Monday, December 31, 2007

The ghost MBTA Commuter Train from Framingham

At some point today on the 8:30 commuter rail out of Framingham, the conductor came on the PA system saying it was the 8:30 local to Boston, and he had no idea what happened to the 8:15 express.

This was after a few newcomers shivered on the platform today trying to figure out the train system. A train, the one we eventually rode in on, pulled into the station from Boston and was parked on the other side of the tracks. That was the 8:30. The 8:15 was late (and, subsequently we learned off the map) so even though the 8:30 had been sitting there for a few minutes, when the conductors yelled to get aboard, lots of commuters had to scamper up the stairs and over the walkway, including a woman who was going into Boston for an appointment with her cardiologist.

Also, today was another morning, which I've stopped counting, when the conductors didn't collect the fares in our car. It does kind of piss me off, though, when I just forked over another $210.00 for January's pass. Why do I have to pay and other's don't? Oh well, that's just the logic of the MBTA. Get used to it.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

If the Brakeman Turns My Way

When panic grips your body and your heart is a hummingbird
Raven thoughts blacken your mind until you're breathing in reverse
All your friends and sedatives mean well but make it worse
Every reassurance just magnifies the doubt
Better find yourself a place to level out

Friday, December 28, 2007

A story

I was working on a project for a pretty exclusive client, and we were meeting at their offices. The client contact was there, and the client contact’s assistant. The information architect was there. And I, the writer, was there. The designer was late, and so we decided to start the meeting without her. I had my back to the door when the designer walked in. Since we had never met, I stood and turned to introduce myself. She was the most beautiful thing I think I had ever seen up to that point in my life. Raven hair, dark eyes, creamy white skin, and beautiful smile. Funny, it wasn’t until I reached out and took her hand to shake it that I realized she didn’t have any fingers on either hand. And only later when we were walking together to another place in the building could I see that both her legs were amputated at the knee.

Still, I couldn’t keep my eyes off her.

Over the course of the project I learned that she was not only a successful commercial designer, but also an accomplished artist. She explored, logically I think anyone would agree, the idea of physical beauty.

And I still couldn’t take my eyes off her, or not think about her.

More time working with her, and I learned from her Web site that at one time she had been employed in the adult entertainment industry, gotten breast implants, and the second day after the operation had contracted toxic shock syndrome, and that was the reason for the amputations.

I thought she was beautiful.

And I knew the attraction. It was so obvious to me, but I didn’t want to tell anyone; I knew I couldn’t get anyone to understand. I knew that while I had all my limbs, inside I looked just like her. A kindred spirit. I was missing so many parts. Someone had hurt me terribly, in that place where we can’t see but that still hurts as much as a physical punch. It was comparable to getting run over emotionally by a bus, and it seemed she did it not just once, but over and over, even knowing it and getting some sort of sick enjoyment out of it. There were parts of my spirit that were amputated as cleanly as that woman’s legs.

And for that reason she fascinated me. Her joy for life, her ability to maneuver through this physical world seemed unimpaired, to the point where you didn’t even notice her impairments, if you can even call them that. But of course you could, though. She just learned how to do without.

I think of her every so often. I get email from her occasionally, mostly announcements of a show she’s exhibiting her work in.

There are parts of me that are still missing. The part that makes us open? Gone. I can’t trust people like I used to. When it comes to trusting people, I trust with a limp. Loving? I can still love, but I do it with a crutch. And there are things I simply can’t do anymore. I can’t cry anymore. I feel for my fellow human being constantly, but I’ve gotten hard.

But like my co-worker, I do all right in this physical world.

Almost Lover

Your fingertips across my skin
The palm trees swaying in the wind
You sang me Spanish lullabies
The sweetest sadness in your eyes
Clever trick

Well I never want to see you unhappy
I thought you'd want the same for me

Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be?
So long, my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
Should've known you'd bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do

We walked along a crowded street
You took my hand and danced with me
And when you left, you kissed my lips
You told me you would never, ever forget
These images

Well I'd never want to see you unhappy
I thought you'd want the same for me

Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be?
So long, my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
Should've known you'd bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do

I cannot go to the ocean
I cannot drive the streets at night
I cannot wake up in the morning
Without you on my mind
So you're gone and I'm haunted
And I bet you are just fine

Did I make it that
Easy to walk right in and out
Of my life?

Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be?
So long, my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
Should've known you'd bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Getting the hell outta Dodge

I’m getting the hell out of Dodge, and it’s so easy to focus on the stuff I won’t miss. The reasons I’m leaving. The dirt. The cold in the winter so frigid I could see my dog’s breath when I got home from work. So hot in the summer that pictures faded and candles melted over in the candlesticks. And not having enough money to pay for oil to heat it, or electricity to cool it.

But I did a lot of living in those couple of rooms. There were a lot of good times. Lots of loving went on there. Good family times. Good friends. Good food. I really learned to work that galley kitchen. There I first saw Sue doubled over with laughter and thought to myself, that girl’s got some life in her.

For probably the second time in my life I took charge of my life. And it was a long, hard process that's still going on. A lot of the times it was painful. So painful a lot of the times I honestly didn’t think I would make it. Chalk it up to a few select people for getting me through. Which is the reason why today my cell phone address book consists of maybe six people. You find out you don’t need a lot in this life when you experience what I went through. Which is the reason I celebrate every day I'm alive for that very reason.

I started and grew a business in that apartment. The first couple of years I swear there were times I thought I was going to be homeless. I'd wake up in the morning not knowing where the money was going to come from. Then by evening, something would have broken. I keep saying starvation and homelessness are great motivators. It was a successful business by the time I took the job I have now. Time to close one chapter and start a new one.

I learned who my friends were, and who I could count on. And I learned not to be so tough on the people I couldn’t count on. They’re all just doing the best they can. Just keep them at arm’s length, that’s all. Don’t get too close, or let them get to close to me.

I got so tired of being angry. Anger has its purpose in this world. It has its place. And some people deserve the anger directed at them. But some people have to be angry. I use anger as a shield, to protect myself from people who I think or know will hurt me. It's better to simply recognize who will hurt me

It's time to move on. I know so many people who are stuck. As a matter of fact, it seems everyone I know seems stuck and that’s another reason why I just keep to myself. I wish them well, but it’s depressing to be around people who are just stuck in their lives. People waiting out their time until retirement. Protecting their 401ks and stock options. I see so many people resting on their laurels. Or doing the same damn thing over and over and over again, until they look up and say, hey, where’d the time go? I’m watching actors I’ve known for a few years now do the same thing over and over on stage. I saw that character a few years ago on another stage, I think. Or I see the same style or mannerisms. Growth stopped a long time ago. They just act in one show after another, and it seems like it's boredom or fear that keeps them at it. Afraid to try something else. Afraid to be alone. Hey, I found out alone ain't that bad.

I want to grow. Experience new things. Know when to get out, whether it be an apartment or an acting career. Traditions and rituals are fine. They ground us. But they also bind us and limit us. That’s why I’m not so big on traditions. I like things to be different. I get bored. And boredom breeds torpor.

So, it’s all exciting and scary and a bit daunting and I know it’s just a small step but it's one that hopefully will lead to more steps. The biggest journey still starts with a single step.

Across 11th Street

I was the third brother of five,
Doing whatever I had to do to survive.
I'm not saying what I did was alright,
Trying to break out of the ghetto was a day to day fight.

Been down so long, getting up didn't cross my mind,
I knew there was a better way of life that I was just trying to find.
You don't know what you'll do until you're put under pressure,
Across 110th Street is a hell of a tester.

Across 110th Street,
Pimps trying to catch a woman that's weak
Across 110th Street,
Pushers won't let the junkie go free.
Across 110th Street,
Woman trying to catch a trick on the street.
Across 110th Street,
You can find it all in the street.

I got one more thing I'd like to y'all about right now.
Hey brother, there's a better way out.
Snorting that coke, shooting that dope man you're copping out.
Take my advice, it's either live or die.
You've got to be strong, if you want to survive.

The family on the other side of town,
Would catch hell without a ghetto around.
In every city you find the same thing going down,
Harlem is the capital of every ghetto town.

Across 110th Street,
Pimps trying to catch a woman that's weak
Across 110th Street,
Pushers won't let the junkie go free.
Across 110th Street,
A woman trying to catch a trick on the street, ouh baby
Across 110th Street,
You can find it all in the street.
Yes he can, oh

Look around you, just look around you,
Look around you, look around you, uh yeah.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Digging for the truth

It’s digging for the truth. I can’t help what others do. I can’t live their lives for them (though that didn’t stop me from trying in the past.) I’ve gotten to the age where I look at people I know and say, wtf? We’re starting to get up there. We’re starting to hear people our age, and even younger, dying. Getting or got those perpetual wrinkles around the eyes, across the eyelids. Long cheeks. Sometimes kind of a haggard look to them. And I’m seeing people sort of setting in concrete, something I never want to do but is probably inevitable. I’m seeing crazy and twisted and weird and scary and lonesome and sorrowful and mean. And you can’t help but talk about it. Comment on it. And every time I hear myself doing that, every time I catch myself commenting on someone’s behavior, I pull back. Quiet. I can only worry about myself.

We all get to the same place. We all end up in the same place, in that wooden box. It’s how we get there that matters. And I know I won’t reach Nirvana this time around, but I want to be closer to it than when I started this run. And I can’t do that worrying about someone else. And I’ve learned to sit real still. Maybe keep that picking and strumming hand moving a bit. Just easy and slow. A small splash of golden liquid in a glass near my elbow.

Death, love, and the darkness

Well, those songs are a pretty good indication of things in general, and you can run, laugh, or shake your head but to my way of thinking it's all pretty good. Laughing at death, falling in love with a pretty girl, scared for what lies in the dark corners of my mind, that pretty much sums up what I do just about every day. And God love those two Johns: John Prine and John Fogerty. They can nail it every time. Prine just has that twisted sense of life. Fogerty is easily one of the most underrated songwriters in America. I've been loving his stuff since high school when I would only admit to my closest friends that I loved Creedence Clearwater Revival, and I know they never understood and just figured it was just one of my quirks. I remember Faye Boymell, the love my ninth-grade heart, just screwing her face up and then shrugging. When you're like that when you're young, I'm sure that lovely little girl grew up to be a lovely woman and made some guy awful happy.

Broken Down Cowboy

If I was a gamblin' man
Never would'a let you play your hand
With a broken down cowboy like me

'Cause you never can trust your luck
He's bad news in a pickup truck
A broken down cowboy like me

He's played every card he's got
Had a good hand but he messed it up
With that bum-around tumble-down heart

Saddlebags full of pain
Carries 'em around
Just like a middle name
A losin' streak waitin' for dark

Oh he'll string you along
Sing you a lonesome song
But he'll wind up alone

No matter how hard you try
Never gonna let you get inside
That tumble-down broken down heart

It's a tough ridin' rodeo
A mean horse threw him
Long time ago
A broken down cowboy like me

But the way I feel about you
Wouldn't want that horse
To hurt you too
A broken down cowboy like me


If I was a gamblin' man
Never would'a let you play that hand
With a broken down cowboy like me

Creedence Song

Daddy had a band
Played him a little guitar
Traveled in a van
Livin' that rock and roll
Night after night
People comin' up to the bandstand
Say you can't go wrong
If you play a little bit of that
Creedence song

It was late one night
Cruisin' on down the interstate
Stopped into a diner
To get him some chili and fries
Heard the waitress tell a guy
Standin' over by the jukebox
Hey you can't go wrong
If you play a little bit of that
Creedence song

Well daddy took a shine
To the lil' girl behind the counter
She movin' her hips to the swamp beat
Right on time
Said could he play her somethin'
Over there on the jukebox
She said you can't wrong
If you play a little bit of that
Creedence song

Daddy had a plan
He asked that girl to marry
With a brand new wife
They're livin' on rock and roll
Night after night
She whispers oh so sweetly
Hey you can't go wrong
If you play a little bit of that
Creedence song

Please Don't Bury Me

Woke up this morning
Put on my slippers
Walked in the kitchen and died
And oh what a feeling!
When my soul
Went thru the ceiling
And on up into heaven I did ride
When I got there they did say
John, it happened this way
You slipped upon the floor
And hit your head
And all the angels say
Just before you passed away
These were the very last words
That you said:

Please don't bury me
Down in that cold cold ground
No, I'd druther have "em" cut me up
And pass me all around
Throw my brain in a hurricane
And the blind can have my eyes
And the deaf can take both of my ears
If they don't mind the size
Give my stomach to Milwaukee
If they run out of beer
Put my socks in a cedar box
Just get "em" out of here
Venus de Milo can have my arms
Look out! I've got your nose
Sell my heart to the junkman
And give my love to Rose

Repeat Chorus

Give my feet to the footloose
Careless, fancy free
Give my knees to the needy
Don't pull that stuff on me
Hand me down my walking cane
It's a sin to tell a lie
Send my mouth way down south
And kiss my ass goodbye

Repeat Chorus

Monday, December 24, 2007

Singing of the rails

Speaking of singing, the rain making singing sounds, the other day I was standing on the train platform and a freight was passing through, and I was listening, and the cliche is that the sound of the wheels on the rails is like singing. No, it isn't.

Listen: it's the same sound of a knife on a sharpening stone. And to me, that's a much better metaphor. Enough of this optimistic BS. Traveling is also cutting the ties. Cutting free the ropes and being set free.

Sit and Listen to the Rain

Not quite a Chirstmas carol, huh? But this was me last night, sitting here, listening to the rain beat against the house, making singing sounds in the downspouts and overflowing the gutters. It's not a bad thing, it's just a part of life and it's not a constant part of life. Sometimes you have these moods, then they pass. Then you move on to something else, and there's a really good chance it's going to be something good. That's just the way life is.

And it's nice to have a soundtrack to what you're living.

Sit around, dream away the place I’m from
Used to feel so much, now I just feel numb
I could go out tonight, but I ain’t sure what for
Call a friend or two I don’t know anymore

Sit and listen to the rain
Sit and listen to the rain

Gonna ride down to the river where it runs
Gonna watch TV and pray for decent reruns
Sit around and dream away what I’ve become
Used to feel so much, now I just feel dumb

Sit and listen to the rain
Sit and listen to the rain

I’ll never understand this emptiness
I’ll never really try and understand, I guess
I’ll never understand this emptiness
I’ll never really try and understand,
Try and understand, I guess

Sit around, dream away the place I’m from
Used to feel so much, now I just feel dumb
Could go out tonight, but I ain’t sure what for
Call a friend or two I don’t know anymore

Sit and listen to the rain
Sit and listen to the rain

--Ryan Adams

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Why we have Christmas

This is more like it. This is more like Christmas should be. Christ—remember him?-came into this world poor and alone. He wasn’t surrounded by wealth. It was cold night, so we’re told, though no one’s ever been clear just what the date was...sometime in the springtime, I seem to remember.

I’ve said if I were one of the apostles I would have been the one stealing the keys to the donkey. And if I were at Christ’s birth, if I had had any role at all in this historic event, I would have been one of those shepherds, tending his flock, maybe in the rain, or huddled in his thin coat on a chilly night, his old dog the only thing to keep him company, pondering the stars and making music on a simple instrument.

It’s all gotten out of hand. Way out of hand. We all know this, but we don’t seem to care. It’s too much for us. Too much for us to fight. And frankly, it seems Christ has been more than a little absent for the world lately. It’ s like he said he was going to the corner to get a pack of cigarettes and that was twelve years ago. Damnit, he ain’t coming back, it seems, and we’re just going to have to deal.

But family and friends will still get together. Presents will be exchanged. Food will be shared. Some imbibing will occur. Why? Because we’re sheep and just do what we’re told? Because we don’t want to disappoint? Because we want to belong? Or is there some other deeper reason? A real one? Maybe for one time in the fucking year some yearning actually will get appeased? Given in to, and that in some form or another we actually behave in some semblance to the way we’re actually supposed to treat one another? I think that’s it.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas, 2007

Something will happen, I know. I still don't have a tree, and I'll be running around this weekend, mostly on the Cape, so I'm hoping to pick one up then. I have Monday off, but I really don't want to get one then, when I could be hanging electrical lights on a wet tree.

I guess I have to get one, though now the thought of spending money I don't have for a tree and putting it and decorations around the house just so I have to immediately take it down again isn't a pleasant thought. Sue and I have so much to do and think about for our move; one more chore just seems like one more too many.

My kids will come over Monday night, we'll laugh, we'll play Christmas carols, we'll go out and light a candle in honor of my mother's birthday, drive around and look at the lights, and Bob and I will have a moment outside when I take him out to do his business before we go to bed. He's so old now that he always looks at me with either a wry or rueful expression, like he knows something I don't know. I bet he does, too.

Sue will drive up sometime Christmas day. J may show up, or not. A dinner will be cooked, probably a chicken. Rice in the cooker. We don't have a lot of money this year, so it won't be fancy, not that it ever is. Of course we will have lots of wine; we always seem to have money for that. That seems to get us through things.

It's so funny around work right now. Only one or two of us are here, the clicking of keyboards is all you can hear. Muffled conversations. The few of us here who, I guess, don't really have lives. Here everything is so wonderful and positive, or that's the facade. No one would ever let on to troubles here, at an agency where the product is image and that image is always sunny and happy and positive, where if there is a problem it's quickly alleviated by the product.

I don't really want anything for Christmas. I don't want any products. The troubles I have won't be solved by anything manufactured in the world economy. One of my daughters pumped me, insisting I had to get something under the tree. I told her to get me a set of decent guitar strings. I'm trying to get rid of stuff in my life, not acquire more. I'm giving stuff away to the poor, selling stuff for money and to lighten my load for the road. Ain't it nice that I've simplified things to where the one thing I could use is spare set of guitar strings, weighing a couple of ounces and costing maybe tops thirteen bucks? And I'll lighten it even less. I've learned to live with almost nothing. Not the right attitude for what my good buddy calls the Christian Shopping Season.

There's something complex and crazy about Christmas. Of course it's all the materialism, but there's something else, too. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it has something to do with age and experience, wisdom and a bit of cynicism.

Once more, I just don't fit in to all this. I've tried. Lord knows I've tried. And I really don't care anymore. Just happy to be who I am.

The office party

We had a department Christmas party today. Someone who didn't quite make it asked me how it went.

I answered:

pizza and people then splitting into people split off...anxiety about being alone...engaging some guy in a conversation about snow shoveling and bike riding...bored, but know...normal social setting...

Christmas solo

Merry Christmas. Not feeling it, not seeing it at all, but all the signs are there. It's Christmas. Sometimes I wish it would all go away, but that would be pretty harsh.

I guess I'm supposed to have some definite plans, but the only one I can see is I'll be spending a lot of time with my dog and my guitars. The family is all split up, and typical in divorced families, the mother gets most of the time with the kids. I get quality time, though sometimes I wish it were more quantity.

Friends are all over the place.

I've spent two Christmases alone, and it's not as bad as you might think. It's like camping alone: The anticipation of loneliness is greater than it really is. The first time was my first year in Boston. I was working for an ad agency, and I was low man on the totem pole, so of course I had to work Christmas Eve. My at-the-time fiancee was in New Jersey, and I was in a bug-ridden apartment in Allston. Christmas Eve night my downstairs neighbor knocked on my door. He was an odd sort. Incense fumes came out from under this door. Weird music. He was into some kind of Eastern religion. He was poor, and was doing things like making his own furniture to make ends meet. What I didn't realize then is and what I know now is he's not much different than so many vagrant, sort of intellectual drifters that were pretty common in the city at that time.

He asked me to jump his car. It was snowing like a bat out of hell, and we couldn't get his car going. So I offered to take him wherever he was going. What the hell, I didn't have anything else to do. It turns out he was going over to see his little girl, who lived with his ex-wife. We drove over to somewhere, I don't remember at all where. The streets were deathly silent, not only because everyone was in their beds for a long winter's nap with images of sugar plums in their head, but also the storm and snow muffled all sound. We were like the last people on earth.

The house was filled with people and warmth, and it was the sweetest thing in the world to see, so touching. Trust me, now I know and feel a father's love when he's away from his little girl on Christmas Eve. And I remember he gave her an Asian dress or robe--something like that. And the weird thing was this family had me to contend with and really weren't sure what to do with me. They were touched that this total stranger would go out on such a bad night on Christmas Eve, but had no idea what to do with me. Just me in my usual role of odd duck.

The only other time I spent Christmas alone was a few years ago.

Christmas Cake Recipe

Okay, it's kinda old and kinda dumb, but a funny, old friend (who's also kinda old and kinda dumb ) sent it along as a Christmas greeting so that makes it worth posting.

Here's the recipe for an awesome Christmas cake:

You'll need the following: a cup of water, a cup of sugar, four large
eggs, two cups of dried fruit, a teaspoon of baking soda, a teaspoon
of salt, a cup of brown sugar, lemon juice, nuts, and a bottle of

Sample the whisky to check for quality.

Take a large bowl. Check the whisky again. To be sure it is the
highest quality; pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the
electric mixer, beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add
one teaspoon of sugar and beat again.

Make sure the whisky is still okay. Cry another tup. Turn off the
mixer. Break two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of
dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the
beaterers pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the whisky to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of
salt. Or something. Who cares? Check the whisky. Now sift the lemon
juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Spoon. Of sugar or
something. Whatever you can find.

Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin 350 degrees. Don't forget to beat
off the turner. Throw the bowl out of the window, check the whisky
again and go to bed.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I flunked laziness and slovenly

We're asked to participate in focus groups every so often here at work by the S&A people (Strategy & Analysis) for our clients. This time the client was GMC and they wanted guys who watched football. Fair enough. I'm a guy. I watch football. But they wanted guys who watched at least three games a month. I told them I turn on games but usually let them run in the background. I haven't sat down and watched an entire game in years. Years. I don't have time for that. Or rather, I'd much rather be doing something else besides sitting in front of the television with a plate of buffalo wings. When I told them football games weren't the high point of my Sunday, well, that was the clincher. They said I could go back to work, sorry. I'm not offended, really I'm not, I said, heading for the door.

I had to laugh. I called Sue and told her she'd be so proud of me, that I got kicked out of a focus group because I don't sit around all day watching football, eating buffalo wings, and swilling beer. In case you haven't notice one re-occurring theme on this blog, I don't fit in to everyday society, and quit trying a while ago.

C said it even better. You flunked laziness, John. You flunked slovenly.

Those guys are out there. Plenty of them. But I ain't one of 'em.

Miles From My Home

That's not just where I want to be, that's where I am. Searching. Fumbling. Waiting.

When I was a kid I was on the fringe. Not a part of one group, but accepted by all--hippies, greezers, blacks, the popular kids. I could play the game, but never joined a team. Part of the reason was a lot of family shit. Nurture or nature, it was just who I was. Who I am. I always had one friend. That one friend you could always trust and talk to and feel yourself around.

Second sons are the wandering ones
so we were the best of friends.
I never felt more like myself
than when I stood beside him then.

Miles from home. Out on the fringe. Like the coyote. Smart. Wary. Out on the perimeter, trotting along, stopping now and again to sniff the air. It's where and how I'm most comfortable. I made the mistake of trusting too many people who couldn't be trusted.

In the end I barely got away with my skin.

One night, it seems a long time ago, Sue and I were talking. And I told her if she told her friends about me, they'd tell her to run like hell. I was flat broke, emotionally and financially, I'm divorced with two kids, plus at that point I had a host of other problems. She told me she knew better, that that's not what she saw. It took me about three weeks to take all that in. Sniffing at it like a coyote. Smelling the wind. Trying to figure out what it was. Could I trust it? Remembering to another time when I said something like that to someone else.

It seems every time I turned around there was Sue. She put her money where her mouth was. She didn't run. And she didn't get too close. So for a while I just watched her. From a distance.

I didn't want to get too close. You don't know if you get too close if they'll suddenly turn on you, because you're close and that's what certain people do, draw you in close and then go for you. I've seen that. They're called borderlines. People with nothing inside so they draw you close then steal everything inside you to fill themselves up and leave you, for dead.

I don't ever want to lose my ability to get along by myself. Out there, miles from my home. Because I've learned so much and changed so much. How to survive, for one. I guess just like the coyote and the rattlesnake learned to get along, I'm made a certain way to get along with all the other species that live alongside me. Around me. Snakes bite and coyotes howl. I'm just glad I'm the one who gets to howl at the moon. I love the moon. And the stars.

No one in sight for fifty miles
Sleeping fields sigh as I glide across their spines.
If I can just reach the crest of that hill
This whole day will tumble, out the night will spill.

The sky as still as a spinning top
Shooting stars drop like burning words from above
If I could just connect all these dots
The truth would tumble like a Cynic vexed by love.

And yet people keep saying
I'm miles from my home,
Miles from my home.

I met you again in my sleep last night,
These are days of slow boats and false starts.
Hearts remain under lock and key,
You will be the one to set them both free.

And yet people will tell you
You're miles from your home,
Miles from your home.

But that's where I want to be.
Out there searching,
Out here fumbling,
Out here waiting
For you and you for me.

The moon hangs like a question mark,
Pale as milk, bold as promise.
When will you share these sights with us?
When will we hold you in our arms?

And people will tell them
We're miles from our home,
Miles from our home.

Happy songs

Pete: Hey John, where's your guitar? Are you going to play some Christmas carols today?
John: Nah, I don't play happy songs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Buenas dias

He was on the train and the feeling of adventure was rekindled. More and more, he began getting that feeling again and again--scary and anxious and exciting and so ready to just move on. It will be like living in a foreign country, where no one will know him, which was fine with him. And no one will visit and everyone and everything is left behind, which was also fine with him.

Just keep breathing

Each day I seem to weather better than the one before. And the days still just keep getting longer. We still have three more days before the winter's solstice, the longest, darkest day of the year. I just keep breathing, that's all. A good lesson to learn and know. There was a time when I considered the mere fact that I was breathing a good sign. Imagine your life that basic, that a reason to rejoice was the simple act of moving air into and out of your lungs. Just keep breathing...that's the trick to staying alive.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I feel like I’m getting a second chance in life, though I’m not sure why, or even if I deserve it. Twenty some years ago I couldn’t understand why we couldn’t raise kids in an apartment in the city. I couldn’t understand why you couldn’t build your life around traveling the world with those kids, thinking what a wonderful life it would be for the kids and for the entire family. A nice, close little unit, not the Cleavers or the white picket fence, for sure, something different but something good, too, and while I now have figured out how things ended up like they did, it’s not right to belabor the point. The facts are I ended up in the suburbs and never did grow to like it; actually grew to hate it. That was about twenty years ago. A standard prison sentence for serious offenders. I must have done something awful bad in a previous life. Anyway, like I was saying, a second chance. It’s so familiar and so the same and at the same time so different because I’m so much older.

How many times can you start over in a lifetime? Two? Three? A baker's dozen?

Good Friday

Good question. Do we ever reach the point where we know, or one day do we just say, I'm going?

I think I know the answer...

See y'all later...

Eased along with this song last night, just sitting on the edge of the couch. I've seen Michael Timmins play a couple of times now, and I have a DVD of the Junkies, and he just sits and really concentrates on what he's playing. Good Friday is just G-F-C-G over and over and over again, but it's how it's played, real gentle, even when it picks up. I was playing it on Lulu then picked up Alice and funny, the acoustic was too much. There's something about an electric, and Lulu in particular, that gives you so much control over the music. Lulu's the sweetest thing on earth. That was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me, giving her to me.

There's nothing like really getting into a song when you play it, because the playing adds another dimension that the listener just can't access. You just don't hear the music and the words, you really understand the words, or I do at least--I'm not saying there aren't people who can listen to songs and just get them; I guess maybe I'm just slow--but when your fingers are running over the strings and picking the notes, for me, at least, I end up going, oh, shit, that's what that means.

Sat at my window watched the world
Wake up this morning
Purple sky slowly turning golden,
Distant elms so orange
You'd swear they're burning
All this flowing water
Has got my mind wandering.
Do you ever finally reach
A point of knowing
Or do you just wake up one day
And say, I am going?
What will I tell you
When you ask me why I'm crying
Will I point above
At the Red Tail gracefully soaring
Or down below where it's prey
Is quietly trembling?
Two thousand years ago Jesus is left there hanging.
Purple sky slowly turning golden.
Cowards at his feet loudly laughing.
Loved ones stumbling homeward
Their words reeling.
Red Tail above my head quietly soaring.
Waters turn from ice, creak is roaring.
He says, enough of all this shit I am going.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bad weather and bad drivers

It was Friday and we’d just dug out of the first real snow of the season and I was heading for the train station, dropped down into second grinding up the steep hill that climbs to the ridge behind the property where I live and a couple of SUVs go barreling by, going way too fast for the road conditions, but I just ease over and let them do their thing. They have the money to buy another if they wrap it around a tree. Then another SUV comes creeping down the hill, and for this one I actually stop and pull over to the side, on a steep grade, on ice. Not that it was going that fast, but just the opposite. When the driver passed I could see it was an older woman just white-knuckling the steering wheel.

Most people don’t belong behind the wheel of a vehicle. Cars have gotten way too big and powerful for most people to manage, plus they drive them with a cell phone against an ear and a cup of Starbucks in the other hand. In bad weather, most people are overly-confident with the four-wheel drive and the StabilTrak and the big tires, or they put way too much trust in the vehicle like the older lady did. None of those people I passed had any business being behind the wheel of a huge vehicle on such a bad day. All this technology just makes cars and trucks more expensive, putting them out of reach for the average working stiff, and actually gets people out on the road who have no business being there--people who really can’t drive, but let the vehicle do the driving for them. I drive an old, beat-to-shit, white-trash pickup, rear-wheel drive, and in the winter I swap the tires off for studs and weight them down with about 1,200 lbs. of sand and just take it easy. That’s the way the old farmers drove, and it works. I’ve only been stuck once since I’ve been driving pickups starting in 1994. That’s not a bad record. You don't need four-wheel drive if you know how to drive.

Today's lyrics

From A Horse in the Country

But lately it just seems to me
that this life has lost its mystery
and these cold fall mornings seem to bite
just a little bit harder

But I've got a horse out in the country
I get to see him every second Sunday
He comes when I call him,
yeah, he knows his name
One day I'll saddle up
and the two of us will ride away

Friday, December 14, 2007

Why I'm naming my next cat or dog, Finn

I couldn't ever feel any hardness against them anymore in the world. It was a dreadful thing to see. Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.

Christmas wishes

The other night I was in the Sports Authority, looking at Red Sox jerseys and there was a serious Christmas carol playing over the loudspeaker. Serious meaning the lyrics actually mentioned Jesus. And I was looking at Red Sox jerseys. Do you know how much Red Sox jerseys cost? $70, that’s what. And do you know how much the same jersey costs if it has a World Series patch on the sleeve? The very same $70 jersey, only with a patch saying 2007 World Series Champions on it costs $90. And I knew my daughter would love to have a David Ortiz jersey, but there is no way I could afford something like that, particularly because on that very same dark night a bill from the oil company for $400 lay waiting for me in the mailbox. And I'm sick of all this. I'm sick of Christmas and the push to buy things for people to prove we love them. It's sick.

What I want for Christmas can’t be bought. And I know it’s a cliché, but I don't care. I'm naive and maybe a bit stupid and I just don't care anymore. What do I want for Christmas?

I want to spend more time with my kids. Every day I pay for the bad choices I’ve made. And I’m sorry, and I know it doesn't matter how sorry you are in this life. But I want to spend more time with my daughter, like when we discuss the books she’s reading in school, because I can teach them better than her teachers can. And when we talk about them, she likes them. But when her teachers discuss them, they bore her.

I want to spend more time sitting with my other daughter like we did the other day, when she stopped by and we drank cups of tea together, and we talked, and I noticed an undercurrent of melancholy, but didn't know why or what I could do.

I want to spend as much time as I can with Sue, and I want her next to me when I wake up at night so I can take her hand so I can fall back to sleep. Because I wake up every night now, and when she’s not there, I stay awake. But if she’s lying next to me, I reach for her hand and drift back to sleep.

I want to spend more time with my dog, and give the old boy the attention he needs. He’s going blind and deaf and he’s arthritic, and he needs more time and more reassurance. And if I have to take the next train in the morning because he’s a little scared or worried because I'm leaving, well, I want to be able to take the time because he's a better person than most people.

I want to spend more time with the couple of friends I have left, because when I’m with them, everything bad goes away. I forget, and when they leave I am, for a second, startled that the bad is still there, and it makes me realize it isn’t as strong as I thought it was

Everything OK?

Are you all right? He always asked him that. And he hated it, hated being asked. But he knew that just the knowing of needing to ask was his answer. No, he wasn't all right, and there was a really good chance that he never was going to be all right again. And so he wished everyone would just leave him alone.

Huck Finn

Then away out in the woods I heard that kind of a sound that a ghost makes when it wants to tell about something that's on its mind and can't make itself understood, and so can't rest easy in its grave, and has to go about that way every night grieving.

That's me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What did you say?

I tell myself life could be worse. Definitely don't let the little things bother me. And it's true, and in not doing so the little annoying things become, well, slightly amusing. You get a good story out of it. You see the world just slightly different, maybe you're even lucky enough to see it from another person's eyes.

There's the Indian woman in the newspaper store who thought I called her, sir.

I am a woman, so I am not a sir, she said.

What? I answered. Good God, I thought to myself.

I didn't call you sir, I said, knowing there is no way in hell I would have made that mistake.

But by God, that's what she heard and she was outraged, insisting that's what I said.

I don't know what I said, but it wasn't sir, I said.

That's better, she said, you didn't know what you said.

I know there's something cultural in there somewhere. I mean, she heard something completely different from what I said, that's obvious. So, I could write a blog commenting on, damnit, if "they" want to work here "they" should learn the language. Or, I could just chalk it up life in the city, which is what I'm going to do.

Because...right after that I went to Dunkin' Donuts. Now, I love Dunkin' Donuts. I love that it's not snooty like that other coffee chain, I feel comfortable and I'm not intimidated because, frankly, I don't know a latte from a chai from a hole in a donut. But, again, Dunkin' Donuts has a way of hiring people who don't speak English.

I drink coffee with milk. Just milk. But it's nothing for me to come back with a cup of coffee with sugar in it. And when I do I just shrug and think, life could be worse. At least there aren't roadside bombs going off on my coffee run.

So after my little exchange with the Indian, I go to Double D and order coffee with milk.

Sugar? the young Asian woman asks me.

No sugar, I reply, just milk.

You want a glass of milk?

At that point the other counter help stepped in.

Enjoying the little things

As much as I hate the winter, the mornings are beautiful. The ice is dangerous just to walk around on, and it's a hassle to have to go out earlier than you'd normally have to to heat up the truck and de-ice the windshield. And the ice is so destructive; the old truck just creaks from water and moisture that's deep inside cracks and in the body.

But this morning the rising sun glowed reddish-pink on the ground and in the trees. The air was sharp.

Over the years, with a dwindling bank account and other things in my life running out, I've learned to enjoy any little thing that comes along. I'll actually live my life sometimes minute by minute, stopping to enjoy any good that comes along and dealing or just suffering through any bad. I don't want to look too far ahead. There are things in my life right now that need attention, and if I don't do what I have to do there may not be any good reason to get out of bed in the future. So I just deal with today and maybe tonight. And try to enjoy every little free gift the Creator sends my way.

MBTA signs up MBCR again

The MBTA signed a three-year contract with MBCR (Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co.) to run the commuter rail for another three years, even though they had the option to sign for two years while looking for a new company to run the commuter rail.

MBCR has been having serious problems of late with service, including running chronically late trains.

The contract will require MBCR to submit quarterly progress reports including reports on on-time percentages, refurbished coaches, and increased workplace diversity.

Okay, first weren't these reports already being done? Who does anything in the world of business without constant monitoring of a project?

And another thing, having MBCR do the reporting is akin to the fox watching the chicken coop. The MBTA should be doing the monitoring and the reporting. Good grief. And we wonder why the trains aren't running on time. Does this state know how to do anything in transportation??

Days Aren't Long Enough

another year has come and gone
another circle 'round the sun
another thousand tears have fallen
i don't ever count 'em 'cause
i'm surrounded by your love
and days are never long enough

Monday, December 10, 2007

The desert

So, what have you been doing? What have you been up to? We haven't seen you in so long? Those are the questions I get now. I've pretty much intentionally dropped out of society. Why not? I don't seem to fit in any way, anywhere. When I do get out I find myself lapsing into my old way of being quiet, watching, attempting to be bemused by what's around me but it's just like watching reruns. You know where it's all going to end, so what's the point? Life's a lot of wasting time...

I've been living life, is my answer, the real answer, the true answer, with all its joy and sorrow and hurt and hope and disappointment and maybe even a little bit of wisdom thrown in for good measure, and that seems to throw people even more than a well-intentioned lie meant to spare their feelings.

So I try to tell them. Tell them about the desert, someone urges me. Tell them about the wolves. There were no wolves. They were coyotes, I correct them. And elk and deer and antelope. I tell them, because the limelight is shining on me, though I wish it weren't, but how do you explain it anyway? You don't. You can't. It's either in you already, or it's not, and it's not my job to try to get you to understand. There was a time, not too long ago, when it seemed all I ever did was try to explain things. But no more. You either get it--got it--or my time is futile.

How do you explain waking up to nothingness and everything at the same time? And wandering in the emptiness without knowing where you're going, or where you'll be that night? How do you explain simple food, and how good it tastes because you're hungry, and not because it's the time society tells you it's time to eat? How do you explain bathing in a gas station restroom or not shaving or living in clothes with yesterday's or three day's ago dirt on them? Or when you pull into a town, of being in a crowd, so pretty and dressed out in their rugged outdoor gear, and being separated by the way you look and scruff on you jaw and the dirt on your well-worn traveling clothes and boots? How do you explain the visceral electricity of rounding a bend, looking up, and seeing a hundred hand prints painted on a wall hundreds of feet up by people a thousand years ago? How do you get someone to understand that's how you felt weeks ago and how you felt just yesterday? You can't do that in an office or standing in someone's kitchen at a party or even in an email or on a blog.

It's time to move on. It is so time to move on...

If the world really were logical

We run on coffee, and if the world was really logical we wouldn't be fighting in Iraq. We'd be occupying some place like Columbia where they grow coffee beans.

To live is to fly

Living's mostly wasting time
And I waste my share of mine
But it never feels too good
So let's not take too long
Well, you're soft as glass and I'm a gentle man
We got the sky to talk about
And the world to lie upon.

Again, and again, and again...I wish I could write like this...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Wreaths Across America

See it here

Thanks, Karen, for these links...

Send a vet a card

When you're writing cards and lickin' stamps this season, save one for this:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20307-5001

Dashes and Splashes

Great post today on Juan's blog.

Check out the YouTube video he uses for reference. It's a hoot, particularly if you spend a lot of time in the computer/software/digital space like I have most of my life.

I heart country music. Now I'll kill myself.

From C and the Columbia School of Journalism, there is a direct correlation between country music and people who commit suicide. Actually, Columbia just reported on the study, which actually was published in 1992 by the University of North Carolina Press and written by Steven Stack at Wayne State University (Motown!) and Jim Gundlach at Auburn University.

Common themes like marital discord and disharmony among the sexes, lyrics that promote drinking as a normal and necessary method for dealing with life's problems, and a sense of bitterness and hopelessness pervade country music.

Holy crap...and here I thought I was just tapping into the soul of america...

but i was just playing with fire.
just me and my old six-string, throwing myself on the funeral pyre
not knowing which way to turn
while the fires just burn, burn, burn...

Hmmm...yeah...that's true. Sort of. But I've always liked the way country music addresses the common experiences of American life. Like the blues and the Corvette, country music is uniquely American. It's something we all invented coming out of the American experience. And good country music, like all good music, can take you away from all the suffering that the authors seem to think puts us on the ledge or our heads in the oven.

But it's gotta be good. I've always said that a lot of country music just picks at the sore. A lot of it is really good at nailing an emotion, but then it just wallows in it. Sometimes that's good. When you're broke, either in the heart or the wallet, country music can let you know you're not alone. But good country, like good blues, nails the emotion then takes you somewhere else.

But a lot of the stuff people call country I wouldn't be caught dead listening to. I was just reading a reviewer the other day (shoot, can't remember where) who said that the big names out of Nashville are talented indeed; it takes a real talent to make something shallow sound deep. That's a lot of the crap that coming out of Nashville. Corporate-sponsored music. The Faith Hills and Toby Keiths of the world are manufactured products made and branded to appeal to a common denominator and fill large stadiums with expensive seats, eight-dollar beers, and forty-dollar t-shirts.

The really good stuff is happening where country, rock, the blues, and punk are all merging with truthful lyrics (not cliche-ridden crap about pickup trucks, drinkin', the bills not getting paid, and my broken heart) and musical passages that knock on the soul whispering to let me in.

Just the other day our paths crossed with a guy who went to school in Austin, and SXSW came up, and he confirmed my worst fears, that SXSW is really nothing more than a big corporate trade show. So where's the next SXSW? I asked. I dunno, he answered, Boulder, maybe. I can't even believe that. Where's there's money, you can't be birthing good music. It has to happen far, far on the edges of the solar system, like where comets and asteroids are born.

But, as far as suicide, I'm not so sure. Yeah, I've wallowed in it in my time, but I also think to some degree, in some weird way, that it also saved my life. It was always comforting to know that there was someone out there who had experienced the same suffering that I had. I think it kept me off the ledge as much as anything.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Playing catch-up

I'm playing catch-up in just about every aspect of my life. The songs I'm writing are about stuff that was in my head two years ago. I wish I could pull out what's in there now. I was showing Kathryn just the other night a little bit of a tune I wrote, a little three chord thing that starts with D and then goes to G and it goes back and forth like that three times then it swings over to A and it all reminds me so much of Kathryn on a swing when she was little. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, then sail away with the A.

There's another song that I wrote the music for, about George Mallory of all people, and about living life hard and to the fullest and giving it all you got. Struggling with the lyrics. Baxter has compared me to old George, saying I, too, made it to the top but died on the way down. It was more that I was left for dead, but that's neither here nor there. I've got nothing to be ashamed of. I didn't turn back. I didn't look down. I didn't lie and say I made it to the top when I didn't. I made it, was left for dead, but I gave it all I had and that's all that can be expected of us.

I'm living life again out on the fringe, simplifying my life as I go along, wanting to simplify it as much as I possibly can, and in doing so things become so clear. You don't have so many obligations and responsibilities hanging over you, forcing you to do things you don't necessarily want to do, compromising (to my way of thinking "The Big C" isn't cancer, it's compromise.) You can think and do and feel as you please. It's like hiking alone up in the mountains, with everything you need on your back and the freedom to go where you want.

Austin vs. Nashville

Well, two whole votes were unanimous: it's Austin...whoo-hoo!

Got to Go

Hey Sweet Pea ain’t there somewhere you got to be
Do you really have to sit there on that bar stool bugging the hell out of me?
Can’t you see I want to be alone just playing my guitar
Do you really think that’s too much to ask after I’ve been able to come this far?

Hey Sweet Pea ain’t there somewhere you got to be
Do you really have to rattle around in my head bugging the shit out of me?
There are so many places you could go:
There’s California, Texas, or even Mexico

Hey Sweet Pea, I’ll flip you heads or tails
Heads you win, tails I lose
I’ll even pay the bread to put you on a cruise.

Hey bartender, it hit me there’s someplace I gotta be
And it's not sitting here with Sweet Pea bugging the hell out of me
There’s so many place I could go
There’s California, Texas, and even Mexico
Hey bartender, you know it’s time for me to go.

Hey bartender I think I’ll be settling up my tab
Why don’t you keep a little extra for yourself things ain’t that bad.
And when I walk out that door I won’t be coming here no more
It’s not that I don’t like your place, it’s just I’ve just got other place I could go

There’s California and Texas I could even go to Mexico
I’ve got a little redhead waiting for me
Yeah she’s a nice little handful and pretty as can be
No, I can’t stay I’ve got so many places to go.
Yeah I’ve got so many places to go.

The Internet is changing who we are

The Internet continues to fascinate me. I truly believe it not only is changing how we live and work, it’s changing us on the inside. It’s changing who we are, and it’s getting closer to our souls. Don’t believe me, huh? No, I haven’t been drinking again.

First, understand when I say it’s getting closer to our souls that I don’t mean that’s a bad thing. It’s not like primitive people thinking a camera steals their souls, but they were on the right track, weren’t they? No, we want to get closer to our souls. We want to shed this skin, this shell, this body here. Jesus Christ understood this. JC would have been a way-cool Internet user.

Here’s the deal. The Internet…technology overall…is rewiring us. It’s hotwiring new stuff inside us. When you put your debit card in an ATM, and touch the key to do a transaction, there is a certain amount of time, only a few seconds, that we expect that transaction to take. And we all know how long that time is. That bit of time period is hotwired inside us. And if, after touching that button, those gears don’t start whirring and money doesn’t start dropping within those few seconds, we get tense. We all know about that. But if there is an emotion that we feel, in this case the anxiety of not getting our dough, and because we feel an emotion that means there’s something going on inside us.

When we’re showing pictures of our vacations, we’ll say, here’s the house we stayed in, here’s Linda on the beach, here’s the mountain we climbed. This is so everyday for us that we don’t even notice it anymore. But those pictures aren’t a house or Linda on the beach or a mountain. They’re two-dimensional pieces of paper with ink on them. They’re really old pieces of technology, and they have changed something inside us to the point were our language reflects what’s going on inside us (language is just a reflection of our thoughts, the thought has to come first before there can be language.)

When emotions and language come into play, that means there’s something going on inside.

What the f**k is with these asterisks?

I used asterisks in my previous post. We all know what f**k and s**t stand for. Blogger may let me get away with it. But the Puritanical nature in us (me??) says, ah, don't fight it.

It's colder than s**t in Boston

The weather has finally arrived that made me so depressed back in October. I love autumn, but knowing what's right behind really gets to me. Over the weekend the ice and cold hit. Death to the planet. It's cold and painful and I hate snow and cold. Sue says to me, I was born here, but you chose to move here. Good point. If it weren't for the kids I'd be long gone. Not sure where, though; that's been a burning question of late anyway. We're still trying to figure out where's best for us just in Boston for the next couple of years while my kids grow a bit more and Sue's mom settles. C at work says I don't belong on this coast, and I know from our trip to the desert (my first ever) in September that I was bitten. I always thought I'd need an ocean near me; my moon in Pisces needs that calming water. But there's something about the enormity of the desert that is the same/same as the ocean.

And Boston continues to just moulder away for us. We looked at an apartment in Somerville this weekend, and one in Harvard Square. I don't want to say Somerville is the armpit of Boston. There are some really nice parts of it. But a large part of Somerville over by the McGrath Highway and Broadway and Main is like a rotted molar that needs pulling. The Harvard Square apartment was $1,500 for something so small it was almost ridiculous. Gorgeous, and location, location, location. It would have been cheaper and more cost-effective to become homeless and live on the streets of Cambridge if we so sorely desired the location.

Again, after almost thirty years of living here, more and more I get it why people are leaving Massachusetts in droves. The weather sucks. It is too damn expensive. When your rent is over half your monthly income, it starts to remind you of the stories of the Soviet Union where a pair of shoes costs a month's wage. Who can afford to live here? Who would want to, because frankly, it's not that great of a city.

Yesterday was Sue's birthday, and we ended up spending it at my house where I cooked lamb chops, probably better than we ever could have gotten them from spending a fortune dining out. I was looking for something special to do, and like I've said, everything was been there/done that. At one point I was considering buying tickets to the Neil Young concert at the Orpheum for seats in the last row of the balcony on the far house right for $230.00. If the woman who was selling them on Craigslist didn't stiff me, I still would have backed down. Sue and I are pouring every penny we have into a travel fund. Neil Young is an all-time favorite of both of ours, but the way Sue and I can live and scrape, $230 would go a long way in Poland.
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