Saturday, July 30, 2016

Refilling The Well

"In the end we all come to be cured of our sentiments. Those whom life does not cure death will. The world is quite ruthless in selecting between the dream and the reality, even where we will not. Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting."

"He stood at the window of the empty cafe and watched the activities in the square and he said that it was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they'd have no heart to start at all."

From "All The Pretty Horses" by Cormac McCarthy.

Had a miserable day at work on Thursday. As I was walking up the walk to report for duty I saw a woman measuring the opening to the back of her van.

This is never a good sign. Two minutes later I was helping her load a large sofa into the van. I spent forty five minutes outside, removing the legs, twisting, turning and cajoling the goddamn thing into the vehicle.

The temperature was over 90 degrees; the humidity was 10,000%.

When I finished my t-shirt was soaked to my skin, my work shirt was soaked front and back.

I walked back into a building where the two main air conditioners were not functioning. Toweled myself off as best I could and spent the next couple of hours waiting on people with shirts stuck to my body.

The store closes at 6:00; I was alone from 5:30 on. Big sales promotion that day. I looked up at 6:00 to see five or six people lined up to check out with stacks of clothes that would qualify them for the sale.

I asked them to wait as I ran outside to grab the open flag and came back in to lock the front doors so nobody else could get in.

It was 6:30 by the time I checked everybody out.

My irritation level was at the max, between starting my shift the way I did, working wet in the inside heat, and the fact that one woman in line had multiple kids who were loud as hell as I checked her out at the end.

I wanted to scream at the kids. I wanted to scream for the sake of screaming.

It was literally one of those rare moments when I had to will myself not to scream; not to yell. I kept my mouth shut through sheer force of will but my nerves were burning in frustration.

As I headed home I felt empty. Devoid of life, energy, enthusiasm. Not really giving a shit about anything.

Feeling absolutely nothing.

And who could blame me. Obviously I suffered more on that day than Jesus on the way to his crucifixion.

I woke up Friday feeling empty. Nothing there at all. My goal was to make it through my shift. Nothing more than that.

Hollow all Friday night.

This morning I sat down with a cup of coffee and Cormac McCarthy. Finished the book.

As I read I felt myself coming back alive. Resuscitated by exceptional prose. Rejuvenated by words and deep truths like the ones I began this post with.

That's how my body works. It feeds on art. On creativity. On the unique and beautifully expressed.

I like it that way.

Especially when raw truth is expressed in a manner that I can respect; that I can connect with.

And so I begin again.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Comparison

Watched a chunk of the republican national convention last week. Watched the first night of the Democratic national convention last night.

Two different worlds.

republicans were vicious and mean spirited, continuously attacking Hillary Clinton in a juvenile way. It was all about hate, it was all about ratcheting up emotions in people too uninformed to know what was being done to them.

Frustrated, angry people - people busting their ass every day just to make it through the day with no clue about what tomorrow may bring. People being manipulated by Trump and his lackeys into believing that a billionaire republican presidential candidate (I can't believe I'm writing those words about Trump) actually cares about the working stiff, about their struggles, about the inequities in the system designed to keep the poor where they are; to rob them of any dignity or hope.

Trump got rich by manipulating the system to his advantage, and that includes stiffing contractors and employees, filing for bankruptcy repeatedly and lying, cheating and stealing.

I despise that but there is nothing I can do about it. That is the way America operates - both in business and in politics.

What I despise is that Trump has tapped into the frustration, anger and hopelessness of working class people and is using those emotions to manipulate them into believing that he will be their savior.

There is more of Satan in Trump than savior.

The republican national convention was vicious, juvenile, negative and divisive.

An accurate reflection of their candidate.

Last night the Democratic convention was attended by and run by adults. The speeches were positive, they were uplifting. When they attacked Trump it was done professionally and subtly.

Except for Elizabeth Warren, who goes for the jugular.

Attendees who were interviewed spoke intelligently; they were informed. Attendees at the rnc who were interviewed came across as the idiotic sheep that they are. Obviously uninformed and blindly following Donald Trump into the abyss.

One thing that really got to me about the DNC last night were the tears in the audience when Bernie Sanders spoke. Lots of them.

This man has built a career in consistent expression of his ideals and he has never wavered. He is the candidate who has truly got the backs of the American people.

He understands their troubles, he cares about them and he fights for them.

I think it is a rare situation when genuine tears are shed by voters over the defeat of a presidential candidate.

That shows how deeply Bernie moved people.

He did his part last night to persuade his supporters to support Hillary Clinton. As disappointed as they are this is what has to happen to help insure that Trump Chump does not get near the White House.

Three more nights to go at the DNC. I hope fervently that every single Democratic voter comes around to supporting Hillary Clinton.

And some republicans too.

Not sure what to expect there. But I am positive that the rest of the convention will continue to take the high road. That people will speak intelligently, honestly and passionately.

In direct contrast to the immature shit show the republicans put on.

Monday, July 25, 2016

And Talking About "All The Pretty Horses" previous post

A quote from the book that made me laugh this morning was: "He shook his head. I despise the wintertime. I never did see what was the use in there even bein one."

Holy Christ do I agree with that.

It also got me thinking about my current situation, and I have to be delicate here.

Because of my new schedule this summer is moving at a delicious pace for me. I have so much time to just be in it that it slows everything down.

I have been sitting out on my screened-in porch for an hour now, writing.

My gratefulness continues to expand. I still shake my head and say "Wow." Instead of beginning to take it for granted, it appears that my appreciation grows ever stronger.

The delicate truth is in relation to Carol.

She inserted the retirement word into my brain, she supported me as I investigated, she was happy when I made it happen.

And I try very hard to pamper her, to make her home life as easy as possible so all she has to do is to go to work and come on home.

But it's that "all she has to do" part that is thorny.

She is a human being. Even though she really initiated this process, even though I know she appreciates what I do around the house - she still has to go to work.

She has to go to work knowing I can sleep late and move slowly. Knowing that my work related stress is practically non-existent even as hers shoots up through the roof.

No matter what remains unsaid in her head, I know this situation has got to be difficult for her.

I can only continue to do everything in my power to make her life easier. And hopefully we can find an equation that will allow her to retire or semi-retire soon, so we can enjoy freedom together.

We deserve it. We are both sixty two years old. We have worked hard for a lifetime and we have sacrificed and worried.

I am feeling extraordinarily optimistic these days, which of course is no surprise.

I think we will figure this out.

Dumb Luck

Yesterday morning I finished reading "Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?"

As I'm sure you recall, I tried reading this puppy after finishing "Infinite Jest" but my brain rebelled. It was just too bruised.

So I skipped on to "Bridge of Sighs" which was enormously comforting. Richard Russo, man - he is officially on my list of go to writers when I need to catch my breath. Have read a couple of his books and they are balm for the battered soul.

Anyway I grabbed up "Smart Enough" after BOS and gobbled it up. My brain had healed.

Parts of it were dry - it was written by a scientist - actually the back cover describes him as an ethologist and a primatologist which is a somewhat incomprehensible yet heavy duty description - but overall it supported my position that animals are sacred and should be treated so.

There is a hell of a lot more to the book than that, but overall it was in sync with my view of the animal world, complete with a thinly veiled disdain for humanity.

One fact surfaced towards the end of the book that disturbed me. And I quote: "Brains are the most 'expensive' organs around. They are true energy hogs, using twenty times more calories per unit than muscle tissue."

I have gained around five pounds since I retired.

What does this mean?

Moving on, I picked up "All The Pretty Horses" by Cormac McCarthy this morning. And was immediately plunged into the all too familiar comfort zone that good literature provides for me.

It is such an emotional thing for me. I won't belabor the point because I do it constantly in here, but when you recognize something that brings peace to your soul you gotta roll with it.

And roll I do.

McCarthy is one of "those" authors - much celebrated. I have read other of his books and enjoyed them.

The book is set out west in 1949 and revolves around two kids - around sixteen years old - who decide to shake up their lives and run off to Mexico. They come from ranching families and the book catches the tail end of a cowboy culture. They are on horseback.

I know nothing of this life. Still, as I read this morning I felt a longing to be them. To take off on a mad adventure, to live in a simpler world of hard work, hard knocks and no fucking "smart" phones.

This is what good literature does.

And the writing. Holy shit, the writing.

Dig this: "His father rode sitting slightly forward in the saddle, holding the reins in one hand about two inches above the saddlehorn. So thin and frail, lost in his clothes. Looking over the country with those sunken eyes as if the world out there had been altered or made suspect by what he'd seen of it elsewhere. As if he might never see it right again. Or worse did see it right at last. See it as it had always been, would forever be."

What committed reader could read those words and not see their own life, their own perceptions in them?

At least people of a certain age.

How could anyone possibly read those words and not stop in amazement to think about their own life, to examine their own perspective, maybe suddenly realize a truth that has been gnawing at them in a vague way?

Jesus Christ I live for this shit.

Here's the problem. This book is Volume 1 of a trilogy known as "The Border Trilogy." I have no choice now but to pick up the other two.

And the really fun fact is I picked this book at random. I had some time to kill in Concord and wandered into Gibson's Bookstore, which is becoming a delicious habit.

Walked to the used book rack and grabbed the book because I know the author. Did not know it was part of a trilogy. Could have been Volume 2 or Volume nothing for all I knew.

My week has started off pretty well.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

We Are Moving To Alaska

My mind is made up.

Over the last couple of weeks I have only exercised once or twice. It is too goddamn hot.

This truly sucks because I had momentum rolling along like a goddamn steamroller - I organized my time around working out and was religious about getting it done.

I felt good physically, I felt good mentally - I was proud of my commitment and the drive that kept me going.

After two weeks of smothering heat and almost complete inactivity my weight has ballooned to 295 pounds.

I feel lethargic, permanently tired, and my brain has become slow moving, dull witted and generally unaware.

This is dangerous. Technically I am a senior citizen. I have to work harder to remain alert and to stay physically healthy. When I don't work at it I backslide exponentially.

Age is a bitch, baby.

I choose Alaska over lethargy.

But wait - perhaps there is a simpler solution.

I heard there is this thing called air conditioning.

Trouble is, Carol and I have tried that in the past. Neither one of us can sleep with an air conditioner noise polluting the room.

I'm sure we could find a much quieter machine in 2016 but still, I doubt it would be quiet enough for us.

If you are aware of a perfectly silent a/c please drop me a line.

The best answer would be central air conditioning. Our heating system is forced hot air. Central a/c would be perfect and it would cool the whole house.

Problem is Carol and I rarely need a/c. We are rugged individualists, hearty country folk who prefer cooling breezes and gently rolling nights.


Sorry the rolling night thing just popped into my head. I liked the sound of it regardless of the relevance to the conversation at hand; I just had to go with it.

Problem is we can't afford the $250,000 it would take to install central a/c. Plus a cost/benefit analysis would result in silly data when you consider the fact that we would only use the a/c ten days a year.

Alaska might not be so bad.

Especially if we can find a town like Cicely.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why Can't Scientists Keep It Simple

Read an interesting article in Time magazine about a new approach to improving the odds that a human embryo will develop normally.

Thanks to yogurt.

Bear with me now, this gets a little muddy.

According to the article, "dairy scientists were trying to understand why a variety of bacteria that gives yogurt its tang was constantly getting infected by viruses that altered the taste of the product."

They sequenced the genome of the bacteria and kept getting "odd repeated fragments of DNA." They had no idea what these fragments meant until they figured out that this was how the bacteria kept a genetic record of the viruses that had infected them. The bacteria then used this knowledge as a weapon to defeat any virus that attempted to infect it a second time.

Pretty cool, huh?

Now you have something interesting to talk about at work today. Your co-workers will be impressed and band together to suggest you be promoted.

Or they might just jam a Twinkie in your face and stomp on your lunch.

Without getting into all the boring details, scientists made the leap to assuming this knowledge could be used to reduce genetic defects in embryos.

The plan is to inject a specially prepared liquid into an embryo, which will alter the DNA at the cell level, literally re-writing the embryos genetic code.

Sounds absolutely fantastic if it is being used to try to wipe out birth defects or diseases or genetic malfunctions; sounds goddamn frightening if some wanker decides to use it to create Donald Trump clones.

Or even worse - clones of Donald Trump voters.

Although if wiping out genetic malfunctions is the goal there could never be another Trump or any more Trump supporters.

That is not why I am in here today. Here is what fascinates me.

The acronym for the repeated fragments of DNA is CRISPR.

Which stands for "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats."

Are you kidding me? They couldn't come up with something more simple? Like "birth defect busters", which could be shortened to BDB's.

BDB's sounds cool and so does birth defect busters. They could make a movie about it and then 32 years later create a remake of the movie starring all female leads.

Calling these things clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats would be like calling an automobile "thing that moves when you step on the gas."

That's it. My brain has been fried through all this science. "She blinded me with science." Great song. Sorry, my mind flashed back.

I am out of here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

OK - Now I Get It (No I Don't)

Woke up this morning to a lawn covered in six inches of snow.

Put on my heavy duty PATS sweatshirt, sweatpants and walked downstairs to a frigid and unforgiving environment.

I am not feeling inspired and motivated today - I am feeling cold.

I have this thing hanging on the wall in my kitchen called a calendar. I got right up close to it and checked the date.

July 20. It says July 20.

When I was a child I was told that July is a hot month in New England. Apparently I was lied to.

I resent that.

This global cooling thing is pissing me off. How can republicans not believe in global cooling?

Oh yeah, I forgot - they don't believe in science, they do believe in God, they don't believe that women should have complete control of their own bodies, they don't believe that the only thing that matters between two people is love (because they are not aware of an emotion defined as love).

Sorry - I digress. Those are all topics for another time and place.

But wait - I just ran down to The Big Ride to throw some paperwork on the seat so I won't forget it when I leave. I am senile you know.

It is 1,000 degrees warmer outside this house than it is inside. I encountered three different temperate zones as I ran down to the car.

Inside the house it is minus 44 degrees. On the porch it is 62 degrees. Outside it is 108 degrees.

I am thoroughly baffled now. Don't know what to do. Don't know what to expect.

Exactly what reality is this?

Christ I am too old to try to figure all this out. I'll just decide to be happy on those days my body tells me to be happy.

As for the rest of my time - I will be a gnarled old, miserable wretch of a man who spits at nuns, curses little babies and drinks whiskey with his omelets.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Who Am I?

Rolled out of bed this morning at 7:30 and sweated my way into the bathroom.

However, when I descended the stairs I was in for a big surprise - it was at least a hundred degrees cooler. I was not prepared for this.

And my body and mind exulted.

Typically heat is what gets me off - even humidity up to a point does not derail me. However, the last week or so the heat and humidity has been consistently oppressive to the point of melting my optimism and ambition.

Been doing a lot of lying around. The exercise schedule has taken a hit - it's tough to convince yourself to jump on the recumbent exercise bike when it is already 70 degrees and humid at 10:00 a.m.

As a result I now weigh 235 pounds.

But today I am exultant. Today I am ambitious.

So what does this mean? Have I been lying to myself and the world about my love of heat?


I am sitting on the porch as I write, shivering so badly my knees are knocking; spellcheck is about to burn out.

(Caution to readers - There may be an element of hyperbole in the previous sentence).

Happy as I am, I am not warm from the inside out. This is what I require for complete physical peace. My bones need to be warm. They are not warm today.

But the break from consistent high heat feels good. This implies that Arizona may not be a good final destination for me. Or it might imply that a balanced relationship between heat and air conditioning could be my nirvana. (The latter more closely approximates my truth).

Speculation is irrelevant. I feel good today. I did not realize how dead I felt previously.

My mood was further enhanced when I got downstairs to the note Carol had left me.

Not a love note. A cat note.

Lakota now requires two pills a day to maintain her health. Unfortunately she has pretty much figured out the pill pocket ruse. Sneaking the medication by her has become inconsistent.

Yesterday I tried four different methods in the morning and all of them failed. Didn't get a pill into her until 4:30 p.m. She had consumed no pills on Sunday.

I worry because her getting sick really shook me up. She is sixteen years old. Now that the pills have her feeling and looking better I don't want anything to detract from that.

The first thing I thought about when I woke up was how to sneak a pill into her this morning. She only took one yesterday so I was determined to start the morning on a high note. I was worried.

Except when I got downstairs Carol had left a note saying that Lakota was begging for snacks this morning and Carol managed to sneak a pill past her.


So, goddamn it, I feel pretty good today. Alive, alive, oh.

Pretty fucking sweet.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

My Brain Is Bruised In Numb Suprise

I am getting numb.

From the non-stop violence and killing.

84 dead in Nice, France.

I am not talking numb as in I feel nothing as every tragedy unfolds; I am talking numb as in some dude in a bar fight who is getting his ass kicked and slumps to the floor, unable to raise another finger while the other guy continues to punch him in the face.

I am overwhelmed, emotionally spent, horrified, disgusted and a little edgy.

I feel empty. I feel powerless.

I feel no hope.

No clue how you fight back against this kind of violence, and I am talking about the vicious race-related killing going on in this country as well as global terrorism.

I cannot count on our political leaders to figure this out because they politicize everything as if it were a game or as if the only thing that matters is their job or their party.

This is not a game. The world is becoming exponentially more dangerous every day and our lives are getting smaller.

It does not feel like it is going to stop. It does not feel like we are making any progress at all.

Maybe if all the powerful countries in the world worked together in an effort to wipe out terrorism.

Maybe if our gifted intellectuals found a way to educate people about the fact that we are all in this together and that racial differences mean nothing.

Maybe if the NRA gave up its strangle hold on Congress.

Maybe if our political "leaders" abandoned partisan politics and concentrated on what is right for their constituents and this country.

Holy shit - excuse me - I was dreaming again. Apparently I slipped away.

I apologize for the distraction.

Go back to your lives. Slip back into normal.

And hope you don't get killed.

Weekends, Jesus Christ, Baby

Man, I am in the minority now and I am digging it like a son of a bitch.

I was driving home from work last Friday night feeling like the King of the World - goddamn happy, smiling on the inside, feeling alive. I felt so good it seemed like something was wrong - I wasn't drunk, I had not consumed illegal drugs of any sort and yet there it was - unrestrained, unexplained happiness.

That's when it hit me - Friday night in my life is now exactly what Friday night should be - the start of the weekend. A real goddamn weekend.

And my soul knew it.

Same thing last night. Holy shit what a feeling.

I get a three day weekend every weekend, which is pretty extravagant, I know, but I think even if it was two days I would still be as giddy as a school child.

And I know, you're saying "Jesus Christ, Joe - you only work twenty hours a week."

True, but getting out of work is getting out of work, and weekends are weekends, baby.

Been doing the retail thing thing since 2006 - ten years, between tending bar and the goddamn liquor commission. Begging for weekends off, planning our personal life around a pain in the ass schedule.

Now I am a free bird.

Even cooler - Carol has Saturday and Sunday off so we get weekends together. Carol engineered her own fate, working her ass off for years in shitty jobs with questionable schedules. But she never gave up and finally worked her way into the Monday through Friday routine, making pretty good money, I might add.

We have been married for thirty eight years, baby, and we have weathered some harsh and frightening times.

Finally, at this point, sixty two years down the road, we have some freedom to dig life as it should be dug.

Fucking priceless.

For 99% of the working class today the word weekend does not even exist - it might as well be removed from the dictionary.

That is because this country has become so warped that employers can twist everything around in their favor, and they do not give a damn about your personal life or your health.

I know so many people who only get one day off at a time, often working ten or twelve days in a row just to get there. I have been there and I know how it feels.

It is dehumanizing. It is good for liquor stores and the pusher man because the only life people have is the one they manufacture in their heads.

So I continue to consider myself lucky.

Sometimes I wonder what the hell I did to deserve the amazing twist my life has taken. Sometimes I feel like I fucking deserve it (which is happening more and more).

So yeah, I'll work my twenty hours between Tuesday and Friday. And I will dance like a crazy man when that Friday night bell rings, releasing me back into my sweet, sweet life.

And I will be grateful, aware and peace-filled.

I will also be smiling my ass off.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Apparently I am semi-retired.

I guess that is the most accurate description of my new life. I work 20 hours a week. The rest of time is mine.

Gotta say it again because it feels so good to say it - the rest of time is mine.

I work from 2:00 to 7:00 Tuesday through Friday. Don't have to leave the house until 1:00. Three day weekends every weekend. The job is exponentially less pressure-filled than my previous hellish experience.

A lot less corporate too, which is always a bonus.

I had a month off when I initially fled the scene of the previous job and it was an extraordinary feeling. Being human I wish it was longer but Carol came home from work every night and smacked me upside the head with a 16 pound sledgehammer asking: "Did you get a part time job yet you lazy bastard?"

I don't enjoy headaches so I got the job.

I thought it might be depressing to go back to work after a lazy layoff but it has not been bad. Precisely because I still have so much time.

Had dinner with my long time friend Phil recently, who is also semi-retired. He said it took him about a year to adjust to the new lifestyle. That sounded insane to me but I am beginning to understand where he was coming from.

After 40 years of bowing to the demands of ungrateful employers, being chained to whatever work schedule was required, the mind does not automatically adjust to new found freedom.

Freedom can be dangerous. I am finding that I need to impose discipline upon myself if I am ever going to become the greatest human being who ever lived.

The new work schedule provides a structure because I know that from the time I drag my tired old ass out of bed I have until 1:00 to accomplish great things.

I created a list, a guideline of sorts, to address all the areas in which I need to improve, to adapt and make changes.

It's a broad list.

Because I am covering a lot of ground to get to where I want to be. There are personal goals, intellectual goals, social goals and career goals.

So far I have been all over the map in attacking these aspirations.

Because my mind has still not grasped the fact that this new life is real; because my brain has still not adjusted to the time I have available to me.

Sounds silly I know, but the change is so huge that it sometimes overwhelms. There is so much I want to accomplish and I have the time I need to do it, yet sometimes the brain freezes - "What should I do this morning?" What is the best use of my time right now?"

Of course I put too much pressure on myself because that is what I do; it is who I am. Pressure freezes.

The reality, however, is that time is racing by. I don't want to be Joe Perry. I don't want that wake up call. By the way, Joe - I am pulling for you, man. Get better and get rocking soon.

Making progress, though. Wasting less time, focusing a little more. I have only been working the new job for 7 days. I am coming into it, adjusting to the new "new" schedule.

Funny how the human mind works (or doesn't work). You think you will react this way to change but you react that way instead. You think you will do this in this situation, but you do that. You think you will feel this way, but you feel that way.

The fun is in not knowing where I am going. I'm pretty sure I'm headed somewhere, somewhere new and different.

I don't like goofy motivators, cute cliches designed to inspire.

However..............I have fortune cookie wisdom taped to the cover of the notebook that contains the blueprint for my new life.

The fortune says: "Trust yourself. You know more than you think."

I have always known this but never been able to act upon it.

On the inside of the cover I wrote two words: "Confidence and Perseverance." I heard somebody talking about success recently and those two words blasted right in to my skull.

That is how I will get what I want.

Ciao, baby.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Comfort Entertainment

The day after I finished reading "Infinite Jest" I picked up "Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?"

Cool book, Carol recommended, about how we underestimate the intelligence of animals because of our own biased assumptions. This is right up my alley because I love animals and automatically assume they are intellectually and morally superior to humans (see previous post.)

If I loved our cats any more than I do it would be illegal.

However, I did not count on my brain being as bruised as it was. "Infinite Jest" really sloshed my brain around in my head. "Are We Smart Enough" is not a deeply technical book or overwhelming in any way, but there is enough references to studies and such that my black and blue brain could not comprehend it.

Not then, anyway. I still salivate at learning how animals are superior to us but now is not the right time.

So I put it down and picked up "Bridge of Sighs" by Richard Russo and was instantly comforted.

Russo wrote "Nobody's Fool", a great book that was made into one of mine and Carol's favorite under the radar films. We have watched it 3,750 times and are shooting for 10,000 before our frail and vulnerable bodies are ground to dust.

He also wrote "Empire Falls" which was made into an HBO mini series that Carol and I dug deeply.

"Bridge" is the right book for my brain and emotions at this time. I have lost myself in the story; I am deeply comforted every morning as I read it.

The other night I was in a movie mood and dialed up "Everybody's Fine", starring Robert DeNiro and other notable thespians.

Didn't know a goddamn thing about the movie but the description sounded promising and after all, we are talking DeNiro.

It occurs to me that two of my favorite actors in this and any parallel universe are Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. Two fine, young, Italiano boys.

I am full blooded myself. Apparently Italians rule the world (and deservedly so).

The movie was great. Emotional, meaningful, though provoking.


My brain is healing and I will be back on track soon vis a vis diving into more challenging waters.

But for now I am comfortable in being comforted.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Do We Have A Future

Alton Sterling was murdered by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 5th. Philando Castile was murdered by police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota on July 6th. Five Dallas, Texas police officers were murdered by a maniac on July 8th.

Even by this country's standards that it is a pretty amazing run of senseless violence fueled by deeply rooted prejudice and hatred.

Apparently we are getting better at it.

I find it impossible to find optimism in any of this, in any of the backlash, any of the protests, any of the outcry and informed discussion. Frankly I believe the vicious underbelly of this country - our racially intolerant, frustrated and hate-filled citizens - is being revealed for what it truly is - our nature; our karma.

I have listened to President Obama consistently try to dig for some hope, to inspire a determination to change, as he is forced to eulogize over and over again people who are innocent victims. I don't know how he does it and I don't know if he even believes change can happen.

Maybe he is just being a leader, which I admire him for.

Some like to compare where we are now to where we were in the sixties and insist that we have made progress. Which is true on some levels but not where it matters the most - in people's hearts, their minds and their souls. And the violence we are seeing right now definitely approaches the levels we saw back then.

Which is goddamn frightening.

People in this country hate each other because of the color of their skin. Because of their religion. Because of any petty, indefensible reason they can come up with.

This happens all over the world, of course, but not with the frequency and the intensity we experience in the United States. Not even close.

We are all about doing everything bigger and better.

I wonder what makes us so hateful, so prone to violence and the effortless taking of innocent lives.

Karma. We stole this country from people that were so far ahead of us spiritually they made us look like infants. We stole it by lying to them, by breaking promises and by slaughtering them.

Our ridiculous approach to life. We work harder and longer for less money and with less time off, compromising our health and shortening our lifespans. Workers are exploited callously. Still the country continues to fall behind in all significant measurements of the factors that define "advanced" countries.

Shrinking opportunity. Working people are being squeezed by the obscenely rich and undeserving powerful. The American Dream is dead; the playing field is unfair and getting worse. How many people do you know who work two and even three part time jobs and still struggle to just survive?

There is no way out.

Corporations farm work out to other countries for cheaper labor; robots do more of the work here at home.

There is enormous frustration in this country.

Talking heads say we need to have a conversation, to begin a dialogue. I hear this on MSNBC all the time and it drives me up a wall.

Wishful thinking. We are way beyond the point where people can be enlightened and educated. Hatred and prejudice is too deep seated in this country, frustration is boiling over and tempers are short.

The United States of America is a powder keg getting ready to blow. Again. Just like in the sixties when assassinations rocked our lives, when students were gunned down on college campuses. I couldn't believe it was happening then; I cannot believe what is happening now.

I do believe that we are a vicious, selfish, close minded population that hates for the sake of hating.

I was listening to talking heads on Meet The Press yesterday discussing the recent killings and the thought fleetingly crossed my mind that I am lucky to live where I live. Rural NH where all appears tranquil. Then it occurred to me that I am just as likely to be surrounded by gun toting, racially prejudiced, hateful people with small minds as anywhere else in this country.

I don't know where all this is headed.

I definitely don't have a good feeling about it.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Two Friday Things

I was driving to work yesterday afternoon and was passed by a Heineken delivery truck traveling in the opposite direction.

Which makes sense when you think about it.

Bright, shiny and clean the way those trucks always are. The picture of the moist bottle on the side of the truck made me thirsty.

A Heineken truck delivering weekend happiness in 12 ounce doses.

Got out of work five hours later. Slowly cruising down South Main Street in Concord. Looking around.

I'm really starting to dig downtown Concord.

Glanced over to my left and spied a guy walking briskly down the sidewalk carrying two large pizzas.

Had a Friday night look about him.

"Working For The Weekend" - Loverboy.

"Everybody's working for the weekend, everybody wants a little romance, everybody's goin' off the deep end, everybody needs a second chance."

'Tis true. We all work and live for the weekends.

A little Heineken, a little pizza.

Might as well enjoy it.

The little things, baby - the tiny moments of release.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Please Forgive Me, Maestro

Our 4th of July weekend was spectacular and we settled in last night to wrap it up by watching the holiday celebration on the Esplanade.

Big mistake.

The Pops is the Pops - storied and excellent to listen to. Although Maestro Keith Lockhart is frightening to watch. The man looks pissed off most of the time. He conducts like he's in a boxing match. Even when he smiles it appears to be strained.

By the way, titles amuse me. Maestro. Do we really need to refer to him as Maestro? I am impressed with who the man is and what he has accomplished. The name Keith Lockhart carries enough weight in my mind. In fact, putting Maestro in front of the name makes it sound a bit silly. Maybe I have watched too many Three Stooges episodes.

I understand that is the tradition but still, it feels a bit pompous to me. If I were the Maestro of the Boston Pops I would not want people to call me Maestro. Joe would work nicely. But the musical community would probably not allow that. They would probably insist on calling me Maestro.

How bizarre, how bizarre.

Anyway, the Pops rocked like they always do. Unfortunately the entertainment was watered down by the performances of.............................

Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, and Little Big Town.

Holy Christ, who the hell are these people? And why are they sharing the stage with the Boston Pops?

In a certain way, my age creates a wide gulf between me and today's musical performers. I am just not going to be aware of these people because I don't listen in any way that will expose them to my ears. However I do know good music when I hear it. I have no problem recognizing talent no matter how young the performer, or what the genre is.

There was no recognizing last night.

Demi Lovato has a hell of a voice and I did like one song that she sang. She also has very large thighs which she was proud to expose to the nation.

Jonas made me want to drive ice picks into my ear drums. His voice, the music he sang and his persona, if you can call it a persona, combined to almost raise my supper back out of my stomach.

Little Big Town drove me absolutely nuts. First of all, what an incredibly lame name.

Beyond that, they attempted to project a rock star presence that was way out of proportion to the music they were delivering. The music was like cold, watery oatmeal. They were raising their arms in the air and trying to get the crowd to clap as if they were the biggest act in the music world.

They looked and sounded like poseurs to me.

I don't know why I hung in as long as I did. We started watching around 8:45. I finally lurched out of my chair in disgust at 10:15.

Before the fireworks.

I went to bed before the main event because I could not sit through any more ball-less music. (And partially because I knew the alarm was going to ring at 5:30 - however, I would have gutted it out if I was being entertained).

Popularity, fleeting as it is, should not be the criteria for choosing Boston 4th of July performers. Attempting to please the 12 and under crowd is not the answer either.

New rule: From now on, performers who share the stage with the Boston Pops on the 4th of July, indeed people who are actually accompanied by the Pops, need to be of a stature that at least approaches that of the Pops' musicians.

Being able to spell and correctly pronounce the word maestro is a definite bonus.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Holy Shit I Finished "Infinite Jest"

Kaboom, baby - flipped the past page over in mute astonishment this morning.

Literally in mute astonishment. I was near the end of the book and was determined to wrap it up today, but the last page snuck up on me and suddenly I was into the footnotes. Surprised the hell out of me because I was so into it.

I began reading this book on June 3 - the first day of my retirement. It was my treat to myself. A book I longed to read for years after becoming aware of it, but could not because of deadlines and commitments.

Perhaps a touch of apathy.

The forward to the book was written by Dave Eggers, an accomplished writer himself. For one thing he is a founder of the magazine McSweeney's which is an excellent and quite humorous publication. It's kind of like a literary Onion - which is a very loose comparison on my part. Just check it out on line and thank me for it later.

Eggers mentions in the foreward that he committed one month to reading this book. I snickered inwardly when I read that; it was not going to take me a month to read the book - I am lightening fast at consuming the written word, a veritable virtuoso of reading talent.

Started reading on June 3 - finished on July 4. And I am retired; unlimited availability of time. I only missed maybe three or four days in that whole stretch.

Technically the paperback version of the book is 981 pages long. Truthfully it is like reading a 2,700 page book. It is densely written. So much so that it drove me mad at times.

One sentence can run on for one or two pages - non stop. I drink coffee or tea as I read in the morning and I like to time my sips at the end of sentences or paragraphs or chapters. Neat and orderly.

I was continuously forced to snag a sip in mid sentence. That drives me crazy but I adjusted.

It takes commitment to read a book like this. There were many times I wondered where the hell the story was going, but every time that happened something would make me laugh or surprise me or even repulse me.

That fueled me and kept me reading and I am glad I did.

I am into the commitment thing. Give William S. Burroughs a shot, or Fred Exley or even Jack Kerouac - these writers will challenge your perception of what writing is. As you read you will wonder what the hell you are reading and why.

It's good to challenge yourself - boredom leads to stupidity. Routine leads to numbness. If you read the same type of story, the same style of writing, over and over again, eventually you slip into a reading coma. That's when reading stops being a delicious escape and becomes just like any other activity in your life - a mindless exercise in time and life wasting - a heinous crime if ever there was one.

Don't get me wrong - I read lots of light fiction and enjoy it tremendously. Sometimes I just gotta have it. My brain is not powerful enough to digest a steady stream of alternative and/or intellectually challenging material. It gets all droopy and limp and pretty soon I am wearing my right shoe on the left foot.

But when I do challenge myself I feel good about myself. I like feeling good about myself.

The toughest book I ever read is "The Denial of Death" by Ernest Becker. Bar none. Holy shit did that book knock me out. I am certain I did not get everything out of it he intended and I promised myself I would re-read it but............... I haven't summoned up the guts yet.

Anyway, "Infinite Jest" is done - I have read it and I loved it. I don't know if I will ever re-read it - maybe when I get Alzheimers.

I have a stack of books awaiting my attention. I am in one of those periods where I amassed a bunch in waiting - at least five. This is when I am most comfortable, when I have a stack of books in different genres from which I can pick to match my mood.

I have no idea which I will pick in the morning. I will be quite disoriented - Carol starts her summer schedule tomorrow and the alarm will explode at 5:30. Any alarm that rocks you before 6:00 a.m. is uncivilized in my opinion.

However I will rally and be up by 6:30 because I am severely focused right now. Don't have to be in to work until 12:00 - that will leave me eons of time to read, exercise and................

I am excited. I am always excited to begin a new book.

For now I am going to enjoy the rest of this day. I am going to live in the now like it's nobody's business.

This weekend has been spectacular both weather-wise and activity-wise for Carol and me. Today is chill day. Sit around and do nothing day.

There is a Chinese proverb that says "When you spend a perfectly useless day in a perfectly useless way, you have learned how to live."

That is where I am at today.

Dig it, baby.