30 April, 2008

Bands I have seen...

Location: archives
Mood: blah

I will make no attempt at chronology, other than the first bunch which are roughly in order. I will also not indicate "repeats" since it is unnecessary, as well as incriminating. Only focusing on national acts

Rick Springfield
The Kinks
Night Ranger
The Bangles
Aimee Mann
'Til Tuesday
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Trisha Yearwood
Kim Richey
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Benjamin Orr
Southern Culture on the Skids
Billy Joel
Son Volt
Cowboy Mouth
The J. Geils Band
Anna Waronker
Juliana Hatfield
Lisa Loeb
Jill Sobule
Camper van Beethoven
The Muffs
Eliza Gilkyson
The Flaming Lips
Huey Lewis & the News
Letters to Cleo
Living Colour
Liz Phair
No Doubt
The Pieces
The Push Stars
Tori Amos
Sheryl Crow
Some Girls
Suzanne Vega
Tom Petty
Tom Waits

I wonder how many I am forgetting? Will edit later if necessary.

28 April, 2008

Are there any cool looking economy cars?

Location: the autosphere
Mood: disgruntled

It really is starting to piss me off. I am a conspiracy theorist at heart anyway, but this I think is not a theory, but reality.

The car companies do not want us to buy fuel efficient vehicles.

I know this because the choices that we now have for fuel efficiency are so few. And more importantly, so goddamn pathetic. If you want to get over 30 miles per gallon (excluding the few hybrid options out there) then you have what to choose from?

Honda Fit? Um... don't even get me started. Basically, the name alone is enough to put many people off this car. I suppose they mean that it's small, but you can get a lot of stuff in it? But to me, it sounds more like "I'm having a fit!" And it is completely dinky looking. It's like identifying you as "I am a geeky computer science graduate, 22 years old, who can't afford a cooler car". Everything about it says "I am not cool".

Toyota Yaris? Um... this one probably doesn't actually even have a particularly efficient engine, and it's only because the vehicle weighs a mere 700 pounds that it squeezes out mid 30's for mileage. And the dashboard has the speedometer in the center. Granted that's some type of European styling, but it is not exactly what I would call "usable". Whatever.

The Scion xD or xA? Again, completely funky shapes and stupid control consoles.

It's like they're saying, "If you want a car that gets good mileage, we are going to stigmatize you as a disincentive". For fuck sake! For years, the Honda Civic has been one of the most popular cars on the road, and it got great gas mileage. Over the past few years, it seems the Civic is getting worse and worse mileage - maybe because if they didn't fuck the Civic's mileage, they'd have had a real hard time selling the overpriced Civic Hybrid! Hm... they've got you coming and going!

Why I am in a band at all...

Location: starting in Amherst, 1992
Mood: glad

When I was in graduate school, at University of Massachusetts, I was dating Luisa. I think I've mentioned her before. It's interesting to me how the "what I've done" and "where I've gone" in life are repeatedly being the product of "whom I've been with" at a particular time. So, though the relationship with Luisa was not my longest or best relationship, she was part of a very important process. She was an undergraduate in the Chemistry department. As such, she had a work-study job with a lab that was using "biosynthesis" to make polymers. This means they were growing bacteria who were instructed to make a particular polymer molecule (probably through a process called "transformation"). Then you purify the polymer from the bacteria by lysing the cells. I didn't know about any of this process until 10 years later, but what I did know was that it smelled really bad, and made Luisa's clothes smell too.

All that, irrelevant.

So, Luisa knew I wanted to play softball, and she suggested I play with the people for whom she worked. This included a few guys named John, Jeff, Frank, and Mike, among others. I met these guys, and joined the softball team (which was initially called "Toxic Avengers", but eventually called "Bark Like a Dog" for reasons I will explain). These guys were great fun, and I immediately began forging a friendship with all of them. And one thing about these guys is that the all belonged to an Amherst rock band named Bark Like a Dog. And I would regularly go see those guys. It got to the point that I was their #1 groupie, which I am not sure is something to announce, or something to keep secret. But nonetheless, I was. And I would sometimes do sound for them. And I would often offer unsolicited feedback on their performance. My intent was to "help" them, but I think I really overstepped my bounds a little bit, and probably got to be a bit of an annoyance. But either way, we were all friends, and they put up with me.

It was John who first started saying to me "You need to get into a band". And I knew he was right. What I really wanted was to get into *his* band. But that wasn't in the stars. At one point, Jeff had left the band, and they needed a new lead guitar player. I really wanted that job, but I wasn't even being considered for it. I don't know if I wasn't good enough, or if John didn't think it would be good for the friendship, or what? Maybe it's that I spent so many years "critiquing" these guys, that they couldn't bear to have "Simon Cowle" become a member of the band. Who knows. I probably was not quite good enough then, since Jeff was a very good player, and why take a step down just to have your friend in the band.

But it hurt me.

On one occasion, they let me go on a road trip with them to Vermont, and I actually got to play 3 or 4 songs with them (after Jeff had left the band) because I knew how to play most of their songs. It hurt that I was "good enough for that" but not good enough to be a member. But I loved it, and was glad to do just that. I also got the opportunity to record parts of a few songs in the studio with them, which I still have on CD as my "first studio experience ever". That was fun, but at the same time, payback is a bitch. I remember John making me play the intro of one of the songs over and over and over because he said it wasn't right. I was pissed off because I knew I was probably playing it cleaner than Jeff had even played it! And Jeff was the one who wrote it! But because of all those years I had nitpicked their performances, this was my turn. At one point, John was so frustrated, he tried to come in the room and play it himself, and he couldn't get it either. Finally I ended up getting it "good enough" and we even edited out part of the beginning of the song. But I guess I deserved that.

So it was John who really got me started in bands. I'll pick up from there later.

Final thought for the night

Location: yesterscalp
Mood: longing

This really is going to sound like a "Goldmember" moment... but I swear this is a true story.

A few weeks ago, I had some sort of little bump or something, like a pimple, who knows, on the back of my head, where the part radiates - right on the top. It was like a scalp zit. Who knows. And I was prodding at it, and picking at it, and at one point I managed to "yield" something from it. And thought it was gone. But then, it got a little scab. And then a day or two later, I was like feeling around up there, and found it again, and this time it was a bigger area, because of the dry skin, or scab, or whatever. So I was messing with it again. And to make a long story short, I was getting little skin wafers off this spot for several days in a row. And when you peel shit from areas that also have hair, it's got a very satisfying feeling of "liberation" when you "free" the item from its location.

This went on for days.

And now, unfortunately, it seems that whatever it was is really gone. Healed. Finished. No more dryness. No more bump. I keep checking for it. Something to keep busy with. And it's not there. Finis. Rien. Nada.

And I have to say, I am kind of disappointed.

memories... a musical chronology

Location: the past
Mood: reminisceful

I am scared at the myriad of tangents that could be spawned by attempting this topic. But I will try to dump it all out here, and then perhaps fill in the details of the various chapters as I go along. Consider this to be an attempt at highlights of my history. How I got from there to here...

1980 or thereabouts... Camp Grossman. When I was not busy making out with Sheri Klayman, I was starting to think about music. My camp counselor, Barry Mael, who was a 450 pound teenager, was also a guitar player. And if memory serves me correctly, I think it was Barry that first showed me some chords. But it might have been this dude, Lance, another counselor. Who knows? It was around this time anyway. There were 2 acoustic guitars in the house when I was growing up. I am not sure why we had them, but I guess my brother had left them behind when he moved away, and they were always there. Missing some strings. Out of tune. Not very high quality. And I didn't really know what to do with them. I was clueless. (Here come the tangents). I remember only 2 things about those guitars. The first thing I remember is that I learned how to play the song "As Tears Go By" by the Rolling Stones. I did not yet know chords, but I had an ear for music, and I figured out how to play the melody. One of those acoustic guitars was traditional looking, with the hole in center, and natural acoustic guitar coloring. The other one was a strange avocado green color and had F-holes instead of the center hole. If I am not mistaken, I destroyed both of these guitars.

Around the age... not sure... maybe 11-13 years old? I went through what could best be described as a destructive phase. I am not sure why, and I don't know if I will ever have an avenue into knowing or understanding this. But I remember the destruction. I remember 4 distinct things of value that I destroyed:

1. The acoustic guitar(s)
2. My Matchbox cars (that was me and Ricky Schneider, in the garage, with a hammer)
3. My models that I built (I would build, and then have temper fits, and smash them)
4. My 45 RPM records (I recall setting up a wire that ran from one corner of the family room to the other, and I would put all the 45's on the wire and then slide the records down the wire, which resulted in their gradual smashing and destruction)


Who knows. Testosterone? Puberty? Have I repressed something I am not even aware I was repressing? I don't know. I don't think so. But I destroyed shit.

In high school, it morphed slightly into a brief period of vandalism. Some of the vandalism was part of the track team's efforts to terrorize particular kids, or prankster-like behavior. But other stuff went way beyond the line.

Worst thing I've ever done? Worst case of violence and destruction with an unknown victim?

One time, when I was about 16 years old, we had gone out in a group to a shopping mall or something - I think it was in Braintree, Massachusetts. And I was with a group of my friends who were definitely pranksters. I think it was Chris, Joe, Eric and maybe Scott. And we were in the parking garage. And I saw a beautifully restored VW Beetle. And in Boston, those are far more rare than they are out here, because of weather being harsh on them. And the idea got in my head to kick a very large dent into one of the fenders of this vehicle. I have no idea why I wanted to do it. But I did it, before they could stop me. And they were yelling at me, and telling me I was an asshole, and asking me why the fuck I did it. And I couldn't even try to argue or defend it. We dropped the subject, and nothing ever came of it. I was not caught. There was no consequence.

I am not sure if that was an extension of the destructive behavior of the earlier age. And I never did anything of a vandalizing nature since then, other than the team pranks I mentioned above.

Off the subject though...

1981... I was about 13 years old. Around this time, my cousin Jimmy gives me 2 Beatles tapes (Rock and Roll Music Volume I & II, and Beatles 1962-1966). This is my first exposure to them, really. Previous to this, I had been listening to things like Kiss, Devo, The Cars - I remember in 7th Grade, listening to The Cars album "Candy-O" over and over, every night, while working on my Swiss Family Robinson english assignments for Mrs. Levitz's class. I guess by this time, I had already gone through my first guitar, and on to my second. Because I know I had that second guitar by the time The Cars were in my scene.

The first guitar was this crappy semi-hollow body electric made by a company called Masterwork. I think it cost a little over $100, and I was not pleased with my father for giving me only this option. He probably didn't know how serious I would be about the guitar. I knew nothing about guitar, and I only vaguely remember the shopping experience. I am not even sure I was with him for that purchase. He may have brought it home for me. It served me well for a little while - not even sure if it was 1 year. And I don't know what happened to it. But not long after, I wanted a cooler guitar. So I guess we went from the $100 model, to the $200 model. At what was probably age 12 or 13, he bought me the Aria Pro II CS-350 which was a Cobalt Blue guitar that looks a lot like a Gibson SG or a variety of different Ibanez double cutaway models. The amplifier I had was a Peavey Studio Pro 40, which was also pretty mediocre but good enough for a kid.

I was learning to play all those songs. By ear. The Beatles. The Cars. Kiss. Aerosmith. The Police. Pat Benatar. AC/DC. Van Halen. The Beach Boys. Devo. Never bothered with sheet music, or lessons. I don't even remember how I learned to play chords. Maybe from a book? I don't know. It's like a blur to me. It just happened.

I would have that Aria Pro II and the Peavey amp straight through college and graduate school. Those were my instruments until I was about 24. I went through periods of playing a lot (high school) and playing much less (college). At one point in high school, I was writing a lot of completely Mickey Mouse stupid cheesy songs. Usually about romance or girls, or fictional relationships.

I wrote 2 songs that were "halfway decent" in my early days. (not that I have written many since, since I have never been a prolific writer...)

One song was for this girl Amy Houde (mentioned her before) - she wouldn't go out with me because I was too young. I wrote a song called "Pain After Pain" and that almost got her to go out with me. But not quite :)

The other song was written Sophomore year of college, for another girl (Michelle), who also wouldn't go out with me! That one was called "I Can See It In Your Eyes" and that song did get her to go out with me! So I guess writing optimistic songs is better than writing depressing ones, if you want to get the girl. I wish I could remember the words. Probably could strain to figure them out...

Then I went a long time without writing anything.

When I was about 17, I already had the start of my Weird Al Yankovic tendency to be able to parody songs. One time, when I was working at Papa Gino's pizza, I wrote a spoof of "Electric Avenue" based on the biography of a guy who came to work at the restaurant who had moved to the US from Africa. He was a super nice guy, but he was completely incompetent as a worker and was always creating disasters.

The song was called "Blue Hill Avenue" which was a street in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on which this guy had previously worked at a different Papa Gino's. If you know the music to the Eddy Grant song, you can sing along with it in your head (this is approximately the original lyrics - I might be able to find them written on a Papa Gino's napkin in a box of memorabilia, but not gonna bother looking right now):

Blue Hill Avenue

He came to us from Nigeria
Back in year Nineteen Eighty Three
Came to the states to make money
And cook de Thick Pan Mushroom-Pepperoni

Oh yeah
We gonna walk down to Blue Hill Avenue
And visit Emmy Mecca

Who is to blame for that pizza?
Never can get to the one
Burnt to a crisp in the oven
Let's hope Jim Loesher(*) don't carry a gun

Good God
We gonna walk down to Blue Hill Avenue
And visit Emmy Mecca

Out in the streets!
Little Bambino!
Come to de states!
And work at Papa Gino!

That's why
We gotta walk down to Blue Hill Avenue
And visit Emmy Mecca

(*) Jim Loesher was the regional supervisor. When he would come to visit the store, we had to pretend to be orderly - i.e. no making out with the girls in the walk-in freezer, no playing floor hockey with the frozen sausages, etc. He never smiled, and truly instilled fear in all of us, like some sort of army general, which when you think about it, is really quite silly.

Okay. I will pick up this story where I left off... at a date in the near future.

26 April, 2008

Finding deep insight from Lemony Snicket...

Location: Boston, MA
Mood: emotional

I am not in Boston. But I watched the Lemony Snicket movie today, and that movie apparently was set in Boston, which I thought was kind of cool. Not sure if it really was filmed there, but whatever. Irrelevant.

Near the end of the movie, there was one line stated by the narrator (Jude Law):

"And what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events, may, in fact be the first steps of a journey."

This line really hit me when I heard it, because lately I have felt like there have truly been a series of unfortunate events. And right now I guess I'd really like to believe that all this amounts to something more than a random unpleasant outcome. I'd like to believe that maybe this is the first step on a journey toward something stronger, clearer, more solid.

Okay. I'm going to quit while I'm ahead.

Listening to my gut...

Location: my gut
Mood: skeptical

Not too long ago, I posted a blog talking about listening to one's gut when making decisions. And I cannot recall if I wrote another blog, or if it was the same one, that talked about the valuation of self topic. Well, I am coming back to that one, because I don't feel done with it.

I don't really want to tell a story right now. I just want to ask a bunch of rhetorical questions. Okay?

What if your gut changes its mind?
What if your gut tells you something without having all the relevant information?
How can you tell the difference between "valuation of self" and "others' valuation of self"?

I have always had a hard time deciding things without performing some type of poll of my friends. And our friends do look out for what they believe is best for us, given their knowledge of us, and their knowledge of our situations, as we describe them.

I feel like this entire thing is me writing to try to justify my actions. I am boring myself again. This was a better blog when I was writing about memories. How can I make this more interesting to either myself, or you, or both of us? I don't know.

Okay. So, I made a decision, based on information I had, and based on a "gut feeling" of sorts. But in hindsight, I made all sorts of massive discoveries. First of all, I have come to realize that emotional matters that were pressing me probably caused me to be unclear myself about all things, including perception of information, assessment of "gut feeling", and ability to process my environment. Furthermore, these discoveries provided an entirely new insight that caused me to need to rethink everything that led me up to where I am now.

Why am I explaining myself to you? It's like I want your approval here. I am not asking for it, and in fact, if you started giving me approval, or disapproval, or anything, I would probably be put off by it a bit. I don't even think I need convincing myself. Ah... maybe I do. I don't know. The quandary I am having is that I was sure of my decision, and now I am almost equally sure of the opposite decision.

This is weak. How can anyone read this with so little information.

I am tired. Going to sleep. I am pissed off at myself right now, because I want to write everything about this, but I feel like it's crossing a line of privacy. Both my own, and others'. I really want to tell you about it. But I cannot. Yet. Or maybe ever. Is there any way this can be discussed in constructive manner?

I feel really tired. I should have been writing this earlier, in a more coherent state of mind. But since that is not my case, fuck it for now. Apologies. And promises to write something more worth your minutes next time.

25 April, 2008

The band... continued

Location: in my own head
Mood: self-indulgent

I am sitting here listening to their CD, which is something that helps me learn. Once I know all the chords to a song, I don't really even need a guitar to "practice" anymore. I just learn by repetition, and that can be through listening, since it is song structures that take the longest time to permanently sink into my brain...

"How many times do we repeat 'yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah' at the end of that song? Is it 4 times? or 5 times?"

That kind of thing.

I'm still sort of in disbelief listening here. This band is fucking good. And I am part of it. This is to take nothing away from any other project I have done previously, because I have been in some really good bands (and in fact, am still in another one right now!).

I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and find out, it was like a reality show. I am really ranting here. And it probably sounds like egotism, but it isn't. I have said to everyone I know that I only wanted to one day be able to play some of the "good clubs" and I could never figure out how to get there.

Blah blah blah blah blah. I should delete this. Instead I deleted all the stupid egotistical parts.

24 April, 2008

Electronics 101

Location: inside my fender champ
Mood: triumphant

I am very pleased with myself right now. Yes I am. I just saved myself over 100 dollars. A few weeks ago, my 1976 Fender Champ stopped working. It just magically was not operational. This is a little tiny old Fender amplifier (a tube amp) that is great for practicing, and recording (and I've used it for gigging too, though it's not particularly powerful).

So, when it crapped out, I discovered that a fuse had blown. Now, when a fuse blows, it could be that the fuse failed because the fuse failed, or it could be that the fuse failed because any number of other things in the amplifier failed. The fuse costs about 50 cents. Other things in the amplifier can cost much more. For instance, if the output transformer is fried... you're looking at about $50 for a legitimate replacement part.

I brought the amplifier into Aviator Guitars (because I was bringing another amplifier in anyway, so I figured I'd ask them). It was immediately clear that it would be expensive for them to fix it. Because they charge 1 hour labor, minimum, just to look at it. And that's $80. So I'm looking at $80 + whatever parts they decide they need to fix it. And this was not a particuarly expensive amplifier, so does it really make sense to throw that much money at it?

Plan B, which I discussed with the technician, is to troubleshoot it myself. Here's how it works. The most likely culprits are tubes, of which there are three. From input to output, they are the preamp tube (12AX7), the power tube (6V6), and the rectifier tube (5Y3). To see if it is a tube causing the fuse to blow (i.e. if a tube is bad, or shorted, it will blow the fuse - the fuse blows when your electronic device attempts to draw too much current from the power source - the fuse blows to protect the amplifier from having bad bad things happen to it).

So it goes like this.

0. Put in a new fuse
1. Take out all the tubes.
2. Turn on the amp. If the fuse blows with no tubes, you probably have dead transformer.
3. If fuse doesn't blow, then put the rectifier tube back in.
4. Turn on amplifier. If fuse blows, you *may* have bad rectifier. But could be other stuff.
5. If fuse doesn't blow, put the power tube back in.
6. Turn on amplifier. If fuse blows, you *may* have bad power tube. Could be other stuff.
7. If fuse doesn't blow, put the preamp tube back in.
8. Turn on amplifier. If fuse blows, you *may* have bad preamp tube. Could be other stuff.

At steps 4, 6, 8, if the fuse blows, you'd want to *try* putting in a new tube of the proper type, and see if that fixes the problem. If so, then you're done. If not, then it's probably the "other stuff" which would be any number of components on the circuit board. In that case, you open up the amplifier and hope that you can see a burned out resistor or capacitor or wire, that you can easily replace. If not, then you bring the amplifier to the repair guys and pay them the money.


I got lucky. With no tubes, fuse didn't blow. When I put the rectifier back in, the fuse blew. So I went online, via E-Bay, and bought a new rectifier tube - cheapest I could find - for $13 including shipping. Arrived today. Put it in. Fuse doesn't blow.

Problem solved.

Put all the other tubes back in. Played some guitar. Sounds good. No fry.

Now, maybe it will blow eventually, or maybe I just had a wonky rectifier tube. It certainly looks ancient, so not surprising.

Aren't you glad I told you that story?

Frozen in time...

Location: all over the place
Mood: all over the place

I was listening to a song by the band yesterday, trying to learn how to play it. And the lyrics made me really sad, and I started to lose it. Really started to lose it. I caught myself, though. I am not sure what about the song did it to me. The lyrics don't really apply to my life, but there was just the concept of being someplace that was hard to stay, but not wanting to lose it. I think right now, my emotions are so bottled up, I am needing triggers to get at them. I should make myself a mix tape of all the songs that have historically made me lose it, and just play them all back-to-back and get all of this out of my system. Because I am still feeling nothing. I felt something for a day or so, mostly frustration and sadness, but some of that resolved. I don't know. I want to feel something regarding my mom. And I still don't feel it. Am I repressing it? Or did I already process it? I really don't know, and that is frustrating to me. Could it be possible that I am really okay with it? That I don't have latent issues that need to be resolved?

I tried my best to make things right, inside, when I went home. I realized that where I needed to come to grips was not with the death of my mother from a grieving standpoint, but on two other issues. The first thing was understanding the importance of making it right inside myself, and accepting it, and demonstrating some type of reverence. I never think about that word: reverence. I don't even know what it means other than having a sense of it.

Word says the synonyms are:


Okay. I get it. Yeah, that's what I felt inside. I discovered that what I needed to do for myself was to engage in these behaviors because this is what we carry with ourselves onward for the rest of our lives.

The dead do not mourn the living.

And there were a few things that literally bubbled up inside of me as things I *had* to do. Some of them were things that I initially thought didn't matter. Some of them were things I had initially declined to do. But they bubbled up. And they mattered. And I did them. There was something inside me that said, "You live with these days for the rest of *your* life. And they can be your secrets, either good or bad. This is not for appearance sake. It is private. It is for you alone. And you take it with you, and you know that you have done the right thing... or not".

So that was one part of it.

The other part was... my dad. The inner conflict in my family has always been with my dad. It was rarely, if ever, an outward conflict. Maybe I'll write about that later, but it's not the point here, so I won't describe the details now. But I realized deep inside that what I needed to do now is to set all that aside. To forgive him for the things he probably doesn't even know I was holding grudges about.

To let go.

Because I've held it all for long enough. And I think that part of becoming a whole person involves fully accepting all things about ourselves. Realizing that we are only the product of our upbringing insomuch as we do not take responsibility to craft our identity to our own liking. We cannot erase where we came from, but we are also not bound by it. And I have come a long long way from where I was. And it is both thanks to and in spite of where I was before. I realized that as my dad is mourning the loss of a spouse, which I can only imagine is like no other loss imaginable, what he needs right now is to believe that he is good. That he has done everything right in this life. And for the most part, he has. And part of my trip home was to make my dad feel loved, and supported. Not alone and without purpose. He demonstrated a love and support in a way that I question I could ever provide to anyone. But we are often surprised at how much larger than ourselves we can become when we either choose to, or are forced to do. And when we become larger than ourselves, we have the capacity to stay that way. And right now, I wanted to inject into my father's world view a sense that he is a fantastic person. Because he is. And instead of pointing out my regrets, or trying to reconcile the past for my sake, I thanked him for those very things that I have in the past resented. Because the problem was not how he raised me. It was my unwillingness to grow of my own volition beyond the boundaries that he defined through his experience. It was not my dad's responsibility to make me the best I can be. It is only a parent's responsibility to teach their child a way to be that is healthy and honest. It is our individual responsibility in life to extrapolate from there.

My dad was a role model.

He never lived in excess. He always cared for and provided for his family all the essentials. His values were impeccable. And he set a good example with all of his behaviors. What more can a parent do? And I told him so. Over the years, I think I have done a lot of reconciling with my mom. We had a very open communication, because we are very similar social creatures. But my dad and I never got there. And it is not his responsibility to make that connection, because he is not troubled by it. It was mine. I don't want to have my father's years be lonely ones. Although I am not there to keep his company, as my sister does now every day, I want him to feel that I am there in his heart, supporting him and believing in him. I love my dad. And I don't want him to suffer.

Emotions here.


Location: inside the mouth of the country
Mood: indifferent

Just saw this story on MSN headline feed, and I was entertained at the data within. Who would have thought that Portland would reside where it does? And how about Nashville and Raleigh? That's almost an equal surprise. Anyway, it was interesting.

For what it's worth, I floss :)

Also, Seattle is #28 out of 100.  Not bad...

23 April, 2008

memories... need a jump start

Location: entering bed shortly
Mood: really really tired

I spent a week writing about memories, and then another week writing about all sorts of cryptic emotional shit, that makes perfect sense to like 3 of my readers, and means absolutely nothing to the rest of you. I don't know which is serving me more good. There are still some things I cannot put here, much as I need to write about them. I want to start writing about it all. But instead, I will go into the past. I am not sure where yet.

I am really fucking tired. It's only 10:15pm but it feels deathly tired. I am a bit concerned that if I get over some hump, I will get a second wind. And that is probably not a good thing.

Where can I go? Where is it? I have this urge to visit the recent past. Haven't really given it much treatment. Heh, I am totally wasting time here. I just got side tracked looking at fantasy baseball, which is pretty much uninteresting to me now. So why am I looking?

I guess I am too tired to blog. Better change the name of this blog. It was called "memories... restart" but that name doesn't seem appropriate since I can't even jump start.

Everything is okay...

Location: casa jim
Mood: inspired

I know I have been VERY dark here lately, and to assure you that there are some good things still kicking around inside this head of mine, I wanted to tell you about my first rehearsal with the band. Actually, it is not quite accurate to call it a rehearsal with The band, since it was just two of us, me and Jim. But, as a member, this was the first time meeting post-audition.

And it felt good. In the midst of so many things that have probably been crushing me in ways that I am barely able to even yet feel, this was a helium balloon pulling me up from the depths and reminding me that everything is always okay. No matter what, you find the thing that you live for, and you go there, and if it's really really there, that Zen moment, then everything is okay.

I have never before jammed with just a guitar and a bass and two microphones, no drums. I would normally avoid those situations, because they typically make for less-than-optimal experiences. But this is what our rehearsal was, because other guitar player is out of town, and drummer had a prior commitment for the evening. And it was great. We worked on several new songs, and we worked on some of their older songs, and we talked, and basically had a good time. I wasn't thinking "when will rehearsal be over". I wasn't thinking "do we really have to do that song". I was just playing the guitar, and singing some harmonies, and being in that zone. For the most part timing wasn't an issue - we had our own internal, synchronized, ethereal click track.

These are the dreams stuff is made of...

Testing my capacity

Location: train wreck
Mood: all done

I don't know how much more I can take. Really.

22 April, 2008

Doing the right thing

Location: a place of certainty
Mood: uncertain

How can you ever really know you're doing the right thing? I guess if you do something, and then days, weeks, or months later, you look at the world and everything that precipitated from that action seems to have brought about results that could be objectively referred to as "for the best" for all parties involved. But how often do we get to see that? I look at so many decisions in my life, and I can say they're for the best, but what avenues not pursued might have been better?

How do we know?

I have heard people say that if you follow your heart, or your gut, or whatever that inner voice is that won't shut up until you do what it tells you to do, then maybe that's the best we can do? But what if you're completely delusional and that inner voice is telling you to break into pet stores and liberate all the animals? Then, is it still for the best? Never so clear cut, is it?

I've made a lot of changes in my life in the last 2+ years, and even in the last 2+ weeks. And some things changed that were outside of my control. I don't know if what I did was for the best, but for some reason, I feel like for the past maybe year, I have been like Luke Skywalker, with my eyes closed, holding the light sabre, or like Inigo Montoya in Princess Bride, closing my eyes and letting my father's sword guide me to the right path. And please ignore the fact that both of those metaphors involve phallic objects.

And sometimes I step off the path.

Doing the right thing is not, I don't think, always staying on the right path. But it is having the ability to recognize the need for path corrections readily, and to make those corrections no matter how difficult they may be.

This is starting to feel like a personal pep talk, which is not really what I was trying to do. But maybe I need it. Because sometimes I am not so sure I am doing the right thing.

Even when I'm sure...

21 April, 2008

The Phone

Location: my temporal lobes
Mood: pondering the possibility that cells are dividing, which should not be dividing...

Does it strike you at all funny that I have used 2378 minutes of air time on my cell phone this month? I mean, I'm not trying to over think things here. But doesn't that sound like a lot? And the month doesn't end until next week. So, projected over a 30 day month, that works out to 3567 minutes for the month, or just under 2 hours a day.

I do not understand how this is happening. I do not know where this is coming from. Apparently, I talk on the phone a lot. But 2 hours a day?

Now I am thinking about brain tumors, since apparently there is a real concern about cell phone usage and long term physiological effects. Perhaps I better get a headset sometime very soon.

20 April, 2008


Location: beyond
Mood: momentarily agnostic

April in Boston is not summer, by any stretch of the imagination.

Sometimes it can be quite warm, though. There was a day just before I went home, where it was about 70 degrees outside. Those days are great. And then I guess it was very warm last week one day as well. But unlike Seattle, flowers don't really start blooming until much later, because of the severity of winter. We have our cherry blossoms here in March, sometimes! In Boston, probably more like June, but I don't really recall.

That's why this story seems a little bit odd to me.

In the hospital, last Saturday, my mother died. As you know. Shortly after her death - maybe ten minutes later - I was on the phone with my brother and we were discussing things that had just occurred. I walked down the hall to sit in the waiting room. Alone. While I was sitting on a couch in the room, I suddenly noticed a ladybug on the coffee table in front of me.

A ladybug.

In April.

It was walking around on there for a little bit, and I was looking at it. Then it flew across the room. End of story.

A day or so after my mother's death, maybe the day of, I was sitting in the living room at my parents' house (I need to learn to say "My Dad's house"). And on the windowsill, there was a ladybug on its back, wriggling its legs. It did not look well. I flipped it over right-side up. And it walked a step or two, then flipped onto its back again. And was wriggling feebly. I came back a little while later, and the ladybug was dead.

I didn't think about it again until this morning. For some reason... My mother used to work at a craft shop called "The Ladybug" and I seem to remember her having a fondness for them.


This makes me think about a few things... but they are mostly things in which I don't believe, so I will leave it at that and you can fill in the blanks.

18 April, 2008

Are you completely honest?

Location: searching for truth
Mood: perplexed

I mean, completely. Not just most of the time, or when it is convenient, or with certain people. Have you ever tried to count your lies? On a daily basis, as you go through the routines? How many times do we not tell the truth?

Walking down the hall:

"Hey, Bob. How's it going?"

"Oh... pretty good. How about you?"


I could go on and on. And it would bore you. Actually, now I am boring me too. Examples were not what I was trying to provide here. What I really wanted to talk about is about how we communicate and express ourselves. In general, to everyone. But more importantly, thinking about how we express ourselves to people about whom we care a lot.

Heh... I'm starting to wonder... what the hell am I disclosing here? Maybe I'm the only one that does this! Maybe everyone else IS honest! All the time!

Um... I doubt it.

So... I am having a hard time getting where I am trying to go here, so let me try something else.

  • Save someone's feelings
  • Hide or disguise small inconsiderate or selfish acts
  • Social acceptability
  • Protect oneself from consequences
  • Allow oneself more time to make a decision
  • Gain approval or favor
  • Privacy
  • Control or manipulate a situation

I've probably done most or all of these (the 2nd one is probably my favorite, followed closely by the 4th one). Maybe not the "gain approval or favor" because I usually can find something true to say, in order to accomplish that goal!

But the fact is... I like to think of myself as honest. But I don't think I am.

Part of the reason this came to mind is that I was thinking of a recent situation, where I was trying very hard to be honest about something difficult. It was a social situation, where there were consequences - potentially, anyway - for telling the truth. It would be much more convenient to lie. And I was trying really hard not to lie. And I did a pretty good job. And the truth was not as hard as I thought it would be. But in the end, things got a little messy, and I didn't stick to 100% truths. I slacked off, you might say, because I suppose I reached a threshold where the fear of consequences finally outweighed my desire to maintain complete transparency. I suppose this is very human behavior.

But what troubles me is this. In hindsight, I realize that I maintained honesty in one realm, while becoming dishonest in another realm - and I was completely unaware, until I just now thought about it, that I had actually been completely honest in the first realm. How cryptic am I being? Huh? I am obviously not willing to be completely open here. Why? Um... fear of consequences.

I suppose other than the anecdotal value, my point can be summarized without those details. I became so focused on managing information in realm number 2, that I ended up being dishonest there. In realm number 1, to the best of my knowledge, I was completely honest.

And realm number 2 was the one that I should have been completely honest. So I am wondering, was the distribution of honesty related to the realms themselves, or to the stakes that I associated with those realms?

Do you see the difference?

If it was just realm-dependent, then one could say, "Well, this realm was of such a nature that it was just easier to leave something out, or turn something around, whereas the other realm didn't expect/require/demand such dancing". But if it were stakes-dependent, then it means that I will just lie to protect my most precious interests at any given point in time. And that is fucking huge. It is completely an issue of character, then. And it would concern me. But what concerns me right at this moment is that I don't even know which it is. Or if it was both. Or if it matters. Or why the stakes were balanced as they were from the get-go. Or what it was about the realms that manifested such decisions. Actually I think that last point is the one I probably understand the most.

But... I just don't know.

Morning... or is it noon?

Location: on the tail end of 3 hours sleep
Mood: euphoric

Don't have much time to write now, but figured I would just drop some notes here. I am feeling strangely fine (that was the name of an album, and I cannot remember what band it was... and am too lazy to google it - but it's a good album title). Talked to my Dad this morning, and he is doing pretty well too. He doesn't have as much company as I wish he had, but he's got some people visiting, and my sister has been there a lot for him. He has the most positive attitude of anyone I have ever met, and he always taught me "mind over matter" so it is good to see that when things are tough for him, he is practicing what he always taught me.

The band is sinking in slowly. It is fun to get the first few emails talking about scheduling and about rehearsing, and stuff. I cannot wait to really get going on it. This is what I live for.

My relationship... hm... not ready to go there yet on this blog. Or am I? I don't think I have enough time (4 minutes) to serve that story any justice. But suffice it to say that I am not in a relationship anymore. I'd like to craft a friendship, and who knows if that is possible. This is rubbish talk. I don't even know why I'm writing it. If I am not going to really tell the story, why mention it at all. Should I just delete this and talk about it later? Or instead, should I just tell you that I want to delete it and talk about it later, but leave it here instead.

I think I'll do that.

Because otherwise, how would you know?

Emotional drowning

Location: home
Mood: sorry

I should be dealing with 2 things right now. And 2 things alone. I should be dealing with the process of recovering from what happened in Boston last weekend - a process that includes reflection, grief, etc. And I should be dealing with the very exciting and happy prospect of starting a new project. Though these two things are completely unrelated, and of clearly different magnitudes, taken by themselves they could have and perhaps would have balanced one another out, in some karmic way.

But unfortunately that's not all I've got to deal with right now. Timing is everything, and I really haven't ever seen more impeccably poor timing that what I've witnessed this week... I'm at a loss for words... I am not laying blame anywhere. Just disappointed.

The Band

Location: the on-ramp to the real Seattle music scene
Mood: very happy... but sad on other fronts

About 2 weeks ago, I auditioned for the band. How this came about was rather fortuitous. I had no intention of looking for a new band - I am playing in 2 already (though there's another story in there, to come later). The reason I auditioned for this band is because my friend Dan called me up and said "...looking for a new rhythm guitar player, and dude you better go and contact them RIGHT NOW to audition."

And I thought "yes, I had better."

I've seen them play a number of times in Seattle, and they're one of the best bands I have seen in this city. They get good gigs. They have some radio play. They have good recordings. And most importantly, people like them! Had to try for it.

I read their ad on their website, describing what they're looking for in a musician, and it was like "this is me - I can do this - I *want* to do this!"

So, I contacted them, and shortly afterward, had arranged an audition, about 4 days out from that point in time. They'd requested that people learn 2 of their songs on MySpace.

I figured, since I am a fast learner, maybe I should learn *all* of the songs on MySpace instead of just 2 :) So I showed up, prepared to play 6 songs. First audition went very well. I felt like i was on stage, and I could feel it - I could feel the energy - I could picture the show - with me in it - and it was good.

So they asked me to come back for a second audition. This time, they asked me to learn 4 additional songs (2 of which are unreleased). So... of course... I learned 8 more songs :) Second audition went very well. We went out for beers afterwards. But they decided to wait a little bit before making a decision, as there were a few other respondents who were scheduled to audition.

So I had to wait.

I felt really good and positive that it was *unlikely* that anyone else would put as much effort and passion into this as I did. But felt obligated to reserve my celebration until the signature was on the dotted line.

So, tonight, was the night they had their auditions. I figured I might hear by tomorrow. Hoped I might hear by tonight. And sure enough, around 8pm, got a phone call asking if I could meet for some beers. So... drop everything! Yes.

I am too tired to tell this story with dramatic flair and for that I am sorry. It's a happy story. Without undo waiting, and without any bullshit games, they enthusiastically asked me to join the band. And I immediately said yes. And this makes me very happy. This is something I have wanted - to play in a band that I like, that my friends like, with cool people, at good clubs, with no games.

More later on this subject. When it's not 3am.

17 April, 2008

Here we are [NOT reposted from Facebook]

Location: my brand new blog site
Mood: reiterative

So... just spent an hour copying and pasting my entire Facebook blog over to here, for the sake of completeness. But I think it's worth it because now all 3 of you who actually read this will be able to easily view it all in one place, and get totally caught up on the last 2 months of life on Planet Feeble.

A few things to cover, which I will do in Q & A format:

Q: Why move from Facebook to Blogger?
A: Well, there were some issues with privacy settings that I didn't really like - that was the impetus for the change. But a bigger issue is that not everyone is on Facebook, not everyone wants to be on, or logged in to Facebook, and Facebook to the best of my knowledge would not let me have RSS feeds to provide blog updates. Plus my friend told me this was cooler, so that's why I'm trying it.

Q: Why write a blog at all?
A: Why not? I wish everyone did. Because I'd really like to know what you are all thinking... what you are all experiencing... what gets in your head and feels worthy of sharing...

Q: Who is reading this?
A: I don't know who will read it. I am going to invite a lot of people via both Facebook and direct email, and try to get people who do RSS feeds to add me to their list. My experience is that there's a short list of people who give a shit what I have to say, and the combination of doing this for me and for them is quite worth it.

Q: Why Mick Feeble?
A: This has long been my self-ascribed "pseudonym". I just think it's a cool name for an alter-ego. It's got the toughness of a rock and roll name like "Mick" and the irony of a surname like "Feeble". And it sounds kind of British.

Q: Why am I doing a Q & A?
A: I don't know. I'm going to stop right here though...

16 April, 2008

Repercussions [Reposted from Facebook]

Location: here

it is funny, in a way. others are experiencing the emotions that i should be experiencing. i write about them. others experience them. i almost feel like i owe an apology. my ability to articulate that which even i have not yet been able to feel… it is both a blessing and a curse. i do not wish to make others hurt. i do not want to make others see what i see. i am just writing. but i do appreciate knowing the effect that it has, because i guess that’s why this is semi-public instead of in a locked Word file with a password (as is a diary that i have had sitting around for 16 years, rarely altered). i am not yet feeling it. the emotions have not yet come to the surface. hearing about the impact on someone else seems to be the only way i can get in there. when someone else cries for me, i get my cosmic wormhole into that emotional realm. but i can’t get there on my own, yet. i am not sure i want to. but i know i need to. eventually.

15 April, 2008

Memories... continued [Reposted from Facebook]

Location: 1987... amherst...

Well… I dwelled for a little bit on the memories that are now forming, in the present, on which I will one day reflect. Now I guess I will spin the wheel and see where it takes me, backwards in time. There are some obvious places, of which I have spoken many times, but not written here. Thinking about the track team in high school, and all the pranks we played. The various people we terrorized. Chris Muntz (whose terrorizing resulted in the coining of the phrase “Muntzbusters”). David (with his “Superman” glasses). Danny (whom we called “Dick-whack”, because of his last name), and good old Steve (whom we mocked for his stuttering, among other things). We were evil and vicious kids.

But I won’t tell you any of those stories today. Because those would be cheap. Easy. Overtold. Recycled. And probably quite familiar feeling, since though the names and flavors of torture would be changed, they probably echo stories you’ve heard elsewhere.

So I will let my mind wander… to other places.

Freshman year of college. My first girlfriend. Hm… should I really tell that story? I don’t know. How personal can we get here? I’ll tell you just a tiny bit about her, and then we’ll jump to something else. Okay?

I went to UMass-Amherst. This school had many students, and there were many dormitories. The dorms were divided into I think 5 or 6 residental areas: Southwest, Northeast, Central, Sylvan, and Orchard Hill, if I am not mistaken. Each residential area had a different style of buildings, and different feel. And the kinds of people who lived there were often self-segregating…

Southwest = the party dorms. Many newer brick buildings, including like 5 towers that were 22 stories

Northeast = the brainy dorms. Very quiet. Lots of engineers and English majors.

Orchard Hill = on top of a hill, 4 dorms (the names were Field, Grayson, Dickenson, and something else…) where you probably got a lot of music types and a general mix of people

Central = the oldest dorms – run down brick dorms – I don’t know what kind of people were there – it didn’t really have a reputation, other than it seemed like a lot of people whom I thought were cool lived there.

Sylvan = these were the newest dorms, I think, and they were suites, so you’d be living with a group of other people instead of just one or two roommates. I didn’t really know anyone who lived there, and I just pretty much dismissed this as the dorms for weirdoes (yes, that is how Word is telling me I must spell the plural of “weirdo”).

So, when you applied for housing, you needed to rank your order of preference from first to last, of the 5 residential areas. And what I didn’t know, but found out later, was that if you ranked Southwest anything other than last you were probably going to be put there, because it was the biggest housing complex. It was where crazy things happened, and where there was always partying. I think I had ranked my order as Northeast, Central, Southwest, Orchard Hill, Sylvan. And I ended up in Southwest. In a tower called George Washington Tower. On the 11th floor. I think it was either 1102 or 1101, which meant it was a corner room. The way the building was designed was such that the two corner rooms on each end of the building had a window that faced each other – i.e. the building was somewhat shaped like an “H”. Well, freshman year, I was in 1102, let’s say. And Laura was in 10xx = whatever the corner room was, one floor below, with the window facing mine. In case you’re wondering, Laura is the girlfriend I said I’d tell you a little bit about. Maybe I will. Yeah, I will.

I don’t remember too many of the people that lived on my floor. I remember lots of wild kids. My roommate, Eric, was my best friend from high school, and we decided to share a room. Probably not a great idea, because we were not that much alike. Plus, as fucked in the head as you might think I am now, I think I was like 5 times as fucked in the head then, so probably not a great roommate. Not particularly considerate, not really a great friend. Just sort of self-absorbed. I hope I am better than that now, at least a smidge. The only other guy on my floor that I specifically remember was this guy Ralph, who played guitar, and played it very well. He could play the song “Cathedral” from the Van Halen album “Diver Down”, which was a really cool song that had a lot of volume swells in it, done by rapidly turning the volume knob on the guitar while doing hammer-on’s with the left hand. I never could play it, so I was impressed. Wonder what he is doing now? He was a very nice guy. But I never really talked to him after first year – I think he might have been a chemical engineer?

So… I think I got to school on like august 30th or something that year because freshman had early orientation. I think I had enrolled to be in the honor’s program, and then quickly decided it was more work than I wanted to do, and basically ignored everything that would have been required for me to be part of the honor’s program. I was very much a lost sheep that first year. I missed classes in the first week or two, because I could not find the buildings, and was too embarrassed to ask anyone. It’s a confusing time.

Anyway, on or around September 5th, I was looking out my window, having noticed a few times that there was a pretty blonde with a really goofy looking denim jacket with a floral pattern on it, who would sit on her desk in her room, which was right next to that window, and she was just hanging out talking either with her roommate or friends, or whomever. And I would look down at her. And I guess somehow on the 5th, she saw me looking down at her, and she waved to me or something. And then I guess we met. I’m not sure what happened in the week between the 5th and the 12th, but I do know what happened on the 12th… so Laura was my first real girlfriend. Unless you count Tina, a spritely little girl from Sharon, Massachusetts, who fulfilled the role of a different kind of “first” when I was 16 years old (interestingly, she is the last Jewish girl with whom I had a relationship, unless you count Sasha, but Sasha was married, so maybe really shouldn’t be counting her). And before Tina, my only other high school “girlfriend” was also from Sharon, and her name was Amy (not Edna). I was really in love with Amy, but to the best of my recollection, I think we only went on a few dates. She was one year older than me, and that apparently remained an insurmountable problem through the entire year that I tried to get her to go out with me again. And the other thing was that her breath smelled like the frozen breaded fried clams. So maybe it was okay that she never came around. I’ve dated other people whose breath smelled like other things good and bad, and I am sure that mine has smelled both good and bad at various times, so appy-polly-loggies to anyone whom I offended all those years, as my good droog Alex would have said (please, somebody, recognize a “Clockwork Orange” reference when you see one). I had one girlfriend whose breath miraculously smelled like green Lifesavers – and she did not eat Lifesavers. That is something to be happy about. But I digress.

So back to where? September 12th, 1986, I guess. Well, yes. Pop goes the weasel, so to speak. She was my freshman year girlfriend. Actually, I should qualify it and note that it was my weasel that was popped since hers had apparently popped with two other high school boyfriends. Ironically, and here’s a memory for you! I got blamed for stealing Laura’s precious girlhood. Being that we were trying to be responsible, Laura and I were actually using birth control almost immediately. She decided to go on the pill. And many months later, maybe it was the summer after freshman year, Laura was at home and her 11 year old sister Allie found her pill container and said “Mom, what are these?” Suffice it to say, her mom was not pleased that Allie found these. I was “invited” over the house to have a talk with Lenny and Diane. And I remember how uncomfortable it was. I remember Diane saying “How is this supposed to make me feel?” They had invited me to come to Florida and stay with them earlier that year, because Laura and I were both so miserable over winter break. And I stayed with her family down there. Come to think of it, I just remembered that! It’s kind of miraculous that my parents LET me go to Florida, alone, to meet up with her family and stay down there! I remember sitting in the kitchen, trying to get permission from my parents, and even being amazed when they said yes. Wow! I think that we drove back! Yes. Her family drove back. And come to think of it… I remember me and Laura ATTEMPTING to fool around in the back seat of the car, playing touchy-feely on the car ride, with Diane looking in the side-view mirror at us. I think at one point she told us to keep our hands to ourselves, or said something like “I can see what you two are doing back there”. We didn’t care. We were 18 year olds in love. Unstoppable. Well, then we had the talk with Lenny and Diane. The funny part is that Lenny really wanted no part of this talk. He was very mild mannered, and he was actually a leukemia survivor, probably only about 50 years old at the time. I remember Diane telling us how hurt she was, and then she says something like “What about you, Lenny?” and Lenny is like “Um… yeah, I’m hurt”. Blah blah blah. They had to give me the big talk because I stole their daughter’s maraschino cherry and little Allie had to know that this was BAD. But sadly, I did not steal it. It was gone when I got there. I didn’t even get an olive or a piece of celery. And Laura never set the record straight, at least not on my clock. Shortly after that, we fizzled in the summer time. I am not sure if maybe Diane forbade Laura from seeing me? Or it just got too complicated. I remember conversations about religion because she was in an Italian Catholic family. I remember her saying “We’re just too different”. And we broke up middle-to-end of the summer. I guess. I don’t really remember. I do remember going to a concert at Great Woods (Tweeter Center, sort of like “The Gorge Amphitheatre”) with her in a hot hot summer day. And that may have been one of our last dates. I don’t remember who we saw, but it may have been The Bangles. When we arrived back at school in September, we started talking again. Laura actually got very sick near the beginning of that year, and I remember she had bronchitis and a fever, and was sleeping in her room, and I came to see her. She had cut her hair really short. I visited her a bunch of times the beginning of that quarter. And I remember we kissed some and then we had a discussion about getting back together. And for some reason, not sure why – perhaps stupid guy games – I told her the whole thing about it would never work because of our families or because we’re too different. I don’t know why. She pleaded with me to try, and I said no. Then about a week later, I changed my mind. Of course. And I told her I wanted to try. And she said she’d started seeing this guy, David, who lived on the hallway. That was 1987. Laura and Dave married, and are still together today running their own medical practice with 3 kids, living in Amherst, after having moved around the country (Carolina, Chicago) for his career. She’s a nurse. He’s a doctor. They make house calls. Can you believe that? I guess it’s a good thing I told her that we wouldn’t work!

And I’m still not married. But that’s not a memory. It’s more of a process…

That’s my Laura story. Except, to give you an idea of the fact that we were not completely blissful… in that first year, Laura and I did indeed fight a lot. And we had an obsessive relationship. Actually I think the obsession and control came from my side. I was a bit crazy. When we met we lived in Washington Tower (where, one year earlier, someone had jumped off the 22nd floor window and splattered to their death on the concrete below). We both decided we wanted to move to Orchard Hill. Once again, moving involves a lottery system. I was very much concerned that Laura and I should live in the same dormitory. I do not know why I was so concerned about this, or why I felt such a strong need to control it. But I went to great lengths to “manipulate” the system so that we would be close. I am glad to say that my control freak tendencies have subsided now that I am almost forty! But I think I went to the housing office and had them staple our dorm requests together so we’d get put in the same place. What difference did it make? Why was I so obsessed with us being in the same place? I do not know. So we did end up on the same floor. I was living with a guy named Ralph (a different Ralph) who was from Mattapan, and played his stereo SO LOUD that you could hear Cameo doing “Word Up” through two sets of closed steel doors, as if it was through headphones on your ears. I was afraid of Ralph, but for no good reason. Laura lived 2 doors down, and I basically slept in Laura’s room every single day for that semester, except when she kicked me out during fights, which would last into the wee hours of the night. Laura was a huge U2 fan and I remember listening to Joshua Tree more times than I care to recount (non sequitur). Laura’s roommate Dory became a good friend of mine, and fortunately she tolerated all of the bullshit and craziness, and probably tolerated lots of us having sex with her lying awake in her bed. Nice girl. Thanks Dory… I remember one time Dory flipped a coin 100 times to see if probability held true. And I guess it came out 50 heads and 50 tails. She subsequently wrote in Sharpie on her wall “You can’t fuck fate… I tried”. I always liked that quote. I actually liked Dory quite a bit, and there was a tiny window of time years later where I probably could have and should have dated her. But I did not. Now I think she’s a lawyer in New Hampshire, still single, and raising a baby that she intentionally had on her own. But I might be mistaken.

I punched a lot of walls back then. Got in fights with Laura and punched walls. Never broke my hand, but bruised it really badly many times. I had rage problems up until maybe 30 or 32 years old and then they became much less, and eventually disappeared almost completely. But I punched walls. One time we had a big fight in the foyer of our dorm on the 3rd floor. And there wasn’t a wall there. Just a large glass window. And I punched that. And nothing happened. And then I punched it again. And the entire sheet of glass went, crashing down to the sidewalk below, where apparently a friend of mine was walking in – but was not hit by the glass. I never got caught for that, and was only cut slightly. I probably would have been thrown out of the dormitories if I had been caught. Laura was irate. I think a friend of ours put a scare into me, letting me think that the powers-that-be knew I had done it. But they didn’t. and I got away with it. So things were not completely rosy. But we had good arguments. She was a LOT like my mother, and for that reason, it is probably a good thing that I did not stay in that relationship.

I am flying over a part of the planet that looks like another planet. Brown alluvial fans in all directions. I think “alluvial” is the word I mean to use. I cannot look it up in the fucking thesaurus though, because apparently you need an internet connection to have thesaurus or dictionary in Word. That’s bullshit. I don’t know where I am. It’s 6:35pm Salt Lake City time, which means we’re going to land in 90 minutes. So… where could we be? South Dakota, maybe? That would make sense. If this were Jet Blue, I could look at the special little flight map. But it isn’t. It’s Delta, which means I need to swipe my credit card if I want to watch bad reruns of Two and a Half Men (which, incidentally, was one of my mother’s favorite shows, I am told). I kind of need to pee, but I don’t want to make the girl on the aisle stand. She is cute. Middle seat empty. Thankfully no obnoxious freakshow cult nutjobs from Jackoff City sitting next to me this time, and hogging both armrests. But I digress… again.

Are you tired of reading yet? Good news for you is that I only have like an hour of battery life left, so it’s got to end sometime.

Would you think more highly of me if I were to regularly use words like arable and alluvial? Because I can do it.

I am tired of Word telling me not to use sentence fragments. Everything I write is a fragment. Like this, for instance. Aha. But now, it is not flagging it because I said to ignore the rule. I wonder will it ignore the rule if I create a new document, or is it per instance. Shall we see? We’re good to go. I can use fragments to my heart’s delight now. Good.

Okay. This is deteriorating into nothingness, and I really need to possibly do #1 + #2 now, so pretty girl will need to stand up or else things will get ugly around here.

Back from #1, no #2 because I don’t want to die shitting because turbulence (or, “chop” as the pilot calls it) causes me to break my neck in an airplane restroom. That would be undignified. We just flew over Denver, leading me to believe that we did not fly over South Dakota. Who the hell knows. Maybe it was Nebraska. That would make sense, but I didn’t know there were alluvial fans there. You can tell that I am a big fan of the alluvial fan. You could even say that I am an alluvial fan fan.

It would be convenient if Google could make a laser overlay on the actual globe that identifies cities and major highways for you, so when you’re flying, you’ll know what things are. If they could do it in Google Earth, why can’t they do it on regular Earth? That would impress me.

Ooh cool! A map! Delta does have a special little map doohickey that I was able to access. It says we have an hour and 3 minutes to our destination. And we are at 34000 feet. Traveling 400miles per hour. The temperature is -49 degrees Celsius! That’s a new one! I never knew that. And we are indeed west of Denver. Cool beans. What else can I tell you… it’s -56 degrees now. The headwind is 224km/hr. that’s fucked up. How could that be true?! I am not sure I even believe that! That’s 139mph headwind. The Jet Stream is that fast. Wild. I learned something useless and new.

Okay. I will stop wasting your time.

Flying [Reposted from Facebook]

Location: 38,000 feet above earth

On the way back to seattle. Finally. I am in the air. And I am in limbo. I don’t know where I will land when I return. Everything should be settled, clear, solid, decided, and plain as day. But much like this aircraft, I feel like I’m floating in the breeze at 38,000 feet, with no certainty as to what the future holds. This is probably boring to read. I should go back to writing about memories. Those make for better stories than the present. Because the present only becomes a memory when it is worthy of remembering. Writing about the present, otherwise, is sort of just serving you up the daily receipts from the cash register. Lots of numbers, but no data.

So… maybe I should return to memories.

The place I want to go is not a place I can go yet. It’s something that will always be my memory, and maybe I should be documenting it, so that I never forget the details of it. But I am not sure it is okay to share it with you just yet. I am not sure because it is too new, and I feel like sharing it will sound like I am trying to get attention, which I am not. It will make you feel like you need to say something, which you do not. It will make it seem like I don’t have respect for the sanctity of certain things, which would be inaccurate. It is the memory of the last 18 hours of my mother’s life. If you can promise me that you will not judge me, or even offer me any sympathies, for which I am not asking, then maybe I will proceed to share it. I am writing this for me. But I am blogging it for some other purpose which is not entirely clear to me, but for which I do not wish to waste more time apologizing than the six words left in this sentence.

My mother made me look good. That might sound self-important, but I’m pretty sure it is true. My whole life, my mother always wanted me to be perfect, and she encouraged me to strive for perfection, not just “good enough”. She loved me, and she was very caring. But for better or worse, she placed a high priority on perfection, both in deed, and in appearances. And this time, my mother helped me.

I will have you know that starting with this sentence, you are reading “take two” of the story that I was planning on telling you. Because after writing the story I had planned on telling you, I decided that I cannot tell you that story. That story belongs to the family. That story is private. That story belongs to me. That story belongs to my mother. And my father. And my sister. That story belongs to the earth. That story is for no one. Instead you get this story…

My mother made me look good this time, for sure. She’d been barely hanging on to her life, after a major stroke that left her almost completely unresponsive, and unable to communicate. And from the time that things took the big downward turn, 9 days ago, she was existing only in the shadows of this world. And it was 6 days after that downward turn that I arrived in town. For a variety of reasons, which belong to the version of the story that I am not telling you, I came to town 6 days after that big downward turn. And I saw my mother in the hospital that night. And maybe she saw me. I do not know. Her eyes opened wide once or twice, and maybe she saw me. And she died the next day. And I was the one who discovered her in that state. My dad and sister had gone to eat, and I walked out for a moment, and came back to find her gone. The funeral was on Monday. And I flew back today, Tuesday. And I look like a fucking prophet. I look like a good son. I look like someone who has a special place in the universe, walking along a fine line of being in the right place at the right time. And the reason I look that way is because my mom didn’t die before I got there, and she did die after I got there. Furthermore, she died in time for me to still be there for the funeral on my original ticket itinerary.

She made me look perfect. Right place, right time. There when everyone needed me the most. There for my dad when he was at his darkest moment. When he felt most alone. There for my mother to say goodbye and finally leave this world where everything is difficult and everything hurts.

I have to thank her… because I don’t feel perfect. As you know, I don’t believe in the supernatural, or the spiritual, or anything of that sort. But I now have to ask, “do I believe that my mother, in her absolutely compromised and weakened state, could have been waiting for me to arrive?”

And questions like that are hard to take. If it were true, then it was a last loving connection between mother and youngest son. Each doing the other a great service of love – letting the other know that it will be okay. Or maybe she was completely out of it, and luck just had it that her heart stopped on this day. But leave it to my mother to make me think about such things. To make me stop for a moment and wonder about things that, though not “magical”, have a certain depth to them that I don’t often consider.

Now I head back to Seattle, feeling like I left everything and everyone in Boston a little too soon. But also feeling glad to get out of that place. I should have been there longer, perhaps. I could have been there longer. I do not think there would have been serious repercussions in my life, had I stayed longer. There was much time with family over the last few days, that reminded me that I actually have a family. And when you look at the family, all told, it is not a small family. And people are decent. Why don’t I feel the connectedness? Why did I never? I was not close with them when I did live in Boston. And it’s almost like I wanted to make it “official” by shoving 3000 miles between me and that place.

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I am wondering when, if ever, will I experience the emotions that went along with this weekend. I didn’t get my moment. I didn’t feel it. I don’t know why. I feel a bit queasy. This was not a great weekend. But it was not as terrible as I expected. This will be one of my memories though. This will be something on which I will always reflect. And many minute details will remain crystal clear. Small conversations. Tiny details. A tree. A flower. A 70 year old rabbi with one gold earring. A brother who disappoints me with his inability to do the right thing even on the darkest day his family has ever seen. Cousins whom I had not seen in 20 years. 30 years. Ever. Late nights with someone who does not want to go to sleep knowing that his wife of 59 years will never come home again. My three best friends from high school and college coming to visit me, without even being solicited. That was home. That was my family. That was my life for 30 years. That was the place I left behind.

And it was not such a bad place, after all.

13 April, 2008

Finality [Reposted from Facebook]

Location: Stanetsky's Funeral Home

Picking out a casket is not the most enjoyable shopping experience. It’s just a really empty and strange feeling to be deciding how beautiful and ornate of an object you wish to purchase and then immediately discard along with your “departed” into the ground. I understand the tradition, and I understand the symbolism, and I understand the value of it. I really do. The Egyptians built Pyramids to honor their dead. But it just seems so arbitrary a means of honoring. We’re serving the dead to the gods, that they might receive them favorably? Or we’re protecting and storing them for some unknown future cause. I don’t know. Again I am sure there are volumes of literature written on the topic, which I am unfortunately not curious enough to seek. So instead, I can only pontificate on what it’s all about. My only experience with the death industry is from watching 4.5 seasons of “Six Feet Under”, which sort of did prepare me pretty well for the real thing. The only difference being that Christians have an additional morose step in the process, that being embalming. But I guess after watching that show for years, I really wanted Nate and David Fisher to be the ones talking to me. Because they are people to whom I could relate. I know their entire back story, and I could empathize with them. Instead, I got “Bruce” who may or may not be named Stanetsky. I really don’t know. And he was in his fifties, and I don’t know any of his back story. So it was harder for me.

Someplace safe [Reposted from Facebook]

Location: alone among the wildflowers

There’s someplace safe I save for you
And I always will
I want to protect you
I want to be near you
Though I cannot now
Someday perhaps I will

There’s a spot in my heart that aches for you
And it always will
When you feel pain
I feel pain
And I know you feel my pain too
But what can we do?

There’s an empty place where once there was you
And nothing will ever fill it
No love
No success
No object
It just sits there, void and always aware
Of what belongs

There’s little else to do
But keep moving forward
Keep trying


10 April, 2008

Memories... continued [Reposted from Facebook]

Location: various cerebral artifacts from 1976-1978

This morning my mind is bouncing around and I cannot really pick a memory. Where do I want to go? I don’t know. I jump to my sister and the various vague memories I have of the time we sort of grew up together. We didn’t really grow up together, she was 15 when I was born. All I remember from then was one time she took me to the Leaning Tower of Pizza and I had a great time. And I remember her screaming at my mom since the two of them didn’t get along for the first 30 years or so. My sister slammed her bedroom door so many times, the wooden molding frame had separated from the wall. That’s a lot of door slamming. My mind drifts to my brother. Even fewer memories of him. I remember him visiting with his girlfriend Pam. I remember visiting him in Pennsylvania when he was apparently in graduate school. He had a girlfriend named Marcia. They both had their hair in a perm. Maybe my brother’s was naturally curly? I don’t know. It was the 70’s. he had an afro, as far as I can recall. Is “afro” a racial slander? I am really really sorry if it is, because I did not intend to use it that way, and I honestly don’t know. I guess it can’t be too much of a slander since there’s a store down the street from me called “Afro Mart”. Whatever. I remember one time my brother came to Boston when I was in my mid-20’s and we went to a Red Sox game together, and ate lunch before the game at a restaurant called Thornton’s in the Fenway, which is a place I often went with my friends John and Nick who lived in that area for awhile. I had a crush on this cute Irish waitress who worked there. I don’t remember her name, but she was really nice, and I was always afraid to talk to her. My friend John referred to her as “stove pipes” because she didn’t have the skinniest legs in the world, and he always had to have something wise to say about everyone. When I visited my brother with family in Pennsylvania, we drove there. I think I was probably between 7 and 10 years old? I really don’t remember. That seems about right, because he got married I think in 1979 to Debby, so this had to be before I was 11 if he was with an entirely different girl. And Pam was before that, probably when I was younger than 6. Piecing together the history. I never have really thought about this before. When we went down there, we went to the Hershey factory, which is located, of course, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I wonder is the town named after the company? Or the other way around? Anyone?

I don’t have a whole lot of memories of growing up with my brother and sister. My brother went to college a month before I was born. I got his bedroom, including his bedroom set. I think part of my bedroom set eventually became his son’s bedroom set, but not all of it. Most of it is still in my old bedroom in Stoughton. My sister was never really around much. I remember her powder blue Volkswagen Beetle. I think she had 2 different ones of those. My brother had a yellow Beetle, and then he had a baby-shit brown Rabbit. Before that he had some other cars like a Triumph Spitfire, and an MG. Don’t ask me why I remember this shit. I was barely even a baby during the time he had those. I remember the sound of my sister’s car, riding in it. And I remember the smell on the inside. It had kind of a neat smell, that you knew meant you were riding in a Beetle. Not sure why or what it was.

My mind also is jumping to other places and times. For a moment, I was thinking about Jay. He was my friend/nemesis in elementary school. He was the smartest kid in the class. I was young for my grade, one of the ones born in October, so I should have been the youngest in the class – i.e. I graduated at 17 years old. Jay was, if I am not mistaken, an entire year younger than that! And born in November, no less! I am 90% sure of that. Jay graduated and turned 16. Maybe I am mistaken? I don’t know. He was little, and he was smart. And in 3rd and 4th grade, in private school (with only 12 kids in the class, all boys), Jay and I would have daily fist fights. Most of the time, I would win. It would undoubtedly begin with a debate over some factual matter, and then deteriorate into blows. The teachers were often out of the room. At Shaloh House (the Jew School), we had half a day of Hebrew studies (read: “prayer”) and half a day of regular classes. The Hebrew part did not focus on learning grammar for the purpose of speaking the language. It focused on alphabet and phonics so that you could read the prayer book and maybe do some reading from the Torah as well. Are the Torah and the Bible the same thing? That’s how little I remember. And I cannot even be bothered to look in Wikipedia. Sad. The focus in the Jewish religion is in practice. You do not need to understand, or even believe. You just need to observe. So for children, it’s about the practice. Celebrating the holidays, and learning the history. I probably learned more than I think I did. The interesting thing is that even though only half our day was English studies, it was a very good education compared to public schools. Though I am not sure I learned any history in that school other than the Hebrew side. I think I just learned reading, writing, and arithmetic. Okay. No big deal. So at Shaloh House, two of my instructors were “The Rabbi” (Rabbi Gurkow) and “The Rabbi’s Wife” (Mrs. Gurkow). Rabbi Gurkow was a funny yet reasonably strict man. Who knows how old he was. They had MANY children. In fact, I think Mrs. Gurkow was pumping out little Gurkettes just about as often as her uterus would retain a new fertilized egg. And all of these children were wandering the halls of the building (unless they had already been sent away to boarding school at “Yeshiva”). Mrs. Gurkow was very strict, but I seem to recall that she too had a sense of humor. As a kid though, you don’t really appreciate adult humor. Occasionally our class would be disrupted because a little 2 year old Gurkette would come wandering into the room and being funny. We would all laugh, and you could see Mrs. Gurkow soften a bit. I wonder how old she was then? My guess is early-to-mid 30’s? I wonder where she is now? I wonder what her first name was? Strange the things you never know, and virtually can never find out.

So, Jay and I ended up going to the same public school, too, because both of our families moved to Stoughton around the same time. I think Jay was about a year later. Jay’s dad I think died when he was young, but I am not sure. I know he wasn’t around. Jay’s middle name was Bertram, and we would all make fun of him for it. When we lived in Mattapan together, Jay would come over to my house and we would play football in the street with a Nerf football. Just the two of us. How do you do that? Well… you pass the ball to yourself. That’s how. And the funny thing is, as you might guess, Jay and I spent more time fighting over what were the rules, than actually playing the game. Was the sidewalk out of bounds? I don’t know. How about the curb? Also, difficult to say.

Another friend of mine from Shaloh House was Sam. He lived in Hyde Park which was another, slightly less crappy suburb belonging to Boston. His family was white trash. I hate to say it, because it’s not nice. But they were. They were a rare form of white trash, though. They were Jewish White Trash. I didn’t think that actually existed, but I guess it did. Sam’s dad worked for the Post Office. And his dad was frequently “in traction”. I have no fucking clue what “in traction” is, but I know he was in it, and I know it was not good. I think that the stuff that would be today treated with either chiropractic, or physical therapy, or pain killers, was then treated with “traction”. All I know is that I didn’t like the sound of it. I got to have some “play dates” (as they’re now called, though that term was never used in 1976) with Sam. More often at his house, it seems. I don’t know where I was going with that. Oh yeah. Now I remember. Here’s one of my earliest manifestations of my ultimate belief system, or lack thereof. One time, Sam Shuman had come to my house for a sleepover. And I remember we were in our beds at night, probably all of 8 years old. And we were having a debate in the dark about God. Or “god” as I would say it, since things that do not exist, do not require capitalization. So, I was arguing for evolution, and Sam was arguing for creation. Very interesting that we had this debate. And very interesting that I remember it all these years. And I remember, I had my slam dunk statement: “What about all the fossils in the ground?!”. And Sam’s response: “God put them there to fool the non-believers”.

How can you argue with that? That’s the beauty of faith. If you are willing to take that leap, then everything else is equally plausible. How do we know, for instance, that we are not walking through the world upside-down, but our visual and vestibular systems are inverting the sensory information to create an impression of being upright?

I could say much more about Shaloh House. And about Jay. And about many things from that time. But not right now. There will be time.

09 April, 2008

Testing the limits of my hippocampus [Reposted from Facebook]

Location: deep into the chemistry that keeps us together...

in addition to all the memory dredging that i have been doing on here lately, i have also been putting my brain to quite the challenge lately. in the last 9 days, i have learned how to play 14 songs in their entirety. i am not sure if this makes my brain sharper, or duller, or neither. but it definitely makes me realize how much we can cram into our heads when we need to do it. and learning songs is harder than learning facts, because there is really no logic to them, unless you can create it. part of it is raw memorization. part of it is remembering what cues to listen for in the song. for instance, i don’t need to know how many times to play a certain part if i know that the drummer is gonna do something different right before that part ends. so it’s this sort of hollistic piecing it all together from a variety of different learning techniques.

if i am fortunate, i will be learning a whole bunch more songs very soon…

Memories... continued [Reposted from Facebook]

Location: the corner of rockingham road, summer 1978...
lingering shame...

Spin the magic wheel of time, and where does it land?

This time it falls in 1978. I was almost 10 years old. It was summer time. Living in Mattapan, Massachusetts. Mattapan is a part of Boston sort of like Fremont is a part of Seattle. Though it would probably be more appropriate to say “like Rainier Beach is a part of Seattle” since it wasn’t a very good part of town. Mattapan was once a very Jewish neighborhood, I guess from the 60’s going backwards. But sometime in the 70’s things changed and there was a lot of crime and poverty that made its way into the area and those surrounding it. I would be interested to understand how and why that came to be. How does a good neighborhood become a bad one?

Anyway, I cannot answer that question, and I am sure that there are people who could answer it, so I won’t even hypothesize. Well, I lived on a street named Rockingham Road. Grew up there, and lived there from birth until shortly after where this memory takes place. I went to a day-camp when I was a kid. I was fortunate to be able to do this, because it’s a great opportunity and not one that everyone can have. Especially now, it seems like these things have become disproportionately more expensive than they once were.

As an aside, I am starting to feel like maybe *everything* has become disproportionately more expensive. Not food, or gas, or cars. But important things like housing, education, and recreational opportunities. It is like we are turning our culture into cattle by giving them only the bare necessities for survival in a somewhat affordable fashion, while excluding them from participation in all of the things that enrich life and make it worth existing as something other than a vessel capable of consuming products.

But I really digress there.

I went to Camp Grossman, which was located in Westwood, Massachusetts. This was probably 10-15 miles away from where we lived, and there was a system of many buses that took children from all over, to go to this camp. Very cool. And I went for full days, for 8 weeks of summer (not overnight). If I remember correctly, it might have cost $150 per 4 weeks? Not sure. But it was something like that. I bet it was less. Maybe it was $150 for the whole summer. I could ask my mother… or I could ask my father. And unfortunately, I might receive the response “I really don’t recall”. Camp Grossman was great, and there are many stories I could tell about memories that stem from that place. It was the first opportunity I had to interact with girls, since my school had boys and girls separated. That school did a spectacular job of separating us too, because though we were all in one building (a giant mansion in Milton, Massachusetts, with the boys on main floor, and girls on upper floors), I don’t think I hardly ever saw a girl. Or maybe I did, but I don’t remember them because of some type of latency or refractory period, or whatever you would call it in Freudspeak. Why does my spell checker flag Freudspeak as an error, but not Grossman? Can you answer me that one? I didn’t think so.

So… about that day-camp…

I kissed my first girl there. Playing spin the bottle a couple of years later, probably age 11, in the bathroom (read: “outhouse”) on a sleepover night. It was me, Mark, Michelle, and Jennifer. Just the 4 of us. Playing spin the bottle. And Jennifer was my first real kiss. She wasn’t my first crush. I had fallen hard for Marjorie (an “older” girl – read: “11”) the year before, but she just thought I was cute. After kissing Jennifer, I demonstrated one of the first examples of what has proven to be the “big mouth” that I would always have. I told my friends about it. And then Jennifer wouldn’t speak to me anymore. So ended my first love 

I had my first real girlfriend too. When I was 12 years old, on the verge of 13, I met Sheri at Camp Grossman. She was only 11. And we had a romance that was steamy enough that one of the camp counselors took me aside to talk to me about it and suggested that maybe I was rushing things and should save something for when I was older. His name was Charlie, and he was probably only 16 years old, but he seemed like an adult to me. Funny how that works. I did save things for later, but Sheri and I certainly got a preview of what lay in store for the future. That lasted several months and then fizzled, after some 6 mile bike rides to Canton to visit her. In hindsight, I am quite surprised that at 13 years old, I was allowed to ride my bike to Sheri’s house. In further hindsight, I am not entirely sure that my parents were aware that I was doing this. It is somewhat impressive that I even managed to find my way there.

But I’ve jumped ahead in time. I can talk about Sheri more some other time. I actually saw her in high school many years later and recognized her at a track meet. She was doing some type of field event like discus or javelin. I was a runner. We said hello, I think. And that was it. I am sure that wherever she is, the memories are fond… I won’t bother looking her up, since I am sure her last name has long since stopped being what it was (actually, it didn't change). Of course, had I been a girl, my name would still be what it is, but that’s a different story.

So back to 1978. Neighborhood becoming bad. Going to camp. I remember getting my first sprained ankle jumping off the steps of the school bus that dropped me off from camp. I landed funny and it was sprained. That is significant because I have sprained both ankles dozens of times since then, and have virtually no lateral support on either foot (especially my right) anymore. I was born with sort of modified club foot, and had my feet in casts as a baby. But they ended up “ok” meaning, fucked up, but you can’t really notice anything wrong. Other than that I had a propensity for sprains. I am pretty sure the ankle weakness has led to my ultimate problem with calf strains and cramps which has all-but-ended my running career. That too, is another story… I would have to jump forward to 1994 to discuss my first serious calf pull. I’ll save that one. It evokes lots of parallel memories, and I will *never* get to tell you the story about 1978 if I go there.

So… 1978.

One day, hot summer, sweaty from camp, I get off the bus with my little bag that has all my camp stuff in it. That consisted of probably pants, a shirt (it was a rugby shirt with white collar, and with turquoise and brown stripes - *very* 70’s, isn’t it?), my first baseman’s mitt that had somehow been given to me through a neighbor or something (a very cool glove that was intended for adults – too big for me). After I get off the bus, I am approached by a kid (I will mention that he was African American, not because I wish to suggest a racial issue here, though in Mattapan at the time there absolutely *was*, but because I am painting a picture of the story and I want you to see what I saw. About half of my friends were Caucasian and the other half African American, on my street. This boy was not from my street). He was older than me, but I don’t know by how much. Probably only a little bit, though at the time it seemed like a lot. Maybe he was 13? Maybe 12? Maybe 14? And he has his hand in his pocket, as if he is concealing something, and he says “Give me your bag”. So… me being a fearful kid, gave him my bag, even though it was broad daylight, and my house was only like 3 or 4 houses away and in plain view. I give it to him. And he tells me, I think, if I remember correctly, to walk away and not look back. So I did. I got home and I was crying, and I told my mother what happened. Actually now I am not sure if I went home. I think that day I might have had to go to my friend’s house because my mother was at work late? I think that’s what happened. I went to the neighbor’s house which was 2 houses further away, and I was crying and telling the neighbor. She was the mom of my best friend, Phillip, who was one year older than I was. Phillip’s dad was an ex-Army guy and he was an angry and unhappy, big man, who owned attack dogs, and most definitely believed in corporal punishment. He also was not fond of me because he thought I was a little mama’s boy. Which I was. One time I was invited to visit family with them, I think his brother, and they were making sandwiches for dinner, and they only had wheat bread and I said I didn’t like wheat bread (I don’t think I’d ever even *had* wheat bread, because my mother only bought Sunbeam (if I was not with her) or Wonder (if I *was* with her)). And the mother said she would go to the store and buy white bread, and I remember Phillip’s dad, whose name I think was Joe, saying “That boy is too damn fussy!”. I lost touch with Phillip and I have no idea what happened to him after I moved away from Mattapan (shortly after this story). Eventually my mom came home and his mom (can’t remember her name, maybe Virginia?) called my mom and told her what was up, and I went home. I remember my mother sitting on a chair in the living room and me crying more and telling her the story, and I remember specifically asking if I could have permission to use a bad word to describe the boy. I think I either said shithead or asshole. Not sure which. That was the way I was. I would ask permission for everything. Funny how that translated in adult life to needing to seek the approval of everyone I know before I could make a single decision…

So I think I was most upset about losing my favorite shirt and baseball glove. And about the shame of having not tried to run away. I was the victim of a crime. And I was angry. Apparently, either before or shortly after that, my parents house had been broken into, and things had been stolen. I was never told about this until many years later. But it was in this time that my father finally got off his butt and decided we needed to get *out* of the city, and into the suburbs. In March of 1979, after they had looked at many houses, my parents finally bought a split-level ranch in Stoughton, Massachusetts, on foreclosure from the previous owners.

That’s where I want to stop this story.