Friday, October 30, 2009

15 Books: The Donatello Version

You may remember this entry from a short while back. In it, I listed 15 books that I loved, or that changed my life, or that you never heard of before and wished to hell I'd quit blathering on about them.

Well, now it's Donatello's turn.

You'll remember Donatello from this, this, this, and perhaps most especially this. I think he's a wonderful writer in his own right. He should have a blog of his own, or maybe be published someplace where he could earn some actual scratch for his efforts. Until he wises up, though, I'm happy to publish him on these pages, saving me about 1,500 words of effort a few times a year and making me seem more prolific than I really am.

Now, without any further ado (because I won't be saving any effort at all unless I shut up) Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Donatello!


Hey Jim -

I thought I’d take the time while you’re on vaca to write up some more of those responses. We’ll see how many I get to... it is nice to play hooky from my chores etc. Anyways, I liked your post on 15 Books. I thought it would be an interesting challenge to take that one up myself. I doubt I’ll have as much to say about this list, but that’s ok.

To call all of the following books "life-changing" would be a stretch, though some of them were, for me at least. Still, they are books that largely will explain who I am, how I got that way, and why I think the way I do. I’m also picking only those that I think would be of general interest, though I may add a few subject-specific "honorable mentions."

I’m also leaving out some obvious choices. I mean, everyone ought to read the Bible; believers have no excuse, and everyone else ought to read it in self-defense. Homer, Aristophanes, Chaucer... yup, sure, they’re great, but this isn’t a list of Great Books, it’s a list of 15 books that I think are great. I’m sure you’ll appreciate the difference.

By the way, I read Babbitt from your list; one of those I’ve always meant to get to. Great story, silly 1920s slang notwithstanding. Gosh all fish-hooks! I can’t say I find myself longing for his lifestyle, though. What impressed me was his ultimate change of heart at the end, where he realizes that what he didn’t get to do in life was not so much to go to law school but to choose the sort of life he wanted, and that the latter is the opportunity that he should give his own son.

One funny thing I noticed when I was making up my list: you know I read constantly and chronically. I have a reputation for having read every book ever written, which is absolutely untrue. I’m still getting to lots of things. It was only a year or two ago that I finally read Moby Dick. Just this year for Fahrenheit 451 and Babbitt. Well, there’s plenty of time. Anyway, what I have done is read some important books very carefully. Still, I usually read non-fiction: history, biography, philosophy, cookbooks... novels not so much. The funny thing was that 9 of the 15 books on my list wound up being novels. Hmm. Go figure. Well anyhow, in no particular order, THE LIST:

Lizard Music, by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

A kid’s book, but still a great read. I first read it in hardcover when it was new and I was about the same age as the protagonist, Victor. Got a new copy in my 30s and liked it just as much.

A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

If you’ve never read this, you’re in for a treat. If you have, read it again anyway. The character I most identify with in this one is Meg.

Nineteen-Eighty-Four, by George Orwell

Nothing I can say about this one that hasn’t already been said; the masterpiece by my favorite author, George Orwell. Still frighteningly prophetic. Runners-up: Down And Out In Paris And London and Politics and the English Language.

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

For me, a close second to Nineteen-Eighty Four.

Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton

If you’ve only seen the film you’re missing out. Ok, the animated dinosaurs are pretty cool, as is Laura Dern in her hiking shorts, but they dumbed-down the story too much, I think. The characters in the book are much more complex and the story is surprisingly deep in its implications. Favorite quotation:

The planet is not in jeopardy. We are in jeopardy. We don’t have the power to destroy the planet or to save it, but we might have the power to save ourselves.

I had this posted on the bulletin board outside my office at St. Mary’s.

Dune, by Frank Herbert

Slow starting but, once you get into it and understand who the characters are and how they relate to each other, fascinating. It’s a huge achievement, how Herbert has plausibly extrapolated 10,000 years of history. The six original novels make a coherent whole. Brian Herbert’s sequels are worthy as well.

The Dance Of Life, by Edward T. Hall

This anthropology classic was a life changer for me. You’ll never think the same way again. His other books are also worthwhile: Beyond Culture, The Hidden Dimension, and The Silent Language.

How To Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff

I’ve plugged this one many times before. Another life-changer. You’ll never look at a statistic the same way again. Also, a surprisingly quick and humorous read.

A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, by James Joyce

The most accessible of Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness experiments. An interesting look at the Irish-Catholic experience, as well, especially Chapter III. It starts slowly and strangely but is, I think, worth the effort. Might not be for everybody, but what is?

Sex And Death To The Age 14, by Spalding Gray (R.I.P.)

One of my favorite modern authors. If you would like to feel more comfortable living with your own personal set of neuroses, this is the book for you. Impossible Vacation is a tight #2. Favorite Gray quotation, possibly paraphrased :

Without cocktail hour, there’s no shift of consciousness. Life is just AAAAAAAAAAAAAA, BED!

The Boomer Bible, by R.F. Laird

An oh-my-God work of satire... Aristophanic and massive, possibly one of the best written and worst promoted books of the 20th century, seriously. It incorporates a history of the world; the parables of the Messiah Harry, first baby of the boom; and a social commentary in its Past, Present, and Punk Testaments. Biblical in structure, style, and size... it has to be experienced to be believed.

Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson

What can I say, the woman who pretty much started the entire environmental movement with this one still has a message for us all.

The Trial, by Franz Kafka

Disturbing, yet the kind of book that can be read and reread. If you’re new to Kafka, you might try In The Penal Colony or The Metamorphosis first.

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis

An interesting take on the inner-workings of Satan and his legions.

The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton

The story of Merton’s conversion and a good introduction to his other works. It also shows what Merton found in the Catholic Church and what some of us are still looking for there, for those who might be interested.

All right. This is getting long and I have to go. Well, it’s been fun. Maybe you’ll find a few gems in here yourself. Confederacy Of Dunces is on my must-read-soon list. Will be in touch. Hope you had a great vacation.

Your swell pal,



Love the man. Love these lists, too. If you do one of your own, PLEASE let me know. I'd love to come over to your place and read it.

TEASER: Donatello has come up with a variation on this list that may be even more interesting to some of you. I'll be publishing his take, and my own, concerning that, next week. Hope you'll be here.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Please Lend A Hand

When I was very young, there was a fundraising campaign at our school. The charity was The March Of Dimes. They had started out as an organization whose goal was to eradicate polio, and polio was now pretty much beaten. Since they had nothing better to do, they switched gears and were now aiming at birth defects. And they handed out some little informational cards to all of us children.

On the cards were slots for us to slip our dimes into, as we were moved to do so, and, in order to move us to do so in a more expeditious fashion, there were photos of a couple of children who had, unfortunately, been born with birth defects.

I was a small child, perhaps 5 or 6. I had no idea that anyone was born with less than a full complement of body parts. I had no idea, until then, that it was even a possibility. And now I was suddenly seeing a photo of a boy with metal arms ending in hooks. The teacher told us how some children were the victims of birth defects, and that our dimes would help to keep future children from being born the way this boy was.

It was, for me, a vision from out of a nightmare. I was awake, though, and shocked; made tragically aware of a version of life I had never considered possible. That photo, and the possibilities it represented, haunted me for weeks.


A short time later, I was watching television. A movie came on. It was a movie about the effects of war, specifically World War Two. The movie was The Best Years Of Our Lives. Perhaps you’ve seen it? It won many academy awards, and deservedly so. It was - and is - a tremendously moving portrait of three men returning to civilian life after having served in wartime.

One of the men - played by Harold Russell, who truly was a soldier afflicted as shown; no make-up needed - had returned home with hooks for his hands.

I sat in front of the TV and saw the same nightmare vision that had recently haunted me, but now come to life and moving. And it made me even further aware of the tragic possibilities. Not only was it possible to be BORN without important things, it was entirely possible to lose them, once born, through no fault of your own.

Now, maybe I was somewhat sheltered to not know of these things before then, but that’s the way it was. I had successfully lived through six years of my life without knowing. Now that I knew, I was changed forever. Losing part of me - a limb or a hand or anything else - became my strongest fear. It still is. It is so strong a fear that I have trouble facing or meeting people who have had such misfortune befall them, whether via birth defect or accident. As I handle my fear of heights by avoiding bridges, I partially handle my fear of amputation by avoiding amputees. I don't run from the room screaming if someone is there who is less than the generally accepted notion of whole; I hope that I treat them in the same way I would anyone else. However, I'm afraid that my fear of finding myself in their situation may show through, and I would hate to have them see that. It would be so damned unfair. I also try to avoid photos, films, written accounts, and any other thing that will bring my fear to the forefront of my thoughts.

Stupid? Cowardly? Yes, pretty much. It’s what I do, though.


Why do I tell you the above?

Every day, in military hospitals and physical therapy centers across this land, there are people facing my greatest fear. They’re doing so because they saw it as their duty to put their lives on the line for you and me. They didn’t lose their lives, though. Instead, they lost their ability to function as independently as they did before being wounded grievously.

In fighting for our freedom, they have lost much of their own.

Let me state something important before we go on. Many of you are well aware of how I feel regarding some of the United States’ military adventures. If it were up to me, I’d have most of our troops home before you could wink an eye. I categorically do NOT support my country’s actions in some instances. Some of you may feel the same way. That’s not what’s important in this case, though. Whatever our feelings concerning the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the men and women in harm’s way in those conflicts are making the sacrifices they make with selfless intent. And I would be some kind of miserable human being if I used my political beliefs as a crutch to absolve me from helping them during their time of greatest need.

They didn’t ask me my feelings before putting their lives on the line. They just did it. And now I’m doing what I feel is right and necessary. I’m trying to help them heal. That’s the right thing to do, under all circumstances and with no exception.

How am I trying to help, in the small way that I’m able? Via something called Valour-IT.

Valour-IT is a wonderful program (run independent of the armed forces, the Department of Defense, or any other governmental agency) supplying wounded veterans with some good tools to aid in their rehabilitation, both mentally and physically. For instance, those veterans who have suffered major injuries to their hands will be supplied with voice-activated laptop computers.

Most of us are writers of one sort or another, whether professionally or just for pleasure. Imagine yourself suddenly deprived of that ability to write, the ability to use a computer keyboard or otherwise communicate via the written word. What would it be worth to you to regain that ability? You know the answer. It would be worth the world.

Valour-IT performs that miracle. They give back the world to someone who lost it.

I’m donating to this version of an angel’s work. I’m asking you to look into your heart and find it there to do so, also.

(I’m not just using a figure of speech when I say "angel’s work", by the way. This charity was started, and is overseen by, Soldier’s Angels, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity. All donations are tax-deductible. And, as stated previously, they are not affiliated with the government, and any government employees involved in the organization, or in the fundraising, are doing so as private citizens.)

I hope I’ve done my job and convinced you to give a few bucks. I’m giving $100 myself, if that helps you to decide. But any amount will be welcome and will make all the difference in someone’s recovery.

(Funny how life works. I wasn’t in a position to donate much. My recent dental work had left me strapped for funds. However, as soon as I committed in my mind to doing something for this cause, someone wishing to buy advertising on this blog contacted me, offering to pay me more than that amount. Cast your bread upon the waters, as the Good Lord says.)

I’m pretty much tapped out insofar as further words to make the case for this. Perhaps this wonderful cartoon will speak to you more eloquently than I have.

I need to mention a couple of small details.

First is that my good friend, Buck, from Exile In Portales, would appreciate it if you’d donate to the cause in the name of his former service branch, The United States Air Force. Each year, the separate branches of the military have a friendly competition to see who can raise the most money for this cause. Since Buck is my good buddy, and he’s on the Air Force team, I’ll be donating to the Air Force team effort. I hope you will, also.

(Let me reiterate what Buck has said at his place, though. The important thing is to raise money for this, not for one branch or another to be victorious. That’s just a fun way to spur on some fundraising. If donating to another branch will get the dollars out of your pocket and into the fund, so be it.)

The other thing to mention is this: This fundraiser runs only until Veteran’s Day, November 11th. That’s just two weeks from now, so your action is needed as soon as possible.

If you wish to donate, here’s how. At the very top of my sidebar, you’ll see a widget that you can click onto. I’ll have it there through the ending day of the drive. Clicking on it will take you to a place set aside for donations made through the Air Force team. So, if you’d like to help in that fashion, there you go. Donations may be made via Pay Pal, credit card, or electronic check. If you’d like to donate in the name of another service branch, cool. Go to the Soldier’s Angels website and you’ll find the necessary information for that. Or, if you’d like to donate via check, you can find an address for that, too.

Of course, if you’d like to try your hand at doing a bit of fundraising at your own place, that would be nice. If you’d like to do so as part of Buck’s team - the Air Force team - that would be swell, and greatly appreciated by him. Click onto the widget, where it says "share".

(Funny thing – in the movies and on TV, sergeants are usually portrayed as hard-asses and bastards. Buck is a retired Master Sergeant. If I were to believe all of the stereotypes, I’d have to conclude that he’s scamming me. From my experiences and interactions with him, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more decent, caring, sweet, gentlemanly guy.)

You know me – I say a lot of stupid things here, and I usually go for the laugh. This is as serious as I get, however; it’s no joke. Please donate, in whatever way you’re able and in whatever amount you can afford. Thank you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Canuck Gives Me An Award, Eh?

[Image stolen from]

Is there something in the water up there? I keep warning people: DO NOT GIVE ME ANY MORE AWARDS! And then some Canadian dope (or is that redundant?) goes ahead and gives me one. Jazz (apparently not the brightest bulb in the chandelier) gave me this:

As you can see, it's called the "Over The Top" award. For a dimwit, Jazz showed great perspicacity. Despite how my agreeing with her will lower the estimation of my IQ in the eyes of the intelligentsia (that is, non-Canadians) I find that I must concur with her on one thought: What in hell does a woman in an apron have to do with being over the top? See, if I was designing an award called the Over The Top Award, and for some unfathomable reason it had to involve a woman in an apron, this would seem to me a more suitable bit of artwork:

(And, by the way, if you'd like to purchase this work of art, you can! Go to

Even more tragic than any of the foregoing, this is another of those awards that comes attached to a meme. Before I can have the award, I'm supposed to give 35 one-word answers to 35 stupid questions. Okay, I will. But, first, since Jazz gave me this onerous duty, I think it's only fair that I make fun of her entire country. I call this song "Oh, Canada!" and you can sing it to the tune of "Oh, Canada!"

Oh, Canada!
Your armpits smell like cheese!
True nerfbrain dopes who fall down on their knees
When a Queen walks by, or a Frenchman farts; it's a sorry sight to see!
Oh, Canada! Football teams of 12! A dollar called the loonie!
Oh, Canada!
Gloriously Dumb!
Oh, Canada, your thumb is up your bum!
Oh, Canada, your thumb is

Oh, hell. I actually like Canadians quite a bit. Mister Rogers got his big break up there, and for that alone I'll give them their props. And the Canadian people, on the whole, have a general niceness to them that inspires similar in return, so I feel ten different sorts of guilt at having said these nasty things about them (except for the French-Canadians, who have a certain insufferable arrogance in common with Frenchmen the world over. Of course, most of them don't give a damn what I have to say, since this isn't written in French, so fuck them.)

(Okay, okay. I know lots of swell French folk, too, and my ancestry is about 25% French. Geez, this is just a stupid pastiche of lame jokes until I get to the damn meme. Chill, Canadian Frenchpeople.)

Here's the damn meme.

(One word answers. Here's one word for you: Blowme. What is this, psychotherapy?)

1. Where is your cell phone? Hell
2. Your hair? Extinct
3. Your mother? Embarrassed
4. Your father? Beyond
5. Your favorite food? Animals
6. Your dream last night? Weasels (Really. It was hideous.)
7. Your favorite drink? Women
8. Your dream/goal? Heaven (My chances have been radically diminished with this.)
9. What room are you in? Mush
10. Your hobby? This
11. Your fear? That
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Here
13. Where were you last night? There
14. Something that you aren't? Everywhere
15. Muffins? Puffins
16. Wish list item? Sex
17. Where did you grow up? Haven't
18. Last thing you did? WIFE (I don't do it with things, you Canadian pervert.)
19. What are you wearing? Out
20. Your TV? Aggravating
21. Your pets? Cigarettes
22. Friends? Cheers

(Hah! See what I did there? I would've said My Name Is Earl, but it had to be one word.)

23. Your life? Mumbletypeg
24. Your mood? Abstract
25. Missing someone? Me
26. Vehicle? Drugs
27. Something you're not wearing? Well
28. Your favorite store? Charlie's
29. Your favorite color? Translucent
30. When was the last time you laughed? Now
31. Last time you cried? Then
32. Your best friend? #18 (Does that qualify as one word? Probably not. By this time, who gives a rat's ass?)
33. One place that I go to over and over? Edge
34. One person who emails me regularly? God
35. Favorite place to eat? Crotch (although inside of the elbow is pleasant enough and between the breasts is good for a laugh.)

Okee-dokee. That takes care of that.

Oops! I think I'm supposed to hand this execrable piece of goose poop off to some other poor sucker. Here goes...

I'm giving it to Shammickite at Rook's Nest. She's from Canada, so it's going back north where it belongs. I really shouldn't burden her with this, as she is a truly nice person who sent me a couple of wheat pennies in response to this, but what the hell. With any luck, she became so pissed off by the time she reached "Oh, Canada!" that she'll never have gotten this far and won't even know she's been tagged.

Soon, with less rancorous stuff.

(By the way, I stole the cliche Frenchman from This Place.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009


MY WIFE and I went on vacation last week. I don’t have any amazing stories to tell, but there were some interesting and nice happenings. I’ll tell you a bit about those, if you don't mind.

Our first stop was Salem, New Hampshire. Not that the place is a hideous rattrap, but this is not a city usually given as a tourist destination. So, why were we in Salem? We were in Salem because Dollar Bill (cartooned above) was in Derry.

Dollar Bill is, fittingly enough, the proprietor of Dollar Bill’s. It is a store in Derry, just a few miles up the road from Salem. And Dollar Bill’s is a place where we’ve wanted to go ever since we first saw Dollar Bill on TV.

Dollar Bill does a 30-minute infomercial on a New Hampshire TV station every Saturday morning. It is extremely entertaining television. He goes from item to item in his store, extolling the virtues of the various and sundry merchandises, telling us the amazing prices being charged for said items, and occasionally making entirely lewd jokes about (and/or physical interactions with) the goods. There’s always a gut buster of a laugh per episode, sometimes multiples. For instance, in the episode that aired on the Saturday before we left, Dollar Bill was demonstrating a system for vacuuming the air out of pillows and such, in order to make them flat for storage, and he first feigned having the vacuum nozzle up against his crotch giving him some joy. I don’t know about you, but I can’t find anything to top that on Saturday morning TV.

(Watch an episode of the show by going HERE.)

And he really does have some great bargains at his place, so we decided to spend a day there. We figured we could get a whole bunch of Christmas shopping done on the cheap, while still getting some nice things for folks.

(Okay, now some of you are getting ready to deliver a load of grief to my doorstep. You’ve heard me go on and on about Thanksgiving Comes First and you think that I have somehow betrayed the cause. Well, if you believe that, you’re dead wrong. I seem to have to explain this every time I resurrect Thanksgiving Comes First, so I’ll do it again. I have no problem with early Christmas shopping or preparations. What I’m trying to battle are the ads and such that obliterate the less-mercenary holidays that precede Christmas. If you – or I – wish to get some shopping out of the way, who gives a damn? Certainly not me! I hope this explanation forestalls the grief delivery. If not, have at me [and you’ll be wrong] but in any case, that’s my tortured logic. If you feel that my logic is torturing YOU, my sincerest and most heartfelt apologies. To show you my good faith, I’ll see if I can get Dollar Bill to come over and vacuum your... place.)

We made reservations at a Red Roof Inn.

We chose the Red Roof because it was amazingly inexpensive. The Red Roof was amazingly inexpensive because it’s not the Ritz Carlton. It wasn’t absolutely hideous, though, so we were okay with it. It was a place with beds and cable TV, no noisy teenagers or violent domestic disputes in the rooms neighboring ours, free coffee in the lobby, and a parking space for Roddy The Wondercar. Other than those basics, I can’t say much to recommend it (but you probably aren’t going to Salem, so what difference does it make?)

I won't go into great detail concerning the things we bought at Dollar Bill’s. Some of the people who read me might be getting some of those things as presents, so I wouldn’t want to give anything away concerning what they might be receiving and I certainly don’t want to alert them to the tiny bit of cash we laid out on their behalf.

(I said "some of the people", so if you’re one of those folks who think what counts most is the price, rather than the thought, feel free to pretend we got your tube socks at Tiffany’s.)

What I will tell you is that Dollar Bill’s is a place where you can get, say, $450 worth of stuff for about $170. And no taxes, either, since it’s New Hampshire. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll actually see Dollar Bill inside of the store while you’re shopping. We did, but we were too star-struck to actually say hello to him. We did get insider information, though. We know what The Deal Of The Day will be on the next show. Since we got such great bargains, however, we will not divulge this sensitive tidbit.

Aside from the visit to Dollar Bill’s, not much else of import to tell you about concerning our New Hampshire leg of the vacation. We went bowling (which is interesting to one of you, and probably ONLY one of you – Hi, Urbie!) I rolled a 107 in one of the three strings, which made me feel pretty good (I rolled 85 in both of the other two, but let’s not quibble about particulars.) The 107 is not too shabby for candlepins, the only form of bowling New Englanders should ever admit to liking (and rightly so.) As a matter of fact, it is a decent enough score to give me the itch to try again to recapture the past glories of my candlepin youth, which I have gone into excruciating detail about BEFORE (and, you should fervently hope, never again beyond this small mention.)

That’s about it for Salem. Oh, I suppose I should tell you about our breakfast excursion on Tuesday morning. We decided to visit a place called Parker’s Maple Barn, located in Mason, NH. Mason is about 30 miles west of Salem and MY WIFE suggests that if any of you have outstanding warrants, you should go there to hide out. The reason she says this is because we took about an hour-and-a-half to find the place and Parker’s Maple Barn wasn’t trying to hide. If you actually put some effort into keeping yourself hidden in Mason, we’re willing to bet you could successfully evade the authorities for months. It will be especially helpful to your cause if the authorities are trying to locate you using a map printed in the touristy magazine you can get for free at a Red Roof Inn.

I thought for sure that getting to Parker’s Maple Barn would be a snap. The journey looked to be rather direct. Take this route to that route and then Parker’s was on another route. Problem was, none of the three routes intersected the way they appeared on the damned map. We got to see a whole bunch of interesting farmland and then MY WIFE met some nice people at a Catholic school when she went in to get directions after I finally gave in to common sense after driving for the better part of an hour in and out of Nashua and the towns that bordered it and MY WIFE threatened mutiny.

Parker’s Maple Barn is a swell place for breakfast, as it turned out, and even worth a 90-minute drive. I heartily recommend The Parker’s Special, which consists of two pancakes, bacon, sausage, ham, toast, eggs, home fries, and a future appointment with a cardiologist, no doubt, but I’ll still consider it a worthwhile part of my past.


We drove home on Wednesday and then hit the road again on Thursday. We were heading to Amherst, in the western part of Massachusetts, to visit a museum or two and - more important - to visit with my Cousin David and his family.

The ride out to Amherst is about two hours, depending upon what roads you take from the eastern part of the state. We took the Mass Pike, otherwise known as I-90, most of the way. It's quickest, but deadly boring and a toll road besides. Better scenery can be had by taking Route 9, which meanders through every small town along the way, but it costs you about an hour extra in driving time. We took that route on the way home - saving toll money, if not time - and saw some spectacular foliage.

We upgraded to a Comfort Inn for our Amherst stay. Not that they're spectacularly better than Red Roof, but the room was a bit more spacious, there was a pool and fitness center (neither of which we used while there), and we had 10 or 15 more channels on the cable TV. The room also came with a coffee maker, a big plus for a couple of caffeine hounds like us. Surprisingly, though, the clientele were more of a problem at the Comfort Inn. Perhaps it was because we were in a college town during homecoming weekend, but we had loud drunks running up and down the corridor at 2am, slamming doors and otherwise bringing me this close (I'm holding my thumb and forefinger less than an inch apart) to calling the front desk and asking them to send up some tear gas grenades. Before that could happen, all of the drunks either shacked up with other drunks or puked themselves into a coma, so it was okay.

We actually ended up visiting only one museum, but it was a dandy. The Eric Carle Museum Of Picture Book Art is located in Amherst, MA, and is well worth the $9 admission (less if you're a student or a kid or a senior, none of which we were except in our hearts.)

At present, they have exhibits featuring the work of Ernest Sheppard (Winnie-The-Pooh) and Tomie dePaola (Strega Nona, among others.) Both exhibits were fascinating collections of the artist's works, with helpful notes and whatnot, pleasantly presented. Of course, Carle himself has art on exhibit, and there are films, and a library, and... well, just go, if you have the chance. If you like picture books, you'll not be disappointed.

(As with our sighting of Dollar Bill, we actually saw Tomie dePaola while we were there. Once again, we were too awed by his presence to do more than gawk for the few seconds of the sighting.)

One bad thing happened while we were at the museum. Roddy The Wondercar was injured. While we were inside thoroughly enjoying the place, Roddy was scraped by a person trying to back into a parking spot alongside of him. I found this out when I went outside to have a smoke halfway through our visit. As I neared the car (where my smokes were) I saw some salt stains and scrapes on the rear driver's side. I looked on the windshield for a note. There was none.

I lit up my smoke. I could have lit it with my head, I was so burnt up. Poor Roddy is just sitting there, minding his own business, maybe scoping out a cute Honda or two, and he gets his exterior wapped by some clown who not only can't drive but also doesn't have the common decency to leave a note. I took a towel I had in the back seat and wiped down the damage, to see if it was all scrape or maybe more dirt than damage.

It was at this point, as I was stomping, smoking, cursing, and wiping, that a fellow came over and told me he was the one who had hit the car, and he was just in the process of writing out a note, and here it was. He introduced himself, apologized heartily, etc., and I felt much better. The fact that the damage was truly minimal under the paint scraped from his car helped a lot. I should have known that someone visiting a nice place like a museum of picture book art couldn't be a total asshole. After getting a good look at the small scrapes that were left after cleaning away the dirt and his paint, I told him that I doubted I'd be troubling him for a repair. Roddy agreed, and he was the one whacked, so...

(What? Your car doesn't talk to you? One of you has no soul. I won't say which one.)

(Actually, hearing your car talk is greatly facilitated by being at a museum devoted to stories concerning talking teddy bears and such, so maybe the possibility of your having a soul isn't such a longshot.)

Anyway, if that fellow is reading this (now, there's a longshot) he needn't worry about a phone call from me or a repair bill showing up. If he isn't reading me, the suspense of wondering if I'll report him is his payment for hitting me. He'd be less worried if he was a regular reader of me. All of you should remember that for future reference.


The best thing that happened on vacation was going out to dinner with My Cousin David and his wonderful family. That happened on Friday evening.

We met David and his wife, Lori, at their house in Leeds. Actually, the first person we met was the entirely charming Peter, their four-year-old, who saw us drive up and came out onto the porch to greet us. He said, "Hello, I'm Peter. I'm very pleased to meet you!" It was tremendously sweet. I stuck out my hand to shake, which he took, and I said, "I'm your Cousin Jimmy, and this is your Cousin MY WIFE."

(Well, of course, I gave her actual name. He doesn't read my blog, so the other variant would have been lost on him. At least, I sure hope he doesn't read this blog. I mean, I'm always trying to boost readership, but I'd be mighty ashamed if my four-year-old cousin saw some of this crap.)

(These are Peter and Matt, David and Lori's boys, about a year younger than now.)

We went inside and were similarly greeted by Matt, the six-year-old. I introduced MY WIFE to Lori, whom I had previously met while attending a Red Sox game. After a brief house tour, and after giving the boys a couple of very noisy but highly entertaining toys we brought for them and which I hope aren't driving David and Lori up a wall after a few days of playing with them, the boy's sitter arrived and we drove out to Wately, to The Wately Inn.

This is David and Lori's very special restaurant, where they celebrate big anniversaries and such, so we were thrilled and honored to have them choose this for our dinner. And what a magnificent four-star feed it was, too! I had an absolutely gigantic fillet mignon, baked potato, salad, lobster bisque, coffee, tremendous fresh strawberry shortcake, some very good wine, veggies, rolls, all the trimmings, and all served in beautiful fireplace-lit surroundings by very attentive, friendly waitstaff. I would recommend this restaurant, without any hesitation, to anyone wishing to experience truly fine dining at a very reasonable price. A gem of a place, hidden in what is relatively the middle of nowhere in Western Massachusetts.

(I'm serious. The bill for four of us, which included two bottles of a very good Cabernet, came to about $170, including tax, before the tip. And this was, with no exaggeration, a gourmet dining experience. Entrees, which are all-inclusive, run in the $25 range. An amazing bargain.)

It was exceedingly pleasant to share an evening of easy talk, good food, nice drink, and to have had the opportunity to meet two such wonderful boys. MY WIFE had never met any of these family members of mine before last Friday, but she remarked afterward that, since the talk flowed so comfortably, it was as though she had known them for many years.

And that's about it for our vacation.

As I said, nothing of an amazing nature to tell you about, but a few very nice things. Thanks for listening, and feel free to similarly bore me the next time you go out of town!

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Ecstasy

A couple of weeks ago, Knucklehead and I told the tale of the Yankees and Red Sox, in 1978, playing a one-game playoff for the American League East title. My piece was entitled "The Agony", while his was called "The Ecstasy". That was because those bastard Yankees won that meeting, while my beloved Red Sox lost. This time around, my piece is entitled "The Ecstasy", while his is "The Agony". That should give you some idea about the outcome of the match-up we’re writing about THIS time around.

(You can go in any order you wish, but I'd actually suggest reading Knucklehead's piece first. Go ahead. I'll wait.)

In 2004, I was a Red Sox fan of 40-years standing. You could read about the exact day I became a Red Sox fan, if you wish, but you don’t have to.

During the first three years of my following the Red Sox, they were not good. I loved them, being an unjaundiced hometown-rooting youth of single-digit age, but they were truly horrible. They finished 9th twice and 10th the other year. This was in a 10-team league, by the way. Everybody in my neighborhood, kids and adults alike, called the Red Sox such pejorative nicknames as the Red Slobs (and I’m sure adult Bostonians, when alone among other adults, probably called them the Red Sucks. I was a little kid and didn’t get to hear such colorful stuff, although the phrase “Fuck you and the Red Sox” did reach my ears once, conflicting me horribly. I was pissed that someone was denigrating my team, but the incongruity of it tickled me to no end.)

Anyway, I stuck with them when others were making fun of them (and of me, by extension.) And that loyalty paid off, in spades, in 1967. The Red Sox, listed as 100-1 underdogs by Las Vegas going into the season, won one of the most exciting pennant races in American League history. They won it all on the final day of the season by beating the Minnesota Twins while the Detroit Tigers were dropping a doubleheader on the same day. The whole town was baseball crazy. During the World Series, our 6th grade teacher rolled a portable TV into the classroom and we watched the games rather than do any actual schoolwork. It helped that our teacher was the principal, of course, and nobody could report him to himself.

The Sox lost the World Series in seven games. That team is still fondly remembered, though, and nobody considered them anything other than heroes. Teams that followed them, and failed to win the big prize, would be looked upon with less mercy by a region starved for a championship.

The Sox reached the World Series again in 1975. Again, they lost it in seven games. Still, they gave us quite a thrill, what with Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk performing miraculous heroics in Game Six, so the eventual loss was not a reason to run them out of town.

In 1978, well... I refer you to the pieces Knucklehead and I did concerning that. Sox fans were beginning to become a bit more desperate, and the word "choke" began to make random appearances in folk’s conversations regarding the Olde Towne Team.

Then, the nightmare that was 1986 happened.

Oh, it was a wonderful regular season, and the comeback in the playoffs versus the Angels was a great thing, but Game Six of the Series will forever live in infamy in the minds of Red Sox Nation. They were one strike away from the World Championship. And, damn it, if anybody wants to lay the loss at the feet of Bill Buckner, you can safely ignore that person’s opinions concerning anything to do with baseball. Blame Calvin Schiraldi, blame Rich Gedman, blame Bob Stanley (and, as with Buckner, not really his fault, in my opinion), blame John McNamara, but poor Billy Buckner should never even have been in position to blow the play for which he is unfortunately remembered. Bottom line: the Sox lost the Series, again in seven games.

Fast-forward through a whole bunch of years where the Sox had decent teams, and made the playoffs, but never won it all. This brings us to 2003 and Aaron Bleeping Boone.

Sox vs. Yankees, for the American League pennant. Here’s a brief history of what had transpired in other years:

1949 – Sox need to win only one of the two remaining games in the regular season in order to go to the World Series (and play the Boston Braves, I might add, which would have been the only time a Boston Subway series happened.) They lose both games to the Yankees.

1950 through 1964 – The Yankees win the American League something like 13 times in this stretch. The Red Sox finish second three or four times, then start the slow decline to the last-place teams of the early 60’s.

1978 – Yankees beat the Sox in the one-game playoff. Yankees win World Series.

And so on. Whenever something was on the line, the Yankees won.

So here were the two teams matched up in 2003. It came down to a seventh game, in Yankee Stadium, and that game went into extra innings. The Sox lost when Aaron Boone hit a walk-off home run off of Tim Wakefield (who was very much in line to be the MVP of that series until then, by the way, and deserved better when he was pressed into duty in that extra inning game, the poor bastard.)

You have to understand that, as much detail as I’ve gone into, I easily could have written another 10,000 words about my history as a Sox fan. And there have been more good times than bad. I shortened the details to save you from amazing boredom, and concentrated on the failures because it makes a better story. Anyway, in a nutshell, that was the history coming into 2004. I was a fan for 40 years and the Sox had never won the championship. As a matter of fact, they hadn’t won it since 1918, a span of 86 years. Bostonians were born, lived their entire lives, died as old men, and never saw the Sox win it all. My Dad was one of them. Some wag put it this way: “They killed my grandfather, they killed my father, and now they’re coming for me!”

In 2004, the Red Sox would again meet the Yankees in the final round of the playoffs for the right to go to the World Series. As usual, the American League Championship Series was a best of seven. First team to win four games goes to the World Series.

The Yankees won the first three games.

The stark reality of the above sentence is that the Yankees not only won the first three games, they won them handily. The third game was a 19 – 8 mauling, and it took place in Fenway Park, home field of the Sox.

It would have been hard to imagine a more thorough whipping of one team by another, nor a less-favorable outlook for the success of the other team. Only the most optimistic of Red Sox fans held out hope for them to win game four. Nobody in their right mind thought that they had any chance of winning the series itself. No baseball team in the entire history of the sport had ever come back from a three games to none deficit in a best-of-seven series.

I’m an optimist by nature, but even I wasn’t Pollyanna enough to believe that the Sox could buck history to such an extent. I thought it was reasonably possible for them to win game four, and avoid total embarrassment, but win the series? I’d love to sit here with a straight face and tell you that I knew it all along, but even a professional bullshit artist can only expect you to believe so much and then it becomes wishful thinking.

I was one of the few in the New England region who watched every painful minute of game three. That game – as many Yankee/Red Sox games tend to do – had gone well over four hours. Most people went to bed long before the final out. Not me. And, because of that masochism on my part, I was one of the few who enjoyed to the fullest possible measure what happened later. I had fully invested my pain, so my payoff in pleasure was much more than that of the casual (sane) fan.

In game four, the Sox once again trailed going into the ninth inning. The deficit was only one run, but the Yankees had Mariano Rivera (for those unfamiliar with baseball history, arguably the best relief pitcher in the history of the sport) pitching in the ninth. One run is always possible, but the way to bet was with the Yankees at that point.

Kevin Millar drew a base on balls to lead off the ninth. Sox manager Terry Francona removed Millar in favor of a pinch runner, Dave Roberts.

Roberts was a decent ballplayer, but his one truly outstanding attribute was his speed. Everybody in the ballpark – Yankees, Sox, fans, broadcasters, cameramen, peanut vendors, pigeons, politicians in the front row who had never paid their way into a ballgame and knew about as much concerning strategy as the pigeons – knew that Roberts would try to steal second base. It was going to happen. The only question was whether the Yankees could stop him.

They couldn’t. Roberts stole second, putting the Sox into a much easier position to tie the game. And then Bill Mueller drove a single up the middle, scoring Roberts. Game tied. Extra Innings.

The game went on, well past midnight and the five-hour mark, until finally, in the 12th inning, David Ortiz slammed a home run into the right field seats. The Sox had won a game and saved face.

Game Five followed somewhat the same script. Again, the Sox trailed. Again, Mariano Rivera was on the mound. And, again, the Sox scored off of Rivera. When the game reached the midnight hour in extra innings, David Ortiz again delivered the goods. This time, he didn’t hit a home run, but he did deliver a single to score the winning run in the 14th inning. Tim Wakefield was the winning pitcher. The Sox now trailed the Yankees 3 games to 2.

As fantastic as those two games had been, Game Six was better.

Curt Schilling was the scheduled pitcher for the Sox. He had been the ace of the Sox staff for the better part of the season, but the Yankees had slammed him around in his previous start in the series. Schilling had been battling a serious injury, a tendon in his ankle, and had not been able to throw effectively at all. Before game six, he underwent an actual operation, a medical procedure not previously listed in the journals of the AMA.

Schilling had a tendon from a corpse transplanted, temporarily, into his ankle.

It was a temporary fix concocted by team physicians. They came up with a bizarre way around Schilling’s injury. They sliced open his ankle area, stitched the extra tendon into place in such a way as to keep Schilling’s own injured tendon from contacting areas that would bring him the excruciating pain he had been in while pitching, sewed him up again, shot his ankle area full of painkillers, and sent him out to throw a baseball.

Schilling went to the mound with blood and pus copiously weeping from the sutured area and onto his sock. Yankee fans (and other morons) have since desperately tried to convince the world at large that Schilling was just fine and only painted his sock with some sort of marker to simulate blood. Those people are the same type of emotional misers as Doubting Thomas was. They refuse to believe in heroism unless they stick their own fingers into the wounds.

Schilling, with his sutured ankle bleeding, pitched seven magnificent innings. The Sox won the sixth game. The series was now tied.

No team in baseball history had ever done so much as force a seventh game from such a precarious situation. The Sox now had, and they were in position to actually win the damn series.

And Game Seven was the easiest one of them all. The Sox got out to an early lead in the first inning, and then Johnny Damon blasted a grand slam in the second inning. That put the Sox up 6 – 0 and effectively started some cautious partying in New England. Later on, Mark Bellhorn hit the right field foul pole with a home run. It made a hideous clanging sound when it hit the pole, one I personally took to be God’s own voice telling me that the historical Yankee dominance over the Sox was now dead, forever.

(Seriously. It was spooky-sounding. Unfortunately, I can't find video of it anywhere. Take my word for it. It was a sound out of a horror film.)

The Boston Red Sox had pulled off the impossible. They had come back from a 3 – 0 deficit to win a seven game series. AND they had done it against their most ancient and hated of rivals, the New York Yankees.

It was, and remains, the most joyful moment in my life as a sports fan.

The truly interesting part of this whole scenario is that the Red Sox still had not won the World Series. They would, beating the St. Louis Cardinals in a four-game sweep, ending the 86-year-old championship drought, but it was truly anti-climactic for me. I think if you ask any long-time Sox fan whether the World Series win was more satisfying than the comeback against the Yankees, they'd truthfully say that it wasn't. While winning the championship was something we had imagined as possible, beating the Yanks in such a fashion was beyond imagining. But the Sox did it, damn it. They did it.

Postscript: The Yankees, and their fans, were – for the most part, excluding the unbelievers concerning Schilling’s injury - amazingly classy in defeat. The Sox celebrated long and hard on New York’s home turf, and the Yankee Stadium denizens and personnel did not try to shorten any of it. Most newspaper accounts from New York, while bemoaning their own fate, did not denigrate the Sox’ achievement. And, at the beginning of the following season, when the Yankees opened the season at Fenway Park against the Sox, and the Sox had their championship ceremony for the fans before the game, the Yankees players – led by their always-classy manager, Joe Torre – watched every minute of it, respectfully, from the enemy dugout. When Mariano Rivera’s name was given over the public address system during player introductions, the Red Sox fans gave a huge cheer, somewhat mocking the man for his failure to close out the series in games four and five. Rivera, secure in self-knowledge that his credentials as a clutch player were, and are, impeccable, acknowledged the cheer by taking off his cap and giving a similarly mocking bow to the fans.

That was the very epitome of good sportsmanship, and Rivera has been my favorite Yankee ever since. I’m happy to report that, when he answered their cheers in that way, the Sox fans gave him an even louder cheer, which he richly deserved and which made me proud, once again, to be a Sox fan.

Soon, with more better stuff.

(If you didn't read Knucklehead's piece already, do so NOW, please.)

Friday, October 09, 2009


Well, I'm off! You knew that, though, so let me tell you something you didn't know.

I'm leaving. MY WIFE and I will be on vacation for 9 or 10 days. Therefore, if you ever had any plans for breaking into our house, now is the time to do so. If you rob us, would you please take the boa constrictor? He's been nothing but trouble ever since he got to be 12 feet long. Now that he's reached 17-and-a-half... Oh! And don't mind the greenish cloud hovering over the bedroom. That's just a little chemistry experiment I was conducting involving cyanide. By the way, would you please say "Hello!" to our neighbor, Sergeant Wilson of the Watertown Police, and thank him for bringing in our mail every day? Heck, he may even be in the house when you get there, so you might not have to make a special trip next door. If he isn't there, though, and the snake appears a bit chubby, would you turn the snake upside down and kind of shake him? If a badge falls out, I'd appreciate it if you'd call a vet. Thanks!

Before I go, let me tell you about the most wonderful people in the world. Everybody mentioned below has done something to help further the Thanksgiving Comes First cause. I truly can not adequately express my thanks. This means so much to me, and all of you are so kind, I... I...

[tears copiously flow from Jim's eyes]


I'd go on, but I'm getting the snake wet. Here are the places you should visit during my absence.

Desmond Jones directed me to a past post of his that is in the spirit.

Dr. Grumpy has an open letter to President Obama asking that something be done.

My Dedham News, a friend from past campaigns, comes through again.

Ananda Girl at Oodles Of Funch gives us the good write up!

The entirely lovely Thimbelle from Creeping Towards Normal

My good buddy, Buck, from Exile In Portales (unfortunately, a fellow recipient of much recent dental pain, bless him) has posted this.

My Darker Gray Friend, Michelle, at The Surly Writer has written a somewhat bittersweet piece. Go there and cheer her up!

My buddy from The Great White North, Jazz, at Haphazard Life has posted this wonderful piece. I especially like the cartoon.

Diana, from Garden On The Edge somehow managed to work in the subject on her gardening blog, God bless her!

3GirlKnight at By God's Good Grace! has certainly graced me.

Brinkbeest, who is wonderfully Dutch, and thus, while in sympathy, has more of a desire to see Sinterklaas come first, which you'll understand when you read it.

Uncle Skip (not really MY uncle - he just calls himself that) at Rants And Musings has this post. He wants Halloween to come first. I'm down with that, too.

Sarah, at the whimsically-named Que Sarah Sarah, has the logo posted on her sidebar.

It will take many hundreds or thousands of blog postings to make an impact on some of the dolts and cretins who are running major corporations these days. This is a wonderful start, but please urge your readers to do something - anything - to push things further. Putting the logo up is always helpful, even if you don't do a posting of any considerable length.

If I've missed anyone's posts or other contributions to the fray, my apologies. Please drop me a line and tell me about your stuff. I'll make amends.

Anyway, I really do thank you. I'll be back on October 20th. The following will be closer to the truth with each passing day...

Soon, with more better stuff.

[The lovely photo at top was stolen from Meadowmere Resort. If that's what their table looks like, it surely must be a grand place! Why not go there?]

Thursday, October 08, 2009


My geography is city.

I love a soft rain hitting city streets, mingling with dust of concrete, dirt washed from tall buildings, and sand in the gutters leftover from ancient snowplowing, creating a subtle and pleasant fragrance available only in an urban center.

I enjoy the smell of asphalt while it's being laid, and then again during intense heat, giving off its tarry aroma for benefit of those who aren't afraid to breathe deep the city's soul.

My spirit soars when I encounter greenery unexpected, public spaces filled with surprising nature, the truly stunning nature of a ballpark when one is young and sees the field for the first time. It is love at first sight.

I walk the streets and know them in the way that cowboys of old knew the trails they rode. They interpreted signs in the dirt and the sky. I register, in my subconscious, things-out-of-place. They avoided rattlers and other natural dangers. I know when to avoid an alley and watch my back. I also know when it's okay to walk without care.

The sound of traffic is background noise, not heard until it reaches a certain startling level (or until a new sound is introduced, perhaps police sirens.)

The neighborhood sounds of my youth...

... the steel wheels of the Mattapan trolley squealing as it rounded the bend leaving Ashmont...

... the church bells that tolled the hour, every hour...

... the whistles that called men to the local factories, and blew again when lunch hour was over and when it was time to go home...

... are all embedded forever in my psyche.

My geography is city. Specifically, Boston.

What's yours?

[Most of the shots are actually of Boston, but a couple aren't. However, they convey the sense of what I wanted to say better than any Boston shots I could find, so I used them, instead. As near as I can understand it, all of the photos used here were free for me to use under the GNU Free Documentation License. If that turns out to not be the case, my next geography may be jail.]

Monday, October 05, 2009

10 Things

About a week ago, I was attacked by two foreign powers. Normally, being an American and having a hair trigger when it comes to such things, I might have retaliated with ridiculously overblown force. I just got back from the dentist, however, and he gave me a prescription for Oxycodone. I filled the prescription, and then filled myself with a handful of happy pills, so I am currently not in a mood for violence.

(In the ongoing War Of Jim’s Mouth, I had my lower gums sliced open, the bone drilled into, rods and screws and whatnot implanted, and I am now ready to receive a brand new prosthesis sometime next year after the battlefield has healed. The very least I should get out of the deal is a weekend of unrepentant dope consumption.)

Okay, let me try to succinctly explain what happened. Brinkbeest, a normally sane Dutchwoman, gave me an award, within which was hidden a meme. In order to receive the award, I’m supposed to complete the meme. Jinksy, an otherwise sane citizen of the United Kingdom, apparently urged Brinkbeest towards this madness. And usually - as you know if you’ve been reading me for any appreciable length of time - I would break open a big sack of gratuitous and altogether nasty insults, toss them off like so many grenades at the offending parties, and then (since I have no scruples and I’m a hypocrite of the first order) accept the award, while saying something disingenuous about it all having been in good fun, much as I did HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and even HERE.

Like I said, though, I just got back from the dentist. I have about six hundred stitches in my mouth, and I’m getting higher by the minute. If I didn’t have the good meds, I’d probably already have hopped a plane to Europe and punched them both in the mush. But, the meds are quite swell (they’d have to be to put me in a good mood right now, since I’m still bleeding from the incisions) and therefore they get a pass on a beating, both literally and figuratively. I’ll just complete the damn meme and accept the award without any extra-curricular evil.

(The rest of you shouldn’t get any ideas about giving me trouble. By the time you give me your award, the pills will have run out and I’ll be in a truly nasty mood. I’ll come to your house and set your puppy on fire.)

The award is The Honest Scrap Award.

In her posting, I think Brinkbeest said something about it’s being given to people who say things honestly. I don’t recall all of the details. I’m high as a kite. It seems like a nice deal to be thought highly enough of to be given such an award, though, so I’ll just say that I’m thrilled to have so thoroughly pulled the wool over someone’s eyes.

The meme entails giving ten facts about yourself that are strange or weird or might get you arrested in Bulgaria. Easy enough. If she had asked me to come up with ten NORMAL things about me, then it would have been harder. Here goes.

1 – I Actually Liked The XFL

(I have no idea how widespread the telecasts of that league’s games were. I would assume that nobody outside of North America saw them. Therefore, both Brinkbeest and Jinksy are probably going to be totally bewildered by what follows.)

I watched every telecast of Vince McMahon’s odd little football league and enjoyed the hell out of them. I was looking forward to a second season. Apparently, not too many others shared my appreciation. Sportswriters from coast to coast ridiculed the league unmercifully and the whole enterprise was scrapped after one year. What can I tell you? I really liked it. De Gustibus Non Est Disputadum, as my grandfather used to say every time he put on his Field Marshall uniform and went around the neighborhood singing Deutschland Uber Alles.

2 – I Never Wear A Watch

I guess I have a good internal clock. I’m never late for anything because of my lack of wristwear. I do own a watch, and every couple of years I’ll put it in my pocket to be on the safe side if I have a very important appointment to keep, but even then, I’ve rarely found a need to refer to it.

Actually, it’s the folks who wear watches all the time who are more likely to leave you hanging. I’m not sure why that is (and I’d have a really good punch line here, too – something to do with either Salvador Dali, the musical group Chicago, or a newsmagazine - but I’m too blasted to work it out, so we’re just going to move on to the next thing.)

3 – I Have Spent Close To $15,000 On My False Teeth

And there’s probably another $10,000 in future costs if I want to have the whole process finished in the snazziest way. For now, though, what I have works and I’ll only get the really attractive final prostheses if we can afford them without a considerable strain on our budget. I’d like to have a magnificent smile, but I can eat anything I like and I can speak as well as I could before getting them (which is the most important aspect, considering my line of work.)

Implants are magnificent things, but damned expensive. If I had just gone with plain old removable dentures, most of the cost would have been covered by our health insurance. Unfortunately, they’re considered an optional cosmetic procedure by most dental plans, so I have to be satisfied with the functional-but-just-okay-looking choppers. The meds are excellent either way, though!

4 – I Collect Wheat Pennies

That is, those Lincoln head cents minted between 1909 and 1959 with two stalks of wheat on the obverse side rather than the Lincoln Memorial (which became the design following 1959.) It’s just a fun thing. I don’t think there’s any fortune to be made in completing a collection of them (barring a couple of true rarities which I don’t have and don’t expect to get.) It’s just a little something that makes getting change interesting. Once in every few hundred pennies I find one and place it in my little collection.

5 - My Favorite Dutch Band Is Focus

As a matter of fact, they’re the only Dutch band I can name. Since Brinkbeest is Dutch, I felt I should throw this in as one of my 10 things.

You might be familiar with the tune Hocus Pocus. It was a hard rocker with loads of yodeling in it, a novelty hit in the 1970’s and a really, truly great song. Their entire catalogue is superb, though – excepting one album, MOTHER, which is unrelentingly boring and I suspect was done to fulfill some sort of contractual obligation – and, if you’ve never heard of them before, you should check them out. Truly magnificent musicians, some interesting and intricate arrangements, and they never limited themselves to any one form. You’d get a heavy metal rave-up, then a madrigal, then a gentle ballad, and then a pure jazz improvisation. If you’re intrigued – and you should be - pick up the album Moving Waves first. It has Hocus Pocus on it.

6 - My Favorite British Band Is Deep Purple

I’ve mentioned this many times, but Jinksy is British, so I’m mentioning it again.

You’re more likely to have heard of them than Focus, but if you’re utterly unaware of them, you’ve missed out on the best heavy metal band ever. Unlike many of their brethren from the genre, these guys can match chops with just about anybody from the more mainstream realms of music. And, unlike most of their contemporaries, they’re still putting out meaningful and worthwhile new material over forty years after their debut.

I can’t imagine anyone being totally ignorant concerning their recorded output, but if you somehow missed out on them and want the best introduction to their prowess, purchase the album MACHINEHEAD. The first cut, HIGHWAY STAR, is my favorite song, ever, from any artist.

7 – I Ralphed In The Shower A Week Ago Saturday

I’m 52-years-old. You’d think I’d be past such nonsense as going out, drinking too much, and throwing up in inappropriate places (is there an appropriate place to upchuck?) but apparently I’m not. I went to a bar to watch the Boston College game, had 7 or 8 beers along with some fried chicken and fries, and then came home and clogged up the plumbing. Yuck.

I’ll never do it again, though, I can promise you that. Of course, I said the same thing when I was 16, 19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, 30...

8 – I’m A Subway (Metro, Underground) Freak

I love subways. When I was a kid, I used to ride the Boston system, the ‘T’, just for fun. And anytime I go on vacation to a city with a subway, I try to put aside a day (or two, or three) to explore the local system. I live in the Boston area, but MY WIFE can tell you that I have more of the New York City subway map memorized than most New Yorkers do. The more arcane the system, the better I like it.

London’s Underground, with its amazingly complicated interchanges and wonderfully strange station names, is probably my favorite of them all. I mean, a station named Elephant & Castle? How can that not intrigue you?

9 – I Own One Pair Of Shoes

I bought them for my wedding in 1992. With any luck, I’ll never have to buy another pair for the rest of my life. They’re a very well made pair of Johnston & Murphy wingtips, original cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $180 as I recall. One lesson I took to heart from my Dad was this: If you buy quality, it will generally cost you less in the long run than if you buy crap many times over.

I wear the shoes for weddings, funerals, the rare job interview, and a special night on the town, perhaps during a vacation; the same relatively rare times I wear a suit. All other times I wear very comfortable cloth sneakers, of which I currently own three pair.

10 – I Often Fall Asleep Listening To Evangelical Preachers

That’s not a commentary on evangelical preachers in general. I don’t snore in church. I mean to say that I enjoy listening to quite a few of the evangelical Christian preachers who have radio programs, and I more often than not – if there’s not a sporting event on the radio – will tune in to the local Christian radio station at night and then fall asleep while listening to their sermons.

I find very few of them with whom I agree 100% theologically - and those charlatans who constantly try to bleed money from their listeners will get me to switch the station quick, fast, and in a hurry – but I would wholeheartedly recommend at least a couple of them as sincere, intelligent individuals from whom I have learned valuable insights. Should you wish to explore such things, Ravi Zacharias and the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee are, in my extremely humble opinion, tremendous teachers.

And that’s it for the meme. I’m also supposed to give this award to someone else, but now I’m fairly blasted, as well as quite tired from the operation I underwent, so one of you has been spared. If you’re a masochist, or unbelievably needy concerning recognition (that is to say, a clone of me) then feel free to SAY that I gave you the award and enjoy yourself (although you won’t enjoy yourself as much as I have unless you’ve also got a similar prescription.)

Soon, with more better stuff.