Saturday, February 28, 2015

AARP Rocks

I am 61 now and a card carrying member of AARP.

How ridiculous is that? How did it happen?

Oh well, nothing to do now but deal with it.

As a card carrying member of AARP we (Carol and I) receive the AARP magazine.

Who is on the cover of the most recent issue?

Bob Dylan.

Hot damn, it is Bob Dylan.

I love it. The man is unafraid. He is 73 and not trying to be anything else.

The magazine features his first interview in almost three years.

The cool thing is that Dylan approached AARP about doing the interview.

Robert Love, who did the interview, thought it was a mistake at first. He spent 20 years writing for Rolling Stone, and when Dylan's people contacted him, Love made it clear that he doesn't write for them anymore.

He was told there was no mistake here - Dylan wanted to talk to the readers of AARP The Magazine.

Supposedly it will be the one and only interview Dylan will give in relation to the album he just released - "Shadows In The Night". On the album Dylan covers 10 songs from the 1920s to the 1960s, all considered to be a part of the Great American Songbook. Frank Sinatra recorded every one of these songs.

For any other entertainer this would be a surprising move. For Dylan it is just business as usual.

He has re-invented himself many times over in his life and he brings his own unique perspective to everything he does.

Part of what makes this interesting and unique is that Dylan has taken songs originally arranged for 30 piece orchestras and recorded them with a five piece band.

Anyway.................. cool interview.

Love asks Dylan if he thinks making this album was risky? Dylan: "Risky? Like walking across a filed laced with land mines? Or working in a poison gas factory? There's nothing risky about making records."

Dylan quote: "Look, you get older. Passion is a young man's game. Young people can be passionate. Older people gotta be more wise."

I am not sure I agree with that. I am trying to remain passionate or re-ignite my passion or use passion to solve the riddle of my strange and twisted life.

Still, it is a cool quote.

There is a lot more to talk about here. I will do it later. Gotta get movin' right now.

This Dylan/AARP thing has me thinking, though. Getting older might not be so bad, given the right perspective.

And given the opportunity and great surprise of hearing from people I respect in unexpected settings.

Ciao, baby.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Yesterday Birthdays

Apparently I am in yesterday birthday mode.

Yesterday I talked about George Harrison's birthday yesterday.

Today I am talking about my brother's birthday yesterday.

Yesterday is a strange word. Say it a few times. You will feel like you are speaking a foreign language and feel proud.

Yesterday my brother Ed turned 60. Turned is a strange way to say it. Yesterday my brother completed his 60th year of life.

Actually, technically, I think he completed his 60th year on 2/25. I believe he began his 61st year on 2/26.

I do go on, don't I?

Not an easy birthday for him. It is a milestone and should be celebrated raucously with pride and happiness and love, with family and friends.

My brother's only son, Jonathan, died on December 17, 2014 at the age of 27.

That changes everything.


I can only approach this from my point of view. I can imagine what Ed is feeling but I don't really know.

I know that I have been thinking about his birthday for a month or more. Wondering at the cruel irony of it.

Ed is a remarkable person. Level headed. Responsible, intelligent, reliable. Wickedly funny in a quick, intelligent way and deliciously insane when the mood strikes him or when, maybe, he just has to let it out.

He commands enormous respect in the business world because he knows his work inside and out and because he is honest and straight ahead and creative.

He has been enormously successful in business and suffered major setbacks.

He shrugs it all off and just keeps on punching.

He is deeply loved by his family. A family that enjoys his informed conversation, and loves to laugh with him, as we invariably do in response to that ever present sense of humor.

It is difficult to describe how I feel when I see my sons, Keith and Craig, with Ed. I could call it pride, but it is more than that.

It is a sense of wonder to know how comfortable they all are together. To watch them talk, to enjoy them laughing. He makes them laugh, they make him laugh.

An uncle and his two nephews. Close, respectful and loving.

My thoughts on Ed's birthday are clouded over with thoughts of Jonathan's death.

There is a heaviness there, a disbelief, a sorrow, an anguish.

I cannot separate Ed's birthday from Jonathan's  absence.

I want to celebrate Ed's birthday free and easy; mark his 60th with respect and pride and love and laughter.

There is a reality there, a void, that is huge; it has impact, it is almost suffocating.

I'm hoping Ed can take comfort from the love shown him by his family and his friends.

I imagine he has to turn from his loss towards something to sustain him.

We have the love to do that. Or to try to do that.

I have lived my life with only 13 months when Ed wasn't in it. I was born on January 1, 1954. He was born on February 26, 1955.

My life would be different without him around. It would be less.

Less interesting, less comforting, less fun, less loving.

Happy Birthday to my brother Ed, who I love with everything in my heart.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Unlikely Sources

Yesterday was George Harrison's birthday.

I am embarrassed to admit that I didn't know that. Actually, I knew it - I have to know it - but I always forget it.

Makes no sense. His birthday is the day before my brother's birthday.

Everything is making more of an impression in my mind this year. My brain and heart and soul have been badly bruised. I seem to be humming like a tuning fork in some ways.

I know that as of yesterday I will never forget that George Harrison's birthday is the day before my brother's birthday.

George would have been 72.

He could quite possibly be my favorite Beatle. Notice how I can't quite commit to that. There is some strange barrier in my brain that prevents me from outright admitting a favorite Beatle or favorite moment or favorite song. Seems like it would be sacrilegious.

I am naturally drawn to John. So sarcastic, so witty, so uniquely creative, so twisted emotionally.

But I love Ringo too. Easy going sense of humor, devil may care attitude, undersized ego.

Paul can never be in the running for favorite Beatle. I have my reasons. But I can't quite dismiss him completely as a Beatle God.

But George, man - he had a wicked sense of humor. He did it quietly. He did everything quietly. They called him "The Quiet Beatle" and he was.

Not from choice, though. Paul and John kept him down. They treated him like a little brother because he was so much younger. Only allowed him two songs per album, if that.

When he went solo after the breakup, George put out a triple album. "All Things Must Pass."

Talk about pent up creativity.

George was a major financial backer for Monty Python projects. You could not possibly be associated with those guys without a finely tuned sense of humor and absurdity.

Check out early Beatles press conferences. They were all quick and unafraid, but George's comments were always sharper and wickedly funny.

He was cerebral. He was spiritual. He was creative. And he was a guitar player's guitar player. Others looked up to him.

I was disappointed to get caught off guard when I was reminded that it was George's birthday yesterday. And I had to be told by Garrison Keillor, of all people.

Motoring home from The Asylum last night, listening to NPR. Keillor does a five minute segment at 6:30 called The Writer's Almanac.

I love it.

He gives you interesting facts ranging far and wide related to the specific date, and reminds you of birthdays, and then he reads a poem.

A poem a day, man. I can't think of anything more therapeutic than that.

Last night Keillor talked about Queen Elizabeth I, who was excommunicated from the church in 1570 on 2/25, and he talked about the backlash from the English parliament at the time.

He remembered Anthony Burgess's birthday. He wrote "A Clockwork Orange", amongst many other books. If you have a taste for the bizarre, read the book, see the movie. It will rearrange your life.

Keillor noted that on 2/25/19, the state of Oregon levied the first gas tax.

He remembered the birthday of Larry Gelbart. He was a writer for the TV series M*A*S*H, and also wrote the screen play for Tootsie.

He remembered the birthday of Frank Chin, author of "The Chickencoop Chinaman", amongst other books.

He remembered the birthday of George Harrison, born on February 25, 1943. Harrison wrote a memoir in 1980 titled "I Me Mine" and dedicated it to gardeners everywhere. He was proud of the garden he maintained and would have gotten along beautifully with Carol.

Then Keillor read "Dawn Revisited" by Rita Dove.

Very tasty.

Last night I celebrated George Harrrison's birthday in my mind, alone in my car, in the dark, on my way home from a place I despise.

It was a momentary bright spot.

I also realized intuitively, down deep in my soul, that I would never again forget George Harrison's birthday.

It falls on the day before my brother's birthday.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Snoop Dog, Snoop Lion, Snoop Doggy Dog, Snoop, Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., however you recognize him, started a youth football league in 2005.

The Snoop Youth Football League.

You might be tempted to scoff at this.

Consider this.

24 former SYFL players have signed letters of intent to major college football programs including Snoop's son. Schools like San Diego State, San Jose State, USC, UCLA, Alabama State, Arizona State.

Four former SYFL players have made it to the NFL.

Apparently the weed Snoop smokes not only does not kill short term memory, it promotes wild ass success.

The league started in 2005 with 1,300 players and has grown to 1,700 as of last season.

The season ends with the two best teams competing in The Snooper Bowl.

How cool is that?

They have a rule book that emphasizes the right things, like scholastics and safety. The official objective is: "To give kids, regardless of race, color, creed or economic background the chance to learn the values of hard work, discipline, team work through football; to bring communities together through a common interest in sports; promoting fair play and fellowship, to teach the game elements promoting safety, enjoyment and healthy competition."

Players have to submit copies of their most recently issued report cards in order to be declared eligible. They must maintain a minimum of a 2.0 GPA.

Admittedly that is not a very high bar but it still connects academic discipline with athletic performance. It sends the message that the chance to play is not a free ride and that you have to perform in the classroom as well as on the field.

"Coaches must not have been convicted of any crime which would cause them to register under section 290 of the California Penal Code." This is officially known as the sex offender registration act.

Good policy.

Coaches "may be found ineligible by the SYFL for any crime. This must be verified by State Facilities via Live Scan. All volunteers with the SYFL must clear Live Scan to participate in the season."

Live Scan is an inkless, electronic means of capturing fingerprints in a digitized format and then transmitting them to State Police and the FBI.

There is a section in the rule book on coaching ethics covering behavior for everything from the proper time and place for criticizing players to showing respect for officials and the opposing team to a ban on abusive and profane language and much, much more.

"He/She (the coach) will not use any gang related language, slogans or gestures - Zero Tolerance on this matter."

"All coaches hats are to face forward."

There are very specific rules on which helmets can be used, stipulating that helmet construction must be recognized by NOCSAE - The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

I got carried away here but you get the point. Snoop has created a youth football league that has become wildly successful and has earned the respect of football amateurs and professionals across the country.

How could I have guessed this decades ago when I was walking around singing "rollin' down the street, smoking indo, sippin on gin and juice, laid back ( with my mind on my money and my money on my mind). "

When I listened to Snoop sing about hoes and G's and weed and gang murders. When every time you saw Snoop it was through a thick cloud of smoke, with him holding on to a joint the size of my thigh, surrounded by semi naked women worshipping him like The God of Sex and Drugs and Money.

I'm pretty sure Snoop has worn his hat backwards a time or two.

It is so easy to stereotype people and so dangerous. We all only know people on the surface. The stuff deep down inside is the very definition of personal.

You never really know anyone and that includes the closest members of your family.

Everybody can learn, everybody can change, everybody can surprise you.

Snoop is doing the most impressive thing any human can do. Positively impacting other peoples' lives. Children's lives.

He deserves enormous respect for that.

You never know, do you?

Reason # 212 to Drink Excessively tells me that it is currently -15 degrees in lovely Henniker, NH.

Are you kidding me?

Actually I don't need to tell me that - I walked out to start Carol's car so she would have a cozy ride to work - and my face froze off.

Some would consider that an improvement.

The high is projected to be 19 degrees.

That is not a high. 75 degrees is a high. You don't shoot for 19 degrees, you run away from it.

We should all be allowed to call in cold today. Take the day off from work.

I have not been too bad about attacking winter this year. Been forced to speak my mind a few times but overall I have been relatively quiet.

I am reaching the breaking point. So is everybody else.

People come into the liquor store now, grab a bottle off the shelf, twist off the cap and start drinking it on the way to the cash register.

They slam it down on the counter and say: "You got a problem with me?"

It has indeed been a harsh winter.

I get the feeling that when spring and summer roll around (such as they exist in this arctic climate) people are going to party like its 2099.

There will be great revelry and drunkenness and barbecue and naked dancing and off key singing and late nights and painful mornings.

Could be the greatest warm season New England has ever known.

Be prepared.

And dig it to the max.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Anguished Yearning

Daytona ends yesterday and we spring into action.

Pop outside to shovel snow (AGAIN!!!!!!), drop off Carol's car for today's inspection and tire rotation, come home and I wash the breakfast dishes, clean the kitty litter box and get supper in the oven.

Park my ass and wait to relax into 60 Minutes.

A golf match has run long; into sudden death.

We watched a couple of holes to the finish.

I was overwhelmed. I don't know where they were but the setting was beautiful. It was warm. It was green.

At one point, as one dude crouched over his put, some birds began to squawk.

My soul rose up in anguished yearning. I literally felt want.

I realized internally and emotionally and physically and spiritually just how big a toll this winter has taken, with no end in sight.

I felt from deep within my essence just how badly I want sunshine and warmth, light breezes, Carol's garden's rebirth and birds singing.

The cries of those birds pushed me over the edge. Ripped up from deep in my soul the repressed longing that has been buried, but not murdered, by winter's cruelty.


"The only thing worse than an angry young man is an angry old man."


My Relationship With Racing

My relationship with racing is similar to my relationship with baseball.

The racing season got kicked off in grand style yesterday with the Daytona 500. It was an excellent race and the ending was spectacular.

I was excited to watch it. Nerves tingling. I watched it start to finish and was happy to do so.

Maybe about a month into the season I read as I "watch." Got a Rolling Stone magazine going or maybe a chunk of Carol's newspaper.

I take breaks. Pop upstairs to suffocate you in here or to attempt to expand the horizons of my mind on line.

I am still psyched about racing at that point, still digging it thoroughly, but races can get boring just like baseball can get boring.

Not quite as boring as baseball, but close.

Of course baseball will be played at lightening speed this year do to all the "speed the game up" rules changes.

I expect the average time of a game to drop from 3 hours and 45 minutes to 3 hours and 42 minutes.

That will afford me extra time to continue the excavation of my real life, which lies mired layers beneath the one I choose to lead.

But I digress.

I despise the media's focused and narrow minded attempts to stereotype race fans. They focus on huge beer bellies and chest long beards, as well as scantily clad, morally-challenged looking women.

This has gone on forever.

That image was accurate decades ago, but racing's fan base has changed dramatically since I first got into it around 1978.

Now you get professionals and intellectuals in the stands. You even get ethnicity.

Racing is exciting, contrary to the stereotypical opinion that it is a yawn-fest of cars driving around in circles.

Anyway....I dug yesterday. It was enjoyable. Me and Carol and the cats digging on NASCAR.

Kevin Harvick finished second. Good start to the new season. Joey Logano won the hallowed race.

He is a young guy who never won the race before. That is cool.

I am in two NASCAR pools this year. Gonna clean up. Gonna win retirement money, baby.

One pool I picked with my heart. The other I picked with my head.

Can't lose.

Yeah, I dig racing baby.

The only thing that ruins it is when Justin Bieber's face is on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Fat Tuesday & Ash Wednesday

Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday equal spring.

Somehow in my mind, when I hear these two days being discussed or recognized or celebrated or anticipated or enjoyed or feared or loved - my mind begins to acknowledge that spring will actually roll around.

Winter feels like a vice grip, handcuffs around your soul. Winter feels like it is in complete control and that it will never relieve its grip.

That is why you contemplate suicide or relocation; that is why your capacity for drink doubles; that is why you gain 147 pounds between November and April.

These things happen because living in the dark, cold, harshness of winter feels like the end.

However......................spring does once again roll around and you get 20 or 30 days to actually live in peace and ease and warmth.

But I digress.

Fat Tuesday signifies the end of Mardi Gras.

I did not know this. I thought Fat Tuesday kicked off Mardi Gras.

I just don't pay attention.

Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday. They are inextricably linked.

On Fat Tuesday the theory is to consume richer, fatty foods before the sacrifice of the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday.  Serious partying accompanies the gluttony.

Fat Tuesday is the highlight of the Mardi Gras season.

I am built for Mardi Gras. I was born to experience it. I should have been born in New Orleans. I haven't made it there yet, but a simple twist of fate could correct that omission on my good times resume.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a day of fasting.

This is fairly ironic when you consider that those who partied hard on Fat Tuesday will wake up with a serious need for grease. McDonald's for breakfast, lunch and supper.

Fasting? On a day like that, it requires serious discipline, baby.

But that is what Lent is all about. Forty days of fasting. Inspired by the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan.

Unfortunately for me I do not need to visit the desert to be tempted by Satan. The goddamn guy follows me wherever I go.

You get Sundays off during Lent. Don't have to fast on Sundays. You get a break there.

And actually I think fasting has been reduced to just giving something up for Lent.

I choose to give up poverty.

Ashes are spread on foreheads on Ash Wednesday. Ashes created from the burning of last year's Palm Sunday blessed palms, christened with Holy Water and scented by exposure to incense.

Could be a smudge, could be a cross, depending on the level of creativity of the priest you choose.

As the ashes are applied the priest says: "Remember, man is dust, and unto dust you shall return."

Pretty humbling.

Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday are inextricably linked. Couldn't be two more diametrically opposed days on any calendar.

Someday I will experience Fat Tuesday in New Orleans in person.

Ash Wednesday I can do without.

My mind, because of the passing of these two days, is beginning to allow for the slightest possibility that Spring will once again come around.

I sit and wait and yearn.

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

(Editor's note: Listening to Mike Adams on Planet Mikey on 93.7 on Fat Tuesday. He devoted a lengthy segment to the discussion of fat athletes. It was hilarious.)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Perceptive Lyric

"Seem like the whole world walking pretty and you can't find the room to move"

"Tenth Avenue Freeze Out". Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

I Am Tony Soprano

As I trudged out to pick Carol's Sunday paper out of the high tech, cheap, plastic newspaper receptacle this morning, it occurred to me that I am Tony Soprano.

I walked out there wearing the flannel sweat pants that I wear to bed. This is something I would never have done just a short time ago. Previously, if I had to step out of the house even for a brief moment, I would throw on a pair of pants.

This morning I walked out there in red, blue and black checked flannel sweatpants. I don't know what this says about me.

Anyway, I got the garish pants on. I slipped on my winter boots, calf-high construction boots, but I didn't lace them up.

The boots have ridiculously long laces. At some point I replaced the original laces with cowhide or leather or rawhide laces that are about a foot too long.

I never cut them. I don't know why. I take pleasure in wrapping them around my ankles once or twice before I lace them up.

I threw on my heavy duty, Carhartt, black winter jacket. This thing is frayed at the cuffs, weighs about a hundred pounds and is scratched and stained.

When I stepped outside into the comfort of February cold, I pulled up the hood on the PATS sweatshirt I am wearing today.

So I am shuffling down the long, snow crunched, ice handicapped drive way, wearing garish flannel pants, work boots with foot too long laces trailing behind me, in a beat up, oversized Carhartt jacket, and a hoodie pulled up over my head.

One scene we all saw repeatedly on The Sopranos was of Tony walking down his long, winding driveway in the morning to get his paper.

I always felt this was odd. If I was Tony Soprano, I would have one of my flunkies walk out to get the paper. Let them take the risk.

Tony was too high profile to put himself out there in such a vulnerable position.

Vulnerable because of the way he was dressed.

Slippers. Boxer shorts, revealed under an open bathrobe. Wife beater T-shirt. Ample belly free swinging and proudly protruding, testament to the ice cream, fine Italian cuisine and high end booze endlessly absorbed.

And no gun.

Are you kidding me? No gun?

But the thing was the way he was dressed.

The ultimate cavone.

I am Tony Soprano.

I cannot guarantee that I will look like him in the summer time. In fact I can absolutely guarantee that I will not look like him.

I don't wear boxers.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chris Holmes - A Genuine America Hero

Chris Holmes is a DJ, currently touring as Paul McCartney's opening act.

I don't even know what DJ means anymore. I know it is one more piece of musical expression that splintered off from the rock 'n roll explosion (kind of).

It used to be important to me to try and keep up with musical mutations so I could maintain a youthful perspective. My sons introduced me to a lot of music when they lived at home, and still do occasionally, but I have gone beyond the point of referencing Snoop Dog lyrics, and referring to Dr. Dre as Dre does not make me appear cool.

My comments are dated and narrow in scope.

Music has moved too fast and I am slowing down.

A quote from a Rolling Stone snippet: "Chris Holmes wants you to stop taking so many damn photos at concerts." He was DJ'ing with Thom Yorke at the Roosevelt Hotel, and everybody was standing in front of him just staring into their cameras.

I know who Thom Yorke is. He is (was?) the lead singer for Radiohead. I swear to God I did not just Google this. I knew it. I have one of their albums.

My youthful perspective reigns triumphant.

Chris Holmes was so pissed off he created a line of reflective clothing designed to thwart smart phone cameras. Called Flashback.

If you snap a photo of someone wearing Flashback clothing you get a "ghostly, washed out image.

It is hilarious and most excellent. Pick up a copy of Rolling Stone dated February 26, 2015, issue #1229; turn to page 19 and dig.

The picture on the left is a normal photo. The one on the right is of someone wearing Flashback, complete with hoodie. The face and hands are blacked out, the jacket looks haunted.

Holmes says: "When people see it light up their photos it will hopefully remind them to put down their cameras and start dancing."

Chris Holmes cannot stop there. He must develop an app that shocks smart phone users in any inappropriate setting.

I'm talking a shock strong enough to blow fingernails off.

Like at sporting events and concerts and mass gatherings of any kind where the only thing you see is the tops of peoples' heads as they fixate on the technology in their hands.

Why the hell do you spend money on tickets to baseball games and football games and concerts if you are not even going to bother to be there?

The term smart phone is apt. The phone is smarter than most of the users.

People who worship their phone to the exclusion of the people with whom they are keeping company.


People who salivate over their device in restaurants.


It just occurred to me why "reality TV" is so goddamn popular. You got a huge cross section of Americans who are just stupid, amplified by a huge cross section of Americans who don't even know what they are watching.

Unless they are simultaneously watching the same show on TV and the smart phone.

Which wouldn't surprise me.

I am not anti-technology. I dig it. In some ways I am jealous because I can't afford it. Carol forces me to spend 98% of my discretionary income on high priced jewelry and designer perfumes and gowns.

The other 2% is spent on Thunderbird wine.

I tried twitter. When I signed up I attracted negative 346 followers. 346 people actually closed their accounts because of me.

Chris Holmes is on the right track.

I am happy to see youth rebelling against the swelling tide of anti-social behavior inspired by smart phone addiction.

You cannot live your life second hand. That is a horrendous waste of life.

I know this because I know a guy who lived a parallel existence inside a whiskey bottle.

He missed a lot.

Although he felt pretty damn good while he was in there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Poseurs Exposed

February is a vicious month.

It takes all the hope and promise and good intentions born in January and destroys them. You come off 01/01 feeling refreshed and renewed with a sense of change, an excitement of hope and a disdain for the bad things last year brought to you.

You swagger through January armed with mental resolve only to come crashing and bashing into February.

Or more accurately, February comes crashing and bashing into you.

The temp drops to 0 - over and over again, day after day after day. Winds howl, snow flies - and snow flies and snow flies and snow flies.

Sky high snow banks steal your vision.

You shovel out, you roof rake, you white knuckle your way to work, slipping, sliding, braking and not stopping.

Unless you drive The Peace Mobile.

You get out of work and shove more snow off your car, beat the crap out of the ice on your windshield and freeze for half the ride home because the car is ice.

February has an attitude because it is the shortest month of the year. It is filled with resentment.

Take a look at the calendar this year. February is one solid block. Four seven day weeks stacked on top of one another.

The month started on a Sunday, it will end on a Saturday. No dribble, no overhang - it is one solid square of a nasty, cold, evil run of 28 vicious, spiteful days.

February is a goddamn test. It tests your January resolve.

"Oh, yeah? You got good intentions? Let's see how they hold up against me, baby."

February is a goddamn lie detector. "Oh, yeah - you say the snow is so pretty? Let's see how you  feel on 2/28, poseur."

February is a goddamn slippery month too. 28 days. Unless it is 29 days. You never know quite where you stand.

February is George Foreman delivering endless body blows, bruising ribs and sapping energy.

We are Muhammad Ali, doing the rope-a-dope until we have had enough. And then delivering a shocking knock out punch.

Screw you, February.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


"We think about mortality so little these days, except to flail hysterically at it with trendy forms of exercise and high-fiber cereals and nicotine patches. I thought of the stern Victorian determination to keep death in mind, the uncompromising tombstones: Remember, pilgrim, as you pass by, As you are now so once was I; as I am now so you will be........."
From "In The Woods" by Tana French.

That thought process and quote caught my attention. The full quote is:

"Remember, pilgrim, as you pass by, As you are now so once was I, As I am now so you will be, Prepare for death and follow me."

Heavy duty. The origin of the quote is muddy. Some say 18th century New England gravestones, some trace it to 1376, where a version of it shows up on the Canterbury tomb of Edward The Black Prince.

Doesn't matter. It is a pretty good slap in the face if you are innocently wandering a graveyard and come across this inscription. Apparently it appears on a lot of gravestones.

It is true that we don't give death much thought. Could be a good thing, could be a bad thing.

All you have to do is tune in WE TV to see how stupidly people behave to understand how little regard for life they have.

Disclaimer: Carol and I watch endless re-runs of "Law and Order" on WE. The ads for the shows that normally - and endlessly  - run on that station - are enough to convince you that this country is populated solely by brain damaged mutants.

Check it out. You will keel over in disbelief.

A healthy awareness of death can be a powerful motivator. You don't have to get morbid about it or obsess about it, but sitting back once in a while and thinking "One of these days I will be dead", should give you perspective.

It is fresher on my mind because it came very close to me in December. And because I am 61.

Something inside me tells me that I will change my life this year. I feel it in my bones and in my soul like never before.

I have already taken many small steps and they feel natural and good.

I have yet to take the big steps. But I feel them coming. Amassing like storm clouds over my own personal horizon.

I used to think "what the hell difference would it make (to me) if I died?" Assuming no afterlife, which I am getting closer and closer to believing, I would just be gone.

There would be no awareness on my part. No regret or anger or emotion of any kind.

No thought process.

I would just cease to exist. I would be a dead parrot.

My current perspective is that if I died right now it would be a waste of life. Such a precious gift to throw away. I have not done yet what I am capable of doing.

My death would mock my life.

I am aware of death more than ever before and more determined not to give in to it than ever before.

I like that remember, pilgrim, quote because it is direct. I prefer an honest approach like that or a humorous approach.

One more direct inscription: "The rising morning can't assure that we shall end the day, for Death stands ready at the door to seize our lives away."

That carries more weight than the "live in the moment" mantra.

Some gravestone humor: "I made some good deals and I made some bad deals. I really went in the hole with this one."

"I was supposed to live to be 102 and be shot by a jealous husband."

"I told you I was sick."

Enough. I got shit to do.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

VW at 33

I have to stop listening to sports talk radio.

98.5 referenced Vince Wilfork's advanced age the other day.

He is 33.

As you know I am grappling with this whole age thing.

I am 61. I don't want to be 61. I don't want my next significant birthday to be 65, and the next one after that, 70.

Are you serious? This is absolutely ridiculous.

Fortunately I am a young 61. People always tell Carol and me that we appear to be fifty. Even forty five or so.

Which is kind of ironic when you think about it. Fifty is not exactly 21.

Still, I am struggling with the faster miles an hour aging process and fighting to make something happen before SOMETHING happens.

Vince Wilfork is 33 and will earn 8.9 million dollars in 2015 (unless he restructures his contract, which is a topic for another time and place).

I am 61 and will make thousands of dollars in 2015.

Yes, I understand the math, I understand the apples to oranges thing. We are two men in two completely different places in our lives, participating in two dramatically different careers.

Actually, you can't call mine a career. It is more like a train wreck.

Still, the mind cannot help making comparisons as age looms large in the rearview mirror, the sideview mirror, the mirror ahead and every other goddamn place you look.

You evaluate your life as it is, as it has been, and you evaluate your chances of rescuing some kind of meaning and success out of what is left.

And someone calls Vince Wilfork old.

I cannot listen to sports talk radio anymore.

I am switching over to Prime Time Radio.

Sponsored by AARP.

Fear, Inc.

Advertising, in this enlightened country of ours, uses fear as a profit generator.

This disgusts me.

I walked out in mind numbing, bone shattering cold this morning to grab Carol's paper. It is Valentine's Day, after all, and not a day to interrupt my amazing string of successful newspaper retrievals.

Walked back into the house with mind alert from the temperature shock and noticed a mailer sitting on our funky pirate's treasure chest/coffee table.

It said: "1 in 2 AMERICAN MEN, 1 IN 3 AMERICAN WOMEN WILL GET CANCER IN THEIR LIFETIME. (The upper case thing is not me - that is how the mailer is printed).

Then: "If it happened to you, do you have the coverage you need ?"

First of all, that is not what I want my mind focused on as I prepare to sit down with a steaming cup of coffee and a new book. I have two days off from my own private Hell. Two days to lick my wounds, question my life choices and attempt to refresh and revive...............HOPE.

Ruminating on my chances of getting cancer is not a good way to grab some peace of mind.

Second of all, it would be nice to think that this company is genuinely concerned about my health and financial well-being, especially when the former negatively impacts the latter.

That is far from the truth.

This company, Mutual of Omaha, is using fear to try to motivate me into purchasing their product.

Throwing stats like that right in your face is meant to shock. Holy Shit - 1 in 2, 1 in 3? Are you serious?

I am a man (some would dispute this). So my chances of getting cancer are excellent. Especially at my age.

How thrilling.

Inside flap: "Help protect yourself from the high costs of cancer-related medical care with Mutual of Omaha."

Like me and MoO are buddies. Partners in life's dance, working together to ease the burden of survival.

Bullshit. MoO is looking right past the tortured look on my face, towards my wallet. I feel it being magically lifted out of my back pocket as I speak.

Some of the benefits are dubious.

"Up to $260 for surgery." $260? I'm hoping this is a misprint. If not, Mutual of Omaha is deliberately trying to insult me.

Or playing on fear again. "I know surgery is ultra expensive but at least that's $260 that doesn't have to come out of my pocket."

Pay attention to all those super drug ads on TV. The ones that offer prescription drugs as solutions for everything from high blood pressure to restless leg syndrome to toenail fungus.

Actually, I don't know if the toenail stuff is prescription but it wouldn't surprise me. One more reason to brag about your meds.

1 out of 3 people who had measles will get shingles.


Holy shit - I had measles. I cannot gamble on my health like that, especially considering the odds.

I do love how these same monsters expect you to ignore all the warnings about side effects at the end of the ad. It's OK to ignore that fear.

Fear of death, internal bleeding, paralysis, stroke, blindness, heart attack, kidney failure and pimples.

Ignore that fear but please do fear shingles.

The fact that corporations use fear to get your attention and then present themselves as your savior, is disgusting and disingenuous.

You gotta keep your head on a swivel these days just to protect yourself from EVERYTHING.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Day Gets Explicit

Cracking up commuting to Hell and escaping back home listening to Valentine's Day commercials for Pajamagram sneak a peek gifts, and Vermont Teddy bear Fifty Shades of grey stuff.

Especially hearing it on 98.5, The Sports Hub. When those guys read the ads it is hilarious.

These companies are getting serious. V-Day used to be all about candy and flowers spiced with a hint of bedroom gymnastics.

Now they just put it all out there, giving your imagination no exercise at all.

Pajamagram has a "Hidden secrets sneak a peak" romper. The ad copy says "this playful romper with its snap dropseat has been known to cause frisky games of hide and seek and sneak a has a snap-up front and four-snap dropseat so playing a flirty game of peek-a-boo is, well, a snap."

THEN it says "Also ideal as a warming layer for underneath outerwear or street clothes."

Apparently that last sentence provides an escape route for some poor slob with high expectations who's wife or girlfriend, shocked at the gift, informs her man that the best place to buy sexy clothes is L.L. Bean.

Seek out the radio ad if you have the time, energy and commitment. It is hilarious with much more detail and innuendo.

My favorite is the Vermont Teddy Bear Fifty Shades of Grey Bear with red velvet gift packaging.

The ad copy says "Dominate Valentine's Day this year. Give the one you want something that will obsess and possess them. With all of the trappings of a memorable gift - daring, passion, exciting next-to-skin touch, she'll be desperate to get close...................He even comes with a mask and handcuffs. (Here the radio ad says "and if you think she's not into handcuffs - think again"). She can't help but submit to loving him (and the radio ad says "and loving you.")

I got to admit - that "exciting next-to-skin" touch thing sounds kind of freaky to me. Sounds like the Bear has more chance of getting lucky than the gift giver.

But, what the hell - boredom is insidious and you have to fight it with every weapon at your disposal.

The problem with Carol and I would be keeping the cats away from the itty bitty handcuffs. We could never forgive ourselves if we came home to Maka or Lakota lying on their side on the floor cuffed  like some heavy duty cat criminal on Law and Order.

I'm wondering if a couple of years down the road Valentine's Day ads will consist of clips from "Deep Throat", complete with instruction manuals.

I don't even want to think what that Teddy Bear would be all about.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Winter is magnificent.

It is a time when you can really feel alive. Cold air stimulating rushing blood flow and a robust heartbeat; crisp, red cheeks enhancing your subtle attractiveness, white breath exhaled in exuberance as winter's natural beauty overwhelms.

Snow banks towering like imaginary jewel mountains, reflecting sunlight in spectacular brilliance.

Animals happily scurrying to and fro in search of food and shelter, playfully thumbing their noses at we humans who are bundled against the elements like the Michelin tire man.

Snowmobiles fired up, torching through the woods and across frozen lakes in mad dash or peaceful progress. Allowing access to nature in intimate settings, on nature's terms but softened by our technical mastery of weather.

Windshields, helmets, face masks, gloves, and thermal suits simultaneously protecting our vulnerability and inspiring us to blend in to our surroundings with no fear.

Snowshoeing. Cross country skiing. Meditation in motion, quietly, peacefully working our way through the woods and back to an uncomplicated existence.

Down hill skiing. Adding an element of danger and speed to deep appreciation of the outdoor environment; nerves tense, awareness hyper acute as the wind and the woods and the mountain race by on our way to the bottom. Looking forward to a satisfying beverage by the fire at the end of a day's runs. Warming bones and easy flowing conversation.

Shoveling. Flexing muscles, improving overall health and stamina as we strain to toss the snow over the highest of snow banks. Looking forward to the next storm and even higher snow banks, even more exhilarating challenges.

Lovingly wiping snow off of cars. Employing enough strength to relocate the snow, balanced by the delicate touch required to avoid scratching the finish of these machines that serve us.

Snow ball fights with the kids. Ducking and hiding, shucking and jiving as snow bombs whistle through the air and find their mark. Chest. Arm. Leg. Laughter accompanying every hit; more laughter at shots gone wide.

Winter promotes health. Fun. Wonder. Exploration. Peace. Camaraderie. Contemplation. Healing laughter.

I love winter. Always will.

Winter is magnificent.


Finished the book on WBCN about a week ago.

It fascinated me because it paralleled the arc of my life, and the arc of the futility of the baby boom generation. A generation that burned white hot with wild-ass hope and the promise of meaningful societal change, eventually fading to the soul limiting suffocation of corporatization and mediocrity.

The station was started essentially on a whim by a guy who believed he had identified a niche that had been overlooked.

Ray Riepen.

A guy who convinced the owner of WBCN, a classical music station, to take a shot on an overnight slot committed to rock 'n roll.

A guy who hired Joe Rogers as his first DJ, a Tufts University student who was working on the side as a DJ at the noncommercial station at MIT, WTBS -FM.

Rogers loaded up his own collection of vinyl records in a crate and lugged them over to BCN. This became the stations first music library.

How cool is that?

At the time rock was exclusively played on AM stations. By loud, obnoxious DJ's who played top forty. Period.

Riepen believed there was a thinking, intelligent, musically and politically savvy audience out there who lusted for a wide variety of music, intelligent conversation, and insightful new reporting.

He was right.

The beauty of the history of this station is the casual, no rules, no professionalism required approach to doing business.

Many of the DJ's had only amateur experience or no experience at all. People who rose to positions like general manager, music director, news director, sound engineer and promotion director had absolutely no experience in handling those responsibilities.

Everybody kind of fell into their role at BCN. The common thread that held it all together and made the station so successful was a mutual love of all kinds of music, a deep commitment to political upheaval and questioning authority, a rebellious nature and an intelligent approach to delivering the music and the news.

This all began in 1968.

In 1999, BCN was owned by Infinity Broadcasting and CBS. That corporation merged with Viacom. The NY Times reported that the merger would create a new company that "makes, distributes and broadcasts television programming, blankets the nation with radio stations and billboard advertising and owns and operates amusement parks."

The merger created a media conglomerate that included 160 radio stations, the CBS TV network, CBS Sports, internet properties like and, CMT, TNN, and MTV, Nickelodeon, Showtime, Comedy Central, Sundance Channel, Paramount Studios, five regional amusement parks through Paramount Parks, 6,400 Blockbuster stores, the Simon & Schuster publishing giant, and billboard advertising through TD1 Worldwide and Outdoor Systems.

This is the world we live in now.

A world with no room for individuality, personal expression, creative approaches or radical inspiration.

Trust me.

1968 was better.

Now This Is A Sentence

From "The Garden of Eden" by Hemingway.

A character is talking about his father, a guy who lived his life with reckless abandon. Talking about advice his father gave.

"His father, who ran his life more disastrously than any man that he had ever known, gave marvelous advice.He distilled it out of the bitter mash of all his previous mistakes with the freshening addition of the new mistakes he was about to make and he gave it with an accuracy and precision that carried the authority of a man who had heard all the more grisly provisions of his sentence and gave it no more importance than he had given to the fine print on a transatlantic steamship ticket."


Life is so small, limited both in scope and possibility. Especially as the end approaches at warp speed.

Winter makes it smaller.

Winter takes things away. Winter restricts options and space.

The snow flies, the temperature drops and life gets played closer to the vest. Focused on the immediate, digging out, bundling up, moving slower, wasting time on these things as hope drifts further away into the future.

Delayed. Unfocused. On hold.

February is particularly vicious.

Because it is short. So short it offers no room to re-group, no chance to fight back. Because statements of false cheer like "the snow is so beautiful" have a hollow ring four months in. Because the groundhog failed once again, because each winter day lasts 48 hours while summer days last 15 minutes.

Summer is deep, peace-inducing breaths. Winter is short, asthmatic panic.

Life feels so small, so limited, and it moves so damn fast.

Winter feels like a shocking waste of time.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Flowers Are Gone

We had one white rose from Sarge's memorial and some geraniums from Jonathan's memorial.

Sarge's rose sat on the table directly across from my recliner. Jonathan's geraniums sat in a wooden French wine crate Carol has creatively adapted for flower and plant display, directly across from the couch.

I looked at these flowers a lot from mid December on. I'm sure Carol did too.

They have been gone now for a little bit, although I noticed the rose limply resting in a small vase on the counter next to the sink just today.

If I may be so presumptive, I'm guessing Carol is having a hard time getting rid of it. Or maybe she has plans for it.

As I watched the flowers fade, it became symbolic to me of how grieving is supposed to work.

In the beginning there is intense pain and sadness. In the beginning the flowers are beautiful in a sad and defiant way.

Eventually the mind finds a way to absorb the loss and the pain lessens. The harshness of the reality fades. Eventually flowers fade away and die.

That is how it is supposed to work.

It is not working that way for me.

My mind continues to randomly recognize the fact that Jonathan and Sarge are gone. I keep grimacing. Tears keep on coming. I keep shaking my head in disbelief.

At work, at home, alone and around others, when it is quiet, when it is busy, outside, inside.

Everywhere I go in every situation.

February 16 and 17 will mark only two months since the shock. Only two months, although it feels much longer to me.

Inexorably so.

I can't say whether or not the pain and the sense of loss will ever fade. I don't think I want them to.

It is meaningful to me in a way that I just don't understand at this point.

I want Jonathan and Sarge with me always, in tears and in smiles.

A Measure of Life

A wise man once said that the most accurate measurement of where you are with your life is to focus on the number of times you think to yourself "I don't want to do this."

"I don't want to do this" even as you are forced to do it.

We all have to do things we don't want to do. It is inevitable.

When those things outnumber by far any sense of choice or pleasure, you are in trouble.

Devastating Quotes

From "The Garden of Eden", the last uncompleted novel by Ernest Hemingway.

"But what about when I'm dead?"

"Then you're dead."

"But I can't stand to be dead."

"Then don't let it happen until it happens. Look at things and listen and feel."


"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."


Checking back in after 6 consecutive at Lompoc.

Got today and tomorrow off. I can breathe. I can live.

Guess I am kind of coming down from THE PATS victory, but not really. It lurks in my genes and cells and nerve endings, travelling ferociously through brain synapses to settle in quite comfortably in my nucleus accumbens.

Yeah, I admit I just looked that one up. I wanted to make a dopamine reference and inadvertently stumbled upon the nucleus accumbens.

From - "Understanding Addiction" - "Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied to pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain's pleasure center."

I could have just said that THE PATS' FOURTH Super Bowl win brings me pleasure, but I am struggling to expand my mind and increase its flexibility even as I slide inexorably towards senility.

This is what happens when I don't write for a week.

It has been an odd arc of emotion since THE PATS ripped the heart out of the seahawks. On Monday I was tired at work and surrounded by women, so conversation did not focus on football. A couple of obligatory comments.

I was deflated.

In the other liquor store I once worked in, sports was a major topic. Lots of ball busting, statistic quoting, predictions, conversation, debate and...........laughter.

Of course we - the heart and soul of the store - were five guys in the same relative age range with similar interests and experiences.

Change, baby. The only thing you can count on. And it doesn't always deliver you to a better place.

The odd arc continued on Tuesday night when I was home alone and watched a replay of Super Bowl XVIX. The entire thing. The only stuff cut out was some random commentary and between play delays.

It even included the half time show, which I don't understand. Anybody watching a replay of that game doesn't give a damn about the half time show.

I didn't. I skipped right through it.

The catch is that I never tape sporting events. If I can't watch it live I don't want to see it. Not interested. It's just who I am.

But I noticed before we left for Keith's house on Super Bowl Sunday that the NFL Network was running a replay of the game from 2:00 a.m. to 5:30 a.m..

I taped it. Glad I did.

I watched it on Tuesday night like I was watching a movie. Being along I could focus in on specific details and pay more attention to commentary and analysis.

And of course knowing the outcome made the start of the 4th quarter, when THE PATS were down 24-14, quite delicious.

When I was done I deleted the game. Seemed like a bold and decisive move.

It wasn't. They re-ran the thing later in the week. I hesitated about taping it. Suddenly, as the night progressed and Carol and I watched other stuff. I switched over and started taping the game. Again.

Caught half time. Again. When I changed stations Katy Perry was just riding out on her gold, life-like lion. I couldn't believe it.

So I have the second half of the game saved. I already watched the 3rd quarter again. Looking forward to the fourth soon.

I spent the week listening to sports talk radio. Heard the replay of Malcolm Butler's interception 4 million times. Got goosebumps every time.

98.5's station ID says "The flagship station of the four time Super Bowl champion NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS."

I heard that 4 million times too and got goosebumps every time.

I vacillated all week between a strange kind of calm to almost uncontrollable excitement.

It's cool. It feels good. I feel like I have absorbed this championship into my DNA.

No more football for a while. I will adjust.

Lots of good stuff to come.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Wise Man Once Said

"What the mind perceives to be one minute on an exercise bike is typically much less."


February 2015

Step out of the way children, February is upon us.

And a good month it shall be.

It is the month of our 37th anniversary. Carol and I were married in 1978. Ever heard of that year?

Recent events in our life tempt me to organize an insane bash by way of celebration. But we will probably just go out for a fine and quiet dinner in a favorite restaurant. Maybe a movie. Some peaceful time at home together. Quiet conversation spiced with reminiscence.

When you get to a certain age reminiscing slips into conversation naturally. It is comforting.

My brother Ed will experience his 60th birthday this month. A milestone in the life of a man who commands enormous respect and love from family and friends just by the way he lives his life; just by the honest truth of who he is.

My brother who I love and respect so deeply I cannot truly express my emotion.

It will be the most bitter sweet birthday of his life. I am hoping we can find a way to bring some happiness to the occasion.

The month starts off today with the Super Bowl. Huge game for PATS fans. Very exciting and over the top anticipation which will collide with the reality of the game itself starting around 6:30 and hopefully ending with insane celebration.

There will be other happiness during the month. I guarantee you I will exert my will to make that happen.

For now it is good to have these three big deals in my pocket. Three events I can look forward to, to make this vicious month of February more special.

You gotta keep fighting. You gotta keep swinging.

I Wish

Started reading "The Garden of Eden" by Hemingway this morning.

Novels like these create a deep longing in me for more leisure in my life. A soul-deep longing.

In the 1920's a segment of the American population was referred to as the Lost Generation. These were people who had come of age during World War I and felt disillusioned in the post-war world.

In the literary world the Lost Generation was represented by a group of writers who travelled to Europe and wrote there up until around the Great Depression. They adopted a bohemian lifestyle of travel and leisure in reaction to an America they felt had been broken.

The two biggest names in this group were Ernest Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald's books, at least the ones I have read, evoke this lifestyle of wealth, leisure and experimentation. "The Garden of Eden" does the same.

Creative people travelling around Europe, people with no financial worries, moving from country to country, spending their time on beaches and in cafes, doing whatever their moods dictate on a whim.

Rising for breakfast, then down to the beach for sun and swimming, back for lunch, then biking or walking, back for dinner, then socializing. On to the next country as the mood dictates.

When I read these stories my soul rises up in hunger to demand just a taste of that feeling.

I will never be rich. I will never enjoy that lifestyle.

Our vacations feel like desperate things. A couple of weeks or days or weekends when we escape work for a short while knowing full well the job awaits with its meaninglessness and frustrations and path to nowhere.

It is human nature to want to enjoy life. To really taste it, to slow it down and examine it and improve upon it in ways that tailor it to our own unique needs.

The vast majority of us never get that chance.

A middle ground would be nice. Many foreign countries offer their employees six weeks of vacation. A slower pace, some breathing room during the day.

This falls under the heading of treating employees like human beings.

Not so in America. In this country we are human resources. Resources to be exploited, used up and discarded.

When I read these magnificent novels the stories tap into that part of me that is forced into hiding in reaction to the ridiculous lifestyle of America.

They tap into the purely human part of me that longs for some sort of freedom, some sort of reprieve from the burdens imposed by life.

I can never figure out if these feelings are good for me or bad for me.

I only know that on this February 1, 2015 with a temperature of 13 degrees and a wind chill more evil than that, I wish I did not have to get up to go to work tomorrow to do something so meaningless to me that it claws blood from my eyes.

I wish I could take Carol to a warm place surrounded by beauty and spend money on simple pleasures without looking over our shoulders at the suffocating budget.

I wish.

I will continue to wish.