Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The following poem was written by my old friend Tom Lux. The school to which he refers in the poem is the Maple Street School in our hometown, Easthampton, Massachusetts. The bookie joint was a newsroom and candy store on Cottage Street. Name of the place was Luigi's.


From Grade School Window
Watching Local Bookie Arrested

By Thomas Lux

They led him from his candy store in cuffs, the cops
whose sons played ball with his, for whose teams
his numbers' money bought caps and suits.
In his suit once, at the cleaners: two grand,
in a roll, wrapped in rubber bands.
My father and my father's friends bet a buck
or half every day on their lucky digits.
Once, hitting it meant a washing machine,
a dryer, and an orange rug, which made my mother happy,
some. They hauled him out,
to a bigger town nearby–over a mountain,
across a river. He did his time,
90 days, and when released
(it was his third offence)
he never took a bet again
until some decades later
in the black black belly of tumors
when the Dr. told him: The 8 horse, Quicksand,
(out of Leadmine, sired by Tub of Dust)
in the 4th at Aqueduct,
going off at 33-1, don't
bet on him, don't bet on that dead horse.





The Jones Newsroom is located dead center, Shop Row, Easthampton, Massachusetts. My hometown. If you want to know what Shop Row looks like, take a look at Edward Hopper's painting " Sunday Morning. Dead ringer, architecture-wise.

When I was a little kid, living in an apartment building called The Wendell, one of the chores my parents assigned me was fetching the local paper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette. The Wendell was just north of Jones Newsroom. Our address was 35 Main Street. The small store where the paper was sold was, and still is located at 81 Main Street. It took me about a minute to run up to Jones News Room, where I'd grab a paper off the stack and say to Harry Jones, " My father will pay you later. "

Dad had a tab running. Gave Harry what he owed on payday, after cashing his check, the money he earned working as a shipping clerk at Hamden Specialty Products on Pleasant Street. The Gazette was just one of the things Harry Jones supplied us with. Paperback books and cigarettes were also on the list of things we purchased at the store on Shop Row. Paperbacks cost about 30 cents back then. Cigarettes went for about 35 cents a pack. You could get a carton of the cancer sticks for less than three bucks.

Newspapers, cigarettes and paperback books. That's what I recall my parents getting at Harry's store. Actually it was me who did the getting. I was the runner. Running up to the store, getting what was needed. Running back to The Wendell.

Looking back on this now I have to smile. I didn't think of the things I carried back to my parents apartment as I think of them now. The way I think of the stuff now is in terms framed by a news story I read recently.

The Jones News Room was raided by Easthampton police on October 28. Police seized betting records, computers, waging apparatus and $7,796 in cash. Owner and former city councilor, Alan W. Bouyea, 60, was arrested and charged with operating an illegal sports betting pool out of the store on Shop Row.

Bouyea pleaded innocent to the charges on Monday ( October 30 ).

Back in the 1950s, I had my reasons for walking into Jones News Room. Those reasons were newspapers, cigarettes and paperback books, all of which, like placing bets on football games, can be addictive.

Kind of gives whole new meaning to JONES News Room, doesn't it?

Far be it from me to pass judgement on anyone who is any way involved with what's allegedly been going down recently at the store on Shop Row. I inherited my father and mother's curiousity about events both local and global. Their love of newspapers became my Jones. I even majored in the subject, earning a degree in journalism in 1977. I was a newspaper reporter and have been writing, off and on, for various newspapers since 1977.

I'm addicted to paperback books. I rarely go anywhere without one within reach. My preference lately is for the police procedurals of Archer Mayor, whose stories are set in Brattleboro, Vermont. Brattleboro, by the way, is where my parents eloped and got married in 1946.

As Mayor's character, Joe Gunther, a cop, might say, " What goes around comes around. "

Maybe. Maybe not. In other words, don't bet on it.

Cigarettes? Don't smoke them. But I gamble ( Legally. Honest! ) Spend more time than I should at the casinos. So who am I to judge what happened on Shop Row?

Still, I recognize a good story when I see one. And from what I gather, this one's got legs. I first learned of the news from my mother, whom I call every now and then from my home in Rhode Island.

" Did you hear the big news in Easthampton? " she asked me the other day. I hadn't. But after she filled me in, gave me the gist of the story, I went online real quick and got the rest of the story.

It was like running up Main Street to get the afternoon paper. It was like taking the latest edition off the top of the stack. Telling Harry, " My father will pay you later. "

Monday, October 30, 2006

YouTube - 2007 Chevrolet Silverado: Anthem

Chevrolet is running a series of TV spots based on the John Mellencamp song, " Our Country. " We Americans have been conditioned for most of our lives to the idea that car companies will wrap themselves in the flag to push product. But as far as I know, this new ad campaign breaks new ground.

Among the images shown in the spots are those of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.

What's next. Rosa Parks in a spot designed to market those yellow vehicles that carry our kids back and forth to and from school?

" THIS IS OUR COUNTRY. THIS IS OUR BUS. I'M ROSA PARKS AND I APPROVE THIS MESSAGE. "


Or maybe Martin Luther King driving a Silverado, heading north out of Memphis. Breaking away from a huge traffic jam. Mouthing these words: " Free at last, Thank God all mighty, free at last! "

Or throngs of mourners outside his funeral as this graphic appears on the screen:

THE HEARTBREAK OF AMERICA

Don't laugh. They're probably being storyboarded at some agency on Madison Avenue as we speak.

YouTube - 2007 Chevrolet Silverado: Anthem

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sunday, October 29, 2006

We set the clocks back last night; it was dark at 5 p.m this evening. The world's starting to tuck us all in. What you're feeling as you read this is the heavy, wet blanket of winter being pulled over your about to go to sleep for five months, ragged ass self. Good night and good luck. See you in April and all that.

As Donna and I ate dinner, we couldn't help but notice the lights and the activity on the property next door. I'm afraid of many things; the world for me is a haunted house whose owners are forever in the process of adding rooms. But the dark is one thing I have never feared.

But these lights in the dark, these lights that were casting shadows that danced dervish like out there. What the hell was going on?

I rose from the dinner table and looked out the window. And saw what was up with my neighbor. He and some friends were building a catapult, a midieval weapon of mass destruction. I'm not making this up.

" Now I know how South Korea feels, " I said to Donna.

We get along with the neighbor, although we've had some minor disputes. Donna and I have talked to him. Donna playing Condi. Me playing the part of Colin Powell ( The Secretary of State, not the General )

There is tension along the border, but all things considered, we get along. He does this, we talk about that. He does that, we talk about this.

As of this writing, there is peace in the neighborhood. But it's almost November and anything can happen this time of year. The words " October Surprise " come to mind.

That catapult's there. I kid you not. That catapult's there. How sure am I?

It's a slam dunk, dear reader. It's a slam fucking dunk.



A poem by Thomas Lux


THE PEOPLE OF THE OTHER VILLAGE



hate the people of this village
and would nail our hats
to our heads for refusing in their presence to remove them
or staple our hands to our foreheads
for refusing to salute them
if we did not hurt them first: mail them packages of rats,
mix their flour at night with broken glass.
We do this, they do that.
They peel the larynx from one of our brothers’ throats.
We devein one of their sisters.
The quicksand pits they built were good.
Our amputation teams were better.
We trained some birds to steal their wheat.
They sent to us exploding ambassadors of peace.
They do this, we do that.
We canceled our sheep imports.
They no longer bought our blankets.
We mocked their greatest poet
and when that had no effect
we parodied the way they dance
which did cause pain, so they, in turn, said our God
was leprous, hairless.
We do this, they do that.
Ten thousand (10,000) years, ten thousand
(10,000) brutal, beautiful years.




from SPLIT HORIZON, (Houghton Mifflin, 1994)








© 1995-2006 Dia Art Foundation

YouTube - Pink Floyd-Live 8

When I was working on a locked psychiatric unit in western Massachusetts, I had a friend, Tom. I call Tom a friend for what the hell was in it for me reasons. Tom and I were on the same fucking page. Tom got my jokes. Something really weird would happen and he'd look at me and I'd look at him and we wouldn't have to say anything. The looks we cast at each other said it all:

The look said: Isn't this place a gas?

Yeah, the unit was a gas. Scary as hell, but funny as hell at times. And we both got the joke. Tom played the guitar in a band. He was into music. Tom got away every now and then. One weekend he went to the Cape with his friend J.P. They ended up staying at Alice Brock's place on Commercial Street. Yes, THAT Alice Brock, the Alice of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant. As J.P. and Tom were leaving, having spent two nights at Alice's place, Alice said, " Before you go..."

And went upstairs and brought a box back down to where Tom and J.P. were getting ready to drive back to western Massachusetts. Alice wanted to give Tom something. Something out of that box. Said " Pick something out. " To the best of my recollection, Tom said, " You pick something out, Alice. "

And Alice did. Plucked a guitar pic from the box of stuff Alice had collected over the years. As far as I know, Tom still has that pic. He doesn't know whose pic it is. But, as it was part of Alice Brock's collection, the same Alice Brock made famous by Arlo Guthrie in that song he's been singing for forty years...

That damn pic could have belonged to just about anyone. Arlo. Jimmy Hendrix. James Taylor. Even Roger Waters or one of those other guys from Tom's favorite band: Pink Floyd.

YouTube - Pink Floyd-Live 8

YouTube - Jackson Browne - Stay

The following is dedicated to the memory of the late, great slogan: Stay The Course. RIP Stay The Course...

YouTube - Jackson Browne - Stay

Saturday, October 28, 2006

YouTube - The Cremation of Sam McGee

My father would have loved this. After downing a shot and a beer, he'd launch into a recitation of this Robert Service poem. YouTube - The Cremation of Sam McGee

Friday, October 27, 2006

YouTube - The Velvet Underground - Heroin (song only)

if you're human, you're addicted to something. To some idea. To someone. Nobody said this better than Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground...

YouTube - The Velvet Underground - Heroin (song only)
I was just doing some web surfing/googling and ran across a story in the New York Times. The story appeared in that paper on February 7, 1988, almost 19 years ago. The subject of the story was a new advertising campaign scheduled to break soon on TV.

What were the ads selling? Tourism in the state of Connecticut. The creative director for the ad agency charged with the task of luring tourists to the Nutmeg State was quoted extensively in the story. The same creative director who was there when I was associate creative director for the agency a year before the Times story was written.

The ad idea that was sold by the ad agency and bought by the state of Connecticut was something called ClassiConnecticut. The idea was to divide the state into three parts, the coast, the cities, the hills. Each part was to appeal to a different demographic.

All this was being discussed during my last few weeks at the agency. It was the creative director's idea, not mine. I had a different take on what the state of Connecticut's marketing niche should be.

I came up with this idea, based on the state of New Hampshire's license plate slogan:

Live Well Or Die.

I thought the line kind of summed up what Connecticut was all about in the late 1980s. Big expensive houses, big expensive cars, big expensive watches. Living well was the goal, a way of life to die for.

The day I came up with the line I sent it off to a TV reporter, Jerry Brooks. Brooks at that time was working for Channel 3, Hartford,s CBS affiliate. Brooks got back to me. Wanted to come up to my office with a cameraman. Wanted me to talk about my bright idea. Wanted Live Well Or Die to be the subject of one of his Brooks File segments on the 5 pm newscast.

Brooks came up to my office. Interviewed me. Left. Then went, as I learned when I saw the Brooks File on TV, to the office of the state's commissioner of economic development, John Carson. Interviewed him after he'd interviewed me. Asked him what he thought of Live Well Or Die, a slogan that mocked the very people his department wished to lure to the state.

In so many words Carson said, " It's not exactly I Love New York. "

The powers that be at the agency I worked for watched a tape of the Brooks File. They couldn't believe what they were seeing on the screen. Here they were, competing for a multimillion dollar account, one that would put their agency on the map. And there I was, one of their top creative guys, pissing off the state official charged with deciding who would get the account.

Live Well Or Die was the last bright idea I came up with at that ad agency. I quit soon after all that happened. Saw the copywriting on the wall so to speak.

Now here it is, nineteen years later. I'm reminded of the campaign that made news in the New York Times. ClassiConnecticut.

I still think Live Well Or Die would have been a better idea.

Lost Soldiers Review

As I was watching MSNBC news this morning, a one line graphic caught my eye:

Democrat's Sex Novel Praised by Sen. John McCain

The line referred to Virginia Senate candidate James Webb's novel, Lost Soldier. The book is the subject of an attack ad by Webb's opponent, George Allen. I would expect almost anything from the Whatever It Takes tactics of Senator Allen and his crew. But MSNBC characterizing Webb's book as a " sex novel? Click below and read a review of the book. As they say, we report. You decide...

Lost Soldiers Review

Race Matters - What's So Bad About Hate

This one's long, but worth the time. Sullivan's essay was among The Best Essays of 1999. Read it and think. Race Matters - What's So Bad About Hate

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I drove Donna up to Avon, Connecticut today; she had an appointment with Dr. Burstein who took her stitches out. There are myriad differences, many, many lines that separate the good doctor from yours truly. This is just one of them:

I do my best to keep Donna IN stitches.


I try to make her laugh, and for the most part she's been a good room. We were both laughing our asses off the other night. Donna told me about a condo in North Carolina she'd found on the internet. She emailed her sister, Claire, and told her about it. Claire emailed her back. Wanted to know if she had a photo of the place. I intercepted the email before Donna got it. Googled " Shotgun Shack " and got a photo of a typical south of the Mason-Dixon line ( very )humble abode.

The photo showed a crumbling, rotting shack, the kind of place you see stuck in the middle of a field off highway 301 in rural Georgia.

Sent the photo, pasted to an email, to Claire. " Here it is, " I wrote.

Showed Donna what I'd just done. She was in stitches.
There's only one thing worse than forgetting to invite a relative to The Party: Forgetting to add a late relative to the list of Thanksgiving Dinner guests.

I'm sorry Aunt Del.

You were there, and you are there now. In my thoughts. Thanks for everything.

YouTube - Arlo Guthrie/Alice's Restaurant

" You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant. "

Arlo Guthrie


My mother decided earlier this year that she would not be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the family, as she'd done for more than fifty years. Mom actually started weaning herself off the ritual two years ago when she started to serve the dinner buffet style.

It was a smart move. She could have given it up, uh, cold turkey.

But she made the change gradually. She's one smart lady. Knows how to do things right. She's set a fine example, one I try my best to follow.

So this year we're not heading off through the woods on our way to Mother Mary's place. We're all headed for a restaurant called Zoe's. It's going to seem strange not to be eating Thanksgiving dinner at Mom's. Mom's is the apartment in which I grew up in in Easthampton. Oh sure, there have been Thanksgivings when I wasn't there for the dinner. I missed a few back in the late 60's and early 70's when I was in the Air Force.

I missed last year's dinner, because of bad weather. Donna and I have to drive more than two hours to get to Easthampton from our place in Rhode Island. Still, it's going to seem strange eating the turkey and stuffing in a restaurant. The usual crew will be there, but the ghosts will be missing. My father, dead twenty years now - his ghost turning the pages of that old book of poetry, reading some lines from a Robert Service poem. He won't be there. My grandfather and grandmother won't be there. Judy's husband, David won't be there. The ghosts of the dogs, Dina, Huntz and Mickey won't be lurking under the table, begging for scraps.

Mom's TV won't be on. So I'm not at all sure what Todd, Chris and Jeff will be watching. It won't be the Detroit Lions. That much I know. Maybe their eyes will be glued to the salad bar.

It's going to be different. Arlo is famous for saying you can get anything you want at Alice's Resturant. Same may be said of that restaurant, Zoe's. But it isn't true. There are some things you can't get there. Only place you could get them was at Mary's place, where we could hear, if we listened hard, the ghosts whispering: " Thank You. " YouTube - Arlo Guthrie/Alice's Restaurant

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Plank

And in the " I couldn't have said it better myself " category... The Plank
Actually that pep talk by Hank5 was pretty verbose. Four words would have said it:


Stay the bloody course

Media Matters - Limbaugh on Michael J. Fox ad for MO Dem: "Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting"

YouTube - Michael J. Fox

Nothing reflects better how mediocre and bankrupt the culture has become than the great American success story that is Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh is all over the news today, which is unfortunate. It's not easy to compete with Lady Narcissus ( Oprah ), but Rush does a pretty fine job, playing Mr. Avis to Ms. Hertz in the It's All About Me Sweepstakes.

OK. I'm mixing my metaphors. So shoot me. Or better yet, shoot someone like me.

And don't talk to me about similes, which is, after all, the word smile with an extra I. Appropriate or what?

Where the hell was I.

Oh yeah. Rush. He's the news today because of some idiotic remarks he made about Michael J. Fox. Click below and you'll see Fox doing a commercial for stem cell research. After seeing this spot, Rush told his listeners that Fox was faking the symptoms of the disease he has: Parkinson's.

This guy has 13.5 million people in his audience every day of the week. Anyone who likes this guy should be taken out in the hall and shot.

Before the mid-term election.

YouTube - Cowboy Junkies - Sweet Jane

Here's to Jane and all the good work she does...

YouTube - Cowboy Junkies - Sweet Jane

A New Jersey State of Mind - New York Times

More on Richard Ford and the lay of the land in which his new book is set. This is familiar territory for our friend, Jane, who's a professor of communications at a college down in Fairfield County. A New Jersey State of Mind - New York Times

YouTube - Roxy Music - More Than This

I've said it before, I'll say it again, this time with music. More Than This by Roxy Music is one great song...

YouTube - Roxy Music - More Than This

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Shakespeare's Saint Crispen's Day Speech

Tomorrow is St. Crispin's Day. Young King Henry V comes to mind. That speech he made. What he said is relevant, as is so much of what Will Shakespeare wrote so long ago. A war was being waged back then. England was the underdog. France was strong. Read into the following what you will and try to forget about politics. Think instead about what this Knute Rockne/ Friday Night Lights pep talk says about leadership.

Leadership?

What the hell is that you might well ask, you 21st century warrior you.

Shakespeare's Saint Crispen's Day Speech

Lay of the Land - Richard Ford - Book - Review - New York Times

I read Richard Ford's The Sportswriter on vacation. Donna and I drove to Myrtle Beach South Carolina in 1986. I recall some synchronicity. I was reading the book and reached a page where Ford was describing some place in New Jersey. The place in New Jersey he was describing was where we were right then and there on the Jersey Turnpike.

The year 1986 was a year in which I started writing essays, hoping to get published. My father had just died and I was reading a lot into the fact that my father never left much of a paper trail for me to follow. Ray McCarthy loved literature and could quote Robert Service to beat the band. But he didn't write things down.

I could have known him better if he did. At least that's what I thought at the time. Believed that what one writes is who one is.

So I started writing essays. Started getting published in the Hartford Courant, Manchester Journal Inquirer, Litchfield County Times, Providence Journal. Networking was something I started doing in earnest when I was in the advertising bidness. I was doing that now. I wrote to people in a Saul Bellow Herzog-like frenzy. Asked them about writing. One of the guys I wrote to was Frank DeFord, the sportswriter. I mentioned a book I'd just read. The Sportswriter by Richard Ford.

DeFord wrote back. Told me there were rumors in the publishing trade that Ford had based his character, Frank Bascombe, on himself.

That's how it goes sometimes when you're networking. You pick up the bow, pull the string, aim the arrow, send it off and back it comes. In a form you don't recognize.

Where was I? Richard Ford wrote a sequel to The Sportswriter. Independence Day. It was published ten years after. Won the Pulitzer Prize. I've been waiting ten years for the sequel to that one.

Lay of the Land was just published today. The following is the review of the book as it ran in the Times.


Lay of the Land - Richard Ford - Book - Review - New York Times

Monday, October 23, 2006

YouTube - Not John

I've been reading a lot lately about a man by the name of Barak Obama. The man reminds me of a man who I nearly worshipped a long, long time ago. Heroes. I'm thinking about heroes, and what sometimes, oft times becomes of them...

YouTube - Not John

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I know. I know. Enough already with the music videos. But there's something about adding music to the blog that's intriguing. Maybe I'll start a new blog next month when this one's life has ended. Maybe it'll be a blog made up of my favorite hits, with a running commentary by yours truly. Whaddya think about that?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Donna and I went shopping at Wal-Mart again yesterday. Some people go to Disneyland. Some people go to Universal Studios or Six Flags. Some people like going to the zoo. We go to Wal-Mart. You can see things at Wal-Mart you don't see anywhere else. I was in the aisle where the pickles and olives are stocked when I saw this guy tossing stuff into his cart. Pushing the cart down the aisle. Nothing unusual about that. What was unusual was that this guy was eating a cheeseburger. Now make no mistake, I have a lot of experience shopping for groceries. I got my start shopping with my parents at the A&P in Easthampton, Massachusetts. I've shopped at a lot of places since then. Ed's, Stop and Shop, Shoprite, Shaws. I have decades of experience. But in all the years I've been shopping for groceries, this was the first time I'd ever seen someone eating a cheeseburger as he pushed his cart down the aisle.

A few weeks ago I was waiting in the checkout line at the Wal-Mart. The guy in front of me had on this T-Shirt, on the back of which were these words:

Acme Excavating. Your Hole Is Our Goal.

I am not making that up. There is an actual excavating business down here on the south coast of Rhode Island with that slogan.

I was an advertising copywriter for nine years. I came up with a lot of lines, some of which were OK, some of which were stupid. I was always amazed by the process. I'd sit in a small office and think stuff up. Come up with some ideas. Present them to an account executive. Then the AE and me would schedule a meeting with the boss, the top guy at the agency. We'd bounce the ideas off him. He'd give some of them the green light and off we'd go to the client. Present the ideas to the client, see which ones he or she liked. Sometimes focus groups got involved. We'd get a herd of people together, give them free coffee and donuts and ask their opinions of the ideas I'd come up with in a room very unlike the one in which they had parked their fat asses.

I wondered when I saw that line: Your Hole Is Our Goal. Whose concept was that? And what was the process that propelled it from bright idea to the back of that T-Shirt?

Who needs Six Flags?

YouTube - Jeff Tweedy Sunken Treasure

I'm too tired to write. So click below and enjoy Mr. Jeff Tweedy. This is from his latest DVD. Minus Wilco. Great stuff.

YouTube - Jeff Tweedy Sunken Treasure

Saturday, October 21, 2006

YouTube - Talking Heads-Once in a Lifetime-live!

OK. THIS is The Talking Heads doing Once In A Life Time.


YouTube - Talking Heads-Once in a Lifetime-live!

YouTube - Talking Heads Once In A Lifetime

The Talking Heads song sung on the following video is my favorite song of all time. Click below and hear it. And, uh, by the way, that's not the Talking Heads.

YouTube - Talking Heads Once In A Lifetime

YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.

Pretty powerful stuff from a show I watched back in the early 70s. Quite relevant these days. Just click below to watch this from The Ascent of Man.

YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I'm not big on TV. Never got into The Sopranos or West Wing. Donna's positively lost in Lost. Last time I felt that way about a television show was back in 1981 when I was glued to Brideshead Revisited.

Donna's recovering from painful surgery. Can't do a whole lot so she's been watching a lot of TV. About a month ago, when I was working late at the group home, I started watching a new show on NBC. Studio 60.

The show's about two writers for a Saturday Night Live like late show.

The other night I taped the show. Wanted to watch it with Donna. We were watching it tonight and I asked Donna, " Like it? "

" It's OK, " she said.

Damned it with faint praise.

Why'd I want Donna to watch this? Why'd I want Donna to like this? This show about writers on a show like Saturday Night Live?

And why did " It's OK. " nail me to the floor as an army of critics marched over my skinny carcass?

It's been twenty years since I was named creative director of an advertising agency in Hartford. I'd been the ultimate loser in Hartford in 1966. Twenty years later I felt I was on top of that small world. Winning awards. Wooed by ad agencies. Reporters coming to the house to interview me.

It was around that time that I was in New York City, working on a TV commercial. We filmed the spot in a YMCA gym in Harlem. Edited the spot in the Brill Building, a few short steps from Times Square. Broadway Video was the name of the place. Broadway Video, owned and operated by Lorne Michaels, producer of Saturday Night Live.

That was twenty years ago.

Twenty years later I'm into watching a show about a show like the show Lorne Michaels created. Trying to get Donna to watch.

I'm not big on TV.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I finally nailed down when I'll be giving a reading at the Westerly, Rhode Island library. My reading is scheduled for Wednesday evening, November 29 at 7 p.m.
I'm watching Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. I like Joe Buck, but those looks he gives Tim McCarver. Those looks he gives Tim in the booth. Buck better watch out. Foley Fallout and all that. Every young guy who works under an old guy works under a cloud of suspicion. Buck looks at Tim like Sebastian Flyte gazed longingly at Charles Ryder in that 1981 Brits TV production of Waugh's " Brideshead Revisited. "

Joe Buck, young buck. Tim McCarver. What's he? 65? 66?

Who'd a thunk this kind of thing would be on Fox in primetime? And what would Waugh have thunk?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

" Longing on a large scale is what makes history. "

From " Underworld " by Don DeLillo



The book begins describing a baseball game, the one in which Bobby Thompson hit " The shot heard round the world. " The Brooklyn Dodgers vs. the New York Giants. 1951. Thompson's up. Homerun. His team wins the pennant.

New York City goes crazy, as does the world of which it is a small part.

About the same time Thompson hits the shot heard round the world, the Russians test their first atomic bomb. Thompson's blast and that blast are juxtaposed in DeLillo's novel.

As I write this, I am watching the New York Mets play the St. Louis Cardinals in game five of the National League Championship series. If I were to grab the remote and change channels - if I were to turn on the news - what I would see would be this:

North Korea's Nuclear Test A Success.

Same as it ever was.
You hear and see the word " Blogosphere " all the time. All those blogs, all those writers, all those opinions. Fifteen or so years ago, when I started writing op-ed pieces for newspapers like the Hartford Courant, Litchfield Times and Manchester Journal Inquirer - and that one of mine that found a home on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page - my opinion was e pluribus unum.

One of many.

I'm still getting some op-ed pieces published on newspaper pages. But the bulk of my writing these days appears on my blog's website:

Terrencemichaelmccarthy.blogspot.com.

So I guess I'm one of those small, insignificant objects spinning, spinning, spinning in the Blogosphere. An asteroid, a former planet ( Like Pluto ). I really don't know what you'd call me. I may be in it, but I sure don't feel of it - this vast, empty, black, uncharted territory.

Where are Lewis and Clark when you need them?

Lately I've been posting comments on a blog written by one Colin McEnroe. He writes. I comment. He publishes my comments, along with the comments of others. Some of those others are students in his class on blogging. The class is held on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford's south end.

The trinity is always...

Never mind.

So. This is a small slice of the blogosphere. Colin has a blog. He writes in his blog and I post a comment. People who read my comment can click on my name. Clicking on my name connects them to my blog.

I think of that line in the old Talking Heads song: " How do you work this? "

I have no idea. On the one hand, it can be argued that I am participating in something that might be described as a " community." I'm one of many gathered on a cyber-village green.

But something's missing. I'm connecting to it, but nothing in it is connecting to me.

McEnroe publishes my comments. But I don't hear or see what he thinks about what's on my mind. McEnroe has many readers. The students in his Trinity class. The listeners, his radio talk show fans.

They read my comments. They must read my comments. But I don't hear from them. I get no comments on my blog.

All this technology. Myriad ways in which we think we connect. But we don't. As David Byrne once crooned:

" Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. "

I feel like I'm back in Hartford. It's 1966. I'm sharing a house with 15 other people. I know their names. But I have no idea who they are and they don't know me.

Same as it ever was.

Trolley good show - metallic art.

Click below. What pops up just might make your day. Thanks to Colin McEnroe's blog for this one.

Trolley good show - metallic art.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

" Writing is mainly recreational. I'm not happy when I'm not doing it. "

Christopher Hitchens


There's a fine line drawn in the sand; the stripe separates hope from denial. It's been two weeks since Donna had shoulder surgery. Two weeks ago we both thought: piece of cake. Donna would be back to work, driving, within two short weeks.

That's what we hoped. The reality is what we denied.

John Lennon, who would have celebrated his 66th birthday the other day, had he not failed us all by dying young, said:

" Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. "

Or something like that.

Donna will not be going back to work tomorrow. She won't be driving for a while. This is more serious than we thought.

Imagine losing the use of the arm you're used to using to do damn near everything. Imagine that. Imagine not being able to play the game you love so much to play. Tennis.

This ain't gonna be easy for Donna.

I used to define myself by the games I played. I was an athlete. A basketball player. A soccer player. A softball player and a golfer. When the organized sports were over, I started to throw stones on the beach.

I hoped others would see me throw the stones and think: There he is, an athlete. Might have been a pro once.

That wasn't hope. That was denial. My athlete days were over. No one cares and there is no use for a man throwing stones on the beach.

There came a time when I knew it was over. I wasn't going to be an athlete forever. I needed to redefine myself, like Gatsby did.

Like we Americans do and do so often and do so well. We just do it.

We rise from the smoldering ruins of what we were to become something else, something better.

It's not something we brag about. We just do it.

The kind of surgery Donna just had. She might just recover and be better than ever. Her serve might be better than ever. That's what I hope...

Which is on one side of that line in the sand.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Every now and then I'll revise a Progress Note entry and send it off, try to find a home for it in some newspaper or magazine. The following is a rewrite of a piece I wrote a few days ago. In the first draft, the Honda was the star. In the following, my father's old Ford Mustang plays the lead.






Driven Into The Ground




It's been twenty years since I last laid eyes on that old dirt colored Ford Mustang. I hated that car. My mother hated that car. My father? He loved it. Like the first car you ever owned, or the first girl you ever loved, he loved that old brown Mustang.

The Mustang wasn't the first car he ever owned; it was the last one. When I think back twenty years, to the months leading up to his death, I see him driving that car. Up and down the streets of my hometown, Easthampton, Massachusetts. Up and down the streets of Westhampton, Southampton and Northampton, those streets and back roads on which he taught me to drive. Back in the 60s. When Mustangs were young.

I see my father now, through fog, a soupy broth into which memory, desire, fantasy, hope and confusion are tossed.

Through that thick mist I see my father driving that God forsaken Mustang right into the ground.



This is a thought that occurs to me every now and then. It's been twenty years. It occurs to me now.



And it occurred to me recently when I was reminded of that car I hated...



My wife Donna and I spent a fair amount of time recently trying to talk Claire into getting rid of her old Honda Prelude. Claire, Donna's sister, lives in California, a state on whose flag should be embroidered a car. Stuck in traffic. Going nowhere fast.

That's the picture.

Don't Depend On Me. Those are the words.


Claire spends 10 months in California, then comes home, returns to the east coast, the south coast of Rhode Island. The car she comes back to is the Honda, a rusting wreck which, if it had skinny legs instead of wheels, would be on its last ones.

The last few summers it's been a pain in the neck. The car didn't start. Brakes didn't work. Alternator was shot. Antenna bent.

If the car were a horse, and if it could talk, it would scream, " Shoot me! "

" It's not dependable! " Donna shouts at her sister.

" Sell it. Get rid of it already! "

Every time I hear this, I think of the Mustang.

All during Claire's most recent sojourn east, things were no different. Claire continued to love the darn thing, claimed it has personality. Personality disorder is more like it. The Honda behaved like a classic sociopath. Charmed Claire, started up easy. Took her for a ride. Then did a 180 degree turn, a U turn and returned to default mode: Undependable.

She almost sold it. Got real mad at the car and said, " It's over. I'm outa here, Hondo. "



But the car charmed her again and she changed her mind again and here we go again, driving around that vicious circle, that roundabout, that rotary, that strange territory in which no one knows for sure who's supposed to yield or who's supposed to go.

Claire flew back to California at the beginning of last month. Before she flew off, she filled the tank full of gas and parked the car in front of her condo, which is a few miles from the place where Donna and I live in South Kingstown. Every two weeks, Donna goes over there to start the car, checks to see if everything's OK.

Recently, as we were pulling into where Claire's condo is, we saw a police car. We parked the car. The cop got out of his cruiser and started walking toward Claire's Honda. Donna and I got out of our car. Saw the shattered glass of the rear window on the passenger's side of this damned car.

My first thought was someone had thrown a rock through the window. But I was wrong.


The cop said it looked like someone had fired a pellet gun into the glass.

" Had it coming, " I said under my breath.

" What was that? " asked the cop.

" Nothing, " I said, as the words " Shoot me " came to mind.

And I thought again of that dirty old Mustang.
A few random thoughts before I head off to work...

Bush is an oil man. Cheney, too. Power is said to be an aphrodesiac. I wonder: Are women drawn to men like Bush and Cheney? Men whose power is fueled by oil. And, if so, what do we call men like this?

Petrosexuals?


***

The lead story in the news for the past week or so is the North Korean nuke test. As of this writing, the administration is still not sure whether or not the blast was nuclear. I'm no rocket scientist, but isn't it kind of odd that our " slam dunk " pre Iraq war intelligence was that Saddam had WMD. Tenet said " They have 'em. That's for sure. "

That's very much open to debate now. But hey! I can understand not really knowing whether some country has them, since said country has never set one off. But North Korea says, " We set one off! "

And more than a week later, we just don't know?

Physics always threw me for a loop. I've read up on quantum theory, and all it does is confuse the hell out of me. I've been reading Oppenheimer's biography, and he confuses the hell out of me. It's all very confusing. But one thing that should be easy is determining whether some country exploded...

A FREAKIN' NUCLEAR WEAPON!!!!!!

Like a lot of things happening on this spinning orb, I just don't get it.


****


An earthquake registering 6.6 on the scale hit the Hawaiian Islands yesterday morning. Shook a lot of folks out of bed, especially those folks who work weekends at the cable news operations. The story was all over the tube. Wall to wall coverage for hours. No commercial breaks. All earthquake, all of the time.

I woke up today and picked up the Times. The earthquake story was, appropriately, buried...

On page A-12


That's it for now. Good day and good luck.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Donna and I spent a fair amount of last summer trying to talk Claire into getting rid of her old Honda Prelude. Claire lives in California, a state on whose flag is embroidered a car. Stuck in traffic. Stalled. Going nowhere fast.

That's the picture.

Don't Depend On Me. Those are the words.


Claire spends 10 months in California, then comes home, returns to the east coast, the south coast of Rhode Island. The car she comes back to is the Honda, a rusting wreck which, if it had thin legs instead of wheels, would be on its last ones.

The last few summers it's been such a pain in the ass. Won't start. Brakes not working. Alternator shot. Antenna bent.

If the car were a horse, and if it could talk it would scream, " Shoot me! "

" It's not dependable! " Donna shouts at her sister. " Sell it. Get rid of the damn thing already! "

This summer past, things were no different. Claire continues to love the damn thing, claims it has personality. Personality disorder is more like it. The Honda behaved like a sociopath. Charmed the hell out of Claire, starting up easy, it took her for a ride. Then it did an 180 degree turn, a U turn and became, once again, undependable.

She almost sold it. Got real mad at the car and said, " It's over. I'm outa here, Hondo. "

But the car charmed her again and she changed her mind again and here we go again and again, driving around that vicious circle, that roundabout, that rotary, that territory in which no one knows who's supposed to yield.

Claire flew back to California at the beginning of last month. Before she flew off, she filled the tank full of gas and parked the car in front of her condo, which is a few miles from the place where Donna and I live. Every two weeks, Donna goes over there to start the car, check to see if everything's OK.

Today, as we were pulling into where Claire's condo is, we saw a police car. We parked the car. The cop got out of his cruiser and started walking toward Claire's Honda. Donna and I got out of our car. Saw the shattered glass of the rear window on the passenger's side of the Honda.

Someone had taken a shot at the window. The cop said it looked like someone had fired a pellet gun into the glass.

" Had it coming, " I said under my breath.

" What was that? " asked the cop.

" Nothing, " I said. And the words " Shoot me " came to mind.

Colin McEnroe | To Wit: Jedi Masters

Our good friend Terry C. in Jacksonville is a big fan of Andrew Sullivan. Colin McEnroe saw Sullivan's mind at work at The Bushnell in Hartford last night. Click below and read what McEnroe wrote about Sullivan. Terry C. He's always a few strokes ahead of the curve.


Colin McEnroe | To Wit: Jedi Masters

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sometimes I think there just might be a God, and that He/She has one hell of a sense of humor. The upper east side plane crash story continues to play out, like a slinky making its comical way down the stairs.

Turns out the apartment the plane crashed into was the home of the same woman who, a few years back, earned her 15 minutes of fame by getting hit by a lamp post felled by an out of control Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon.

OK God, we get it. This woman is the 21st century Job. Jobene. A Big Apple shit magnet if there ever was one.

Act 1: Jobene puts the turkey in the oven, then hits the streets of Manhattan. Wants to observe the passing parade. BANG! She's struck in the head by a lamp post felled by a balloon as big as a three car garage.

She recovers with the help of physical therapists. Gets better. Much better. Makes a few bucks she probably wouldn't have made had it not been for her brush with the balloon.

Act II: She moves into a tony apartment building at 71st Street and York Avenue. Prime real estate. Location. Location. Location. The best selling author, Mary Higgins Clark lives in this building. Some Yankee players call this place home.

Then, on a Wednesday, just after 2 p.m. you look out the window. A small plane is heading straight for your window. It's out of control. Looks like a balloon someone just stuck a pin into. Out of control and heading straight towards guess who?

I don't know what Act III is. All I know is that I do not want to be anywhere near this woman. If she continues to live in New York, I will not go to New York.

This woman is dangerous. I think she should move out of New York. Out of America.

I think she should move.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

One more thing on this, then I'll go back into the cornfield, whence I came. Baseball players are a superstitous lot. The New York Yankees, for example, have feared for decades that one of their stars would crash and burn again.

This all started when Yankee catcher and captain Thurman Munson died in a plane in which he was calling the game. August 1972. That's when that small plane went down.

When Cory Lidle was pitching for the Phillies, there was a clause in his contract. If he was hurt or died in a crash of a plane he was piloting, the team would not have to pay his family the remainder of the salary due him that year.

The lawyers and the bookies seemed to know what was coming. The lawyers and the bookies may have feigned shock and awe when they heard the news of the plane hitting that upper east side building.

But a part of them knew it was just a matter of time.

Life is a slot machine. The more times you sit down and stare into that screen, the more times you put your hands on the joystick - the better the house does.

And the bigger you are, the harder you fall.
A few wit of the staircase thoughts concerning the events of yesterday. Sports story/real estate story. This plane crash story could have been a story penned by Richard Ford. Frank Bascombe started out 20 years ago as a sportswriter. Ten years later, in the Pultizer Prize winning " Independence Day, " Bascombe had shed the sportswriter garb and had donned the Docker slacks, polo shirt uniform of the real estate agent.

Ford's " Lay of the Land " is due to be published on October 24. The book picks up where Bascombe left off in the #2 volume of this trilogy ( The trinity is always with us ). He is a real estate agent...

Among the many odd facts surfacing, dug up by reporters, is this one:

A lot of Yankee players have million dollar condos in the neighborhood in which Cory Lidle's plane went out of control and hit that high rise building on the upper east side.

Sports story collides with real estate story...
We're all still in the news gathering phase of the New York City plane crash story. Little more is known at this hour than was known last night at this time.

But as is true with all big news stories, there are sidebars, spin-offs of The Main Event.

One of these is the What If? angle. What if it were not a plane piloted by a pitcher for the New York Yankees? What if the plane had been piloted by a terrorist? What if the plane was loaded with explosives, or biological or chemical agents?

But at the end of the day, the big story will boil down to this: It'll be a sports story written by Lupika or Gammons. Or maybe Frank Bascombe, Richard Ford's " Sportswriter " will take a sabbatical from his real estate job and write about the bizarre flight of Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle.

If I were a sportswriter, this is an angle I might take with the story:

The flight plan was a game plan that included some chin music. On the mound, one Cory Lidle, a journeyman pitcher nearing the end of his career. At the plate stands The Big Apple, an arrogant batter with a reputation for standing too close to the pentagon shaped rubber slab.

The stance speaks for itself; it says: " Go on ya bastard, hit me. "

What Cory Lidle gave New York City was a brush back pitch, a warning of things to come in this new game of inches - America's pasttime - the war on terror.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A good writing workshop this morning. Only seven students, but we had ourselves a good talk about the writing life. It's always good news when one of the students reports that he or she has been published. H. pulled out a copy of a local newspaper in which an essay of hers had been published.

" Got paid for it! " she exclaimed.

" Good for you, " I said.

Turns out she's got a regular gig going. Her essays will appear in the paper the first Thursday of every month.

That was her good news. Her bad news was that she hadn't gotten any feedback. No one had called or written saying they'd seen her piece in the paper. And when she asked if any of us had seen the essay, we all said no.

" Don't worry about that, " said I, whose portfolio is thick with published newspaper stories and essays. " You want instant feedback, try your hand at standup comedy. Readers who like your stuff never let you know. "

What she wanted was validation. Few writers ever get that, unless, of course, they sign up for writer's workshops.

32. To An Athlete Dying Young. A. E. Housman. Modern British Poetry

The big story today is still in the news gathering stages. We don't know much, but what we do know is this. This is a sad story of a young man dying in his prime...

32. To An Athlete Dying Young. A. E. Housman. Modern British Poetry
And it just got weirder. Cory Lidle, according to the news I'm watching, was on board the plane that crashed into the high rise apartment building. Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle is dead. This is one of those rare news items that is truly developing into a major story.
Less than two hours ago news broke that a small plane struck a high rise apartment building on the upper east side of Manhattan. In times like these, I don my old newsroom hat and start with the politically incorrect graveyard humor.

" They just learned who the pilot was, " I said to Donna.

" OK. Who was it? "

" George Steinbrenner. And the apartment the plane hit was A-Rod's. "

Two minutes later ( This really happened ) NBC news reported that Yankee pitcher Corey Lidle recently purchased a plane exactly like the one that crashed into the upper east side building.

Ain't life weird?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I mentioned the house I lived in on Farmington Avenue, Hartford. The three story brick building is gone now. A Dunkin' Donuts shop stands where the place I lived once stood.

I am a man constantly scratching the bumps of a rash of regrets. Among the things I wish I did was talk more. Get to know better the scores of people with whom I shared small spaces.

That house on Farmington Avenue. I shared it with a boy who grew up to be Jack Hardy. Jack Hardy, the mentor who launched the careers of singer/songwriters Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega, John Gorka, Lyle Lovitte and more.

I was shy. Lived on the third floor. In a small room with two short guys who were majoring in music. The day room, the common room, the living room, was on the first floor. That's where people gathered, the boys with whom I lived and their girlfriends.

I wish I'd had the guts to mingle more in that three story brick building on Farmington Avenue. I wish I'd gone downstairs.
Donna and I drove up to northern Connecticut today. She had an appointment with the doctor who performed her surgery last Wednesday. About two miles into the hour and a half trip, we spotted a flock of wild turkeys trying to cross Route 1 in Charlestown. There were about ten birds in the flock. Nine made it across the four lane highway. The car in front of us hit one of the turkeys. Feathers scattered and were blown by the wind as we drove past the carcass of something that had been alive 30 seconds ago.

I spotted two dead deer on the side of the road 20 miles south of Hartford.

All in all a much better trip than the one we made to Hartford last Wednesday, the day the doctor made the cut. On that day, it was some guy who got struck by an SUV. Resulting in the biggest traffic jam I've ever seen on Route 2.

Listen to me. Some family's still grieving, and I'm complaining about how the poor bastard's carcass stretched out on the asphalt, and the police investigation of the crash that took his young life, was a bloody inconvenience for me and my wife.

Some people may view me as some kind of candy ass, social worker type, college boy liberal who watches Oprah and worships Phil Donahue. Here's a pansy, limp wristed liberal who was a counselor and human rights officer on a psych unit, you might say. A compassionate distant FOBAHC ( Friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton )

As Norman Mailer once said: Don't understand me too quickly.

I felt more for the turkey and the deer than I did for the stupid bastard who went for a walk in the fog on Route 2 at 6:30 am last Wednesday morning. The late turkey didn't even make me slow down. The deer were dead and the trees that cast their shadows upon them were busy dying. At least parts of them were, though you wouldn't know it by looking at those pretty leaves.

The experts ( Retired generals and colonels on the cable news payroll ) differ in their opinions concerning how the world will end. Some say the world will end with a bang. Others say it will all end with a whimper. If fire is our fate, we'll go out with an autumn like bang. It'll be like the Fourth of July, all fireworks and long boring parades. Colors galore.

If ice be the device by which we will all meet our end, it'll happen on the Fourth of January or February. Cold months, months in which everything will be painted the color of week old, roadside slush.

Where was I?

Ah yes, on the road, on our way back to Hartford. We got through the Insurance City with no problems. Traffic flowed like blood through healthy veins. The doctor's appointment went well. Lasted all of five minutes. Then we hit the road again and headed home. This time I saw nothing dead in the road, or along side of the road on which we sped back to the south coast of Rhode Island.

Nothing but the leaves that is. But, of course, the leaves don't count. Leaves die like the Allie McGraw character in the movie " Love Story. " As you watch her last moments on the screen, as you catch glimpses of the leaves along the side of the road that takes you back home, you think:

Nothing that beautiful could really be dying.

And then of course, life being what it is - a long road - you realize they are doing just that.

gladwell.com: Degree of Difficulty

A friend asked me the other day some questions about this blog I've been writing for 11 months now. He's a writer, a storyteller who has a storytelling gig coming up soon. His questions were the kinds of questions a writer would ask. Has writing the blog helped me grow as a writer? Do I try to write what I have on my mind in as few words as possible? And what's the point?

Click below and you can read an entry from New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell's blog. It's title is Degree of Difficulty. Gladwell, who tackles some very tough, difficult to explain topics, talks about keeping a " running diary. " How difficult that is to pull off.

That's what Progress Notes is really. A running diary, a marathon. Where am I at? Nearing the 23 mile marker. Hoping my feets and my hamstrings won't fail me now.

gladwell.com: Degree of Difficulty

Monday, October 09, 2006

Former Florida congressman Mark Foley also might be a good choice to replace Joe Torre as New York Yankees manager.


Pitching coach: Randy's given up three straight hits, ya think we should...

Foley: Yank The Big Unit?

Pitching coach: Wouldn't be the first time you pulled out a Johnson.

Foley: Very funny.

Pitching coach: Want me to get on the phone to the bullpen?

Foley: Nah. I'll email the boys. What's their address?




OK. I'll stop with this Joe Torre thing. Honest.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

SI.com - MLB - Report: Yanks expected to fire Torre - Sunday October 8, 2006 2:34PM

Joe Torre might just be baseball history. The Yankees hit the canvas in an early round. The parlor game this week is guessing who's next. Who's the boss going to hire to replace Scapegoat Joe Torre?

If Don Rumsfeld gets the axe, maybe Steinbrenner will hand Rummy the reins. Imagine that. The Secretary of Defense wearing a uniform with pinstripes. Narrower stripes than the uniform some would like to see Rummy wearing.

Or, maybe Oprah. The first female major league manager. Imagine those team meetings, everyone crying. Everyone fessing up.

A-Rod: I feel bad about going O for 17, but I was abused as a child.

Manager Oprah: Hit?

A-Rod: Yeah, I.... Oh wow! Yeah, I was HIT! No wonder I haven't...

Manager Oprah: Hit lately?

A-Rod: ( Hugging manager Oprah ) Thank you, Manager Oprah. Thank you!

You get the idea.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Two years ago, give or take a month, I started emailing a famous New York Times columnist. Since then, the columnist and I have become cyber friends. In a funny kind of way, the columnist is the best friend I have.

The columnist is not, by the way, Maureen Dowd. But 265 pages into her latest book, " Are Men Necessary? "

I kind of wish it was her I've been chatting up for the past two or so years.

Dowd's book is about the battle of the sexes. Ernie Pyle mingled with the troops as they slogged through the jungles of Guam and Midway. WWII was Ernie Pyle's war. Michael Herr, a writer for Esquire Magazine, wrote about the war in Vietnam like he was Homer reborn.

But Pyle and Herr were wolves, stalking stories. Dowd is a fox.

If I were not a happily married man, I could fall for this fox. We're so much alike, Dowd and I. She can't pass a pub without dropping in for a beer. She can't pass up the opportunity to pen a bad pun. Pubs. Puns. What the fook, she's fookin' Irish, she is.

Are men necessary? Read it, lads. And weep inta y'er Guinness. Dowd's sittin' at the end of the bar and it's a few minutes ta closing time. And she'll not be goin' home with the likes of you, boyo. Not anytime soon.
My mother tells this story...


It was Columbus Day weekend, 1971. Ray and I headed north towards Vermont. We had just celebrated our 25th anniversary. We had eloped back in 1946. Got hitched in the town of Brattleboro, a mill town located just north of the Massachusetts/Vermont border. It was a town a lot like Easthampton.

We drove up to Vermont and looked at the foliage. Ray loved to drive. He didn't mind driving.

We drove all day, then we looked for a place to spend the night, but we could not find a place to stay. Ray drove and drove, but there were No Vacancy signs everywhere. It was Columbus Day weekend.


My mother is not one to tell stories. She would rather listen to stories told by others. She would rather read stories written by others. But the Columbus Day weekend story is one that she tells.

What am I to make of this story told by my mother?

She and my father fell in love back in the mid 1940s. He was a strict Irish Catholic, one of three sons in a strict Catholic family. He had a sister named Mary. She was older than him. Mary wanted my father to become a priest.

But he fell in love with my mother, a protestant. And eloped with her to Vermont.

Twenty five years later he and my mother, Mary, went back to Vermont. And could not find a place that would take them in.

Their only son, Terrence, was in England at the time. Terrence did not know of the trip to Vermont. The story was told years later.

It's Columbus Day weekend, 2006. Maybe I'll call my mother tomorrow. Maybe she'll tell me a story.

Five Years On, an Emptiness That Lingers - New York Times

If you haven't discovered Dan Barry yet...

Click it or miss it ( The experience )


Five Years On, an Emptiness That Lingers - New York Times

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Donna and I took a short walk today. She's having trouble walking, as I did yesterday in Hartford. For her, surgery's the culprit. She's been knocked out, nerve blocked and driven into and out of Hartford by a nervous man who is pathologically uncomfortable with new routes and fast cars. No wonder her knees are weak.

What kind of guy is this on whom to depend in a crisis?

Most folks these days need less stress. Traffic jams and road rage. School shootings and lock downs. War now in Iraq. War soon in Iran. Nuclear tests and yellow cake uranium do a number, a knock, knock joke on your cranium.

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

The axis of evil.

Stress. For decades I faced that ugly bull down. Waved a red cape and said ( Not in Spanish ) " Bring it on! "

Went back to college and faced that fear. Landed a job as a newspaper reporter, faced that fear of deadlines and sadistic editors. Graduated from journalism to advertising. Faced the fears there, then made a career change and started working on a locked psych unit on which I earned a rep as the guy most likely to defuse a volatile situation.

Now it's nearly four years into semi-retirement. The living's been easy. Stress free. Until yesterday.

I was stressed out at the end of the day. An angry guy yelling. Throwing things around.

" What's your problem? " Donna asked.

" The problem is that I'm human, " I said.

I was better today.

TIME.com -- Joe Klein: Iraq? Who Cares! Say, Is Your Mom Jewish?

The following is an essay by Time magazine writer Joe Klein. There's a great picture in the magazine. Too bad it's not included in this web version. The photo is of the two candidates for the Virginia Senate seat. It's not a head shot; it's a foot shot, taken under a table at which the two politicians are sitting.

Republican George Allen is wearing shiney black cowboy boots. His challenger, Democrat James Webb, a Vietnam vet and former secretary of the navy - Webb has a son in the Marines, stationed in Iraq - is wearing a pair of his son's scruffed up combat boots.

That one's worth at least 750 words, the average length of a column.

TIME.com -- Joe Klein: Iraq? Who Cares! Say, Is Your Mom Jewish?
unexpected flys, traffic jam, numbness in left hand unexplained

The flies are driving us crazy. We've killed about fifteen of the little bastards this afternoon alone. This infestation, at this time is not good. Donna and I have enough to contend with on this first full day of her recovery from shoulder surgery.

The surgery was done in Hartford. It was scheduled for 9 a.m. The doctor wanted Donna there at 7:30 a.m., so we left here about 6. A thick fog enveloped the Volvo the entire trip. I hate driving in thick fog. As we approached Hartford, the drive took another bad turn. Traffic came to a standstill. We turned on WTIC, the Hartford AM radio station, and learned that there had just been a fatal accident on the Founder's Bridge. That's the bridge we were heading for. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Go a little further. Stop. No go. Just stop, stop. We were going nowhere fast, and 7:30 was fast approaching.

I ended up getting off Route 2 and driving into East Hartford. Headed north on Route 5 into Windsor. Picked up 159 and headed north into Hartford. I know Hartford. Went to school there for two semesters. Worked downtown for five years. Once we got downtown we had an easy time finding the building in which Donna's surgery was to be performed.

Everybody there was very nice, including the doctor, David Burstein and the anesthesiologist, a guy named Shaw ( " Like the supermarket, " he said. ) Just before Dr. Supermarket briefed us on what to expect, a short, wirey guy sporting a mustache leaned into him and, sotto voce, said, " Mail just came; they finally sent your application to medical school. "

I worked in a hospital for eleven years. There were times when some people got a tad annoyed by my sense of humor. I joked at weird times, tense times. Hearing the medical school joke made me feel good about the guys who were taking care of my wife. A M*A*S*H like sense of humor is crucial in settings like this one. There's definitely a line you don't cross, but the medical school quip was on the right side of that stripe in the sand.

What it boils down to is this. Trapper John and Hawkeye didn't take themselves seriously, but they took their jobs very seriously. Their sardonic one liners showed they were confident.

Patch Adams, as played by the increasingly annoying Robin Williams on the other hand...

I wouldn't want my wife's shoulder in his hands.

I kissed Donna good luck and said, " See you in a few hours. " The French have a word for thinking of a clever retort too late. The word, which I can't think of right now, translates to " The wit of the staircase. " Meaning it's what you think of as you're heading upstairs after the party.

What I should have said as Donna and Dr.Supermarket were heading for the O.R. was:

" Break an arm. "

The O.R. was booked for two and a half hours. I knew I had a long wait and waiting rooms are, for me, green rooms for a late show called Hell. Banal cell phone chatter; screaming babies; snoring old men and drooling old ladies. I took a walk.

The surgery center is located a block from where I lived on Farmington Avenue in 1966. I've mentioned Jack Hardy. The Farmington Avenue place was where we lived with fifteen or so other guys when we were students at the University of Hartford.

I took a walk over to Farmington Avenue. The three story brick building in which I had spent the spring 1966 semester is gone. A Dunkin' Donuts place stands where it stood back then. The whole area has gone to seed and it was pretty depressing to see what had become of a place where I lived.

There are a few places still there. The gigantic Colonial style Aetna Insurance Building, the cathedral, The Mark Twain branch of the Hartford Public Library. the old Aetna diner, an art deco style restaurant where I used to eat a lot of lunches is still there. But it's called Dishes.

And the house in which Mark Twian lived for years is still there. The house is a stone's throw from the place where I lived that semester.

Forty years. There are people walking around Hartford, not born when I was walking the streets of Asylum Hill, who are grandparents now. Forty years is a very long time.

I'd planned to walk downtown. I wanted to see Adrien's Landing, a huge commercial development that includes a hotel and conference center. The project was recently completed and has changed the face of Hartford as dramatically as time has changed me. I used to walk all over Hartford. But 20 minutes into yesterday's walk, my hip started killing me. If I'd made it downtown, I wouldn't have made it back to Asylum Hill.

So I went back to the Green Room and waited, with the rest of the miserable mob that surrounded me.

About 12:30 p.m. the phone chirped. A guy at the desk said, " Terry, It's Dr. Burstein for you. " Donna was out of surgery and it had gone well.

I didn't have to say, " Break an arm " after all.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

If you had asked me four or five years ago what a rotator cuff is, I would have probably steered you toward that " Car Talk " show on National Public Radio.

Rotator cuff? Dunno. Might be under the radiator, one of those belts that make that screaming noise. Or maybe it's that thing next to the alternator...

Don't know much about cars. Or the human body for that matter. I haven't read Gray's Anatomy yet; I'm waiting for it to come out in paperback.

What all of this is leading up to is this: Donna informed me a while back that her rotary cuff needed repairing.

" What garage are you going to, and how much are the bastards going to charge us for this one? "

" It's not the Volvo, " she said. " It's my shoulder. All that tennis has done a job on it. "

Tomorrow I'm driving Donna to Hartford. Surgery is scheduled for 9 am. I'll keep you posted...
Next time I hear my congressman say to a colleague, " The gentleman from Florida and I are on the same page, " I'll undoubtedly reframe my opinion of him and his, um, staff...

And this Foley Folly story sure gives new meaning to " Seats up for grabs. "

What was Foley thinking!? Was was Hastert doing?! Who knew and when? This story isn't going away too soon. The mid term elections are four weeks away. This Foley thing is an October surprise I sure wasn't expecting.

But Dennis Hastert? If he didn't know, he should have. Where have we heard that one before?

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Sox won the last game. Hansack went the distance, the distance being five innings. It started to rain hard again in Boston. The umpires waited a while, then ended it. Game over. Season over.

The game was an official game, having lasted the necessary five innings. Hansack didn't give up a hit. But it wasn't an official no hitter. Still...

It was a magical game. Not unlike so many of the games the Sox played in that year my father died. The Last Game of this year was delayed for two and a half hours. Then it was shortened by rain. The Sox won nine to nothing. The last time I saw this team walk off the field, it was raining. It was raining very hard. But they won that Last Game, the last game of a long and very dry season.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The last entry was a first draft of what is to follow...




The Last Game




There is an appropriate symmetry to this soon to be finished Boston Red Sox season. Back in April I wrote about how few players I recognized in the Fenway Park dugout. The analogy: Christmas Eve at my cousin's son's place in Easthampton last year. I looked around that night and spotted more people I didn't know than I knew.

Today's starting pitcher is Devern Hansack. Now I remind you, dear reader, I am a loyal Red Sox fan. I've watched most of the 161 games these guys have played. The Red Sox website is on my favorites list. Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo, the NESN broadcasters, are two of my very best friends.

But when I stared at the lineup I thought:

Who is Devern Hansack, and why is this stranger scheduled to pitch The Last Game

It is 5:32 p.m. Sunday, October 1, 2006. Today's game against the Baltimore Orioles was supposed to begin around 2 p.m. As I was watching the pregame show on NESN, I surfed on over to The Weather Channel. Wanted to check out the Doppler Radar. Wanted to know what the odds were of The Last Game being played.

The Weather Channel guy said the odds were not good.

" Looks like it's going to be raining all day up in Boston, " he said. " Looks like a good idea to read a book, watch a movie, Red Sox fans. "

That's all it took for me. That's when I knew: The Sox would be playing.

They've been wrong about nearly everything this year. They're probably wrong about this. That's what I thought about the weatherman, upon whom, perhaps, I was projecting my issues about baseball.

Despite all the warnings, I was not afraid. Despite the red crawl at the bottom of the screen I was watching. Despite the beeps I was hearing and the words I was seeing:

" This is a dangerous storm. Seek shelter immediately. If you are outside, get inside right now. "

And if you're sitting in a ballpark, I thought - kiss your sorry sore ass goodbye.

It was like they were predicting the world could be ending, and the final curtain just might fall in a theater near me.

I refused to fear this news. I would not be afraid. Our dog, Gracie? She was afraid. She was very afraid. Dogs know things we mere humans do not know. She heard the thunder, saw the lightning. Watched the rain fall hard on the deck.


" Calm down, Grace, " I said to our dog. " Calm down. The world is not ending, not yet. "

Gracie looked up at me, gave me a look as if to say, " Say what? "

" The world is not ending, " I said. " The Sox are destined to play The Last Game.

So here it is 6:03 p.m. The pitcher I never heard of is doing quite well. Mike Lowell just hit a home run. The score: Red Sox 3, Baltimore nothing.

Did I mention? Sportswriter Peter Gammons threw out the first pitch of The Last Game. Gammons looked good, all things considered. He suffered a brain aneurism in midsummer. Gammons’ beat has been the Red Sox for a very long time. He was a young writer for the Globe back in 1967. That Impossible Dream team, remember?

Whenever I think about Fenway and the roles that writers have played at the park, I think of that movie, “ Field of Dreams. “ The flick was based on a novel whose title was “ Shoeless Joe. “ Written by W.P. Kinsella. In the book and in the movie, the main character, a guy named Ray, takes a writer by the name of Terrence Mann to a ballgame at Fenway Park.

I think it was 1953 when my dad ( Ray McCarthy ) took his only child ( Terrence ) to his first Fenway Park game. I’ll never forget it. Thirty three years later ( Yes, the trinity IS always with us. Tinker to Evers to Chance. Three nil ) ) my father died. We buried him on opening day of the 1986 Red Sox season.

First games. Last games. The pace of the contest grows quicker each year…

The pace of this Last Game is fast. It'll probably be all over by 7:30 p.m. Hansack just might get the win. And Peter Gammons will have had one hell of an afternoon at The Fens.
The Last Game


There is an appropriate symmetry to this soon to be finished Boston Red Sox season. Back in April I wrote about how few players I recognized in the Fenway Park dugout. The analogy: Christmas Eve at my cousin's son's place in Easthampton. I looked around that night and spotted more people I didn't know than I knew.

Today's starting pitcher is Devern Hansack. Now I remind you, dear reader, I am a loyal Red Sox fan. I've watched most of the 161 games these guys have played. The Red Sox website is on my favorites list. Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo, the NESN broadcasters, are my best friends.

But when I stared at the lineup I thought:

Who is Devern Hansack, and why is this stranger scheduled to pitch The Last Game

It is 5:32 p.m. Sunday, October 1, 2006. Today's game against the Baltimore Orioles was supposed to begin around 2 p.m. As I was watching the pregame show on NESN, I surfed on over to The Weather Channel. Wanted to check out the Doppler Radar. Wanted to know what the odds were of The Last Game being played.

The Weather Channel guy said the odds were not good.

" Looks like it's going to be raining all day up in Boston, " he said. " Looks like a good idea to read a book, watch a movie. Red Sox fans. "

That's all it took for me. That's when I knew: The Sox would be playing.

They've been wrong about nearly everything this year. They're probably wrong about this. That's what I thought about the weatherman, upon whom, perhaps, I was projecting my issues about baseball.

Despite all the warnings, I was not afraid. Despite the red crawl at the bottom of the screen I was watching. Despite the beeps I was hearing and the words I was seeing:

" This is a dangerous storm. Seek shelter immediately. If you are outside, get inside right now. "

It was like they were predicting the world could be ending, and the final curtain just might fall in a theater near me.

I refused to fear this news. I would not be afraid. Our dog, Gracie? She was afraid. She was very afraid. Dogs know things we mere humans do not know. She heard the thunder, saw the lightning. Watched the rain fall hard on the deck.


" Calm down, Grace, " I said to our dog. " Calm down. The world is not ending, not yet. "

Gracie looked up at me, gave me a look as if to say, " Say what? "

" The world is not ending, " I said. " The Sox are destined to play The Last Game.

So here it is 6:03 p.m. The pitcher I never heard of is doing quite well. Mike Lowell just hit a home run. The score: Red Sox 3, Baltimore nothing.

The pace of the game is fast. It'll probably be all over by 7:30 p.m. Hansack just might get the win. And Peter Gammons will have had one hell of an afternoon at The Fens.

Books of the poet: Thomas Lux - book works writings work

First thing: There were several typos in my last entry. I take full responsibility for the errors, but in my defense I will say this.

You try writing on a laptop while at the same time cooking up a batch of killer meat a balls. This multi-tasking 21st century lifestyle I will never get used to. I just hope the rumor I heard recently isn't true. The one about Hummer coming out with a model that has a miniature Viking stove on the dash. If it's true, I'm gonna have to get me one of those FUVs.

But let's get past those mistakes I mentioned. Time to move on. Nobody's perfect. I've mentioned my old friend Tom Lux several times. Tom and I graduated from high school together. Senior year he and I sat at the same table in the Easthampton High School library. It was a study hall, but I remember both of us spending a lot of time reading magazines, like Time. I can also remember laughing my ass off at something Luxy said. This was something I remember doing a lot. Luxy was funny. He had a way of saying things that made me laugh and made me think. He wasn't a poet yet; that would come later when he was a student at Emerson College in Boston. That's where he got the itch to write poems. He's been doing it ever since. Back when we were kids growing up in Easthampton, Luxy wasn't bookish, as one biographer said of him once. He was obsessed, as I was, with sports. One of the sports we played together was basketball. I played Junior Varsity ball and was also a starter on the Congregational Church basketball team. Luxy played for the Methodist Church and was also responsible for writing up the games for the local paper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette. For some reason, Tom Lux always referred to me, when he was writing about the games in which I played, as " Meadowlark. "

Meadowlark Lemon was a player for the Harlem Globetrotters back then. Meadowlark, all through the games in which he played, never shut up. He was constantly talking. Me?

I could go days without saying a word. And I definitely didn't say much when I was running up and down the basketball court.

Click below and read a few reviews of some of Tom's books. He sure has come a long way since writing about church league basketball games in our hometown, Easthampton.

Books of the poet: Thomas Lux - book works writings work

Google Image Result for http://www.rachelleb.com/images/2005_01_22/speghetti.jpg

One of the great things about being semi-retired is having the time to try new things. One of the news things I've been trying for the past year or two is cooking. I'm not quite sure how cooking got to be part of the post 40 hour grind stew. Two years ago I landed a part-time job at a psychiatric group home. The job description included cooking meals for the nine people who live in the home. That might be the reason.

Or maybe it's a result of my watching The Food Channel. Rachel Ray, Emiril and the rest of the cooks have inspired me to try new things. One of my favorite recipes is meatballs. The recipe I use is based on something I saw cooked and served on a now defunct reality show called " The Restaurant. " The show was set in an Italian restaurant in New York City called Roccos.

On one show I watched four mafiosa types walked into the restaurant and ordered spaghetti and meatballs. After the meal one of them told the waiter, " Those were the best meatballs I ever had. "

Then he pulled out a revolver and shot the waiter right between the eyes.

I made that last part up.

The show inspired me to try meatballs, or as I like to call them " meat a balls. "

Just kidding. I kid the Italian readers. Pocket that pistol, mister.


Google Image Result for http://www.rachelleb.com/images/2005_01_22/speghetti.jpg