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Action Bob Markle

Music, theater, and my personal life, not always in that order. I try to keep it interesting, I rarely hold back, because one thing I truly believe in is the shared experience of this reality we call life. We're all in this together, people. More than we even know.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Three cool sites

Here at the agency we focus on the digital world and get to see a lot of brilliant work.

Style Wars is a visually stunning site about a docuementary on graffitti.

This site displays the work of Javier Ferrer Vidal.

Enter this site and start typing.
Secret Technology

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Bob, the Wonder Aussie

It's not that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. It's just that the old dog isn't the dog you think it is.



Bob, the Wonder Aussie, has changed. In the past year he's slowed down. When we hike he now lies down whenever he can, when before he'd charge down the trail ahead of me. Then got stomach problems. I used to feed him kibble and table scraps to the vet's horror, but now it's just kibble, or sometimes a little rice. Then he got clingy. Now he sleeps in in the morning until I call him to breakfast.

It took me a bit of time and thought to figure out what was happening. We'd go out in the morning, just like every morning, so he could run out to the fenceline and do his business. But it became infuratiating. I'd be in a hurry to catch a train, and he'd just balk and wait for me to tell him to go. Bob, I'd say, we've done this every morning of your life. What's the story? Now, he's all the way out there, and sometimes he'll just stand there staring at me, as if he's making sure I won't go away. If I have to clean snow off the truck, or put something in the truck, I have to do it after he's finished. He's like an old man, now, who needs constant attention.

It's hard to see, and harder to watch, but I guess it's inevitable.

He was quite a pup. I picked him up from his breeder. I wasn't even sure what an Aussie pup looked like, and when I saw him, I thought, that is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. Tall and gawky, with a big nose. Aussies are typically black, white, and brown or a blueish color called merle. Bob is all black. He was the last of the litter because no one wanted him. He was no good for breeding. Maybe that's why I liked him. My breeding is questionable, too.

The breeder had already named him Bobby, because he looked like a little bear. I thought is was kind of a wuss name, but it did seem to fit, and as he got older he just grew into Bob. He still looks like a little bear cub. A couple of times in the mountains people coming along the trail have started when they saw him.

He was carsick the whole trip home. Fifteen seconds after pulling out of the breeders he stuck his head down on the floor and vomited. Then he rode the whole way home drooling in my lap. My pants were soaked by the time I got him home. He was carsick the first year of his life. Every time we went somewhere he'd throw up within the first minutes of leaving the house. I can't tell you what the truck smelled like. I didn't give up on him, though, and suddenly he got over it; now he's still the best little traveler. "Truck" was one of the first words he knew.

He still wants to go everywhere, and nothing stops him. Last summer Sue and I were down on the Cranberry Highway on the Cape, and we thought Bob was in the truck. My cell phone rings and some guy is telling me there's this little black dog running around in traffic on the highway. I was scared out of my mind, and when I got outside the minute he saw me he made a bee-line for me. I had left the back window open and he had jumped out and run up to the first store we went into. Another time I was up at the corporate headquarters of Eastern Mountain Sports in a meeting, and the receptionist called the person I was meeting with. Do you have a little black dog, he asked. Yeah, I said, why? Bob had jumped out of the truck, run around the building, and was barking at the main door. I came downstairs to find Bob surrounded by all of these women, including the vice president of Web development, the person I was there doing work for.

A buddy thinks I should get another puppy now, as if I have time for that. I don't have time for myself much less an Aussie pup. But I think he's looking out of me. People have said they don't want to be around me when he goes. I'll be devastated. My buddy thinks that having another dog around will soften the blow when Bob, bites that big bone in the sky, as Sue says.

I'm not looking forward to that day either.

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Friday lunch

Nice little international lunch eating a chicken kabob sandwich and listening to South American music...a guitar and a couple of drums.

Just when you think you should just give up, life hands you a nice little moment, or in this case, a nice little 20 minutes, to perk you up.

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Domestic abuse is a human issue, not a woman's issue

The politically correct crowd will have my hide by the end of this blog.

Mary Weiland, battered wife of wild ass and Axl Rose wannabe Scott Wieland, is taking responsibility for getting beat up and in fights with her husband. She beats on him as much as he beats on her. Why they keep this up is beyond me, but people do this all the time. That’s not the point of this blog.

So, shall we?

Good for you, Mary. This is what I’ve maintained all along: In domestic abuse, it takes two to tango. Most of the time, that is. I’m not saying there aren’t women who are real victims of violent people. Of course there are. Guess what? There are men out there who are victims of women with serious problems, too.

I’m trying to pull domestic abuse out of the realm of being solely a woman’s issue (although it was right that feminist raised this issue under their flag) and put it squarely where it belongs: A societal issue that affects both men and women.

Women physically beat up men all the time and don’t get caught or punished. For those of you shaking your heads, sorry, yeah, they do. I know so many women who have hit their boyfriends, husbands, or ex-husbands and the police were never called; the women were never arrested and punished. Men don’t report these incidents because it’s embarrassing to admit to being beaten up by a woman. And when a woman hits someone she’s viewed as strong and sticking up for herself. That opinion is rarely applied to a man, and never if he hits a woman.

And let me be clear: I’m not saying that it’s right for anyone to beat anyone up.

I’m going to repeat that for the liberally challenged: I’m saying that it’s wrong for anyone to beat up anyone, in any shape, way, or form.

What I am saying is that I can’t buy into the liberal notion that half the population is hell-bent on beating up and destroying the other half. In domestic cases, it’s not right what men do. It’s not right what women do, either. But the PC crowd and liberals put the entire onus of domestic abuse squarely on men, and defend women by embracing the clichéd view of woman as pure and sweet and good. Think Damsel in Distress. But that just is not the truth. Both sides are responsible, and both sides usually are equally dysfunctional.

Tell the truth: When you have a domestic violence incident, and you take the man away and you’re left with the woman, most of the time you wouldn’t want that woman living under your roof either, would you? More than likely she has problems just as serious, if not more so, as the guy you just carted off to jail. Drugs. Alcohol. Mental illness. Society is only addressing fifty percent of the problem, and letting the other fifty percent fester by not dealing with the issues.

When men and women get hurt they both lose their tempers. What’s different is that when men get mad, they get physical. When women get mad, many times they fight with their emotions. And guess what? Both ways cause real pain. It’s just that our society only recognizes the infliction of physical pain as an offense, and not emotional pain.

If you accept the idea that emotional pain is the same as physical pain, this is easy to wrap your head around.

DAs, defense lawyers, and social workers who work with domestic cases see this all the time. A lawyer once said to me, how much is a man supposed to take? There are women who push men beyond the limits, just as there are men who do it to women. These professionals know what’s really going on, but just accept the double standard the system endows. And sad (or funny) to say, but in our society, men and women both get away with some of the things they do because of what’s between their legs. Men typically make more money, and women get the benefit of the law in domestic cases, including child custody.

It’s not a woman’s issue. It isn’t. It’s a human issue that affects both men and women.

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Dixie Chicks: I'm not ready to make nice

Sometimes I can be just mean and testy, and here's why.

Thanks Al.


Forgive, sounds good.
Forget, I'm not sure I could.
They say time heals everything,
But I'm still waiting

I'm through, with doubt,
There's nothing left for me to figure out,
I've paid a price, and i'll keep paying

I'm not ready to make nice,
I'm not ready to back down,
I'm still mad as hell
And I don't have time
To go round and round and round
It's too late to make it right
I probably wouldn't if I could
Cause I'm mad as hell
Can't bring myself to do what it is
You think I should

I know you said
Why can't you just get over it,
It turned my whole world around
and i kind of like it

I made my bed, and I sleep like a baby,
With no regrets and I don't mind saying,
It's a sad sad story
That a mother will teach her daughter
that she ought to hate a perfect stranger.
And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Saying that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

I'm not ready to make nice,
I'm not ready to back down,
I'm still mad as hell
And I don't have time
To go round and round and round
It's too late to make it right
I probably wouldn't if I could
Cause I'm mad as hell
Can't bring myself to do what it is
You think I should

I'm not ready to make nice,
I'm not ready to back down,
I'm still mad as hell
And I don't have time
To go round and round and round
It's too late to make it right
I probably wouldn't if I could
Cause I'm mad as hell
Can't bring myself to do what it is
You think I should

Forgive, sounds good.
Forget, I'm not sure I could.
They say time heals everything,
But I'm still waiting

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On the way to work

Following a woman down the sidewalk today...blond straight hair halfway down her back, not a strand out of place, white coat that covered her bum, black chic pants, high-heel boots, checking herself out in every window she passed.

Why?

Arrogant? Self-centered? On her way to an interview? Insecure? Feeling good about herself? About the upcoming weekend?

All the above?

Could be. I know it drives some people crazy that I can actually hold two or three conflicting feelings inside. Like a kaleidoscope. Just turn the knob and you see it this way. A slight turn to the left and it's this. To the right, and it's a different viewpoint.

I guess Einstein was right: It's all relative, depending on your viewpoint.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Conquest of the South Pole

Is that Jason Beals' intense countenance I see on the front page of the Boston Globe’s Sidekick today?

Molasses Tank Productions’ The Conquest of the South Pole opens tonight.

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Up on the roof

When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof, it's peaceful as can be
And there the world below can't bother me
Let me tell you now

--Gerry Goffin and Carole King

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Not feeling too good today

Today it just feels like the whole job/modern world/life thing just isn't panning out. We race to a job to make money (but not enough) to pay off a life that at least I never wanted. Obligations to people who at best are superficial to our lives...who if we died today might take a second out of their days to consider but wouldn't feel any real loss.

The work I do (or don't do, as the case may be) really isn't worth much. I exchange my life for money. That's what I do. Sue, at least, helps people. She fights and is frustrated and mostly wins small skirmishes, sometimes big battles, and there are days when someone lives one more day because of what she does. I've always wanted that in my life: to really matter. The Catcher in the Rye. That's what we all wanted at some point in our lives, then we chuck it aside. It gets lost in the rush for careers and big TVs and even bigger cars. That's why being a beach bum is so appealing to me: If I can't help people and make a difference, then at least I don't want to hurt anyone. Just put me someplace where I won't, because in the past I've been so destructive.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A whole 'nuther world

Just snuck out for about twenty minutes just to make sure there really was a real day outside the window here. Yep, there was...

One of the panhandlers always wishes people who pass by a good day. I guess if you make personal contact you're more likely to get something in your cup. I wonder if they exchange ideas for getting better tips, because I've noticed more of them saying hi, that sort of thing.

Not only is there a whole 'nuther day out there than inside the office, there's a whole 'nuther world.

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Cowboy Junkies coming out with a new CD

Got Junk Mail today. Read it, if you like, or just scroll to the end for links to find out more about the CD and to pre-order it. Pre-order it and you also get some free downloads, unless you live in the US because we Americans are so uptight about downloading music and actually living in the current century.



Cowboy Junkies – at the end of paths taken

Hello everyone,

These are always the best emails to send out – the announcement of the imminent release of a new album.

The new album, at the end of paths taken, will be released in to stores on April 17, but you can have it delivered to your doorstep by pre-ordering from the Junk Store(our website).
By pre-ordering you will not only get the album delivered to your door, but you also help us to retain a bigger cut of the pie. Also, by ordering the album before April 17th, we will give to you, as an added bonus, by download, a set of songwriting and production demos from the making of the album. These demos will give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of the album. They include some of Michael’s songwriting demos, some alternate versions of songs, string sessions and a whole bunch of other recorded insights in to how the songs arrived at their final form. If you pre-order the CD you will receive with your email receipt a website location and password which will allow you to download the demos on April 17th. Very cool. Very 21st century.

Also, for those of you who have forsaken the hard disc and have gone exclusively to downloading your music, we have a treat for you too. We are about to launch a downloading website (latentrecordings.com) that will be run exclusively by the band. It will contain lots of interesting and exclusive Junkie material as well as music from artists who may not be well known, but who we feel should be heard. You will be able to download the new album from the site and anyone who does so between April 17 and May 1 will also be able to download, for free, the album demos. Unfortunately, if you are a resident of the USA you will not be able to download the new album from us due to restrictions placed on us by our US licensee…but check out the site, there will be plenty of good and interesting music available to you.

For more info on the new CD

To preorder the new CD

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The Glass family

File this under you can’t pick your family, you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your friend’s or family’s nose…

I did, though, pick my family when I was a kid. My father was orphaned at age 3, and got passed around from relative to relative when he was a kid. He raised his kids the only way he knew how: to be orphans. Both my parents died about 25 years ago, I have a sister I haven’t seen since I was around 12, and my other sister and I haven’t spoken in years.

But when I was a kid, I fantasized about being a member of the Glass family. Lit fans might immediately know who I’m talking about: the family J.D. Salinger wrote about in books like Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, and Nine Stories. As a matter of fact, I longed for a sister like Franny, smart, funny, pretty, and easily saw myself a combination of actor Zooey and writer Buddy.

Weird, but family’s can give us the biggest heartbreaks, and I guess when I was little I figured it was just easier and smarter to make my own.

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Boston Herald loves Lucinda

Williams sings most ‘Righteously’
By Christopher Blagg/ Music Review
Monday, March 26, 2007

No one makes sounding weary and depressed as sexy as Lucinda Williams. At times raunchy, and other times more gently sensuous, the 54-year-old Louisiana-bred singer-songwriter expertly toed the line between heartbreak and desire in front of a riveted capacity crowd Saturday night at the Orpheum.

With a sympathetic three-piece backing band, a long, wild-haired Williams concentrated most of her set on recent material, including the just-released “West.” A sometimes erratic performer (her stumbling, profanity-riddled 2004 Newport Folk Festival appearance comes to mind), Williams was thankfully on top of her game this night, possibly due to just finishing up a pressure-laden week in New York that included gigs at Radio City and with David Letterman. “Now we can relax and just have some fun,” Williams said.

Relaxed was definitely the case early on. Williams began the night with a string of gorgeous acoustic ballads including the loping, pedal steel-weeping “Ventura,” and the Sam Cooke-inspired country soul of “Fruits of My Labor.”

Despite it being her breakout record, Williams only dipped twice into “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” the album’s childhood reverie-laden title track garnering the night’s biggest response from the devoted crowd.

Things got decidedly steamier as the set wore on. Williams’ bourbon-soaked drawl rambled through sexually suggestive tunes such as the slinky “Essence,” and “Come On” - a bluesy anthem for the sexually dissatisfied woman that had Williams howling, “You didn’t even make me . . . Come on!”

A few missteps crept into the set, notably the tongue-twisting “Righteously” and the awkward spoken-word blues of “Sweet Side,” in which Williams found herself clinging a bit too tightly to the safety net of her music stand and its lyric sheets.

The night ended as it began, with Williams retreating back to acoustic balladry for a quietly powerful encore set that included the lost love lament of “Everything Has Changed.” Williams’ artfully bruised alto managed to suffuse a glimmer of hope in the swaying “West,” before ending the night with a cover of Skip James’ mournful Delta blues standard “Hard Time Killing Floor.”

Cincinnati’s finest power trio Heartless Bastards charmed the pants off the unsuspecting audience with a rather phenomenal opening set of blues-infused garage rock that featured the enormous lungs of pint-sized singer Erika Wennerstrom. Expect big things from this diminutive woman.

LUCINDA WILLIAMS, with HEARTLESS BASTARDS at the Orpheum, Saturday night.

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The Road Less Traveled

And despite the title, I’m not necessarily talking about the one less traveled, either. I mean, the one we take, no matter how little traveled it is.

Yesterday after our all-day meeting, after too many Guinesses and martinis, I suppose, K told me about a definite time in her life when she was at a fork and chose one way over another. Her story put me in the Way Back Machine, on some dark night when I was a teen riding around in a car with a buddy of mine. There but by the grace of God I didn’t end up dead or a juvie when I was a kid. And I remember that one particular night looking over at him at the wheel of his beat-to-s**t car, and thinking I don’t want this. I’m not going to live like this. I’m going to go to school and study and use my brain.

And that night made all the difference.

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

--Robert Frost

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Mitt Romney: It's called buying votes

Mitt Romney is going to give students kickbacks for money they raise for his campaign.

Students for Mitt will give students 10 percent of any money they raise for his campaign after the first $1,000 they get donors to contribute. Any way you cut it, that's a kickback, something that is viewed as unethical in the biz world, the world the Mitt-man claims to know so much about. Maybe he knows more than he's letting on.

A spokesperson for his campaign said it's a great way to get students to have a direct impact on a presidential campaign. No arguments there. Yeah, they'll have an impact all right. No different than any other money changer that influences the system, starting way back with the money changers Christ threw out of the temple.

And what a way to put a "positive" spin on a sneaky way to do business.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Free-Guitar-Chords.com

This site is really misnamed. It should really be named something more like, Free Awesome Guitar Lessons.com.

I stumbled on this site when I was actually looking for free chord charts. The site is put together by this guy, John Bilderbeck, and I think he's in New Zealand. You get free weekly lessons that explain things like pentatonic chords and all that music theory stuff that completely baffles most new students. This one included.

This site is a great supplement to music lessons, or I guess it could be used in leiu of music lessons.

And for the life of me, I can't figure out how he's making a living from this site, but I'll tell you one thing, every person I've ever met from that part of the world -- Australia/New Zealand -- is a straight, look-you-in-the-eye kind of person, and smart to boot.

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Lucinda Williams, Boston, Good karma or good luck?

Saturday night Sue and I had the worst seats in the house. Front row, house left. We were two feet from the wall in front of us and a tower of speakers, well, towered over us. We couldn’t see s**t.

I don’t know if you, gentle reader, remember, but I got the last two tickets for this concert. Twenty-nine bucks. Remember? I called Sue from the box office and she said, “For twenty-nine bucks, honey, go for it.”

The Heartless Bastards opened the show, and Sue and I listened to most of their set from the upstairs rotunda. You can’t bring beer into the theater, and at $8 a cup, we weren’t just going to chuck them when the show started. Sue and I, in our inestimable way, just shrugged and made our own fun.

Partway through The Heartless Bastards’ set we made for our seats, and that’s when we realized just how bad they were. So we listened to the music and looked at the crowd. Check that. We laughed at the crowd. Concerts in Boston can be so funny. You just see this sea of white faces sitting quietly in their chairs, staring, looking for all the world like they’re in their living rooms watching television.

At intermission, I’m not sure how this happened, but Sue and I were coming back from the bathrooms to our seats and we both just intuitively walked through this door and up these stairs next to our seats. We found ourselves upstairs in the side boxes. Where we watched the entire concert. We started talking to this one woman sitting there who was with her long-time friend and they were just like, “sure, why don’t you just hang out here?” Sue and I, for the second time that night, just shrugged and said, what the hell, and they actually let Sue and me sit for awhile while they took off and later came back and were dancing out in the hallway.

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Ford F-150 and the cost of commuting

After all of the wonderful things I wrote about my Ford truck last week, this weekend I'm driving my daughter and her friend to the airport and it's just not driving right.

Turns out, after forking over $769.00 last month for an O2 sensor and a serpentine belt, I now am looking at about 300 bucks for U joints on the drive shaft. Ouch.

The truck is bought and paid for now, but still...there are always repairs and insurance and excise tax, which I've never been able to figure out. Why do I have to pay my town a tax to own a vehicle? Just one more way the government has its hand in my pocket.

I already depend pretty heavily on mass transportation to get in and out of Boston during the week and on weekends. My monthly pass, though, costs $210.00, and parking 20 bucks a week. That's $290.00 just to get to work to make money to pay so I can go to work to make money to pay...

Just like some of us are worth more dead than alive, sometimes I think I'd be better off unemployed.

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Revolving doors...

...scare the hell out of me.

It's not the door, it's the other people who are pushing the door. I simply don't have trust in my fellow human beings, and to walk through a revolving door, or 'round it or whatever we do, you have to trust the other people using it.

What if you trip and fall? They're going to stop it before it hurts you? They're going to have the strength to stop it?

Revolving doors are communistic. Regular doors are democratic: okay for everyone.

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March Madness Boredom

Pretty much made it through March without paying a bit of attention to the contrived March Madness. If it weren't for the big picture of a Hoya's armpits on the front page of the Metro I think I would have been totally oblivious.

Sheer genius. Take a void, and fill it. It reminds me of the two shoe salespeople who were sent to the little developing country. (This is PC Massachusetts, so I can't say two salesmen who were sent to Africa or to a third world country.) Anyway, these two salespeople were sent to a developing country and after a week the first one comes back and says, it's impossible to make a living there, they don't wear shoes there. The second one emails back and says, send more shoes, they don't have them here.

March Madness is Hallmark Cards on steroids: forget cooking up a special day for mothers, fathers, grandparents, lovers, secretaries, or just missing you, do the completely American thing: Think big. Really big and ostentatious, and give us an entire month of a completely manufactured event.

Then promote the hell out of it to people who are sheep who just do whatever the television tells them to do so you can:

Sell them beer, cars, and cell phones.

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Boston Peace Rally

Friend and partner in crime Joan Hill attended the peace rally in Boston on Saturday.

Here are her shots from that day.

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DevalPatrick.com

The governor of Massachusetts is (trying) to reach back to the people who elected him.

This past weekend, devalpatrick.com went live. You can post an issue that you think is important, and supposedly it will get to the governor's attention.

Good idea...let's see if there's follow through. What I'd like to see is a huge investment in the commuter rail service, and a much bigger investment in bike paths (for commuting reasons.) Massachusetts ranks something like 49th in the country in bike path construction.

But one thing that's lame on the site, and you wonder who the heck keeps advising the governor on things, is that there's a button to contribute to his campaign fund. It kind of waters down the the cool intent of giving people a chance to talk one-on-one with the gov. Politicians always have to have their hand out, but there's a time and place for everything, and I don't think this is the place to solicit contributions. It's for the people of Massachusetts, and he turned it into a site for himself.

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Lucinda Williams, Boston, 3.24.07

Not sure if I was at the same concert Saturday night as the Globe reviewer. That was a nasty dig, wasn't it? I actually agreed with a lot of what she wrote, but it didn't bother me that Lucinda read the lyrics and I didn't mind too much that she didn't really crank on Righteously. And I don't agree at all that her songs are dark and banal. Well, maybe dark, but certainly not banal. You live a certain way on this planet and you start feeling like Lucinda does.

Lucinda (yeah, fans call her by her first name; there is no other) was open and talkative and almost downright bubbly that night, unlike the flat, straight-ahead way she used to perform. Yeah, she read the lyrics or the chords or whatever. I noticed that too, and it actually made me smile a bit, thinking that it was funny that she didn’t know the words, or maybe the chords, to songs that she wrote and has been really steeped in. But so what?

She looked good, even a little chunky. Life looks like it’s treating Lucinda pretty well lately.

Doug Pettibone is awesome to watch…and listen to. You could see Lucinda leaning hard on him to keep things cranking. Well, I guess that’s why you got a guy like that in the band.

Not sure what the reviewer was talking about when she wrote that they “inflicted their tasty , soulless arrangements on sun-dappled Ventura and the country gem Fruits of My Labors…” How do tasty and soulless go together in the same sentence? Ventura just happens to be one of my favorites, though. I love the lyrics, the story they tell, and the dreamlike melody that carries the character to Ventura.

I wanna watch the ocean bend,
The edges of the sun, then
I wanna get swallowed up
In an ocean of love.


When I act I come up with a soundtrack for the character. I used Ventura once for a real lost soul when he was just trying to pull himself up. As with so much music, Ventura really hits me on a personal level, so it’s hard to criticize the way she sang it, like parents sometimes can’t see fault in their kids. Sometimes you go to a concert just to hear a song live from the performer.

Righteously was flat, though, which is a shame because it has so darn much potential to really rock. But she made up for it with so many other songs.

She cooked on Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings.

Joy just ripped. That one single chord that she just hammers on is like that one single point she (and so many of us) have tried to hammer home to some s**ts in our life.

You stole my joy, I want it back.

Her encore consisted of West and one of the songs from her roots in the Delta. She talked a bit about the Delta blues, and how they're still very much alive. Weird that she just threw that in, but it also was kind of like a dessert, just something sort of sweet and different.

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Lucinda Williams, Boston Globe


From today's Boston Globe. A review of Lucinda William's concert Saturday night at the Orpheum.



Williams displays glorious voice, beaten heart

By Joan Anderman, Globe Staff | March 26, 2007

Lucinda Williams' s new album, "West," is an alt-country ex orcism, a collection of bluesy chants and rootsy incantations meant to vanquish the artist's grief at her mother's death and rage at one more love gone wrong. Williams had come unmoored, and most of the songs follow suit: They're heavy, banal, drifting things that left this listener wishing that Williams had waited to reclaim her heart -- and her poetry and her melodies -- before putting out another album.

The first third of Williams' s concert Saturday at the Orpheum was as slow-moving and dreary as her new album, although only five tracks from "West" were included in her nearly two-hour set. The singer seemed to be reading from a script. In fact she was reading from lyric sheets on a music stand, and glancing down after every phrase seriously diminished her ability to either connect with the audience or build any kind of flow into her delivery. Still, Williams' s voice sounded glorious: bigger and warmer and clearer than the ragged demo vocals she opted to keep on the final mixes for "West" in the name of emotional authenticity.

A trio of seasoned veterans -- guitarist Doug Pettibone , drummer Don Heffington , and bassist David Sutton -- recreated the album's muted and contained accompaniment on "Rescue" and "Learning How to Live," two of the more user-friendly songs. They also inflicted their tasty , soulless arrangements on sun-dappled "Ventura" and the country gem "Fruits of My Labors," from 2003's "World Without Tears," and the title track from Williams' s 1998 breakthrough, "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road." Williams limped through "Righteously," unable to conjure the snap and bite of the song's half-spoken appeal for real manhood. But Pettibone heard her message, finally flexing his formidable guitar muscle and setting the concert on a looser, grittier, and far livelier course.

With her band unleashed, Williams seemed to suddenly reconnect with all kinds of delicious motivation. She found her desire on "Essence," a jubilant paean to being a mess, and flirted with rock 'n' roll heroics on "Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings." She danced while spewing the chorus to the talking-blues poem "Sweet Side," and it was a rare and rewarding reprieve from Williams' s constant consultations with lyric sheets.

Erika Wennerstrom -- singer and guitarist from the excellent Ohio blues-punk trio Heartless Bastards, which opened the show -- joined Williams and company for "Joy" a raw and utterly persuasive reclamation of control. "You took my joy/ I want it back," she growled, and then followed it up with "Everything has Changed," a simple folk song written a decade later, featuring this refrain: "I can't find my joy anymore."

Happiness is elusive and no one knows it better, or has played it out more publicly, than Lucinda Williams. By the time she got to "West," the single ray of light on her misery-choked new album, she sounded more tired than hopeful. Or maybe it was just the novel sound of contentment: Williams is engaged to be married.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

The Hype Machine & the Black Lips

"Find music you never knew you liked."


Taken from their "About Us".

The Hype Machine follows music blog discussion. Every day, hundreds of people around the world write about music they love. Then it all shows up here for you to explore.

Don't get the idea you just read blogs about music though. If that were the case I'd be out of there pronto.

There are tons of MP3s. I found the site through I think someone's blog on TourFilter and went there to see if I could find the Black Lips, some crazy-ass garage band from Atlanta playing at SXSW.

If you want a good laugh, here they are. Their music, that I found through The Hype Machine, is pretty raw, but you can see how they might have a following. And I guess they're pretty hard-working; they tour a lot.

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Pickup driving man

I stopped some guy today at the train parking lot who was driving one of those Minis. Last week Sue was getting her Saab serviced, and they caught her eye. They reminded her of the cars in Europe.

I asked him how he liked it, and he just gushed. Except it’s low to the ground which makes it hard to drive in snow.

I looked at it, and it seemed if it were just a bit smaller it would fit neatly in the back of my truck.

I’m a truck guy, and as much as I love driving Sue’s car (it’s handling is amazing, it does exactly what you tell it to do, and it just…GOES) I’m always happy to slip back behind the wheel of the Ford. It’s as old and worn as a favorite pair of jeans.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ‘em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such.


Now that I’m working at this ad agency on GM, I’m even more convinced that a vehicle is what’s called a lifestyle purchase. It’s almost 100% emotion. While a carpenter might buy a truck for work, it still is going to matter if it’s a Ford or a Chevy or a Toyota.

I’ve been driving a pickup since I bought my first one in 1994 – a Ford Ranger. I owned a house at the time, and it came in handy taking stuff to the dump and running trips to Home Depot, but it was more than that. I’m a guy, and I like trucks. (If I were a woman, the story would have a slight twist: I'd be a Gretchen Wilson wannabe, with Redneck Woman on the CD player.) When my first truck was totaled in a wreck, I bought the biggest, honkingest one I could find: a used, 1997 bright red Ford F-150 long bed SuperCab. There’s a V8 under the hood that just hauls ass. It’s rear-wheel drive like pickups in the past before Yuppies came to depend way too much of four-wheel drive in bad weather. Farmers and ranchers never needed it for years. You just gotta know how to drive.

You always find yourself hauling something around and that makes it handy, but the bottom line is right now I don’t need it, I just like it and want it.

It’s a beat up, white-trash pickup and no one f**ks with you on the road. People get out of the way because it’s big and beat up and I guess they figure the driver just doesn’t give a damn, which isn’t far from the truth. It’s practical, but it also pretty much reflects who I am.

And other people love riding around in it, too. Especially Bob, the Wonder Aussie. He actually knows the word, truck. Now that’s one smart dog. With really good taste in trucks, too.

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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

It's just around noon, and the hawk that nests somewhere back in the alleys along Bosworth street is circling. We're talking the heart of downtown Boston here.

In one of his versions of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams used a hawk to symbolize freedom and Brick's lost life.

I better not go there today. I'm suffering from way too much wanderlust. I might go primal.

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Lead, follow, or get...or show a little mercy

It's a constant gripe of mine, and something I've been meaning to post for awhile but always stop myself because I always feel so mean when I'm doing it:

I know you're old, fat, tired, troubled, lost, preoccupied, you just had hip replacement surgery, you're young and self-absorbed, something, but get the hell out of the way.

On the train platform, on the sidewalks, on escalators for cripe's sake (stand to the right, for land's sake, so people can scoot up the left side; you're standing there like a load of meat on a conveyor belt), people just wandering around lost, while people like me, fast walkers, people who have got somewhere to go, are jockeying around behind you trying not to tip over like a cyclist balancing a bike at a red light.

It's the city; can't you feel it?

Or...

...or maybe that's the point. They can feel it. Maybe it's affecting them in ways that I can't feel or perceive or understand. Maybe they really are having one shitty day; the Mother of all Shitty Days.

We're all in this together. We really are.

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TourFilter DJ Night

Got this from the peeps at TourFilter today in email. Kind of a cool site to find concerts in your area. It's definitely a work in progress, but it's moving along and definitely is something we need and the peeps there seem to be working hard on it.

Actually, I think the peeps are just one peep, Chris Marstall.



TourFilter DJ Night

I will be manning the decks this coming Monday night at River Gods in
Cambridge for a special night dedicated to Tourfilter.

It'll be kind of like a live version of the Tourfilter Mixtape!

100% songs by bands that have upcoming shows on tourfilter boston.

I've been listening to the mixtape non-stop and will bring you the
best of what's there - rock, electronic, weird, jazz, whatev.

I'll be supplying a calendar handout in the bar so you can check off
the shows you want to check out this spring.

Come, listen, decide what to go see!

And bring friends - I'm hoping that if I get a big enough crowd the
nice people at River Gods will ask me back!

Hope to see you there!!

chris
tourfilter

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Gay marriage

South Carolina officially banned gay marriages yesterday. New Hampshire endorsed the creation of same-sex unions. They're legal here in Massachusetts.

I know gay couples who've stayed together longer than my ex and I did, who have tight, solid relationships. But because I'm straight and they're not, I get the benefit of this Christian world?

I, quite frankly, think it's great if anyone can find happiness in this world in any way. If two people love each other, or more importantly, can actually live the day-to-day together, and not hurt anyone else in the process, then I say God love them.

Plus, let's not forget the legal ramifications of marriage. When one spouse dies, if there's not a legal "bond" between them, the state stands to gain quite a bit. Just one more freakin' way lawyers have ruined this world. One more way government has reached way too far into our lives.

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Boston Gay Men's Chorus

Don't ask me, but an ad for this group popped up on Action Bob Markle yesterday, then today the banner at the bottom of the Metro is about their concert this weekend.

Coincidence, you say? Or the universe actually meshing?

Whatever. I can't imagine anyone having a good time listening to the songs of Barry Manilow, but if you do:

You Gotta Have Friends: The Songs of Bette Midler and Barry Manilow

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hey Google, I think you have the wrong demo

The ads on this blog are automatically generated by Google based on the keywords I type in.

So what keywords conjure up an ad for:

Boston Gay Men's Chorus.
Greatest hits of Bette Midler and Barry Manilow

??

If I were the Gay Men's Chorus, I'd want my money back.

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Biggie Rat on Washington Street/Downtown Crossing

Was sitting over on Washington Street around noon today. I like to just sit and people watch. Some other guy who was sitting there around those statues of the Irish immigrants just kept talking to me. Straight out of a David Mamet play. The guy was definitely on to something. Or doing something. He was whittling. A letter opener, he said, for a friend. Who the hell uses letter openers? And was he hell-bent on getting me to talk.

"You're not from Boston, are you?" he asked, pointing to my boots. Let's call him, Biggie Rat.
"Yeah," I answered.
"You don't see many boots like that," Biggie Rat said.

Stuff like that.

Then...some other definitely twisted individual came up. Long hair, bad teeth, cheap cologne, talking, talking, talking. Dude, what have you been popping, snorting, sniffing, shooting?

I'm actually enjoying myself by now.

They were talkng about raising kids. Sheesh, what poor child gets raised by these two? I'd rather be raised by wolves. It started with the gum. Hippie offered Biggie Rat some gum. They did a thing about how gum isn't what it used to be, which led to kids eating sweets, which lead Biggie Rat to talk about how "they" don't allow his daughter to have sweets at home which led to Hippie talking about his nephew who is fat because his brother and his wife would keep sweets away from him.

"I saw it coming," he said, grinning, showing his gross teeth.

Then...Hippie noticed some guy. He had just been killing time. Got real serious. Biggie Rat and Hippie quickly palaver, quietly, to the side. Hippie goes up to what looked like a homeless person. I turned around again and they were both gone.

A few more minutes, and Biggie Rat suddenly stood up. "Oh shit, I have to be somewhere in a half hour," he said.

"What did you say your name was?" he asked.

I didn't.

"I'm Mark," Biggie Rat said, offering his hand.

"John," and off he went, crossing to the street into the subway. I checked my wallet and watch.

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Vicky McGehee: a writer's a writer

Behind every successful person, there's a good chance there's a writer.

Speechwriters. Ghost writers. Songwriters.

First, writers are the same, no matter what business they're in. I've found this out from hanging around more copywriters than I care to count, and novelists, short story writers, travel writers, reporters...God, the list goes on.

Then this a.m. I was reading this story about Vicky McGehee in the current issue of American Songwriter.



She wrote the lyrics behind a lot of Gretchen Wilson's hits, including Pocahontas Proud, Not Bad for a Bartender, One Bud Wiser, All Jacked Up, Skoal Ring and When I Think About Cheatin'. I Googled "lyrics, Gretchen Wilson" and on most sites I visited there is no attribution to McGehee, even in Wilson's entry on Wikipedia, not that that's any standard. McGehee is listed as one of the composers on Answer.com.

McGehee also wrote for Reba McEntire (Room to Breathe)" and Big & Rich (Holy Water).

But like I said, she's a writer. And being a writer, being who and what they are, I'm sure she's fine with it all as long as the checks don't bounce and there's a bottle around.

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Angel from Montgomery

To the person who just IMed me:

Make me an angel
That flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold onto

To believe in this living, is just a hard way to go.

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MBTA doh!!

Sometimes you think life is going your way then...doh!

Got to the platform with just enough time to spare even though I got stuck behind some boho driving a Pontiac like it was a wheelchair.

The train pulled into the station and the door to the car stopped right in front of me, like the ball dropping in the winning slot on the Roulette wheel. No getting pushed and shoved today by my fellow commuters. For God's sakes, peeps, I want to say, it's an effing train. First, it ain't going anywhere without you, and there are enough seats for everyone.

Then I got the aisle in a seat with just one other person. Sweet.

Sat down, got comfortable, started reading the free Metro, which is akin to the news as popcorn, then, from the seat across and a little behind...

...snore. Snore. Snore. Grumble, grumble. Snore.

You got to be kidding me. There sat a man, his arms folded and his head buried deep in his chest, sound asleep and sounding like a buzz saw. I mean, you can hear this over the sound of a train.

I resisted the temptation to roll up my newspaper and bat him with it.

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One for the nose

I really notice odors. I think in a previous life I was some kind of dog. Maybe it's inherited. One of my last memories of talking with my mom was visiting her in the hospital. She was a farm girl, and I brought a tomato fresh out of my garden to her. She clutched it in her frail hands and brought it to her nose and inhaled deeply, then said, "There's nothing like the smell of a tomato just out of the garden." There really isn't. She died less than a week after that.

In the morning my kitchen smells of a combination of coffee and incense. There really is no other smell like it, either.

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A sick day

I guess people are reading this blog. Not a lot. I get anywhere between 20 and 70 hits a day -- a really wide swing, I know, but I guess it depends on the content and the amount of free time people have.

But I took a sick day from work yesterday, and someone mentioned that I didn't blog. Hmmm...

Okay, I'd be lying if I said it's not a nice feeling knowing that people are actually reading and taking Action Bob in.

But, yeah, a sick day. Something I haven't done -- or had a chance to take -- in maybe six or seven years. That's one of the perks of working for a company vs. yourself. I'm still nursing a low grade something. Sore throat. Low fever. Just feeling blah. I'm chalking it up to fatigue and not some new strain of virus that may decimate the population.

But a sick day...

When you're on your own, if you don't work, you don't eat. It's that simple. You get sick, you keep working.

Last week I went out for coffee (of course, by now, you know I went to Dunkin' Donuts) and was riding back up the elevator when this good-looking, brown-skinned man got it. I didn't think anything of it.

Later that day, at an office function, this man entered the room I was in and came right up to me. "Here's someone I don't know," he said. I introduced myself, then he introduced himself. "Oh," I said, "you're the president of the company."

This is so much like me.

Anyway, he asked me what I did before I came to this company, and when I told him I was freelancing for five years, he asked me what was the difference between working in an office and working freelance.

I smiled, and said, "You hustle a lot more out there."

It's true. Every morning the first thing I would do is search all my sources for work. It's a constant effort to keep the work coming in. And I don't know if I miss that, but I do miss the edge, of constantly being sharp and focused and in charge. It took me five years to go from absolutely nothing (no clients in the worst economy in twenty years) to a fairly solid business. I say fairly because I don't think any business is ever truly safe and clear. But I did it, and a big reason is I'm just plain old stubborn. I wanted to do it, and I didn't quit until I did, and believe me, there were some times when even I wasn't sure. But I did it day by day.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Moving on up

I came flying through the lobby of the building coming back from lunch and screeched to a halt. I knew they were real, but still just had to check.

Yep, they were real orchids, planted around in the lobby. Man, have I moved up in the world, huh?

They still look better growing wild in the jungle, though.

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Today's cup of Joe

This morning I stood in line in front of two men (hard to tell how old 'cause their lives had really taken their toll), one white, the other black, discussing their case workers. In front of me was a woman that I swear was married to the mob.

You won't hear or see that in Starbucks, which is another reason I get my coffee at Dunkin' Donuts instead of Seattle's finest. And I do prefer DD coffee. It's fresh and taste like regular old coffee.

Besides, I hate anything, people, business, whatever, who put on airs.

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Enter stage left: A year later

Exactly one year ago yesterday was the last time I was on stage. I did a little bit of work in the summer, and went on one or two auditions, more because I didn't have anything else to do that day, but I pretty much wanted to rethink acting. I wasn't even sure if I ever wanted to do it again; wasn't sure I was good enough.

Tonight I have my first real audition for work that I wouldn't mind doing. Given the date, this, gentle reader, is called irony.

There are parts of me that are patched up. Some that will never, I'm afraid, be fixed again. Broken forever. Some are just plain missing. Gone. But Saturday I was on stage in class, and I cut loose, and it felt so good. I can still act, it seems. I actually feel more comfortable on stage than I do in real life.

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The MBTA chicken and egg problem

All the public transporation proponents want us to take the T. Cuts down traffic and pollution. The problem with the T, though, is it doesn't run with enough frequency.

I'll be in Boston tonight. Trains at night run every hour-and-a-half. To get home by commuter rail, I have the choice of the 8:20, 10:05, or 11:25 out of South Station. All locals. If I miss one, I got a long wait for the next one. Why don't they run at least every half hour?

I'll tell you why. Because no one rides them at that hour. But, would more people begin to take the train if they ran more frequently? Would more people do more, spend more, in Boston, if it were easier to get in and out on the train? Which comes first?--more riders or more trains? Would more people ride the train if it were easier, especially if some incentives were thrown in, like tax deductions for people who commute by rail?

But, to get this started, it will take money to subsidize. We just have to decide that it's important, and that at the beginning our values are worth the cost, in other words, the tax dollars.

I don't think it will happen, though. I happen to love the train including the T. I love the ride. I love the time to think and read and work. I love watching the people. But I've come to realize I am so different from my fellow human beings. Most people hate the train. They think it's dirty. The people are crummy. The whole business is low class. If you ride the train you don't Have It All.

Well, excuse me.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Small Swift Birds

Can't explain it, and I don't have to, but there are days when a song just resonates.

Of course it's by the Junkies.

Small Swift Birds

I've been told that it's just the way life goes.
Once the wildest river is now a trickle to the sea.
The peak we risk our lives to scale becomes dirt beneath our feet.
The wisdom of a life time always disappears untapped.
Paradise once given will always be taken back.
And the love you hang your life upon will start to slowly crack.

I have seen people suffocate the dream.
Forgetting to turn that one last time while she watches through the door.
Focusing on the garbage that she use to ignore.
Thinking she looks so beautiful but not yelling it out loud.
He should have thought to kiss her before he headed out.
Just forgetting how fucking lucky you are to have found her in such a crowd.

But we've seen a cloud of starlings rising on a crisp autumn day.
We were handed the weight of a child sleeping and bore her away.
We've tasted the tears that fall when saying goodbye forever.
And we've seen the silver from a waxing moon wash upon the shore.

I have heard about the lives of small swift birds.
They dazzle with their colour and their deftness through the air.
Just a simple glimpse will keep you simply standing there.
Legendary journeys made on fragile hollow wings.
The night skies rich with whistling each and every spring.
And then there's the day we look for them and can't find them anywhere.

I've been told that it's just the way life goes.

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Spam in a can

Airbus built a super jumbo jet that can carry 550 passengers. Just the thought of being cooped up in a freaking metal tube with 449 sweating, smelly, crazy people blasting along at 40,000 effing feet gives me the fantods.

I'm claustrophobic as it stands. Most of the time I'm okay, but once I spent just about an entire trans-Pacific flight standing back by the bathrooms talking to other passengers and with my face pressed against the bulkhead porthole marveling at the Alaskan glaciers. I could have been taken for a freak, but I actually made a few friends on that flight. It was either that or get jammed smack dab in the middle of the center section and start hyperventilating.

But, I don't know what I'm grousing about...I don't have the money to go anywhere that thing's gonna fly, anyway. If I do get out of this country, I'll end up on some puddle-jumper airline run by some ex-pat who sells your ticket in a Quonset hut, loads your pack, flies the plane barely missing on takeoff the top of the volcano where the native population sacrifice virgins, bounces you to a landing, screeching to a halt at the end of a dirt runway with two tires blown in the middle of a banana plantation, and drinks tequila with you that night.

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If you say it's cool, it ain't already

SXSW is pumping out press now in one big glut ...it used to be the place to discover new indie music. I've never been and from the reports it sounds like this is one place I won't be making in my lifetime. Like Katmandu lost its soul and is now the crossroad of all things North Face and Patagonia, it sounds like SXSW has turned...gasp...commercial.

Great, if new musicians can get a start...or older ones like Iggy Pop or Rickie Lee Jones can keep one alive...

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Five years of war

The U.S. is entering its fifth year of war in Iraq. According to IraqBodyCount.org, at least 59,287 Iraqi civilians have been killed. More than 3,200 U.S. troops have been killed, too.

The human, economic, and political toll is astounding. Appalling.

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MBTA train commuter tip #43

When choosing a seat on the crowded 7:47 express out of Framingham into Boston, pick one next to a woman or an Asian. Or better, an Asian woman. A woman is more likely to move over into the center spot than a man, giving you the aisle. I've actually asked women if they don't want that aisle seat, that it's okay, that I'd didn't mind sitting in the middle and they always declined. A woman, and an Asian, will more likely be smaller than a man, so there will be more room. Women and Asians won't sprawl all over the place like a man has a tendency to do, staking out his spot in the urban jungle.

Note to the two hogs I had the pleasure of sitting in between this morning on the commute in:

To the doof on my left. Yes, you're a doof. You need to lose a substantial amount of weight. And I'm not sure why you had to sit there with your legs spread, but dude, if you were getting off on me you're damn lucky I didn't have coffee yet.

To the John Cleese look-a-like on my right: Lose the hat. I know it was expensive, but there's no hope left for you. You look like a cuckhold, and your Indiana Jones hat ain't gonna save you.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Coverin' my butt

I am the Lord, thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before me.

The first commandment. Drilled into me by the Sisters of Mercy long ago. Still...every morning I light a stick of incense for the jade Buddha that John brought back to me from Thailand and sits on a little shrine on my bathroom window. I can't explain it, but things go better when I do that. Maybe it's just that it makes me aware of my spiritual side, and that makes life go a little better.

If there's any chance of me getting into heaven though, I guess I'm going to spend some serious time in Purgatory burning this off my soul.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Credit card companies suck, too

Specifically, the ATT Universal Card and Chase, two companies I owe my next-born to.

These two companies now charge their customers, you and me who they are already making a ton of money off of because of their loan shark-like interest rates, $14.99 and $9.99 respectively if we want to pay our monthly payments over the phone.

Let me get this straight. You want me to pay you to pay you back?

And exactly how many billions of dollars did President Bush write off to our "allies" in the Iraq War?

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Internet Archive: Live Music Archive

Just one more place to find archived concerts: Live Music Archive.

From the IA Website:

The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format.

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Actors suck

Talking to an acquaintance this morning on the train platform, she told me she had been invited to see a play and, wrinkling her nose, she said she declined. Surprised, because I know she is, shall we say, a patron of the arts, I asked her what she didn’t like about the theater. You people, she said, laughing and jabbing me on the shoulder.

Yes, I admit, a lot of theater people suck. And I told her that. I also told her that there are a lot of hard-working people in the theater who feel the same way she does. Actors in particular, can always be “on.” As a matter of fact, it is actors we’re talking about here. The techies are some of the most serious, talented people in the theater. I’ve always said that the real talent lies in the tech and the direction. So yes, some actors can be extraordinarily selfish, self-indulgent, and desperately crying to be noticed and it is more than annoying and pathetic, it can get in the way of a good work.

But here’s the thing: it’s been my experience that it’s the bad actors, the ones with the least amount of talent, who act that way. The hard-working actors, who take their craft seriously, are too busy working and honing their talent to act like jerks. They’re the ones who are busy exploring life, and bringing what they learn in life to the stage.

Acting is truth. And to get to the truth, you have to suppress the ego. That takes a very brave and talented person. You have to be both, and all that flamboyant posing is simply a waste of time.

Right now I’m working with an actress from my Meisner class. We meet a couple of times a week plus class. She’s the mother of two teenagers, about the same age as my two girls, and I have yet to see a moment of this theater crap. She has a laser eye for the truth and an incredible desire to get to it. She doesn’t, nor do I, have time any for nonsense. We’re too busy trying to get better.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Neil Young and the Bridge School

Something about Neil Young today...

I also can't listen to Neil Young without thinking of another friend, this one is alive, and coincidentally it was just yesterday that I learned she was going to live. Dodging breast cancer is not for panty waists.

Was it last summer I got a phone call from San Francisco where she lived at the time and was at a Neil Young concert for the Bridge School?

Good people doing good things for the world.

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Old Man


Old man take a look at my life
I'm a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that's true.
--Old Man, by Neil Young

I can't hear those words sung without thinking of Angel. I can still hear him singing those words across almost forty years in his Turkish accent.

Cincinnati, Ohio in the late sixties and early seventies. He was my best friend in high school. A Bulgarian born and raised in Istanbul he came to live with a distant uncle in Golf Manor, Ohio, one of the skeevy little towns scattered through what's called Greater Cincinnati to go to high school. His uncle worked with my dad at the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company. I was friends with his cousin.

Angel had what could only be called a lust for life. A passion that I felt, too, and because of which thought I was some kind of freak until he and I started talking in that way that best friends do. He made such a mark on my life that I don't think of him at least once a week, thinking how he might have done something, or something he might have said.

As an adult, he moved to San Francisco, opened a restaurant in Golden Gate Park, and started a successful real estate business with his wife, Priscilla. We'd see each other occasionally; I'd fly to SF on business. One night we sat in a divey restaurant in Chinatown, eating cheap bowls of noodle soup and talking about our favorite subject: Life. Another time I was visiting and Angel was driving around the city at night and he pulled into an alley. He said he had to check up on a building he owned. He unlocked a door, and we stepped into a flood of light where an orchestra sat. Food and wine was laid out on a nearby table. Angel owned the warehouse, and let the orchestra rehearse. We sat that night and ate and drank and listened to music, and it was just Angel's way of enjoying life. Other musicians who benefited from Angel's generosity was Kronos Quartet. They rented from him at one time, and as I understand the story he'd let them slide on the rent when they didn't have it. Later he served on their board.

Last fall Sue was in San Francisco and called me asking me for the name of his restaurant. I quickly Googled the name to get directions, and that's when I learned he had died three years ago of cancer.

Love lost, such a cost,
Give me things
that don't get lost.
Like a coin that won't get tossed
Rolling home to you.

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Neil Young: Live at Massey Hall 1971

Got up this morning and even before I got to the kitchen for that wake-up cup I stopped at the DVD player and popped in Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall 1971. I’ve been a life-long fan of Young, and I never tire of his songs. Like a good novel where each time you read it you get something new out of it, Neil Young’s songs from the sixties and seventies keep giving to me.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Only if you name your guitars after women

Alice has to go into the shop. There's something wrong with her g-string. LOL.

When you play A on the G string, it kind of twangs, making a sound you normally hear in Asian music. Just that one fret. The guitar shop assured me that sort of thing happens all the time.

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The Hype Machine

Great site for music blogs.

http://hypem.com/

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TourFilter.com

Found this in the current issue of Rolling Stone. The one with South Park on the cover.

For a quick and dirty -- and I do mean dirty, this is one basic site -- place to find upcoming concerts in your city, a la Craigslist, check out TourFilter.com. It's also really slow, maybe from the promo it got from RS and now it's getting more hits than it can handle.

You can make a list of your favorite musicians to track, and it looks like the site recommends music you might like based on your favorites. That's kind of cool, but I've found with other sites that recommend that things can get a little weird. I've found the best recommendations come from my friends who really share my tastes. No site can compare to a friend's gray matter.

But this site still is pretty cool.

Now, the problem is coming up with the cash to go to all the concerts.

Here's what I got from them after signing up:

About Tourfilter:
>
> We made Tourfilter because we were missing too many of our favorite bands when
> they came through town.
>
> We would read about them in the Globe the day after they left, hear about the
> show after tickets had already been sold out, etc.
>
> So we decided to write a program that would download all the club listings in
> the area daily and search them for the names of bands we liked, then send an
> email when a hit came up.
>
> So that's what Tourfilter is. Except everyone can use it, not just us.
>
> Plus we baked some other hopefully cool stuff in, too:
>
> - Everyone's band list is public and available via url.
>
> - You can see who's tracking the same bands as you. If you like one of
> their bands, you can easily start tracking it yourself.
>
> - If there's a show coming up you want to tell people about, Tourfilter
> makes that easy. Just enter their email addresses and they'll get one (and only
> one, ever, I promise) email telling them about the show. Then maybe they'll join
> Tourfilter themselves and start recommending good stuff to you!
>
> - If you like someone's taste and want to get an email any time they
> recommend a show, that's easy to do as well. Just hit their homepage and click
> "get recommendations from so-and-so."
>
> - For an extra hit of social goodness, you can see a list of who each
> person gets recommendations from, and who _they_ get recommendations from. So
> with a few clicks you can find the people with _really_ good taste.
>
> In case you haven't noticed, Tourfilter is a work in progress! please email us
> with your thoughts - just REPLY to this or any other Tourfilter email!

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Music is like sex

First you do it by yourself.

Then with your friends.

Then for money.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Looking for Bromfield

At the corner of Franklin and Washington, walking back to the office, I suddenly heard someone say, We're looking for Bromfield. Not excuse me, can you tell me where Bromfield Street is? or Excuse me, but we're lost, could you help us? Just, I'm the center of the effing universe and I'm looking for Bromfield.

It was some rich-looking woman riding shotgun in some nondescript SUV. (Since I do work on the GM account, at some point I guess I should start to know cars.)

Bromfield is a tiny street right across Washington from Franklin. I didn't give her a look that told her I thought she was stupid. I didn't comment on her manners. I didn't say, "That's interesting. Now tell someone who gives a s**t." I just pointed and kept walking.

I bet that old battle axe gets treated like that all the time. Maybe she just needed a hug.

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Red line fever

A pretty day in Boston and one sure sign of the summer coming are the tourists walking around with those darn red pamphlets for the Freedom Trail. The FT is this red line, sometimes a red brick line, that meanders through Boston with stops at a bunch of historical sites like the Old North Church and the site of the Boston Massacre.

Just for the record, I don't know a single soul who lives around here who's ever walked it. If you live here, you stay far away from Faneuil Hall and the Union Oyster House.

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Irony in Winthrop Square, Boston

There's a statue of a man with a collie in Winthrop Square with the simple inscription: Burns. I haven't been able to find out who he is.

There's a sign along the walkway that says, no dogs.

I wonder what old Burns would have to say about that?

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A bum's life for me

What a difference a few degrees -- or 25 or so -- in temperature and an extra hour of light can make. It's supposed to get up into the high fifties today and we just kicked into daylight savings time this past weekend. It will be nice to just go out and sit on a park bench today at noon and people watch.

Winter -- cold -- is for hibernation. For hunkering down and just surviving. It's no coincidence that the Greeks were able to form an advanced civilization. It was their weather that allowed it. With less time needed to just survive, they had time to develop mathematics, philosophy, architecture, and theater.

Sunday on the Cape. Sue had the sliders wide open to let the day in and stale winter air out. The dogs were running in and out, playing. Tater was as rambunctious and mischievous as ever. Zoe as shy. Bob was acting like a puppy again. I couldn't resist, it was almost like an instinct to grab the guitar and just play. Now I know what the birds feel on a day like that.

On Old Silver Beach we were sitting among the rocks talking and listening to the gentle water. Bob, per the classic behavior of an Australian Shepherd, lay a number of feet off where he could keep a good eye on us and lookout for anyone coming. He had found a chunk of ice --it probably has some sea rime on it -- and was eating it like a Popsicle.

For all my life I've been harped at that I should do this or that. That I'm so smart, so talented, so this, so that. But you know what? What I really want to do? What I really want to be? A beach bum. I couldn't think of a better life, living by the water, a stack of good books, a guitar, some beer. The first and last thing you see in your day is the ocean.

At least I wouldn't be hurting anyone.

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God bless the moralists of the world



General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly said that he considers homosexuality immoral, akin to adultery.

God love the moralists of the world, because they're gonna need it.

First, let's put this dude in perspective. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is considered the highest ranking military officer in the U.S. Very prestigious. But he doesn't, nor do any of the other chiefs, lead the military or combatants in war. He advises the president, no small thing, but think of him more of a really huge balloon filled with hot gas.

Homosexuality is akin to adultery, is it?

I'm not sure when the moralistic world is going to just accept the fact that some people are gay. It has nothing to do with morals or choice. It just is. General Pace, I'm assuming, is sexually attracted to women. Others are attracted to their same sex. What's so hard to understand?

I'm not a bible thumper, but I have read a bit of it, and I do think it's a wonderful book. There's a story in it about Jesus coming along a crowd of people who are going to stone a woman for being immoral. Who knows what that meant 2,000 years ago. We assume she used what she has between her legs for pleasure. Jesus told them, sure, knock yourself out, if any one of you is without sin, let it fly. And not one person was able to. For once, some moralists did some soul-searching and saw the hyposcrisy of their actions. Or at least that's the way the bible tells it. When it comes to good endings, all of the stories about Jesus are like that.

But this isn't the bible and none of us are Jesus.

If you can't tell, I'm running out of patience with all the moralists in the world. Because the simple truth is moralists are human, too. And because they are human moralists always, always fall because just like gay people are attracted to their same sex, humans fall. Simple logic. You can take that to the bank.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Loretta Lynn finally makes good


I am leaving Mississippi in the evening rain
These Delta towns where satin gowns and the high-beam frame
Loretta Lynn guides my hands through the radio
Where would I be at times like these without the songs Loretta wrote?


(chorus)
'Cause when you can't find a friend, you still got the radio

--Nanci Griffith, Listen to the Radio

Berklee College of Music, right here in Boston, M-A, is giving “country music queen” Loretta Lynn an honorary doctorate. That’s a long way from Kentucky coal-mining country. I wonder if she ever thought, well, where the hell were you when I was really struggling? An honorary doctorate doesn’t put food in the ‘fridge, and people like Lynn know all about that.

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The world is beautiful; I'm depressed

This is not coming on the heals of the report that Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick’s wife, Diane, is “suffering” from depression. First, why is a person always “suffering” from depression? The verb is “depressed.” The woman is depressed. Or maybe not. Depression is a catch-all term that I think is a logical reaction to modern society. Given everything that we have to deal with today, I think if a person isn’t depressed, at least at some point in their life, then there’s something wrong with them.

It’s an oxymoron to say someone is feeling depressed. Depression, really, is the lack of feeling.

Like the Eskimos supposedly have something like 20 words for that all-important element of their environment, snow, we have a blue-million words for the concept of depression. Down. Blue. The Dumps. A few more from the Microsoft thesaurus: Despair. Gloominess. Misery. Hopelessness. Melancholy. Dejection. Again, though, you can feel all that. You can be gloomy and still get out of bed. Depression, man — real depression — means getting out of bed in the morning and making a bowl of corn flakes seems like climbing a mountain.

People generally can be depressed because of a chemical imbalance, or because of outside influences in their lives. And their depression can spike at certain times of the year. Everyone knows about the spike around the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season. You’re supposed to feel happy and jolly, and darn it, you just don’t, and you feel bad that you don’t. Like there’s something wrong with you. Like you're some kind of freak.

What people don’t realize is that springtime is an even bigger spike than the holiday season, mainly because it's unnoticed. I remember reading a government report about this, crowing about the discovery as if the scientists had just found another planet. It's like Columbus discovering America when there were people living there all along. There had been people living this all along, too. We could have saved a lot of tax dollars if someone would have just asked them.

The reason is really simple.During spring, the world is wakening up from the long winter. The first really good spring day is so joyful, so optimistic, the universe itself is saying there is hope and joy all around, and darn it, once again, the depressed person just doesn’t feel it. Again, the depression spikes. There could be anger because the person wishes for the umpteenth time in their life that just once they could be just like everyone else. It’s just not fair, it seems.

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Friday, March 9, 2007

The MBTA name game

Rep. Marty Walz, a Democrat representing Boston, actually filed legislation to change the name of an MBTA subway station. He wants to change the name of the Copley station, appropriately at Copley Square, to Copley/BPL. The BPL is the Boston Public Library, but how the heck would you know that unless you lived here? Yep, just what we need are more confused tourists.

He said it would give recognition to a prominent landmark at Copley. Why single out the library? The BPL is a pretty cool place, sure. But so is Trinity Church, the John Hancock Tower, and the Old South Church, all located in the square.

Man, this Walz is a big thinker, isn’t he? Think of the time and expense of changing the name of the stop just because this joker thinks it would be a good idea to give recognition to just one of the landmarks in Copley Square. You’d have to change all of the signs in the subway system, all the brochures, Web sites, and any and all forms of communication. Suddenly everything in the public domain will be out-of-date, and if you don’t think that’s a big deal, Google a few words about the MBTA and see what you get, and then think how suddenly a lot of what you get will be out-of-date and misleading.

How about instead of spending all that money just to “give recognition” to the BPL, er, I mean the library, how about if the MBTA uses it to improve service, or make the stations more internationally friendly? All communication on the T is in English, but if you walk around the street of Boston, even during low tourist season, all you hear are other languages besides English.

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I think I can make it

It's Friday. Sue went home this a.m. and I won't see her until tomorrow night when I drive down to the Cape.

Tonight, I'll either be sitting home alone with Alice and a few beers or hanging with good bud, Michelle, with her drum and my guitar.

I think I can make it.

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Ping

The first thing I do when I log on at the office is check my daughter's away message on AIM. Just a small electronic way to stay connected. To ping a loved one across the Internet and see just a tiny detail of her life.

Sometimes it's just left over from the night before: "sleep."

At one point this a.m. it was:


"10 to get ready for class.

can she do it?"


I wonder who at times, logs on to ABM, just to ping this human being?

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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Go wild

I got the go-ahead on a concept/design for the set for a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest being presented by a community theater group. The night I presented to the director I called a friend and said I was on my way to the meeting and knew she was going to hate it but I couldn’t not present it. She had to admit she hadn’t thought what I proposed.

Yesterday in an email she called me a maniac and said to go wild. It’s a nice feeling to be trusted to “go wild” with your ideas, but it’s going to be even more fun working again with a lot of people I haven’t worked with in a long time, people who stood by me when I really needed them. Good people. Good friends.

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Where's the living in all this?

Sometimes life just sucks and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.

It’s cold. Winter is so long. Sue got in from NYC yesterday afternoon, I met her in Clarke’s in South Station and didn’t even have time to have a beer with her before we had to grab a train to the ‘burbs. We talked non-stop the whole way home. I enjoy her company so much, and sometimes I don’t listen to her as much as I just watch her, and the listening just comes along for the ride.

We picked up Kathryn and rushed through dinner. Fried egg sandwiches. I teased Sue that it wasn’t fancy NY food that she got used to. (The friend she was with is a real foodie.) The sandwiches were fine with her. Kathryn watched TV while I showed Sue my latest column and a theater review, and she caught up here on ABM. I sat with Kathryn for a little while watching America’s Top Model or something like that. She likes it, and I like just sitting next to her, so it was a win-win situation for us.

By the time I took her back to her house and got back to the apartment it was time for bed. The 5:30 alarm comes awfully soon.

This morning it was simply more rushing around. We race to our jobs to earn (not enough) money just to give it to someone else. Where’s the living in all this?

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Breathing life back into a dead man

The warmth from my sleeping daughter's head could breath life back into a dead man.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Get a list

Got a list? No? Better get one.

What's on your list?

Write a novel? See Paris before you die?

Get a tattoo? Learn to sail?

Raise a child?

Learn Japanese?


Got a list?

No regrets? Say you're sorry?

Ride a motorcycle across Cambodia? It doesn't have to be deep.

Cure cancer? Clean out the hall closet?


Don't have a list? Better get one.

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Guardian angels

One of the hardest things for me when my ex-wife and I split up was not seeing my kids on a daily basis. I went from seeing them constantly to seeing them only a couple of times per week. My kids and I are very close. Very physical. When we sit on a couch and watch TV we’re all over each other like hamsters. We touch and kiss each other a lot. We say I love you a lot.

The one thing I missed so much was kissing them on the head right before I went to bed, and checking in on them first thing when I woke up.

I’m kind of a night owl. That’s actually an understatement; I’m a life-long insomniac. I go to sleep by staying up so late that I’m just exhausted. I used to do other things, but those days, hopefully, are over.

Last night I was in bed reading a script and I could hear Kathryn in her room. I got up and she was asleep. Dreaming, I suppose. I like being there when she’s asleep, just in case.

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As good as it gets

I wish I had a water-proof latptop for the shower. It’s where I do my best thinking in the morning and the thoughts just flow. Ideas for everything, including this blog, just flow. Must be the combination of hot water and caffeine…

This weekend was as good as it gets. Saturday, Sue and I slept in. Morning coffee on the couch.

Cause there's something about what happens when we talk
Something about what happens when we talk

I hate talking on the phone, but Sue and I got to know each other back when by talking for sometimes two hours on the phone. Just before we’d hang up one of us would say, my God, do you know we’ve been talking for almost two hours...!?

It’s still the same.

She’s a remarkable woman. Funny, smart, pretty. She’s lived and traveled all over the world, speaks Japanese, Spanish, and a smattering of other languages including whatever it is they speak in Sri Lanka, and it ain’t Sri Lankan. She loves to read, and is curious about everything in life. When we first started seeing each other, I told her she really didn’t want me, that I was a train wreck. She told this to a friend who said, well, at least he’s a responsible train wreck. Score a point for me. I’m still not sure what she sees in me sometimes.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ‘em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such.

We headed into Boston, I love riding the train with her, just the feeling of moving with her by my side. Sue bound for South Station and New York, me for the South End and my acting class. Class is what I need to get motivated about acting again. Working with talented people who are serious about their craft. Not people trying to work out their neuroses on stage. Or running away from life in the real world by living “someone else’s” life on stage. This is the real world. This is the theater. Let’s not confuse the two. People looking for the truth in themselves and in the world.

That bears repeating: People not afraid of looking for the truth in themselves.

During class my oldest left a message that she’d stop by for dinner. I love shopping for food, knowing that a loved one will be eating. Choosing each morsel with care. Sustenance for the body as well as the soul is important. Feed the soul but don’t forget to feed the stomach, too. I’m not a bad cook; not great. Simple is best. Baked haddock with rice.

I said, I'd offer you a beer but I know you're underage. We laughed. She's away at school and has already told me about the fake ID business there. What do you drink when you go out? I asked. Long Island Ice Tea. I laughed.

And we talked. Al and I talk about everything. About family and being in love and her friends and her roommate and my friends. Hopes and dreams. I’m 51 and she’s almost 19, and we’re alike in so many ways because in so many ways we’re starting our lives. Never lose that: that sense of newness and your ideals and wanting to always live life to the fullest.

Then she left to go visit a friend who just had a baby. New beginnings and lives everywhere.

So Saturday night I stayed home alone and played guitar. Does that sound sad? Being alone on a Saturday night? No, I was content. A day filled with loved ones and learning new things about myself and my art, which is just really another word for passions. And toward the end, I sat on the floor of my apartment surrounded by guitars and scribbled notes and downloaded notes and books, my dog drowsing next to me, after discovering new ways to get sounds from an acoustic guitar and it had so much to do with how I was feeling and what I had experienced that day. That is finding truth, and it reflecting in your art.

Sunday was in Boston with my other daughter. She’s the city kid. I took her to my office and showed her around. We wandered the south part of the city, froze to death, had chowder at the Black Rose, a place for tourists but Kathryn and I are so at home in Boston that we live in our own little world. Tourists are like greenhead flies on the beach in the summer: annoyances.

The train ride home was a sleepy one.

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Monday, March 5, 2007

USS John F. Kennedy -- Boston


Was in Boston yesterday (Sunday) wandering around with my daughter. The aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy was in port, its last ever stop here since it's steaming south to be decommissioned. I've seen it before, from the water in the harbor. It's pretty impressive, especially when you're looking up at it from a 22-foot sailboat. Yesterday we started to walk to see if we could take a tour, but after a while turned around. It didn't seem worth it. That part of Boston isn't very pretty, and the crowd not worth fighting.

If you've never been on board a warship like that, it's worth the experience. They are impressive, awe-inspiring pieces of war technology. It boggles the mind what they can do -- kill in the most violent ways possible, and when you're on-board or even just near them, their sheer size and complexity humbles you. I've visited the USS Massashusetts, a decommissioned battleship in Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts a number of times. I remember feeling a mix of curiosity and depression. So amazing, what the greatest minds of our century came up with. But I couldn't help thinking that it's too bad we couldn't have harnassed all that brain power and money to cure cancer or alleviate some of the suffering in the world, instead of adding to it. Now, some people would argue that I'm naive. No I'm not. I know all about the world we live in.

I'm just saying, is all, that it would be nice. I'm not saying it's practical or it will happen. I'm just saying it would be nice.

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The brave and the scared

I’ve gotten some good feedback about stepping back and taking a deep breath and being extremely open and personal on such an open forum like this blog.

Oh, but be so careful about what you ask for in life. You just may get it. People who feel in this life are setting themselves up to really get hurt at times. You can’t feel the good without experiencing the bad, too. The harder you feel the good, the meaner the bad will feel. It just works that way.

But that’s the risk you take. And you don’t have to take that risk. I know a few people who ignore everything about their lives. They put off addressing what I would consider the important things in their life — personal relationships and growth — until things just fester and go past the point of no return. Then, they just move on, leaving hurt and ruin in their wake, and then they get a whole new set of friends or even families and do it all over again while the old set is left to clean up their mess. These people are hurt, damaged people, and you have to tread carefully around them. They’re fearful of intimacy – and I don’t mean sexual intimacy because sometimes they tend to confuse sex for love, but the closeness of, for instance, a friendship – and will lash out terribly because the fear makes them feel vulnerable and scared and threatened. The closer you get, the harder they lash out.

What does this have to do with feeling? And sharing our feelings and our life’s experience? We experience life through our feelings. And if we ignore them, or lie to ourselves about what we’re experiencing, nothing but hurt can come from it.

Let me repeat that: Nothing, and I mean nothing, but hurt can come from that.

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Cut the DSS caseworker some slack redux

I rewrote the post from last month and the rewrite is running in today's MetroWest Daily News:

Four-year-old Rebecca Riley died in December after her parents gave her an overdose of medication, and DSS took a big hit. It’s natural when the system fails in such a dramatic way that criticism will follow. Commissioner Harry Spence, though, in a rare stance for a public official, held his ground when he said that the little girl didn’t fall through the cracks, citing agency procedures that were followed. He also said that, while child abuse deaths are rare in Massachusetts, they do occur and it’s not clear there’s much capacity in the department to alter that. In other words, mistakes happen. Mistakes happen in every quarter of life, and the thing about DSS is that the stakes are so high that when mistakes are made the repercussions are proportionally great and very visible.

DSS caseworkers are like the lineman on a football team. They spend their days in the trenches and you don’t notice them until they get beaten. And, like linemen, when they are beat it can be extremely visible. For the lineman, an opposing player gets through, and maybe it’s only one time during the entire game, but the pretty-boy quarterback is sacked and the opposing player does a victory dance on national TV. In the case of DSS, it usually means a child is dead and a politician is grandstanding for votes, or someone in the paper is calling for someone’s head.

What you don’t ever hear about are the daily struggles the typically overworked, underpaid caseworker has to manage. Most carry a caseload way over the recommended 18 cases. They have to. There are too many cases and too few caseworkers. They could have three or four major cases needing attention all in a day, all that would have serious repercussions like the death of a child if not handled correctly and immediately. Then there's the normal day-to-day work with clients, just keeping them going forward bit by bit. Keeping a father sober. Making sure a kid has some Christmas presents. Making sure a mother stays on her treatment plan. DSS, despite what people think, isn’t in the business of taking kids away from their parents. It’s in the business of first, protecting kids, and then trying to get parents to the point where they can have their kids back. No, it’s not a perfect system, but it is more perfect than the clients it deals with.

So as cold and calculating as it sounds, Rebecca Ripley didn’t slip through the cracks. When parents are as deeply troubled as hers, sometimes there just isn’t anything anyone can do. I do believe, though, that there are plenty of cases in Massachusetts that do slip through the cracks. There are plenty of cases that are marginal, that don’t get on the DSS radar screen. We all have seen families where things just seem kind of funny. A single, middle-aged parent continually parties hard and gets calls from her kid at two in the morning wondering where she is. What kind of life is that for a kid? It’s not life-threatening, but plenty of us know about the adverse affects of a lost childhood. Maybe there’s a kid who’s too clingy for her age. What’s that about? What’s causing that kid to not let go? With another kid you can see the sparks just snapping behind his eyes. Something’s not quite right; we know it. But there’s nothing we can do because we don’t have the hard proof.

The simple fact in our country is this: You need a license to own a dog, but anyone can have a kid. All it takes is one drunken night with a sailor, and a woman is pregnant and two people who never thought about taking care of another human being now are going to carry one of the biggest responsibilities on their shoulders. The child isn’t born out of love, but instead of selfish lust. And the selfishness remains throughout the course of the child’s life.

Many of the parents never felt the love of their own parents, so how are they expected to give love they never felt? And at best the child is cared for out of a practical sense of obligation. They are clothed, fed, sent to school, signed up for sports. All the bases are covered, the parent goes through the motions doing everything that all the other parents are doing, except that one special thing that makes the child know at the end of the day that she is wanted and loved. Kids know when that special something is missing; we all do. There’s no hiding it.

In the end, God willing, the child grows up with some serious, but treatable problems. As therapists like to say, the best thing parents can do is make sure their kids have enough sense to get themselves to the psychiatrist’s couch when they grow up. That means breaking established patterns that the dysfunctional parent brings to the family and facing some really nasty, deep-seated truths about themselves. It’s not easy. And it’s a problem for the individual flying under the DSS radar screen. The ones slipping through the cracks.

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