is offered a spectacular job by the rich friend of an uncle. An uncle who saved the life of the rich friend and to whom the rich dude feels indebted.

The husband is told he will be called in a week to hammer out the details and arrange for transportation from New York to California for him and his wife.

The call never comes, so the husband calls his prospective employer only to be told by the secretary that the man suffered a stroke and the deal is off the table.

Absolutely crushing. As a reader you have followed this couple through hope and disappointment over and over again, and when the real deal comes along, it too evaporates.


The writing, the insights and the reality are powerful.

"There had hardly been a day when he had not been made to feel the power of money, but he found that the force of money was most irresistible when it took the guise of a promise, and that years of resolute self-denial, instead of rewarding him with reserves of fortitude, had left him more than ordinarily susceptible to temptation."

Before the couple gets the bad news, a struggling friend is jealously talking to the wife as the friend realizes she will get left behind.

"Do you know what that feels like? To live for fifteen years on promises and expectations and loans and credits in hotels that aren't fit to live in, never for a single day to be out of debt, and yet to pretend, to feel that every year, every winter, every job, every meeting is going to be the one. To live like this for fifteen years and then to realize that it's never going to end. Do you know what that feels like? I'm never going to get to Bermuda. I'm never even going to get to Florida. I'm never going to get out of hock, ever, ever, ever. I know that I'm never going to have a decent home and that everything that I own that is worn and torn and no good is going to stay that way."

She goes on but there is no sense in my copying it all down. By now these words should have broken your heart in familiarity.


After the couple has absorbed the awful news, realizing their last chance at comfort has passed them by, the story ends like this:

"She turned on the stool and held her thin arms toward him, as she had done more than a thousand times. She was no longer young, and more wan, thinner than she might have been if he had found the doubloons to save her anxiety and unremitting work. Her smile, her naked shoulders had begun to trouble the indecipherable shapes and symbols that are the touchstones of desire, and the light from the lamp seemed to brighten and give off heat and shed that unaccountable complacency, that benevolence that the spring sunlight brings to all kinds of fatigue and despair. Desire for her delighted and confused him. Here it was, here it all was, and the shine of the gold seemed to him then to be all around her arms."

Where do we find our happiness?

Saturday, June 21, 2014


"All literary men are Red Sox Fans - to be a Yankee fan in a literate society is to endanger your life."

John Cheever

Very Strange

There is a lamp to my left on the desk in front of me.

In its base is some kind of music box thingy. It has a little crank you can wind to give it life.

It has sat dormant for years.

At precisely 10:46 a.m. as I sat here writing about The Big Six, it suddenly started playing. In the tinny, weird, horror movie tone that chills your bones.

It did indeed chill my bones.

Played for about ten seconds and stopped.

Could portend disaster; could be a twisted celebration of my winning of the lottery.

I root for the latter.

The Big Six

Recently read a book titled "The Trip To Echo Springs - On Writers And Drinking", by Olivia Laing.

As the book jacket reads, it "examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six extraordinary men: F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver."

All six of these dudes were raging alcoholics. I'm talking the type of drinker who consumes a quart of whiskey a day and more. I have never in my life consumed that much whiskey in one day. It is something to aspire to.

All six were successful and revered writers.

Olivia's approach was to travel around the country and visit the homes of these men, the places where they wrote, the places where they drank, the hotels they frequented, to collect stories and to absorb the vibe and the rhythm of their lives.

Her close proximity to these giants made it's way into her blood because much of her writing is pretentious. The descriptive stuff. The stuff describing her travels. Like she's trying to channel their greatness through her brain.

But when she writes about the writers, it is good. There are many insights into their creativity, their tortured souls, the way they justified their drinking and made excuses for it, the way they denied being alcoholics.

For a good chunk of the book I was kind of wondering what type of connection she was trying to make; what she was trying to say. But reading about these lives was fascinating in and of itself.

I got turned on to more good writing. I am currently reading the collected short stories of John Cheever. 692 pages of beauty and reality. The kind of writing that eats like a meal.

Reading short stories is hazardous to my mental health. I get invested in the characters, emotionally wrapped up in the story (and Cheever's stories jolt your emotions alive) and suddenly the story ends. I have to stop to catch my breath before I move on to the next story.

Somehow, so far, I have survived.

I discovered the poet John Berryman, whose words I shall soon own. Dig:

"Hunger was constitutional with him,
wine, cigarettes, liquor, need need need
until he went to pieces.
The pieces sat up & wrote."

Eventually Olivia makes the connection I have always trumpeted, which is that these people are intelligent and sensitive souls not equipped to deal with the world as it is.

So they write. And they drink.

Sometimes the drinking helps the writing, sometimes the writing helps the drinking. Sometimes the whole thing is self destructive and uncreative.

Hemingway and Berryman committed suicide; H at the age of 61, B 58. Interesting enough both of their fathers committed suicide. Tennessee Williams died at the age of 71; F.Scott Fitzgerald was 44; Cheever died at 70, Carver at 50.

All too soon.

Fiercely creative people. People who explore their own emotions and the emotions of others and set them down in words.. What is it all about?

On a superficial level it might have been better for these giants to go through life with head down and back exposed to the whip. But without their words our lives would be lessened.

Any attempt to explore the human psyche and express it creatively makes us better; gives a chance.

At least in my romanticized version of the world.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Further Proof Of Change

I have thrown the word "change" around here for years.

So much so that it is meaningless. Need to change, gotta change, want to change, change to survive, change my evil ways, change, change, change.

You think I am full of shit. After all, I am a word guy. Words guys use words, worship them, throw them around blissfully, but don't necessarily live up to the philosophies, complaints, thoughts and ideas they propose.

I am he. I love to use words in a way that suits my soul, yet I have been unable to live up to the things I desire and propose.

Until 2014.

Change is upon me. I am working at it and making it happen. Of course you say "Jesus, Joe, what's the big deal? You have done nothing earth shattering."

I understand. What is important to me means nothing to you. What is meaningful to me is laughable to you.

That is the human condition.

I am going to see a shrink on Monday morning.

Never done this before, don't know what to expect. I do know I need it. At least need to try it.

What have I got to lose? All the mind boggling success I have achieved so far in my life?

Looking forward to it. Gonna be brutally honest with the guy. I will hide nothing, I will lie about nothing.

Hoping I can drive him into therapy with the twisted misconceptions that dominate my brain.

That could be fun. That could be one goal.


I could look to evolve. To better understand myself, to get the weaponry I need to fight back against this diseased brain I have been carrying around in my skull for sixty years.

I am exploring every avenue I can to improve my life, to better appreciate my family and friends and to have fun.

For Christ sake all I want to do is have fun, be happy and get me some peace.

I am going to see a shrink on Monday morning.

If you need any more evidence than that, that I am changing, that I am all in to create or get to the real Joe, then you are a cretin.

Thinking About Luck

My brain has been on overdrive since 01/01/14.

Plotting, planning, analyzing, worrying and thinking.

The thought occurred to me yesterday that I am going to need a little luck to pull myself up from the darkness I have enveloped myself with, to a life that brings me happiness, pride, self-love and peace.

The next immediate thought was that I don't deserve luck.

I have wasted the majority of my life procrastinating, making bad decisions, making no decisions, indecisive in fear, not bold in moving forward.

This far down the road, this deep into a life badly lived, it seems a bit pretentious to hope for luck.

When you are young maybe you come up against luck. Your mind is open, you haven't made too many mistakes, most of your karma is positive.

You are working as Hose Captain for a septic tank company and a guy comes up to you and says "You belong on the silver screen." Next thing you know you are co-starring opposite Al Pacino in a movie titled "Rollicking Fate."

This can happen when you are young. It cannot happen when you are old.

Age and all the mistakes that come with it, throws up a force field around you. Even if luck gets lost on the way to youth and accidentally heads your way, it bumps up against the force field and goes on its merry way, course corrected.

Fortunately, luck is invisible. You don't see it coming, you don't see it leave. Which is good because in that situation, awareness would radically increase the suicide rate.

I know I don't deserve luck. I know it won't happen. I am OK with that.

I am rumbling my life about a bit, shaking things up to an extent; I am trying.

Maybe for the first time in my life.

If I can whip the wheel around to the left, get off this road and onto that path, if I can create change that I can feel, that would be monumental.

I know intuitively that staying the course is impossible. There is a dark voice in my head that knows with all the wisdom of sixty years behind it, that if there is no change in the very near future, calamity will follow.

I don't think that will happen. Internal changes have been made, I am approaching some things differently externally, I think I have twisted the wheel to the left about an inch.

The trick is to not allow the wheel to shift back to center.

Believe me, I am hanging on with all my might.

What I Love About Lying Awake At 2:30 On A Friday Morning

As follows:

Lying next to my amazing wife Carol. The woman who has lain next to me in bed for 36 years. More than half of a lifetime at this point. Listening to her breathe. She sleeps easy. Falls asleep within five minutes of crawling into bed. Always has. If she gets up to visit the bathroom at 3:00 a.m. she is asleep by 3:07. This drove me crazy for a very long time because of my naturally jealous and petty nature. I would lie there thinking why the hell does she get to sleep so easy while my brain tortures me to insomnia. Now I listen to the rhythm of her breathing and I smile. Why shouldn't she sleep well. She deserves it.

Lakota. Lakota who sleeps next to me always. On the edge of the bed facing the sliders. If I am sleeping on my left side she is leaning up against my belly. If I am reversed she is up against my thighs. Breathing quietly. Purring loudly when I stir her. I visit the bathroom and she has shifted. Lying across my side of the bed. I pick her ass up and swing it around so she is once again parallel to the edge of the bed. This does not disturb her. She doesn't flinch or get up. I move her ass, the front of her stays where it is, we settle in again, we sleep. Amazing.

Maka. Maka the roamer. Sometimes she sleeps between my feet when I am on my back, sometimes she lies by my side. 95% of the time she curls up behind Carol's knees. She is a doll. I listen to her wheeze/breathe, I listen to her clean herself if she has been disturbed. She is a giant happiness giver for one so small.

If my brain is relentless and 2:30 becomes 4:30, the birds join us. They start singing in the dark. All around us. They sing the sun to rise. Beautiful. If there is a breeze the trees swing lazily to the beat and make a gentle sound.

I used to hate lying awake at night. Felt bitter, in full knowledge that I would be exhausted on that day. It doesn't matter so much any more. I am tired all the time anyway. I don't fight it now. I lie peacefully digging the fact that Carol can sleep well no matter what after all these years of living with a raving lunatic, knowing the cats sleep well because of the peace, protection and love that we give them. Digging the delicate beauty of birds who rise early and offer up beauty in the dark. Digging the decision we made 28 years ago to move to this beautiful town where the wind rustles the trees, inspiring them to whisper to me in the dark - "be gentle with yourself, seek peace."

Being awake at 2:30 in the morning ain't no different than being awake at 2 in the afternoon if you know what to appreciate.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Living The Dream

Listening to Garin Cecchini get interviewed last night about getting called up to fill Grady Sizemore's slot on the roster.

Said this, mumbled that, said "I'm living the dream."

I loved it. Genuine sentiment regarding a phrase that has been twisted and tortured into a negative commentary on the cruel irony of our lives. The majority of us.

I hear it dozens of times a day. The regulars stroll into the liquor store, I ask "How you doing?" they respond "Living the dream, baby."

Which when translated means "My life sucks, it ain't nuthin' like I thought it would be, I hate my job, I feel trapped, I have no options."

Dark stuff.

I hear it over and over and over again. Of course my practiced response is "Aren't we all."


The whole exchange bothers me.

Yet you get a young guy called up from AAA for a chance to make his mark in the bigs and he says "Living the dream" because he IS living the dream.

And he knows it.

I loved his comment. I respect the raw talent, I respect the singularly dedicated years of hard work and devotion, I respect the nerves at being on the big stage and the bravado to give it a real shot.

When a guy like that utters those words he restores the true meaning to them. And inspires wonder and hope and magic.

Professional sports give birth to dreams. Some realized, some destroyed. But they offer a real shot at making a dream come true.

No jealousy on my part. These guys earn the opportunity to sync their life with who they are.

Simply, I just loved hearing him say it.

With a gleam in his eye.

A Change Of Perspective

Up until exceptionally recently I have been thinking "Jesus Christ it's already June. MY good weather is being sacrificed to the capriciousness of MotherF***ing  Nature."

As of a few days now I have been thinking "Yeah, baby - it is 81 degrees and it is only June. Mother Nature is magnificent."

Driving to work this morning - temperature 69 degrees at 6:15 - brilliant early morning sun - my soul was relaxed. My body was singing.

It blows me away how my entire Joe-ness - every single thing about me - responds to warm weather.

I change.

Driving straight towards Hell and yet I was smiling, my body was lazy comfortable in The Big Ride, I was head swiveling towards the glory of the sun and I was listening to magnificent music. Looking at trees, birds, the lake, the road. Taking it all in like a child.

An overgrown, cynical, dark leaning manchild of a man.

Sunshine is truly different in the early morning. It gives things an angled glow, different than high noon. Things look hopeful in the early morning summer sun.

People with coffee mugs; dogs walking happily, proudly with their loved ones; commuters with arms hanging out driver side windows, people jogging, DUI victims riding cheap bikes wearing silly helmets.

It's a groove, man.

I'm drinking this all in. Burning it to the DVD of my 2014 Summer of Fun.

I have been able to live in the now - to brush bullshit aside - and to glory in the moment.

Memories and events keep piling up.

Last weekend - or was it the weekend before? - had Friday off. Spent it with Craig. Partially on the golf course.

It was great to spend time with my son in the place where he derives so much pleasure. I hit a few unashamedly. Not like me. I tend to hesitate, to be self conscious. He handed me the clubs, I swung away lustily. And enjoyed it. Gorgeous day. Perfect. Beer on the deck of the 19th hole. Shooting the shit casually. Beer at the Lab 'N Lager, Scotty behind the bar. Beer at Margarita's where Craig's magnificent girlfriend works. The ride home, windows down, smiling inside at my luck at being close to my son.

The very next night we went to a Fishercats game with Keith and Emily. Gorgeous, perfect night. Popped into the bar first to watch California Chrome not win the Belmont Stakes. Didn't matter. We were talking. Laughing. Easy. The Fishercats lost but Carol and I got to sit next to our eldest and his magnificent wife on a magical summer night. Share their company. Christ it was good.

TWO sons who I worship, who I can laugh with.

Does it get any better than that?

It was the weekend before, because last weekend Carol and I went out for breakfast. We don't do that often. Not nearly enough. We were straying into Concord to run errands. We turned it into a breakfast date. Just being with each other brunching our way to stomach and heart fulfilling peace.

That last sentence was corny as hell.

Summer is almost officially here. Heat slows things down, which is fine with me because I NEED this summer to last. Man it has been magnificent already.

And it is only June.

I'm driving straight to Hell this morning at 6:15 in 69 degree brilliant sunshine heat. Smiling. From my lips to my soul.

Yeah, summer works it's magic.

Yeah. early morning summer sun illuminates the truth.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cleaning House (Uncovering Inspiration)

Did some more cleaning in my "writing room" today.

Mounds of paper and bullshit that half filled a 30 gallon trash bag.

I also came across countless scraps of paper with notes, thoughts, lines, poems,  and partiality as is my way.

Things pop into my head as good ideas to write about, I scribble them down on every random piece of paper ever invented, and file them away into obscurity.

As verbose as I am, there are hundreds of partial inspirations kicking around this house that I have not acted upon.

I found this one and I like it.

"My life is so superficial, if it were water I could not drown in it."

Don't know when I wrote that; I do know it was a long time ago because it was at the bottom of an immense pile.

It is a great line.

I would like to point out that I no longer feel that way.

As far as the job goes, it is without a doubt a superficial piece of shit.

But the personal life is deep; fulfilling.

There is enough offset there to keep me from slicing my wrists.

Friday, June 13, 2014


"We ain't got no room for boring. For boring we ain't got no room."

The Muppets

Monday, June 9, 2014

P.J. O'Rourke

I got P.J. O'Rourke's autograph yesterday.

He's a pretty big deal. Google him; you will understand.

He is of national renown as a humorist, political commentator, writer and a lot more. He chooses to live in a tiny NH town to "get as far away as possible from the people I write about", in his own words.

He strolled into the liquor store months ago and I recognized him but was too reserved to confirm his identity when he came through my register.

Next time I said "You are P.J. O'Rourke", which he confirmed.

I told him I had just seen him on the Bill Maher show hawking his new book - "The Baby Boom - How It Got That Way And It Wasn't My Fault And I'll Never Do It Again."

I told him I was going to buy it and he told me to bring it in and he would autograph it.

I have held on to it for months since I last saw him. In the meantime I read another of his books called "Parliament Of Whores", which is his attempt to explain the workings of our government.

It was informative and hilarious.

He strolled in to the liquor store yesterday, I grabbed the book and he autographed it for me.

He asked how I wanted it inscribed. I told him "To Joe - Stop Underachieving." I said I needed inspiration. He laughed, signed it and we shot the shit for a couple of minutes. He was talking about how he was taking care of the kids for the weekend, his wife was not around, and that he too needed inspiration just to make it through the day.

We shook hands and he left.

He was down to earth and he made a little man feel big.

All in all, not a bad day.

The Planting Has Begun

On Tuesday before Memorial Day Weekend I planted flowers in Carol's Glorious Garden.

The first flowers, the first anything, I have ever planted in my life.

I looked forward to getting down on my knees in the dirt and spiritualizing with nature. Unfortunately on that particular day the deal was not quite that romantic.

Black flies were literally swarming us as I planted and Carol supervised. Intent to meditate turned into let's get this over with ASAP and get the hell inside. So my anticipated pleasure turned into expediency.

Still I felt like I had done something.

A week later we went back out and spread the flowers out. In my haste I had buried them too close together and Carol was concerned they would not bloom healthily. Accepting her counsel as gospel because she is the Goddess of the Garden, I dug them up, spread them out and re-planted them.

This is when I noticed an emotional connection. Spiritual, mayhaps. I was paranoid about getting too close to the roots when I dug them back up. So concerned that I might sever them and destroy their beauty before I had a chance to nurture it.

Of course Carol encouraged me to be bold and the re-planting was accomplished.

Amazing how peaceful it can be to stand in the hot sun next to a garden, hose in hand, tending to the needs of living things.

Poetic as my sensibilities tend to be, I feel a tenderness towards these plants. They are alive. They depend on me to keep them that way. In return they will give me beauty.

And peace.

That is a pretty good trade-off.

For those who demand details, I planted five flowers - three of one, two of another. Known as: Gaura, which "produces large clumps of willowy leaves and quantities of tall, airy flower spikes, each individual white blossom tinged with pink."


Salvia, which is part of a "huge family that not only includes some of the all-time favorite flowering plants, but several culinary herbs as well..................When you move into the perennial forms of salvia, the pre-dominant flower color changes from red to brilliant blue." These are the ones I planted.

By the way these descriptions, cribbed from "The Big Book of Flowers", remind me of the fiction on the labels of wine bottles.

Here is the important thing. I am involved in a new pursuit. Something I never would have considered a short time ago. Something to relax me, focus me, and give me peace; relief from the hellish nightmare inaccurately described as "working for a living."

I am changing. Those who pay attention know that I am changing in other ways. Primarily in the determination to make family stuff happen and to be present mentally when it does, burning the memories into my heart, mind and soul.

My hope is that change will melt away some of the scabs off my heart and drain some of the poison from my blood.

Long term, I am not sure. I have committed a life time so far to negativity and suffering. Could be like trying to turn a cruise ship around.

Right now I feel good. Good about what I am doing. Good about where I am going.

I have babbled endlessly in these pages, for years, about change. I feel now that I am actually doing it.

Perhaps now you will have more faith in my words.


I have planted flowering plants for the first time ever, and I am still enjoying baseball in June. Truly, I am evolving.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Brilliant Early June Day

It was a beautifully brilliant early June day, 79 degrees, and Jack was out back having an anxiety attack.

Actually he was doing nothing of the sort. He was burying his wife. She had been a thorn in his side for many years now and, inspired by the exquisite weather,  a few short moments ago he took a shovel to her head while she reached into the cupboard for another box of Bonbons. Then he injected her with a large dose of pure heroin as she lay on the kitchen floor and waited for her breathing to stop.

He was convinced that at one point the expression on her unconscious face made her look happier than he had ever seen her.

Heroin will do that to you.

Digging the grave was more work than he expected. Six feet long, six feet deep - that's a lot of earth to move. We're talking good NH soil but still it was pretty damn rocky. They don't call it the Granite State for nothing.

Still he had a few pounds he'd been meaning to lose for a while now and the exercise felt pretty good. The iPod was crooning and there was a nice pitcher of lemonade to keep him hydrated.

Jack was worried about his pants. They were a pair that were broken in, comfortable, his favorites. The execution was spur of the moment and he had not planned ahead wardrobe wise. The pants were soaked through with sweat and some of the soil was ground in as well. He wasn't so worried about that but there was some blood spatter on them too.

The random pattern of the blood stains suggested modern art. Every once in a while, between shovel-fulls, Jack would admire them with wonder and awe. He dabbled in painting for relief, release and surcease from the torture of life. If he could duplicate the patterns on canvas he stood a chance of becoming the next Jaxon Pollack. Maybe he could actually incorporate the blood right in with the paint.

That's what he was thinking off and on as he meditated on the repetitive nature of digging a grave. Jam the shovel into the dirt, step on the upper edge and force it down deeper, life the dirt up and out. The rhythm felt good once he got the hang of it. And filling in the grave was so easy it was like a reward for a job well done.

Still, he wasn't sure about the pants. He really liked them, he really wanted to keep them. The dirt and sweat were nothing, it was the blood he was worried about. He would have to watch a couple of episodes of The Sopranos for cleaning tips.

That might be a pleasant way to pass the evening. Maybe he would barbecue a massive Delmonico steak on his meager grill, crack open a bottle of cheap wine and settle in for a Sopranos marathon.

He liked On Demand better than sex.

At one point during this pleasant reverie, images of his wife leaked into his brain. He could see her standing in the kitchen with chocolate running down her chins. When she cracked open a new box of Bonbons she couldn't wait to get it back to her chair. The overstuffed chair with the obnoxious floral pattern that reminded Jack of nursing homes. Her favorite chair.

No, she had to stuff a couple into her mouth immediately and slurp noisily until the gooey concoction hit her stomach. Then and only then would she make her way to her chair, in which she would consume handfuls of candy while looking at the TV.

She hadn't been a bad wife. She stuck around, had a job and brought in some money. Sometimes she cooked, sometimes she cleaned. They would go out to Friendly's for dinner every third or fourth month. Maybe a movie.

It was a slow moving life but it was a life.

Jack was just looking for a change. Not a change of women, just a change of emotion. Of circumstance. He thought, apropos of nothing, that killing his wife might shake things up. The thought came to him like lightening and he acted upon it without hesitation.

Turns out it was cathartic. He felt light, inspired. He felt different. He felt like he looked different.

He thought "She was a good woman" and simultaneously, " the hell with her." Not in any vicious way. It was more of an offhand dismissal.

Burgle, Jack's stupid neighbor, came over with two cold beers just as Jack was buttoning up the grave.

Burgle handed him a PBR and asked "Whattya doin'?"

"Burying my wife, " Jack responded. They had a good laugh over that one.

"Whadja think of LeBron the other night. Being carried off the court and all," said Burgle.

Jack said "He's a goddamn wimp, a poseur. For that kind of money he should have integrity enough to play through the pain. At least limp off the court like a man."

The conversation took on a head of steam and before you knew it they were having the familiar discussion of how overpaid these goddamn professional athletes are.

Jack was thinking to himself that it was amazing how stimulating a conversation could be, how satisfying.

On a brilliant, early June day in the back yard.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Do We Have The Right

Can Carol and I claim Ray LaMontagne as our own?

Do we have the right?

This thought crossed my mind at the concert we attended last weekend. Ray L is a singer songwriter of immense talent and sensitivity. He is forty years old.

Carol discovered him a few years back and immediately fell in love with him. Through exposure and in time, I fell in love with him as well. His music is gorgeous, his words are thoughtful and thought provoking, his soul is out there for all to dig.

We have been to three of his concerts now. Maybe more. My memory is not to be trusted.

We have been surprised by the number of very young people who attend these concerts. I know in my mind because I am an elder statesman, I feel like my peers are the people Ray appeals to. So I have been surprised at the youth in attendance.

And disgusted with them. Many of Ray's songs are quietly emotional; he often brings them down to a whisper. We saw him up in Maine or Vermont or Colorado or Alaska -  I can't quite remember where - in a small and funky place.

The youth talked, laughed and distracted right through the most sensitive parts of his most sensitive songs. We were disgusted.

Saw him somewhere else. Again in a funky place I think, maybe; anyway and that audience seemed more respectful. We were not horrified.

Last weekend the concert was at the Bank of America Pavilion right on Boston's waterfront. A super cool place to experience music. It is a wide open and temporary tented facility. Fascinating. Although it was goddamn cold and we were not dressed for it.

I was frozen like a Klondike bar. Carol, more cold blooded (warm blooded?) than I, was still able to move her limbs. Although I could be wrong about that too.

The audience sucked. There was a large contingent of the young in attendance. They never stopped moving during the concert. There was a constant stream of people walking through the rows, up and down the isles and back again. In between songs, conversation was non stop and loud.

That's when the thought hit me - Carol and I are twenty years older than Ray LaMontagne - are we really his audience? Or is his audience this young and disrespectful, irreverent bunch of superficial jerk offs?

The thought only lasted a second. Music is universal. We are his audience.

Things have changed. (Here we go) when I was a kid, booze was not sold at concerts. You had to get loaded before you got inside. No pizza, ice cream, tacos, subs or any other goddamn thing were available. The only time you left your seat was to go to the bathroom. And you made the trip as quickly as you could because you couldn't wait to get back to the music.

The music was secondary to this audience. The kids were constantly up getting beers, bringing back whole pizzas, going to the bathroom and, oh yeah, staring numbly at their goddamn "smart" phones. They are distracted; not plugged in to the music.

What a fucking waste.

Our society is becoming more superficial at an exponentially increasing rate. You can't have a conversation with someone under a certain age without them stopping to tweet or check their goddamn text messages. What is being lost is connection, the human element.

Music is sacred.

As a kid I got drunk and I got high before concerts. Beyond destroying a few brain cells and compromising my health and driving drunk, nothing else was subtracted from the experience. I used to get mad when my friends tried to say something to me because the music was loud and I had to turn away to concentrate on what they were saying. Practically had to read lips.

Music was not sacred to this bunch. I think that worship has been lost to a large extent. And I gotta believe Ray LaMontagne does not appreciate the noise and distraction at his shows.

He is an old soul.

Carol and I have claimed Ray LaMontagne as our own. We refuse to let go. But I now realize that we have to work harder to catch him in the right setting.

The big show carnival thing doesn't support the beauty of his music. At least in smaller, funkier settings we have a chance of facilitating the flow of his magic directly into our souls unimpeded.

A chance.

Enjoying music should not be a calculated thing. It should flow, it should be natural, it should be joyous.

We had many joyous moments at Ray's concert on the water in the tent with the kids. But there were a lot of distractions and annoyances as well.

A lot.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Vicious Black Corvette

Jack sat in the bar nursing what remained of his whiskey, nursing the bruised knuckles that had just administered a beating to an obnoxious fool. It would be mere minutes before he was asked to leave, a routine he was used to in many bars in many places.

Inspired by Keith Richards' great lyric - "gonna walk before they make me run", Jack downed the whiskey and walked towards the door just as the bouncer was making his way to the table. As he passed the Neanderthal, Jack whispered something sweet in the bouncer's ear, ducked under the punch wildly thrown and walked into the sun with shoulders back.


He walked to his car, a 1968 Corvette, viciously black with minimal chrome and a little worse for wear, and  reveled in the satisfaction of moments like these. As his ass hit the seat the emotion faded darker. It disappointed him that the satisfaction was always short lived. It disappointed him that these situations were so consistent in his life.

As the 'Vette came alive Jack thought for the hundredth time that he really needed to get this baby in shape. It was a little embarrassing to drive a legendary vehicle like this in the shape it was in. Or wasn't in. He could afford to buy it because it had not been lovingly tended to by the previous owner, and he always planned on bringing it back alive, enough to make sexy women drool, but he never had the money.

He never had a lot of things.

The sun was brilliant, the heat was high, it was three in the afternoon; time for a cruise. There were plenty of back roads around here, peaceful, inspired surroundings practically devoid of traffic.

A landscape conducive to reflection.

Jack's life was as rundown as his 'Vette and time was growing painfully short. Every tick of the clock was like a sledgehammer to the head.

At sixty he had a lot and he had nothing. It was the nothing that tortured him. No retirement fund, no way to get there, no idea in his head at all about how the hell he could turn things around.

When he was younger he imagined this stage of his life as easy going success sliding into entitled, and lengthy, retirement. Never even considered that things would not go his way. Now he shakes his head in wonder and disbelief at how quickly it all passes and how all decisions and non-decisions have far reaching consequences.

Jack punched the glove compartment and the door dropped open to reveal the flask that was sitting there. The flask that was always sitting there, always at the ready.

Sipping whiskey in the sun behind the wheel of a vicious black Corvette was supreme. It required no thought, sparked no remorse. It was always the right thing to do.

Violence was not in Jack's nature as a kid; it had been bred into him by life. He was never interested in being any kind of boss; telling people what to do was not his thing. He didn't have the confidence, he didn't have the patience.

He settled for the role of worker bee, quietly going about his business, trying to avoid the stupidity of others. But ignorant bosses and petty co-workers made Jack's blood boil.

Lashing out at work was not an acceptable solution, especially given the uncertain nature of the economy, although from time to time he did lose it. Any reasonable man would.

From time to time he searched for new employment.

Generally though he kept it all inside. Whiskey and dive bars provided relief.

People are stupid everywhere. This is a resource in no short supply. Booze makes  thoughtful people less sensitive; it reveals stupid people for the waste of breath that they are.

Initially, Jack was attracted to low life bars because they suited him. Nothing pretty or phony about them. They are gritty and real. He would choose a table in a corner and sip whiskey, listen to the jukebox and be amused by the fools.

Women hitting on men, men hitting on women, false bravado pouring out of bar glasses, people fooling themselves and trying to bring anyone else along for the ride.

(Editor's note: Just having some fun here. Maybe practicing. Hard to tell. If I have any initiative at all I will go ahead and finish the story. Make it sparkle. Until then.........................)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The River Gets It

Recently I spoke about the enjoyment I get from listening to 92.5 - The River.

My respect has grown.

Monday night I was driving home, having survived another day of pure hell at The Asylum. Listening to 92.5. When I dialed it up "Whipping Post" was playing.

I thought this was cool. The song ended and the DJ said The Allman Brothers had called it quits. I hoped he was talking about their announcement earlier this year that they would stop touring at the end of 2014. But there was a tone to his voice that chilled me.

Turns out they are done done. Gonna honor the few dates they have left scheduled and go out with a bang with six dates at The Beacon. No touring this summer.

I was devastated.

I have been checking on line almost every day for a couple of months waiting for the summer schedule to come out so I could pounce on front row seats. Getting antsy as time went by because no dates were forthcoming.

Now I know why.

The DJ went on to say with regret in his voice that he had a chance to see The Allman Brothers a few years ago but events conspired to prevent him from attending. Now he would never get the chance.

There was honest regret in his tone; a sadness and disappointment.

When I got home I immediately went on line hoping the man was delirious.

He was not.

Yesterday I was crawling to work much against my will, listening to The River. The DJ said with obvious sadness in her voice that The Allman Brothers had called it quits.

Then she played "Melissa."

First of all, it was obvious to me that these two DJ's got it. They understand who The Allman Brothers are, what their legacy is, the impact they have had on rock 'n roll in a genre they practically created. They understand just how talented, how passionate this band is and that they are survivors who have come back time and time again bigger and better than ever.

Except this time it sounds final.

Secondly, the songs they chose were not random. Yeah, any casual ABB fan knows "Whipping Post", knows "Melissa".  But these songs are meaningful.

"Whipping Post" is their signature song. If I have been to thirty concerts, I bet "Whipping Post" was the encore at twenty of them.

The song reigns supreme. I once read a description of the opening of the song that said the first thing you hear is an ominous bass line that is pure evil.


When that bass rumbles into the air the audience always erupts.

And you can identify with the words so easily. "Sometimes I feel like I've been tied to the whipping post; good lord I feel like I'm dying."

But you can't sing it like Gregg. Believe me I have tried.

The legend goes that "Melissa" came to Gregg in the middle of the night. That he had no pencil and didn't want to turn up any lights. So he lit a sequence of matches, blew them out and wrote the song in burnt match-head on an ironing board.

Who the hell cares if the story is true or not. It is a great story. A quintessential rock 'n roll story.

Not a typical Allman Brothers song either. It is Gregg with an acoustic guitar and the band behind him.

At a concert when you see Gregg walk to the front of the stage with an acoustic guitar you know you are about to be treated to "Melissa."

Quietly beautiful.

Although these two DJ's broke my heart, they did it with respect. And feeling. And appreciation. And awe.

Music is emotion, emotion is music. Some bands are able to take that recipe and turn it into something bigger than themselves. Something timeless and soul gratifying.

The Allman Brothers Band is one of those bands.

The River Gets it.

My Emotions

I am devastated by the announcement of The Allman Brothers break up.

Earlier this year I found out that Derek and Warren would be leaving the band at the end of the year, and that the band would stop touring at the end of the year.

That was devastating enough.

The way I found out says a lot about Allman Brothers fans. We were out to dinner with Jason and Karen. I was wearing my Allman Brothers sweatshirt with their name boldly emblazoned across the back. We were sitting at the bar.

A complete stranger, a fan, came up to me and asked if I had heard about Derek and Warren. I had not. She told me and I was blown away.

Jason thought it odd that a stranger would initiate a conversation like that out of the blue. And I understand where he is coming from.

Except that I am a life long Allman Brothers fan. I am part of a family and so is she. Although we may never have been at the same concert, we share the experience of love and appreciation for a band that is larger than life. ABB fans are devoted, and they are also respectful and appreciative of each other.

The parking lot before a concert is comfortable. It feels like home. I have had countless conversations with hundreds of people of all ages over the years, conversations about songs, band members, band history, other concerts. Always comfortable. Always fun. Respectful in awe, easy in laughter.

Doesn't matter what the gaps are between us; if you are an Allman Brothers fan, you are good people.

I will miss that deeply.

Anyway, the news about Derek and Warren devastated me. Later on Gregg announced the band would stop touring at the end of 2014.

More devastation.

But I hung my hat on the last concert or concerts I would experience this year. Hounded the internet religiously looking for dates because I was going to get front row seats for the first time in my life.

Not to be.

I am crushed.

If I see the band at all this year it is going to take something extraordinary. Something that will break up my marriage, given our low bank balance resulting from Carol's lustful addiction to high priced jewelry and cocaine.

Obviously at this point everything is sold out.

So I am lost. I feel empty. I was thinking about it as I drove home last night, trying to work this reality into my brain. Put it into perspective. The thought occurred to me that this must have been how Carol felt when Elvis died.

Coincidentally, as we talked about the situation last night Carol said: "Now you know how I felt when Elvis died."


I am literally heart broken. I cannot lie. The Allman Brothers concert or concerts were going to be the highlight of this Summer of Magic that I am weaving. My summer plans are moving along deliciously but the concerts have been snatched away from me.

Summer without an Allman Brothers concert is like summer without heat. I know. There have been a few rare summers since 1989 when I didn't see them and my soul was empty.

I do, however, have many amazing memories. And some not-memories. There are a few concerts I must confess that are only a blur in my diseased brain.

All in all, Allman Brothers concerts have enriched me and lifted me to heights of pleasure and happiness that no other band has ever done.

I have that in my heart and in my soul.

Much like my family, The Allman Brothers Band has made my life a better thing.

That is magic.

Magic that I will miss, I will mourn and that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


"When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators."


Weddings, Man

Weddings are boring.

For the most part. Except for the booze. Especially if there is an open bar. Even if it is a limited open bar. For an hour or two. At least you can slop up to the bar and drink on somebody else's tab for a while.

Most people think they drink at weddings as a form of celebration. I think they drink because they know they will be, or already are, bored.

Weddings highlight the complete lack of originality on the part of the majority of humans.

It starts at the ceremony itself. Whether it is a priest or a J.P., you get the same old cliches about love and couples against the world. The same old poems, the same old songs, the same old references.

Marriage should be a source of originality. When you marry, you are escaping your parents authoritarian rule. You are striking out on your own and establishing your own unique lifestyle.

In this situation you should dig deep. For the poetry, the quotes, and the songs that reflect exactly who you are. Whether it is Charles Bukowski, Keats, the Beatles, Sinatra, Oscar Wilde or Pee Wee Herman you should express yourself exactly as you please and opinions be damned.

This rarely happens. Because the whole thing has become so ritualized.

The reception provides relief because self medication is encouraged. However even that is not enough to combat the announcing of the wedding party, the introduction of the new couple, the toasts, the cutting of the cake, the throwing of the bouquet, the garter ritual.

Everything so strictly choreographed and the reactions so predictable that if you close your eyes you are at every wedding ever committed.

Here's the catch.

Hope. The enticing prospect of a happy future.

Fortunately every couple is able to ignore divorce statistics and assume their love will conquer all.

We were at a wedding Friday night where the bride never stopped looking into the groom's eyes during the ceremony. She never stopped smiling. With her lips or her eyes.

I was mesmerized by her devotion. The sheer power of that love, that optimism, that hope was not to be ignored or denied.

And why not?

I guess that is what is at the heart of every marriage. A chance for humanity to be renewed.

We older folk could sit back cynically and think "Just wait, children. Wait and see how life knocks you around and disappoints you and gives you money problems and hideous diseases."

But what would be the point of that?

I think in part that silence on the part of the ancient wise ones also reflects a secret wish that hope can be renewed. That life ain't over and it can still be defeated and made to kneel in supplication before peace and happiness.

Some of the ritual can truly be dug. Daddy dancing with his daughter, Mama dancing with her son, the couple's first dance. These are deeply meaningful and emotional. They signal a change in the wind, a passing of life into a new phase for all involved.

Weddings could be much more fun if people would just express themselves honestly. The problem with that might be at that age that a lot of people don't know who they are yet.

I accept and understand that. But at least give it a shot. Do something that will blow peoples' minds, inspiring them to say "Where the hell did that come from?"

Still, the hope thing, the possibility, the love and disregard for statistics, that is what is at the heart of these boring affairs.

That ain't no small thing.