Friday, February 29, 2008

Steve Earle's coming to the Somerville Theater tonight

Okay, I have to blog about this and fast because there is a Very Important Meeting I have to attend.

Steve Earle is playing tonight at the Somerville Theater and Sue and I wouldn't miss this for the world. This is where life and art and music come together, and give you a little insight in how all this shit is connected.

Yeah, I'm a little juvenile when it comes to my music. I'm still like a teenager when it comes to me and music. I never left the, "It's my life, man" stage. It conjures up things inside of me like nothing else does. I know I’m not alone on this in this world. There are other people who are passionate about music and experiences that so many talented people in this world share with us.

When I heard Steve Earle's Washington Square Serenade album, and starting studying up on his life and career, I thought to myself, what the?--this could be me. Well, except I don't have his talent and fame and money. That's what separates me from the stalkers.

But I was at a point in my life where I just wanted to leave where I was, leave everything behind, and this country boy decided to move to the city. Just like Steve.

I was somewhere where it was never my home. And I was hanging around people who really weren’t my friends. I mean, they weren’t horrible. It’s not like they were crack dealers. Maybe worse. They just didn’t care one damn way or another about me. Not caring is worse, I think, than anything. It's like you know a relationship is over when the fighting stops. Fighting at least shows that a person cares about something. Not caring. Apathy. It's death.

And darned if I didn't have an old dog on the floorboards and a pretty redhead by my side when I skeedaddled, too. (Guys just really dig redheads.)

And way back when I was just so full of it, too. And if that didn't seem to be ole Steve coming into Nashvlle, Guitar Town, ready to kick some ass.

Well I gotta keep rockin' while I still can
Got a two pack habit and a motel tan.

Shit, that's still me.

And then he got to Nashville and just pretty much rebelled against everything he found there. Never was his home. But look at what he did there. You find yourself somewhere where you don’t belong, and you’re just screaming, hey, it doesn’t have to be this way. And people are calling you crazy and stupid and a whole lot of other names.

And it just keeps coming. Lord, I don’t know how he came up with Day’s Aren’t Long Enough; it’s such a chick song, but dang, he’s in love and that does some pretty weird things to men. Makes some of us get all sappy.

But I mean, look at those two. And listen to Allison Moorer. What a sweet voice she has.

And Sue (that pretty redhead) and Bob (the dog) and I moved to the city so we could just jump on a train and take advantage of stuff on the city. Well, Bob had no idea what we were up to, he just knew something was up. But Washington Square Serenade is all about change, or maybe change is one of its major themes.

And now this has to end because Sue just called me and she's in the lobby and we're getting on the subway and going to hear some really good music that's all about our lives together, and that, my friends, is like the coming of a comet, or the total eclipse of the sun.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wide Open Spaces

It's so hard being a parent. Letting go. Standing back. Watching.

And I missed so much of my kids' lives, so now when I see my kids spreading their wings it just tells me how much is gone. But I keep telling them I want them to grow up. I want them to experience life and learn about life and learn how to live life.

My only feeble defense for the things I've done in the past and the choices I've made is that I feel you teach you kids how to live their lives by living your own. I think the big mistake my generation as parents have made is giving up their entire lives for their kids. Giving up everything to drive them to soccer games and ballet lessons and hockey practice. Giving up their own dreams and aspirations for their kids.

But, the day my oldest left for college I was playing the Dixie Chicks in the car. Playing? I was blasting them. And this song aways brings tears to my eyes. Because it just nails what it means to be young and starting out on your life, or conversely, it acknowledges to a parent that a part of their life is over.

But even harder is supporting your kid in something she wants to do that you wouldn't choose. Someone I know actually had this conversation with her son:

Mom: What do you want to do? You have to choose.

(So he chooses.)

Mom: That's the wrong choice.

What the hell does that teach him? Except lie to his mother?

Your kids are going to live their own lives; you can't live them for them. And now, my youngest is choosing to do the one thing I thought she wouldn't do. She's choosing not to play on her school softball team. Instead, she's working on the semi-formal committee. (And playing volleyball, but that's something else entirely. Volleyball is really cool; I had no idea until I started watching it.)

The semi-formal committee? She's helping choose a theme for a dance. A color-scheme. It wouldn't have been my first choice.

Last year she was the Defensive MVP on the freshman team. I coached her all through town ball, from the time her first glove was about the size of my hand. We sat on a bench together when we didn't live together. We had that time to ourselves. She has talent. And I thought she loved the game. But now she said it's not any fun anymore. (Well, going 0 for whatever last season doesn't help.)

I tell her she has talent and she should use it. But then I think: it's her life. She's going to live it the way she wants. And I have no right to tell her how to live it. The one thing I can do is support her 100% in whatever she wants to do. After all, she was eight years old and stood by me...eight years old...when adults were jumping ship like rats.

She's quite a kid. She's quite a person.

So, I guess the best thing to do is give her her wide open spaces to move.

Solar-powered, and proud of it

I was sitting in meeting just awhile ago, just before five, feeling pretty good, and while it may have been the Heineken I was drinking (the great thing about working in an agency is they're not all uptight about alcohol) but I think it was suddenly I realized it was late in the afternoon and the sun was still shining.

I am so solar-powered. I don't know for the life of me what I'm doing living in this neck of the woods except that both my kids live in New England.

So, we're riding our little space ship, it just whizzing along at 12,000 miles per second (you'd think our hair would get blown back, wouldn't you?), and while we're hitching a ride on it the way Lu the parakeet hitches a ride on Bob, the wonder Aussie, it's just going along in its groove, which is what Einstein figured out gravity was anyway, not caring one way or another about Iraq or Clinton or Obama or nothing.

And that's why you gotta love science and physics so much. They just don't care.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Carrie Newcomer

I'm always digging for new music. Rounder, it seems, is pushing out some of its artists. You see it in magazines. Web sites. Suddenly you start seeing the same names, ads, records. I mean, Steeldrivers and Amanda Shaw suddenly show up on big pretty pages in No Depression, and on the site for their Rounder Records sing-a-long or whatever it is their marketing people brainstormed.

I just don't go for that bluegrass sound though. And I didn't think No Depression did, either. But that's fuel for another blog.

There's a big PR machine at work out there. With YouTube and every other rich media site, what's a poor musician to do?

But Rounder and Gather also were pushing Carrie Newcomer. And not to diss Steeldrivers or Amanda Shaw, Newcomer soars above them all.

Beautiful voice. Deep, poetic, beautiful, thoughtful lyrics. Her site's pretty cool, too. Simple, and you learn a lot about her, which is so cool. You can hear her songs on her new album, The Geography of Light. You can watch videos of her playing a bit of each song, then explaining where she got the idea for the song.

I love knowing what's going on inside the singer. I want to know where they came from. Where their ideas come from. And while it seems that a lot of Newcomer's muse is rooted in the Lord (well, hell, she is from Indiana, what do you expect?) like the Bible her songs don't have to be taken that way. Just like a good Bible story, you can say, wow, that's a nice little story. Or you can say, oh, that's what it means!

A favorite download is Where You Been. Sounds like a song about a good friend. But she explains she wrote it because she began wondering where great prophets come from.

Here's a bit of text from her:

I come to expect holiness in unexpected places and that it is best not to limit where and within whom we look for the Sacred. A true compassionate and radical love has always been counter culture. Hope has always been an audacious act of belief in the possibility for something better. As Jim Wallis and others have stated, “We are the prophets we’ve been waiting for.

So, knowing that, here are the lyrics:

He was driving in to Chicago in a borrowed El Camino,
On a hazeless day in springtime I think the Cinco De Mayo.
Maybe it was St Paddy's Or the Gay Pride parade,
But I've never seen nobody light up the street that way.

Chorus:Brother/ Sister where you been? Hold on if you can.
Just do your best then
say, “Amen.”

Called in sick and spent the weekend, drinking St Paulies in Wisconsin.
I'd been fishing with my buddies most of Sunday afternoon.
And there beneath the halo of the Old Milwaukee sign,
He said, There's big ones in the shallows I see them all the time.


I stopped into the Seven-Eleven, I was buying an Aquafina.
He was wearing knock-off sneakers I was nursing a hangover.
He said, “You're worth a lot more baby than you've ever dared to dream of.”
Like he knew all the secret sketchy places I'd been looking for love


A tall skinny guy with dread locks said they're giving' out free bagels & lox.
So I took the kids and all my plastic bags and walked the seven blocks.
There were joggers and commuters, skate board kids and Goths.
There were drunks and dogs and meter maids in that downtown vacant lot.

He said, “The universe is unfolding and the center still is holding,
There’s enough if we just share it, now ya'all don't forget to pass the basket.
Blessed are all the good hearted, the poets and the dreamers,
And all us crazy holy hungry ones who believe in something better.”


I saw Jesus on talking shop, with Buddha at the Starbucks,
I saw Gia and Ganesh, doing double Dutch in the park,
And Mohammad was throwing popcorn to the pigeons and the sparrows.
And all us crazy holy hungry ones still believe in something better,


Pretty cool, huh?

Nothing was hurt...just feelings

This is a comment I heard today in passing. Of course it was meant as a joke. A glib witticism. The person who said it is known for his glib witticisms, and even if he weren't people would still laugh at his jokes because he's a Big Boss.

Anyway, I can get away with not laughing because I'm so low on the totem pole no one notices when I don't laugh.

But I didn't think it was funny.

Here's why...

This happened to someone I barely know. Let's say a friend of a friend. A woman. She was seeing this guy. For long enough. They were doing the back and forth thing, on again, off again, but it was pretty much clear they were together. But the one thing, as she worded it, they weren't intimate. Hmmm...

Still. I mean, she was really working here. Her heart was in it.

But things suddenly didn't bode well. Something he said. The way he said it. So one night she, thinking maybe she should start looking at her options, went back on to, and...

Yep. There he was.

That sucks. Imagine how she felt. What you're imagining are hurt feelings. We can't see them. But they still hurt the same way as a physical body part.

And I want someone to tell me what's the difference between him doing that, and him just taking his open hand and slapping her across the face? Because they both hurt the same.

Answer: The difference is as a society we've reached the point where physical assault is against the law, but as a species we haven't reached the point where we acknowledge that physical pain and emotional pain are the same and that there is something that we can't see but is as real as an arm or a leg and can be hurt the same way as any other body part. So while someone can get arrested and prosecuted for physically hurting someone, it's open season on emotions and feelings.

Men do this. Women do this. Cowards do this shit all the time because they know they can get away with it. They don't hold themselves to a higher standard. I fucking hate cowards. And retards who can't attend to their personal relationships maturely, like adults.

That's why I didn't think it was funny. What the Big Boss said.

Tammy Wynette: Tonight My Baby's Coming Home

You gotta admit, they don't make songs like this anymore:

Last night he called from Dallas he was havin' a beer at the Crystal Palace
He said honey you won't be alone for long
I got to make just one more stop to pick up a ring in Little Rock
And I'm gonna head this semi straight for home

Fourteen wheels a whinin' four big headlights shinin'
Him and that semi been away too long
Hope he don't get stop from speedin' cause I've got everything he's needin'
Waitin' for him right here at home

He's got that big ole engine singin' singin' my favorite song
And I know he's headin' my way rollin' down the highway
Tonight my baby's comin' home

[ guitar ]

Ten thousand miles I've missed him it's been a week since I kissed him
And forty truckstops since I held him tight
A million chicks and he can get 'em they wanna make love and he won't let 'em
The only thing he wants he'll get tonight
He's got that big ole engine singin'...

And I know he's headin' my way rollin' down the highway
Tonight my baby's comin' home
And I know he's headin' my way rollin' down the highway
Tonight my baby's comin' home

Jerry Reed can't play his own songs

Whenever I get frustrated playing the guitar, whenever I get someone telling me that "this is the right way to do it," I always, quite arrogantly I have to say, remind myself that SRV couldn't read music, and Willie Nelson always did it his own way, the right way be damned.

Then there's Jerry Reed. Listen to what Chet Atkins admirably says about Reed. He can't even play his own songs. And watch Reed just try to hang on to Atkins playing one of his own songs.

Missing what you got

Woke to an emptiness today.

Sue stayed on the Cape last night, and while the evenings used to be hard (evening vs. the night, when the day is dead and ghosts and demons stalk the world) the evening was easy. It had been a long hard day at work, and the quiet of the apartment was soothing. And it's so easy to fall on old habits. Walk in, crack a beer, pick up a guitar, sit on the floor and start strumming. Soon Bob plops down near me with a harumph, and we just sit together. I swear I'm going to take care of my health, but I end up eating a few cookies, a slice of cheese, a piece of leftover chicken, and then some leftover salad. Once you look at it, it's not a bad meal overall, just not all at one sitting.

It's waking to emptiness that's hard. And I had that sudden jolt of what life would be like without Sue. Waking every morning like that. And, to paraphrase Kathryn Hepburn in On Golden Pond when she told Henry Fonda that she visualized him laying in his casket and he asked what it was like, she said, not good.

I woke and lied there for awhile, and because I hate feeling sorry for myself I just pushed myself out of bed. The animals followed me. Bob, surprisingly. He used to just lay in bed until I called him for his breakfast, but now that Sue and I moved in together he's back to getting up with everyone else. I guess he's afraid he'll miss something. Maybe we'll move again and not tell him. The kids' cat follows me around, but after a week of him pushing between my legs and getting kicked, he keeps a distance until his dish is filled, then he eats.

There's just no substituting for a person you love. No matter how much you try to fill up the emptiness, it just doesn't work. I put on a CD, the Dixie Chicks, and Lu starts singing. Sue loves that little bird, and so does Bob. Maybe Bob realizes how much Lu means to Sue, so he gives her special attention, because Bob loves Sue so much. Don't ever underestimate the feelings of an animal. And I never thought I'd be saying it, but it's the cutest thing to see Lu hopping around with Bob following her around like a big, slobbering Balou the bear. He has a tough little swaggering friend who likes him; you can see it.

Lu. Now we have a guitar and a bird named after Lucinda Williams, and I can't believe how Sue has taken to Lucinda. And how Lu has taken to country music. Sorry, darling, I say to Sue, I don't mean to corrupt the critters, but I think you have a hillbilly bird on your hands. I know, you expect them to grow up one way, but darnit if they just don't do what they want anyways.

I knew I wanted Sue when way back she left for awhile and just like this morning I saw what life would be without her. I didn't need her. I could survive. Lord knows I had survived enough. But I wanted her. Life would be a whole lot better with her. And there was that night I made that infamous phone call, asking, could you just tell me how long it is you don't want to talk to me so I can pace myself? I guess it was the mixture of arrogance and desperation and how I was just downright pathetic that instead of getting mad she just busted out laughing, and I knew she was doubled over the way she does when she's really laughing. Some other woman would have let her pride get in the way, her temper, but Sue and I knew we liked each other so what was the point of fighting or letting our egos get in the way? Life's too short.

It would have been so nice if we had met and I had shown up at her door on our first date with roses and candy. Been all starry-eyed. Though when I first laid eyes on her I turned around real fast so she wouldn't see me with my mouth hanging open. A mutual friend for the longest time kept telling both of us about the other one, and at the time neither of us was interested. But once I met her I could see there was something there. There definitely was something there.

But it wasn't like the movies at first. Once you think about it, who would want that anyway? The start of things are never that smooth. People have to work things out, especially when you're our age and you've lived a life or two in that time. I'm divorced with two kids and she's never been married or had kids. She's lived all over the world, and I've been pretty much tied to this area because of family. I've been flat on my back a time or two, and Sue doesn't know too much about something like that. It's just knowing what you want and recognizing who the other person is, what kind of person they are, and just working towards what you want is what people should do. It really isn't that hard when you think about it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Good movie.

Great book.

Isn't that the way it usually goes? The movie is never as good as the book. That's the way it is for me, at least.

I think it's for two reasons. First, the nature of my brain. I love to read and imagine my personal idea of the characters and the place. Once it's on the screen, it's not yours.

And I think the second reason is the nature of books vs. film. Books can do certain things that film can't. And vice versa. Books let your imagination work. Like I just said before. Film can show things on a big wide screen with sound coming out of surround-sound that, if your brain actually did work like that would scare the bejesus out of you.

But the thing about the movie, it didn't quite nail the actual story. And the movie left out two key characters, the sheriff and the little run-a-way Llewlyn picks up and rides around with and with whom he eventually gets killed.

Wait a minute, you say. The sheriff was in the movie. Yeah, but in the book, the reader is inside the mind of the sheriff the whole time. So much of the character was missing he might as well have not been there. That opening monologue of the sheriff's is just about the sheriff through the whole book. And old Tommy Lee didn't quite get this character right. He was still doing that guy from Men in Black. The sheriff wasn't that stoic, nor was he that condescending to his deputy.

Of course, the deputy, and Carla Jean's mother were both reduced to comic relief, which really stuck out in the movie.

And ole Llewlyn and Carla Jean were cleaned up a bit for the movie. In the book, they're real trailer trash, and that's what makes them so appealing. They are so in love (muskrat love) and that Llewlyn could get as far as he could against Chigurh sets him apart. He's really the good guy.

And Javier Bardem nailed Chigurh. No doubt, he deserved the Oscar.

Of course, God is in the details. Great character portrayals by Gene Jones as the gas station attendant, Kathy Larkin as the trailer park manager, and Richard Jackson as the chicken farmer.

So, as the Asians say, same/same but different.

The doldrums

I think it's just that time of year. Out in the ocean there are the doldrums. There are the horse latitudes. We get February. You just feel sluggish. Unmotivated. There's a ton of work to do and it takes an extraordinary amount of effort just to push through it.

I'm feeling like shit. Nothing new. Nothing breaking free, soaring away from all this drudgery. And the more you get mired in this muck the harder it is to break free. I need a good long, long vacation a long way away from the commercial world where the total focus of our efforts is to entice people to spend their money on stuff.

Drunken Angel

It's a question I've asked myself so many times...though I'm no angel.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday morning after the snowstorm

Sat at my window
Watched the world wake up before me

It snowed all day yesterday and into the night. The apartment is so big and old and the house built so strong that when a storm rages outside you don't know it. You can't feel it or even hear it. Not like my old apartment. I would have been freezing. I would have been like being in a tiny boat at sea. Here, it's like being in a big, old solidly built wooden ship.

And this morning the neighborhood is still so quiet. It's always so quiet here. The most you hear is the Red Line going by periodically down the hill on Newport Avenue. Or you can hear the upstairs neighbor's TV, barely. A good eight inches fell last night. And the light filled the apartment this morning as I made coffee and fed Bob and the kids' cat who's visiting while my daughter is in Florida, and picking up my guitar I quietly strummed it because that was the right way to play it in the quiet.

An older man across the street snow-blowed his sidewalk, the puny whine was all I could hear. And I'm sure he's proud of his snow-blower, even though it wasn't that big. In the city tools like that tend to be smaller. You see a lot more little pickups, smaller-sized snow blowers and lawn mowers. Nature just seems to be pushed to the wings here. But she's still here. Standing on the subway platform in the morning, the inboound platform faces east, and the wind off the ocean just knifes through your skin. And I think, I bet this is going to feel good in the summer, but right now this hurts.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Twenty some years and counting

It's the weekend. That's what you say after a long week and a long Friday and you're one of the last at the office because it is Friday and it's been snowing all day so people have been slipping out bit by bit but you couldn't because of your workload. But it's a good feeling to have gotten so much done this week, and it's not even a bad feeling to be one of the last ones here. It's quiet, and the office does offer a certain degree of comfort. It's comfortable because it's known.

I've been doing this work for a long time now. It will be 28 years this September, when I moved to Boston and opened up the Globe and saw the price of rent--even back then it was a lot; Boston's never been cheap--and realized I wasn't going to be able to support myself as photographer. So I went straight to the phone book because the Internet was still almost ten years off and looked up ad agencies because I knew I could write, knew it was the one thing I was good at and was confident I could do it, have been able to string together words like circus pony since first grade, and starting at the top of the list with the A's I started calling and got a job at Allied Advertising in Park Square.

You didn't need a degree in communications back then, all you had to do was prove you could write and you did that with a portfolio. Now they won't look at you if you don't have the right degree from the right school.

Then there was no Internet and no computers. We typed copy, handed it to a typesetter who retyped it and ran it out and then a designer cut the type out with a knife and pasted it down with hot wax. There were no fax machines, just these machines with a revolving drum that you clipped the paper to and a laser or something slowly scanned the paper and transmitted it over phone lines. I remember an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper took six minutes.

We did all our work on IBM Selectrics. There was an erasure ribbon, and you erased by positioning the type ball at the mistake and typing backwards. I could type backwards as fast as forwards.

They told us at one point that we would be getting machines where all we had to do was hit a button and send our copy to the typesetters and we all didn't like that idea.

A lot has changed, mostly in the technology. The one thing that hasn't changed is the importance of messaging and features and benefits. That's the core of the business, and no matter how you deliver the message, the message still has to mean something to the person you're talking to. I said person, no people or demographic or demo or audience. Pull up one person in your head who wants to buy the product pretend you're talking to him or her one on one.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Broken, but not destroyed

When you're picking up the pieces, rebuilding every part of your life, it's like picking up the pieces after your home was demolished by a tornado.

You try to put things back together the way they were, but that's not possible. Some things are completely destroyed. Some things that you loved but there's no getting them back. You mourn. You grieve. And you get over it, sorta. But every so often, when you're quiet and a lot of times when you least expect it, it rises up again inside you and in public you stifle some tears. You sigh. And you remember what you did just recently to pick yourself up again, and that's what you do.

And then there are things that you can put back together but they're just not the same. A once-beautiful vase is all glued back together, but the cracks are there and it's just not as smooth and beautiful as before. But it's there, whole.

You keep what you can, save what you can, and sometimes you just tough it up and throw things out.

Some things should have been thrown away a long time ago.

But the one thing you do is get rid of what destroyed your house in the first place, however you choose to do that. Move out of Tornado Alley. Or like the smart little pig, rebuild your house with bricks, to protect yourself the best you can.

And, if you're like me, you find yourself back where you started. And it's a little freaky. And, if you're like me, you wonder if you're getting a second chance at something you should have done in the first place. Do you find yourself at the same square one because that's where you were supposed to be in the first place? Do you find yourself there because that's where you were supposed to be and until you get it right you're going to find yourself going back there until you do get it right?

Almost thirty years ago I was in the same place. A copywriter at an ad agency. Living in the city. With a woman, a social worker, no less, who has the same ideas and hopes and dreams of the way a life should be lived and shared. In a big funky apartment in an old house in a beautiful old neighborhood. As then, we're embarking on a life that includes travel and music and books. It's filling up with an odd collection of furniture. There are as many bookcases as there are chairs. Actually, bookcases outnumber the chairs about three to one.

A comfortable old kitchen where good food will be made, because food is like love, and you share it and enjoy it together and with family and friends. And we see something very beautiful in an old wok hanging among the other pots. Or an old cast iron skillet. As a matter of fact, there's something beautiful about those pots, their beauty is in the utilitarian thing that they do. And they even make a beautiful noise, like wind chimes, when you pull one off the wall. And there's even something elegant in the setup of the kitchen, that lets you move smoothly from the worktable where a glass of wine sits, to the stove, to the fridge.

And we treasure music and books. And conversation. The rooms are set up so people can sit and talk and enjoy one another, filled with light and music and plants. We're looking for old Orientals to cover the floor. Funky old lamps that don't match.

And while I wasn't able to raise a family in a apartment like this, maybe I can finish what's left of raising my two daughters. They both love the place, and like to come there, so maybe we can share where our lives have taken us there. And maybe, just maybe, what was destroyed in their lives, they may find there. Maybe a bit broken and cracked, but not destroyed.

Let's the dance, the Huck dance

As C said, it just keeps getting worse.


Check out this video of Clinton. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. And I'd hate to meet the person this vid is targeted at.

I don't do cute and nice.

But good lord, who's the target here? Some woman locked back in 1965, wearing one of those blonde flip hairdos, driving some big car with wings on the back, pearls around her neck.

It certainly is a strange country.

Manna from heavens

God takes care of the little birds in the field. What makes you think he won't take care of you?

One of my favorite little stories in the bible. I remember when my mom was alive she accused me of being a heathen, of not believing in God, probably the worst thing she could ever imagine a human being doing, even beyond murder, and I hit her with that quote.

I'm not any kind of evangelist, right-wing Christian, or anything like that, but I've read enough of the Bible to know that there are some great stories in there, and some really good messages on how to live our lives. Obviously I don't take it completely literal. That little message tells us we're all on someone's A list, and when you're feeling pretty down, that little bit of knowledge just may keep you breathing.

And it was more of a joke that this popped into my head this morning because I was so hungry and tired and was racing around home trying to get out of the house, feed critters, shower (but not shave), get garbage out of the house to the curb, that I didn't eat and I was so hungry, and when I went for a cup of coffee here at work there were free bagels over on the kitchen table. I thought of Moses and Jews in the desert and manna dropped out of the sky. Today, manna dropped out of the sky for me.

Not a big deal. Not a miracle. Just a nice little happening that changes the day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A big question

They say if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.

Well, there's busy, and then there's flat out, I don't even have time to shit busy. And usually that last one isn't good busy.

That's me.

There's so much that rattles around in my head on any given day, and being a writer since as long as I can remember--it's the one thing I knew, even as a child, that I could do and loved to do--writing is the one thing that I'm driven and obsessed to do.

But today it ain't gonna happen. And that makes for a very frustrating day for me. It seems the busier I get at work, the more I blog. Or write in my journal.

There are other creative outlets, but I've shut the door on a lot of them. I've said it time and time again on this site, but my life just crumbled. Just imploded. It was demolished. And so much is new for me, and there's so much of me that wonders if I ever want to go back to any part of my old life. Friends. Pursuits.

Just the other night I auditioned for a part in a full-length play for the second time in over two years. And I did great. I didn't get the part, but the director wrote me a nice note saying why she didn't cast me. And I believe her. I can still act. The question is, do I want to still act? Or more specifically, do I want to act around here, in the Boston area? Yes, that big question lies directly on a lot of people who I may run into when I make the rounds of the theaters. And you know, there are a lot of people who I wouldn't care if I never saw them again. And maybe they feel that way about me, I don't know.

Do it for the audience, I'm told. Other people say, do it for yourself. If you give in, they've won.

You know, I've never been one to keep score, and have always felt this world is big enough for most of us. When I've walked away from things I've usually found something else.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Little Conversation

The little conversation
Is over very soon
And I watch in admiration
From my corner of the room.
They shine on you with starry eyes...
They rain a friendly storm.
Like kids around a christmas tree
And then you smile all nice and warm

The little conversations
If I tried my very best
You know I never could say anything
In twenty words or less.
Somewhere, sometime, down the line
Someday I may confess,
And spill it all. thats all

The little conversations
On me are very rough
They leave me all in pieces
You know theres never time enough
Like a book with missing pages
Like a story incomplete
Like a painting left unfinished
It feels like not enough to eat.

These little conversations
Well for me theyll never do
Now what am I supposed to do with
Broken sentences of you?
Ill stay in my corner `cause
Thats all that I can do
And let the others speak for me.
Little conversations
Are we.

One of these days we'll buy the (funny) farm

There's a nice little twist, isn't it?

Life gets better, and then you feel so guilty complaining.

The money would be pretty good
If a quart of milk were still a dollar
Or even if a quart of milk were still a quart

Boston is a hard town to live in. Everything is so expensive. So much more expensive than the rest of the country. And please don't throw New York or San Francisco in my face. That's two places out of the rest of the entire country.

The weather is hard. Little things just wear you down. Nothing ever goes perfectly, not that it probably would any other place. The people are just nasty. Mean.

Sue's lived all over the world, and not to put words in her mouth, but she's said when she got back to the states about four years ago, she saw how uptight and angry people always are, and she swore she'd fight it, but you can't. There are days she wants to move back to Thailand for the rest of her life.

But, this is life and this is where we are. Slowly, and now more rapidly, things are taking shape...the kitchen, the living room, life...

About seven years ago, and then the ensuing years, I described myself as a human World Trade Tower. My life just collapsed. (And ironically, it was me at the controls of the plane.)

It take a long time and a tremendous amount of energy, not to mention money, to clear away the rubble and rebuild a life. And sometimes I think, life is short. It's gotta be easier somewhere else. That's the dreamer American working here. American's always are on the move. It's in our nature. To just pick up and leave. Go somewhere and start over. We have dreams, and how many American books, movies, and plays are based on broken dreams?

My daughter said I'm always searching for something. She's right. I'm a seeker. I know that. The trouble with seekers is, we don't know what we're looking for. We're like dogs, always sniffing around. But it's what we do. It's how we are. We can't be any other way. And the feeling is, we don't know what we're looking for, but when we find it, we'll know it.

But yes, I knew it, but I do miss the country.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Washington Post: The dumbing of America

Today at Thanks C.

It's nice to know someone smart agrees with me. Or I agree with them, that's probably the better way to say it.

I'm just aghast (and I guess only an elitist would come up with a word like that to describe himself) that it seems everywhere I look that people just don't think things through. All this has been said time and time again. This Washington Post reporter says the same thing, and gives some reasons for it. Mostly the affect of video. I think there's a whole lot more reasons, and I'm sure the reporter would agree with me. The bottom line is America and American's are going to hell in a handbasket because Americans simply are getting more stupid. I know that's about as simplified as I can make it, but hell, consider the audience. I have to make it as simple as that.

And what's so funny is, I don't consider myself an intellectual or an elitist. There have been certain people who have said that about me, but a lot of people have called me a lot of names. If I'm an elitist, well then I'm also a SOB and a jerk a lot of other really nasty names, too. I mean, if you accept one label, you gotta accept them all, don't you?

I've told people time and time again about myself. I'm really just a country boy. I'm a hillbilly, but be careful, I'm an educated hillbilly. Funny though, the more you tell the truth, even about yourself, the less people believe you.

Former President Bush endorses McCain

"No one is better prepared to lead our nation at these trying times than Sen. John McCain," Bush said.

Well, who got us into these trying times in the first place but his son?

I've never understood endorsements. I couldn't care less which famous person or politico thinks should be president or senator or even dog catcher, for that matter. I couldn't care less which bar of soap some movie star thinks I should clean my ass with, or which truck or car I should drive. I can make up my own mind, thank you very much.

Can people really be led by the nose like that? Are they really sheep? Or is it that famous/powerful people are that egotistical that they believe they really do hold sway over people?

I think the answer is, sadly, yes, there is a significant part of the population that couldn't walk out the door in the morning without Oprah telling them what book to read, or who to vote for for president.

I think about 90% of the population is just waiting for the other 10% to tell them what to do. They're that dumb, lazy, or insecure.

Sad, but I think it's true.

President's Day and the MBTA

Today is President's Day, and that means the T runs on the Saturday schedule. Which means fewer trains running farther apart. I don't understand the T. I still have work. Lots of other people have to work. I think their logic is, fewer people need the T, so we don't have to work as hard.

But for the people who still need it, it's not a holiday schedule. It's still real life. Me and a whole lot of other people were standing on a wind and rain-swept platform this morning, patiently waiting to go to work.

That's the problem with the T. It truly isn't service-oriented. It's fiscally driven. And that's such an antiquated way of looking at business. It's like retail, and look what's going on in retail right now. More and more retail organizations are having their lunches handed to them because the consumer is getting more sophisticated. More savvy. More demanding.

But the T just keeps making people grind their teeth.

The T is a lot like your average human being. It's there for you when times are good, when it's sunny and life is good. But when you really need it, when the chips are down, you really can't depend on it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A train to South Station

Yay! My daughter is on the train and I'll see her in about a half hour.

I hate hearing about parents who've deserted their kids. Fathers get a bad rap; mostly for being deadbeat dads, but ask Sue, mothers can be just as bad as fathers. They run. They are just as abusive as men. Only different.

I hate hearing parents yell at their kids or complain about them. I haven't lived with my kids for seven, going on eight years. And there are so many times I question if I did the right thing. I hung on in the marriage for so long with the kids. But then people say it's not right for kids to see a bad marriage. It gives them a bad model.

But then I think of all the things I could have done with my kids. I make a pretty good dad. (I guess just a lousy husband.) I think about them missing out on having a father there everyday, and me being with my kids. I missed kissing their sleeping heads every night when I wasn't with them. And a while back, when I missed my kids so much, I'd sleep in my daughter's bed in my apartment, like I was holding her. Funny, and strange and a little stupid, huh?

And worst of all, it's how I left them. I left their mother for another woman, who turned out to be...well, I'm not sure what she turned out to be. But everything that came out of her mouth that caused me to leave turned out to be a lie to begin with, or she took back. It's the hardest thing in the world for me to admit that I was so dumb and so desperately alone that I actually swallowed her BS.

My kids have forgiven me, and even, I think, learned a bit about life that most kids don't learn. I've been as honest as I can with them. About loving them and missing them. I made it clear I didn't leave them, but their mother. And well, these things happen in life. Still, I wonder what they think sometimes.

But, when one of my daughters calls me, like the one did last night for Valentine's Day, or I get a text message from her, my heart just jumps. Or when I know one's on a train to come see me. I know they still love me despite who I am and what I did.

Pretty sad and silly for a Friday night, huh? But it's life. And you just have to live it, that's all.

It *is* more than a feeling

I write a lot about music and how it affects me. Music is just something that I always have to have around me. I turned it on this morning first thing when I was shaving, listened to a couple of select Lucinda Williams songs on my iPod on the subway on the way to work, and pretty much sat here at the 'puter for eight hours today with a pair of headphones on. I'll be here for a few more hours, and most of that time will be with headphones going through my playlist. Tonight I'll play guitar for a while, and when that's not happening you can bet a paycheck that the CD changer will be employed.

So, I really get it when Tom Scholz, formerly of the band, Boston, gets all upset about Mike Huckabee using his song, More Than a Feeling at a couple of campaign events. Scholz says playing the song implies he's endorsing Huckabee, something it seems he's adamantly opposed to.

Huckabee's camp got all weird with its response, saying Huckabee plays Sweet Home Alabama, but that doesn't mean Lynyrd Skynyrd endorses Huckabee. LS hasn't responded. John Mellencamp feels the same way about McCain playing Our Country and Pink House at campaign stops. Mellancamp said knock it off, and McCain wisely complied.

You know, music does have this mystical something that stirs us inside. You play, well...More Than a Feeling might stir me to leave the room, but other songs are just hot-wired to parts of my cerebellum. It starts with notes and leads to rhythms and tones, which do lead to a feeling, but then there's more after that. There are events and images and it's all a helluva lot like the Matrix and I can't explain it but it's there. You play Bonnie Tyler singing It's a Heartache and I can tell you where I was and how I was feeling when I first heard it. You play Stevie Nicks doing the same song, and it's completely different.

And all of these candidates know this. They are so much smarter than they come across. That's the sneaky part about all of them. They purposely dumb themselves down for the electorate, working their collective asses off to prove to voters that they are just common folk. Just one of them. And they do this by branding. No different from detergent or toothpaste. And they do it the same way ad agencies brand. The SOBs are sneaky in that way. It is like an endorsement. It's all part of the package.

But that's the part that so many of these candidates don't get. They aren't like us. Not like me at least. And music and the environment and public transportation and low taxes and just regular old folk are a very real, tangible part of my everyday life. But to these jokers all that stuff are just issues.

Scholz is right. Mellancamp is right. Don't mess with music.

Little Angel, Little Brother

Sometimes a song just touches you. It doesn't necessarily mean you identify 100% with a song, but there's always something. This is a wistful song for me. Maybe I always wanted s sister who thought of me like this. (Can you imagine having Lucinda Williams as a sister? Now there's a truly weird fantasy.)

I have two sisters, one who I haven't seen since I was around 12 years old, the other one I haven't spoken to in about six years. That's my family for you, or what goes for a family. I'm not blaming any of them. It's just the way we are. They can say the same thing about me, I guess. But I hate it. My dad left us all pretty much alone in the world, and unfortunately, I think I did it to my own kids. Parents just pass along what they know. And it's so hard to change. It's hard to live life a different way than what you're taught. What you know.

I've learned in life that you can have dreams, and dreams can come true, but you have to be able to distinguish between dreams and reality. And sometimes too much dreaming just means you're sleeping.

Your R & B records your music books
Your sense of humor and your rugged good looks
I see you now at the piano
Your back a slow curve
Playing Ray Charles and Fats Domino
While I sang all the words
Little angel little brother
Your bad habits and your attitude
Your restless ways and your solitude
I see you leaning your lanky frame
Just inside the door
A figure behind the kitchen screen
Staring down at the floor
Little angel little brother


Little angel little brother
Your passion for Shakespeare and your paperbacks
Your chess pieces and your wisecracks
I see you sleeping in the car
Curled up on the back seat
Parked outside of a bar
An empty bottle at your feet
Little angel little brother
Your R & B records your music books
Your sense of humor and your rugged good looks
I see you now at the piano
Your back a slow curve
Playing Ray Charles and Fats Domino
While I sang all the words
Little angel little brother
Little angel little brother of mine

Grin and bear it

It's just a little after 11:00 on a Friday, and I just said to anyone within earshot that I could already use a beer. I'm not sure people quite felt too comfortable with my comment. I think sometimes the best thing for me to do at work is just keep real still and not attract too much attention.

Sometimes work is just work. It's not fun, it's not rewarding, it's just hard and uncomfortable. A lot of time with our jobs, we basically exchange our life, our time, for money so we can spend it on the things we want. In my case, almost every red cent of my money goes to necessities: rent, child support, utilities, food. So, a lot of my life is just grinning and bearing it...or is it baring it...I've never been sure on that one.

But it's almost the weekend, and that means my daughter will be coming over tonight, and other friends may or may not stop in this weekend, and there's always Sue's and my spirit of adventure to keep us going. We might just fire up the truck and go shopping for antiques or that workbench we want for the kitchen.

It seems lately I just live for the weekends, and muddle or suffer through the weeks. Not the way my life used to be, but there are so many aspects of my life now that aren't what they used to be.

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.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day 364 days a year

Well, today we're all supposed to get out there and prove our love by supporting Hallmark and buying overpriced roses and doing over the top things like sky-writing a marriage proposal over a major American city. (Surrender Dorothy.)

Candy is nice.

Godiva is very impressive.

Some guys think fancy lingerie is a good idea to give a woman...

...but everyone knows it's really a present meant for him.

I'm tired of the whole idea, myself. I'm tired of wondering if Sue and I are supposed to do something. We both have the same instincts, so why did we both wonder if we should do something? And if we decide we're not going to do anything, why don't people really believe us when we say we don't need a special day to prove we love each other? Oh yeah, right, is the attitude we get. Sure. Wink, wink.

Are her co-workers wondering if there's trouble in paradise because a dozen roses didn't show up at the front desk? So many woman play that one-up game. My ring's bigger than yours. My house is bigger than hers. I have a fur coat. They're things, darlin's. They're not love.

Or what do people say because I didn't buy Valentines in time and lick a stamp to send to my daughters? Bad father. No account, anyway. Knew it all along. What do you expect?

I'll tell you, Valentine's Day is like New Year's Eve, which I've always hated, too. You're supposed to be so happy and jovial, and it seems all I've ever seen is people talking too loud and drinking too much.

And I haven't always been in love on Valentine's Day, and it's just as hard to be sweet and kind as it is to be happy and jovial. When you're not.

I'll tell you when I've been in love. I've been in love first thing in the morning and out of the fog I realize Sue's lying next to me. And it's real.

Or we split up in the grocery story and then I round an aisle and see her there and my heart gives a little jump and she turns and smiles at me and I know she's mine.

I'm in love when I'm in the kitchen and I can hear her blow drying her hair.

I'm in love when I realize that somebody like Sue actually did fall in love with me, and there were days when I was feeling pretty far down that knowing that made all the difference. (Well, at least Sue loves me, I'd think.) Because Lord knows I'm no prize. And I know there aren't enough things in the world I can do or buy to equal that. And it's just like free-falling.

I know I've got it good, because Lord knows I've seen bad. Real bad. You have no idea. (Or maybe you do.) So, Valentine's Day, for me, is every day. And I hope I show it to Sue. I know I don't always do. I'm only human. I'm only a man, a simple one at that.

Relationship Obituaries

Thanks C, for this one...If your love died a slow, painful death, check this out.


One last one from the Cupid of Rock. From that guy who just gives life a jaded eye and fires back with his pen and that great voice of his. Gotta love his cynicism. Who hasn't felt like this? And if haven't...well, maybe good for you.

Will it really come?
And if it does come
Will I still be Human?
All I ask of you is one thing that you never do

Would you put your arms around me?
(I won't tell anyone)
Does it have to come?
All I ask of you is one thing that you'll never do

Would you put your arms around me?
(I won't tell anybody)
And what must come before ...

Oh, the pain in my arms
Oh, the pain in my legs
Ooh, my shiftless body

It's surely nearer now ?
You don't think I'll make it
I never said I wanted to!
Well did I?

Oh, the pain in my arms
Oh, the pain in my legs
Oh, yeah; oh, yeah
No, yeah; no, yeah
Through my shiftless body

All I ask of you ... oh ...

Is : would you tell me that you love me
Tell me, tell me that you love me
Tell me, tell me that you love me
Tell me that you love me!
Ah, I know you don't mean it
Ah, I know you don't mean it
Tell me, tell me that you love me
Tell me, tell me that you love me
Tell me, oh, tell me, oh
Tell me, oh, tell me, oh, tell me, oh
Tell me, oh, tell me, oh

Now My Heart is Full

Here's one for all you romantics out there...

There's gonna be some trouble
A whole house will need re-building
And everyone I love in the house
Will recline on an analyst's couch quite
Your Father cracks a joke
And in the usual way
Empties the room

Tell all of my friends
(I don't have too many
Just some rain-coated lovers' puny brothers)
Dallow, Spicer, Pinkie, Cubitt
Rush to danger
Wind up nowhere
Patric Doonan - raised to wait
I'm tired again, I've tried again, and

Now my heart is full
Now my heart is full
And I just can't explain
So I won't even try to

Dallow, Spicer, Pinkie, Cubitt
Every jammy Stressford poet
Loafing oafs in all-night chemists
Loafing oafs in all-night chemists
Underact - express depression
Ah, but Bunnie I loved you
I was tired again
I've tried again, and

Now my heart is full
Now my heart is full
And I just can't explain
So I won't even try to

Could you pass by ?
Could you pass by ?
Could you pass by ?
Could you pass by ?
Could you pass by ?
Oh ...

Now my heart is full
Now my heart is full
And I just can't explain
So ... slow ...
Slow ... slow ... slow ... slow ... slow ...

Celebrate VD with Morrissey

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all!

It's twisted sure, but who better to start this lovely, loving day with but the last of the international playboys?

Trudging slowly over wet sand
Back to the bench where your clothes were stolen
This is the coastal town
That they forgot to close down
Armageddon - come Armageddon!
Come, Armageddon! Come!

Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey

Hide on the promenade
Etch a postcard :
"How I Dearly Wish I Was Not Here"
In the seaside town
...that they forgot to bomb
Come, Come, Come - nuclear bomb

Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey

Trudging back over pebbles and sand
And a strange dust lands on your hands
(And on your face...)
(On your face ...)
(On your face ...)
(On your face ...)

Everyday is like Sunday
"Win Yourself A Cheap Tray"
Share some greased tea with me
Everyday is silent and grey

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

There's was a television writers strike??

There was a writer's strike? And this really made a difference in people's lives? People were going through withdrawal without their weekly fix of Sex in the City and Grey's Anatomy and God knows what?

What did people do? Or the real question I have is, do people actually come home from wherever, work, school, the picket line, and plop down for hours in front of the television. And enjoy it? Good Lord, that's sad.

It's coming up on one whole month Sue and I have moved, and we haven't watched one hour of television. Well, I take that back. I watched almost the entire Super Bowl while sitting on the couch and sorting literally thousands of pictures. I can't just sit and watch something. I have to do something else, usually something with my hands. But the Super Bowl was it. That's all we've watched in a month. (I also didn't watch the World Series this year. Gasp! And it was the Sox and they won. Double gasp!)

For years I had cable, but only for my daughter who liked certain shows. I was spending almost a hundred dollars on something I didn't use. It was nuts. I couldn't afford it, but I still subscribed to it. Then I came to my senses. I finally just got the standard cable. Something like twenty channels. And didn't miss a thing and my daughter didn't either.

The television, right now, is sort of jammed over in a corner between a sofa (ok, technically it's a love seat) and a bookcase. We don't know where it's going to go. We've actually talked seriously about not having out. Then we say, well, we do rent a movie now and then. But just for that it seems kind of dumb to allocate a corner of the apartment for something we hardly use. We use the blender about the same amount of time, and we keep that tucked in a cabinet under the counter. Maybe we'll just keep it in a closet and wheel it out, like they used to do with Rose Kennedy, whenever we need it.

What do we do instead of watch television? We play guitar. We sit at the table and talk and drink wine. Or beer. We read or listen to music. We go out and do something in the neighborhood, whether it's just run an errand or walk the dumb dog. I've been known to hang out in a theater or two. Or we do what the Pilgrims used to do when it got dark.

So now everyone's going back to work and soon America will have a new feed of television shows? Well, good for them. One more thing I'm missing out on.

Remind me to tell you about the microwave and dishwasher we have but don't use, too.

Beagle top dog at Westminster

Well, for the first time in a 100 years, a beagle has won the prestigious Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. And just to show I'm a good sport about this, little Uno beat out, among other breeds, a gorgeous merle Australian Shepherd.

He certainly is a cute little fella, isn't he? He kinda looks like my Uncle Bud.

Why is Congress investigating Roger Clemens and MLB??

Okay, call me dumb, but I can't figure out why Congress is spending all this time investigating drug use in major league baseball. So they call a bunch of major league baseball players up to Capitol Hill, make them swear on a bible that they'll tell the truth about things that have absolutely nothing to do with the running of the country, and then they spend a gazillion dollars and years and years investigating the fact that they lied.

Of course, I didn't understand why they had to investigate Bill Clinton's sex life either, but...As it was pointed out to me today by C, who knows so much more about this stuff than I do, Congress wasn't investigating a blow job, but actually perjury about a blow job. I guess it's not nice to lie to Mother Congress.

But C also made a really good point.

I was going on and on about how this is a good example of how government is too darn big and how it sticks its nose into people's business where it has no business. Run the country, that's what I say to Congress, and forget about drug use and sex. There already are laws about this stuff.

If it is indeed illegal for an adult to inject him or herself with HGH, then shouldn't the local gendarme be investigating it, and letting the local sheriff and DA make names for themselves?

And if it actually is a federal offense, aren't there federal law enforcement agencies to handle this stuff, too?

And if it's simply against the rules of Major League Baseball, shouldn't MLB be footing the bill and hiring goons to enforce the rules?

To which C replied, Roger Clemens couldn't get convicted by the local enforcement agency. Like OJ? I asked, thinking I was being a smart ass, when I actually was being smart. Exactly, said C.

Well, I still don't get it. It seems to me with a war and an ensuing recession coming on us, Congress has better things to do than beat up on poor fat Roger.

And wait a minute, didn't George Dubya lie about WMD and all that in Iraq? What the...? If you lie about what you shoot into your heinie you get called onto the carpet by Congress, but you lie to the American people and it's ok?

I love this effing country. I really do.

Seeing Red on the MBTA Red Line

I want to thank the MBTA for that great commute this morning. Yes, I left the Framingham commuter train for the Red Line, and I was warned. Yes, the Red Line is known for delays, I realized that. Sometimes the train will just sit in a station for a couple of minutes, but eventually it moved. But today's commute was just a mess. A normal 25-minute train ride today took 70 minutes. Switch problems in Park Street. And thanks to you, MBTA, I missed my 9:00 meeting today.

And I read in today's Boston Now that the MBTA is changing the schedules of the Worcester/Framingham trains to reflect their actual running times. God help those poor people out there. I am so glad I don't have to hoard dollar bills to pay for parking in that ridiculous Byzantine scheme where you have to fold and fold and fold again your dollars with frozen fingers then slip them in this tiny little slot in this metal box that has a number that corresponds with the number on your parking spot that you can't see when it snows because they don't necessarily do a great job plowing the lot to begin with and they painted the numbers in white anyway so you can't always tell what the number is because it blends in with the snow. Note to the geniuses in Framingham DPW: Get some red paint. Then slipping on ice and dodging over-the-ankle puddles and taking your life in your hands crossing Rte. 135 to get to the station where you don't know which side of the tracks you're supposed to stand on because the trains ran so late you didn't know if, just because it was 8:15 if the 8:00 had come through yet.

I moved to Boston in the fall of 1980 after visiting a friend in the spring. For some reason, that spring the T ran on time and the weather was just beautiful. It was a freak spring, what can I say? Now I talk to colleagues in Detroit who want to move here because they think the city is so cool and cosmopolitan (well, maybe compared to Detroit it is) but the city has long lost its glamor for me. It's fun to be back close to the city, it really is, but the bloom is definitely off the rose. Massachusetts is a drag of a state. The locals have long ago ceased to be colorful to me, and are just sort of dumb and annoying. And Boston is just full of itself. It's the most exciting game around, but that ain't necessarily saying much. It's not the international city it could be, because it doesn't seem as if anyone in City Hall cares to be. Like most of New England, it's pretty insular and parochial. Massachusetts is kind of the laughing stock of the country (hey Mitt, the country will never again elect someone into the White House from Massachusetts; I could have saved you a ton of money and time if you had just asked.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Radio Paradise

Radio Paradise when you've got mindless work to do and just need a good injection of a lot of good and different music.

A social worker's life

Last week, Diruhi Mattian, a social worker was killed by a client while making a house call in North Andover. This happened in tony North Andover. Not Boston or Brockton or even Hyannis, the heroin capital of Cape Cod, where Sue currently works.

I guess it's a lot like loving a cop, and when they walk out the door in the morning you don't know if they'll be coming back through that door later that night. If that's the last time you'll see them.

Sue has had her life threatened more than once by some really scary, nasty people. She's needed police escorts. She's been hustled out side doors of court houses after testifying against some really despicable people who shouldn't be allowed to own a dog much less take care of kids, something she does almost on a weekly basis. But these people don't get it. We're talking low lifes. We're talking people who have so horribly abused themselves that they just perpetuate the horror. For them, it's just the way life is supposed to be, and don't get why their kids are in jeopardy. It was life like that for them. What was good enough for them should be good enough for their own kids. Sexual abuse. Drugs. Alcoholism. Hey, just because my family values are different from yours doesn't mean you should take my kids away. Right. Some people think there is no such thing as right and wrong. Good and bad.

The Department of Social Services, who Sue works for, won't let its social workers carry a gun, or even pepper spray. I've said to Sue to tell the department to pound sand. Let them discipline her after she saves her own life. After she stuns some crazy person with a spray to the eyes and a kick to the crotch to keep him or her immobile. What's the department going to do?--call the police after Sue calls for help on her own cell phone, which the department demands her to carry but won't pay for?

The state puts these social workers--mostly women--into some extremely dangerous situations, and God love these people, they continue to do their jobs because if you can believe it, the majority of them actually do care about the people they work with. That's one of the things that attracted to me to Sue right off: Her heart, like mine, goes for the kids every time. Because they are so defenseless. I have no patience with adults (or people in general) who ruin other people's lives because they don't have their own lives together. Enough. You have to stop the pattern. One person's life is screwed up, and it's men and women. They don't think, they don't plan. They get drunk or stoned and whoops...a child comes into the world. A child doesn't come into the world out of an act of love. It arrives through an act of selfishness. Just someone scratching an itch between their legs. The parents don't want the kid. Never did. Some do the best they can, but their hearts aren't in it. And the way things work, they have more kids. So two screwed up people begat three and four more kids who don't have a lot of chances in their world. And guess what? There's a good chance those four kids will grow up and each kid will have four of their own. So what started out as two screwed up people, ends up as twenty.

This is Sue's world. And I don't know how she does it. Like I said, she walks out that door and I'm well-aware that might be the last time I see her. So I make her a nice lunch. Make sure she knows she's getting the last anisette cookie, so she knows she's special. And make sure she gets a kiss before she's out the door. And I tell her she's pretty. And I can't wait to see her that night. And I try to have dinner for her when she comes home, and listen to her talk about her day, just so she can get it off her chest and maybe get a good night's sleep. Just so she can do it all again the next day.

Life in a cube

Little chunks of celery bounce really far.

A worthless bit of information, maybe.

But if you find yourself in a situation where someone is holding a gun to your head and says you can have your life if you can tell him (or her) how far celery bounces in a standard corporate cube, you can thank me because you'll still be breathing.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The good life

A cup of coffee in the morning. We splurged and bought some good stuff. The light comes in through the window from over the rooftops of the neighboring houses. The night before we threw an old sleeping bag down for Bob. I threw away his old bed when I moved, the one I got for him when he was a puppy. Before that the warm lamps softened the front room, nice enough to make me almost fall asleep. I talked to my daughter and made some plans for next weekend. She'll ride the train in; I'll pick her up at South Station on my way home from work. I cooked pork ribs and saurkraut for three hours, and the apartment smelled wonderful. We made some more progress on the apartment, putting more away, hanging up some things on the wall. And we finally decided what we wanted to do in the kitchen. It happened like an epiphany. We both want a home, and sometimes we get a little anxious. There's a neighborhood townie bar, and a townie named Midge who cut my hair. She made me look good. A Chinese woman who does my shirts. A neighborhood coffee shop down the hill with comfortable couches.

Little details.

Saturday night we rode the train into Cambridge to see a movie, but didn't feel like standing in the rain and snow for tickets. So we grabbed a burger and a beer and played a couple of games of pool.

It's a nice little life. Some people may laugh, but I don't give a shit; I've never been that complicated. Always been pretty basic. Always wanted things simple. Always liked home cooking over a fancy restaurant. Beer more than champagne. A hamburger or meat loaf over steak. I don't need or want some fancy dessert. A couple of Hersey Kisses from the bag tucked in the refrigerator door will do just fine. Second hand furniture works for me. I'll take a pool table and a skanky tattooed waitress over luxury boxes at Gillette Stadium any day. But not over box seats at Fenway.

I'm worried I've gotten boring.

Back on the merry go round

A life can be ruined in one quick second. Or over a very short period of time. But rebuilding one is a long, slow process, one tiny step at a time, and a lot of the time you don't even know you're making progress. Most of the time it certainly doesn't feel like it. Not a lot of joy. Joy comes later. You just hurt a lot. There's a lot of three steps forward, two steps backward. And a lot of long backsliding. It's only after a long time when suddenly you notice the change. You're not only going to live, but you're actually living again.

There's fear. There will always be fear. Fear that something will happen again. There are parts of you that are so vulnerable and you know you'd be completely defenseless and that that person is still out there and unbelievably cold and hard, as uncaring of you as a Nazi. And you can't ever completely trust people again. Not after what that person did.

And there's anger. You wouldn't be human if there wasn't a certain amount of anger. That someone treated you the way they did. And got away with it. Got away with murder. That's good and bad. The anger can drive you. The anger is the opposite side of how you sometimes feel like an absolute piece of garbage. The way you were thrown aside. Pieces of garbage don't get angry. But the anger can eat you up, too. Because in this society, we're not allowed to direct the anger at the source. You can thank liberals and lawyers for that. Sometimes I think the Wild West was better than what we have today. Civilization. The great thing about being an actor is so many great playwrights give you a lot of great lines to use in your own life. From Sam Shepard's Buried Child: I don't do well in town.

But worse things have happened to other people. You see that. But it still sets you apart. You're different from the rest of people you see. Different from the rest of the people you know. (But they think you're the same.) But you can't help but wonder who's like you, too. Because you know they're out there. You've talked to some of them. That's one of the first things that happens. You find out you're not completely alone.

So the world goes on, and eventually you hop back on. But you're different from the last time you were aboard the playground merry-go-round. And you're not necessarily happy to be back on the ride again. It's all pretty boring, and you know how everything is going to turn out, I think like I've said before, it's like watching reruns on television.

The presidential horse race

It's what I've known all along, that newspapers report presidential elections like horse races, reporting more on the process (and they're leaning into first turn and Obama's got the inside rail, Clinton laying on the whip, and McCain is just sitting pretty...)than on the candidates and their issues. It's more a report on who has the most points (states and delegates) and we're supposed to vote based on this heap of horse dung. Vote for the winner, not vote and get a winner.

Anyway, like I said, political coverage is something I've always known about, and it's such a familiar feeling. More and more I keep feeling my age, feeling like I've pretty much seen it all, and it reminds me of sitting in a Catholic Church a few years ago, just hoping, hoping against hope that Something would just come down and fill me with a little peace. And it was all the same as I remember. The Catholic Church treats its congregation like its made up of little children, and people who can't think for themselves, who need to be told what, and I just don't get a darn thing out of it. And that's pretty much what I get when I pick up a newspaper or log on to a mainstream Web site.

And so, what the heck is an intelligent, responsible person supposed to do? It's so easy to give up. It just gets harder and harder to get the truth out of anyone anymore. And there's just too much information. Right now, Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone is the only political writer I trust, and that's because he just paints the candidates, the press, and the process as I imagine it all, in all their sleaziness with their deceit and pitiful human foibles oozing to the surface. And don't that just nail my demo. I can hear my youngest right now--Dad, who reads this stuff?

The world's smallest political quiz

Take the QUIZ.

I scored dead center. Centrist. Imagine that. It's nice to verify what I already knew.

Putting a toe in the cesspool

For years I read three papers a day. Then I just dropped out. I dropped out of a lot of things. When your life is in shreds, it's a bit difficult to really give a shit about the minutiae of the two major political parties, and the intricacies of the international diplomacy in respect to the tribal Middle East. I mean, when you're not sure how you're going to pay your rent, no matter how hot you think she is, Condoleezza Rice just isn't going to play into your late night fantasies.

But now I'm creeping back into society, or as much of society as I feel I want. I keep asking myself if I actually want to go swimming in this particular cesspool. I'm talking the political world. Once more, the Greatest Nation on Earth is going to elect its leader, and none of them really excite me. Once again, more than anything, I'll probably be voting against someone, rather than for someone I feel passionate about.

Like looking for a neighborhood, trying to figure out where I fit in, I keep looking for that one person who represents who I am. It ain't the Democrats and it sure as hell ain't the Republicans. I keep saying you have to watch the left as much as the right. Both have their agendas and both seem to have their hands in my pocket, and there isn't a lot there. And what's there, I'd prefer to keep for myself, thank you very much.

Libertarians seem to be the closest to how I think. Low taxes. No war. Small government. Or better yet, no government. Still a collection of lawyers and lawmakers, though. Damn lawyers anyway. And idiot talk-show hosts, who lull people into thinking they're Real Thinkers, but if they were real thinkers they'd realize in about five minutes that the talk show hosts are just entertainers, paid to bring in an audience for the advertisers. They're the first who sold out.

Anyway, my pant legs are rolled up, but I'm not in the water yet.

Roy Scheider, RIP

One of my all-time favorite actors died. Roy Scheider, best known for Jaws, but I loved him in All That Jazz, one of my top-ten for his portrayal of the Bob Fosse-like character. Yeah, Bob Fosse-like. Don't lie: that was about Bob Fosse. But from, It's showtime folks, to his pencil-snapping while listening to the read-through of the musical he's directing, Scheider simply put out there what so many of us think and feel when it comes to theater. You love it, but what the fuck are all these untalented, shallow half-wits doing here? I try to watch that movie at least once a year, just to revitalize my juices.

And Scheider was one of those hard-working, no-nonsense, non-theatrical actors I've always wanted to be. Here's what his Richard Dreyfuss said about him:

"He was a wonderful guy. He was what I call 'a knockaround actor,'" Richard Dreyfuss, who co-starred with Scheider and Robert Shaw in "Jaws," told The Associated Press on Sunday.

"A 'knockaround actor' to me is a compliment that means a professional that lives the life of a professional actor and doesn't' yell and scream at the fates and does his job and does it as well as he can," Dreyfuss said.

Shit, Roy, you're gonna need a bigger boat...

Friday, February 8, 2008

City living

City living.

I promised old Bob a romp on the beach tomorrow. Bring your favorite tennis ball and I'll chuck it for you. Not the orchard, old buddy, but you'll have the Boston skyline over your shoulder, and a dog's a dog. They're not like people. I don't think there are city dogs and country dogs.

Sue and I have been so flat out that we haven't been able to do much. Just working and getting sick. The apartment is coming together, slow, thanks to Sue. She's shoving furniture around this way and pushing it that way. We said this weekend we're going to do some city stuff. Hop on the train, wander around Boston, go to a movie. Maybe check out a museum. Wander around some of the city that we don't know. I just don't know the south side of Boston. A bit of the South End, but I tend to stay away from that neck of the woods. I don't do trendy.

It's all that old stuff again. I've done it before. Sort of sophisticated living with a dash leather and denim. I'm starting to reacquaint myself with Boston, and Boston with me.

Make your own world

Somebody said I was too old. Hell, my teacher all but insinuated I was. Keep trying, she said. I have another student, he's in his fifties, and he couldn't get it and couldn't get it and for weeks we just practiced changing from one chord to the next and he finally got it, so keep practicing. Hell, I was so inspired by that little speech I could have just shit.

Some people, I think, thought I was too stupid. Or didn't have talent. (Hell, maybe they're right on that last point, but that doesn't stop a lot of other people.)

I swear there were one or two who thought it would be a crime against society for me to sing.

But none of that is going to stop me. I wish I could actually build a world made of music, that world where I go. You wouldn't breathe air, you'd actually breath the music. Music would be as real as the wind. And you wouldn't breathe through your nose, you'd breathe through your whole skin, all over your body, like the way it just washes over your entire body. And the air? You'd take that in through your fingers. Sharp intakes that sometimes burned and sometimes just caressed your fingertips. You'd smell with your ears, and see with your stomach, with that deep, visceral feeling that gives you more information that just visual.

The point of all this is just do what you want, no matter what anyone tells you. No matter what society tells you. Because anything you try or want to do passionately there will be a line of people telling you why you can't or shouldn't do it. Just listen to that voice inside you. If you think it's right, it's right. And no matter how you're treated, no matter how many times people put you down or treat you like a piece of trash, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, just keep trying to move those fingers. And don't go near those people who are destructive to what you want to do. Even if it means chucking the whole lot, and paring everything down to just one or two people. Because one good person is worth more than a hundred destructive ones.

Because there's a damn good reason why God made you the way you are, and not a chair. And sometimes you don't even know the reason.

Rough around the edges...and liking it

I'm looking and feeling a little rough around the edges, and I kinda like it that way.

I'm in dire need of a haircut, at least by society's standards, but first I just moved and don't know a barber who I can trust with my head, someone who doesn't just pull out the electric clippers and actually knows how to cut hair; and second, I like long hair to begin with. Every guy in the world now is looking like some damn young Republican or a Marine, with a shaved sides and short on the top. I hate looking like something out of a cookie cutter.

And I hate to shave. Hate it. And if Sue's chin isn't in too much danger of getting sandpapered off, I don't shave. So for the second morning in a row now I just said to hell with it. I know I'm looking a little scary, but there's nothing wrong with looking like you woke up in a truck stop. It tends to keep away a certain element, the boring element, frankly the element that looks like a young Republican or a Marine.
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