Monday, October 31, 2016

$5 Minimum

Had a spectacular occurrence yesterday.

Stopped into the Henniker pharmacy on the way back from a dump run, to pick up 81 mg Bayer aspirin.

I take one daily, hopefully to ward off or minimize the chance of a heart attack. I figure cancer took a wack at me, I might as well try to protect the heart.

(Truthfully I have been doing the aspirin thing for a long time).

Grab me up a $7.63 size box and head up the counter.

Guy in front of me buys something minimal, tries to charge it and the woman behind the counter tells him there is a $5 minimum for credit card use.

He is a little pissed, starts looking around the counter for something else to buy but there is only gum and useless stuff like that. Not even a quality candy bar.

He turns around to me and says "I'll buy that for you." I tell him I have no cash to pay him back and he says "doesn't matter."

The woman swipes it, he hands it back to me, I thank him and walk out the door.

Ain't life grand.

From The Inside Out

Since I semi-retired I have been examining myself.

From the inside out.

It began as a conscious process. It has evolved to encompass my sub-conscious as well as my conscious self.

With time on my hands I committed to understanding why I am not happy that often even though on the surface of things I have every right and reason to be.

I am living a lie; that is well documented. I am not the kind of guy who is into deadlines and commitments, mortgage payments and budgets, predictability and living conservatively.

Somehow I fell into this lifestyle that I have no respect for. Middle class, scratching to survive, pissing my life away on meaningless details leaving no time for big fun, big life, big excitement, big inspiration.

Ain't no pizazz in that, baby.

And as far as I know you only get one shot at this thing so it seems like such a waste spending 99.9% of my time scratching and .1% laughing.

But I recently realized my conflict goes much deeper than that.

I realized it because I know and have always known that this life has also given me Carol, Keith & Emily, Craig & Karen.

I derive enormous pleasure and unlimited happiness from this crew. I look upon them with wonder, even after all these years, and I honestly don't give a shit if you think I am blowing smoke or not.

What I now know is that I am a dark individual. And not in the way people have been describing me for a very long time.

I am dark because there is not a lot I give a shit about. I don't care about rules, I don't care about other peoples' moral guidelines, I don't care about the right things other people expect me to do.

I don't care about nice.

In fact I am exactly opposite to that. I take great pleasure in breaking the rules, and anything that appears wrong to well behaved people appeals to me.

The conflict comes in the persona I developed over my lifetime, in direct conflict with who I am.

Nice guy Joe (as opposed to Nice Guy Eddie from Reservoir Dogs).

I think most people would describe me as a nice guy. Of course one of the problems with self analysis is the question of whether you can ever really know yourself honestly. Maybe most people would call me a flaming asshole. I don't know. So for now I'll stick with the nice guy thing.

If anybody told me to my face that I am a nice guy I would cringe. Or laugh. Or vomit.

Because I am not. It is just an act. An act I have perfected (I think).

I slip into this persona every time I leave the house. Every fucking time.

I have been fighting it for the last few months but it is such a natural act that it is hard to break out of character. Surprisingly hard.

Hence the unhappiness. The persona I present to the world is the exact opposite of who I really am.

It is pretty hard to live that way.

That's it. Self analysis 101.

I am pleased with my progress.

Friday, October 28, 2016

You Think You Know Yourself......................

It is possible that I am too flippant in my opinions.

Once in a great while.

I don't like happy endings. In movies. In books. Too boring. Too fucking predictable.

How many of the movies you have seen have ended exactly as you knew they would? Exactly as you wanted them to?

The good guy wins, justice is fair and absolute, evil gets punished, no matter the odds or improbability.


99% of the movies you have watched in your lifetime have ended predictably. And you hated the 1%.

You couldn't handle the 1%.

I want the end of a movie or a book to surprise me, even if it depresses me or shocks me, because that is more in line with how life works.

I don't need fantasy in my entertainment. I have whiskey and pot for that.

I recently read a John Grisham book that I loved. It floored me with reality. It surprised me.

A huge corporation dumps toxic waste in a small town. The waste gets into the water supple, cancer cases go through the roof. One family gets up the guts to sue the corporation and wins.

The company immediately files an appeal, knowing it will take a couple of years to make it to the state supreme court. In the meantime the company mounts a campaign to get a justice of their choosing elected to the state supreme court.

He wins. The case comes before the court, it is a split decision and he is the deciding vote.

He denies the appeal.

The family of the dead cancer patient gets nothing. The town gets nothing. The corporate fat cats win and walk away unscathed.

I rejoiced when I read that, even though I was pissed off. That is how life works. For every case where a corporation is punished, 100 get away with murder.


I was feeling pretty smug.

Then I read "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle".

Family living on a farm, breading dogs. Spiced with lies, betrayal, life confusion and murder.

The story dug its hooks even deeper into me because of the dog angle; they were a major part of the story and the love between the breeders and the dogs really touched me.

The main character was a boy. You kind of grow up with him, although he is only a young teen at the end of the book.

In short - the kid's father is murdered by the kid's uncle (yes, the brother) who gets away with it, even though the kid knows he did it. The uncle moves in with the kid and his mom and becomes his mom's new lover. The kid dies in the end, killed by the uncle just before the uncle dies in the end. The barn where dogs have been bread for generations burns to the ground in the end.

The kid's own precious dog even dies while the kid is disappeared as a runaway. He comes home to find the grave. This dog was his companion since the day he was born. The kid was born unable to speak and his dog always protected him and stayed by his side.

That's it. No resolution. No happy ending.

I was devastated. Couldn't believe how depressed I was.

Then I became confused. What the hell was I feeling? Who am I really?

Am I getting soft?

Jesus Christ, you think you know yourself after 62 years and then.....................

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sounds Like Church

What's your problem?

It's late October.


Late October is not early October.

Tell me something I don't know.

I am serious about this.

OK - I am listening.

Early October is an extension of summer these days. You get these impossibly warm days, days that are full of promise and reprieve. The trees are bursting with color even though that color signals death. Suddenly it is October 26 and reality crashes the party.


Suddenly it is 36 degrees on your drive home from work. You know when you step out of your car wearing only a thin sweatshirt, you will shiver. The day was overcast and grey. Tomorrow will be overcast and grey.

Happens every year, Bubba.

I don't give a shit how often it happens or how predictable it is. It is depressing, get it? It smothers hope and gives birth to despair.

OK, OK - lighten up. I am just trying to understand where you are coming from.

You will never understand where I am coming from.

At least I am trying.

I want to pack it in at this time of year. I want to curl up into a ball and never leave the house. I don't want to have to communicate with one other human being unless I can count on perfect truth. Which I cannot.

I am sorry you feel this way.

Doesn't matter how you feel. Sympathy, even empathy, does me no good.


Sorry. Don't mean to burden you with all this. It's just that it not easy for someone like me to keep counter punching. My fists are bruised and my arms grow weary.

Want to go to Taco Bell? We could pig out on junk food and then motor over to Grililano's Bar and get shitfaced on shots and beers.

Sounds like a perfect night to me. Sounds like church.

Only Me

It is Game 4 of The World Series.

My team is down three games to none.

We are playing at home, it is the bottom of the ninth, two outs, nobody on; I am at the plate with a count of 0 and 2.

The score is 18 to 0.

That is where I am in my life.

Only there is no team.

There is only me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

You Gotta Love NPR

Grooving on NPR on my way to work the other day.

They advertised: "A lively coffee and pastry discussion on Mozart."

Sounds funny on the surface of it. Easy to make fun of.

But why not?

It's easy to stereotype NPR listeners as eggheads. Pseudo-intellectuals with their noses in the air.

However, I listen to the station. Carol is a devout follower. We are not eggheads. Right?

Truthfully, some of the news people do irritate me sometimes. Especially when they pronounce foreign words - names, places etc. - with precise inflection. A hint of the language the words originate from. Rolling their r's etc. A little precocious accent thrown in for authenticity.

You can look at this two ways. Maybe they are paying respect to that foreign language or culture. Or maybe they are obnoxious white people attempting to sound cultured.

I believe the latter. They annoy me. And I am willing to bet a native from that culture probably laughs at their precociousness.

Some of the "on air talent" sound soooooooooooo condescending to me when they introduce themselves.

Ever hear Audie Cornish and Robert Siegel introduce themselves on "All Things Considered", or various news pieces? Oh my God they sound so full of themselves, just in the way they say their names. I want to slap them in the face.

Still, I suppose there are people out there who could very well engage in a lively discussion on Mozart. In fact I think it's kind of cool.

Classical music is so complex it blows my mind anybody can even compose it. I want to love it, I want to incorporate it into my overall palette of musical experience (holy shit), but I haven't found the right composer dude yet.

I need to connect with classical music that touches my blues soul, my rock 'n roll sensibility. Need to find a maniac of a composer who does just that.

How much homework have I done?

Very little.

Got one button on the radio in The Big Ride tuned to a classical station but it is hit or miss. Every once in a while I'll dial up something that stirs me but more often than not, I do not. Many times a song will stimulate my soul until it segues into another movement and then suddenly I am bored.

I am much more motivated these days. Maybe I'll get up off my fat ass and do the research; put the work in.

No promises though; my brain is still pretty scrambled.

Anyway, go ahead and have a lively discussion of Mozart. I really do think that is cool. I am sure there is so much to discuss about the man and about the music that the conversation would be pretty damn interesting.

Passion is what life is all about, baby.

Friday, October 21, 2016

It's True

Some days you wake up too tired to floss.

It Never Gets Any Fucking Easier, Does It?

I semi retired on June 2.

Feeling pretty good about myself. I had communicated with the Social Security Administration multiple times before pulling the plug, just so I knew what to expect, just so everything would be lined up all nice and neat.

It was an odd feeling at first, waiting for social security money to be direct deposited into my account. At least if you are working and your employer fucks up you can raise a ruckus and settle things quickly.

With the government I figured if something went wrong it would take nineteen lawyers, thirty seven months and 2,315 letters to sort it all out.

My anxiety was misplaced. Everything has been clicking along smoothly.

Until now.

Prior to retiring I had to supply SSA with a 2016 estimate of what my earnings would be while working full time at the liquor commission. This was months before I actually retired so I did not know what my vacation balance would be. I also could not predict intangibles, like working on Sundays and holidays, for which I would be paid handsomely.

Turns out I did work a Sunday or two in there, one holiday, and when I retired I had three weeks vacation on the books.

To make a long story longer I underestimated my income by $3000.

Got a letter last week from SSA telling me that because I earned $3,000 more than I estimated, I will not receive a social security payment in November. I will not receive a social security payment in December.

My next payment will be direct deposited in January of 2017.

Are you fucking kidding me? Not "please contact us so we can negotiate a reasonable resolution," not "we know this could present a hardship for you so........."

Nope. Just you will not be paid for two months.

Social security makes up more than half of what I was earning when I was working full time.

Fortunately for me and Carol, I had money in the NH retirement system, which I took as a lump sum payment when I retired and dumped right into our savings account.

We used a chunk of that to pay off a credit card that charged Mafia level interest; pretty much held on to the rest.

We were sitting pretty. Prepared to handle any emergency that came our way. Kind of like the way you are supposed to feel at retirement age.

Now we will be forced to eat up a good chunk of that money over the next two months. We'll probably end up with a savings account balance equal to what it was before I retired.

Re-introducing worry into the equation.

Goddamn lucky that we have the money in savings. What the hell would we have done if we had zero money in savings?

We would have been screwed.

This shit ain't supposed to happen.

When Sarge died it created a financial hardship for Cori. One thing she did was to look into receiving Sarge's social security benefits. She was told she cannot begin collecting that money until she is 65.

She is 50. Are you fucking kidding me?

Does the social security administration have a clue how their policies, how their decisions affect peoples' lives? Do they even care?

This shit ain't supposed to happen.

I stopped working full time on June 2. Had the whole month of June off, been working twenty hours a week since July.

I have really enjoyed it; really appreciated it. Have not taken it for granted. Still cannot believe how much my life has changed for the positive.

Except I was diagnosed with cancer in August, slammed by the social security administration in October and am suddenly out of my mind impatient with this job I am working.

The worm has turned.

As it will. As it inevitably will.

I am smart enough to appreciate how much better my life has been. For these five months. Five months.

That is the rhythm of life. Five good months, three years of hardship. Two good months, five years of hardship.

As I mentioned before in these pages, in some respects I really don't give a shit.

All I want to be able to do is to find ways for Carol and me to be happy. We will twist and turn and duck, counter punch and spit in the face of life to get what we want.

I worry differently today.

There are many things in my life now to which the following words viciously apply:  "I used to care but, things have changed."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Retail Is The Devil

Rob Zombie is my horror hero.

The man knows how to make horror movies. At least in a way that I find appealing.

Have you seen "House of 1000 Corpses"? "The Devil's Rejects"? Devil's Rejects is quite possibly my favorite, "makes me uncomfortable" horror movie.

If you have not seen these movies, pour yourself a shot, smoke yourself a joint, dial 'em up, turn down the lights, and lose yourself in horror.

Or, more prudently, watch them with a bible in your lap.

I don't know how to describe what he does technically, but he films them differently than other people do, and the tone is so heavily evil it feels like you are being covered in a shroud as you watch,

The characters are evil to the bone; they shock you and blow your mind. You sit there amazed at the level of viciousness and callousness they project.

Had me a shitty day in retail yesterday. Drove home screaming mad in need of bloodshed.

When I have days like that I imagine death all along my route as I commute.

Innocent bystanders being decapitated by the scythe stuck out my window as I drive by; old ladies being crushed up against brick walls as I drive up over the curb; loud mouthed scum buckets having their throats slashed with a rusty blade; shallow people drowning in three inches of burning motor oil.

Retail is the devil.

It rips you apart and feasts on your raw liver. You are forced to be subservient, no matter how hard you fight back.

I have been fighting back hard lately.

If somebody gives me attitude I give it right back. In these circumstances I have evolved beyond the point of flashing the phony smile and swallowing my pride. Instead, I focus my anger and dial up the intensity to 11.

To the point where sometimes the customer will look up from their purchases at me in surprise.

I like that. I like it a lot.

If my day in retail has been bad enough, when it ends, my nerves are frayed and my patience is dead.

On days like that, like yesterday, I require the release of vicious violence and non stop bloodshed to soothe my soul. I have no choice. I gotta have it.

Haven't been drinking much whiskey lately but I stopped to buy myself a ridiculously cheap bottle of bourbon. Somehow that seemed appropriate.

Cheap bourbon and murder go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Plus I knew I would have to medicate myself just to get back to a point where I could at least approximate the feeling of being human.

I also picked up a decidedly unhealthy pizza. Pepperoni, bacon and onion. This also seemed appropriate.

When I got home I dialed up a remake of the movie "Halloween." Directed by Rob Zombie.

Fucking perfect.

There was so much bloodshed I had to wipe myself down with paper towels. There was so much evil I had to perform a personal inventory to make sure my soul had survived.

I am hoping for a better day today.

But if not, I learned a trick or two from the movie last night.

My motto is not "the customer is always right".

My motto is "the customer better fucking beware".

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Choice

"What that means in my life is that my great love, like my great goals, ambitions and dreams, was made of dust, but I've long known that the grand things almost always are, and I've long known that it's the not-so-grand things that make life worth living: a cup of pea soup, a small glass of bitter beer, a new friend, an old memory, a warm fire on a cold day, a cool breeze on a hot one, the smell inside a dog's ear, putting one word after another."

From "Old Heart" by Peter Ferry.

This is the book I am currently reading. It is the story of an 85 year old man whose family wants to put him into a home. He, however, would prefer to maintain his independence.

So he runs away. To Europe. To find an old love he hasn't seen in over forty years.

What a great and improbable story. But is it that improbable?

What happens when your life becomes so narrowed by age that you no longer have choices or control. When others want to do what they think is best for you (maybe) against your wishes; when you have more life left in you than anyone can imagine or even give you credit for?

Aging is a son of a bitch and life is a disappointment. Life inevitably backs you into a corner where you must decide if you have the courage to make a bold statement in stark contrast to the way you have lived, or meekly accept a humiliating slide into irrelevance.

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Powerful words, easier said than done.

From "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas.

Read the rest of the poem. It is short. It is worth the effort.

Quick and meaningless aside: Dylan Thomas died in 1953. I wish I could have spent one drunken night with the man trading words.

Anyway, if you are of a certain age, and life has not stripped you of your very essence, you cannot help but think about drastic action.

You can burn your life down or give it meaning.

The choice is everything.

Who Knew? Carol Did.

"If you want to be happy for a day, get drunk. If you want to be happy for a year, get married. But if you want to be happy for a lifetime, plant a garden."

Dutch proverb

Some thoughts - I hope Carol really enjoyed her one year of happiness. I hope her garden continues to sustain her forever.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Stone Cold Truth

"From the President of the United States to the lowliest rock and roll star, the doctor is in and he'll see you now, he don't care who you are; some get the awful, awful diseases, some get the knife, some get the gun, some get to die in their sleep at the age of a hundred and one"

From "Life'll Kill Ya" by Warren Zevon

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Peek Behind The Curtain

Sitting at the kitchen table praying to the laptop perched in front of him.

The kitchen is dark, it is always dark. One cupboard door left open in frustration; damn cat would not take her medication.

Doesn't she understand?

Clean dishes in the right sink, dirty in the left. Is it time to run the dishwasher? Not sure; just sitting here.

Pan sitting on the stove, needs cleaning; yesterday's breakfast. Three eggs, over easy embellished with salt, pepper, basil leaves and smoked paprika. Damn delicious.

Hard day yesterday. Emotionally.

The pan will clean easily because it has been soaking; always soak the hard stuff - why waste precious energy scrubbing?

The cats have taken up their winter positions; one in the cardboard box that sits over a heating vent; one under the bed in the downstairs bedroom, where it is super warm.

Very little screened-in porch time now - so sad; they are so bored.

Bottle of water sitting on the counter cooling down. Gonna bring it to work later on. Really should store the water somewhere else; it gets too damn warm sitting where it sits and too damn cold in the fridge.

Fantasy aside: A customer pisses you off at work asking stupid questions or questioning how you rang their precious order up. You take a mouthful of water, calmly swish it around your mouth, then spit it into their face.

Tupperware container sitting on the counter, seven chocolate chip cookies left inside, a Crown Royal bag sitting on top.

Another Tupperware container on the counter holding one remaining hunk of luscious strawberry cake; that hunk of cake is doomed. Precious icing bag sits on top bursting with promise; the final hunk will be covered in additional strawberry icing.

Six or seven David Ortiz/Dunkin Donuts stickers leaning up against two beer mugs, held up by a box of Market Basket lens cleaning tissues.

Snoopy phone reigns over everything else on the counter and always has; been perched there for decades.

Rotary dial, baby.

Amazon boxes stacked up in front of the recyclable bins, so much so you gotta move the damn boxes to recycle anything.

Amazon is ubiquitous.

Kitchen table is littered with laziness.

Books, Verizon LG phone boxes, notebooks, LTD Commodities catalogue, plastic bags (don't know what's in them), canvas carry bags, notes, printed receipts, clean glass food conatiner with red plastic lid, checkbook deposit slips, device charging apparatus, CD's, one of which - "Wanted - The Outlaws" featuring, Waylon, Willie, Jessie Coulter and Tompall Glaser, should be in every household in America.

One cat wheezes as she sleeps oh so peacefully in ultimate contentment.

Just a snapshot.

That is all this is.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Let's say you are alone for a bit on a dark and rainy Sunday morning.

Let's say your wife is out bowling ball shopping.

You enjoy a cup of coffee, read your book for a while. The responsibility gene kicks in. You clean the kitty litter box, you empty the dishwasher and load it up again.

Before you begin the chores you dial up John Prine on the ipod machine.

And you go about your chores alternately smiling and tearing up. The man is beautiful. His music is beautiful.

It touches your soul in a simple way on a simple day. Changes your perceptions.

The cats rouse as you move around. You pat them, you smile so hard at how cute they are, as they talk to you.

You cry a little bit even as you smile, recognizing their sweet beauty, pure love and devotion. You are so happy to have them around.

In part the tears come from being tired; you slept like crap last night and being tired breaks down the thin defenses between you and your emotions.

But it is OK because there is nobody here to judge you. Those are the best tears to shed; when you don't have to worry about what it says about you in somebody else's eyes.

"Taking A Walk" comes around. Kind of slows you down as you pay closer attention. This song has always gotten to you.

Taking a walk as a simple and elegant solution to life's problems. Not drinking, not fighting, not screaming or pouting. Just taking a walk. Getting outside.

Getting calm. Getting spiritual.

And the songs keep on coming. And you wonder why you can't write like that.

"Crazy as a Loon". "So I'm up here in the North Woods, just staring at a lake, wondering just exactly how much they think a man can take, I eat fish to pass the time away, 'neath this blue Canadian moon, this old world has made me crazy, crazy as a loon, Lord this world will make you crazy, crazy as a loon."

You exhale.

"Some Humans Ain't Human". "Have you ever noticed when you're feeling really good, there's always a pigeon that will come and shit on your hood, or you're feeling your freedom, and the world's off your back, some cowboy from Texas starts his own war in Iraq."

You smile. Broadly. Forgot about that one.

You stop and wonder about this day. Really two days in one.

Later on you'll motor on down to Paula & Bill's shack to dig on THE PATS and the return of Tom Brady.

You'll get loud, you'll drink a little too much and you will dig every second of it. You'll talk, you'll laugh.

You'll come home to The Sox. Later on, the debate.

It is all pretty cool.

But these moments, right now, seem a little more special. Seem to carry a little more weight.

You are you in each of these moments. Wonder a little where the balance is, where the truth lies.

But when you come right down to it, it really doesn't matter.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Feeling Groovy (Lately)

Woke up feeling happy this morning.

Been happening a lot more lately.

Typically a foreign emotion in me but it seems to be gaining traction lately. Have to make sure I don't start taking it for granted. Because since I am not used to it, it feels like a Christmas present every time.

The kind of Christmas present that brings you true joy in surprise; not the kind you have to pretend to be happy about.

It is a comfortable feeling. Devoid of anxiety. Stress free.

A pure emotion.

Speaking of comfort I have been taking it easy on my brain, reading-wise. Been indulging in a lot of easy flowing fiction, not really challenging my brain, just enjoying stories for the sake of the story.

"The Satanic Verses" lies in wait. Written by Salman Rushdie in 1988. It is a work of fiction that nevertheless created great controversy in the Muslim world. The Muslims accused the author of blasphemy and of mocking their faith. To the point where a fatwa was declared calling for Rushdie's death. Several assassination attempts were made and Rushdie had to hide in exile for many years.

I want to do some research before I read the book so I can get the most out of it. I am not ready for that commitment right now.

Also have a 900 page biography of Vincent van Gogh stealthily waiting for me. The man fascinates me and I love his paintings. Now that my true personality is crawling out from the dark, some of his prints will soon hang on the walls of my house.

Still, I am not ready for that either.

This morning I began a new book. "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." Easy reading fiction.

But it is one of those books that brings you peace. Right from page one. Out of the pile of books I have waiting to be consumed I immediately knew I had made the right choice this morning.

I was happy when I crawled out of bed this morning, happy when my ass hit the recliner, happy as I sipped on a delicious dark roast cup of coffee and immediately at peace as I began this novel.

Perspective is everything, baby.

My head is inhabiting good space these days.

And it feels completely natural.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday Night Conversation

"Christ, what a shitty day at work. I need a beer. How about you?"

"Whiskey. I need whiskey."

"Bad day?".

"The worst. Although I say that every day. Because every day sucks."

"You do say that every day. You gotta lighten up, man - it's Friday - time to cut loose with wild women and Grey Goose."

"I don't drink fucking vodka."

"Christ, man, I was rhyming for the fun of it. I like to rhyme. Gives my conversation some color."

"It makes you sound like an idiot."

"Do me a favor, take a pull on that whiskey and calm down."

"Know what I hate?"


"I hate that people think I stink."

"Stink? You don't smell bad to me."

"Stink. Like they look down on me. Like I am a fucking failure."

"You are hallucinating, man."

"Speaking of stink reminds me of my favorite album title ever. Wanna know what it is?"

"Man, you are all over the place."

"Hungry for Stink. By L7. I don't know a goddamn thing about the group, never heard the album, but I fucking love that title."

"Ah, OK."

"Makes me think about Veruca Salt."


"Do  you know who Veruca Salt is?"

"Your alcoholic aunt?"

"I don't have an alcoholic aunt."

"Just a guess."

"Veruca Salt was a rock group. Took their name from the spoiled rich girl in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Isn't that cool?"

"Wanna go to Mangini's for a couple of beers?"

"I get the impression you don't want to talk to me."

"That's because I don't fucking understand you. You make a lot more sense with a few whiskies under your belt."

"Jesus, man, I'm just trying to broaden your horizons. Yeah, let's go get drunk for a change."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

He's A Good Worker

"and I need a job so I want to be a paperback writer......"

Please don't make me name the song or the artists.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Just A Thought

I am uniquely positioned to kick ass today.

As It Was Meant To Be

"The brain, even encased in hard-bone skull, is not protected from the things life does to you."

"We may not, any one of us, live longer than today. And till we die we will make do:  With sadness and each other, with our little bits of fellow feeling. With what strength we garner from our stockpile of lost heart, what stern resolve we fashion out of disappointment. We will soldier on through winter afternoons until the early darkness comes, and greet it as the enemy it is. And we will say: This is not the world as it was meant to be."

From "Whatever Day It Is" by Linda McCullough Moore, published in the October issue of the The Sun.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Two Men, Five Guitars, Four Bottles of Water

Saw Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen Saturday night, intimately, at the Capital Center for The Arts in Concord, NH.

These two guys walked on to the stage together, sat down side by side with their guitars and spent the next two and a half hours trading songs and swapping stories.

In simplicity and beauty.

They have known each other since 1976 when they both started building musical careers, both men coming out of Texas.

I had never heard of Robert Earl Keen before Friday. How the hell does this happen? You cannot be aware of everything in your life, even the things that would naturally bring you peace; the things that would connect with your soul - your very essence. Still, it frustrates me to learn that I missed out on forty years of meaningful music.

I loved everything about the man on Saturday night.

In 2012 he was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame, along with Lyle Lovett and the late Townes Van Zandt.

Townes is a guy whose music I worship, whose lyrics blow up our lives with truth and force you to think and to feel and to question. He was considered to be a songwriter's songwriter. Keen mentioned that early in his career he toured with Townes and Guy Clarke, a close friend of Townes and another legend, who I am also in awe of.

How is it that I became aware of Townes and Guy but not Robert? This is one of those life mysteries that I will never understand.

But I know and love him now and that is all that matters.

Lyle and Robert walked out onto that bare stage, no backdrop, no distractions and no decorum, and went to work.

They traded off songs, sometimes harmonizing together, most times sitting back and watching the other guy do his thing.

In between songs they engaged in easy flowing conversation, the type born of forty years of friendship made more meaningful through amazing talent and obvious mutual respect.

They told life stories, they talked about the inspiration for specific songs, they cracked jokes, they spoke of life's disappointments, realities and ironies.

Beautiful. Heartfelt. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, all of it real.

You knew these guys were singing and talking about their lives; things they have experienced, things they have observed.

So intimate.

When you walk out on to a stage with nothing but your guitar and your life experience, when you sing your words to an audience, you are putting your soul out there for everyone to see.

No lies, no games.

It connects deeply with me because this is where I am trying to get to in my life.

No bullshit. No artifice. I want every conversation to be made up of truth and emotion; I don't want people putting up walls between us and I do not want to compromise my soul to make them comfortable.

Had tears running down my cheeks a number of times on Saturday night as I listened to Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.

When an artist can make you cry, that artist has gotten into your soul and your heart.

That is the ultimate human connection.

On Saturday night, Carol and I were lucky enough to listen to Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen sing their lives and swap stories and conversation.

We were in their lives, they were in ours. Almost felt like we had to unplug ourselves to leave the theater after the show.

I am so grateful to be able to enjoy experiences like that.

That night was life laid bare.

Sub Plot

Carol has been a supporter of NPR for a few years now.

Monthly donations, not too painful, very meaningful.

Carol has strong beliefs and stronger opinions and she supports those positions consistently. She loves NPR, listens to it every day and gets a lot of pleasure out of it as well as a lot of information.

She was rewarded last week with tickets to a show featuring Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.

Free tickets.

We went to pick up the tickets at the box office prior to the beginning of the performance and were handed an envelope with one ticket in it.

To which Carol responded "Whoa there, mister - I was told to expect two tickets." The person behind the window became uncomfortable, spent a few long minutes investigating things on her computer which made her and us very uncomfortable, and finally asked us to step over to the next window where "everything would be taken care of."

Carol handed the dude behind that window our one ticket and explained "I do not want to have to buy a ticket, I want a second ticket and I want the seats to be together."

Not unreasonable.

We spent a few more uncomfortable minutes standing there until the manager came over to bale out the poor dude at the computer and eventually hand back to us two tickets, side by side.

The usher walked us to our seats only to find two people sitting in our seats, half way down the floor, close to the middle of the stage.

When the usher asked to see their tickets she realized the tickets were duplicates. Those people had the exact same tickets we did. Same row, same seat numbers.

The usher said she had to consult with the manager and asked us to wait in the aisle.

More awkwardness as we stood in the middle of people filing to their seats, everybody looking at us like we were Bonnie and Clyde.

Finally the usher came back and jokingly said "I am sorry to tell you I am going to have to move you closer to the stage."

We ended up sitting six rows from the stage, dead center.

I'd say we made out all right.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

No Better

Feeling emotional today.

Been happening a lot lately.

And you say: "Wait a minute, Joe - what the fuck are you talking about? You are always emotional. It's a goddamn miracle you can still produce tears."

True. Guilty as charged. I am emotional and I do not apologize for that. Emotions are what life is all about, baby. If you feel nothing you might as well be dead.

Warren Zevon: "Going to hurl myself against the wall 'cause I'd rather feel bad than feel nothing at all."

The kind of emotional I am feeling today is a positive vibe. I went in to facebook to trash Trump and I could not do it. Could not summon up the requisite negativity.

Because I feel good. The euphoria that materialized on Tuesday afternoon has taken root. I have been bouncing on the balls of my feet, floating, feeling light.

Luck jumped on my wave and is riding with me. Carol is an NPR devotee. She supports the station financially. In the current fund drive she was rewarded with Lyle Lovett tickets.

Free. We are going to see Lyle Lovett tonight for free.

What an amazing gift. Getting a chance to see a unique talent on a Saturday night, baby. Music; of course dinner before the show; me and my baby going out on a date, a very special date - four days after having my nose sliced up.

Four days after finding out that the most difficult period of my life is over. That I got me a wake up call and a chance to do something about it.

Know what I am going to do about it?

Dig stuff.

Wide eyed and open minded.

Treating ourselves to dinner tonight and the conversation we always share about our life together.

Comfortably. Lovingly.

Being the beneficiaries of free tickets to a musical experience that is bound to satisfy our souls. Lift us up and make our life better.

Strange coincidence: On Thursday I was at work rooting through CD's to play and found a Lyle Lovett CD. I am not familiar with a lot of his music but what I have heard before I liked.

I fell in love with the damn thing. Took it home to slap on to my ipod. Coincidentally, that night Carol told me she might have a shot at Lyle Lovett tickets. What? Friday, as I pulled into my parking spot at work she texted me - she got the tickets.

You might not want to believe that my positive vibe, my emotional state of being after being released from a solid month of stress, had anything to do with winning those tickets, with discovering the beauty that is Lyle Lovett.

I don't give a damn what you think. In fact I no longer give a damn about what most people think if it conflicts with my own beliefs.

Bob Dylan: "I used to care but, things have changed." I am considering making that my mantra and the song, "Things Have Changed", my theme song.

Something is going on here, something positive and I am going to ride it until it bucks me off.

If it bucks me off.

I am a lucky man. I have a weekend. I am going out to dinner with Carol; we are going out to a magical, musical, performance.

I am alive and kicking.

I have hope.

It doesn't get any better than that.