Friday, March 28, 2008

A Post In Which I Either Prove My Fecundity Or Disprove It With Extreme Prejudice

I've been particularly fecund lately. I apologize.

(Actually, being fecund is not something one needs to apologize for, but it sure sounds like it should be.)

(That opening has nothing to do with what follows. I just felt like saying "fecund". How often does one have a chance to say "fecund"? Of course, if I really was fecund, I'd have lots and lots of chances.)

(Come to think of it, the preceding has everything to do with what follows. For instance...)

(Here's another parenthetical expression for no good reason.)

Having said all of the above, and without further ado - because I surely did and there's no conceivable reason why you'd want more of it - I want to make it abundantly clear that I truly enjoyed being honored by CrazyCath yesterday. I had lots of fun at her expense, but she seems to have taken it in the manner in which it was intended; that is, to make fun of her wonderful generosity and then drive her to tears.

No, that's not totally honest. The tears were a bonus!

(I'm digging myself a hole here. That's OK. It will go well with the other thousand or so I've dug. Anyway, I have a stepladder.)

Actually, I've noticed something interesting concerning my readership. Many of my newer readers are either from The British Isles or have Multiple Sclerosis. My only explanation for this phenomenon is that the drugs they give you for MS must somehow make you amenable to my blandishments.

("Blandishments" is another word you don't get to use too often. Of course, blandishments often lead to fecundity.)

The drug theory espoused above...

(Espousal is sometimes a cause of fecundity, but not as often as it used to be, especially in Massachusetts.)

As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself: The drug theory espoused above in no way explains the folks from Britain. Of course, little does.

(Let's recount what has thus far transpired: Over the past few days, I've totally dissed the entire populations of Oakland and Great Britain; offended a nice person who was kind enough to give me an award; made a veiled accusation that people afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis might be addled by their drugs; and tossed off an oblique reference to the reproductive non-productivity of gay marriage.)

("Oblique" is another good word. Not as good as "Oblivious", nor as apropos, but still good.)

("Apropos" is a nice one, too, although not as fecund as "blandishments".)

(My blandishments are often obliquely apropos and obliviously fecund.)

My! You've actually made it this far without suffering an aneurysm? That is mighty impressive, especially for a gay MS patient from Great Britain or possibly Oakland. Will you marry me?

(I threw that in just so you'd know I don't have anything against gay people. I'm already married, so it was a bogus offer.)

You may by now have gathered that I'm completely out of things to say. If not, you're pretty dense. Of course, I had nothing to say right from the start of this, but I was on such a roll this week, I thought I'd see if I could just wing it and come up with something decent. It appears not.

Have a great fecund weekend.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

E For Excrement

CrazyCath has decided that this blog should get the E For Excrement award.


I don't know what I did to deserve such abusive treatment. I think I'm a reasonably nice guy. I don't go out of my way to pick fights with other bloggers, and I don't believe I've ever said anything but nice stuff about CrazyCath (even if she is, you know, Crazy.) It makes a fellow sit long and think hard (which isn't as much fun as sitting hard and thinking long, but it will have to do.)

I mean, I know I occasionally go off on tangents here. I've insulted the entire city of Oakland quite a bit lately. God knows I've bored you to tears while going on and on about the Celtics, softball, the Red Sox, and candlepin bowling. I've done my share of old-fart ranting. I've been known to publish wholly-overblown and pompous critiques. In the past, I believe I may have even conjured a scenario wherein a current presidential candidate and a famous singer make use of a sex toy together. However, are any of those things reason enough to bestow the E For Excrement award? Well, of course they are, but... but... will it help if I just break down and cry? I'll do it! I'll do anything to avoid criticism!

But, OK, if that's the way you want it, CrazyCath, then that's the way it's going to be. You... you... you POOPY-PANTS, you! There! NOW who's sorry? And you supposedly come from where? The "United Kingdom"? Oh, please! You poor Dungeons & Dragons wannabe. At least be a bit more original. Make up a country that people won't automatically know is a phony. You are such a igorammus.

Well, I'm giving you the "3 Is For What Finger I'm Holding Up And Aiming At You Right At This Very Moment And What Are You Going To Do About It, Bitch?" award, OK? So there, smarty! How do you like them apples?

[looks at top of own blog, blinks twice, rubs eyes, reads it again]

E For... Excellent?



(Oh. It appears I'm supposed to give this award to 10 other blogs that I like. Then they can pass it on to another 10, and so on. If you're on my sidebar, consider yourself awarded. It's the least I can do for putting your name in such a vastly inferior public space.)

(Also: Now that CrazyCath has read this and commented, I'll tell her "Thank you!" It is always a thrill to be thought of in such a manner, even if the person doing the thinking comes from someplace fictitious.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Instead Of The Usual Figuratively, Today My Writing Literally Stinks

Today, I’ll be pondering smells. If that doesn’t interest you, come back tomorrow when I’ll be smelling ponders.

(That doesn’t make much sense, but it’s better than the following: Today, I’ll be pondering smells. If that doesn’t interest you, come back tomorrow when I’ll be Tony Curtis.)

The reason I’m a smelly panda is because it’s Easter. I’ve had the opportunity to whiff two of my favorite aromas: a freshly opened bag of circus peanuts and a big pot of turnip cooking.

(Some folks would choose fresh cut roses or, perhaps, a newborn infant as their favorite smell. Boring! And you can’t eat a newborn infant. Well, at least not in Massachusetts, though the legislature may have something in the works – you never know in this state.)

Circus Peanuts are neither a circus nor peanuts. What they are is sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, and single-handedly responsible for at least 15% of the teeth I’m missing. You would be hard pressed to find anything unhealthier to eat. Therefore, I love them and consider them an irreplaceable joy of life. When I saw that MY EASTER BUNNY had left some in my basket this morning, I was thrilled. I ripped open the bag and was hit in the face by that unmistakable aroma, which is sort of a cross between birthday cake and when you let the air out of a balloon. I immediately ate 12 or 15 of them and passed out from insulin overload. It was the best Easter ever!

Turnip is also known as rutabaga, unless you’re familiar with old actresses and then it’s known as Ruta Lee. It is a root vegetable (or a ruta vegetable) about the size of a candlepin bowling ball and similarly easy to peel and chop. I can’t even begin to imagine how the first person to eat a turnip came to do so. He had to be so hard up for food that he could find none on top of the ground, so he burrowed until he found this purple and yellow thing as hard as a rock. He tried to bite into it and left three of his front teeth behind. Then he took a big rock, smashed it onto the turnip, and ate the rock when it broke into little pebbles. Meanwhile, he could have walked down the street to the 7-11 and grabbed a bag of circus peanuts. Such is the irony in life.

I associate the smell of cooking turnip with holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which should give you an idea of just how jolly those occasions are in my family. No, honestly, there is something tremendously comforting about the smell of turnip cooking. Perhaps it’s knowing that if someone were to break into your house while it was happening, they would immediately sniff the air and run away.

All of the foregoing should have you doing likewise, of course, but if you’re still hanging around (much like the smell of the turnip the next day) then it’s too late. You’ll now be subjected to my thoughts on more favorite smells. About the only thing you have to be thankful for, at this point, is that I’m not going to write about my least favorite smells. I’m saving that for a more apropos stinky time, such as the presidential election.


The first time I ever got a real kiss from a girl – tongue and such - it was the middle of summer. We were on a rooftop in downtown Boston, it was very hot, and when we locked lips, the smell of deodorant and sweat wafted it’s way into my nostrils. I’ve associated that particular smell with teenage lust ever since.

Now, you may be wondering how I know it was Ban roll-on. I obviously didn’t say to her, "Hey, you’re really sweaty, but I like the smell. What brand of deodorant are you wearing?" Here's how I know. About two years after that kiss, I applied some Ban roll-on deodorant after a shower. Later on, after a hot day, I sniffed my armpit to see if I stank.

(Don’t get all uppity on me here. You’ve done it. Everybody has. I’m just the first one to admit it in public.)

Anyway, I sniffed my armpit and I was immediately transported back to that rooftop. It then dawned on me that I had been smelling the odor of my own sweaty pits that night two years back. It finally made sense to me why that girl never kissed me again. On the plus side, I was able to turn myself on by sniffing my own armpit for years afterwards.


I first started smoking cigarettes in 1970. At that time, baseball players were still being paid relatively normal salaries, rather than the millions they receive today. As a result, most baseball teams were still able to schedule a couple of doubleheaders during the season. They didn’t have to have the revenue available to them by making every game a separate admission. If you were a baseball junkie – like me – you always went to a doubleheader when one was scheduled. You’d get 7 or 8 hours in the ballpark for your dollar-or-so bleacher ticket. It was great.

These doubleheaders were usually scheduled on Sunday, against teams considered a weaker draw. On this particular Sunday, the Red Sox were playing the Kansas City Royals. This was before the Royals became a decent team that contended for the pennant every year. That year, they stunk. So, my friend Joey Santucci and I decided to buy bleacher tickets and spend the day in Fenway Park watching the Sox win two.

In those prehistoric days, smoking was still allowed in the ballpark. This was an extra perk for us. Since we didn’t smoke in front of our parents, this gave us a relatively risk-free opportunity to puff away all day. And so we did.

It was a fairly windy day, and we were inexperienced in the art of cupping a match to protect it from blowing out, so when we lit up, we had to attack the match with the cigarette before the match died. As a result, we got a strong taste of the sulfur match head with each first draw on a cigarette. And now, any time I don’t wait for the sulfur to burn off before lighting a smoke with a match, and I get that same taste again, I am transported back to the bleachers at Fenway – 14 years old, most of life still ahead of me, and the announcement over the loudspeaker, "Now batting for Kansas City, Amos Otis" reducing Joey and me to helpless fits of laughter for some inexplicable reason.


Lilac Vegetal is an aftershave manufactured by Pinaud. As you might have guessed, the main smell is of lilacs. It was a mainstay in the barbershops of my youth. There, it was used not only as an aftershave, but also as a general scalp treatment of sorts. Whenever the barber finished cutting your hair, he’d liberally sprinkle some Lilac Vegetal into his hands, rub them together, and then give you a scalp massage, finishing by combing your hair afterwards. It’s probably the main reason why I’m bald today. I don’t care. I loved the smell of the stuff. I always keep a bottle of it in the bathroom and when I splash some on after shaving, it takes me back to childhood.

Isn’t it amazing how smells seem to make a connection with past events so much more readily than the other senses do? Seems that way to me, anyway. Maybe it’s all that Lilac Vegetal that seeped into my brain.


I think it should be a law that you have to carry a pack of Crayola crayons with you at all times. Then, when something stresses you out, you open the box and take a whiff. I guarantee you’ll imagine yourself back in kindergarten, which is good for a drop of a few points on your blood pressure – unless you constantly peed your pants in kindergarten and got laughed at by the other kids and scolded by the teacher and it was the most traumatic time of your life, in which case smelling the crayons probably won’t do YOU much good and I’m sorry I brought it up.


I could tell you about a lot of other smells I sometimes enjoy, some of them normal (Christmas trees), some of them perhaps not readily obvious (Bell’s Seasoning, the heel from a loaf of wheat bread), some of them inexplicable (subways, bus exhaust), and some of them almost impossible to convey via the written word (when a very soft rain falls on a city street and mixes with the sand left over from when public works spread it on the snow to avoid slippage in winter), but I can’t leave without telling you about the best smell in the world.

That smell is Essence Of Fabulous Babe.

It is a very rare smell, and I’m afraid you may never get to smell it. It is the combination of White Linen perfume and MY WIFE. Just White Linen won’t do it, of course. Perfumes react to the person they’re put on. When White Linen combines with MY WIFE, it does to me what the sound of "Pop Goes The Weasel" does to Curley in Punch Drunks, except I don’t become a wild man who beats up everybody in sight and goes on to become the heavyweight boxing champion. I just become... aroused, which I suppose could be considered much worse, depending upon your sexual tastes.

Anyway, as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing my favorite smells with you, if I found you putting your nose on MY WIFE, I’d have to sock you in the chops, so forget I even mentioned it.

Well, that about wraps it up, not unlike a big fish in a newspaper. By the way, this entire blog is historic. It is the first scratch ‘n sniff blog ever. If you put your face right up next to your monitor and give the screen a couple of scrapes with your fingernail, you’ll smell glass.

Soon, with less stinky stuff.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Super-Duper Amazingly Fantastic Friday, All Sins Forgiven Or Your Money Back

My good Jewish internet friend, Stu, posed a serious theological question on his blog the other day. I gave him my sincerest answer to that question. When he reads what follows here, he may wonder about the worth of that answer. I can't say that I'd blame him.

What follows is a repeat from Good Friday of last year. I've seriously pondered about putting this out here again. In the end, I've come to the conclusion that I still believe every word in it. Whether I put it out here or not, the sentiments expressed in the piece are still in my heart. So, if God is omnipotent, and likes a joke as well - both of which I posited over at Stu's place - I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by re-publishing.

The only other thing nagging at me was whether or not I'd be self-serving to publish it again. After all, I just said "I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by re-publishing." That sure sounds self-serving.

Nah. God knows what's in my heart. I might be misguided, but I have to believe He would find my intentions decent. Of course, the road to hell is paved... or something like that.

Enough blathering! Enjoy. Or, if you don't enjoy it, be a better Christian than me and say a prayer for my forgiveness.


As you read this, it is Good Friday. What the hell are you doing reading this, you heathen? You couldn't possibly believe that anything I have to say is divinely inspired. Get your ass to church.

OK, now that the easily-guilted holy rollers are gone, let’s get down to business.

(By the way, I’m writing this on Thursday night, wise guy; that’s why I’M not in church, OK?)

(Well, all right, it IS Maundy Thursday, but my feet are already clean.)

(That’s a Catholic joke. See, Maundy Thursday was when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, showing them that the way to do His business was to serve others, no matter how high and mighty you were perceived to be. In the Catholic Church, some parishioners have their feet washed by the priest at Maundy Thursday services.)

(Except in Boston, the Archbishop refused to wash the feet of some female parishioners a couple of years back. He said something to the effect that Jesus only washed men’s feet, so he wasn’t going to wash women’s feet, either. That’s why I haven’t been to a Catholic mass in quite some time, even though I’m most definitely still a Christian.)

(So now, I’ve gone from lightly sacrilegious and flippant to deadly serious. Bummer. Let’s see if we can recapture the mood.)

Jesus is hanging on the cross. He looks down and sees Mary Magdelene crying.

Jesus says, “Mary...”

Mary looks up, still crying, and says, “What is it, Lord?”

Jesus says, “Mary...”

Mary again says, “What is it, Lord?”

Jesus says, “Mary, it’s... amazing.”

Mary says, “What, Lord? What is it? What’s amazing?”

“I can see your house from up here!”

Whoa, Pilgrim! Don’t go away mad. You think it’s just a crummy blasphemous joke, but I can justify almost anything. Nothing up my sleeve... PRESTO!

See, Jesus is closer to heaven and he can see Mary’s house IN HEAVEN. He’s telling her that her faith has saved her and that she will spend eternity in paradise. Hah!

And I guess that’s today’s lesson: It all depends upon your point of view. This is “Good” Friday, right? Why? Why do Christians call this “Good” Friday, when this is the anniversary of the day when their savior was murdered; the day He was nailed to a tree and died a miserable, painful death?

Because without the cross – without the death - none of us can ever see our house in heaven, no matter how high up we are here on earth.

(Boy, that was pretty good! Quick! Are the easily-guilted holy rollers still within shouting distance? Call them back. Maybe this is divinely inspired. Let’s see if I can wriggle out of another one.)

So, see the painting up above, of Jesus on the cross? There’s a plaque nailed to the cross, just above His head. The plaque reads “INRI.” Want to know what it means?

I’m Nailed Right In.

Well, what it really means is lightning bolts should be coming any minute now and I’ll be going to hell immediately if God doesn't have a sense of humor. However, I believe that God has an amazing sense of humor. My belief is that, when we die, we’re going to find out that this whole thing was one long and involved joke. And we’ll laugh and laugh and laugh when we hear the punch line.

Or, if you don’t find that terribly convincing, try this on for size. If God doesn’t have a sense of humor, what can we expect in the afterlife? An eternity without laughter? Hey, kill me now and leave me dead; none of that resurrection shit for me, thanks.

Or are some jokes theologically sound and others not? Maybe. We all have subjective senses of humor, I guess. Maybe God does, too. If so, the only way to know for sure is if we can hear God laugh. Then we’d know what He finds funny. Let's try it. Everybody be very quiet for a minute. Cue Simon & Garfunkel.

(*sounds of silence*)

So, I don’t hear God laughing. I’m assuming you don’t hear anything, either, right? Well, that's OK; it wasn't that good a joke. Maybe we'll try again later.

What it comes down to is having faith. One way or another, you've got to have faith. If you don't, you're screwed. My faith lives in the belief that everything is for the best and that everything will be revealed in the end. Now, if what's revealed in the end is that God has absolutely no sense of humor whatsoever, and He's royally pissed off at me for this, then that's the way it goes; I'm doomed. But if God has no sense of humor, I've been doomed for a long, long time now. You, too - so at least we'll all fry together.

(The following will seem totally unconnected, but wait for it.)

I remember watching The Mike Douglas Show, one day when I was a kid, and he had this comedy troupe on. For the life of me, I can't remember their name. However, the bit they did has stuck with me forever. It was a parody of Moby Dick.

Ahab and Ishmael are standing on the deck of the Peqoud. Ahab is looking through a telescope. Suddenly, he sees something and gets all excited.

Ishmael: "What is it? What do you see?"


Ishmael: "Let me see."

Ahab hands him the telescope. Ishmael puts it up to his eye and looks out at the sea. After a little while, he takes the telescope down from his eye and hands it back to Ahab. He says:

"Eh. It's a good white whale..."

Now, I know why it's called Good Friday. It's because people were saying, "What a horrible day! They've croaked Jesus!" And so it had to be explained, over and over, that this was actually not a bad thing when you consider how it plays out in the end. So, "Good" Friday.

But why not really get the point across? Why not go all the way and call it Great Friday? Or even Super-Duper Amazingly Fantastic Friday, All Sins Forgiven Or Your Money Back? A little salesmanship wouldn't hurt...

Well, that's about it for me. I'm doomed, right? Eternal damnation; fire and brimstone; some guy with horns, in a red union suit, poking me with a pitchfork.

Nah. See, Jesus died for our sins and that even includes crummy jokes. Thank God.

And, if you're an atheist or otherwise not a believer in Christianity, I got you to actually consider this stuff for five minutes. I got you to read the name - Jesus - 12 or 13 times. I figure that's got to count for something.

Have a joyous Easter and I'll see you on Monday - unless I'm struck by lightning.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


A couple of quick links to celebrate a couple of important birthdays.

First, my Cousin David is coming up on the one year anniversary of starting his blog. It actually happens this Saturday. Won't you drop by over there and say "Happy Anniversary!" or "Happy Birthday!" or something like that? The story he tells of how he came to start blogging is a good one. It's doubly so because it has a lot about ME in it! Go to SullsBlog.

Now, the second birthday I have to talk about should have been mentioned yesterday. That's because there was something for you to do today to celebrate it, and now it's probably too late. Unless you knew about it before reading this, you probably won't be doing it. That's a shame, because it's a cool little thing.

Today would have been the 80th birthday of Fred "Mister" Rogers. In celebration, many people are wearing sweaters today. You can read all about that HERE.

(I am thankful to the ever-delightful Tara for reminding me about it. By the way, she's looking for a job, and she's one of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. If you're in Massachusetts, and you need an office manager/secretary/wiseass, you couldn't do better. Seriously, if you've got an opening, e-mail me at and I'll relay the pertinent information.)

And now, in honor of Won't You Wear A Sweater Day, here's something I wrote a while back concerning Fred Rogers. I hope you enjoy it.


I think Fred Rogers was a living, walking saint among us.

When you watched Fred Rogers, there was absolutely no pretense. What you saw was the real man. That same gentleness and childlike quality displayed on the screen was present always. He was not an actor. You may be surprised to find out what he actually was.

Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister. His special charge, given upon his ordination, was to minister to children through the media. He did so – and continues to do so, even after death - with amazing grace. He has been a part of TV, in one way or another, for well over 50 years now.

He had planned to become a minister while still a very young man. He was attending Rollins College, in Florida, earning a degree in music composition. The plan was that he would enter the seminary after graduation. However, on a visit to home – Pittsburgh – he saw television for the first time. What he saw appalled him. It was a children’s show and there were people hitting each other in the face with pies.

If there was one thing that made Fred Rogers truly mad, it was when one person demeaned another person. This feeling stemmed from his childhood. He had been a fat kid and teased a lot because of it. He developed a strong sense of advocacy for the underdog. What he now saw on this new medium was despicable to him. Fred thought that hitting someone in the face with a pie was about as demeaning as it gets. He thought it was a horrible lesson to be teaching children. And, at that moment, he changed his plans. He decided to go into television.

Since television was in its infancy, it wasn’t as hard to get into as one might think it would be for a man with no previous experience. Using his musical degree as a way to open doors, Fred landed a job with NBC in New York, becoming stage manager for The Kate Smith Show and other musical programs.

After gaining valuable insight into how television worked, he went to WQED, a fledgling public television station back in his hometown of Pittsburgh. This was his first opportunity to actually do something for children. He, along with a woman named Josie Carey, created a show called The Children’s Corner. Josie Carey was the host, while Fred was never seen on camera. He stayed behind the scenes, manipulating and providing voices for puppets, writing songs, etc.

(Meanwhile, during his lunch hours, he worked towards his degree in divinity. It would be some seven years of lunch hours later before he finally became an ordained minister. During this time, he also married his wife, Joanne, whom he had met while at Rollins.)

After his ordination, he received a call from the Canadian Broadcasting Company. They wanted Fred to develop a children’s show for them. He assumed that he would once again operate out of sight, as writer and puppeteer, but the head of the CBC had seen Fred interact with children and what he saw was a man with a gift. He knew that if Fred could get that quality to come through on camera, it would be something special. And thus was born a show known as MisteRogers.

He was “Mister” because, despite changing from suit coat to sweater and dress shoes to sneakers on every show, he remained an authority figure, albeit an extremely friendly one. He would be akin to an uncle or perhaps a very nice neighbor (or, as he aged, a kindly and gentle grandfather, which he himself had become in real life by the time he stopped production of the show on PBS almost forty years later.)

The Canadian show was relatively short-lived, but Fred took the concept back across the border and started Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. It was, and remains, the most relaxed children’s show on television; thirty minutes of peaceful talk, thoughtful songs, whimsical visits to a very well-delineated “Neighborhood Of Make Believe”, and pacing that encourages children to express their emotions freely, but in ways that will not hurt others.

I said at the beginning of this piece that I believed Fred Rogers to have been a saint walking among us. I came to this conclusion through both personal interaction and then further reading concerning his life.

I wrote a letter to him, back in the early 90’s, asking him a few technical questions concerning the show. As you may know, I’m involved in what might be loosely termed “show business,” although in an extremely tangential way. In any case, I was interested in how certain aspects of his show were created and performed. I expected a short reply, if any at all, knowing that I was asking for an expenditure of his personal time.

Instead, Fred Rogers replied with a multi-page handwritten letter, explaining in great detail the answers to my questions. In addition, he included 15 or 20 pages of printout material concerning the show, as well as an autographed photo personally inscribed to both MY WIFE and me.

(I had told him that we both watched the show, even though we had no children. This was the truth. MY WIFE and I find the show to be extremely relaxing, the video equivalent of a martini after work.)

To say that I was impressed by his response would be understating the matter. I had written similar letters to a few different performers whose work I admired. Some remain unanswered to this day. Those that did answer did so by dashing off a couple of quick lines. Fred Rogers was the only one who sent me a handwritten in-depth reply and it was obvious that he had given my questions quite a bit of his time and effort.

From that point, Rogers could do no wrong as far as I was concerned. And from everything I’ve ever seen or read concerning him, Fred Rogers did no wrong, period.

Last week, I had the great pleasure of reading a wonderful book about Fred’s life. It was written by Amy Hollingsworth and is called The Simple Faith Of Mister Rogers. It details her relationship with Fred Rogers, which blossomed following her having done an interview of him for television, and the ways in which he infused his shows with his strongly-held religious beliefs. I had little doubt Fred was a good man BEFORE I read this book. AFTER reading it, I am of the opinion that there have been few who walked this earth with a more profound spirituality.

Reading this book has re-energized my own sense concerning what a Christian should do. Since finishing it, I have tried to keep Fred’s example of patience and forbearance in mind, while attempting to see that of Christ which is alive in others. I’m no saint, by any means, nor do I think I ever will be, but I hope I’m able to hold on to some of the lessons that Mister Rogers has taught me, even at this advanced age for childhood.

(Don’t worry – I’ll still be obscene, free with my opinions and otherwise the asshole I’ve always been here. I don’t think any of that is necessarily at odds with being a Christian. Anyway, one of the most important lessons Fred teaches is to be your honest self and that people can like you just the way you are.)

(One thing I think I should clear up is the seeming dichotomy between my liking Fred Rogers and also liking, say, The Three Stooges. He found people being hit with pies demeaning. I find it funny. To each his own.

OK, that’s a bit too flippant. I look at it this way: He was seeing people hitting each other with pies as being a bad object lesson for children. Maybe so. I think it depends upon the child in question. I love slapstick comedy. I also love violent cartoons, i.e., Tom & Jerry. I never considered hitting someone on the head with a frying pan as a way to truly solve problems, nor do I have an urge to run a ripsaw across anyone’s noggin. I was able to determine what was reality, and what was humor, at an early age. This was largely because I had parents who made sure I knew the difference. If a kid has less insight and non-caring parents, maybe it would be a different story; I’ll concede that point.)

Fred was a generous man, giving of himself in so many ways. In an attempt to emulate his niceness, I’m going to make you an offer. If you’d like to read the book, and you can’t find a copy available through your public library system, I’ll buy you a copy of it. That’s how much I admire this man and how much I enjoyed this book.

I expect you to make an honest effort to find the book at your library. If you don’t find it available, drop me a line at Include your mailing address. I’ll send you a copy of the book. I ask only that you pass it on to someone else (or donate it to your library) when you’re done, OK?

(I think I should mention that the book is valuable as either biography or religious tract [or both, as for me] so if you aren't a Christian, you'll still enjoy it.)


Speaking of Christians, tomorrow is Good Friday. I'll be re-printing something I wrote last year about that tomorrow. You could pray for me to get my ass in gear and post something new, instead, but some things are seemingly even beyond God.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The End Of Charlie's

Last time, I said that disaster was about to strike the little neighborhood stores, including Charlie’s. Before I tell you what that disaster was, I need to explain a bit more about our Lower Mills neighborhood during the 1960’s.

There were three places for the moms in the neighborhood to do their shopping at, aside from the mom and pop stores. The Purity Supreme was in Mattapan Square. That was beyond walking distance. If you wanted to shop there, you had to take the trolley, then carry your sacks of groceries home on it, as well as make the two or three block walk to and from the trolley stop at both Central Avenue and Mattapan. That put it out of consideration for most. The Stop & Shop was located on Morton Street, near the end of Galivan Boulevard. It was a good 10-minute walk from our house on Caddy Road, so the only time a mom went there was when an amazing bargain made the trip worthwhile. Most often, when serious shopping needed to be done, the First National was the place to go. It was about a five-minute walk from home, next to St. Gregory’s Catholic Church, in what was referred to as ‘The Village’.

Now, I hope you noticed that I said ‘walk’, not ‘drive’. This is because the moms rarely had access to a car with which to do their shopping. In those days, if a family had a car, that’s what they had: ONE car. Half the families didn’t have a car at all. As a result, most expeditions to the supermarket entailed returning home carrying your groceries by hand or by pulling them along in a wagon or cart. Walking even five minutes with your arms weighted down by four or five sacks of goods was no picnic. Neither was dragging a cart along bumpy sidewalks and streets, with the likelihood of something fragile and/or breakable being jostled out of your cart.

As a result, the smaller stores, closer in proximity and not unreasonably priced, did enough business to be profitable. If they offered friendlier service than you got at a supermarket, that was a plus. You could pay your utilities bills at McDonald’s. Charlie would grind your hamburger to specifications. And if you wanted something quickly, such as cigarettes or a quart of milk, you certainly didn’t want to walk fifteen minutes – or even five – to someplace where you’d have to wait in line for five more minutes to pay, and then have another longish walk back home.

One more very important thing: For many years, Bakers Chocolate had their headquarters along the Neponset River in Lower Mills. They were a national company, using a railroad spur to receive shipments of cocoa beans, and then shipping out chocolate products via that same railroad line. They decided to close the factory, moving their headquarters to the Midwest. This did two things of import concerning the neighborhood. First, it put a bunch of people out of work, giving them less discretionary income and puting them in a position where they had to find bargains. Second, it put a large parcel of land bordering River Street, home to a now useless railroad roundhouse, on the market cheap.

The Jewel Companies put two and two together and came up with a million dollar idea that spelled disaster for the mom and pop stores. They looked at the geography of the neighborhood; where the other supermarkets were; and the fact that this magnificently located parcel of land could now be had for peanuts. Then they bought the land and built a small shopping center on River Street. In addition to their own Star Market as the flagship tenant, they built an Osco's pharmacy. Gilchrist’s opened a department store in the complex, Brigham's opened an ice cream parlor, and a small bank moved in as well.

Now, not only could the moms of the neighborhood get their large grocery shopping done somewhere nearby, they could also get prescriptions filled, buy inexpensive clothes and toys, have a decent ice cream sundae, and cash checks. This spelled doom for the little neighborhood grocery stores, and it also croaked a whole bunch of other neighborhood stalwarts.

The first place to go out of business was Sam’s. He was almost directly across the street. The Star could sell meats more cheaply than he could and it was no further away for most folks. He stood no chance. Sam’s became a real estate office.

Next to go was Shirley’s. Hers was a barely-going concern to begin with, and The Star was only a half-block away. Her place was rebuilt into a residential dwelling.

A fruit-and-produce store, Orlando’s - where everybody bought Christmas trees every year, as well as vegetables - was next to fold. They couldn’t compete with Star’s prices. Star didn’t sell Christmas trees, but that business wasn’t enough to float Orlando’s through the other 11 months. They sold their building and it became a law office.

There were three neighborhood pharmacies when Osco’s opened. One folded immediately. When that happened, the other two were able to scrape by due to a loyal clientele. Getting folks to transfer their trust along with their prescriptions wasn’t as easy as getting them to buy their milk and eggs someplace new. However, they barely survived.

An ice cream store, Hendrie’s in Milton, closed. It was actually part of an ice cream factory, which still operated. However, even as part of a factory, they couldn’t compete with Brigham’s location in the shopping center.

(The main thing Gilchrist’s opening did was to keep business from going to the Mattapan Square stores of W. T. Grant’s and Woolworth’s, the two largest businesses in that commercial area. As a result, Mattapan Square businesses in general had less traffic, and stores that relied a bit more on impulse buying – restaurants, bars, movie houses – died a slow death, leaving that area depressed for years.)

McDonald’s was the next-to-last small store in Lower Mills to close. He held out for a couple of years, doing a business in comic books, cigars, men's magazines, and other items that The Star and their brethren either didn't care about or thought unprofitable. However, he finally called it a day, too. His land was used to open a sub shop called Spukie’s and (irony) a chain convenience store, L’il Peach, a few years down the road.

The only neighborhood store that survived more than a couple of years was Charlie’s. The only reason it survived was because Charlie Capabianco had given his life to his store. In return, the store gave him life. It was his life. There was nothing else he could do but keep the store open, even if it wasn’t making him any money.

And it wasn’t.


The first thing Charlie had to do, in order to survive, was lay off his teenage helper, Pete. He just plain couldn’t afford to have someone else on the payroll. He then started opening an hour earlier in the morning and sometimes staying open later at night. He concentrated his stock in things that people always wanted quickly – cigarettes, milk, cream - and things that the supermarket didn’t carry, or sold only in quantity, such as penny candies, small snack cakes, tonics, and iced treats like Fudgsicles, sold one at a time rather than in 12-packs.

We were too young to know all of the finances of these things at the time. I only realize in retrospect what he did to survive, and how much he was hurt by the Star. We had no idea how much cashflow he had lost. He still got a bit of adult business, but not much. However, he never lost the kid’s business.

He never lost the kid’s business because he was the guy who had given us treats on Halloween; who had trusted us enough to let us pick and choose our own penny candies; who stocked great treats - root beer and banana Popsicles - starting every year when school let out; who had let us feel like big deals when we got to eat a little bit of leftover hamburger from his grinder; who had taken every bottle we brought to him for a 2 cent or 5 cent return fee, even if he had never sold that brand of soda before and the bottle was caked with filth from where we found it along the banks of the river; and who had let our families put things ‘on the tab’ when we were broke.

As we became teenagers, his adult customers were few and far between. Only the most local of the locals, those who lived right around the store, came in to buy anything. Older retired gentlemen with no place else to go hung inside while we hung out in front, pitching pennies at his front wall.

When we reached 15 and 16, he let us sit inside and read the paper when we had nowhere else to go. His place became a hangout for the unemployed, the never employed, and the barely employed. While we tried to act like adults – smoking cigarettes behind our parent’s backs, and using ‘fuck’ every third word in sentences – Charlie sat at his counter, drinking his Old Granddad and barely breaking even.

And when we reached 18, 19 and 20, semi-hoods occasionally selling drugs, trading sports bets, playing quarter-half poker and desperately trying to come up with schemes to keep from working legitimate jobs, we hung out at Charlie’s all day, sitting around the store like we owned it, paying our clubhouse dues by purchasing the occasional pack of smokes, or maybe a bag of chips and a Coke. And, when he wasn’t arguing sports with us, Charlie dozed at the counter, one hand wrapped around his empty whiskey glass.

We tried to do right by him. Those of us who had cars would give Charlie a ride when he needed one, usually taking him home to his apartment on River Street when he closed up. If he wanted a new bottle, we’d make the run to the liquor store. There weren’t too many deliveries, but when one came, we unloaded the boxes and stocked the shelves, or took the overstock to the cellar. More than once, one of us removed a burning cigarette from his fingers after he fell asleep at the counter. If an actual customer came in – which was a rarer occurrence than ever – we rang up the sale for him and let him sleep.

Then we were all in our early 20’s. Well, even when we were little kids, Charlie had seemed old to us. Now, he actually was. And we knew – every one of us KNEW – that when he finally decided to call it a day, and close the store for good, he wouldn’t be with us much longer.

And that’s exactly what happened. Charlie’s, the store, closed. Less than a month later, Charlie Capabianco, the man, died. That was a bit more than 25 years ago now.

There’s a whole bunch of guys originally from that neighborhood, like me, who hold a very dear place in their hearts for that little Italian guy we literally grew up with; who might have been the first adult to treat some of us like adults; who gave us a place to hang, keeping us more-or-less off the streets and out of more serious trouble; who extended us credit when we were hurting; and who – God bless him – trusted us with the penny candy. Like I said earlier, 19 times out of 20 we repaid that trust with honesty.

I wish to hell it had been 20 out of 20.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I lived in the Lower Mills section of Dorchester/Mattapan, in the city of Boston, for the first 37 years of my life.

(The Post Office said I lived in Mattapan, but maps say it was Dorchester. Take your pick. I was right on the border.)

When I was a kid, during the 1960’s, there were many small neighborhood stores in the area. Within a five-minute walk of our home on Caddy Road, there were 6 or 7 places for a kid to buy things like baseball cards, penny candy, comic books, Cokes, Popsicles, Hostess and Drake’s cakes, and other necessities of a happy childhood.

When you wanted to check out the latest Green Lantern or Avengers, McDonald’s was the place to go. It was located at the intersection of River and Washington, and it had a wooden magazine stand that took up most of a complete wall, lined from one end to the other with not only the mainstays, like Superman and Batman, but also interesting new titles that the real junkie (me) would give a shot; stuff like The Hawk & The Dove, The Inferior Five, and Luke Cage, Hero For Hire.

(Trivia note: Luke Cage was the first black superhero character to have a whole title devoted to him. I remember visiting an older female relative at her house in Brockton and lying on a bed reading that first issue. She came into the room where I was doing so, looked at Luke Cage on the cover, and got a look on her face as though she had been physically violated. She said, "Is that comic book about a nigger?"

Until that point, I hadn’t thought that what I was reading was all that unusual. Luke Cage just looked really cool on the cover; that’s why I bought it. The story was good, and made sense, too. He had acquired some special powers – I forget exactly what and how - so he decided that he’d hire himself out, for money, to solve folk’s problems. I figured that’s what I might have done, too, if I had somehow gained superpowers. Anyway, thoughts concerning the race of the main character hadn’t entered into my decision to buy it. Her comment, however, made me feel very radical for reading literature that could have such a startling effect. I became a big Luke Cage fan. I bought every issue during its short-lived tenure, and whenever I was outside with one, I made sure that I carried it with the cover showing, just in case anyone was unsure of my credentials as a freedom fighter.)

In the unlikely event that McDonald’s didn’t have some title you craved, there was always Clover Drug, just across the Neponset River in the richer suburb of Milton.

(You’ve heard the phrase, "Born on the wrong side of the tracks?" Milton was literally on the other side of the trolley tracks from my neighborhood. Whenever my friends and I ventured over there, we were no longer fairly-well-behaved middle-class white kids, most of whom came from comfortable homes with loving parents. In our minds, we transformed into tough kids from the slums. We had no doubts concerning our ability to whale the piss out of any Milton kids who happened along. Of course, that’s how kids from the projects up on Morton Street probably felt when they came into OUR neighborhood, so it all evened out.)

Comic books were the only item of interest sold at Clover Drug, so you never went out of your way to go there unless you needed an issue that had the finale of a two-or-three-part story. You’d often end up waiting in line behind some matronly Milton woman having a prescription filled, and that might take a good 5 or 10 minutes – an eternity for a kid. McDonald’s had no such wait, and it also sold postage stamps, took payments for electric and phone bills, and provided other services that made it useful for moms and other grown-ups to send you there.

There were other "mom and pop" stores. Sam’s was sort of an all-purpose butcher shop that, in addition, sold baseball cards for some reason. It was located on River Street next to the liquor store, a decent place to buy a cold soda or a Slim Jim, even though the other mystifying liquids they sold were temporarily out of our age range. Shirley’s was a tiny place on Cedar Street, not known around the neighborhood for any specialty. It was basically where you went if every other place was closed. However, the undisputed king of the neighborhood stores in our area was Charlie’s, on Sanford Street. There were no comic books, but everything else a kid could ever want was available. And Charlie was there, too, which was the best thing.

The guy at McDonald’s (I assume, McDonald himself) never smiled, at least that I remember. He always had a stubby cigar jammed in his puss and you could feel his eyes burning into your back as you perused the comics. Sometimes you'd grab something you weren't quite sure you wanted and take it up to the counter to buy it just because you were spooked. Sam always seemed less-than-thrilled when a kid walked in. Shirley was friendly enough, I suppose, but we went there so rarely, it wasn’t really a consideration.

Charlie wasn’t a saint, by any means, but he talked to you as though you were a real customer, not just some pain-in-the-ass kid he had to deal with until someone with actual money showed up. And he trusted you. He let us go behind the counter and pick our own nickel or dime’s worth of penny candy, expecting that we’d be honest about the whole thing, not putting any in our pockets when he wasn’t looking. 19 times out of 20, we met his expectations.

Most important, aside from his proximity to our house – literally, just around the corner - was the fact that Charlie extended credit. If your parents were a bit short on cash that week, they’d send you to Charlie’s with an instruction to tell Charlie to "put it on the tab." After your purchases were totaled up, Charlie would write the amount, with grave flourish and in pencil, on the back of a torn up cardboard cigarette carton with your name at the top of it. These scraps were considered a sacred honor, and I never knew anyone who cheated Charlie out of what he or she owed. It was a neighborhood sign that you had reached adulthood when Charlie allowed you to start running your very own tab.

Charlie, whose full name was Charlie Capabianco, was a thin man of medium height, perhaps 5’ 7” or so. He always seemed to have a two-day growth of stubble on his face – never clean-shaven, but also never with an actual beard or mustache – and his gray/black hair was receding. He had the dark complexion common to Italians of Sicilian heritage. In my youth – or, at least, in my youthful memory - he always wore the same clothes: a light gray button-down waistcoat of the sort associated with meat cutters; dark green corduroys; black shoes; and a plaid shirt under the butcher’s jacket. He had slightly outsized features for his small frame – big hands, a not-quite-Durante-but-still-substantial nose, thick avoirdupois lips, and ears that (when taken with the nose and lips) didn’t look out of place. He usually sat behind the counter on the right-hand side of the store, next to the long glass-enclosed penny candy display case, on a small wooden stool. The cash register, and pile of tabs next to it, sat on the shelf behind him. He rarely left that stool. As a matter fact, about the only things that got him off of the throne from which he ran his small empire were when he was called upon to get an item situated on a high shelf, out-of-reach from a customer, or when he was asked to grind hamburger.

We kids always looked forward to our parents sending us to Charlie’s for ground hamburger. This couldn’t happen today if you went to a million different stores across America, but it happened at Charlie’s. When he was done grinding the meat, he’d let the kid whose family ordered it run his finger around the opening that dispensed the ground-up chuck, taking the small remnant of raw meat for a tiny snack. I don’t know how that sounds to you, but to us kids it was delicious and a rare treat. None of us ever died from it.

(Another thing that could never happen today: Charlie sold cigarettes. If one of your parents was out of smokes, and didn’t feel like going to the store themselves, they’d send you for a pack. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t odd for other grown-ups to see you walking down the street and shout to you, "Jimmy, would you mind running down to Charlie’s and getting me a pack of Camels?" That was a cause for rejoicing. The cigarettes themselves cost only 25 cents in those days, so the person would give you a quarter for them, but they’d also – depending upon their current cash-flow and overall generosity – give you either a nickel or dime for yourself, for doing them the service. And, in those days, a dime pretty much put a kid in business for the entire day.

When you went for the smokes, you also took a trip behind the counter to pick out 10 cents worth of penny candy – and it really was penny candy, too. In some cases, the candy cost LESS than a penny. There were these things called Mint Juleps that went two for a penny. God only knows what they were made of to cost so little, but they were spearmint, hard and chewy, and a pocketful of them would allow you to rot your teeth from sunup to sundown.)

I said before that Charlie was no saint. While he generally treated kids decently, and let them do such wonderfully death-defying things as scrape raw meat from his grinder, he drank Old Granddad whiskey pretty much all day. One of the things I recall about Charlie, with particular fondness, was how he would pour the last drink from his whiskey bottle and then do a pantomime wherein he “wrung out” the empty bottle, pretending to squeeze it vigorously, producing one or two more drops. He also wasn’t averse to calling you a little cocksucker if you did something he didn’t like; perhaps dropping a coke bottle, necessitating him to get off of his stool to mop it up, or if he thought you might be stealing a piece of candy. His mean outbursts were rare, though – probably justified, too, now that I look back on it - and most of the kids thought of him as a sort of extended member of the family, albeit one who was sometimes half-drunk.

I want there to be no doubt: We loved this guy, even if he drank like a fish and sometimes called us obscene names. Let me see if I can tell you one more story that shows him in the right light.

Charlie usually closed up at around 6:30 or 7 o’clock each night. On Halloween, however, when we kids would go out trick or treating, Charlie kept his store open late. And kids from blocks around went there, knowing that Charlie would put some treat into their bags. This was an Irish-Catholic neighborhood, in the days when birth control wasn’t prevalent, so that meant LOTS of kids. And some of these kids probably never went to Charlie’s any other time of the year. It didn’t matter. Charlie gave something to every kid, and not just one of the cheap two-for-one Mint Juleps, either. Everybody got a bag of chips or a pack of cupcakes or some other nice higher-priced item.

Charlie didn’t have to stay open. None of the other little stores did. And he didn’t have to give us 10-cent goodies. A one-cent piece of Bazooka Joe would have been enough to get rid of us, and with a smile on our faces, too. But he did stay open, and he did give us the expensive treats. That’s why he was loved, and why, after all of the other little stores had long since closed, Charlie’s was still open.

Charlie’s was a profitable concern when I was very young. As a matter of fact, he had so much business, he hired an assistant, a teenager from the neighborhood named Pete. Pete dressed in the same manner as Charlie, with the button-down gray coat, but he stocked shelves, swept the floor, and did other manual labor, leaving Charlie time to drink his whiskey undisturbed by such tasks.

Life was good. Charlie, and all of the other owners of small stores in the neighborhood, prospered. Then, disaster struck, although most of us didn’t realize just how disastrous it was at the time...

Go To The End Of Charlie's

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's A Great Day For The Semi-Irish!

Sweet Jayzis, ‘tis Saint Patty’s day Monday! Time for the wearin’ o’ the green!

I’ll be startin’ me day off wit’ a pint o’ Guinness, an' then a big tub o’ corned beef an’ cabbage. After that - Tura Lura Loo! - I’ll slap ME WIFE upside her gob an' t’row me 26 kiddos down the stairs, so they'll be gettin' ready for mass in a proper way. After the service, I’ll punch Father O’Malley in the mush, then head on over to the pub an' meet Murph, Mac, Murph, Quinn, Tommy Fitz, Timmy Fitz, Jimmy Fitz, Murph, Sweeney, Sully, Sully, Big Sully, Fahey, Sully, and O’Brien for a few quarts o’ whiskey. Faith an' begorrah! Then we’ll have a grand time whalin’ the bejeezus out of each other until the blood runs in rivers, I tells ya! Toity toity toy! Then some more corned beef an’ cabbage an’ more whiskey an’ more Guinness while we tell each other tales o’ how, if we was still in the Auld Sod, we’d be beatin’ the snot out o’ whole armies o’ English arseholes. Ptooie!

O! Then the topper t' the whole grand day! The parade, by Jayzis! Won’t it be a fine sight to see all the lads an' lassies dressed in their finest an' marchin’ down the avenue? Ah, where’s me shillelagh? Another pint o’ Guinness, O’Reilly, an' póg mo thóin!


Ah, the barmaid is a fine homely lass, she is, but I’m a married man! Where’s ME WIFE? I want another 6 kids! Ah, ‘tis a fine day!


O’Toole, how are you? Go shit in yer fist, you boghoppin' son of a bitch! Where’s yer 42 kids?


Ah, Mullins! I thought that was you! Saints be praised, it’s good to see yer face!


An' I don’t suppose you were after forgettin’ the time you tripped me durin’ recess in the fifth grade, you bastard! Go n-ithe an cat thú, is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat!

Jayzis, Mary and Joseph! I’m so drunk I can’t find me own arsehole an' it’s time for me to go meet me 32 brothers an’ sisters who’re on the police department, an' me 64 uncles on the fire department, an’ me 487 cousins who work for the state, because we’re all goin’ over t' Seamus McCarthy’s house t' play the harp, drink more whiskey, eat more corned beef an' cabbage, and then fight all night until we collapse in the street in a drunken bloody stupor an' they come t' take us away in the paddy wagon. Erin Go Bragh!


I’m partly Irish. You don’t get a name like Sullivan (or a face like mine) without some Irish blood, but - God help me – I sure do hate to admit it sometimes.

The Irish are just about the only ethnic group remaining that you can defame with impunity. Nobody is holding rallies to change the name of the Notre Dame athletic teams. The Fighting Irish. Try calling some college team The Hotheaded Hispanics and see how far you get. Throw an Irish cop with a larcenous streak into a movie or a TV show and nobody blinks. Hell, make him a drunk who beats his wife and has 12 unkempt bratty children. You might as well go all the way. It’s not like anybody is going to complain, least of all the Irish themselves. The Irish are just about the only group that generally ignores most of the stereotypes people throw around about them. For that matter, many of us seem to take pride in our rotten image.

When I say “us,” I say it with some reservation. Yes, I have Irish blood, but unless I tell you, you wouldn’t know that I actually have a higher percentage of Hispanic, not to mention French. I also have Yankee, which is English in origin, and some Scottish. The Irish is pretty much only pasty skin deep.

So, by the stereotypes, this is me:

I’m a red-headed Irish Hispanic, so I must have a hair-trigger temper. However, being French, as soon as you stand up to my temper, I’ll surrender. Since I’m also English, I’ll make a very wry joke while doing so. The Scot in me would like to make a buck out of the whole deal.

I like to eat potatoes at every meal, but I’ll have snails, greasy beef and haggis with them. Oh, and jalapenos on the side, please. I’ll also have a heaping helping of spotted dick for dessert, but petit fours will do in a pinch.

I’m up for just about anything sexually, of course, but would you mind not shaving your armpits? I might slap you around a bit, but later you can tie up the English side of me and put a whip to my butt, so it’ll even out. Since I’m also a Scot, if you want me to wear a kilt while we’re doing it, I’m OK with that.

I think Jerry Lewis is a genius, but Monty Python, Cantinflas, Billy Connolly and the first half of this post also make me laugh. I drive a Jaguar low-rider powered by peat, but never on toll roads. I wear a beret on top of my sombrero and a derby underneath it. I work for the government, I sponge off of the government, I am the government, and I want to overthrow the government.

Ah, that’s enough of that, I suppose.

(Just in case you’re really wondering, about 1/3 of the above is true. I’ll leave it to your imagination which 1/3 it is. Not the Jaguar, that’s for sure.)

So, I don’t really have much of a point here, but I’m glad you came along for the ride. If I’ve upset you in any way, just be thankful that Monday isn’t Bastille Day, or Cinco De Mayo, for that matter.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Soon, con mas (whatever the French word for “better” is) stuff, me bucko.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Earliest Memories

Well, enough of trying to please the new readers. Back to the same old crap you've come to expect. If they want to stick around, they'll have to get used to it.

Here’s something interesting to think about: What is your earliest memory?

I’ll give you a couple of mine. One occurred in real-life, while the other was a nightmare. The real-life story is somewhat fuzzy, but the nightmare is still sharply focused. I'll give you the nightmare first.

In the dream, I’m sitting on the couch with my parents. We're watching our TV, which was a big old Admiral from the late 50’s. It was pretty much the set pictured in the ad above, except our set had knobs. I don't know how you change the channels on the one in the picture.

(Short digression: I can still recall, with crystal clarity, the feel and sound of the knobs on that Admiral. There was a distinctive "ker-chunk" sound when changing channels. It was solid and somehow very reassuring. You knew a sound like that wasn’t going to bring you ephemeral programming.

That TV was my buddy when I was a kid. I had real friends, of course, so this isn’t background for a story about some sad little lonely kid, but TV was utterly non-judgmental, whereas some of my real friends called me names and made me cry. OK, maybe this is good background for a story about some sad little lonely kid.

Anyway, after my folks bought another television set sometime in the late 60's, the Admiral was relegated to the cellar. It sat there for years, somehow still a comforting presence even though it didn’t work. It probably could have been resurrected via a simple tube replacement of some sort, but I don’t know enough about electronics to say for sure. However, when MY WIFE and I moved to Watertown in 1994, the Admiral was left behind. I've always imagined that it was a horrible mistake leaving it behind. Whoever occupied our home next probably found it sitting in the cellar and sold it for about 10 gazillion dollars to some collector of rare antique television sets. If I could have done that, you wouldn't have to be sitting through this.

OK, it was long a digression. My apologies.)

So, there I am on the couch with my folks and a show comes on the TV. It is a show about a big angry giant. This giant is coming towards us and I’m getting scared. I get up off the couch and try to change the channel, but the angry giant is on every channel. I flip the knob more quickly, but it’s no use. The Giant is still coming towards us. He’s just about to come out of the TV into our living room when I wake up.

(I’m sure there’s something in there for a psychiatrist to gnaw on, but I gave up thinking about any deeper meaning long ago. If you want to try and figure it out, that's your problem.)

The real-life memory is of a fellow named Bert Green. He was a friend of the family, most especially my Dad. They grew up together, were in the navy at the same time, both did some boxing – Bert was heavyweight champion of his fleet - and were very good friends until Bert died. I have nothing but good memories of him. He was "Uncle Bert", the only person outside of blood family that I ever gave a family title of respect.

Uncle Bert was a big, strapping guy. I don’t actually have any photos of Uncle Bert, I’m sad to say, but I can show you what he looked like. He was, facially, a perfect twin of the actor Claude Akins. The first time my Dad and I saw Claude Akins on TV, we were spooked by the resemblance. He was an exact match.

They were similar in size, too; height, anyway. However, long before weightlifting and bodybuilding became more common pursuits, Uncle Bert did both. I’ll give you an idea of how muscular he was. Uncle Bert had a tattoo. He had gone into a tattoo parlor, looked through the sample drawings, and chosen the one he wanted. Problem was, that tattoo was supposed to go on a man’s chest or back. It was a huge battleship with guns blazing. Uncle Bert told the guy to put it on his bicep.

He did. It fit.

I said that Uncle Bert died. It was extremely sad. He wasn’t much past 40 when he contracted Leukemia. All the big muscles and rigorous workouts couldn’t do a damned thing to save him. He just wasted away. It broke my Dad’s heart to visit him in the hospital. He was my Dad’s best friend at the time.

The memory I recall about Uncle Bert took place much earlier, when I was 2, I think. That would have made him 26 or thereabouts. He was visiting our home in Dorchester. He gave me a two-dollar bill. I'm not really sure why he gave it to me, but I think this may have been during a time when my Dad was working for Eastern Airlines out of New York, which he did for a year or so. I think Uncle Bert may have been trying to help my Mom and me, by giving us a couple of bucks for groceries, but my Mom probably refused the gift directly. So, Uncle Bert gave ME the two bucks, knowing that a little boy wouldn’t refuse a gift from a beloved "family member." I do clearly remember going shopping for food at the First National Supermarket with that money, thus why I think that’s what the gift was about.

(I don’t know if my Mom remembers this at all, but she may. If she’s reading this, and can shed any more light, I’m sure we'd all appreciate it.)

Those are my earliest memories. What are yours? I’d really like to know. I think it would be interesting to compare how far back they go; whether they’re nice or something you’d rather forget; if they involve loved ones no longer around; and all of the other attendant details. I’d love it if you tell me one or two. Be free with the details. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Nude Photo Of...

OK, I give up. I guess the new readers are going to be sticking around for a while, no matter how much the prospect frightens me, so I'm sitting here at the keyboard trying to figure out how to hold this vast new audience I've acquired via, and I've come up with a brilliant idea. Wait until you hear it.

I've decided to post a nude photo of myself.

WAIT! Don't scroll down, you pervert. There isn't any picture - yet. I'm telling you about it now so you'll be ready for it when it happens. In the meantime, let's discuss what the likely outcome will be when the picture is posted.

First, I might be arrested. Not for the nudity, of course - plenty of nude pictures make their way onto blogs - but because the sight of my naked body could cause heart attacks and strokes among the female portion of my audience. I am, after all, sort of a bald middle-aged Irish version of Antonio Banderas, if you squint real hard after 8 or 9 drinks. So, when the females keel over, I could be charged with assault.

Second, I expect the males will immediately be rendered blind when they view the doughy magnificence of my manhood.

(Doughy magnificence of my manhood. Damn, that's good! I should copyright that.)

Anyway, with the women incapacitated and the men blind, that will leave only children to read this blog. And then I'll be arrested for the nudity. You can't go around showing the doughy magnificence of your manhood to little kids, at least not in this state - unless you're a priest.

So, to sum up: There will be nobody left to read my blog and I'll be incarcerated. God only knows what they'll do to the doughy magnificence of my manhood in jail. I've heard stories.

Oh, geez, and then there's MY WIFE. So far, she's survived the doughy magnificence of my manhood without having either a myocardial infarction or a cerebral hemorrhage (and I don't quite understand that; she must be superhuman) but she's warned me that the one thing she won't stand for (and she'll stand for an awful lot, being married to me) is any sharing of the doughy magnificence that is my manhood. She wants it all to herself, and who can blame her?

But... Oh, to hell with the consequences! I'm going to do it anyway! As a matter of fact, I'm going to do it RIGHT NOW!

God, this is such a liberating feeling! I can't help but smile!

Here I am, in all the doughy magnificence that is my manhood!!!

Ladies, I am yours to do with as you wish.

(By the way, I get about 20 visits most days from people who come here looking for CO-ED NAKED SNOW JOGGING. I figure the title of this one should be good for 300 or more unwitting victims every week. They'll leave as disappointed as the folks looking for frozen naughty bits, I suspect - unless they have a good sense of humor to go along with their lust. If that's how you got here, sorry! Thanks for the hit, though.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How To Make $1,000,000 By Doing Nothing

For some damn reason, decided that my posting yesterday was worth featuring on their front page. As a result, whole bunches of well-meaning innocent people showed up here; were somehow entertained beyond anything that my regular readers would know better than to expect; and are probably going to return with the thought in mind that they'll again find something worth the trip.

I figure it's worthwhile nipping this sort of thing in the bud, before people start expecting more effort from me than I'm willing to give. As a matter of fact, I'd like to immediately dispel any notions people might have concerning my value. Therefore, I'm re-printing a particularly puerile piece of putridity that I foisted upon an unwitting public some 19 months ago. Not only is it a re-print, thus showing my utter lack of regard for the poor souls who have somehow been deluded into thinking I give a rat's ass, it isn't even 1/5 as good as yesterday's piece. I could have searched out a funnier re-print, but I'm such a jerk I won't even go to that little bit of trouble on your behalf.

You can expect more of the same if you keep showing up here. By the way, no matter what it says in the first sentence, it IS a scam.


This is NOT a scam. I am really, honestly, truly going to show you how to make $1,000,000 by doing nothing.

(When you make your million, please have the common decency to toss a few bucks my way. I'll probably be living in a sewer by that time, eating discarded popsicle sticks and using a rat for a pillow. It's the least you could do.

Since I won't have what you'd call an "address" by then, you'll have to hand deliver the money. Just yell down every sewer you pass, "Suldog, you down there?" and when you get an answer, it'll be me. Then chuck your money down the sewer. That's pretty much what I did in learning the secret I'm now going to pass on to you, so it will be kind of like poetic justice.)

I absolutely guarantee that, by NOT doing the things I'm going to describe to you now, you will become a millionaire. And the beauty of it is, you won't have to do anything. All you'll have to do is NOT do what I did.

1 - Do NOT Smoke Cigarettes

This is, of course, generally good advice, but it is also the first step on your road to a cool million.

By not smoking cigarettes, you will be saving $5 a pack at current prices. Let us say your habit would have been similar to mine and you would have smoked a slight bit more than one pack a day. We'll call it 400 packs a year to make the math easy. Well, that's $2,000 a year you can sock away. Smoke for 35 years like I've done so far and that's $70,000 in the bank.

You're well on your way! Ready for step two? Alrighty then; let's go!

2 - Do NOT Become Addicted To Cocaine For Four Years

Again, generally good advice. However, if you don't become addicted to cocaine at age 28 and pretty much spend every dollar you make until the age of 31 on the stuff, you'll have saved a big old wad of cash.

By my estimation? About ANOTHER $70,000! I'm figuring that you'll have a job that pays as little as mine did and you'll be making about $340 a week. If you get a better-paying job by the time you're 28, all the better. For goodness' sakes, a particularly energetic paperboy can make that kind of money nowadays, so you have no excuse.

Wowzers, Chumley! Add that to the $70,000 you made by NOT smoking cigarettes and you can easily see where this is headed, but I'm going to continue to belabor the obvious because I've got space to fill.

3 - Do NOT Try To Be A Rock And Roll Star

This inaction will net you another $10,000 or so. You won't be buying guitars, strings, keyboards, drums, or sheet music. In addition, you won't be getting poofy haircuts or wearing silly clothes, unless that's the sort of thing you like anyway.

(I could add on another $150,000 or so that you'd make by flipping burgers for ten years instead of thinking you're the second coming of Mel Schacher and Bootsy Collins rolled into one, but this plan is based on doing nothing, so I won't. How fair is that?)

4 - Do NOT Try To Become A Professional Bowler

A string of bowling in my day cost about a buck. In this ridiculous day and age, it costs at least three times as much. Think of it! You're already three times better off than I was at a similar age. And, again, you've done NOTHING!!!

Let's say you aren't going to be a fanatic about it, like I was. You won't bowl 20 strings three times a week at $3 per string, so that's $180 or so, multiplied by 50 weeks in a year - you're taking two weeks off to make the math easier - and that's another ten years, which makes it $90,000 you've got in your pocket and you did NOTHING!!!

So, let's add up everything you didn't do. You've socked away about $240,000, my friend. A somewhat modest 5% compounded interest for 35 years? Bingo! $1,000,000 big smackeroonies in YOUR VERY OWN POCKET!

And what did you do to get that million? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!

You're welcome.

By the way, it will take you 35 years to become a millionaire. Oh, yeah, sure, some of you are now crying, "Fraud! Swindler! Jackanapes!" Well, fraud and swindler perhaps, but while jackanapes might be true, it is not well used in this context, so there!

And if you're 20 now? By the time you reach my age, $1,000,000 will buy you a Snickers bar, and it will be about two-thirds the size of a current Snickers bar, if past history is to be trusted.

See you in the sewer! I'll save you a comfy rat to lay your head on.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Welcome To The WDUH News

“Welcome to the WDUH News. I’m Jim Sullivan. Our top story tonight: Researchers from Harvard Medical School have concluded that we’re all going to die. For more on this, let’s go to our roving reporter, Charlie Rover. Charlie, is this true? Are we all going to die?”

“Yes, Jim, it appears so. According to a 10-year study just released by Harvard, the mortality rate for human beings is 100%.”

“And how will this effect us, Charlie?”

“Well, Jim, no matter what we do to prevent it, we’re all headed for an eternal dirt nap. This includes both men and women, Jim; there appears to be no discrimination by sex. Data from the study shows that exercising and eating “right” are not the panaceas we were led to believe. If you jog six days a week, drink nothing but vitamin-fortified triple-filtered bottled water, and eat only organically-grown fruits and vegetables, you’ll still end up in the same place as those folks who smoke like a chimney, drink like a fish, eat red meat twenty times a week, and never get off of their couches for anything more strenuous than a walk to the fridge for a new beer.”

“Interesting, Charlie. Some people will no doubt say it’s not just a matter of dying, but that it’s more a quality-of-life issue, and we should still try to take care of ourselves. Is there a consensus concerning these people?”

“Thus far, Jim, the consensus seems to be ‘Shut the fuck up, you self-righteous assholes. What gives you the right to decide that your good life is my good life?’”

“Anything else, Charlie?”

“Yes, Jim. The government is warning people that, while these studies are completely reliable and 100% accurate, it is still against the law to take some obnoxious boob on a cell phone, throw him up against a wall, and riddle his body with bullets until he’s nothing but an unrecognizable puddle of blood and guts. While we’re all going to die, it is not up to individual citizens to hasten anyone else’s death, no matter how much they may deserve it.”

“Charlie, if we can’t kill them, is it alright to dope slap these people, instead?”

“I don’t see why not, Jim.”

“Thank you, Charlie. In other stories we’re following, FOX News and The New York Times are both reporting that politicians are liars. We turn to our political reporter, Joe Chartsandgraphs, for more. Joe?”

“Thank you, Jim. In a stunning development, both FOX News and The New York Times are reporting that politicians are less-than-honest in their portrayals of themselves in both print advertisements and broadcast commercials. In addition, they are saying that much of what any candidate tells an audience at a speaking engagement is pandering to gain votes, and that just about all of them have either hideous skeletons in their closets or not enough experience to have hideous skeletons in their closets.”

“Wow. That’s amazing, Joe. FOX and The Times are in total agreement?”

“Well, not quite, Jim. FOX is reporting this about Democrats and The Times is reporting it concerning Republicans.”

“Will this have any effect on the presidential race, Joe?”

“None whatsoever, Jim.”

“What about third-party candidates, Joe?”

“We’re still ignoring them as much as possible, Jim.”

“Thanks, Joe. And now, Bambi Smiley with news briefs. Bambi?”

“Thanks, Jim. A man arrested 26 times for drunken driving, but who still had a license, has killed someone in an auto accident. A rapist, mistakenly released from jail early due to a clerical error, has raped someone. In Dorchester, a pit bull attacked and seriously mauled a neighbor’s child. The owner of the dog said he had no idea that the animal could be so vicious. It is being reported that people with college degrees tend to earn more than those without one. And, finally, a new study suggests that every person on Earth tends to like those people who look like them, talk like them, and who hold similar values to them. Meanwhile, people tend to distrust those who don’t speak their language, dress in clothes they wouldn’t wear themselves, and who were born with different skin tones. All things being equal, we’re more likely to trust our identical twin than we are someone we’ve never met. This is not expected to change to any appreciable degree in the future.”

“So, Bambi, the world is still headed to hell in a handbasket? Ha-ha!”

“Ha-ha! I’d say it’s more like an out-of-control freight train, Jim. Ha-ha!”

“Ha-ha! Thank you, Bambi. We’ll be back with sports and weather after this word.”

“I’m Hillary Clinton, and I approved this message. It’s ten o’clock. It’s dark out. Ooh, scary! Where are your children? WHERE ARE YOUR CHILDREN??? Do you want someone in The White House with no experience when you don’t know where your children are and it’s all dark and scary? Worse yet, do you want someone in The White House who is all dark and scary? WHERE ARE YOUR CHILDREN???? Vote for Hillary Clinton. She lived in The White House when someone else was president, so she’s got experience! And she’s not black!”

“And now, WDUH sports. It looks like someone on the Red Sox is unhappy with his contract. Here’s Jock Sniffer with a report. Is that true, Jock? Is there unrest in the locker room?”

“There sure is, Jim. A Red Sox player has asked to be traded, claiming that he’s worth $11,000,000 a season, rather than the $8,000,000 that the Red Sox are currently paying him.”

“Gee! Who is it, Jock?”

“I’m not going to tell you his name because it makes no difference. If he comes to terms with the club, you won’t remember this or care about it six months from now. In the meantime, the only thing that matters around here is that he’s wearing a shirt that says ‘Red Sox’ on the front. Character issues are basically irrelevant and, what the hell, are we supposed to choose sides in an argument over yearly salaries when just the difference between the two figures is more money than anyone else is likely to make over a 45-year career spent in a job that actually matters? What’s the point?”

“What else is happening in sports, Jock?”

“A baseball player has been accused of using steroids, a football player has been accused of domestic abuse, marijuana was found in a search of a basketball player’s car, and nobody in Boston still really cares about soccer. A college basketball team is facing probation for recruitment violations and the 2016 Winter Olympics have been awarded to some city in Europe that nobody around here has ever heard of before. Oh, and the Bruins.”

“Thanks, Jock. We’ll be back with the weather after this word.”

“I’m Barack Obama, and I approved this message. I’m well-spoken, well-dressed, handsome and charismatic. I want change. Do you want change? Well, so do I. I want change. We can make change happen. I want change. Let’s change things. Change! I want it! Together, we can change things! Thank you.”

“And now, WDUH AccuWeather. It looks like we’ve got some snow ahead. Here with the weather is Dick Wetshispantsinanticipationofanythingevenremotelylookinglikesnow. Dick?”

“Jim, it looks like there might be a major winter storm headed our way. There could be anywhere from a few flakes that will pretty much melt upon hitting the ground at 3 am OR up to 18 inches! Here’s the latest radar imaging, showing a whole bunch of stuff that already happened. If it does turn out to be an actual blizzard, viewers will be able to count on WDUH to interrupt regularly-scheduled programming with updates every five minutes and otherwise panicking the populace into stampeding their local supermarkets in an effort to strip the shelves of staple items even though no storm in this area in approximately thirty years has left anyone truly trapped in their house and starving!”

“Wow! Dick, are the local authorities saying anything concerning this possible storm?”

“Yes, Jim, they’re asking that we stop running around like chickens with our heads cut off. We live in New England, after all, and we get at least one major snowstorm every year - sometimes four, five, or even six - and we should damn well be used to them by now. Oh, and there’s no money left in their budgets for plowing, of course.”

“Well, Dick, you’ve ruined my weekend again. Ha-ha!”

“Not my fault, Jim, but if anyone deserves it, you do! Ha-ha!”

“Ha-ha! That’s for sure, Dick! We’ll be back with Joanne Starsucker’s entertainment report, right after this word.”

“I’m John McCain, and I approved this message. Thirty years ago, I might have been considered a Democrat. Now those moonbats have moved so far to the left, I’ve become a centrist Republican by default. Republicans don’t really want to vote for me, and neither do any Democrats, but there’s no other viable choice left if you want to vote for someone who pledges to continue the war. Oh, and I’m neither black nor a woman. I can promise you that.”

“Here’s Joanne Starsucker with the entertainment news. Joanne, I hear there’s possible trouble ahead for someone.”

“Yes, Jim, there sure is! Another good-looking singing bimbo has become pregnant. There’s still speculation concerning who the father is, but whoever it turns out to be, rest assured most of the public will consider him unfit to be a father, but when given a choice between him and the singing bimbo, most will still consider him a better choice than her. Meanwhile, a major motion picture actor has been found to be in possession of narcotics, and a whole bunch of good looking yet otherwise spectacularly untalented dickheads and trollops are protesting something obvious.”

“Thanks, Joanne. I think I’ll head off any speculation by telling you right now that I’m not the father! Ha-ha!”

“Ha-ha! Neither am I, Jim! Ha-ha.”

“Ha-ha! Well, that will do it for the WDUH news for tonight. Be sure to stay tuned for The Late Tonight Show, where the comic host will do a topical monologue, then a regular bit that was bled to death years ago, before welcoming someone semi-famous, as well as an animal trainer with a cage full of something that everybody in the audience will find funny to see crawling up the host’s arm. Good Night!”

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Bagel Mit Schmeer (The End)

                                Zorro (not his real name, but a better picture than yesterday...)
So, I think I left you with MY WIFE and me ready to head over to her brother's place in Brooklyn. Even if I didn't, let's pretend I did and pick it up from there anyway.

(Parts ONE - TWO - THREE)

After all of my talk about the New York subway system being such a wonderful and well-oiled machine, I now have to bring it down a notch. In order to get to Zorro's place, we had to take a somewhat less-than-direct route. This was because there was trackwork being done on the line that would have taken us conveniently down the block from his house. We were able to get to within 8 blocks, by taking a totally different line, but then we needed to catch a shuttle bus from there.

When we asked an MTA worker where to catch the shuttle bus, he pointed us across the street. However, a woman standing nearby overheard our conversation and told us to ignore that. She said that she was waiting for a bus that would take us precisely where we needed to go and more quickly. She knew this because she was headed to that same neighborhood. She was right. We boarded the bus with her, got off the bus with her, and there we were pretty much at Zorro's doorstep.

(With one glaring exception, which I'll get to later, New Yorkers were unfailingly kind and helpful whenever we needed directions of some sort. In all instances wherein we needed it, help was offered even before we asked for it. The rudeness of New Yorkers is sometimes greatly exaggerated. My personal opinion is that Yankees fans give them all an undeserved bad rep. If I were a New Yorker, and NOT a Yankees fan, I think I'd wear a shirt proclaiming that fact. That way, folks from out of town would know I wasn't automatically an asshole.)

(Oh, OK, I know one nice Yankees fan, so there's always an exception, I guess. Sorry, Barbara.)

We rang the bell at Zorro's. He came on the intercom and said, "Yeah, I'll have two double cheeseburgers, a large fry, and a chocolate shake." Joker. I told him I had his double cheeseburger RIGHT HERE. He buzzed the door and we went inside.

Zorro is - despite that bit of fluff - a very witty guy. Like MY WIFE, he is a punster, all of their family having learned the art at the knee of their dad, who was a master at putting sour looks on the faces of unsuspecting linguistic bystanders. Also like MY WIFE, he is (to use one of my favorite Jean Sheppard-isms) faster than a jackrabbit on a date. Everyone in the family possesses a quick, sharp, gently sarcastic sense of humor. Any extended time spent in the company of two or more of them becomes a genial game of Can You Top This? I love it.

(Of course, having now built up in your mind this air of anticipation, you'll be expecting me to quote repartee worthy of Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker. You'll be disappointed because, while MY WIFE and Zorro uttered enough sparkling gems to fill a couple of pages, my memory for such things is haphazard at best. Too many of my brain cells have been allocated towards memorizing the New York City subway map. Also, my writing skills aren't even close to either Wilde or Parker. Nor to Zorro's, for that matter. If I told you his real name, you might recognize him as having written on a semi-regular basis for The Boston Phoenix when he was living in this area. MY WIFE is a good writer, too, but she's dyslexic, so if she were telling this tale, the lady who helped us get to Zorro's house would have told us to get on the same sub as her, which is a pretty weak joke, but I needed some way to end this digression, so there you go.)

After we chatted for a while, Zorro called for a cab and we then made our way to Peter Luger's.

Luger's is a steakhouse with a mighty reputation. All three of us are of the opinion that it's overpriced and overrated. The food was good, but hardly worth what they charge for it. The ambiance is fairly non-existent, so that isn't an excuse for the exorbitant bill, either. Service was decent, but nothing special. Again, the food was good, but it's mighty hard to fuck up a steak unless you burn it to a crisp. At half the price, it might have been worth it, but our bill (with, as I recall, three beers and two glasses of wine) came to about $220, with tip, for steaks and potatoes. I can't remember if we had dessert. If we did, that's how good it was.

We left the restaurant with full stomachs and much emptier than they should have been pockets. It was our plan to now go into Manhattan and have a drink or two, so we started walking to the subway. The air was cool, but not totally uncomfortable, so the 10 block walk through Williamsburg was decent enough, especially with Zorro and MY WIFE providing running sarcastic commentary on the gentrified surroundings.

I had gotten directions to the subway from the doorman at Luger's. He was a nice fellow and, as it turned out, his directions were perfect. However, at one point we weren't really sure that we were headed the right way. We stopped at a bus stop, which had a route map on a pole, to see if we could figure out just where we were in relation to the subway. As we stood there looking at the map, a man asked us where we were trying to go. We told him the subway.

At this point, if I was a good enough writer, I would be able to describe his reaction. However, I've already absolved myself of that responsibility, so, instead, here is a picture of me doing an imitation of him. Look at the picture as you read what he said to us, and keep in mind that he asked us where we were going. We hadn't approached him at all.

"What the hell! That's just two blocks!"

We walked on a bit and then all three of us fell apart laughing. As Zorro pointed out, there must have been some minimum distance requirement, which we hadn't met, for it to be alright to get directions from this guy. He offered to help us, but when he found out we only needed to go a short way, he became pissed off. Obviously, he liked giving out only convoluted directions and, unless you needed more serious help, he had better things to do with his time.


We rode the subway back into Manhattan. Zorro wanted to go to a very fancy bar in Grand Central called The Campbell Apartment. It was formerly the office of some bigwig with the railroad - named Campbell, apparently - now transformed into a dark-wood-and-plush-seating drinking establishment. Unfortunately, when we arrived there, we were informed that it was not open for business that night. On our way in, we had passed a wedding party having photographs taken, so we assumed it had been rented out by them for the evening.

Now we needed to find another place. Zorro suggested The Algonquin. This definitely sounded like a good choice. It was, at one time, the home of probably the most celebrated gathering of witty minds on earth, The Algonquin Round Table. The membership included Robert Benchley, Heywood Hale Broun, George S. Kaufman, Harold Ross, Alexander Woollcott, Harpo Marx, Edna Ferber, and the aforementioned Dorothy Parker, among other luminaries, so why not us? In our current grouping, we were the three wittiest people we knew.
We walked over to the Algonquin and went inside. It was a pleasantly swank joint, done up in dark wood, with soft lighting, comfortable seats, and a pianist with bass accompaniment softly playing unidentifiable jazz. We were seated at a decidedly un-round table by the maitre d’.

MY WIFE decided to go non-alcoholic, ordering tonic water with a twist, while Zorro kept in the spirit of such a place by ordering a scotch on the rocks. I think I somewhat ruined our 1930’s fantasy when I ordered a mojito, a drink not even invented then - and probably better suited for a room frequented by Hemingway, in any case. However, we still had a nice time filled with good conversation. We saw a round table, but we weren’t sure if it was THE round table.

We parted ways with Zorro in the subway. He made his way back to Red Hook and we made our way back to The Helmsley. The mojito took the edge off the elevator ride to the 38th floor. In keeping with the sort of folks who would eat dinner at 3:45 in the afternoon, we were both asleep sometime before 9 o’clock.

SUNDAY, MARCH 2nd (My 51st Birthday)

I should explain that since our anniversary date of February 29th falls so close to my birthday, we decided long ago to not celebrate my birthday during those years when we have an anniversary. You know those statistics that show married men living longer than single men? I figure in my case taking every fourth year off from birthdays will about equal the projected extra years of life I’m supposed to gain. If I die when I’m 99, I’ll actually be only 83 with this formula. I’m not sure that really makes sense, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

After checking out of the hotel, and leaving our suitcases with a bellman so that we could do a few things unencumbered with baggage before heading home, we went back to The Frontier for breakfast. I ordered a bagel mit schmeer and got it. Victory! Final score: Jim – 2 schmeers in 3 attempts.

We decided to go to church at Marble Collegiate, the former pastorate of Norman Vincent Peale, located on 29th Street in Manhattan. They had a guest preacher that day, the Reverend Peter Gomes from Harvard, whom MY WIFE had wanted to hear for some time. That we traveled to New York to hear a preacher from Harvard says something, but I’m not sure what.

It was worth the trip. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a sermon more than the one delivered by Bishop Gomes that morning. He is an accomplished speaker with a tremendous sense of humor, very wry and dry. I don’t know that I’m the best one to make such a judgment, but I found his theology sound and his insights inspiring. And I have never heard an audience of churchgoers laugh so loud and long as they did at his tremendously humorous asides.

The regular church was outstanding – that is to say, those preachers in residence, as well as the choir and musicians – and the congregation seemed very welcoming. I’ve never been one to praise diversity just for diversity’s sake, but it was somehow heartening to look out over the crowd – we sat in the balcony – and see such a wide mix of peoples in comfortable praise of God. Even in the best of situations, you often see whites sitting with whites, blacks sitting with blacks, and so on. At Marble Collegiate, there wasn’t any section of the congregation that betrayed a particular leaning towards one race or another. It was a dead on pure mix of races, sexes, manners of dress, and whatever other qualifiers you might like to use, and it all just flowed together naturally, folks walking in and sitting without regard (at least so far as I could see) to whom they sat next to. It was lovely.

I’m sure I speak for MY WIFE when I tell you that we were both so impressed with the whole experience that we would probably become members of the church on a full-time basis if we lived in New York. It was, all in all, one of the nicest spiritual experiences I’ve had in years.


We had decided to take the bus back to Boston. I would have rather taken the train again, but the bus was much less expensive. The travel time wasn’t appreciably different, and they both ended up at South Station, so what the hell. As long as MY WIFE was with me, a mule cart would have been enjoyable. We picked up our bags at the hotel and started the journey home.

On our way to the bus station, we stopped off in Grand Central at the Transit Museum gift shop. MY WIFE wanted to buy a few postcards, while I looked for something good to read on the bus. I found a book called Subwayland, a collection of short vignettes about (what else?) the subway, by Randy Kennedy. When I brought it up to the checkout, MY WIFE bought it for me as a birthday present. Have I mentioned how much I love her? Reading material and postcards in hand, we went to buy our bus tickets.

We had some time before our bus. I still hadn’t had any New York pizza – which is the best pizza in the world, outside of The Pleasant Café in Roslindale, of course - but I knew of a great little pizza place near the bus station. Problem was, I couldn’t remember the name of it or the exact location. I figured I’d know it when I saw it again, so we went looking for it. No luck. So, instead of a pizza place, we ended up at a little dive restaurant called The Trolley Deli. It wasn’t much to look at, but I had a great hot pastrami on a roll, while MY WIFE had a lovely slice of carrot cake.

(Why does carrot cake always have a carrot made out of frosting on it? Are they afraid we won’t know what it is if it didn’t have one? Is it to warn people? “Hey, this cake contains CARROTS! Watch out!” No other cake has anything like that. They don’t have little upside-down frosting pineapples on pineapple upside-down cake, or little frosting peaches [or even little frosting shoes] on a peach cobbler, and there aren’t little frosting ballplayers fielding little frosting sacrifice hits on a bundt cake, either.)

(Man, it’s late, I’m tired, and I think I may be starting to hallucinate. I’m going to wrap this puppy up.)

The bus ride was mostly uneventful. We had a funny driver, though. He was a young Asian guy, maybe Chinese if I picked up the accent right. Soon after we hit the road, someone was making a cell phone call and we could all hear the other end of the conversation as well as the passenger. Our driver got on the intercom and said, “Thank you. I know you have lovely handsome new speakerphone, but please shut off now.”

Well, that made him my hero. Later on, we stopped in Newton to let some riders off, and there was a crowd of people waiting there for some bus or another. They weren’t sure where we were headed because our destination sign said – and I am not making this up – Never Never Land. They asked our driver if this was their bus.

He said, “No, your bus be along in fifteen minutes or maybe tomorrow.”

Then he closed the door and we drove off. MY WIFE and I were sitting up front and we laughed out loud at that one. The driver turned to me, with a smile, and said, “Who know? Could be!”

At South Station, we caught the T and it was on time, pleasant, clean, and everything else good, too. And then… ugh, enough. You don’t need to hear any more transportation stories, I’m sure.

It was damn nice getting back to a bed that wasn’t 400 feet in the air, but I’ve got little hope in the ability to order a schmeer around here and get anything good out of it.

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. When I was writing the end of this last night, I took a break to have a cigarette in the other room – the only room in the house in which I smoke – and I took off my glasses, putting them on the chair I sit in when typing. When I finished the smoke and returned here, guess what I did? Yup. Sat on my glasses, popping out both lenses and bending the frames. There’s a joke in here about gaining a shitty outlook on life, but I’m too tired to construct it just now. Anyway, if you don’t like some part of the last 1,000 words or so, and you ask me about it, I’ll blame it on that. It might not really make sense, but that’s what I’m going to tell you and you'll have to live with it.