Friday, August 29, 2014


"There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming."



I recently wrote that I am in enormous pain.

That comment is true; the pain is in my head. It has always been there. It holds me back, beats me down and compromises everything about me.

But it doesn't mean a goddamn thing.

Sarge, my brother-in-law, underwent a third operation on his brain in his war against cancer, on Wednesday, August 20.

He had a lung removed years ago and handled that like a man. He has had two operations on his brain since and handled those like a man.

This one was tougher. We spoke to Kevin, our nephew, on the day after the operation. The news was negative. So much so that Corey, Sarge's incredible wife, was told to think about "making preparations."

These people don't know Sarge. If they did they would not have been so thoughtless towards Corey.

The next day's update was no better. He was angry, didn't know where he was, and was having some physical problems.

On the third day Kevin called and said "Sarge wants to say hi." Sarge got on the phone and said "Howdy Doody." In his upbeat, confidant, humorous way. We asked him how he was doing and he said "I'm doing all right."

Tears were rolling down my cheeks. Carol carried on the conversation because she is stronger than me.

The tears were prompted by happiness. They also happened because my brain immediately went back to my "I am in enormous pain" comment.

Nothing I am going through can compare to what Sarge has been going through for years.

I am beginning to panic. Staggering towards September, same job, no improvement in my brain, sixty one staring me down.

Big fucking deal.

Looking for inspiration.

Could not do better than Sarge, could I?

I have been summoning Sarge in my brain since last Wednesday as much as I can when my brain malfunctions my life. I have not been entirely successful because I am a slow learner.

But I am trying and it does help.

When the world has somebody like Sarge in it making it better, it does not need somebody like me in it making it worse.

I re-read my writing from January 1 and 2 of this year to try to get back to ground zero. A lot of it dealt with what I have been told is my negativity.

Which indeed, upon further reflection, is exactly what it is.


Not helpful.

Sarge has been a positive guy for as long as I have known him, which is about 38 years. He remains positive even as he fights for his life.

He has always been in my head as somebody to emulate. Always.

Even more so now.

I am still not sure how to deal with who I am, but I do know that I need to hold my tongue more.

I do know that I need to be more positive because I have some amazing people in my life.

People I need to appreciate more, people I can learn from, people who can make my soul smile.

Like Sarge.

Negativity blocks things out; positivity allows things in.

I am laying down some facts.

I'll see what happens from here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


"I love my cats more than I love myself. This suggests some sort of emotional imbalance. (This can be corrected.)"



"It has been said that a man who cannot quote at least a few lines from The Godfather is no man at all.

There is a great deal of truth in that statement."



"The best thing that could happen to me right now would be for some brute to beat me senseless and leave me for dead in a dark alley."



"Logic makes no sense to me."


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Letterman On Robin Williams

David Letterman put together a personal tribute to Robin Williams on The Late Show Monday night.

He was not overly sentimental, as is his way. The emotion was there in his face for all to see; the sadness and sense of loss. The way he went about speaking his heart had a slight detachment to it. He does not get weepy sentimental. He does it like a pro.

Still he conveys deep emotion. And he makes you laugh as he does it. You are simultaneously experiencing your own sense of loss, getting a feel for his sense of loss and yet he makes you laugh in his low key, self deprecating way.

There were many clips of Williams on the show, all of them involving laughter. Gut busting, let it all hang out, soul revealing laughter. Letterman and Williams laughing together.

Letterman knew Robin Williams for 38 years. They clawed their way into the business together along with a lot of big names. Letterman said the other comics used to sit back and watch Robin Williams and know they were seeing someone unique. So unique they felt threatened. Like "how the hell are we going to make it with this guy as competition?"

Letterman ended the tribute by saying "I am sorry I had no idea, like everybody else, that the man was in pain, that the man was suffering."

I watched it last night in tears, I just watched it again in tears.

It is surprising to some that enormous pain can be so well hidden.

Not to me. I always felt that Robin Williams was a tortured performer. I think it was the source of his brilliance and the trigger for his death.

I saw it in his eyes, in his facial expressions, in his performances, in his gentleness, in his vulnerability. It was there always, for me.

There are untold numbers of people who walk through life in enormous pain. Some cross the line into insanity, unable to function within society at all. The majority barely make it through, hanging on day to day through sheer will.

But that is not living.

I am in enormous pain. There is no one on this planet who knows the extent of it. I am the only one who can know that because I am the only one experiencing the raw emotion. There are plenty who would agree that I have problems, that my mind is twisted, plenty who would agree that I really need to change my perceptions.

Not one other person on this planet knows the depth of it.

My current job is quite busy amping up the pain. People have all kinds of advice explaining to me how I can better deal with this situation. Pointless advice because only I know that there is no adjustment I could make that could kill the pain of this job. Nothing I can do, no where I can go except outside this organization.

They mean well.

It is not just the job. There are other sources for this pain.

I am not alone. There are millions just like me who are living right on the edge. I am not talking suicide, I am talking about walking the fine line between functioning as society requires and crossing the line into irrational decisions.

At least irrational decisions as perceived by those who consider themselves "normal."

People whine about petty things all the time. Those in enormous pain seem to be able to hide it.

Ironic, no?

This ain't about me. It is just that David Letterman's sorrow at not recognizing Robin Williams' pain struck a chord with me.

I know it struck a chord with millions of others.

This condition has existed since the dawn of humanity. It has produced exquisite poetry, novels, movies, music, dance and more.

I think we have perfected the frustration of existence in the 21st century. I can't imagine it getting any less soulful, any more heart breaking.

But it will.

I realized on an even deeper level last night and today how much Robin Williams' death affected me.

I think it will be the source of ever deepening sorrow as time rolls on.

I am glad though, for him, that he could be successful, that he could achieve fame. Most importantly, that he could make people laugh.

It is an enormous accomplishment for a man in that much pain to put it aside and help others to forget theirs.

Rest in Peace Robin Williams.

The Brain Is Rocking And Reeling

Feel like I got spit out of the mouth of the whale into today.

It has been brutal. For me, anyway.

Been acting as pseudo-manager for over a week now with what amounts to almost a completely new staff. Three people who are brand new and know nothing about the business. Plus one who came from another store and is excellent but has to learn the climate, the rhythm and the procedures of this store.

Four people firing questions at me endlessly.

I have reflected endlessly on why this job is more painful for me than the prison term I spent as an accountant. Over twenty years.

I got breaks as an accountant. There were times every day when I could sit in my cubicle in a corner in front of the computer in silence. Adding numbers up; writing them down.

Ultimately in my life I want to be left alone. Other than my family I don't ever want to deal with another human being.

Those quiet moments in the corner kept me from kicking down cubicle walls.

That kind of quiet does not exist in retail. Especially when you are an assistant manager. The fact that I despise answering questions and telling people what to do complicates the situation since that is exactly what the job requires.

Another brilliant career decision.

So the past week has been pure torture for me. No more than your job tortures you. My point here is not to prove that my suffering trumps your suffering or that you can't possibly be as miserable as me.

Everybody hates their job. Everybody suffers. I am trying to express and assess what the hell is going on in my head.

That's all.

Yesterday summed the whole week up brilliantly. I was dying to get to today. I slipped through to early afternoon in relative quiet.

Then the nuclear bomb went off.

We got a late delivery. My plan was to help two newcomers check it in because they are raw in experience and mistakes complicate things. I was called out front and never made it back.

A licensee picked up a huge order, I started to check her out because  I had a newcomer on the other register. A bootlegger came in simultaneously; another huge order that only I could handle. A guy walked in at the same time, wanted to return some stuff and buy some stuff. Another transaction the new guy couldn't handle. A guy showed up from the surveillance camera company to reboot our camera system. Another licensee came in.

And the credit card system crashed. Across the state. Every store.

Suddenly I was explaining to pissed off customers that we could only process cash transactions, answering questions from the newcomer on the register, answering questions from the camera surveillance guy, answering questions from the newcomers outback who were forced to check the load in unaided, answering incredibly stupid questions from customers like "when will the system be back up" and "can't you do anything", answering the phone and taking orders because nobody else could do it and running up to the office to check E-mails regarding the status of the credit card system crash.

It was brutal. For me, anyway.

I am moving slowly today. Very slowly. Taking deep breaths. Thinking, deeply.

It is a beautiful day and I am determined to enjoy it if it kills me.

Yesterday was a knockout punch putting an exclamation point on a week that poured acid on my nerves.

Tomorrow is coming. Work.

I don't know what to do.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I was researching Lord Byron in

Very interesting dude. I shall learn more about him.

At the top of the page it had a birthday's today thing. Today is Robert De Niro's birthday.

First of all I hope he is enjoying a meaningful and joyous celebration. He's a cool guy. Honest. Last time he was over the house he said: "Joe, come on. You got to stop underachieving."

I value his friendship.

Here's my problem.

When I dialed up his page the headline says:

Robert De Niro Biography
Film Actor, Theater Actor, Director (1943-)

I hate that unfinished life in parentheses thing. Its like an invitation to death. It spooks me.

Don't associate that with a person's name until they are actually dead.

Otherwise leave it the hell out of there.

Happy Birthday, Bob. 71 years old and still rocking. Still bringing the swagger. The cool. The sophistication.

One of a kind, baby.


"There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more."

Lord Byron

Ice Cream

I am developing a new strategy to achieve world peace.

Ice cream.

Carol and I stopped into Beech Hill Farms on our way back from walking the grand-dog last weekend.

BHF is one of Carol's favorite places in the world, other than the opium den she frequents when I work late shifts.

They make high quality ice cream - the kind that immediately clogs your arteries. You notice, as you lick your way to the nearest bench, that you are suddenly a little shorter of breath.

But it's worth it.

The place is cool because you got the ice cream, you got the farm thing going on, you got animals, you got plants and flowers to buy.

You got people.

Ice cream is the universal experience. If you tell me you don't like ice cream you are immediately suspect to me.

Which reminds me of the scene in "Good Will Hunting" where Ben Affleck sits in on a job interview for Matt Damon. He offers the interviewer a bribe or something, I don't remember the details, but Affleck ends up accusing the guy, yelling "You're suspect."

It's the way he says it. Check it out. It is excellent.

I don't trust people who say they don't like chocolate either. These are the same people who claim they have to be busy at work. "I just can't stand around. I have to be busy all the time."

Bullshit. Your lies don't fool me.

Anyway, back to BHF. Saw an old guy, a very old guy, wearing suspenders and denim, being escorted to the ice cream counter by a human around my age I assumed to be his kid.

Very cool. I loved knowing that at his age ice cream is still a treat. And that taking Dad to BHF was a family thing, a thing to keep them close.

There were little kids. Lots. A family of about 137 sat at the table next to ours. The parents allowed one dude to smear his ice cream all over his face. Chocolate. He ate that treat and dug it, and in the process ice cream painted his face.

Carol and I dug it because his parents allowed it. They didn't fuss over him, wipe him off or lecture him. When he was done he and his dad got up, the dad saying "There is a hose outside where we can clean you up." They walked out together to a cleaner, neater day.

Parents with young kids, laughing with the animals, playing in the sand pit, eating ice cream.

Parents and kids being families on a beautiful summer day in a slow moving, natural way.

We checked out the animals too. There were three new born goats. Absolutely hilarious, amazingly cute. Playing with each other, chasing each other around. The funniest thing was the way they jumped.

Straight up into the air. Like they had not yet mastered the jumping process. Even as they ran they would suddenly jump straight up in the air. Laughter from the adults and kids watching the show.

We strolled through the plants and flowers and crafty things and Carol did not spend a dime.

Must have been difficult.

Our summer has been punctuated by bold events. Red Sox game, Fishercats games, Ray LaMontagne, Blues festival, Gregg Allman for me and my brother.

Beech Hill Farms was no less a high point than any of those.

A leisurely visit to a beautiful place on a summer day with my amazing wife.

Peace, man. We are all looking for peace. It is a little easier to find in the summer because we slow down and actually see.

I liked what I saw at BHF. Liked how I felt. Love that it was just me and Carol.

This summer is one for the books, baby.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


"Never pick a fight with an ugly person, they've got nothing to lose."

Robin Williams

It Is A Basic Rule

Butter should not be hard in the butter dish in August.

Why I Love Tom Brady

I'm watching a recording of THE PATS second PRE-SEASON game this morning.


Brady throws a touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins. Precise pass, nice throw, nice catch.

Brady then races to the end zone, bangs into Thompkins and gives him a hug.

Minutes later you see Brady sitting on the bench - smiling - Thompkins standing in front of him - and Brady mid-fives Kenbrell.

It wasn't a high five because Brady was sitting and KT was standing.

Enthusiasm. Competitiveness.

Even in a pre-season game.

This is (one of the) reasons I love Tom Brady.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

There Are A Million

There are a million people who fit the following description:

1) $0 saved for retirement
2) Can't live on social security
3) Work a job that is destroying them physically and mentally
4) Can't find a new job because they are too old
5) Can't quit - got a mortgage to pay

I have read accounts in influential magazines indicating that these people feel trapped.

Remember mimes? Remember how they pretend they are in a box by pressing the palms of their hands against imaginary walls?

I'm told that's how these people feel.

Only the walls are not imaginary.

Worse than that, studies show they feel so trapped, so hemmed in that their internal organs are getting crushed.

Slowly and painfully.

Some have been duped by a supposed confidante at work. A higher up who led them to believe there was some tiny glimmer of hope and justice. Only to have that exposed as fiction. A carefully crafted lie.

Trust took another hit.

There was a time when 60 was a glorious age. Work was coming to an end; retirement could be seen lurking right around the corner. The house was paid for, magnificent trips were planned, leisure would transform from a concept to a reality.

Not so in the 21st century.

No retirement, a perpetual mortgage, underemployment; the word "leisure" deleted from Merriam-Webster.

It is a sad time for humanity.

There are solutions. This generation is resourceful.

There is alcohol. There are drugs.

There are life choices available.

One could chuck it all and begin a rolling tour of bars and whorehouses throughout America as long as money and health will allow.

One could chug away at traditional solutions, applying for jobs, groveling at the feet of headhunters and interviewers, praying to Jesus and washing behind the ears.

One could reinvent oneself. Find a way to make money online, although this sounds an awful lot like the dream of "high paying" computer jobs that was dangled as hope decades ago.

The point is to not give up. Giving up hurts the economy. Even option one above is not giving up; at least you are spending money, contributing to local economies.

There are millions of people faced with this reality.

The important thing is to put your head down and repeat the mantra "this is how life works."

Grim acceptance greases the skids towards compliance.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."

Robin Williams


The good thing about pain is that there is plenty to go around.

Pain is an enormous resource that will never be depleted. So enormous it can easily handle the 7 billion in the world today, with plenty of reserves available to deal with a population that multiplies like rabbits do.

Physical pain is all around us. People suffering with horrible diseases, people hurt in accidents, people born with diseases and physical problems that make their lives incredibly difficult.

That, of course, is not enough. There is psychological pain in abundance. The shock of life's false promise resulting in sheer bewilderment in the hearts of the majority of human beings.

Psychological pain probably exponentially dwarfs the physical pain in the world. The majority of people in the world struggle to just get by and wonder what the hell the point is.

The Center for Disease Control says that the suicide rate in developed countries dropped between 1990 and 2010. However, in the United States the rate has jumped almost 20% in the last decade.

And to put one more twist on it, if you look back to World War II the American suicide rate has not changed much at all.

Apparently the suicide trend is humming right along. Apparently it is not just the latest fad.

Why do you think this is? Happiness?

More stats. Baby Boomers are leading the charge. The suicide rate for Americans between the ages of 45 and 64 has increased more than 30% in the last decade. For white, upper-middle-aged men the rate has jumped more than 50%.

Fifty fucking per cent.

The world is getting nastier all the time and suicide rates are climbing as a result.

It is worse in this country because we talk about all men being created equal, we talk about the land of opportunity, we talk about the pursuit of happiness. The gap between those pretty words and reality is huge.

A gap created and fed by those who are supposed to look out for us.

Robin Williams' suicide has sparked a discussion on suicide just like Philip Seymour Hoffman's death sparked a discussion on heroin.

We like to talk.

I heard a rare intelligent comment on the topic last night. A woman was discussing the typical reaction that suicide is selfish, that the act fails to take into consideration the feelings of those left behind.

I always considered this point of view ignorant. If somebody's pain is so enormous that death is the only answer, who are we to question that decision? Those who are left behind, if they love you, should understand.

This woman said that maybe, considering the pain that Williams felt, that maybe he felt he was hurting his family, that maybe he felt he was a burden to his family, maybe he was thinking about his family when he killed himself.

Suicide is an uncomfortable topic. I find it ironic though, that we have turned life into an impossible thing, an enormously frustrating and disappointing thing, and then we turn around and look down upon people who choose a way out.

Pain is enormous and growing. It is the end result of our own stupidity, selfishness and pettiness.

Psychological pain is something we try to hide. Something we mock as weakness.

Given the stats, maybe this approach is slightly off base.

Robin Williams

I walked into the house on Monday night and Carol asked if I had been listening to a CD in the car or did I have the radio on.

She knew that if I had the radio on I had probably heard the news. But I had just turned it on during the last five minutes of my drive.

She told me that Robin Williams was dead. Suicide.

I was stunned and stood in front of the TV for the next fifteen minutes watching the coverage.

I was stunned but not surprised. If you asked me 20 years ago if Robin Williams was a candidate for suicide I would have said yes. Definitely.

He was obviously a sensitive soul. I also felt he was a tortured soul.

I was stunned, then I became furious. Furious because the world does not need one less sensitive soul. The world needs more sensitive souls. Many more sensitive souls.

I am tired of life destroying people who are all about emotion. People who feel, above and beyond any other thought process or reaction or mode of existence.

Life is a snarling beast. It forces us to adapt by becoming stage actors, by becoming colder, by curling our emotions up like a fetus and wrapping them in false bravado.

We pretend to be tough when all we really ever are is vulnerable.

Some people just cannot live that way.

We are born innocent and wide eyed. All about love and sensitivity and wonder.

Otherwise known as the natural human condition.

As we stumble through life we develop defense mechanisms that bury our essence. Defense and coping mechanisms born of the realization that life will never be what we thought it would be. That we will never have the life we want. That life will be spent pointlessly working at hated jobs, and suffering and worrying endlessly about mortgage payments and budgets.

Defense and coping mechanisms born of the realization that you cannot trust most people. That everyone is so lost and hurt that they will not hesitate to hurt you.

We put our heads down and say "this is how life is."

Some people just cannot live that way.

People loved Robin Williams precisely because of his sensitivity. He made people laugh. He was crazy like we all want to be crazy. He helped us forget about our own lives every once in a while.

But it was the sensitivity that shone through. Even at his most manic, you could just see it in his face. His body language. His tone of voice.

There was a gentleness there that hooked us like heroin.

I am sure that gentleness is what killed him.

You can get cynical and ask what the hell did Robin Williams have to be depressed about? Most of us would kill to have his life.

That point of view is small minded. It expresses the age old confusion between "success" and happiness.

Happiness is in the head. Period.

You can have everything in the world and still not be happy. Depressed over the state of the world, depressed over the way life works, depressed over the way people behave.

Because when you are achingly sensitive, everything bad hurts. Whether it is personal or whether it is global.

I am sick and fucking tired of watching sensitive people - real people - get destroyed by life. Because these are the only people who have something genuine to offer us.

I am sick and fucking tired of it because I know this evil beast called life will always win.

We have devolved into a heartless species that devours gentleness. That mocks sensitivity.

Thank God for the years we had to enjoy Robin Williams. There were so many times he brought my own sensitivity to the surface, in his stand up, in his movies, in interviews. Brought my sensitivity to the surface, bloodied and diseased as it is, and allowed it to breath. Allowed it to just be.

There were countless times when Robin Williams caused tears to run down my cheeks.

Tears. An outward expression of the most basic, most vulnerable in all of us.

We loved Robin Williams because he touched what is real in all of us. He forced us, through the sheer power of genuineness, to recognize just how lost we all are.

He is being universally mourned because we know we have lost a soul that the world desperately needs.

I am sick and fucking tired of sensitive souls being snuffed out by the bastardized version of life that we have created.

I never met Robin Williams, but I loved him.

I'm pretty sure you feel the same way.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Duck, Baby Boomers

I started reading "The Baby Boom - How It Got That Way And It Wasn't My Fault And I'll Never Do It Again."

By P.J. O'Rourke.

First and foremost when I cracked the cover I came face to face with his autograph and dedication to me. He comes into The Asylum from time to time. I am bold enough to have initiated conversation with the man, which culminated in his autographing of the book.

He signed it as I asked him to (after chuckling a bit): "To Joe. Stop underachieving! P.J.O'Rourke. Peterborough, NH. 6/8/14."

I should have that page bronzed and hang it up over this very computer.

The book is kind of an indictment or commentary or criticism or historical record of my generation.

Done very much tongue in cheek, but with a healthy dose of truth cloaked in sarcasm, as is Mr. O'Rourke's way.

Very cool so far.

A couple of paragraphs hit me right off the bat.

"The youngest Baby Boomers, born in the last year when anybody thought it was hip to like Lyndon Johnson, are turning fifty. Those of us who were born when postwar birthrates were highest, even before Ike was liked, won't (statistics tell us) have to wait as long for death as we had to wait to get laid.
We'd be sad about this if we weren't too busy remarrying younger wives, reviving careers that hit glass ceilings when children arrived, and renewing prescriptions for drugs that keep us from being sad. And we'll never retire. We can't. The mortgage is underwater. We're in debt up to the Rogaine for the kids' college education. And it serves us right - we're the generation who insisted that a passion for living should replace working for one."

There's a lot of truth in there, but I am not going to deal with it. Not now, anyway.

What really hit me was an observation he made comparing our lives as children, specifically our relationship with our parents, to the relationship we had with them as teenagers and beyond.

Contrasting the innocent love we had for our parents when we were young, to the nasty way we trashed everything about them when the sixties ethos dominated our lives.

Strangely enough an immediate image popped into my head. That image was of myself, my brother and my mother standing on our second floor porch waiting for my father to drive home in his brand new Cadillac.

He owned a number of them. They were cool. My favorite was a dark brown one with a tan roof. That car was beautiful.

I wasn't happy when he switched over to a Mercedes. The caddies were cooler. Although I liked the way the Mercedes drove. Like a race car.

Yes. My father allowed me and my brother to drive his luxury cars. Pretty cool, huh?

Anyway, what came back to me was the feeling of pride I experienced as my father's car came into view. Pride at the fact that he could afford a Caddie. Pride at the beauty and luxury of the car.

And genuine excitement to see that baby roll into the driveway.

That was also right around the time that I began to hate my parents life style. To criticize it and vow never to live it.

Of course I turned around and lived almost exactly the lifestyle they did, minus the money.

Anyway, in a short period of time I went from pride to anger, and the relationship kind of stayed there for the remainder.

The relationship between us was always strained, even when I got married and moved out. My parents were demanding, and they did not like it when we stopped visiting every Sunday (1 and 1/2 hour drive one way) and on every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Seemed like our relationship never really survived those turbulent and formative years of the sixties.

That of course, is a shame. And I think where O'Rourke is going with this is that we weren't really fair to our parents.

Probably true.

I'm glad my sons did not rebel against Carol and me as openly as I rebelled against my parents.

That would have hurt.

Just as I am sure I hurt my parents.

Pet Love Is Easy

I draw enormous solace from the love I give to my pets and the love I get in return.

Yesterday I was digging Maka, thinking about how pure and honest this love is, and I began to wonder if it is an indulgence or an escape.

Pet love is satisfying because it is easy. It is pure.

It is a lot harder to love another human being. To truly love them every day in every way.

When I am home I give love to my pets every moment that they want it. And sometimes when they are not even looking for it.

If I am heading upstairs with a cup of coffee in one hand and a notebook in the other, and one of the cats rubs up against my leg, I will put the coffee and the notebook down on the table and stoop to pat them.

I do this because I feel it is cruel to ignore their quest for affection. And because it makes me feel good. Their lives are simple and all they really want is love. If I ignored their attention I would be denying something very basic inside of them.

I came home from work one night last week enormously angry. I grabbed a little whiskey (as my doctor has advised me to do) and began a rage. Yelling, fuming, banging on the kitchen counter, banging on the arms of the recliner.

A ridiculous show.

I didn't notice, but I imagine the cats disappeared. Upstairs or out on the porch.

The next day it was business as usual. The cats rubbing up against my legs, me patting them and kissing them on the head.

But I left a scar on Carol's soul.

Another one.

I don't know if I scarred Maka's soul and Lakota's soul.

But loving them the next day was easy. There was no reproachment in their eyes.

I made up my mind not to apologize to Carol for my immature display. I felt justified in the show because I am so torturously unhappy. I counted on her understanding this.

Besides, if I apologized for every ridiculous outburst in my life, I would have a three word vocabulary.

"I am sorry."

Hunter S. Thompson had a credo. "Never apologize, never explain."

I like that. I think it is a good way to live a life.

My interpretation is that we are all human and prone to continuous and sometimes enormous mistakes.

Why apologize?

It is a natural state of being.

Still, what was that? What was that decision not to apologize to Carol?

Was that some bastardized form of love? Or was it non-love? Anti-love?

How many times and in how many ways can I explain/justify my behavior?

(Note to self: Deal with your problems).

Christ, I am a word guy. I could find a different way to apologize every day for the rest of my life.

Anyway, I just rode it out. It was uncomfortable the next day between us, but eventually returned to "normal."

There was no discomfort between me and the cats the next day.

I should have found a way to heat up some love for Carol, to soothe her in some way that tapped into the spirit of this 36 year marriage.

Pet love is easy. Human love is hard.

Human love is work, just like anything good in life is work.

With the proper effort, I imagine human love could be "the answer."

Always a work in progress.

We'll see.

Nothing Sadder

There is no sadder sight than watching a car slowly exit the driveway at 6:09 a.m. for the Monday morning commute to work.


I am experiencing a preternatural calm this morning.

Don't know why. But it feels good.

I am not used to being free of anxiety. When it happens, I take note.

Think I will just roll with it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Girl In The Road

I just finished a book that is amazing and mind blowing.

"The Girl In The Road" written by Monica Byrne.

It was all the more exciting for me to read because I am a close, personal friend of the author. This is a big deal.

Actually I may not exactly be a close personal friend of Monica's, but I know her well and she is familiar with my quirky ways. Know may be kind of a strong word; I am familiar with her. Well, not really familiar but I know of her.

Truthfully I have never met her, but she is a friend of my enormously talented daughter (in-law).

That's a connection, is it not?

Enough attempts at humor.

This story is unique, amazingly original, set in the future and in a location in the world guaranteed to be foreign to us small minded Americans.

So it has an otherworldly feel throughout.

I will not even attempt to summarize the plot. Just read the damn thing. If you are a science fiction fan you will adore it. But even if you are not a sci-fi devotee, the story is strong enough, unique enough and interesting enough to keep you interested.

Unless your idea of reading is staring at Tweets. In that case forget the book and run out to buy yourself some neck braces to ease the burden of the mutation that will visit itself upon you in five years.

The story exists on an elevated level and then, just for fun, mixes in surprises and mind shocks that will just knock you down.

Obviously I don't have the right words to describe this book.

Just know that if you enjoy being taken far outside your own life and becoming immersed in a world that can keep the worries of your life at bay for a while, pick up "The Girl In The Road."

You will not be disappointed.

Gregg Allman


Saw Gregg Allman last night at Boarding House Park in Lowell, MA.

Highlight of the summer? Don't know. I am not done with summer yet.

Just me and my brother Ed on a gorgeous summer night in a tiny little park in the middle of an armpit of a city.

The concert started at 7:30. Ed got there at 3:00 because the website said people actually arrive at 7:00 A.M. to reserve spots by setting down chairs.

They weren't kidding. Ed was 4 and 1/2 hours early and we sat three quarters of the way back in the park. Everything in front of us was reserved.

Kind of a strange sight, actually. I got there at 5:00 and 95% of the chairs were unoccupied, but there was a sea of them. Row upon row of empty lawn chairs, low rider chairs, plastic chairs, those foldy uppy chairs.

When I arrived, Ed and I walked over to an Irish pub for some grub. Ed had taken the time to scout the neighborhood and picked a great joint. If I lived in Lowell (God forbid) or if this bar was located in Henniker, I would hang there. Very comfortable, great atmosphere, great food.

We sat comfortably, shot the shit and chowed down. Walked back over to the park and still had an hour and fifteen minutes to kill.

Which we did quite enjoyably with easy conversation.

The opening act was Jaimoe's Jasssz Band. Jaimoe happens to be a founding father of and one of the drummers with The Allman Brothers Band.

Jaimoe playfully describes his band as follows: "I get to play music, can't nobody fire me, and I have horns and one drummer." Allman Brothers fans understand the references.

Rock royalty, baby.

The band was magnificent. They played some down and dirty blues standards, like "Killing Floor" and "Can't Be Satisfied" and also mixed in some jazz, soulful and sensitive stuff and originals. The array of instruments was awesome and the talent was overwhelming.

Then Gregg took the stage.

Goosebumps, baby. I may never get the chance to see the Allman Brothers Band again and I was wondering last night how many more chances I will have to see Gregg.

So I dug it. Deeply.

His band played a lot of ABB stuff and they put a different twist on most of it. Two saxes, a trumpet, and another set of keyboards will do that.

Gregg's voice was magnificent. The whiskey soaked throaty growl was in full effect. And he seemed playful and light.

I sat mesmerized when he sang "Melissa." Every other time I have experienced this (and there have been many), Gregg grabs an acoustic guitar and walks to the front of the stage. Last night his guitar player played the acoustic and Gregg sang from behind his keyboards.

This seemed to free him up to put all his heart and all his soul into the song. Subtle nuance, slightly different phrasing, more emotion. It was absolutely gorgeous and I had goosebumps and a couple of tears throughout.

The night ended and I did not feel bummed. I got to experience Gregg Allman in a tiny little park in the middle of an armpit of a city on a perfect summer night with my brother Ed.

Ed and I are warriors. 59 and 60 years old respectively. We are scarred and battle weary.
Still we can talk. We can talk heavy, we can talk light. We can laugh. God can we laugh. There is a mutual love and respect between us that is the essence of honest human interaction.

And we love music. We are knowledgeable in that arena. When we experience music together it takes our relationship and elevates it to an even higher plane.

What a night. What a night.

Two weekends in a row now I have experienced concerts featuring the blues in gorgeous outdoor settings on perfect summer nights.

One with my beautiful, loving and amazing wife. One with my brother who is so exceptional to be around that he makes me better.

My life ain't so bad, no?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Most Romantic Line

"Now there's one thing in the whole wide world, I sure would like to see, that's when that little love of mine, dips her doughnut in my tea."

"Up On Cripple Creek"            The Band


"The 'what should be' never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it. There is no 'what should be,' there is only what is."

Lenny Bruce

Keeping Track

Drove to The World's Greatest Business Owner and Mechanic this morning at 7:30 to get a strange noise in The Big Ride checked out.

It was 56 degrees at the time.

Today is August 7.

Are you fucking serious?

Editor's note: The World's Greatest Business Owner and Mechanic is Danny Aucoin, who owns Danny's Automotive Servicenter in Henniker, NH and has been in business since 1978. If your car is not being serviced by Danny I hope you have a statue of the Virgin Mary on your dashboard and a set of rosary beads in your glove compartment.

Am I Really Trying?

THE PATS have their first pre-season game tonight.

Unfortunately I will be sweating blood at The Asylum. Goddamn this job.

But I digress.

I committed to reading up on THE PATS this season, becoming knowledgeable inside and out about all the players and what's going on with the team. I committed to obtaining a deeper understanding of the sport itself so I can communicate more intelligently with my sons, answer my wife's very excellent questions authoritatively, and enjoy the game even more.

I have made some effort, more so than in the past, but am I really trying?

Or am I fooling myself?

The first pre-season game being tonight gives me a sense that I don't know nearly as much as I want to know about this team. Makes me think that I have not put in the effort.

One excuse is the work schedule, of course. Insane and all over the place. Another is that I am desperately trying to radically change my life immediately.

New job, new me.

I am now a professional speech writer. That takes time.

Still I have the nagging feeling that I just have not tried hard enough.

Talking about life as well. You can fool yourself into thinking you are trying when all you really are doing is spinning your wheels.

I'm desperate to change jobs and to inject seriousness into the writing obsession. Applying for this, submitting that.

Am I wasting my time? Could my efforts be better re-directed?

I am 60. I don't have time to waste. Every change must be monumental.

I need to explode into the new me, not leak into the new me.

At some point you would think that a lifetime of experience would come together in clarity. That you would suddenly know exactly what to do and how to do it.

Not so. At least with me. I still feel like I am shooting in the dark.

Seems I never really THROW myself into anything. I need to make that leap. I need to explode upon the scene.

Still, on a micro level I am trying harder than I ever have before. Some solace there.

Anyway, THE PATS play tonight and I am excited about that. My amazing wife had the DVR set to tape the game days ago. She takes very good care of me.

I will get home at 10:00, grab a plate of grub and a beer, collapse into the recliner and watch a replay of THE PATS first 2014 pre-season game. At least part of it. It becomes school-boyish past the 1st quarter.

But I will get my first taste of the year. Which I will savor.

And I am not giving up. Not on THE PATS, not on football, not on the job change and not on me.

That, my friends, is a monumental change.

Trade Deadline: Business vs Art

The roll call:

Jon Lester
John Lackey
Stephen Drew
Jake Peavey
Felix Doubront
Jonny Gomes
Andrew Miller

Did I miss anybody? Probably. It is early and I don't like early. I also don't like winter. Did I ever tell you that?

These are Red Sox players who got traded in the past week to set up greatness in 2015.

Or something like that.

These are players who bumped up against the uncomfortable relationship between art and business.

Sport is art. What professional athletes do, what any athlete does who is talented, is no different than what any singer/painter/actor/writer does.

Professional athletes perform at a level that is almost incomprehensible to us mortals. Just beating the odds to make it to the big leagues automatically erases millions of wannabes from the picture. Exceptionally talented people who just couldn't quite take that last step.

What is left is the cream of the crop. Crème de la crème.

These people do things on the field that blow your mind. They have to perform at a level of near perfection just to keep their jobs, and this makes being a spectator endlessly enjoyable.

But then, almost every day, somehow, somewhere, a player will make a play that defies reality. Defies gravity. Expands the boundaries of what it is assumed that human beings can do.

Watch an ESPN highlight film any day of any week. Top ten plays.

It will make you feel like an infant.

Sports is big business. BIG business, and therein lies the rub. As talented as these people are, as hard working and committed, they are always vulnerable to the vagaries of the business.

Trades. Sports is all about results, and in a more ruthless, hard nosed, quick acting way than any regular business.

You know as well as I do that there are a hell of a lot of incompetent fools who keep their jobs forever in corporate America.

I know. I work with one.

Business markets itself as if it existed in a hard nosed environment, results oriented, but in reality there is a lot of slack built in. A lot of tolerance for incompetence. A lot of sheer waste.

In professional sports, if you don't perform, punishment is swift. Even worse, if your team does not perform, you may be punished even if you are achieving at a high level.

When trade time comes around, the better the player, the better the trade bait.

"We all know it is a business." You hear athletes say this all the time. More so today than ever before, because sports are more of a business than ever before and more open about it.

Take note of how many sports executives describe the game as product.

The athletes know it is a business but still it must be bewildering to deal with being traded. Treated like a piece of meat after dedicating your life to, and putting your heart and soul into, the sport that you love.

I am wandering and meandering here because it is early and I am tired. I thought this would be a well thought out and artfully executed opinion piece about the bizarre relationship between the artiste and the businessman in professional sports.

I fell short.

Hopefully you got the point.

More importantly, hope you got the emotion.

Was there any?

I don't know.

I'm tired.

Monday, August 4, 2014


"Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony."

Mahatma Gandhi

The Summer Of Fun Rolls On

The wife and I went to the New Boston Blues Festival on Saturday.

What a magnificent day.

The weather was perfect. Deliciously warm, nice breeze. The surroundings are beautiful - nestled in the woods, so to speak.

We went primarily to hear the James Montgomery Blues Band, and the Skip Philbrick Blues band.

Montgomery was disappointing. He was the headliner but his slot got moved to the middle of the afternoon because he had to go to another gig that night.

He didn't play much blues. He covered The Stones, played some fifties stuff and other things, but, man, we were there to hear him wail the blues.

He even started "Same Thing", a deep, bluesy Muddy Waters song........and stopped a couple of bars in - said they were going to change it up and play it ZZ Top style.


James Montgomery is 65 and one tough looking dude. He strikes me as the kind of guy who is going to do whatever he wants to do. Just seems odd to me to choose a blues festival to decide not to play the blues.

There were a couple of more bands after Montgomery and they were excellent. Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers bluesed up the place quite tastily; they were excellent. Then, The Undaunted Professor Harp - magnificent.

Closing the show was Skip, a friend of mine. His band tastes like chocolate. He kind of got screwed by being re-scheduled to close because by then a lot of people had left. The shindig started at 12:00; Skip came on at 7:30.

Still they rocked that crowd and delivered the easy flowing, rich blues they are known for.

It was a quintessential summer day. Blues in the sunshine, hawkers hawking their wares - T-Shirts (got me a gorgeous tie dye), jewelry etc., food vendors.

And the crowd.

Dancing. Everybody dancing. There was room in front of the stage for people to dance, but people danced everywhere. Everywhere you looked you'd see people swinging their hips. People in conversation, people dancing their way to the bathroom and back, little kids dancing, people jumping up out of their chairs to dance to a tune that grabbed them.

People who were there alone dancing in the middle of the field.

It was a real celebration of people away from work, away from life, expressing themselves, just being themselves, cutting loose a little bit, sharing the company of friends and spouses and like minded blues lovers. Gatherings like that create their own vibe that becomes its own universe where the only things that can thrive are happiness, contentment and peace.

Fucking amazing.

Relaxing too. Sitting in chairs. Eating. Sipping beers and harder stuff. Laughing.

Carol and I had a perfect day. Sitting side by side, she crocheting, me sipping an occasional beer, a touch of whiskey. I was a good boy for a change and drank responsibly.

Easy, easy conversation. Being married for 36 years does not guarantee perpetual comfort. We are human after all.

But on this day a lifetime shared revealed itself through the simple pleasure of each other's company. We talked a lot, listened a lot, took a walk around checking out all the vendors. Laughed a bit.

We were both so comfortable, so happy to be there and digging that beautiful summer day in the sun and the blues.


I thought to myself that I could spend the rest of my life in that field with Carol and the blues and summer and be perfectly content.

But end it did. Even the ride home was cool. It was that time of summer night when it is dark but not completely so. Around 8:30, when it is dark around the edges and light enough to see.

Beautiful ride through beautiful country back to the peace of our home.

The 2014 New Boston Blues Festival was a magnificent thing, a perfect summer day.

Can't ask for more than that as summer begins to hasten its exit.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Read an observation that the truth will be revealed to you when you are ready for it.

What if you are never ready (as most of us probably never are)?

What a terrible waste of a life.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Mahatma Gandhi

Musings On Scum (Enlightenment On The Fringe)

It is amazing and somewhat disconcerting how much energy a scheming scumbag can drain from your life.

My boss and I have been engaged in a weeks long battle over shift coverage at work while she is away on her upcoming vacation.

Her deepest wish is that while she is gone I will be forced to work open to close ten days in a row including two Sundays.

All I want is to find someone to work the opening shifts so I can just be a human being.

As manager of the store it is her responsibility to arrange coverage.

She is looking for revenge. Revenge because I refuse to work Sundays, which forces her to work every Sunday.

Sundays are voluntary. Full time employees cannot be forced to work Sundays.

Last year when I was a virgin assistant manager I worked a lot of Sundays. I felt it was my responsibility to do so. Even though I despise working Sundays. I missed most of the football season, which is a huge sacrifice for me.

In addition I worked whatever shift she scheduled me for. I ended up working many stretches of 8, 10, 12 days in a row. Over and over again. I lost days off and never got them back. Not in comp time, not in OT.

She took advantage of me.

I allowed it to happen so it is on me. But this year I am fighting back. Demanding my rightful days off, refusing to work Sundays.

I saw this vacation situation coming so I have been proactive about it. Asking her repeatedly who was going to cover the many shifts that are now wide open. Pushing, asking, demanding, threatening. I was finally forced to go to her boss to make the upper echelon aware of this upcoming crisis.

What is the slimiest creature on the planet? An eel? A slug?

Whatever it is, my boss is that.

She slides around the truth, glides around the truth, lies, tells half truths; anything she can do to avoid admitting that she has no intention of working with me to solve this situation.

She wants me to suffer and will do anything to make that happen.

My beleaguered brain has been obsessed with this situation for weeks. It has put me in a place of continuous stress. Because the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission could care less if I am forced to work killer hours at the sacrifice of my personal life.

I cannot let that happen.

I was thinking about it again this morning. The thought slithered through my head like a lizard, that I want something really bad to happen to my boss.

This is not the first time that thought has inhabited my skull space.

Strangely enough, immediately after thinking that, I thought an enlightened man would wish only for justice and fairness for himself. An enlightened man would not wish harm on his enemy.

Karma will take care of that. She will suffer whatever punishment the universe feels is appropriate.

And she has one nasty ass, dark and painful confrontation with karma coming right down the road at her.

I have one more week to deal with this. I am going to work hard to concentrate all my energy on forcing a solution.

I may win, I may lose.

If her vacation ends up being cancelled by her boss, if she cannot fly to Florida to visit her precious grandson, it would be a visitation of karma.

It certainly would not be the result of any negative thoughts on my part.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Father's Day

Small changes. This is the version I will submit to Flash Fiction Online. I'll let you know when they reject it.
Joe was obsessed with the possibility that he had been a lousy dad.

The present didn’t concern him as much because when your sons are in their thirties fatherhood is more of a spectator sport.

But the past. The past drove him crazy with worry.

He irritated his wife endlessly, looking for validation that he had been a loving father. “Was I a good dad? I mean, was I attentive? Sensitive? Did I take out my frustrations on them?”

The last question was the one he worried about most. Joe’s entire life had been consumed by lousy jobs that left him screaming for release. Jobs that suffocated his spirit and forced him to drink.

Booze was the first thing he reached for when he got home just so he wouldn’t smash his head against the wall and scream at his family. He didn’t have a choice, really. Employment forced his hand. Raging nerves were dangerous untreated; alcohol brought a measure of peace.

Until of course he had consumed more than was required.

His wife was consistently reassuring in her responses, but the dead brain cells in his head left vacancies where memories should have been.

He wasn’t quite sure if she was being truthful or considerate.

Joe’s gut told him that he had been a good dad but he couldn’t help wondering if there were alcohol fueled rages that left scars on his sons’ souls.

There were holes in the cheap bathroom door that stood in bold suggestion of just such a possibility.

Joe’s wife was a sweetheart. At least she appeared to be.

She put up with a lot. Like his drinking and insecurities and his stubborn commitment to underachieving, which reduced their life together to subsistence levels.

They could have done better. Lived easier.

But Joe was mired in self-doubt, success eluded him and pizza was a big night out.

Still his wife handled it all calmly, with her innate ability to smooth out the rough edges. At least she appeared to. There were tensions and hints of impatience, maybe some frustrations, but generally she maintained an even keel.

She had created a garden in the front yard that was a triumph and a source of peace for both of them.

A pool stood in this spot for many years. An above ground pool plenty big enough for the four of them to play, laugh and relax in. A pool that left behind great memories.

When the kids moved out the pool stood silent and eventually Joe’s wife was inspired to take it down and replace it with paradise.

They spent a lot of peaceful moments out there listening to the fountain, the breeze, the birds and each other.

Father’s Day was tough on Joe recently. His kids’ schedules were hard to coordinate and he had spent a few Father’s Days without them.

Those were the days his imagination tortured him the most.

This year was the roughest because he had to work. He worked for a state run liquor store and it was open seven days a week.

Joe was old school and despised working on Sundays. He could remember when barely anything was open on Sundays and people seemed to survive.

Still the kids were not going to be around so Joe volunteered to work, allowing another father to be celebrated.

He made it through the day as best he could, dealing with all the insensitive idiots who said repeatedly “I can’t believe you are open today.” He would look at them incredulously. He wanted to scream “I wouldn’t be here at all if you were intelligent enough to plan ahead.”

He held his tongue and bought a couple of nips to sooth him on the ride home.

When he walked onto the screened-in porch, his wife kissed him hello and gave him a look. She tasted the whiskey on his lips, which always pissed her off.

He brushed past her into the house, poured himself a tumbler of whiskey and invited her to join him in the garden.

Before going back out he asked “Honey, do you think I was a good dad? Do you think the kids are thinking about me today?”

She smiled. She told him he had been and still was a great dad.

It was a gorgeous day. Brilliant sunshine, beginning to fade, but plenty warm with not too many bugs.

The fountain was gurgling, the birds were singing, and a gentle breeze rustled the leaves as Joe rationalized that his life was not really so bad.

He felt at peace.

He heard his wife approaching with a tray full of munchies. She said “Happy Father’s Day, honey” and Joe began to turn to say “Thank you,” but the words never left his lips.

She pulled the trigger quickly, killing his response and then gently returned the gun to its spot next to the cheese and crackers.

She sat next to Joe and ate enthusiastically, marveling at the soothing effect of the fountain.

Thought For The Day

Recalcitrant is a good word.